Monday, 7 December 2015

Sending Peace

There are lots of scary and sad things going on worldwide at the moment. Spread love, peace and kindness and remember that a good deed brightens a dark world. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The Rooms/ Quipu Project

On Saturday I visited The Rooms, a festival consisting a series of interactive installations and events (described as "a playground for new ideas") in the old Firestation, Magistrates Courts and Police Station in Bristol City Centre.

As well as the installations, over the course of the weekend there was also a programme of free talks, workshops, film screenings, live music and house parties!

The Rooms was created by REACT, a creative economy hub for the South West & Wales. Supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, REACT invests in collaboration, cultural experimentation and creative innovation between University researchers and creative businesses.

In total there were 16 different rooms to explore, each room offered something unique, engaging and innovative, but for me there was one in particular that really stood out which was The Waiting Room.

The Waiting Room was set up as a Peruvian medical clinic where visitors were invited to enter and listen to the stories some of the 300,000 women and 25,000 men affected by Peru's mass sterilisation programme of the 1990's.

Below is an explanation about the project taken from the official website:

"An interplay between a low-tech telephone line and a high-tech digital interface, the Quipu Project enables communities that are politically, geographically and digitally marginalised to tell their stories around the world using the internet.

Victims are able to access the free phone line and share the difficult experiences and the ensuing difficulties they had faced since they were forcibly sterilised against their will.

The phone line then operates like a web forum: the collaborators can listen to each others’ testimony and record a response, meaning they can offer each other support and solidarity, even though they live many miles apart.

In addition, the audience can record their reaction to the testimonies and upload them to the archive. These messages are translated and recorded for the contributors through the phone line, letting them know that people have listened and are supporting them and engaging in dialogue. For many collaborators this will be the first time their stories will be acknowledged outside their own communities. The testimonies are archived publicly online so that they will never be lost, ignored or forgotten.

The Quipu Project is an experiment in ‘living’ documentary – a story that continues to grow and evolve after its “release” online. This approach allows the story to emerge organically and to continue telling itself, as the contributors and people around the world listen and respond to each other. The open-ended structure also reflects the fact that, for the collaborators, this remains a story without an ending until justice is achieved.

From the start, the Quipu Project was developed in partnership with people in Peru who were sterilised. They are our collaborators, in a project created with them, not for them.

The aim of the Quipu Project is to shine a spotlight on the sterilisations by bringing the collaborators’ testimonies to a wider audience. The hope is that this will become a useful tool in the campaign for recognition and reparation."

Prior to visiting The Rooms, I had never heard about the sterilisation programme which was introduced by Peru's government in 1995. Although at the time it was promoted as a means of providing good reproductive healthcare and birth control, the reality was that sterilisation was often only promoted in impoverished, rural and indigenous communities.  
Consent was often manipulated or not obtained, and there are accounts of people being coerced, forced by medical staff, or sterilised without their knowledge while in hospital for another procedure. Many survivors still suffer physical and emotional trauma and suffering.
Listening to the testimonies of the victims in The Waiting Room was both harrowing and extremely moving, it is almost unbelievable that such a cruel scheme could have happened just 20 years ago. In spite of how difficult it may be to listen to the men and women who have contributed to The Quipu Project, it is a great step towards spreading awareness and acknowledged about the pain they have endured and finally give the victims a chance to voice the injustice of the situation.

If you would like to read more about the Quipu Project and listen to the testimonies you can visit the website here  

Why Quipu?

Quipus are ancient systems of threads and knots that  are thought to have been used by the Incas to keep records in their predominantly oral culture . The cords were made from cotton, llama or alpaca hair and were used for everything from tax and census-keeping to storytelling, where the threads and knots were prompts for memory and language.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Do Book Company and Lectures

Last week I went to a great event held at Bristol's independent record and book store Rise. I've actually been to a few really good in store gigs there - often musicians performing shows in larger music venues around Bristol will do a short set or a couple of acoustic songs to promote the release of a new album or encourage fans to come to a later gig. Personally I much prefer, smaller more intimate venues so sometimes I will prefer to watch the Rise in store performances (especially seeing as they are often free!)

This event was to promote the launch of a new book series released by the 'Do Book Company' - an independent publishing house based in Shoreditch. 'Do Books' are a series of 11 inspirational pocket guide books which aim to create positive changes be it through learning a new skill or craft, a shift in thinking or by giving you the inspiration and encouragement to achieve a goal or dream. Each book is only about 100 pages, making them quick and easy to read and focusing on the practicalities of 'doing' rather than the background theory.

The books are written by speakers from the Do Lectures - which form part of a 3 day festival/conference founded in Cardigan, Wales. Fans of the world famous TED talks will love the Do lectures as they are very similar - the lectures cover a huge range of themes and subjects given by people from all walks of life.

During the promotional launch at rise, the authors of the following four books each gave a 15-20 minute lecture summarizing their book and how they came to write it:

  • Do Breathe - Calm your mind. Find your focus. Get stuff done. - Michael Townsend Williams
  • Do Disrupt - Change the status quo. Or become it. - Mark Shayler 
  • Do Purpose - Why brands with a purpose do better and matter more. - David Hieatt
  • Do Fly - Find your way. Make a living. Be your best self. - Gavin Strange

Each author was so engaging and interesting in different ways and although they only spoke for a short amount of time, I could have happily sat there and listened to them all night! I could have bought the whole series of books there and then but the one that really caught my eye (partly because of the awesome name of the author!) was Do Story - How to tell your story so the world listens. (Written by Bobette Buster)

I'm really into true story telling events at the moment and am pretty addicted to podcasts and blogs like The Moth, Humans of New York etc... Bobettes book offers some great advice on how to tell your own story and how the skills used to do this can be really beneficial to other aspects of your life, be it personal or professional.

The evening was rounded off by a great musical performance by Luke Sital Singh who I had been wanting to see again since watching him perform in the pouring rain two years ago at glastonbury - it was nice to watch him in the warm and dry comfort of the rise record store!

The books are definitely worth reading - as I said they are pretty short so they are accessible for people who are not really into reading and cover a wide range of subjects. I would love to attend the Do Lectures festival and the other events that they are now holding all around the world - however I was slightly dismayed when I went on their website and discovered that tickets for the 3 day event cost over £1200! So I guess for now I will stick with my slightly more affordable paperback book! On a serious note this is something that has been irritating me a lot lately ( - events which are apparently aim to "inspire and encourage discussion and debate between young people from all backgrounds" but are then priced so that only really high earners can possibly afford the tickets) and is something I will write about in an upcoming post.

However I should say that there are a lot of videos on the do lectures website that you can watch for free so do check them out here:

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Experimental Travel Part 3

So to round off my 'Experimental Travel' posts - here are a few more weird and wonderful festivals around the world! 


White Nights FestivalThe White Nights festival is an arts held annually in St Petersburg during the arctic season when the sun can still be seen at midnight. The festival includes a series of classical ballet, opera and music events with performances by Russian and international dancers, singers, musicians and actors. The Scarlet Sails show is famous for spectacular firework displays celebration is the culmination of the White Nights season and the largest public event anywhere in Russia with the annual estimated attendance
about one million people! The White Nights festival aims to promote cultural exchange between Russia and the rest of the world and strengthen St Petersburg's reputation as a world centre for culture and the arts.


Burning Man - Black Rock Desert, Nevada.

The Burning Man Festival is an annual event held at the end of August where up to 48,000 people gather in Nevada’s Black Rock desert to create art and express their individuality. It takes its name from the ritual burning of a large wooden effigy, which is set alight on Saturday evening. The Burning Man website lists the following ten principles:

  • Radical inclusion
  • Gifting
  • Decommodification
  • Radical self reliance
  • Radical self expression
  • Communal effort
  • Civil responsibility
  • Leaving no trace
  • Participation
  • Immediacy
The event is described as an experiment in community, art, radical self-expression, and radical self-reliance. Festival goers often say that you cannot truly understand Burning Man without attending - however be warned this festival is not for the faint hearted!


Up Helly AA

Occuring once a year in the Shetland Islands, this fire festival marks the end of the yule season. Costumed participants march through the streets carrying torches,followed by hours of performing acts and dancing in halls throughout Lerwick. The procession culminates in the torches being thrown into a life size replica of a Viking longship or galley.


Cheese Rolling

The final festival on my list is in my hometown of Gloucestershire! However although it is so close to where I live I have never actually been to watch the bizarre spectacle of cheese rolling....

The cheese rolling race/event takes place annually on the Spring bank Holiday on the incredibly steep Coopers hill in Gloucester. Traditionally it was done by only locals but over the years it has become world famous and now attracts participants from as far as Japan and America.

So what is cheese rolling? Well from the top of the hill a 9 lb round of Double Gloucester cheese is rolled, and competitors start racing down the hill after it aiming to catch it. The first person over the finish line at the bottom of the hill wins the cheese!

There have been many many injuries from the event and every year the ambulances will be stationed nearby ready to treat those who hurt themselves! Due to strict health and safety rules, as well as the difficulty of trying to control the large number of people who come to watch the event is no longer officially managed by an organisation and authorities will try to discourage people taking part or going to watch. However this has had very little effect and hundreds of people will still assemble to hold spontaneous races, risking life and limb to catch the cheese!

So that concludes my posts on alternative festivals around the world - the few I have featured are just a snippet of the many that are out there though and you really could spend a lifetime visiting them all!

As for experimental travelling - perhaps I will use my book and decide to take on some of the challenges when I next go on an adventure!

Check out my previous posts on experimental travel and weird festivals below:

Experimental Travel Part 1

Part 2

Monday, 28 September 2015

Blood Moon

Did you see the blood moon last night? Ralph and I watched it from my garden at 3am. Living in a city I wasn't expecting there to be much to see due to light pollution but the sky was so clear and I could see all the stars and constellations as well as a beautiful rust coloured moon. So magical!

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Experimental Travel - Part 2

Following on from my previous post on experimental travel and after a conversation with friends, I have come up with my own experimental travel adventure that I would love to do! This one isn't really something that could be done in a weekend or a few months though as it would be pretty costly and would probably take a lifetime to complete!

It all began with a discussion about La Tomatina Festival in Spain - which in case you didn't know about it is a huge tomato fight in the streets of Bunol in Spain which is held in late August everyday. My friends and I all agreed that we would love to attend and then got to thinking about how great it would be to attend all the weird and wonderful festivals across the globe... 
Well once I began my research I discovered there were so many that it would be impossible to list them all! But here are a few that look especially fantastic....


Holi Festival - Also known as the festival of colours or the festival of love, Holi is an ancient Hindu festival which is primarily observed in India. It is celebrated in spring at the approach of the vernal equinox on a full moon. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships, and is also celebrated as a thanksgiving for a good harvest.

Whilst you are in India why not visit this festival too:

Jaipur Elephant Festival: The Elephant Festival is an annual event held every year at Jaipur the capital city of Rajasthan. It is organised according to the Indian calendar on the full moon day of Phalgun Purnima (February/March), this coincides with day of Holika Dahan, just a day before Dulendhi, which the Indian festival of colour and joy Holi is celebrated! As the name suggests elephants are the centre of attraction at the Elephant Festival Jaipur. Pachyderms are washed, painted and groomed in all finery by their loving grooms or Mahouts as they are called in India. Elephants are specially decorated for the elephant festival, with chunky elephant jewellery, large anklets decked with bells grace their feet, their bodies are painted with traditional Indian motifs, gold embroidered velvet rugs grace their backs along with silver and gold plated Howdahs and gold embroidered velvet parasol’s.


Thailand has become very popular as a gap year destination and is well known for its infamous full moon festival! However if you are looking for something a bit alternative how about this:

The Monkey Buffet Festival is a really a unique and bizarre Festival held in in the province of Lopburi, North of Bangkok. During the festival 4000 kilograms of fruits, vegetables, cakes, candies is set down in front of temples on tables, in pyramid or just on a simple mat for the delight of the 3000 monkeys living in the area.
The Monkey Buffet Festival also host plenty of activities in relation with monkeys: music and dances with young people dress like monkeys and hand made monkey costumes, masks and monkey sculptures are all created for the occasion.
The Festival was invented in 1989 by a local business man in order to boost the tourism in the Lopburi province. Since thousand of visitors come every year to see the numerous monkeys filling their stomachs!


Home of the quirky and mad, Japan has plenty of festivals to choose from! Here are two I like the look of:

Konaki Sumo: Konaki (crying) Sumo or Nakizumo (sumo of tears) is more than 400 years old tradition organized in some Japanese temples. Konaki Sumo takes place every April in the Sensoji Temple in Tokyo and includes almost 100 babies.Two Sumo wrestlers, both holding a baby, face each other and wait whose baby is going to cry first.There is also a priest who shouts and waves at the babies. If both babies start crying at the same time the winner is the one who cries louder.If all this sounds a bit mean, it should be noted that the festival is also time of praying for baby's health. There is a Japanese proverb stating that "naku ko wa sodatsu" or "crying babies grow fast". It is believed that louder the baby cries the more gods' blessing she or he get!

The Fuji Shibazakura festival is a festival of flowers which gives colour to the Mt Fuji. Around 800,000 shibazakura (moss flox) bloom in beautiful shades of pink at the bottom of the mountain in late springtime every year near the scenic Fuji Five Lakes area, and sees more than 9 million visitors pass through annually.The festival takes place from mid-April through June, but the best time to see the five different kinds of Pink Moss flowers, usually takes place in early to mid-May.

Since I found so many weird and wonderful festivals I am going to split this into a few seperate blog posts - so stay tuned for my next one which features festivals around Russia, America, Europe and some a bit closer to home!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Experimental Travel - Part 1

10 years ago I was listening to the Radio and I heard a review of a book called "The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel" and decided immediately to go out and buy it. Lonely Planet travel guides are pretty well known for being good but this one is a little unusual... It is a book that helps you see and explore the world in alternative ways and offers a playful way of travelling, where the destination is unknown.

The book includes over 40 ways to take a journey, each described by a hypothesis, the equipment needed and the method (along with the results of travelers who have tested out each challenge). Examples of the different exercises range from simple challenges such as taking a friends dog for a walk and letting yourself be completely led by what interests the dog; or a trip that would require a bit more daring and preparation such as 'Erotourism' - in which a couple would travel separately to the same city and then try to find each other without contact.

Another method suggested is to travel by a certain number - for instance the number 12: take a train that departs at 12:12 and get off at the 12th stop. Or, catch a number 12 bus and get off after the 12th person has got on after you. Only stay at hotels that are on the 12th building on their street.

It has always been my dream to travel the world but it can be hard when you don't have the money saved or are restricted in other ways. This book is full of suggestions that can make journeys more interesting and offers ideas that help the reader to see places that you may travel to everyday in a new way. I think the philosophy and concept of the book is really valuable and can really be applied to things beyond experimental travelling - it's about experimenting, relying on serendipity and chance and looking at the world around you a little differently. 

I had sort of forgotten about the book until recently, but having picked it up again I am now toying with the idea of trying out some of the challenges around Bristol! Perhaps I will start a new blog documenting each adventure!

Monday, 7 September 2015


Last week my Mom introduced me to a great new blog called commuteblog which each day features photographs and stories of commuters that the author meets on the tube in London. Each post is just a small snippet into the commuters lives however it is so heartwarming that people are willing to share their stories and offer such an interesting insight to struggles and pleasures of day to day living. This week the author of the blog posted the following quote in reference to the recent refugee crisis.

 It really resonated with me and got me thinking about how so many things in life are so much better shared. With that in mind I started to compile a list of my favourite things to share. What do you love sharing? Think about it and let me know.     

Things that are better shared


Finding a story or book that is so good that you become completely immersed in the world of its characters to the point where you don't want it to end is a rare pleasure... but when you are able to share that with someone equally obsessed with it as you its even better! For me the best personal example I have have of this is the Harry Potter series. My sister and I grew up with the books as they were being released and we absolutely loved them. So many of our games and conversations revolved around the world of Hogwarts - we would dress up in wizard robes, make our own wands, burn paper so it looked like parchment.. all kinds of crazy and imaginative things! One summer we went on holiday to Italy as a family at the exact time when the 6th book was being released (poor organisational/holiday booking skills by my parents ha!) so obviously my sister and I were distraught that we wouldn't be able to get hold of an English copy of the book and may have to wait 2 weeks until we returned to the UK! After traipsing around every book shop in Florence we were able to find just 1 english version of the book and in order to avoid fights we decided we would read it (page by page) at the same time! Whenever one of us wanted to read it the other one would have to as well so that we were always at the same point! 
And actually it wasn't just me and my sister who shared a love for Harry Potter - it involved the whole family! Another summer we went on holiday to New England and spent a lot of time driving from one state to another. Many hours were spent in total silence in the car as we all listened to the recorded version of the Harry Potter books narrated by Stephen Fry. To this day we still love Harry Potter and I love talking to my sister about it and discussing various theories and plot lines within the books!


This is probably quite an obvious and popular choice but sharing music (particularly live music) can be such a wonderful experience. I have been to quite a few music festivals where I have been listening to a favourite band or artist and have then perhaps caught the eye of a stranger in the audience and just without any words or conversation needed have been able to share such a great moment of pure joy and emotion. The same goes for sharing music with friends - sometimes its nice just not to need to speak and just listen to a sound you both love and appreciate.

My top shared music experiences would be:
Bon Iver at Latitude festival
Arcade Fire at Alexandra Palace
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero's again at Latitude festival
First Aid Kit at Glastonbury
and one from my teenage years: Bob Marley and the wailers - listened to throughout the summer of 2016 in friends bedrooms and at house parties!


I guess this follows on from my first choice but not having shared my childhood with my sister is something that is completely unimaginable to me. I don't think you necessarily need to have a sibling to share your childhood with - many children have lots of friends (real or imaginary!) cousins, neighbours or pets who they are able to play and have fun with. But surely there can be nothing worse than being lonely as a child. I have so many happy memories of growing up and playing in the garden with my sister and no matter what happens to us as adults and how different our lives may be from one another we will always have that happy shared experience that bonds as and we can look back on and smile. I know not everyone in the world is fortunate enough to have that (a point which has been painfully highlighted by the refugee crisis) which is really heartbreaking. Every one deserves to have a childhood shared with friends and family that they can continue to treasure as an adult.

Painful experiences

This may seem a bit of an odd one to include but I think its an important one. There is nothing worse than going through a painful experience or traumatic period in your life and feeling completely on your own with it. I don't really subscribe to the whole "everything happens for a reason" theory; in my opinion terrible and unfair things can happen for absolutely no reason at all. However I do firmly believe that there probably is something you can take and learn from everything, and that bad experiences do help you to become stronger and more resilient. When I have been in a particularly low and desperate state of mind having the support and love of my family has absolutely saved me and I know that facing those struggles alone would have been near impossible. So for that reason I add painful experiences to my list of things to share. I mean obviously ideally you wouldn't have any to share at all but if you have to go through bad times it makes it that little bit easier if there is someone by your side!

I feel like I don't want to end on that one as its a little bit melancholy but this post is becoming quite long and I don't want to ramble too much! 
What do you love to share? Let me know as it would be great to do a follow on post with other people's stories and memories of positive sharing experiences.

If you would like to follow the commute blog you can check it out here:

other similar and equally great blogs which document the lives and stories of everyday people that I love are:

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Sea side days

 This weekend my family and I are off to Dartmouth which is hosting it's annual regatta. My parents have a flat in Dartmouth so we try and go there whenever we have a spare weekend - especially if the sun is shining! Devon is a beautiful place and something about being by the sea is so calming. The view from the balcony of the flat just never gets old - even when it is raining there will be boats going in and out, fishermen looking for lobsters and crabs. As it happens Dartmouth is an excellent place for crabbing - I once spent the day sitting on the sea front and managed to catch 60 crabs just with a simple crabbing line and some raw bacon! 
I have so many happy memories of days spent in Dartmouth and hopefully the weather will improve for this weekend so that all the scheduled regatta events go ahead and we can sit out in the sun and sea air!

I made and sent the card below to my grandparents who are rather unwell at the moment. I'm sure they would love nothing more than to be able to join us as they also love Dartmouth. Hopefully the card will help them to remember the times we spent there and they can imagine they are sat on the balcony overlooking the river watching all the activities and goings on.

The photographs below were taken by my Mom who could probably fill many albums with her shots of the river and coastline!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015


Is there anything better than a good story? A book that you can't put down, a character who you feel such a connection with that you feel a slight sense of grief when the book ends... I have always been a pretty avid reader and from a young age I would often insist a big pile of books being left on my bed for me to delve into before I dropped off to sleep. 
Growing up I mostly read fiction, finding that these imaginative stories offered me solace and escape - a chance to daydream about fantasy worlds and eccentric characters. However as an adult I am now finding myself drawn to non fiction works the real life stories, accounts and experiences from humans around the world.

I first discovered 'The Moth' in book form - a collection of short real life experiences as told at live story telling events worldwide. Once I had read the book of these fascinating tales I then discovered the podcast which is a live recording of these story telling events. To give you a better idea, here is how 'The Moth' is explained on their website: 

"The Moth is an acclaimed not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. It is a celebration of both the raconteur, who breathes fire into true tales of ordinary life, and the storytelling novice, who has lived through something extraordinary and yearns to share it. At the center of each performance is, of course, the story – and The Moth’s directors work with each storyteller to find, shape and present it.
Since its launch in 1997, The Moth has presented thousands of stories, told live and without notes, to standing-room-only crowds worldwide.

Moth shows are renowned for the great range of human experience they showcase. Each show starts with a theme, and the storytellers explore it, often in unexpected ways. Since each story is true and every voice authentic, the shows dance between documentary and theater, creating a unique, intimate, and often enlightening experience for the audience."

What's great about the stories featured on the Moth is that the performers themselves are so varied and diverse; people from all walks of life participate from street cleaners to world renowned surgeons. It is such an interesting insight into the lives of others and each story is unique - some describe monumental life changing events whilst others are about simple encounters that may have changed a negative pattern of thinking. 

I would definitely recommend anyone to buy the book and download the free weekly podcast, its hard to imagine anyone who wouldn't enjoy it. The stories I have listened to have made me laugh, cry and reflect upon my own experiences.

Most of the live storytelling events are held across America however there are also regular events in London - tickets sell fast though as they are becoming increasingly popular!
I have also found similar events run by different writing and performance groups in Bristol so I am really looking forward to attending a few of those - who knows maybe one day I will get up and perform myself!

Last night I with a friend to a storytelling event which featured authors and writers reading 10 minute short fictional stories. There was such a supportive atmosphere in the room and it was amazing how the whole audience were just transfixed by the narrators. I guess it just shows that you are never too old for a good story!

To find out more about 'The Moth' you can visit their website here which has a ton of information on the book, how to download the podcast or even get involved and submit your own story!


Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Little Betty

I have been meaning to post a photo for a while of this little beauty that I received as a gift from my parents for graduating. It is a miniature sewing machine (which actually works by turning the handle!) with a tiny needle felted wren perching on top. I am especially fond of its name 'Little Betty' since Betty is also the name of my cat!

My house is full of trinkets and treasures which I have collected over the past few years - If I see something interesting or unusual at flea markets, vintage fairs or charity shops I can't resist buying them! Each piece has its own history and story and I like to imagine who they belonged to before me or who created them. To me these are the things that make my house a home, so I will go on collecting until I eventually run out of room!

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Grandparents who eat grapefruit...

Isn't it funny how we come to associate certain smells, colours or sounds with a particular person or moment in our lives? This week I passed by a fruit stall and the display of pink and yellow grapefruits instantly reminded me of my Grandparents. Every morning without fail they would both share a grapefruit for breakfast and I can clearly remember as a young child sitting in my Grandma's bedroom as Grandpa bought her breakfast in bed and watching as they ate their grapefruits out of matching bowls. I can also remember when staying with them being offered a grapefruit of my own for breakfast and finding it far too sour in spite of sprinkling sugar all over it! When my Grandparents came to stay at our house, my sister and I would watch them unload all their bags and every time without fail my Grandpa would have packed some grapefruits - so intent as they were to keep to their morning routine!
Now my Grandma and Grandpa are both in their 90's and live in a care home, so I am not sure if they eat a breakfast that is provided or whether they are able to choose. However seeing and smelling those grapefruits the other day desperately made me want to visit them so I could take some grapefruits and we could all sit and share them together.


Sunday, 12 July 2015

'I Will Move Mountains' - An introduction.

When many people see the word 'achievement' they will automatically associate it with some sort of monumental accomplishment - running a marathon, completing a qualification, climbing a mountain. As someone who suffers from low self esteem it has taken me a long time to appreciate and celebrate the smaller everyday achievements that are so easy to overlook or dismiss. Maybe I'm generalizing a bit here but it feels in Western society we are constantly being pushed to succeed - to reach that next goal or target (whatever it may be) and we are so quick to forget or dismiss the hard work and effort we put in to everyday achievements, as well as recognizing how hard they can sometimes be to complete. 

I have struggled with mental health problems for a long time and there have been days where it has been a massive effort to get myself out of bed and get dressed - let alone go to work, socialise or do something remotely productive! A therapist I once worked with once instructed me to make a daily list of my achievements. I scoffed at the idea and thought it was ridiculous - at that time I had no job, wasn't in education,  and very few interests or hobbies that I felt motivated enough to participate in. In my eyes wasn't achieving anything day to day! My therapist asked me if I had cleaned my teeth yesterday, if I had showered and brushed my hair. I replied that I had. I was told that for someone suffering with severe depression these were significant achievements and I should feel proud of myself for those instead of constantly beating myself up for all the things I wasn't doing.

It took me a long time to accept this way of thinking and I appreciate that the things I mentioned may seem so basic and routine for some people that it would seem strange to feel a sense of pride for doing them. However it is so important to remember that for some people these things take a huge amount of effort and that they deserve to be recognised as a positive accomplishment.

Now that I am doing a bit better I have new things on my list of daily achievements - things that I'm sure will still seem ridiculously simple or mundane to others but would have once been impossible for me to consider doing. I feel proud of the things I can now do without too much effort but I never forget how difficult they once were and when I'm having a bad day I think about how far I have come and try and pat myself on the pack for those 'little things' 

So onto the point of this post and some more info of how this relates to my mountain project...

I am interested in hearing about everyday achievements. Big or small it doesn't matter - it can be something like managing to overcome a fear of using public transport, getting back in touch with an old friend, leaving the safety of your home to take a quick walk, making eye contact with or smiling at a stranger, completing your degree, getting a promotion etc etc. I would like to know specific difficulties and feats that for you have been personally challenging and you have worked hard to accomplish. What are the 'mountains' that you have climbed?

My plan is to create a series of drawings and embroideries (possibly in the form of an artists book) that illustrates these achievements alongside more abstract mountain landscape studies.

If you would like to help out and be involved in my project please visit my other blog or drop me an email ( with your story. All stories will remain anonymous and please note that you do not have to suffer from a mental health condition to participate - I reckon everyone needs to be a little  kinder to themselves and take some time to reflect on their personal achievements!

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Moving Mountains

Today I have been busy writing an application for an Artist residency in Wales I am interested in. As I was thinking about the kind of work I would make for the residency, I was inspired to start a new personal project that I am really excited about. All I will say for now is that it will involve mountains and share a preview of a quick sketch I did this afternoon. 

Expect more information and progress soon!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Inspired by... Pomegranates

Technically pomegranates aren't in season at the moment although most supermarkets sell them all year round. They really are the most beautiful fruit - the seeds look like little jewels! I am thinking of creating a few prints and illustrations inspired by pomegranates so watch this space for updates! In the meantime here are some pinterest finds including a recipe for pomegranate ice cream and a pomegranate cocktail. Enjoy!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Using natural dyes

Whilst creating work for my degree piece I began experimenting dying fabrics using natural pigments and products. Years ago I attended a textile workshop where we used rusty objects to dye and stain fabrics which I was surprised to discover produced some beautiful results. Since my latest project focused on the life and work of honeybees, I was keen to use natural dyes to create the fabric used in my textile work since I felt this would work well with the context of my piece. A quick internet search led me to a whole abundance of blogs and tutorials about using natural dyes. From spices such as turmeric to dandelion roots or red cabbage you would be surprised by how many things that you probably already have at home or in your garden that you can use to produce some really effective dyes.

For my honeybee work I was focusing on the symbolism of the colour yellow, so I stuck to using turmeric, onion skins and dried plant extracts from yellow flowers such as weld and madder. If you want to grow plants specifically to use as dyes there is a great website  was able to find a great UK website which sells many different flowers seeds. If you are impatient to get dyeing and see some results, they also sell dyes, flower/plant extracts and mordants. That particular website was a great resource of information for me when it came to getting started with dyeing - they provide some really useful tips and information on which are the best fabrics to use and how to prepare your fabric so that the colours will last. 

Weld - a great flower to use either dried or fresh to create a yellow dye

For a recent commission I was asked to create an embroidery of a sweet pea so decided to use this as an opportunity to experiment with some purple dyes. A quick trip to the supermarket provided me with some red onion skins, beetroot, red cabbage and black beans and after soaking my fabric in vinegar to mordant it, I soon began to get to work with the dyeing! Each dye produced a different colour - all of which were lovely but it was the red cabbage which created the nicest shade of purple. I also used a couple of different fabrics - thin muslin cotton, silk and a thicker cotton/calico which also led to a lot of variation in the tones and shades of each dye. Bear in mind that it is always best to use natural fibres when dyeing to produce good results. Below is a picture of my finished piece. All the fabric used was dyed using red beetroot then layered up an embroidered onto.

I really loved the process of natural dyeing - it may sound silly but it is so satisfying to see such great results so quickly just by using products that are so simple to attain! It is definitely a process I am keen to learn more about and continue to experiment with. The possibilities If what you can do are endless... 
Below I have left some links to some of the blogs and tutorials that helped me get going, as I said there are so many out there each of which describe different techniques and methods. I have also included the website of artist India Flint. A innovative  textile artist who has really taken things to the next level with her methods and use of natural dyes.

Enjoy exploring and experimenting!

Folk Fibers blog -  yellow and red onion skin tutorial