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24 October 2016

Review : Personalised Cushion

When Bags of Love got in touch to ask if I would be interested in reviewing a personalised item from their range of unique photo gifts, I jumped at the chance! Being a fan of personalised goodies, it's great to find out about UK companies offering a personalised service.

I chose to have my Adventures & Tea Parties logo printed in black on to the front and back of a 16” square white cushion cover, with a feather cushion filling, heart zip and a Bags of Love label. There are other options available too, such as different colours, shapes and sizes, as well as an alternative polyester filling for those allergic to feather.

Adventures & Tea Parties Bags of Love Personalised Cushion Review

Ordering the cushion was really easy. I simply created an account, selected the item I wanted personalising and uploaded my image. I then used the imaging tools to resize and centre my logo, so that it fit nicely on the cushion. The ordering system also allows you to preview your product before placing the order and you can save all of your designs in your account. This is great if you want to compare and contrast designs first.

My personalised cushion was accepted, made, dispatched and delivered within 2 days after I placed the order, which was extremely impressive. It arrived well wrapped in waterproof packaging.

The first thing I noticed about the cushion was how soft the fabric is. My logo is printed well and the cushion itself is really well made, with a good zip, and a nicely fitted cover. The feather cushion is really plump, which is ideal for me as I plan to use mine to help support my back when I’m sat sewing shop orders in my studio. Overall, this is a great personalised cushion and one that I will 
enjoy sitting on!

Disclosure: I was sponsored to write this post by Contrado Imaging Ltd.

If you would like to sponsor me to review your product, please get in touch here.

21 October 2016

How to be more creative by slowing down

As a creative person and creator, maker and owner of an accessory brand, I'm regularly thinking and looking at things in a creative way. How can I re-design that? How can I make that 2am-wake-up-with-a-design-idea into a reality? How can I write about that? What craft project am I starting next? Oh but I really should finish that knitting project! Oh but I also want to learn how to crochet and hmm, that local pottery class looks good. I'll just pop that book on the dangerously high pile of books by my bed for reading later. Ooh, I'll add that podcast to my list. Actually, I must download the latest photography app and read those newspaper articles. Now that's a good blog idea, I'll just write that down in one of my ten notebooks. Mmm, that recipe looks good, I must cook it soon. Oh I must go and photograph for my Instagram feed that stunning sunset/crunchy pile of autumn leaves/perfect flower/cute tea cup/yummy slice of cake/tiled floor/beautiful door/vintage bike...I'll do that after I've taken a photo of my dinner.

The list goes on and it's rather like an extremely hectic hamster wheel that never, ever stops. Pile on top the normal day-to-day tasks, as well as the highs and lows of life and the fast paced and time consuming world that is the internet and social media, it's a wonder anyone sleeps at night and ever sits down and just 
b  r  e  a  t  h  e  s   for a moment.

Adventures and Tea Parties blog post on how to be more creative by slowing down

Why are we so creatively busy or are we actually not creatively busy at all and in fact too busy thinking about being creative or perhaps we're spreading our creativity too thinly and trying to achieve too much, resulting in disappointment? 

It's an interesting topic that came up at a workshop I recently attended, which was all about telling your story online (you can read more about it here).  In the case of the workshop, we were relating this issue to writing and how not to rush that process but spend time planning, structuring and editing; really enjoying the process and not just sending a rushed blog post out in order to meet some ridiculous target that you've set yourself. By spending a bit of time planning and thinking, you in fact save yourself time by not having to go back and drastically edit the piece at a later date. That really struck a chord with me and so I thought I'd delve into the topic of being more creative and enjoying the creative process by slowing down.

But why are we so creatively busy?
Why do we not just sit down or perhaps focus on one creative project at a time or just realise that we don't have to do EVERYTHING? What do you think? I wonder whether it's to do with how quickly things move now? The rise and immediacy of social media and smartphones, the next day delivery culture and the lack of patience this brings to our world; maybe even the whole throw-away culture adds to that attitude too. No one seems to have the ability to wait for things any more or even be satisfied with being good at just one thing and not having to conquer the world every day, especially creatively.

Adventures & Tea Parties Blog Post How to be more creative by slowing down

Is it a problem?
I am totally guilty of all of this and have recently realised, after two house moves this year and a load of personal life shizzle, that giving myself the added pressure and exhausting hamster wheel of feeling like I need to achieve all those creative ideas by tea time is simply not healthy. It's not good physically or mentally. 

By trying to achieve too much at once you end up achieving nothing. This applies to both a creative world and life in general. There's definitely something to be said for just getting on and doing it, rather than attempting ten things at once and making yourself feel bad for not achieving any of them properly. 

Now, I'm not saying that you will be an expert at calligraphy by the end of the week if you just focused on that as a creative activity but you will be a hell of a lot better at it than if you'd split your week up doing ten different creative projects. You actually meet your creative goals by focusing, slowing down and taking some pressure off that ridiculous self-imposed list of things you think you should be doing; such a negative word, should this, should that. There's no should about it. Start thinking tortoise and hare.

On the flip side of the argument however, is it a problem at all? If we have a creative urge to design, make or create something, should we not just follow that inspiration and see where it takes us? We might end up creating something brilliant. 

I personally think it's good to follow that sudden burst of creative inspiration because it might not strike again and clearly your brain is in the creative zone, so that's a good time to draw, paint, sew etc. We just need to remember that it doesn't matter if by following that we miss taking an arty photo for our Instagram feed because the time was better spent.

But is it possible to slow down creatively in order to be more creative and enjoy being creative?
Yes, it is! In order to let your creativity flow better, making time to slow down and enjoy the creative process helps.

Scheduling time
If, like me, you struggle to find the time to slow down, then start by scheduling it into your week. That may sound nuts but those baby steps will help you get into a better, healthier routine and you will feel more creatively inspired and actually enjoy being creative. So, actually enjoy the act of that paint hitting the canvas, the pencil making a mark on the paper, the knitting needles tapping gently together...

Looking at the bigger problem
If you can't even schedule or make time to do that, then you need to look at why you can't. Maybe talk to a friend, partner or family member about what's stopping you. If you have a family, can your partner and you take turns to have some slowing down time? Perhaps you're a single Mum or don't have family nearby. Can you look at turning your evenings into your creative time, after your kids have gone to bed? Explore those possibilities and give them a try.

The mobile phone time sponge
STOP LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE! This has to be the worst consumer of our creative time, right? And I am awful at this. I find myself refreshing the inboxes on my phone, even though I'm sat at the computer and can see the email alerts coming in. Shameful. It's my aim, honestly it is, to stop doing this and instead only check my phone three times a day. I can hear you laughing but really, is the world going to have come to an end by lunch time? Probably and hopefully not. The amount of time we sit scrolling through our phone, we could have drawn a pretty picture, baked a cake, knitted a few more rows, written a poem....you get my drift.

If the thought of not looking at your phone is like something out of a horror movie, try looking at it once an hour, then every two hours and so on. Try also going for a walk WITHOUT YOUR PHONE and just enjoying being outdoors, listening to the birds, feeling the crunch of the leaves beneath your feet, really being in the moment and not instagramming the entire walk!

How to work this into your creative business
If you run a creative business, then it can be pretty tricky not to be online 24/7 but you don't physically have to be. There are plenty of scheduling tools out there to help with your social media accounts and with a bit of planning you can get your Instagram images for the week photographed on one day or save images to use later. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Plenty of people do it. In fact, they have to because no one is superhuman and well, let's be honest here, the sunshine is hit and miss in this country, so we need to grab those perfect photography days when they come.

Set realistic creative goals
The last thing I'll mention is about setting realistic creative goals. It's really great to have so many ideas and feel like you want to try loads of creative activities and you shouldn't feel bad about feeling like that. Just don't feel guilty if you don't do all of them. If you do get them all done, then that's brilliant (and I want to know your secret!); sometimes it is good to grab that creative urge and just go for it. If you do, then really enjoy and make the most of that process, feeling and moment. And remember to remind yourself that if you feel that good in that moment, then you'll feel like that if you slow down and enjoy being creative, rather than rushing at it or simply not doing it at all.

Adventures & Tea Parties blog post on how to be more creative by slowing down

One way in which I'm going to start and try to do slow down in order to feed my creative world, is by keeping a distinction between work time and play time. You know how kids go and play and really get wrapped up in playing and don't worry about feeling like they should be doing something else, well I think this should never stop. Ok, so we have more responsibilities when we're older but that doesn't mean that we can't have time to play, be creative and let our imaginations flow. 

What do you think about slowing down in order to feed creativity? Does it work? Maybe you don't agree? I'd love to hear what you think!

What's on the jukebox, Jo?

Behind the scenes in the studio this week has involved smashing through daily to-do lists (and moving stuff over to next week's to-do list, of course), getting organised and caught up on work, lots of stitching and sending out of personalised shop orders, Christmas prep, a tonne of blog planning, writing and photography, testing out the Boomerang app and planning a rather lovely custom order, which may involve my handwriting! Will have to see how the latter goes and, if it's a success, I'll share a pic on my blog, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

As well as busily working away, I took you in on a tour of my studio, interviewed the crafty superstar that is, Laura Howard from Bugs and Fishes, got my drawing pad and pen out and found out about the creative world of Stephie from the gorgeous blog, A Cup of Creative.

Keeping me going throughout the week has been (coffee ;) ) some inspiring and educational podcasts from Blogtacular and A Playful Day, as well as the nectar of my life, music. Here are the songs that stood out for me this week :)

Holiday in Cambodia by The Dead Kennedys
Rushing Through My Mind by Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation
The liquidator by Harry J All-stars
Home Again by Michael Kiwanuka 
You Will You Won't by The Zutons
To The Beat Y'all by Lady B
NO CD by Loyle Carner and Rebel Kleff

Coming up on the blog this weekend, I'm going to be delving into the topic of slowing down creatively in order to be more creative. So, stay tuned and come tell me what you think about the topic. I'll be sharing my thoughts on Sunday.

Have a great weekend everyone!

20 October 2016

Five minutes with designer/maker, Laura Howard

Laura Howard of Bugs and Fishes craft blog

Head over to the Simple Stylish Makes blog for my five minute chat with awesome designer/maker Laura Howard who runs the awesome craft blog, Bugs and Fishes.

18 October 2016

Creative Inspiration : The Life Of Birds

One of my favourite illustrators is Quentin Blake. In fact, he's one of my first ever favourite illustrators having grown up with his memorable drawings, which perfectly brought to life Matilda, The Twits, Fantastic Mr Fox and all of Roald Dahl's glorious characters.

I love his style of drawing and painting for the way it flows, moves and dances on the page, the emotion it evokes, the imagination it sparks and the sketchy nature of it really makes my heart glow. I think the latter is what clinches it for me; it's like Quentin has just handed me one of his drawings, the pencil lead, ink and paint still fresh on the paper.

Quentin's book, The Life of Birds, I picked up  many moons ago in an art gallery in London when I believe I saw one of his exhibitions. I couldn't resist those drawings and so the book quickly became a favourite of mine, which I treasure to this day.

The book takes you on a rather beautiful journey through stages, experiences and feelings that we can all relate to in life. It is done, quite simply, through drawings of birds with human expressions, behaviour and movement, making them easy to relate to. The titles to each drawing are listed in an index at the back of the book. I like that. It allows you to take what your mind sees in those drawings, without an image being formed through words first.

For me the drawings evoke great feelings and memories. They trigger a need to create a story about each and every bird character, maybe a poem or a drawing too. Getting such a reaction from one book always feel rather magical.

With this in mind when I picked the book up again recently, I decided to get the pen and paper out and draw some birds. I wasn't looking to draw like Quentin's famous style but just to draw, the only goal being to draw a bird or two.

This lead me to picking up some of my old bird guides and picking out a couple of birds. I chose the Redshank and the Oyster Catcher. Both beautiful, elegant birds. Here are those drawings. 

Adventures & Tea Parties Blog : Creative Inspiration : Life of Birds

It felt good following the creative inspiration through and actually picking up a tool and creating something. Drawing isn't something I do very often but when I do I feel incredibly relaxed and completely focused on what I'm doing; in the zone. 

As that's a healthy mindset, I plan to do more drawing to share on my blog. I'm not looking for appreciation or rounds of applause. I just feel that by saying I'm going to share my drawings with you, then I will actually sit down and draw more often. So, there you go. If you don't see any drawings over the next year, you have every right to say, "but Joanna, you promised us drawings!".

And now I want to hear from you! Have you read, seen, heard, done something that has triggered some creative inspiration and lead to you creating something? What was it? How did it make you feel? Or are you about to create something? What is it?

 I'd love to hear all about it because sharing our creative adventures is something worth talking about. So, do come and tell me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or in the comments field below.

Happy making and creating folks!

16 October 2016

Blog Gem - A Cup of Creative

Hello my lovely readers! As you may or may not know, I have quite the curious mind and especially when it comes to the lives, worlds, passions and inspirations of other creative folk. And so that's why I created this series, Blog Gems, where I find out just that; what makes creative people tick, what tools are important to them, who inspires them, and what their creative spaces and worlds are like. This month I had the great pleasure of finding all about the person behind the beautiful blog, 'A Cup Of Creative'. 

A Cup Of Creative Blog Gem interview by Adventures & Tea Parties

Hello there! Can you tell all of us here a little bit about yourself?
Hello! I’m Stephie, and I am based in the North West, just outside Manchester. I’m 26 and I work in the theatre on many different types of projects. My day job is organising events and shows, and encouraging people to get involved, but I am also a writer and performer, and run a lot of different types of workshops as a freelancer. Basically, I spend most of my time trying to encourage people to embrace their creativity and finally kill off the myth “that art or theatre isn’t for them.” Other than being pretty obsessed with my work, I love good coffee, adventuring with my boyfriend, travel and all the usual things!

A Cup Of Creative Blog Gem interview by Adventures & Tea Parties

Where do you blog? What is that space like?
I blog over at A Cup Of Creative, which is a creativity and lifestyle blog, where I hopefully encourage people to create and live a life they love, which sounds very grand doesn’t it? I try not to be too preachy or ‘woo woo!’ Whenever I sit down to write a post I try to write it as if I’m talking to a friend and I hope that comes across! My posts cover the adventures I’ve been on, the things in life I’m focusing on at the moment, and every Wednesday I publish a conversation I’ve had with some of my favourite people about what creativity means to them.

A Cup Of Creative Blog Gem interview by Adventures & Tea Parties

If you had to take only one creative/craft tool to a desert island, what would you choose and why?
A notebook and a pen! I hope that counts as one thing! All my creative outlets are very much word based! Whether that’s typing up a new blog or writing a new show. Everything starts with my notebook, so if I was on a desert island, I’d no doubt want to capture every minute of it! It would be great material for a show, if I was ever rescued, wouldn’t it?

A Cup Of Creative Blog Gem interview by Adventures & Tea Parties

How do you work and get inspired? 
As long as I have my notebook (or if I’m feeling modern, my laptop) I can work anywhere! I always get particularly inspired when I’m out and about though! Especially on trains for some reason. I like to be in an environment where I have nothing else to focus on but my writing. Sometimes that’s at home with a candle lit, and a blanket, but if I really need to hunker down and get something done then going on a walk and ending up in a coffee shop always sorts me out!

My writing for theatre is a bit like my blog. I’m inspired by everyday things. I think everyone has a story to tell, and that is something I keep in mind whenever I’m working, whether that’s trying to encourage people to come see a show, or writing one. 

A Cup Of Creative Blog Gem interview by Adventures & Tea Parties

What top tips would you give to anyone starting a blog?
It sounds so cliche but be authentic. I sometimes get really distracted by what other people are posting or writing. So often it will seem like everyone is posting about the same thing, and I then get all worked up, thinking I should also write a post on that! But whenever I get into that headspace I loose my own voice, and the post will be rubbish because of it! You have to keep writing because that is how you’ll get the readers and followers that really love your work and interact with you.

A Cup Of Creative Blog Gem interview by Adventures & Tea Parties

Is there a story behind the name, 'A Cup of Creative'?
Yes! I’ve only recently rebranded my whole blog. I used to be ‘Tea In Your Twenties’ because my blog was all about the things that you chat about over a brew with a friend. Especially things like struggling to work out your career, or love, and growing up. Those things that can be really, really hard in your early twenties but I started to feel like I was growing out of that stage of my life, and so my blog was too. Now I still talk all about the things life throws up at me, but I don’t feel like the things I struggle with now have anything to do with my age. I also wanted my blog to tie in with my creative side and work! So hopefully “ A Cup Of Creative” covers the chatty side of my posts while also giving it a bit more focus!

A Cup Of Creative Blog Gem interview by Adventures & Tea Parties

If you could go to a Blog Award dinner with any 5 people (dead or alive, real or fictional) who would you choose? 
Argh this is hard! I very nearly went to the Bloggers Blog Awards at the beginning of October, but I couldn’t make it in the end. I was gutted when I saw all the social media updates and the bloggers I love having an amazing time! So I guess my answer would be the 5 bloggers I would love to meet in real life, because I feel like they are already my friends just from our conversations online. They would be Alice from Wooden Window Sills, Mimmi from Muted Mornings, Amanda from Rhyme and Ribbons, Becky from BKYROUNCEFIELD and Yasmin from Yasmin Qureshi Photography

A Cup Of Creative Blog Gem interview by Adventures & Tea Parties

And finally...if you had to choose one song to represent 'A Cup of Creative', what would it be and why? 
Ooooooooo, this is such a good question! I feel like I should say something cool or arty or indie or something, but that really would be a lie and so wrong for my blog! My blog is hopefully a bit like that song that reminds you of all your best friends in a room laughing! Probably something you can dance to, like a pop guilty pleasure, or that song that makes you walk a little sassier when it comes over your ear phones! For me right now, that’s Mamma Said by Dianna Bromfield!

Thanks so much for taking part, Stephie. It's been absolutely wonderful hearing all about your creative, blogging world.

I love that you feel everyone has a story to tell. I completely agree. There's a story, in fact there are several, inside all of us. This ties in nicely with your advice about anyone thinking of starting a blog - be authentic, be yourself. By doing this your personality will naturally shine through, whereas trying to emulate another blogger will just fall flat. People shouldn't be scared to just be themselves. And ooh, what a lovely selection of people to take to the Blog Award dinner. Lots of great bloggers to check out, yay!

I hope you've all enjoyed this month's Blog Gem interview. Don't forget you can catch up on all my previous Blog Gem interviews here for more inspiring reads.  Happy reading! 

All of the images and interview answers are the copyright of Stephie at A Cup Of Creative. Please do not use without seeking permission first. Thank you.


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