Monday, December 31, 2012

A new year approaches

2013 is nearly upon us. In some places it's already here.
Remember, above the clouds,
the sky is always blue. 

I love the feeling I get in January. The year stretches before me as a blank canvas, full of potential.  I have some goals, some plans and a few ideas in place, but I don't know exactly what the year will bring. When I look back on the year just passed I'm often amazed at the shear volume of experiences I've had. 

It wasn't always this way for me. For a few years at least, my life was actually quite monotonous. I still accomplished things but for a time I gave up on a lot of things - travel, writing, art, the pure joy of learning. For anyone who knows me well I know this is difficult to imagine but for those who knew me then they know exactly what I'm talking about.

I sometimes suspect that I throw myself into so many projects not just for the joy of it and because I'm allergic to procrastination, but to make up for the 'lost' years. It's motivated me to travel, to learn, and this past year, to really work on my writing.

But my desire to accomplish so much can also mean that I forget to take time to be in the moment. I want to accomplish so much and I appreciate that life is unpredictable so I don't want to put off anything I can do now. The result can be that I stretch myself a little too thin and towards the end of this year that's exactly what I'd been doing. I know too, as January and the end of the Christmas/New Year break approaches, that life will resume it's fast pace and I'll once again be at risk of having too much on my plate.

I've made some big decisions for 2013, most importantly the decision to publish a book, given that it's been a dream of mine since childhood. I'm also going to be taking an adventurous trip to Japan, developing my design portfolio (I'm looking for work!), and continuing to submit my young adult fiction manuscripts to agents.

The other big decision of 2013 is for my to do some more studying. I don't think there is any excuse for ignorance in this day and age. With sites like Google or Lynda.com, learning a new skill is at our fingertips and I've never shied away from just finding something out. But I'm going for some more official qualifications and will be studying Psychology and Philosophy on a part-time basis. Not to mention the British Sign Language course I've been in since September.

It does sound like a lot and I know that I am, once again, at risk of being spread too thin. But I'm aware of this and keeping positive and open to all these different opportunities and adventures.

When I look back at 2012 I catch myself feeling a sense of disbelief that some of the things I've done or experiences have only been in the last year. It's been quite a year. You can accomplish a lot in 365 days. 

I don't know exactly what the next 365 will bring but as you can see, I have a lot planned for it. Planning is good, but being able to let go, change your mind and take life as it comes is just as important. I could say I'm looking forward to it but I'd rather not because I rather just keep in mind that I'm here, right now, and if I'm going to live the life I love then I'd better enjoy it as it's happening. 

May your 2013 be full of opportunity, change, and adventure. May you love the life you live and take every opportunity that you can. May you have fun, be challenged, and learn new things. 

Happy New Year. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Guest Post - Money, Education & Materialism – What Matters The Most?


Claire has done a guest post for me in the past. Her blog is one I've been following for some months now. I appreciate her insight and general take on life.

~

There is an individual on my Facebook Friends list who was once an acquaintance in the same social circle as me, who is now little more than a Facebook Friend. Let me call him E. E. works in realm of investment banking and corporate finance. He lives in a satellite town and commutes several hours to work everyday. His job is well-paid and he likes to advertise the fact through Instagram photos of his designer tie collection (50 ties in varying shades of silvery-blue and purple); mobile shots of his expensive sporting gear and via Status updates from bubbly networking events.
Half of his status updates are about the perks of his job. The other half are dark and concerning: rages at public transportation delays, blunt sentiments about feeling worthless or stressed to tears, declarations of complete exhaustion. He's got his money, status and his material gains...but it clearly has come at a price.
*
This is an extreme example of the choice that most 20-somethings come up against: how important is money going to be to my life? For most of the friends in my social circle it was a free choice: they would have the qualifications, intelligence and savings to consider (a) staying in education beyond the undergraduate level to retrain or get a higher qualification (b) finding a temporary (i.e, low-paid) job to help them figure out what they really wanted to do (c) finding a permanent job with a steady income  and taking their life forward from there.
My own choice was in category (b) - I took the pharmaceutical internship in Switzerland - with the overall aim of switching to (a) - applying to a PhD program and specialising as an organic chemist. As you know, I've not made the full transition back into academia: I'm still in the "temporary employment" category, albeit in a higher education institute.
I thought the delay would be more of a big deal than it is: since I'm still keeping my science skills fresh there's no immediate rush to get into a PhD program. Family and friends have been sympathetic about the delay, too: getting into graduate courses is a competitive, difficult business right now.
My parents have helped out. I've kept my expenses low. It's been months since I bought new clothes - charity-shop wear - I have no concept of shopping for pleasure.
For the most part I do not regret the choices I made.
...But I still wonder a lot about all the things I could do if I just had spare money. If I wasn't just breaking even, but actually putting more money into my bank account than I was taking out. Would I be happier with my life? Would it make my life more interesting, busy or enjoyable?
*
My suspicion is that it wouldn't. After all, what are the things that get me out of bed in the morning? The thought of interacting with work colleagues and friends. That special moment between me and my first coffee of the day. Successes and understandings with my science projects. Mostly the non-material things. The things I don't have to spend money to obtain (apart from the coffee, but I can get by on drinking supermarket-brand instant powder better than I imagine).
As long as I am not so poor as to be damaging my health, and as long as I'm happy with the type of work I'm doing, I think income should be a secondary concern, no matter if society thinks otherwise.

~


Monday, December 17, 2012

Design, design, design!

One of my first submissions for 99Designs

An idea for a consultation company that helps the growth of small businesses and/or charities

A commissioned logo for a an IT consultant

I'm officially a designer for hire! At the moment I'm working on expanding my portfolio as a lot of my design work has been done for a single charity, but I've got loads of experience with marketing and design as well as a digital design course from Chelsea College of Art and Design under my belt. 

As an artist my favourite pieces have been those I've done as a commission or as gifts for friends or family members. I love creating my own work but I always seem to enjoy it more when I'm making it for someone else. It's a combination of my imagination and style with their personality and the results are always well received. 

This ability to communicate another person's idea or personality is probably the most important to have as a designer. My previous experience involved working without a brief more often than not, so I often had to really engage the people I was working with to ensure that I was creating something that was in line with their vision. 

I really enjoy doing layout work with InDesign and have spent the last few months dabbling in logo design, as Illustrator is pretty much my favourite program ever. 

In January I'm going to be making a special offer on my design work. I'll be announcing it in my first newsletter of 2013. 

In the mean time, if you'd like to find out more or commission something (I really like doing Social Media backgrounds/images) you can get in touch through the contact form on my website. 



Thursday, December 13, 2012

Too Much Air-time

It's important to get stuff off your chest. Bottling things up doesn't help and if anything it will only compound an issue until it ends up blowing up into something much bigger - that old 'Mountains out of Molehills' adage.

But letting off steam is different from constant complaining. Letting off steam is releasing something and then letting it go. A kettle doesn't suck the steam back in when it's done boiling.

Constant complaining involves revisiting the same thing repeatedly. For example, if you find the behaviour of someone you know particularly irksome so you repeatedly air your frustrations with them to anyone who will listen.

They certainly may be doing different things that you find annoying, frustrating and bothersome, but your general complaining is bound to be the same old thing regardless of their behaviour.

Sometimes I can let it go really easily. I am able to reflect on the behaviour of others and I know that I can't change them, I can only change myself.

That might mean letting go of a friend or no longer following someone on Facebook. It might mean learning to just shrug something off because really, it's probably no big deal.

But occasionally I come across someone who really gets under my skin. I find them so frustrating that I'm baffled and I find myself repeating my frustration to anyone who will listen.

Fortunately, I am surrounded by some very wonderful friends and family who are really good at pointing this out to me. Mostly it involves a lot of eye rolling and looking bored because, even if it's a new 'shocking' thing the person has done to annoy me, I'm still being annoyed - again.

I think learning how to be responsible for our own moods regardless of the behaviour or actions of others is probably one of the most difficult lessons in life. It's not easy to accept and remember that we are each responsible for ourselves and how we feel, think and act is entirely our choice.

A lot of it involves changing the way I think about something. I don't like the idea that someone I don't really like or respect is getting so much of my time and energy. When I catch myself mid-whine I pause and just think, "You are giving them way too much air-time."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Feels like the whole world should have changed - Kait's Mixtape

"I've still got sand in my shoes."
- Dido

Dido really got it right - I've never returned from a holiday without feeling like everything should be different. It's a bit like the feeling I get on January first when the new year stretches ahead of me like a blank canvas full of potential.

Generally, when I return from holiday, I do have this burst of energy for new projects. I think the effect of doing nothing, and in the case of the last seven days, unplugging entirely, gives me a chance to clear my mind and refocus. This is the first time I've touched my computer since November 28th and I have to say, the break from the screen was incredibly refreshing.

I was reluctant to turn it on, and not because I know I've got a few hundred emails and notifications, but because I know I'll soon be back into the pattern of being online more often than I'm actually outside enjoying the world.

It is winter and once the Christmas rush dies down the shortened days, lack of sunlight and general chill of it all tends to send me a bit off kilter unless I have something to get stuck into. So I'm glad of this holiday and the particular focus it has given me.

I am, of course, working on the final editing and layout of my book so it will be ready for publication in March, but that involves an awful lot of time on the computer. Which is why I've been looking for a new art project.

When I finished my tarot cards many people asked if I was going to continue on with the minor cards to complete the deck or if I had something new up my sleeve. At the time my energy was shifted entirely into my writing and art, be it sculpture, painting or design, took a back burner.

My art is something which has always allowed me to relax and I enjoy it because it's a way for me to share my experience of the world. Music, and in particular the lyrics which accompany music, have always been a huge part of my life. As I thought about Dido's perfect lines which capture exactly how I feel about a holiday (I do indeed still have sand in my shoes) I have been thinking about the wisdom I find in the lyrics that I love the best.

I recently decided to pull out my pencil crayons and give them a bit of a go just for the pure enjoyment of it. I happened to be listening to a song which I feel expresses the importance of remembering that we are each capable of so very much and how important it is to be your own best friend. I like what I came up with and have decided I'd very much like to do a series of different pieces that select snatches of lyrics combined with my own style of creativity and expression.

I'm not giving myself a deadline for it as the deadline of the book is enough and starting in January I'm going to be doing some part-time study simply because I can. This will be my art for the sake of art - my way of unplugging when I'm not on holiday - and hopefully something which you will enjoy too.
"Make a Noise" A4 Bristol board, pencil crayon, pencil and ink

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Guest Post - Why I Want to be a QI Elf

Hannah J got in touch with me through Twitter when I did a shout out asking for guest bloggers for November and December. As a fellow nerd I have to say, this contribution rings so true! 

~

Growing up I'd regularly watch University Challenge with my Mum and Dad. I never stood much chance of getting the questions right but the picture rounds and music rounds (when it wasn't obscure classical music) I could sometimes get right. I have a memory of watching it with my Dad one evening while my Mum was out. It was actually recording to video while we watched it. When my Mum got in about half an hour later we re-watched the episode. I think the idea that we had was that I'd seem really clever although I'd just be recalling the answers from memory rather than because I actually knew the information.

As I got older I got better at being able to answer questions but I still sucked at exams. Plain and simple. If it was a simple question (for example what year did World War II start in?) then I was fine. If it was more complicated (for example give 5 events that contributed to the start of World War II) then some reason I'd go to pieces and then 20 mark essay questions would just knock me for six. I swear in my History exam the war started after it had finished because I got in such a knot. I find that I can't recall the information in the right order or if I can then by the time it reaches the page it only makes sense in my head and not to the person reading it back (how anyone keeps up with me I have no idea!)

But knowledge excites me, I love to learn about new places and opportunities, I love to read books and now websites and blogs. I have been known to intently read the ingredients list on cereal packets and then look up what the ingredients are, just to see what certain things to do my body. Yes I'm a nerd, yes I'm a geek but I don't mind. The idea of putting all the random pieces of knowledge I have to use by being a QI Elf kind of excites me too. Also the possibility of working with like minded people.

~

Monday, December 3, 2012

Guest Post - Halifax


I'm taking a break! This time of year is already pretty full on for me but with so much extra happening I decided I'd get some guest posters for my blog to 'ease the strain'. I'm still looking for guest posts so if you have an idea pop me and email or tweet to me.

I first read Ben's blog after he'd commented on one of my posts. While very introspective I find his prose easy to identify with. He is a great example of someone who reflects on what they want out of life and how to go about making that happen.

~

I had taken a few trips to Halifax before.  It was “the city” when I was living in Pictou, Nova Scotia when I was a kid.  It was a destination for special outings in high school, including a performance by my high school’s folk music and dance ensemble on the local morning show.  It was an opportunity for rendezvous with friends I hadn’t seen in a while.  A few extended stays in the city over the last year and a half made up my mind, though: I wanted to live there.


When I was laid off from a call centre job in Miramichi, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try to get work in a bigger city.  I know from experience that I am not a small town person, and I was getting restless: part of the reason was because Miramichi was always intended as a temporary stop, and I felt I was falling into a rut that I wouldn’t climb out of.  I took a few trips to the city to look for work; unfortunately, nothing really happened on that front.  As my unemployment dwindled, I started to worry that I would be forced to stay an extra year on top of my two years there.   

I had been too careful.  I’ve never been one to take risks, preferring to get out of life as unscathed as possible, but I knew from experience this was getting me nowhere.  The last time I had been as committed to the safe route, I had ended up staying in a job years after it was clear that the money I made was no compensation for the toll it took on my mental health.
I had to make a big move.

I ended up finding an apartment in the city for October 1st.  After moving down here, I found I was getting more results on the job hunt than I had been even after changing my cell to a Halifax number and borrowing a friend’s local address.  While taking a week-long job search workshop, a temp agency I had gone to the week before let me know that they found a placement for me that started the next Monday.

It’s not a glamour position, but my job ended up being the break from call centre work I had been hoping for, and I find I take to data entry and clerical work a bit better.  My daily commute to work goes past the storefronts of the Hydrostone, while my bus ride home lets me see the sun go down over the hill where my apartment building sits. 

I’ve been trying to take advantage of what the city has to offer.  I have to be mindful about money, and know I still retreat to my comfort zone too much for my own liking, but the last month and a half has seen me get out of the apartment a fair bit.  I’ve attended an art exhibit opening and watched a friend participate in a cyclocross tournament.  I’ve gone to a retro dance party.  I even took pictures for a local AIDS fundraiser. 

There was a big risk that moving here wasn’t going to pay off fast enough to keep me in food and shelter.  So far, taking that chance more than paid off.

~

Thursday, November 29, 2012

50,104 Words in 25 days


In the middle of October I came across National Novel Writing Month through a fellow blogger's blog. I decided writing 50,000 words in thirty days would be good fun!

I've written several novels, five young adult fiction and one non-fiction, but never in just thirty days. This challenge of quantity over quality would be a new one for me but one which I was quite excited to take.

Fortunately I have a two hour commute three days a week, which makes for prime writing time. An hour in the morning and an hour in the evening plus the occasional hour or two as and when I could fit them in.

I started out strong, completing over double the 1,600 word daily target they set through the NaNoWriMo website. For the first few weeks it looked like I was going to be just fine with pushing through to 50K, but about mid-way through I started to flag.

Difficulty in keeping up momentum is why the novels I've written previously were completed over several years. Often I'd write the first half, hit a giant block, and just stop. Not with NaNoWriMo this isn't part of the plan. The aim is to get those words down, no matter what. I had to push through writer's block and feeling like what I was writing was probably crap, until I gained the momentum again.

My writing definitely moved in peaks and valleys and I have to admit, on the 20th of the month I feared I wouldn't make it or, that I would complete the novel without having hit 50,000 words. the average fiction novel is about 47,000 words so this wouldn't be unreasonable, but 50K was the aim so I persevered.

I'm happy to say that I completed my goal on the 25th of November, rounding my novel off in a way that I was satisfied with which also surpassed the target ever so slightly.

My experience of this was interesting as I found many friends, family and co-workers who had either participated before or were doing it that year for the first, second or third time. The general impression I got was that most of us have a novel inside us. We have characters, a plot, and loads of ideas. But we lack the motivation to just start writing it.

Something puts us off - feeling we're not prepared enough or that we don't know how to start. I don't know if I'll participate in NaNoWriMo again but what I do know is it's taught me the importance of getting it down. There is no ideal time to start or right way to go about it. It's about just going for it and I'm happy to say that I did. As a result I finished a novel in just twenty-five days and I have to say, that feels like something to be proud of.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Cultured Mouse

I attended a concert conducted by the delightful Sue Perkins. It was held at the Barbican, a London venue I've often read about but not been to before. It's a sprawling building with multiple auditoriums. The atmosphere was festive and the evening's music proved to be very delightful. Sue's energy was fantastic and despite having a restricted view, we had front row seats that still afforded us a decent enough view of half the orchestra.

There was some bonus entertainment during the night in the form of a mouse. The little creature was under the edge of the stage and during the second half of the performance it began peaking out and attempting to make it's way across the floor to get out one of the fire exit doors. The problem with this plan was all of us sitting in the front row, including one woman who had an obvious fear of the small creature as her legs involuntarily jumped the first five or six times the mouse made an appearance.

Soon, however, the woman relaxed and the mouse almost became a part of the performance. The poor wee thing was missing one of it's hind feet and it did the sweetest little sideways run when it emerged from the shadows of the stage. It ran up and down the length of the stage on the side we were sat and proved to be a source of entertainment and delight for several other concert goers.

I have to say, whilst it was brilliant to see Sue Perkins conduct, and whilst the delightful music of Tchaikovsky definitely began putting me in a Christmas mood, it was probably the antics of the little cultured mouse that most made that evening for me.




Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Priorities

The following video is best watched in the context of the Me First life coaching site I set up about this time last year.

When I set out to establish myself as a life coach I took the plunge whole heartedly. I believe that putting yourself out there is the best way to find out if something will work or not. Part of figuring this sort of thing out involves the trial and error experience of trying different approaches to an idea or project.

I have come to the conclusion that a new approach is needed for several reasons.

1. I'm publishing a book in March, which will be quite an undertaking and requires a lot of time and energy.

2. I don't want to risk spreading myself too thin. I believe it's good to do a variety of different things to keep life interesting but important to find balance. By taking on too much I risk depleting my energy and not performing very well at any of my projects.

3. I want to integrate my coaching into what I'm already doing with Faunawolf Creations as a Creative Specialist.

The video below explains all of this and will be up on my other site for the time being. I am still offering one to one coaching through www.faunawolfcreations.com and expanding my services to include bookings for classes - like learning to sculpt with polymer clay, character design, or mask making, for example.



video


So toodle on over to www.FaunawolfCreations.com! 
You can subscribe to my new e-Newsletter (Don't worry, if you were subscribed to Me First you'll be switched to the new mailing list), keep up to date through my twitter and facebook accounts, and keep reading my blog

Monday, November 12, 2012

Guest Bloggers Needed!

As the end of the year approached so does the need for me to chill out, relax and generally regroup. Which means I'm taking a holiday. And I'm also going to be off to Canada for Christmas - which will involve spending time with my family and not blogging very much at all.

So I'm doing a call out for guest bloggers!

If you'd like to write an entry for She Smiled the Widest Smile your entry can be one or a combination of the following:
1. Something thought provoking and uplifting.
2. Something you think will benefit the well being of others.
3. Something that highlights your own philosophy on life, living well, and enjoying what you do and who you are.

If you'd like to do a guest post send an email to faunawolf 'at' gmail 'dot' com. I'll need entries by next Monday (The 19th of November) but will accept them as late at the 23rd of November if you need a bit more time to prepare something.

In return I'll happily write a guest blog for you at some point when you too are off holidaying or you just need a break from blogging.

Thanks!




Thursday, November 8, 2012

400th Blog Entry!!!


When people ask me “what do you do?” I get overwhelmed as I find it difficult to offer them an answer that is brief but also explains the breadth of my professional activity. Lately this has become a greater challenge as I’ve been working on my life coaching, still doing all my creative tasks and working part-time at a charity. 

To resolve this I sat down and really thought about how I want to answer that question, regardless of what I’m spending my time on or where my primary source of income is coming from. The only job title which I’ve ever truly loved and embraced is Creative Specialist. 

I specialise in being creative. I sculpt, write, paint, animate, design, and draw. I am happiest when I am making something for someone and happiest when I have a creative project to get properly stuck into. 

For the last few weeks I’ve been stuck into writing and illustrating a book. It is the first non-fiction book I’ve completed and it’s on the subject of wisdom. Wisdom is not directly related to how long a person has lived but what they have learned from the many experiences they’ve had. This is a handbook for cultivating wisdom, regardless of your age, and it’s going to be published in March, 2013. 

I’m not entirely sure on the exact date just yet, but for my 400th blog entry I wanted to announce something really exciting! There’s not specific reason for me to get excited about my 400th blog entry. It’s just a nice looking number, really, and as I’ve missed any anniversaries, it seemed like a good time to celebrate this blog and show my appreciation to all of you who read it. 

In celebration of 400 entries and the release of my book in March, I am going to be holding a draw. You are invited to sign up to my brand new Faunawolf Creations E-Newsletter, which will arrive in your inbox once a month and no more, I promise. Everyone who signs up between now and February 2013 will be entered into a draw to win a signed copy of ‘Wise At Any Age’ when it is released in March. 

I’m also holding a ReTweeting contest for those of you who regularly read my blog via twitter. Everyone who ReTweets this entry will be entered into a draw to win a signed limited edition print of one of my Tarot Card paintings. 

And if that wasn’t enough, to include those of you who support me through my Facebook Page, everyone who ‘shares’ the link to this entry will be entered into a draw to win an original Fanawolf Creations dragon. 

So, quite a few fabulous opportunities and all to say thank you for reading, commenting and sharing. This blog is a big part of my life and I really appreciate the support I get from all of my followers, fans and friends. I just wanted to thank you for it and whilst it would be brilliant to offer a prize to everyone, logistically it’s just not practical. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from entering all three draws! 

And here's to the next 400 entries! *raises glass in a toast*

Monday, November 5, 2012

Learn to meditate

I write quite a bit about meditation, its benefits and why I am a firm believer in working it into my daily life.

My passion for this incredible tool has led me to running introductory meditation classes this month, the first being this Friday. I want to dispel the myths around it, so it's open to people who have tried meditation but might be struggling a bit, as well as those who want to give it a go for the first time.

In the class I'll cover posture, focusing on the breath, and open it up to some discussion about the reasons for meditation. I am taking a very relaxed approach because I believe everyone can meditate and it shouldn't be intimidating or inaccessible. It's also extremely personal so this will be an opportunity to explore what works for you and how you might be able to fit it into your day to day life.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

It's November! Why not write a novel?

It's November! And thanks to Lorca Damon, I've signed myself up to NaNoWriMo. I believe it's called that because typing 'National Novel Writing Month' repeatedly would tire out even the most fastidious of bloggers.

I also realise that National implies it happens in one nation but evidently Amazon has decided that the Internet counts as a nation and therefore anyone on the Interweb, regardless of location, can sign up.

That's right, anyone can sign up. Even you. So - if you've ever wanted to write a novel you can start right now! For the entire month there is a lovely community of people also writing novels that you can tap into for inspiration, support, ideas and motivation.

I have never attempted writing a novel in a single month. Most of my novels have been written over several years, sometimes with months or years of not writing in between starting and finishing. Getting 50,000 words down in just 30 days will be a different challenge for me but one I'm happy to jump on. 

Whether you've written a novel before or not, this is a great opportunity because there are going to be so many others doing the same thing who will be connected to you through the NaNoWriMo website. No excuses - if you've always wanted to write a novel, what's stopping you from signing up and starting right now?


Monday, October 29, 2012

Hallowe'en shenanigans!

Hallowe'en is in just a few days. I was on the ball this year with my costume making. Since moving to London I've found my resources are greatly reduced. In Calgary I had a very tiny room in the house I live in that I used as a studio. This allowed me to get quite mucky on a regular basis and have multiple projects going at once. It also allowed me plenty of storage space for scraps of material, bits of chicken wire, and other crafty stuff that worked well for costume design.

Just before I move to London I also made a big effort to purge my life of 'unneccesary' stuff. Anything I hadn't touched in a year was either thrown out, donated to charity or gifted to friends, depending on the state of it.

What I could bring over was stuffed into two large suitcases that couldn't weigh more than 50lbs each and everything else was put into storage to await my eventual (possibly, maybe) return.

I did keep a few things but they're all in Canada. I also had a pretty good list of stores where I could source supplies from and of course, I had that space in which to work.

Since coming to the UK my costume making has become far less fulfilling. I still have all the same great ideas and enthusiasm, but finding the space hasn't been successful. Regardless, this year I decided to get started sooner rather than later.

The first step was deciding on what I wanted to be. I have a long list of costume to make, and eventually I will when the time is right, but I knew that most of them were far too ambitious given a current lack of funds. Whatever it was would be clever and creative but also simple. 

I opened up my Book of Faeries - a childhood favourite and one of the few books I simply had to bring with me from Canada - and scanned the pages for inspiration. I considered Jenny Greenteeth but didn't immediately warm to it when I considered how I'd go about it. I scanned the pixies, although Pixie King has already been a costume I've done and I seek to do something different every year.

And then I saw the Phooka, an Irish Goblin that likes to shape shift into animal forms and often has the head of a goat. This reminded me of 'Snuff' the latest Discworld novel from Terry Pratchett, which also features goblins. Perfect. 

So, this Hallowe'en my costume is that of a Goblin. I'm quite pleased with the outcome. I've been commissioned to make the occasional costume for others and would love to do it again. If you like what you see visit www.FaunawolfCreations.com to find out about commissioning work from me.

First I build the basic shape of the mask on my face using plaster cast.
I use warm water so it will dry faster as the entire thing is done on my face
in one go so the sooner it dries, the less time I have to wear it. 

This is a new to me material - one of the problems with making plaster masks is that
they end up weighing quite a bit. I figured I could give this a go as it's a light, foamy material
and it air dries. The initial mask I did didn't work as, when it dries, it also expands the
plaster so it no longer fit my face. 

After some careful sculpting I have covered the entire plaster base with the Fimo.
I did a single layer all over and then built up the eyebrows, nose and lip.
I added the horns and ears last. 


When it was dry (24 hours later) I painted it using acrylic.
You can see that I still had some side expansion but it still fits nicely so I'm not worried. 

And voila! My goblin face is complete! 

I got the vest in a charity shop and
picked up some faux-fur (Just half a metre) to make the loin cloth.
The brown 'body suit' is a cheap set of leggings with a tight fitting shirt.
I used a little acrylic paint to add the muscles.
For more of my artwork visit www.faunawolfcreations.com

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Choices We Have

I am the proud fur-mother to three delightful cats. They provide me with comfort and fill my life with joy and love. I adore each of them for their individual personalities and quirks.

I love them unconditionally. They bring home smaller creatures they have caught, sometimes still alive, at inconvenient times like 3am, when I'd rather be sleeping. They track mud into the house and leave crumbs in my bedding and fluff all over everything I own. They occasionally claw the carpet or the furniture. 

These things do not bother me for two important reasons: 

1. I adore having fur-children, the company they provide and the delight I feel when I spend time with them. 

2. They are cats and it is in a cat's nature to kill small things, run around outside, roll in dirt, shed fur and claw things. They cannot help how they were made and having a cat is a choice I made and one I made because of the reasons listed in reason #1. 

In short, you can't get angry at a kitten for being a kitten. 

I've written on this subject before but I felt like revisiting it for a few reasons. 

I believe that the world is made better through the practice of compassion and that compassion is found through empathy - our ability to understand someone else's experience regardless of our own. 

I also believe that we do the best we can with what we know. Therefore, it's not unreasonable to apply the thought that you 'can't get angry at a kitten for being a kitten' to your neighbour, or that terrible driver who cut you off, or a random stranger on the tube. 

I want to be very clear, however, that I am not excusing ill behaviour. If someone causes us pain, physically or emotionally, their actions are still not deemed "O.K." purely because they didn't know any better. Their lack of skill is not an excuse - but it is a reason. 

I spend a lot of time thinking about this because it's so very easy for us to judge a person by their actions without seeing the many experiences and consequences which led them to behave the way they do. If I'm ever struggling in this department I like to keep this phrase in mind: 

No one does anything because they want to feel worse. 

Human beings don't like suffering. This is a plain fact of life. When we look around us we can see proof of it all over the place. We care a lot about what other people think of us. We care about our health. We want to be comfortable, safe, warm, full, and happy. We strive for it. 

So when someone does something which we might find offensive, appalling, or downright mean, remember: They're not trying to make themselves feel worse. They're just not going about making themselves feeling better in a particularly effective way. 

The choice we have is how we choose to act in the face of 'a kitten just being a kitten'. We might not be able to change how someone else chooses to behave but we always have a choice when it comes to our own behaviour as long as we are paying attention. To pay attention means to recognise when something isn't particularly resourceful or effective. 

If an action, a phrase or a particular behaviour is going to make a situation worse or perpetuate an already difficult situation, we have the choice to change our own response. It's not an easy task but it's definitely worth doing if it means we become better able to handle the general bumps of life. 

What do you think? Can you think of a particular time when you were able to change your own way of thinking or behaving so that a difficult situation could be resolved or diffused? 

Please comment below! 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

How to Sculpt a Hare

I was very fortunate as a child to have extremely artistic and crafty parents. My dad is a very good sketch artist and incredibly talented wood worker and photographer. My mum is an amazing writer, storyteller and painter. When I was a kid my mum actually taught ceramics classes in the basement of our house - something you probably couldn't do now-a-days - which were open to neighbourhood kids and retired women.

Our basement was always full of a multitude of different ceramic pieces for her students to buy and paint and my mum had everything from glaze to acrylic to chalk. Because she had glaze, and because she used greenware (unfired ceramics) my mum also had a kiln. 

Having a kiln really was one of the coolest things which I most appreciated after I graduated from High School and still wanted to work with clay.

Moving to London has meant leaving behind the advantages of access to my parent's extremely well kitted out basement (My dad has a table and ban saw) and therefore having to think outside the box when it comes to my creative endeavours.

I love sculpting and truly, of all the art forms I've come to embrace, it has been the one I have the most passion for. Recently this love has turned into a sort of frustrated energy as I lack the space and resources to do the sculpture I did when I lived in Canada and only a five minute drive from a free kiln. I set out to find a material I could use to satiate this desire which wasn't as expensive as a polymer clay as I wanted to do something larger. In fact, I'd really love to do an incredibly large scale sculpture, in the realm of Henry Moore although not abstract, but for now that remains something on my To Do list for life.

Through just a small bit of research I was able to locate non-firing clay at a suitable price which would be delivered to my door. I promptly ordered it and then, upon receipt, popped it into my art supply drawer and left it for some weeks.

I knew I waned to sculpt but I wasn't sure what and I was still restricted by a lack of suitable studio space to get properly mucky in. In my experience creative energy tends to build and build until it becomes either nervous energy which keeps me from sleeping or it spills over and I am forced to create and stop making excuses about the space I have. 

On a particularly lovely day my energy peaked and I rapidly set myself up outside with a bowl of water and my lump of clay. And this is what I made.
The initial structure. I let the clay dry a bit after I got this far
so I could make modifications which would hold in place
as I don't like using wireframes. 

I left it to dry for some hours before adding the legs.
The body needed to be firm enough to hold it's own weight
as the legs are quite narrow. 

A view from the front after the legs were finished.
I made sure the clay was less wet when I was working with it.
Soggy clay tends to 'wilt' and often whole sculptures will
collapse on themselves. 

After a week of drying. For non-firing clay it's best to
let it dry slowly so I'd kept it loosely covered in cling film. 

The finished product. After it's dry you can paint it with pretty much
anything you like and then use a sealing spray.
In this case I painted it with acrylic. 

I'm really pleased with this piece as it's the largest I've ever sculpted out of clay
and given that it was my first time working with non-firing clay I think I managed all right. 

To see more of my artwork or to order a custom piece visit 
If you want to learn how to motivate yourself to do your own creative projects visit www.CreativeLifeCoachLondon.com

Monday, October 15, 2012

Falling

Have you ever had the rug pulled out from under you?

I certainly have. It's terrifying, isn't it? You're going along, living your life as you expected you would, looking into a future you've had planned out for some time when suddenly you get blind-sided. You find yourself tumbling forward into an abyss which seems bottomless. You reach out to catch something or someone, anything at all to stop the downward plunge, only to find that there is nothing in reach.

It is terrifying. But it's also a brilliant place to be.

When life takes you by surprise - delivers the unexpected - it's an opportunity for growth. Sometimes it might be a small thing like your car breaking down on a busy road on the way to work. This is a chance to practice patience. To see how resourceful you can be in a stressful situation, test your ability to solve the issue at hand, to be patient with the inconvenience, to accept that some things will be beyond your control.

Sometimes it's going to be significantly larger. Your partner of several years leaves you. Your employer makes you redundant. You're in a skiing accident which leaves both your legs in full casts.

Everything is unhinged and any plans or expectations you had for the future will suddenly be uncertain, or impossible. These situations can be upsetting, challenging and difficult but they are not without benefit.

Life will always have difficulties - this is an unarguable fact. How we choose to respond in the face of the unavoidable is entirely up to us.

When life takes us on unexpected and unplanned turns it's an opportunity to open up to more choices, to see things from a different perspective, or to change the way we think.

It's also a wonderful way to see our strengths. When we are challenged we get to see where we need to do more work, but we can also see where we are incredibly strong, resilient or skilled.

The choice of how we respond is always ours. We can take our circumstances in stride or we can wallow. Personally, wallowing just makes me feel a bit gross. I might have a few sympathetic shoulder pats from the occasional person who will listen to me whinge, but int he long term I won't feel any better and will probably end up making myself feel worse in the long run than I did initially.

I've come to love falling. Not that I go looking for adversity but I'm not afraid to take a step into the unknown. That would be why I decided to move to London nearly three years ago. I didn't have a set idea of what would happen but I was willing to find out. Believe me, it has been an incredible adventure and one I wouldn't change for the world.

Ready to take the leap yourself? www.CreativeLifeCoachLondon.com




Thursday, October 11, 2012

Vlog - Make it Happen

Another Vlog! Apologies for these being few and far between. I've not had access to the lovely HD camera used for my initial posts and I'm painfully aware of the poor quality of the video when I use my computer. But this was too good not to vlog and poor quality video is a First World Problem not worth keeping me from vlogging.




Monday, October 8, 2012

Relax! It's only life after all.


I love First World Problem memes but not just because they're amusing. They also remind me of something really important: Not to take myself so seriously.

When we take ourselves too seriously it means we're clinging really hard to an idea or thought. I can always tell if I'm taking myself too seriously because I'll get worked up over something pretty small.

If my phone stops working or my computer crashes, it won't affect my health. It might annoy me, if I let it, but when I tag 'first world problem', to the end of a complaint it diffuses the energy it might carry. It's no longer a significant problem because it puts it into perspective. 

I totally recommend this as a great tool to help you relax and let go of things which, really, are of very little consequence.

Your problems are still your problems, but it's a nice reminder that most of the problems we experience are not a threat to our overall wellbeing. I'm not starving, I'm well clothed, I have more than adequate shelter, I have regular income, I have lots of love in my life. With all these needs met, any problem we face should be taken in stride. When we have our basic needs met, we can appreciate that this in itself goes a long way to helping us live happy, fulfilled lives.

Happy Thanksgiving. May you be grateful for all that you have. 


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Start sleeping, reduce your stress, stop being overwhelmed!

As a life coach I work with my clients to find tools that fit their needs so they can create the life they love. One of the tools I love to introduce to people is meditation. I love it so much that I've decided to start offering meditation classes. 

I love helping people to improve their lives and the benefits of meditation are many fold. My own experience has, upon reflection, been nearly miraculous. Prior to starting a regular meditation practice I was taking anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication. I had difficulty sleeping and often lost my appetite, so my weight was dipping dangerously low.

Within two months of regular meditation practice, combined with having a trusted person I could bounce thoughts and ideas off of, I was no longer taking either medication. I was sleeping regularly, and I had gained twenty much needed pounds (Just over a stone for those of you from the UK).

It's been nearly five years since I started meditating and in that time I've learned many different techniques and participated in multiple practices taught by many different teachers. The thing which has struck me the most about meditation is the flexibility of it. 

Photo Courtesy of CSAPhotography
Meditation often seems to be a big challenge to people and I know, for me, it was because I thought there were a lot of rules around it. I thought you had to do it in a certain way or you were doing it 'wrong'.

Because meditation is about self reflection and discovery, how you meditate is a very personal thing. We each have our own path in life and finding what fits is entirely up to you.

During my meditation classes I'll cover the very basics, like breathing and posture, but allow you to explore what works for you. The classes will be an opportunity for you to test out different things, ask questions, and learn with a group of individuals seeking the same peace of mind.

With regular meditation practice you can reduce stress in your life, improve your sleep, and increase your overall well being. Having difficulty with a co-worker or manager? Feeling overwhelmed by family drama? Just plain drained from the daily commute?

Meditation can help with all those things.

The initial classes will be on November 9th and 16th, from 6:30 - 7:45. Space is limited so book as soon as you can: http://mefirstmeditation.eventbrite.co.uk/ 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cultivating wisdom


Two weeks ago I put the finishing touches onto a manuscript I’ve been working on in one form or another for over a three years now. Last week I posted it off and now I wait, in six weeks time, to hear from the first two agents I’ve chosen. 

The book is my first non-fiction piece (Most of my writing is young adult fiction) and it was initially inspired by my own experience with anxiety, depression, a mental breakdown and heartbreak. 

In my life thus far I have encountered many people suffering due to the stresses of modern life - scrambling to find happiness as though it were a physical thing we could hold or something we could build or buy. I have also had many experiences in which I was able to feel great compassion for people from entirely different backgrounds because I could recognise our shared human experience of emotion. 

This compassion and the belief I have that growing it will benefit myself and others is why I am so passionate about being a life coach. It’s also why I chose to write this book. I have an insatiable desire to help those around me and I believe that all human beings, everywhere, are capable and deserving of happy, content lives. I also believe that the way to attain this is through the cultivation of wisdom. 

Wisdom is on a deeper level than knowledge, which is something I discuss in my book and something which I invite the reader to explore further. As someone seeking to cultivate wisdom I use a multitude of tools and recognise that each one works for a different reason and that not all tools will work for everyone. 

But I believe that everyone has the ability to grow their wisdom. In doing so we can all offer something to those around us, through our shared understanding of the world as it truly is. 

In the coming weeks I’ll be posting some examples of the artwork I’ll be including in my book to http://www.FaunawolfCreations.com/writing.html 

Following on from the cultivation of wisdom, I’m soon going to be offering meditation classes! I’m just confirming the dates and times and will be announcing the details in my next Newsletter. If you want to be the first to know (As space on this course will be limited) you can sign up for the Me First Newsletter.