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 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

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

Monday, October 15, 2012


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?

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: