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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

SMART Thoughts, Authentic Aims

At this time of year, we all start thinking about big things, like goals and targets. Even if we're not working, whether for someone else or for ourselves, we still like to plan out what we would like to get done in the New Year. Lots of us jump straight in there, making lists of what to do, and when to do it. SMART, if you haven't come across it before, is an acronym which is meant to remind us of the best way to set goals. Goals, it says, should be;

-Time bound.

And that's true. The only way to be sure that you do what you want to do, is to be as specific as that. So, we move from, 'I want to do more dyeing', to ' I want to make x metres of hand dyed fabric by February, and another x metres by August. For more about SMART goals, try the site here for a clear explanation.

I know all this, I've taught lots of other people to work that way, too, and I know it is a great way of managing and measuring performance. The downside, for me, is that it focusses on what I'm going to do. For me, there's a bit more to it than that. I also want to think about how it is I'm going to be. I want to continue to be healthy, for instance. I want to be sure that I'm working authentically, too, making the work I want to make, and not work that I think might be commercial, or might suit this or that market... I've done a bit of that this year, and I don't want to do it any more.

So, I'm starting my goal setting, not with the specifics, but with the general. I'm asking the question, 'what do I want to achieve this year'. After all, if you don't have the big picture clear in your head, you might well miss something. That question, 'what do you want to achieve' is one of my favourites; I use it often when I'm coaching, or talking to people about a problem they have. We jump too quickly to 'fixing' things, without really getting a clear picture of what it is we want out of the situation. We get swept up in the issue, and forget to ask ourselves what is important to us.

What is important to me, this year, is this idea of authenticity. Most of my work comes from my inner landscape, or from talking to other people about theirs. For me, that means trusting myself, listening to my intuition, taking risks, exposing parts of myself that I might have kept hidden before. If you like, I'm defining the way I want to work, before I sit down and write up the goals. I want to work openly, honestly, directly, clearly. I want to continue with the themes I've been working with recently, of scarring, cracking and erosion. I want to work with other people, too, to help them to work out what they need to be authentic, how they need to work, and what they need to work on, to achieve that aim, or whatever else their aim turns out to be. I want to fill my life with joy, and share that joy with others.

Now, I'm ready to start thinking about goals, the specifics, such as the two books I am committed to writing this year. If you are going through the goal setting process, just give yourself some time first, to being clear about what you want to achieve this year, and how you want to achieve it, before you start listing what you are going to do. I'm sure it will help.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Flat Out...

for all the wrong reasons. I've managed to pick up a virus of some kind, which has laid me very low (in bed) for the past week or so. I've given up struggling, and this is the only thing I'm doing today, just to see if I can. All I want for Christmas is... a virus free body. Not as bad as one of my friends, though, who had to go through a knee operation without visitors, as the Norwich hospital has been closed to visitors because of Winter Vomiting Virus. He's at home now, though, and having care lavished upon him... we have some care to lavish on him ourselves, but I'm staying away until I'm sure that I'm no longer infectious.

Work has ceased completely, which is a pest. I just got the creativity book straight in my head, at last, and was ready to finish it this week... but I'm really not thinking straight enough for that. The house looks like a bomb has hit it, and I'm not sure what Robin has been eating this week...but I'm pretty sure that whatever it was, I wouldn't have approved of it. I have a lot of baking to do for Christmas, tidying and cooking, too, but that's not going to happen until I can manage to stay upright for more than half an hour at a time. We have three guests coming to stay, and I'd like to give the impression of being calm and competent, even though I'm not! Mind you, there's a limit to how far you can fool your family...

The image is of a collage I made a couple of weeks ago, see what you think. Meantime, I'm going back to bed...

Saturday, December 13, 2008


This is what happens when you leave a thing half done. It might even be a picture of What Too Much Fabric Looks Like. Well, I exaggerate a bit; that's a small proportion of my actual stash, which is boxed up now and looking tidy in the far corner of my studio. But it was what stopped me playing with my embellisher this afternoon; I quite simply couldn't get at the table. And yes, there was a bit of me thinking, there's something I should be doing, here... but hey, the embellisher won't go away, and I can now see the table. And I managed to put all of that lovely fabric away, including the small mountain that was underneath the table, without falling in love with more than one piece of fabric, which is now sitting waiting on top of the sewing machine. I'm impressed. And I think I might do some quilting before Robin gets back from the football.

Funny, though, I might think I have too much fabric, I might even believe it; but it's still remarkably difficult to contemplate giving it away... but I do have some set aside for Sally, and some more for Jill. And Andrew is coming for Christmas with his new girlfriend, and she perhaps she might like to do a bit of judicious stash diving while she's here... so I'm not as mean as all that! And there will be one or two more quilty visitors after Christmas, and I'm looking forward to sharing some of that lovely fabric with my friends.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Is Coming...

but it doesn't mean that I've stopped working. I'm still writing away, and considering what to do with the small pieces of evolon and lutradur which I made during the Knitting and Stitching Show weekend. The one above is an example. It is evolon soft, just waiting to be stitched. I love working in bright colours, and orange in particular is one of my favourites. I'm immediately drawn to orange in shops, and wear it as often as I can. It makes me feel joyful and bright, good things to feel. I love working with these colours, too. Not sure quite what I'll do with this piece... but I'm sure I'll think of something!

I'm enjoying working with evolon, which is just as well, as I'm committed to writing a book about it. It will be called 'Exquisite Evolon', and will be out next August, just in time for Festival of Quilts. I love working with Evolon, as it is so tactile, with the feel of suede, or a very short piled velvet...lovely stuff, and takes colour beautifully.

By the way, I've made a new blog here, because I wanted to show off other peoples' work, as well as my own. And I just wrote about 'happy soup' on my personal blog, if you'd like to know a bit more about me...or just fancy reading about food! Not that I'm obsessed...but isn't it coffee time around now?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Creative Coaching

As I said in the other blog, yesterday, I'm branching out, and am offering coaching services for creative people, particularly focussing on removing creative blocks, but also doing some practical work. Read all about it here My first coaching session took place today. I've coached all sorts of people in all sorts of situations, but I had never coached over the phone before, and immediately learned that the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley. You can arrange a time to phone, but if someone got there first, you just have to wait!

It's always a pleasure to talk to people about what they do. I love hearing about other people's approaches to things. In this case, we talked about the things that hold us back, and what we can do about them. I think we both learned something, which is the way it should be. Communication is a two way thing, after all. I may know quite a lot about all kinds of things, but we are our own experts when it comes to our own situation. It is my job, as a coach, to ask appropriate questions, so that you can work out what it is you are concerned about, and make a plan to deal with it. It sounds very simple, and it is, really. A conversation with a purpose, if you like.

And now it's back to dealing with The Stash. Yesterday, I went upstairs and began to reorganise the way I keep my fabric. If anything, things look a lot worse than they did, with piles of cloth everywhere, but I have managed to sort out the large pieces, and sift them out into colours, and box them. I've now got to find a good way of managing fq's and smaller pieces, probably rolled up and inserted into boxes, lengthways, as they do in shops. And then, of course, there's The Scraps. My, there are a lot of scraps. Just as well, perhaps, as I'll want to make a baby quilt soon for a friend's soon-to-arrive offspring, and I feel the notion to make a lap quilt... no, I don't know why, either. Maybe it's just that it's cold. Very cold. Brrr.

And then there's the hand dye. Lots of it. Lovely stuff. Much of it will be put onto the etsy shop, or the blog, because there is a limit to how much even I can use. So keep an eye open if you're looking for a colour infusion, as some of it is Quite Bright, as you can see from the image above!

Saturday, December 06, 2008


no, not me, though the demons have been cantering through my week kicking at anything that moves, and quite a few things that don't... My camera is sulking. Or rather, the interface between camera and computer is not working, so there are plenty new images, I just can't show you any of them. Sigh.

The cantering demons have come as a bit of a shock, really, I've been so well for so long. But I suppose it seems reasonable that they have to come out to play occasionally. I just wish they weren't quite so enthusiastic about it all. But, looking on the bright side, I have lost half a stone... and if I can avoid making myself feel better by using chocolate, I'll hopefully continue to lose weight. So, as diversionary tactics, I started to dye. Yes, you read it right. I love dyeing when I'm depressed, it always makes me feel better. It is something to do with all that undiluted colour, I think. The images are not the new cloth, which is some of the lovely sateen that I bought several years ago from Heide Stoll Weber, the German dyer, dyed with some purple and brown procion from ColourCraft. The results are fab, rich dark colours with some lighter browns, I'm very pleased.

But, as I can't show you the new cloth, you'll just have to put up with images of Some Things I Dyed Earlier (in true Blue Peter fashion). I decided to add some cloth to my Etsy shop, so these pieces, both metres, can be found there. The colours are even stronger in real life, but this is as close as I could get to decent photos. Must Try Harder. But of course, first, Must Get Camera To Cooperate...sigh.

Monday, December 01, 2008

A Good Time...

was had by all concerned at Harrogate, I hope! Nice to see both old and new friends. It was a particular surprise to look up and find my sister standing in front of me. Unbeknown to me, but not to everyone else in the family, she and my brother in law had come down to Harrogate to surprise me. I'm rarely lost for words, but on this occasion, all I managed was...what are you doing here? Not very original, huh? I spent a goodly time covered in fine glitter, as lots of people delighted in informing me (I think ColourCraft should call it fairy dust, myself, much more romantic than fine glitter... but very nice to work with, even if you do get covered in it!

And then, of course, time to go home. I've been working very hard, about to launch a new coaching service (of which more tomorrow), plus making plans with the printers for a hard copy edition of Lovely Lutradur (yes, you read it here first ... if you hate CDs, the book form should be out in early February). And a project for a magazine. Now, that was a real oops moment. I ran out of red lutradur, so I went to make a sheet or two of red dyed paper. There I was, transfer paint uncapped, finished and ready to clear up. Must not knock the jar...oops... Rats! Transfer paints plus wood trims equals stains you just can't get out. I know this from bitter experience...which is why I was being so careful... aaargh... Still, look at the number of extra designs I got out of the spill!