Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Time to reflect on 2015

New year is always quite a reflective time for me and while I've been enjoying the luxuries of being back home in the UK this week I have been thinking a lot about 2015.

As with every year there are a mixture of memories I will cherish and ones I will try to forget, but thankfully I can say that in 2015 I had more of the former and less of the latter! 2015 has been the first year in a long time that I have felt the fragments of my life falling into place.

2015, for me, has been a year of growth; of figuring out what I want to do and actually making moves towards doing it(still a long way off of course). I've finally managed to start creating work I'm actually proud of(see below) and instead of leaving my artworks on scrappy bits of paper on my floor I've starting putting them onto products.

Christmas presents for my family: Elephant print neoprene clutch from Print all over me (, patterned headphones from Origaudio (,  Elephant phone case design from asda (

I decided, in my reflective mood, to put together a collage of the illustrations/work I have done this year that I am most proud of. Anyone who has seen how my work has progressed will probably be shocked to see colour finally emerging in my illustrations. This is one of the things I intend to work on next year. My main Christmas present from my parents(Father Christmas) this year was a selection of art materials, handpicked by me, to encourage me to add some colour into my work. 2016 will be a colourful year....hopefully!

I also finally got my act together and started working on a new logo(below middle) and website which I am hoping to Launch in time for my birthday at the beginning of this space...

Other than the work I've done this year, It has also been very interesting in terms of where I've been living and where I have travelled to. Getting out of London may well have been the best decision I ever made. I love London; I love the people I met there, the diverse culture, the social atmosphere and EVEN the guys I dated there. However, in London it is very hard to save money, the quality of your life is limited by your salary....and I work in the fashion industry so..... I lived in some 'quirky' warehouse conversions, which caused some people to assume I lived in an uninhabitable warehouse/crack den but, because rent in London is sky high, this was all I could afford. London s great if you earn a lot of money and can afford to have a social life; it's great if you want to start up a creative business(there are so many platforms for this), but if you work in London for less than 19k/yr you will get in debt and you will have to leave to maintain some form of balance in your life.

So I left. I move to Dusseldorf in Germany and then to Brussels(Belgium). This year I have travelled to Cologne, Antwerp and Amsterdam- none if which would have been possible had I stayed in London. I could not feel more blessed. Moving to Europe for work has enabled me to finally make a dint in paying off my overdrafts(they will be completely paid off before my birthday in February 2016). So here are a few photos from my travels...

1st column top to bottom: Dusseldorf Konigsallee, Cherry blossom on my street in Dusseldorf, houses by the canal in Amsterdam. 2nd column top to bottom: St Pauls Cathedral London, Countryside in Yorkshire, Church bells in Corfu(Greece), beach in Corfu. 3rd column top to bottom:  Brussels Grand place, Antwerp city centre, Brussels Grand place at night.

I have made some amazing friends this year, both in Germany and in Brussels, that have made moving away from home so much easier than I thought it would be. I have also been so fortunate to have friends from the UK come and visit me in my new surroundings.

On a rather serious note(generally I like to keep my more personal blog posts fairly lighthearted) I think everyone who has ever had a serious break up will know that it leaves you feeling empty and unsure of who you are. When you spend the majority of your time over a period of several years with one person, planning a future together, and then somehow it goes wrong(as many relationships do) you are left with a fragmented vision of the future that no longer includes the other person. This can be a great opportunity to re-design your life, it can also be extremely daunting. I found it to be the latter. 2015 was the first year I have felt like myself again; the first year I have felt completely happy and content with myself and the direction my life is heading. I am more confident in my creative abilities and my ability to form firm and lasting friendships and I am quickly discovering that I am a great deal braver than I thought. To all the friends that have emotionally supported me and excercised a great level of patience with me over the past few years- thank you, and to all the new friends I have made this year- I am so so glad our paths have crossed.

It was hard to select memories with friends for this year as I have so many, but I decided to choose snapshots from where I felt the happiest...

As dramatic as this may sound, 2015 has been a life changing year. I have lived in 2 different countries; paid off my overdrafts; FINALLY joined a gym and embraced a healthy excercise routine. I even took a break from dating(pretty serious for me...being in a country where I am attracted to very few people helps a bunch). I have learnt a lot about myself; my personality and my aspirations for the future. I am realising, as delayed as this epiphany may be, that I am me...and that's okay, in fact its pretty good. As a child I loved Dr. Seuss and my current feeling can be summarised in this quote...

So in 2016 I intend to be the most me-est version of me I can be.

Here are my resolutions/promises to myself for the coming year:

- Firstly I WILL learn French
- I will make steps towards setting up my own business. By the end of this year I would like to have a Website, Business plan and some loyal customers that aren't just family and friends.
- I will maintain my healthy eating/excercise routine
- I will save money towards setting up a creative business
- and lastly, but by no means least, I will make sure I get dressed and out of the house every weekend, I must not stay in my Pyjamas all weekend pretending to draw.

All are attainable goals.

Also 3 pieces of advice to myself for 2016:

- If you're feeling drunk on a night out- stop drinking
- If you don't like a guy you're on a date with you don't have to go out with him again- you're allowed to say no!!!
- Finally, Live colourfully!In clothing choices and in illustration work- no more black and white unless its commissioned.

Next year I already have plans to go to Amsterdam and Dusseldorf in January, Paris in February, UK in April and Italy in October so I have a lot to get excited about. As those of you who follow me on instagram will have seen, I posted this definition on my instafeed:

This is how I feel about next year.

I hope you all have a great start to the new year,whatever you may be doing! Let's make 2016 colourful, exciting and a year to be remembered and looked back on with joy and fondness! Speak to you next year ;) x

Monday, 14 December 2015

Catch up: Brussels lockdown and business aspirations

Things have been a little crazy for me recently. As anyone who reads this blog or knows me will be aware, in August this year I moved to Brussels. This past month Brussels has been more than a little hectic. The terror threat level was raised to 4 and the military moved in. Brussels was put on a lockdown. The presence of that many armed soldiers alarmed me as London is also on a level 4 threat but there is never an obvious military presence there. It seems like the protocol here is to hold off on increasing the threat level until absolutely necessary, whereas in London it is used more as a precaution.

Unfortunately none of these photos are mine as my phone containing all of my photos has recently been stolen. All photographs were found on Google.

The tag #Brusselslockdown became an internet sensation with people posting photos of cats to baffle the terrorists hiding out in the city. As interesting and upbeat a response as this was, it didn't make me feel any better about the fact that the people responsible for the Paris attacks were being arrested quite literally a few streets from my house. 

Photographs all found on google.

Oddly enough, the lockdown didn't interfere too much with my standard weekend routine of staying in bed, snuggling and drawing. As the lockdown on schools and transportation continued into the week I felt it was best to work from home on the Monday. I had completely forgotten how much I love doing this and it really made me miss freelancing. I think it's safe to say that, if you're creative by nature, an office environment is not where you are most productive. In bed with cushions, coffee and Christmas movies, however, is the best place to design Christmas fair-isle prints.

Some of the Fair-isle prints I worked on from my bed office during the lockdown week

I did have some photos I wanted to upload in this 'catch up' post of things I have been working on and photos of the numerous army trucks that have been stationed in the city but, in a recent alcohol incident, my phone was stolen/lost. The alcohol incident being that I consumed too much alcohol and left my phone on a table where someone then stole it(Belgian beer is sneaky like that- 3 glasses and I'm done). 

My lovely little phone has now been gone for a week and I feel like I have had a limb amputated. I find it remarkable how dependent I am on something so materialistic. This small object had literally become an extension of my hand, I am now experiencing a technological version of phantom limb syndrome.... I keep reaching for my phone to check the time; scroll through instagram; look at my blog statistics, do some pinterest research- only to find that the phone isn't there. I miss that heavy reassuring feeling in my pocket. I miss having a distraction in awkward situations. I miss instagram. For the past two Sundays I have been at a complete loss about what to do in the evenings as I no longer have tinder. 

One thing I am noticing in the absence of an iphone is that I am filling the void with actual substance. Where I would normally be scrolling through other people's lives and doing 'pinterest research', I am now making plans, writing more, and working on illustrations. I am actually really enjoying not have a piece of tech constantly strapped to my hand, but I still can't wait to get my replacement next week. 

A few Christmas character illustrations I have been working on
Prints of mine that have recently been in stores. Top row images are designs in C&A, bottom row: George at ASDA, George at ASDA, Marks and Spencers, George at ASDA, F&F at Tesco.

As mentioned earlier I have been missing freelancing quite a lot recently, not just working to more creative briefs but also being able to manage my own time and set my own deadlines. I find working in an office environment extremely difficult for so many reasons: 

- Firstly I am not a 9-5 person, I start waking up and properly engaging my brain around 11.30am(just in time for lunch which has to be taken between set times in the work canteen). Working from home I can start and finish whenever I choose and eat whenever I want to which is usually around 3.30pm, not between 12-2pm....

- I find creativity comes naturally to me in the evenings, post 6pm usually which doesn't really work well when you're working 9-5 in a creative job role. I can be tired and not in a creative mood all day until I get home and then suddenly my brain kicks into action, very inconvenient.

- In office's there seems to be a great deal of micro managing and other people trying to order your workload for you, I like to organise my work into an order that will enhance my creativity and increase my productivity levels....more often than not, my workload organisation makes little sense to everyone else, which is where micro-managing can occur.

Jason Fried's TedTalk explains this problem perfectly.

I know at some stage I want to set up my own business. I don't know exactly when and I also need to clarify what the start-up will involve, but it's definitely on the cards. Anyway this past week I have not been able to get the idea of starting up my own creative business out of my I'm taking some action towards this goal. I've started a business plan sketch book where I can keep all of my ideas from website layouts to garment tags, logo designs to pricing sheets and everything in between. Hopefully by doing this I will be able to de-muddle my head and move towards creating a professional business plan. I am really keen to create a strong brand identity to start me off and then, with any luck, the business plan will fall together.

As a step towards this I have re-designed my logo and created an intricate design that can also be simplified for price tags and clothing labels. I am actually(for once) really happy with it. I wanted the logo to reflect me as well as the business I intend to pursue so, as odd as it sounds, I chose a font based on this. I am short(5ft) and fairly rounded and so I chose a font to reflect that. I am aware that sounds like an awful joke, but that is the genuine reason for the font choice.

As it's all quite new to me I would love feedback on the logo design and any advice/tips anyone has for creative start up businesses. I want to focus quite a few blog posts on start-ups and maybe do a few case studies on ones I think have worked well.

Brand logo on the left, simplified tag logo/stamp on the right

I have also changed my blog layout(again!)so that it compliments the new logo. I've simplified the template and added a new black and white pattern to the background. One day I want to find the time to sit and create a stylised background print that will become the brands signature print. Maybe I'll tackle this when I create a website. No doubt the blog layout will change several more times before I find one I can truly commit to.....finding a blog template is a little bit like dating ;)

Next on my business 'to do' list is to secure a domain name and create a website....which will hopefully happen near the beginning of next year. Firstly I have to do some research into what I want the website to look like and what information I want to include. Hopefully when I get my new phone I can post some photos of my business plan sketch book and give you all an insight into my ideas.

Ciao for now x