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.
If you’re like me, the re-opening of our lives during this pandemic has as many challenges as the stricter lockdown times had. It’s hard to get our heads around what is now permitted, advised or still forbidden and there seem to be some grey areas that are interpreted in different ways by different people depending on their circumstances.
Whilst I have been eager to open up the studio and welcome visitors for Powertex workshops, I’m very conscious that not everyone will be ready to get out there and resume ‘normal life’ again yet. And that’s absolutely fine, all I can do is to make sure that I follow the guidelines set out and offer as risk-free an environment as I possibly can.
Lockdown has been a time of reflection and contemplation for many of us, especially thinking about the future and how we’d like to make lifestyle or career changes. Some people have had a little more time on their hands, others have appreciated working from home and haven’t missed the stresses of the daily commute at all.
I went through a similar process ten years ago when I left my job with Aston Martin and decided that I needed and wanted a change of focus that would fit more with my childcare needs and explore my passion for more arty pursuits.
Whilst this is a great time to throw yourself into a new skill or work on a project that’s been waiting for your attention for some time, I also feel that we should be kind to ourselves. If you simply can’t find the time or the motivation, or you’re fed up with not living up to other people’s fantastic creations online, don’t force yourself!
In these times of enforced time at home, lots of people are looking for interesting and inspiring ways to spend their days. Whether it’s doing something with the children or working on a craft project for yourself, this is the perfect time to stay busy, expand our minds and be fulfilled.
Art and music are also proven to improve the quality of life for Dementia patients and people suffering with long-term chronic illnesses. Being creative benefits our mental health, making us happier, healthier people – and here’s why:
This nursery rhyme has made my local town of Banbury famous but even many of my Banbury friends don’t know that the ‘Fine Lady’ bronze statue located near Banbury Cross was only created 15 years ago.
My New Year’s Resolution is to try lots of new things! I’m kicking off 2020 by speaking about my artistic ‘journey’ at a TEDx talk in Banbury on 29th February and I’ll be trying out clay portrait sculpture at a workshop next month too (think Lionel Richie ‘Hello’ video!).
Trying new things for Artistic ReTreats mean creating new ideas for Powertex workshops, like the cat wine bottle workshop and the hare or fox animal sculpture, plus reaching out a little further afield geographically and showing Powertex to people who may not have come across it before.
So what are your New Year’s Resolutions? Are you still feeling bamboozled by the chaos of Christmas? Are you desperate to get back into the craft room but not sure where to start or that you’ve lost your mojo? Perhaps your studio was your sanctuary during the Christmas break, did you find time to take yourself there to reset and take a deep breath?
With Christmas looming large, in December I also like to grab a few moments out of the madness of festive preparations to reflect on this year’s successes and think about some new challenges for next year. I think it’s really important to push yourself (and your business) in new directions and try new ideas that perhaps take you out of your comfort zone.
Some people have everything on their Christmas list bought and wrapped by mid November, I’m half in awe and half appalled at this approach! It’s certainly not how I manage the build up to Christmas! Every year, I pledge to be more organised and give more meaningful presents but like many, I often end up with a stressful dash around the shops buying gifts that I’m not sure are completely necessary.
Giving and receiving gifts at Christmas is wonderful and I love it but perhaps we have lost sight of the real reason for giving presents in the whirlwind of retail gratification. Excessive gift giving can put an unfair obligation on others. No matter how fervently you urge people not to buy for you, they will want to reciprocate and they may not be able to afford it.
From an environmental point of view, so many gifts are unwanted every year and are also full of unnecessary packaging. According to a charity survey, the most unwanted Christmas presents are bath products, films & box sets and candles.