As I found on my recent four-day course at the Newlyn School of Art, you never stop learning with art! I’ve never formally studied art or art history, having spent 26 years as an Engineer before changing career 10 years ago. I can certainly say that my learning curve has been steep and challenging at times but so rewarding and enjoyable too!
As the children go back to school, my mind turns to the last quarter of the year – what I’d still like to achieve in 2021 and looking ahead to how 2022 might pan out.
Some say that September is the new January and I really feel like it’s a time of new beginnings – especially this year as we’re able to be with more people we may not have seen for a long time. With just a quarter of the year left, it concentrates the mind into thinking of what’s really important to achieve now and what will be good to plan into 2022.
Having been mostly shut away from social contact for more than a year, I was surprised recently by how much I enjoyed meeting up with friends and family around my birthday and neighbours at village events.
Like many of us, I’d been a tortoise and retracted into my shell with very few gatherings, holidays and coffee catch-ups to look forward to. As an extrovert, I take energy from being around other people and enjoy sharing thoughts and ideas, so I should have known that I couldn’t take the tortoise approach for much longer!
For those of us that have had big birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and special holidays postponed during the pandemic, it’s time to catch up on the fun!
I planned a whole year of new experiences for my 50th birthday in 2020 and we’re coming to the end of that year but there are so many new art experiences that I didn’t manage to complete. So I’m extending my ‘50th year of new experiences’ past my 51st birthday (and maybe beyond)!
My family know me well and are happy for me to suggest art experiences that will thrill and challenge me. There’s not much material ‘stuff’ I need now so I definitely think that experience gifts are the way to go. And here’s why:
I was contacted recently by a lovely felt crafter who had purchased a bottle of Powertex at the NEC some time ago, but hadn’t managed to work out what to do with it yet! It’s a common trait of crafters, isn’t it? We all think, ‘that’s a good idea, I’d love to give that a try sometime...’, buy all the kit & then never get around to having a go!
Now the world is opening up more – hugging, socialising, visiting – it’s time to treat yourself to a bit of ‘me time’. Or as life coach, Jackie Meek puts it ‘essential maintenance’! As we try to fit more and more into our lives now, the stresses and anxiety of the past year can become difficult to put behind us.
Essential Maintenance helps us to build our resilience and be the best person we can be. After such a testing time, it’s important to recharge our batteries, boost our self-esteem and spread our wings a little. That can be a bit daunting though, can’t it? But if we don’t love ourselves, who will?! It’s the little pleasures and essential maintenance that helps to get us through the daily grind.
Like many people, we’ve missed out on a few holidays abroad in the last year and nobody can say for certain that we will be able to seek out sunnier climes this summer either.
We are lucky to have our Cornish Artistic ReTreat, Valley View but that’s (thankfully) all booked up with visitors through the spring and summer 2021 so we won’t be able to enjoy any time there ourselves until later in the year.
Our enforced ‘staycations’ in the UK have made me really appreciate the fantastic country we live in and whether it’s countryside or coast, we are trying to make the most of what is on our doorstep.
As artists, we are constantly looking for inspiration in our surroundings and travel gives us the opportunity to experience a whole different view of cultures and surroundings. For some, the sense of wanderlust, the strong desire to travel, cannot be suppressed for much longer! With this in mind, I’ve been searching the Powertex supplies for an amazing selection of travel themed items.
So where do you want to go first?!
I’m a big fan of making lists but over the past few months I’ve got out of the habit. I just didn’t feel the need as much. I suppose because life was so different, I wasn’t juggling Artistic ReTreats workshops, my own art classes, studio work, Valley View bookings and family stuff – I was focussed on home schooling and not much else!
To ‘spring’ into the month of March, I excitedly created my first ‘to do’ list of the year. Is this a sign that things are starting to open up and I need to think about what my new ‘normal’ will be in 2021? Yes, I think so! But after the satisfaction of making the list, I came a little unstuck, I was out of practice in the art of actually completing the tasks and didn’t achieve as much as I’d hoped.
As we head into the grips of an ever-tighter lockdown regime, my thoughts turn from being shut away in winter, to spring cleaning those forgotten corners of the house. Although the hats, gloves and scarves may be around for a while, this is a good time to sort through our clothes, shoes and accessories, to declutter and donate what we no longer want or need.
It seems like a lifetime ago when, in December 2019, I was making glorious plans for 2020! I’d created a lovely range of different Powertex workshops and was gearing up to give my TEDx talk in Banbury with my support act, the Fine Lady. It’s amazing to think that we actually managed to present the talk just before the first lockdown! As part of my talk, I looked at how sometimes, it's the little things that can make the biggest difference, & that has certainly been more true than ever during 2020!
The world is a very different place this December but I’m still planning ahead and very much looking forward to 2021. It’s also still so important to look back and appreciate how far we’ve come.
As we enter the season of goodwill, I really want to be able to turn the negativity of this latest lockdown into a positive wherever I can. Yes, my workshops are on hold again and we can’t socialise with friends and family but I’m lucky in so many ways to live in a lovely village with plenty of countryside around us. I have my art studio to retreat to if I need some time and space for myself and, of course, I have Powertex and the endless possibilities it brings for arty crafty projects as we head towards Christmas.
I’m trying to buy local and support independent shops and artists where I can and this month is the perfect time to make gifts and decorations of our own. Our loved ones really appreciate the care and originality that goes into a handmade gift – are you thinking of giving something that can’t be bought on the high street this year?
Ever been surprised and delighted to receive something unexpected? It’s a tremendous feeling isn’t it! I felt a warm glow of gratitude and pride this month when it was announced that I’d won the 2020 UK Enterprise Award for Best Art Workshop & Supplies Company.
The awards are run by SME News and are based on merit rather than number of votes received. Apparently I showed ‘evidence of extensive expertise and skills, dedication to customer service and client satisfaction with an ongoing commitment to excellence and innovation’ – wow! That was great to hear!
Apparently there is such a thing as the ‘winning effect’ in the brain whereby there is a release of dopamine and testosterone, giving you a big psychological boost. The sense of achievement makes you feel like you can take on more challenges and has been described as an ‘emotional pay rise’.
I hope that one positive outcome of this pandemic time will be a re-evaluation of our shopping habits. Our spending habits have certainly changed lately, whether that’s from a financial or ethical point of view. Our everyday purchases were curtailed by quarantine and much of our shopping moved online whilst we reassessed what’s really important to us.
As restrictions lift further, can our new habits turn into lifelong lifestyle changes? Will those precious outgoings be redirected to supporting local retailers and artists?
I’ve just spent a glorious couple of weeks at the coast – partly at Valley View, our Cornish Artistic ReTreat in Lamorna and partly on the North Devon coast. I mixed work with family time and had a wonderful time, even though plans had changed and we weren’t in Italy for my 50th birthday!
As always, one of my favourite activities is strolling along the shore marvelling at what has been washed up on the beach and how the sea forms the shape of the sand and rocks. This time I was fascinated by some amazing pieces of driftwood that found their way to Woolacombe beach in Devon. The gnarled, knobbly texture and colours were rich and varied.