Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Yearly wrap-up!!!

I'm currently in Canada with my family - which isn't really being on holiday because it's more like coming home - to my other home.

Over the past four years (exactly to the day on 7th of January) I have been a resident of the UK. My time abroad has been incredibly eventful. Earning British Pounds and being given UK holidays (Seriously, 'unskilled' workers usually start with 21 days holiday a year. 21 days! NOT including statutory holidays!) has allowed me to travel more in the last four years than I did the five previous.

This last year alone I visited Calgary, went to Japan and finally saw Pema Chodron talk in New York State, which involved a few days in New York City, of course.

My mum with her first copy of 'Wise at any Age'
I also published my very first book, a dream I've had since childhood. I still sometimes catch myself looking at the single copy of Wise at any Age which sits on my bookshelf and think: 'Wow! Not only did I write that, but I also illustrated it, designed the cover and did the entire layout.'

It was a true labour of love and one of which I am incredibly proud - as are my family. 

This was also a year of study to facilitate a career change. I began the year extremely unhappy in my work, feeling bullied and completely restricted creatively. So I quit. I studied graphic design at Central Saint Martins and I began doing Lynda.com courses with gusto. I upgraded my computer and in a few weeks I was taking on design clients. In a few months I was employed part-time as an in-house designer for the UK's second largest occupational charity. And now I'm the Brand Development Manager at the Charity and I have a steady flow of freelance clients for whom I make logos, cool custom shoes and fun social media branding. 

Where the sidewalk ends...
The bike path one block from my family home
The speed with which life changes is incredible and whilst most of this year has been extremely positive, uplifting and something to be proud of, I have had a few personal blows which have been emotionally extremely difficult.

The flooding in Calgary when there is 4,000 miles and seven hours difference separating me from so many people I love so dearly was incredibly challenging. It was heart-warming to follow the many hashtags that popped up on Twitter to help inform people of developments, evacuation notices and where to go for shelter and food. Seeing where the sidewalk ends just a short distance from the home where I grew up was extremely odd. It was one of those events where there is a collective realisation that we cannot control anything and all we can do is take care of each other.

The other upheaval has been the end of both my brother's and my marriages. I won't go into it here as this isn't the forum for it, but I have to say it's been a fabulous way for the two of us to bond as we nurse our broken hearts.

There's a line in a book by Joan Didion which I feel suits this experience of life: 

"Life changes fast. Life changes in an instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends." 

Some changes are bigger than others. Some are more painful and some are full of joy.

This year I finally stopped dreading the question: "What do you do?" as I could finally talk about a career that I love.

I also stopped being someone who was married when that was someone I'd become very comfortable and happy being.

I can have a conversation in British sign-language.

I have six credits towards a masters in Psychology, which may not seem like much but it's something!

I can tell you the similarities and differences between Tokyo, London, Paris, New York and Sydney.

I finally get to say I'm an author rather than writer, because my name is on the cover of a published book.

And I can honestly say that I am happy. Because I am loved, because I love myself, and because I am so lucky to be alive to experience all the sorrow and the joy the world has to offer. 

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013!

It's Christmas! Whether you celebrate it or not I hope you're spending time with the people who matter most to you and keeping warm and safe. 

Because few, if any, people will be checking blogs during the hols I'm only publishing a single entry this week. 

It's nothing fancy or special (check back for my Year End Summary on the 31st!) - just some delightful shoes which will have been given as a gift today. They were a super fun project, one of so very many over the course of the last year. I finished them back in October so I'm giddy to finally get to share them. 

I hope they are well received.

Merry Christmas to all! 

I was given free reign with these, told only to make them 'Christmassy'

They were a lot of fun to design and paint. Especially the baubles. 

Finding LED shoelaces was just a bonus, really. 

May your Christmas be full of light, love and laughter. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dance Mixes - Kait's Mixtape

I am not a music snob. I don't believe that there is any genre of music that can be written off or ignored. I have found songs I like in all genres and my iPod is full of an eclectic mix.

I don't believe that dance music is just fluff. Sometimes there's an amazing club mix that not only makes me want to dance but also has incredibly poetic lyrics that just fit my mood. I also find dance music to be a great way to discover new artists since so many DJs feature various artists on their tracks.

I gotta say, I've become a little addicted to David Guetta and ZEDD as of late.

'Clarity' - ZEDD feat. Foxes
'In My Head' - David Guetta feat. Nervo

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Strength in Pain - Kait's Mixtape

You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn't heard Mumford & Sons. The song 'I Will Wait' seemed to grace every radio station, permeate BBC programmes and generally fill airwaves for several months. 

I definitely enjoyed the song, finding it put an incredible bounce in my step. But when I listen to music, more often than not, it's the lyrics that catch and hold me. In the case of Mumford & Sons I have found myself drawn to many of their songs. 'I Will Wait' was a gateway but the lyrics from so many others songs from the same album have resonated strongly with me. 

'The Cave' - Mumford & Sons
Picking which song to draw lyrics from first proved difficult, but in the end it was this particular line which meant the most to me. At the moment, anyway. 

I spend quite a lot of time reading Buddhist teachings and one of the most common threads throughout is how compassion is cultivated by understanding our shared experience. 

There are many forms of meditation which involve giving and receiving affirmations. Things like, "May all beings everywhere have ease of mind' and 'May all beings everywhere be free of suffering'. 
For the longest time I did these practices believing there was some sense of 'energy' I was offering to the world. I don't doubt that our thoughts do carry energy but the sceptic in me felt like thinking things better just didn't make sense - and it doesn't. 

I had a profound realisation one day when I was doing a meditation practice on the Underground. I realised that there may indeed be some energy effect to the thoughts I was having but the sayings weren't about putting something outside of myself. They were to change something within. 
We cannot control the world around us. Nothing can be held static and there will never be a time when 'everything will settle down'. Life is constant change and generally unanswerable. The only thing we can work with is our mind. 

By working with our mind we don't change the world. We change how we exist within it. 

To me, these lyrics capture that work. We cannot expect to grow stronger by avoiding the very nature of life. Strength comes from knowing our experience as it is and not resisting it. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

As Is - Kait's Mixtape

What can I say about Ani? I first discovered her when I was in Junior High. A friend of mine burned me a CD of her music and I found myself captivated by her brilliant use of words to convey great passion about all manner of social and political issues. At the time I was a fully self-identified activist and the energy of her writing matched my own. 

As I grew older I would sometimes see how much anger there was in what she'd written and occasionally a sense of righteous indignation came through as well - turning me off of some of her music. But one thing has never changed for me. When Ani writes about relationships, about love and connection, about the very experience of being human, it has always resonated with me. 

For that reason many of her songs end up on my OCD playlist, the playlist on my iPod of songs that I can listen to on repeat, five times in a row, and not tire of. 

Ani Difranco - 'As Is'

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How to be fully human

Nelson Mandela died on December 5th, 2013.
He was aged 95.
He lived a long life full of great accomplishments.
He was no different from you or me. Nelson Mandela didn’t fight for black rights. He didn’t fight for South Africa. He didn’t fight against Apartheid.
Nelson Mandela fought to create a world in which we can all appreciate our shared experience.
The world is not a sadder place for him not being physically present in it. It’s a better place for him having lived so well, taught so widely, and loved so genuinely, even those who many would call ‘enemy’.
Nelson Mandela is a lesson in forgiveness – he is a human being, just as you are. Just as I am. He is an example to us all.
Nelson Mandela
July 1918 - December 2013
Illustration from Wise at any Age

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Where Does the Good Go - Kait's Mixtape

Another one of my 'drawn lyrics'.

I'm quite pleased with this one and was extra excited because it involved using pastels. I adore pastels. They're just so lovely to smudge around. I like how they bleed over the edges and that my fingerprints can be seen in the final product.

Tegan & Sara have been a huge part of my life since I first attended one of their concerts at the age of 14. At the time the tickets were $5CAD and we were sat at long cloth covered tables with candles on them. It was an 'intimate evening' with Tegan & Sara.

I immediately bought 'This Business of Art' which became my favourite album ever, as not a single song on it grated me. In fact, for one summer that album was like my own personal soundtrack.

Each subsequent album, excluding 'Sainthood', has seemed to fit exactly with where I was at that time in my life, including most recently, 'Heartthrob'.

But I still visit their other songs frequently because so often what they have written captures perfectly exactly what I feel.

Tegan & Sara - 'Where Does the Good Go'

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Therapeutic Lyrics - Kait's Mixtape

I'm a writer but not a poet. I can write poetry and sometimes have, but it's just not my thing. Nor am I musically talented. But I greatly admire those who are and I love when someone shares their talent in this way and the thing they wrote and composed speaks so entirely perfectly to my own experience.

It's a lovely reminder that we are never alone. That everyone knows grief, joy, heartache, love, sadness, excitement, disappointment, discovery, betrayal - the whole rich gamut of emotions.

Recently I've been writing down specific lyrics that resonate with me and in an exploration of typography, I've been 'drawing' them. I don't know how many I'll get through - if this will be another unfinished project - or if this might become an ongoing thing for several years. But at the moment I'm enjoying the time it takes to draw each one. I'm enjoying a project that takes me away from a computer screen and involves just my drawing materials and a sketchbook.

Plus it means I'm listening to some really fabulous music, such as the delightful Amanda 'Fucking' Palmer. Her lyrics are incredible and her music videos are also pretty damn fabulous. If you've not seen her open letter composition for the Daily Mail please do watch it now. I feel it pretty much summarises how Amanda Palmer is in the world.

Amanda Palmer - 'In My Mind'

Thursday, November 28, 2013


On the day of my book launch I had many lovely assistants join me for public dancing throughout several of London's more popular squares. They danced alongside me but they also ran around handing out cards promoting Wise at any Age, letting people know why we were dancing publicly.

One of my lovely assistants told me that a man had asked who, of the group of us, had written the book and when she pointed me out he said, "Her? What can she know about wisdom?"
Wisdom comes from so many places

Well, that's the thing about wisdom. It's not dualistic. It's not a matter of a person either being wise or not being wise. There is no either/or.

Wisdom comes to us in many ways - examples of this are shown in Wise at any Age - and no one is without it. Wisdom is when we have awareness and presence of mind about a situation or experience. It's when we know the right thing to say or when to remain silent. It's knowing when to intervene and when to step back. We are all wise to varying degrees, just as we can all be foolish to varying degrees.

What I know about wisdom is that it's something anyone can cultivate and that all of us possess. Like little seeds inside of us, wisdom just needs the right moment to start sprouting and every one of us has full-grown trees, saplings and tiny sprouts of wisdom, as well as unsown seeds that are waiting for the right moment.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Another pair of custom shoes

This weekend I finished another pair of custom shoes for a client BUT they were once again, a Christmas gift. Which means I'm not going to be posting them. I did, however, work on a new pair for myself. I'm really pleased with the final product and I'm looking forward to breaking them in soon.

Lovely ivy design - very green! 

Little beetle spreading his wings...

Butterfly and my logo!
I'm especially pleased with how the butterfly turned out. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Unfinished work

This post is an ego challenging post. I'm extremely hard on myself (who isn't?) and for every completed project I can find something that I've abandoned, either because the inspiration ran out or it just no longer was something I wanted to do.

This is fine, of course. Because I know I have finished a lot of projects of which I'm extremely proud. And I completed them wholeheartedly and very successfully. Like publishing my very first book this year or painting all those tarot cards over a period of two years or successfully changing my career in under six months - to name a very few.

But I still have this odd shameful cloud that follows me when I see my unfinished projects. I know that they're not necessarily going to stay unfinished. There is every chance that I will one day sit down to them again. But for now they are incomplete.

Like this painting:

Which got a little further along than this and has now been sat wedged beside my bookcase for well over two months.

Not to mention all that work I used to do when I thought I was going to write and illustrate my own children's book. Or the animation I made a cute character for and began taking shots of but abandoned after just a week because I couldn't muster the energy to do the drawings needed for the second part.

So why, exactly, am I telling you about my unfinished work? Because I'm practicing letting go of being the person who finished everything she sets out to do. Because I'm letting go of the need to be 'perfect' and 'together' and 'disciplined'.

Because I don't want to think of them as shameful secrets but rather simple expressions of ideas I was able to start but not follow-through with... and that's okay.

It's okay not to finish everything you start. It's okay to let an idea sit for a long time. It's okay to put something aside and forget to do it or just outright change your mind about doing it.

So this is sort of like a confessional post. I'm popping my own bubble and admitting to the world:
I don't finish everything I start and I have some brilliant ideas that I've totally abandoned out of laziness or a sense of overwhelm or because I just couldn't be bothered anymore.

I have to say - just writing this - is a massive relief.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It's official!

Hallowe'en is over, Remembrance day has passed, the clocks have gone back and the days are shorter.
I still think it's a bit early and I don't want to be obnoxious but given that I wrote and published it myself no one else is gonna promote my book so...

Need a fabulous gift for someone on your list? Looking for something a bit different than usual? Something fun and interesting and thought provoking?

How about a lovely illustrated handbook about cultivating wisdom?!

Ta DA!!!

You can get a copy for yourself too, if you fancy it.
I'm all about self gifting at Christmas! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fun with Henna!

So I went around to a friend's house on the weekend and they had a load of henna. They asked me if I wanted to play with it. I have played with it before, when I was a kid my mum got some and we took turns doing intricate designs on each other. I know I've used it one or two times since but not in ages. 

It was super fun. There were three shades for me to work with. I did a little text on my own arm and then dove in on free-handing some 'tats' for my mate. He loved the final result. I'm most pleased with the octopus. 

Inspired by the classic swallow tattoo

This bit was my own design, just for the fun of it.
He did request the butterfly though. 

Eight legs is a lot! 

The result of my own initial dabbling, once I'd washed the henna off. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Words of Wisdom

When I began writing what would eventually become Wise at any Age I had no idea what would become of the words I was putting down. At the time it was more about recording my experience, the things I'd learned and where I could see I still had so far to go.

As it began to take shape I realised that what I wanted to write wasn't the specifics of the experience I'd had nor the catalyst that set me in the particular direction my life was going at the time - it was about the value I'd discovered in embracing the experiences we have and learning from them, rather than labelling them 'good' or 'bad' and clinging to the one whilst thrusting away or trying to avoid the other.

In the 'Thank You' bit of the book I acknowledge quite a few people by name but also mention the various other teachers of my life - the troublemakers and those I've never met but who's words of wisdom have spoken to me significantly and helped me or made me think and ask more questions. Pema Chodron continues to be one of the most significantly influential people in my life and now, after travelling to the Omega Centre in Rhinebeck, NY, she is someone I have not only met but been able to ask a direct question.

The experience, though shared with several hundred people in the room and tuned in via an Interweb link, was extremely intimate and not one I will be writing about here. But the catalyst of that seems to have provided me with yet another new and interesting direction.

One of the biggest things that has come from the experience is a renewed sense of creativity. I've been keeping busy with freelance projects - all things I enjoy immensely - as well as my new position as a Brand Development Manager, which leaves me financial secure and able to focus on more than just ensuring I have enough income to make ends meet.

I'm not entirely clear on the shape this creative flow will take but I'm going to review my big old binder of Everything I Ever Want to Accomplish in my Life and focus on the many ideas and notes I've jotted down for art projects. It has been a very long time since I've done a personal project just for the sake of it. Writing, illustrating and laying out Wise at any Age was the last and since its publication in the summer I've had to focus exclusively on getting my new career as designer to a place where it could support me financially.

This task now done and with the end of the year fast approaching I'm definitely in a place of embracing the general groundlessness of life and open to what I will work on next. I feel a renewed sense of interest in studying Buddhism, much as I felt when I first discovered that I was inherently Buddhist. All of this combined is filling my head with ideas for sculpture, painting, animation and writing.

Time to start taking notes.... or maybe it's just time to open up my art drawer and muck about, letting the results unfold as they may. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

More happy customers!

So just before heading off to New York I was able to sign off on two different logo designs for some clients. I'm happy to say that one has already started marketing with great vim and vigour! It's nice knowing I was able to create just the right illustration for their brand so they could take off with marketing it as quickly as possible.

Ragdolls Play is a children's care service in SW London.
They're having an Open Day on Thursday, 14th November 2013

JLR People Solutions helps match the right person to the perfect position. 

And happy 5th of November! 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

New York - in Words

One day of walking,
all the way up from 28th and 8th.
Saw the Empire State, the New York Library,
the ice rink at the Rockefeller.

Top of the Rock and the sky was incredible.
Central Park laid out like a green runner in the middle of Art Deco buildings.

Louder and wider but so much like London.
All the different accents passing you on the street.

Saw Winnie-the-Pooh (And Tigger too!),
Broadway, Times Square, Madison Square Gardens and the Post Office.

Took a taxi to a restaurant recommended by Ruth Reichl,
former New York Times food critic,
and was not disappointed.

All on day one and my legs were knackered, my feet worn out.

But that didn't stop us from crossing Brooklyn Bridge the next day.
Started in Wall Street of course,
after taking the Subway.

Saw a giant bull and gave him a hug.
(I'm a Taurus, you know.)

Went to a food co-op and took it all in,
an example of how not everything American
is deep fried and covered in batter, dipped in ketchup and sweetened with corn syrup. 

Saw a play on Broadway 
where the programmes are free. 

And then we move on to 
my last day in the city, 
onto day three. 

A tour of the harbour under a perfectly amazing blue sky. 
Glinting off of glass buildings and lighting up
a green lady with her arm stretched high. 

Counted all the Starbucks and figured out the Subway,
(kept calling it the Underground even though they're 
not even close to being the same)
and made back to the cozy flat where we were staying. 

Went out on the town after dark, 
to the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street. 
Went there to start because that was the beginning
of so very much. 

The birthplace of Pride when being gay was criminal,
and it wasn't a celebration but a riot when it all kicked off in '69. 

From there to a Drag show New York style. 
Profane as anything, definitely crossing a line. 

But we were up for it of course, because this was New York, baby! 

Three days to explore (just a little more than Tokyo) and now I can add it to my list. 
Sydney, London, Paris, Tokyo and New York. 
Totally different but so much the same - 
full of people and cars and sort of always awake.

And on the very last night of the very last day:
we danced in Madison Square Gardens and down the street. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New York - In Pictures

Concrete Jungle...

The original Winnie-the-Pooh characters

P. L. Travers' umbrella (Author of Mary Poppins)

Top of the Rock - Central Park and Upper Manhattan

Untitled street sculpture

The Wall Street Bull

The Brooklyn Bridge

Needs no introduction

Slightly altered skyline. 

Classically New York

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Holiday time

Next week I'm off to New York. I'll be spending three days in the Big Apple and the weekend in Rhinebeck, where I'll get to attend a retreat with Pema Chodron.

This year has been particularly full-on for me so I'm taking this time as a break. Unlike my Japan trip which involved much blogging and research for home workers abroad, this trip will be just for me to do as I please with no deadlines or plans or other bits going on.

I've wrapped up a bunch of design contracts this week and made sure all existing clients know that I'm not going to be available for seven days starting on the 21st.

I've also refrained from planning and scheduling blog entries. I'm taking a full-on break and if I know posts are publishing I'll want to share via Twitter and Facebook and I really want this to be a largely technology free break too.

The nature of my job and life is that I spend a good six to ten hours a day staring at some form of glowing screen. I want my time in New York city and state to be time spent experiencing, not scrolling or capturing or noting on.

So - I'm going on holiday. No blog entries next week. No Facebook posts. No tweets. Just me and an adventure in a new city and a chance to meet one of the greatest teachers of my life.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Custom Shoe Design - 'Shakespeare'

A few weeks ago I was commissioned by two different clients within two days of one another to do shoes. I've not done custom shoes for some time so it was quite fun to get two in such a short span of time.

Both commissions are gifts for my clients to give to someone else so I've had to be super secretive about them as I've been working on each design - until today! The first commission has been warmly received by the recipient (She absolutely loves them!) so I can unveil my latest custom shoe design: 

The client requested multiple lines from Shakespeare on the shoe.
I made the suggestion of incorporating an
ink well and quill into the design -
which were the first elements I painted. 
My client provided a list of quotes he wanted used on the shoes.
I chose a typeface that I thought would work well across all
of them and got to work. 
The completed design

Each pair is 100% unique and range in price from £30 - £150 depending on the style of shoe and complexity of the design. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Off to meet Pema soon...

I am a Buddhist. I don't have a particular Sangha (Buddhist community) that I practice with but I sort of just embrace the world as my Sangha and do what works for me - which is the essence of Buddhism so I figure that's alright.

I do, however, have a teacher I follow quite closely. I've been a fan of Pema Chodron since I first bought and read 'Start Where You Are' (good advice, by the way) on the recommendation of my psychologist. What I love about Pema is the clarity with which she explains things. Whether you're a Buddhist or not, what she says is mostly just good, common sense. To be fair, most Buddhist teachings are just good, common sense:

Love yourself.

Choose your own path.

Be compassionate based on the knowledge that everyone else is just as confused as you are.

Everything changes.

Believe nothing unless it fits your own sense of reason.

No one does anything because they want to feel worse.

Death is inevitable.

You can't change other people and outer circumstance. You can change your mind.

Thoughts are like clouds in the sky or waves on the ocean - they come and go but above them is something vast and wide open.

Live with curiosity.

Be genuine.

And so on...

So I'm a fan and I spend a lot of time reading Pema's stuff and listening to her talks and so on and at the end of this month I'll be seeing her in person and hearing her speak at a retreat in Rhinecliff, New York.   I'm pretty damn excited as I made up my mind to finally go see her speak late in 2011. I quickly discovered she was in solitary retreat for all of 2012 so I had to wait until January of this year to finally book to attend one of her talks.

An opportunity to practice patience.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Facebook branding

Just a little look at some of the Social Media branding I've done. The photography page just launched on the weekend but this was a client I had back in the summer. I did the logo design for both of these clients as well. Really fun projects and it's fun to see my work in my timeline! 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A pair of shoes

Recently I have been asked to do some custom shoe designs for some clients. Due to a miscommunication I now have a pair of women's size 8 (UK) sneakers.

When someone orders a custom pair of shoes my first task is to source a pair in their size. I don't keep a supply of shoes because A) I don't have the space and B) it's easier to get the size I need when I need it.

This means I now have a pair of shoes taking up space with the potential to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I'm not much interested in shoe storage and would much rather find a happy client to design and then send the shoes to.

So, if you or someone you know would like a pair of size 8 (UK) hand-painted 100% unique shoes, please get in touch! Because they're already paid for and I want to move them along I will only charge for the design, which will be created to your specifications.

If you're not sure - please take a look at some of the other designs I've done. I have many happy clients with happy feet in shoes made just for them.


Rainbow with a twist