Catching Up

crow beginnings

So relieved.  Last night, after months of the now customary procrastination, I decided to get everything together for my tax return, ready to wade through it in the next few days.  But it didn’t turn out that way.  As soon as I’d found all the paperwork I just decided to go for it.  Less than an hour later I pressed “send” and that was my tax return done for another year – a full 6 days before the final deadline.  OK so it’s still rather last minute-ish but I can’t believe I didn’t take the opportunity to procrastinate further – just like I did all the previous years.  I guess this new attitude of tackling things now and not wasting time really is starting to sink in.

I felt so light and fluffy when the weight of the tax return had lifted off my shoulders that I decided, in celebration, to begin a new character I’ve had in mind for a while now.  Hopefully the crow (above in his earliest stages) will join the rest of the tribal-looking greeting card characters by this weekend.

The latest greeting cards have already been added to the shop, but to be honest that didn’t take a lot of work on my part.  Most of the designs had already appeared in my shop as postcards and therefore just needed the descriptions copying and tweaking a little.  I have to say though, they look bloody fabulous as cards.  I loved them as glossy postcards but I think the slight satin finish of the greeting cards suits their bold designs even more.  Who’d have thought that a change in varnish would make such a difference?  Actually that’s EXACTLY the sort of thing that I should already have thought/cared about, as a designer with over 20 years experience.  Oops.  OK, I confess, details like that have always bored the t*ts off me in my day job!  :)

No excuses

desk mess blog pic

This weekend I’ve felt really under the weather.  Everyone around me seems to have had a horrible flu-like cold over the last 6 weeks or so and I’m the only person I know who hasn’t had it.  But I’ve been feeling really off-colour lately but with no specific symptoms.  I just feel really drained.  BUT…that has not stopped me working away this last couple of days and really getting my act together.  The more crap I’ve felt, the harder I’ve worked.  Nothing is going to get in the way of my new-found enthusiasm, so the flu germs can just p*** off!

I’m currently working on a diverse array of projects and I’ve had to go everywhere with a notebook and pen because new ideas are just flowing.  I’m in a great place.  I’ve listed a couple of the new bits in the shop as planned and I’m just about to return to the work table.  I’ve loaded all the embroidery hoops with new stuff to be worked on whenever I have a spare moment in the week, but mostly I’m going to be concentrating on new drawings and paper cuts.  The sun today is glorious despite the sub-zero temperatures and life is feeling pretty bloody terrific.  I’ve got a warm cat on my knee and a piping hot coffee in my hand, so now I just need to dose myself up with paracetamol and I’m good to go.  Happy Sunday!

Panic is the mother of invention

cards group

A colleague and I regularly daydream about getting made redundant (note to anyone who thinks we are making light of a horrible situation – we’ve both been there before and know that in reality it’s a really scary thing).  It’s a useful exercise to make us keep our skills and CVs up to date, plus we both hate our jobs and need the entertainment!  But just recently things at work seem to be changing and neither of us would be surprised if our daydream became reality soon.  We may be wrong, but it really has made me stop and think what the hell I’d do to pay the rent if my job here did indeed go tits-up (that, right there, has to be one of my favourite expressions ever!).

All joking aside, the first thing I would do if the boss told me he had to “let me go” would be to bluff it out and pretend I didn’t give a shit about his poxy job anyway (being ever so mature like that!).  The second thing I would do (figuratively speaking) is completely shit myself.  I’m a live-for-now kind of girl and don’t really do that whole planning for the future business.  It’s time I did.  So I’ve decided to start acting as if redundancy is just around the corner and sort out my finances and my career.  I need to provide myself with a little safety net, just in case.

With that in mind I’ve decided to get cracking with the artwork in all its guises.  I have the perfect means to make money – the shop – if only I’d get off the fence, stop dithering about over its future and actually commit to it.  So this little commitment phobe has been forced (by way of possible impending doom) to get a lot more work in the shop, REGULARLY.  As an interim measure, I’ve just ordered some more greetings cards in a mix of old and new designs (mostly adapting the postcard designs that people have been requesting as greeting cards) and hope to finish some of my felt pieces this weekend.  I’ve got a list of new ideas as long as your arm and they’re still coming thick and fast.  It’s kind of exciting.  Bloody hell, I really should panic more often.

Some semblance of order

tags

This year I have set myself some seriously big challenges, but before I can even begin to get going on those I have to tie up some loose ends.  Last year I went through my whole house getting rid of things I didn’t use and generally downsizing my possessions.  That left the studio in a bit of a mess and it became increasingly difficult to find everything I needed each time I had a shop order to fill.  So I’ve begun getting organised.  Really organised.  Unfinished projects that have been languishing in hidden boxes have been completed, including finally finishing all the above tags.  Most of these were already listed in my shop and many times I had to make them at the last minute when someone ordered them.  Not an ideal situation, especially the time I got my fingers slammed in a gate and got orders for unfinished tags that same day – ouch!  So I’m up to date with the shop and even got around to doing a stock take.

I even went so far as to install a proper “normal person” type of storage system for stock, where like items are all shelved together, instead of the “mad artist” system I favoured before, where all the boxes were shelved according to how pretty they looked next to each other, regardless of contents!  And get this, I even put labels in the label holders on the front of all the boxes, so I no longer have to lift every lid in turn and rummage around trying to find what I’m looking for – whatever next?!

black cat

I found some bits and bobs including the above cards and tags, that were never listed in my shop for whatever reason (more than likely I was just too lazy to get them photographed and listed) and I’ll get these in there at the weekend.  I’m not quite there yet with my new felt items, but they are coming along nicely as you can see below.

cats

My enthusiasm for life in general is returning, helped immensely by all the self-improvement books, DVDs, CDs and websites I’ve been steadily trawling my way through.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I wake up each morning with such hope for the coming day now.  I think the key change for me came when I read a quote by somebody, somewhere, which said something along the lines of:

Life gets easier when you stop fighting against it and decide to go with it.

(Sorry about the lack of info there, I can never remember the details of these quotes, just the general message!).  This idea finally made me decide (very cautiously) to attempt to accept my Brother’s loss – and it definitely was a conscious decision to try.  I’d refused to truly accept it before (and with every fibre of my being) because I felt that the acute grief I was carrying around was the only thing I had left that linked me directly with him.  As soon as I had the courage to let go, everything began to fall into place and all the most brilliant forgotten memories of my bro came flooding back.  It’s as if this is what he was waiting for me to do.  I’m not saying I’m over it – I don’t suppose I ever will be – I’m just returning to the land of the living and it feels better than I could ever have imagined.

Back to the work table

felt1

Well I had another mini epiphany regarding my shop.  My latest (and greatest) plan is that I’m basically not going to have any kind of plan!  I’m just going to work on whatever I feel like working on at any time.  I don’t get a choice about what I work on and when in my day job, so I’m determined that in my own shop I’m not going to be so constrained.  I just want to please myself.

This year I’m prioritising my well-being over pretty much everything else in my life except family.  Art has a huge effect on my sense of happiness.  I spent some of the Christmas Holidays playing about with some new designs and I’m all fired up with enthusiasm again.  I’ve been carrying on trying to interpret some of my animal characters in other (less literal) ways.  The felt versions are coming on a treat but I’m already damned sure that they are each going to be one-of-a-kind pieces.  Partly through laziness (bad but true!) and partly because repetition is the enemy of my particular type of creativity.  Repetition = boredom to me and boredom saps the life out of imagination.

I’m also letting a lot of my existing stock expire, as it’s not representative of what I want the shop to be – and maybe even detracts from the over all look.  So out with the old and in with the new, as is fitting for the beginning of a new year.

New Perspective

I had a surprisingly lovely Christmas and New Year break, but now I’m so ready to get cracking with this year.  I can’t wait to see what I can achieve.  I’ve spent the time off working on improving every aspect of my life, but paying particular attention to my attitude.  I’m only at the beginning of the process but already I feel calmer, way more positive, so much more happy and hopeful.  It’s a good job because already nothing has gone to plan.  I feel like I’m being tested, but I don’t even mind because it’s made the start of the year unexpectedly comical.

I opened my shop earlier than planned and  yesterday morning (Sunday) I said to myself that although I am grateful to have everything I need to run the shop, the next thing on the agenda is to replace my ailing computer.  I expressed the desire to keep it limping along as long as possible while I (slowly) save up for a new one.  Well, last night I got 2 shop orders to process and of course discovered at that point that my computer had finally given up the ghost and was beyond resuscitation.  I didn’t even swear.  I just marveled at the bloody typical timing and decided to see if I could link my new tablet to the new printer instead (I hadn’t really played about with either up until last night).  Over two hours later after trying and trying and trying to get the two to talk to each other, I finally got it sorted.  It had eaten so much time yet not a single angry moment was had, not a single expletive passed my lips, not even a bad thought about it entered my mind – I just got on with it.  All was well until it came to printing the postage labels.  The one I’d had to enter manually on the royal mail website went to the printer without a hitch.  It was the Paypal postage label (also through royal mail) that just wouldn’t cooperate no matter what I did.  Did I swear, or get mad, or even roll my eyes?  Nope.  I was calm.  It didn’t even touch me.  I had to resort to good old fashioned stamps on that one and apply for a refund – twice! – but again not so much as a bit of exasperation.

This may sound like normal behaviour to you, but to me it’s a bloody massive breakthrough.  I’m a former volcanic, hot-headed, atomic bomb of an angry woman when riled.  And EVERYTHING riled me.  But I couldn’t even be made to react angrily when everything went wrong this morning.  My alarm clock decided to pick the first morning back to work to stop working and I woke too late to exercise and breakfast as planned.  I thought “OK, it wasn’t meant to be” stretched nonchalantly and accidentally knocked the mega heavy lamp off the shelf above me straight onto my head!  It hurt like hell but it really made me laugh out loud and I only wished I’d been able to see what that had looked like from afar.

I didn’t even feel bad about going back to work.  I just thought about all the things I’m going to change there and how I can improve my working week.  I’m shocked to learn that it really is just a matter of perception and intention.  I’m late to this notion, but it’s never too late to change your ways.  Ooh get me, I’m so f*cking Zen now!

We made it through…

…the first Christmas without my brother.  In fact we more than just made it through, we really made the best of it.

His face peered out from the little picture frames hung from every Christmas Tree and there were times when his presence was almost tangible.  We involved him as much as we could – lighting candles and welcome lights in his memory, eating his favourite dishes, raising our glasses to him, remembering the funniest Christmas anecdotes he’d provided over the years, still writing him cards and donating the money we would have spent on his presents.  He would have loved it.

There were of course moments of sudden and extreme sorrow too, but we each dealt with these in private.  I found what worked for me was to give myself a hard slap around the face (both sides) any time I was tempted to feel sad.  Painful but effective and negated the need to wear any blusher!

The next target is the New Year.  I had been a little apprehensive about this as 2015 will be the first entire year that I won’t have seen my brother, but to be honest it really doesn’t matter a single, solitary shit any more.  I am without him every day and just have to get on with it.  So instead New Year will be about making my brother proud.  2014 was a foundation year, but 2015 will be the year when it all happens.  My brother’s legacy has been to make all of his siblings realise that life is short and for living to the full.  No more buggering about, no more procrastination, no more reticence, no more shyness, reservation, insecurity or doubt.  Full throttle all the way from here.  Love you Bro.