Friday, 4 December 2015

A Great Escape

It's been a hive of activity here, working on commissions for Christmas for dear customers, and in between painting a handful of special Christmas decorations.  In the midst of all this I began to feel like I needed to get out, escape.  Do you ever have that feeling?

Previous to feeling like this, I'd had a few emails about the Knitting and Stitching show in Harrogate, but up until last Thursday I had only half heartedly contemplated going.  However, that morning as the sun rose up over the crags, I had a sudden urge for adventure, to go off by myself somewhere for a day.  As luck would have it, my other half was working from home and was available to do the school run, so I gathered my belongings and drove off to the station to get my tickets.

It was a crisp, bright day.  Perfect for adventure.  Boarding the train I felt a sudden rush of good feelings.  We whizzed through pretty countryside, the rolling hills lay tinged with gold in the morning light and eventually we got to Leeds where I had to change trains.


Such noise, bustle and life!  Such crowds, comings and goings of trains pulling in and out, tannoy calls, the aroma of fresh coffee and toasties, the rumble of suitcase wheels on the tarmac, the unmistakeable smell of the trains, a shriek of a whistle...every nerve ending in my body was suddenly alive, tingling with the delight of doing something new and different to the ordinary.  

As our train pulled away from Leeds, I got to thinking, and I realised that my world had become small and predictable.  In fact, bubble like.  I had my routines down to a fine art, I did the school run, I went to the supermarket, did chores and household tasks...and I hasten to add, I'm not complaining about any of this.  I love my family, my work and my home.  But somewhere along the way this routine had become my lifestyle, and the person who I used to be had got lost underneath a never ending list of 'To Do's' and demands.

Sophie Digard scarves, at the Selvedge stand

Eventually I arrived at Harrogate, a sparkling day pregnant with possibility.  On the train I had messaged some friends to tell them of my plans, and it just so happened my dear friend Marna was travelling to the show too, so we arranged to meet up!  Neither of us had had any idea the other was going, and as we hadn't seen each other since June, we jumped at the chance of a catch up.

Serendipitous things kept happening, when I got to the show (minus ticket) I asked a guide where I might purchase one.  A dear lady with a group of friends overheard me asking, and offered me a spare they were trying to sell - so I got in for the amazing price of £10, as opposed to £17!

Marna and I wandered around the halls admiring the exhibits and purchasing some gorgeous things.  The Knitting and Stitching show is great for inspiration, it fills up my well completely and I came home bursting to the brim with new ideas and plans.  After creating a brand new type of mixed media work last month, I felt reassured that I would be working on more things like that next year, the tactile element of mixed media work delights me and it's definitely going to be featuring more in what I do.

Felted necklace by Felt by Bridget

The day was a tonic.  Marna and I talked non stop about all kinds of things; our work, marketing, selling online, and then things more closer to the heart, our struggles, being this age and the challenges it brings.  I have resolved to do things like this more often now - my other half is very supportive of this luckily, and between us we can arrange child care and such like.  As much as I like where we live, and love what I do I am seeing that it is essential to my well being to do things for myself like this, to have these times either alone or with friends where I can reconnect with myself and forget about all the other stuff.  I'm grateful for my life, for all the opportunities, but there are also parts of my life that have slowly evolved and absorbed me without me even noticing.  Routine and habit can eat away at us, leave us dull and listless.

Tomorrow I am going to Birmingham to see my friend Kate Brazier, a talented artist who is exhibiting at the Etsy Christmas market.  Our friend Andrea Berry who is a textile artist and makes the most amazing bags, is meeting me at the station and we are going to shop, chat, shop, chat and then later on the three of us will go for a bite to eat and a Christmas drink and talk about all the things that light us up.  Whenever I see these girls, I always leave their company feeling buoyed, illuminated and happy.   I've also booked a workshop at Hope and Elvis next May, where I will be learning how to solder with Di T Foster - I can't wait to try something new!

Practising gratitude for the small things, every day.  Planning more adventures, dreaming up new art.  Writing more, making time for self care, more yoga and sitting quietly. 

Have a lovely weekend.
Julia x

Monday, 16 November 2015

Monday Morning Ramblings

The sun is shining and I am sitting in my new studio, which sits nestled at the bottom of the garden next to the river.  I have filled the bird feeder up with sunflower hearts and all manner of winged ones are descending to breakfast.  I am amazed by the strength and resilience of them, they are beautiful and welcome company now I no longer have Pig to chat to all day.

I am remembering a peaceful week when we stayed in Norfolk.  It was half term and our whole family went to stay in a big house that was a stones throw from the beach at Old Hunstanton.  It was a time to be still, to listen to the shifting seasons, to inhale the tangy air that came in on sea breezes across the salt marshes.  It was a time to heal the tired parts of ourselves, to enjoy being together, to laugh and eat good food, to reminisce.

I find Autumn a curious season, it is blessed with the brightest of blue skies and drowsy mists.  There is a low, bright sun, then torrential rains and swirling winds.  It is a goodbye, it is a letting go.  It is a time to turn inward and listen to our soul.   Nature drenches the country with colour; vibrant golds, reds and chestnuts and then there are faded lime greens, acidic lemon yellows, soft rose pinks - it's breathtaking.

These last few days I have found myself battling a deep gloom, yet not for the first time.  After months of trying every herbal and holistic remedy under the sun I finally went to see my doctor (a couple of years ago now) and accepted some good old western medicene to help my body deal with the changes this time of a woman's life brings.  I suffer from fatigue, migraines, and moments of not knowing myself.  Last week I struggled to work as I had what a nurse friend of mine called a panic attack - the palpitations were the most worrying as I had never experienced such a thing before.  All of these things never used to happen to me, I am a generally fit and healthy soul who eats nourishing good whole foods, I don't smoke but I like a gin and a glass of good wine, I'm a regular person not a perfect one.  I sense change, and like Autumn, I sense that I am receeding into myself and beginning to let go of something.  I hesitated to share this here as I fear it is a taboo subject in a way (anything to do with emotions and hormones is), but I decided I would.  Social media and the internet in general is very good at showing us how to ahve polished, perfect, impossible lives which we often aspire to.  I know that I have a nice job and am lucky enough to have a studio of my own to work in, and I can imagine what pictures this might conjure up for some people, and I suppose I want to say that I'm normal, I'm just like you.  I'm 42 and sometimes I find life hard and my hormones are to blame as they shift and change and I struggle to understand who I am.

I want you to know that its ok, if you feel like this, its ok - you're not on your own.  I sought support and feel better, but I still have days where its hard to get out of bed, am deblilitated by crushing migraines, fatigue and depression.

I find yoga helps.  I attend a wonderful class every tuesday morning with a brilliant bunch of women who have become friends.  I also practice at home on my mat, and try to remember to be mindful as much as possible. 

So, I sit here this morning, and I am counting my gratitudes.  I am grateful for my friends, a support network which begins with friends in my village here and which stretches out across the country.  I am grateful for my warm home, my family, the food we eat.  I am grateful to hear the sound of water near my door as I work.  I am grateful for big sunsets, Autumn colour and the chance to wear a bright winter coat and warm boots.  I am grateful for this journey, for all the parts of it.

I know its not just me, I know that we each walk past people in the street and none of us can know what is going on inside of them.  In light of this weekend's awful tragedy in Paris, it brings it home to me even more to be kinder, to smile at a stranger, to pay a compliment, to offer to help.  Such small acts can make a day - last week I was shopping and feeling particularly lousy after a nasty outbreak of eczema, and the man at the counter complimented me on my brooch and then wished me a nice day.  He probably had no idea how much his words lifted my spirits.  Little acts of kindness like that, have the power to go a long, long way. 

I think its time to be more honest, to be more open and caring.  Our fast paced world leaves little or no time for empathy and listening as we constantly tune in to devices, our faces fixed to a screen instead of on a loved one.  I am practising this too, turning off the laptop, leaving the ipad alone until my daughter has gone to bed.  I want her to know a Mum who has time for her and I want to remember her laughter and her conversations.  I am not always successful, I am afraid I am as addicted to technology as many others are, but its a practice.  I am slowing down in more ways than one, honouring my body, and my soul.  Listening.  Deeply listening, beyond the pings of emails and tweets, of Facebook and Instagram.

Please take time this week to look at the sky, just look up and be glad for something.  Make time for yourself, for your family and your dear ones. 

I think from the title of this blog, you might have expected it to be an unravelling of thoughts and I have written without pausing, just let the words come, so it has been that!

I hope you have a nice week, wherever you are in the world. 

Sending you love,
Julia x

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Island Life

A snapshot of my summer....

Two weeks on an island, staying at a house nestled in the countryside with views over to the solent beyond the trees.  It was peaceful, restorative, and beautiful.

There was architecture and great old buildings to admire...

The island was colourful, yet slow paced.  It was contemporary yet traditional.  We enjoyed lazy beach days, long breakfasts in beach-side cafes and discovering wonderful shops in the towns and villages.

Discovering surprises around each corner...

Steps leading down to crystal clear water...the sea was so beautiful and constantly inviting...

The views were amazing...

We could have stayed forever.

Holidays are sometimes for realising dreams.  For years I have wanted to go kayaking, and on our last day on the island, I did.  The sun was hot, it was the most peaceful feeling as we gently made our way over the waves.  We sailed over forests of seaweed, long burgundy ribbons swaying in the currents below.  The water was so very clear and I found myself often gazing over the side of our kayak, to the sandy bottom below where sunlight rippled across rocks and sand, through seaweed and shoals of fish.

Home now, we are so happy to have spent such a relaxing and nourishing time together on the island.
As summer starts to ebb away, work begins again, and normal life is resumed, yet those memories of a beautiful place remain.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Things I'm doing this summer

It's finally the summer holidays. 

A huge, generous sigh of relief...the dreamy feeling of relaxing, resting and going to the coast.

A decadent feeling of being unhurried, of spending time with family and friends, of a friends summer wedding, of barbeques, picnics and walks in the woods.  Of sipping cool white wine under the stars on a warm evening, lying in bed reading a book and listening to the summer birds in the sky outside my open window....

Summer...long days, warm days, sunshine and flowers, bare toes in the sand, cool waves and sea swimming...

And art.

In the past I have struggled a bit with summer holidays.  My work seems to come to an abrupt end as I slam headlong into the six week break, but this year, I invested the Ultimate Business Survival Guide for the School Holidays - a course of podcasts and fabulous advice, from The Girls Mean Business, and for the first time ever, I feel that I will be able to keep my little art business ticking over whereas in the past, I haven't - I've let it drift and believed that I couldn't both work and look after my family!  I strongly urge you to bob along to Claire's website if you are a small creative business owner with young children - it's priceless and the supportive information will make you feel like you aren't the only one tearing your hair out as you struggle to keep all the balls in the air.

I wanted to share an interview that I did recently for the wonderful Yay Retro.  I often visit this website to drool over their amazing vintage and retro wares that they have on sale, and to read their excellent blog, and so needless to say I was over the moon when they got in touch and asked if I'd be interested in having a chat!  You can find me in the 'Our Friends' section on their blog, and read the interview right here.

I will pop back at intervals over the summer, to keep you posted about what I'm up to.  I also have something majorly exciting unfolding at the moment which I will be able to share with you in the coming weeks.

I'm planning on taking a watercolour sketch book away with me on holiday this summer, and will share snaps of what I'm creating on my Instagram - I really like visual diaries, and have dabbled in the past but spurred on by some great pictures I've found on Pinterest, I've decided to have a proper go at making my own this year.  I'll be using a Fabriano art journal, taking my travel set of Sennelier watercolours with me, and a pencil case of fine line pens and pencils.  

Have a wonderful Summer! (or winter, if you're one of my southern hemisphere readers)

Friday, 10 July 2015

Things you might not know about being an artist - part 2

As a creative person who works for herself, running her own business, I have the lovely job of painting for a living.  As much as I love this side of things, I have also had to embrace the more businessy side of things, which includes organising my accounts, filing stuff, emailing people, and pricing.

Pricing.  Ah yes, that little chestnut which can cause so much grief and panic for the creative person, bring up all manner of insecurities and fears.

I have been using a basic formula for a few years now which seems to work well for me.  It's jolly simple and includes these elements:

Cost of materials used - such as paint, canvas, framing(including supporting costs and any overheads)
Time - how long it has taken to create the work
Profit - which speaks for itself

Usually, profit is the last thing I figure in, because lets face it and be totally honest - we're in business to make money - its not a hobby, its not a bit of a laugh - we're earning money to pay for our kids swimming classes, new clothes, a bill, to put food on the table so the profit is the essential bit on the top, the amount we get after we've covered our outgoings.
Most of us run a creative business because we love it, and if we didn't, we'd combust or something equally awful.  It's not always an easy career choice, it can be antisocial, sales can fluctuate with the seasons and it can be a giant ballache at times when your mojo goes on holiday.

We also want to contribute to the family income, we want to have something to do alongside being a Mum, a partner, a wife and so on (or, not wanting to exclude anyone - Hubster or Dad if you're a chap who happens to be reading this post).  We want something for us, but we ultimately want a bit of financial independence doing something we love.

So, with these three basic elements covered I then check out the competition.  By this I mean that I look at what my contemporaries are producing, and I also see what they are currently charging.

The reason I do this is because I don't want to price myself out of the market, I don't want to undersell myself, and I also don't want to undercut others as this devalues what EVERYONE is doing.  It's not good business etiquette and you're not doing your reputation any favours in the long run if you do this.  Familiarising myself with what other artists are doing helps to keep me on track.

There's a whole heap of other stuff involved in pricing too - such as marketing your work and actually getting the stuff to sell (which I'll save for another post) but for now I've covered the basics.

I'm going to bring up the subject of discounts in this post too, because I feel it's relevant.

Sometimes I offer a percentage off certain ranges of my art.  These have been carefully calculated and are not usually done on a whim.  I have still factored in all of the three elements above, and have decided that yes, I can still cover costs and earn a profit at this particular time - it's also a nice gesture to offer my loyal customers, or gives new ones an incentive to buy something from me.  However, I couldn't afford to run my business like this all of the time, I'd be running at a loss.  So, I sometimes feel a little put out when I get emails from people asking for discount.  In the past, I've agreed to it, but now I don't.  I personally wouldn't wander into a shop and ask for a discount on an item I liked.  I'd see what it cost and accept that that was the price, and if I wanted it badly enough I'd pay it (or save up until I could afford to buy it).

I wonder if the people who ask artists for discount actually understand what goes into creating an original, or a run of limited edition prints?  It's not been mass produced in a factory in China, it's something that has been produced over time with a lot of thought and love.  It's emotive, it creates a connection within the person who sees it.  The need for a piece of art can be impulsive or calculated (based on whether it will match the furnishings in the living room).  When you buy art from an artist, you are essentially buying a little piece of that person - before they created it, it didn't exist.  You're getting a glimpse of the insides of someone's imagination.  What is produced by brush, pen, stitch, clay or any other medium is a rare and unique piece of work.  When you stop to think about it, it's pretty amazing isn't it? 

Some artists I have spoken to in the past have broken down their pricing and discover they are earning way below the minimum wage when calculating their costs on an hourly basis.  They've been shocked by this and it is wouldn't expect anyone else to work for less that that, so why would anyone expect an artist to do so? 

I think it would be lovely if there were more support for artists and creatives.  People such as our Education Secretary don't exactly help when they suggest that choosing art is a future of limited career choices- what belittling rubbish!  Imagine a world without art, without colour...imagine a world without the possibility of illustration, photography, paintings, ceramics, greetings cards, wallpaper, textile and pattern design...oh the list is endless!  Lets be honest, it would be a dull old place without it, wouldn't it?


Friday, 3 July 2015

What you might not know about being an artist

I used to think that artists were very glamorous, bohemian sorts who wafted through their days, painting leisurely, then meeting like minded souls for drinks where they would indulge in deep conversation about their work in crowded corners of fashionable coffee bars.

It seemed to me to be a utopia of all things I dreamed of; from the paint splashed artists smock one would naturally wear, to the inspired aura one would naturally exude.  Their lives, to my young imagination, were a carousel of parties, laughter and a constant outpouring of creativity in messy studios...

...lets fast forward to the reality.

Being an artist is a fabulous job, don't doubt if for a minute.  And if you harbour any desire or inclination to be one, and you've got a bit of talent or raw passion from which to start with then I urge you to study hard in your art classes at school and college, draw relentlessly and spend lots of time developing your own sweet style.  To live in a world where you get to paint for a living, to earn an income from what you do (whilst sitting in your pajamas if you fancy) is rewarding on so many levels.  I will never forget the buzz of the first sale, of my first international customer, of people actually liking what I did enough to buy it.  This is stuff dreams are made of, right?


And no.

There was a conversation that unfolded yesterday with an artist friend of mine, and it led me to write this post for you today.  I wanted to lay bare the bones of this work, to tell you the hidden truths that we all live with, the difficult bits and what we do to overcome them.

There are times when you sit down, and an idea comes to mind and you sketch bits out and out of nowhere this fantastic feeling suffuses your very bones with delight - yes, this is it, you're onto a sure fire winner, you can feel it, you just know....and then you're off!  Paints are squirted generously onto the pallette, the canvas, board or paper is struck with colour, your vision comes to life and its the best feeling in the world because when art flows, it really flows and there's nothing like it.

Then there are those times where it doesn't.

And you sit and you stare at the blank paper in front of you, and your mind whirrs relentlessly with chores and other mundane stuff you have to do, and there is this massive black hole where your imagination used to be that has seemingly gone on a vacation without telling you.  There's nothing there.  Nothing at all.

You scribble a bit in your sketch looks terrible, its bloody awful.  You start again on another page, no - its not happening.  Then the frustration kicks in; the irritation is followed by anger sometimes and its not unusual at this stage to shove everything in a drawer and eat a packet of Jaffa Cakes instead.
You feel like you will NEVER be able to create another piece of work ever again!  What will you do? How will you earn any money if you have nothing to paint?  This feeling has reduced me to actual tears in the past, and no doubt will do again.  You feel like giving up, you're clearly no good - what's the bloody point?!

Each painting, each piece of work, is a journey.  It is fraught with emotion and feeling.  An artist pours their entire heart and soul into a work, and the finished piece is infused with joy, love and happiness that the artist felt when they created it. 

There are however, those pieces that lie unfinished at the back of a cupboard, something that started off well but suddenly felt like it was going wrong, so you leave it to come back to at a later date.  I have done this before and sometimes this solution works fine.  You come back to it with fresh eyes, see clearly what needs doing to make amends and so continue on the journey and finish your painting.  Sometimes not even time can help, I have pictures half finished from years ago that for some reason I just haven't been able to part with.  I know in my heart I will never finish them yet they are still here as reminders of something that didn't work out.  I sometimes look at them and in all honesty I still don't have all the answers as to why.  It's more of a feeling rather than a clear knowing.

When your mojo leaves town, when you feel like your number is up and its time to put away your artist's smock, I'd like to reassure you that it isn't.  You will notice over time that there are seasons to your art.  You will have fallow times and ripe, juicy times.  There is a time to create and a time to be quiet and percolate ideas.  It is part of the process, there is no forcing of this tender subject, and you will have to learn to roll with it.  You will learn to handle the emotions it brings, you will learn to understand that the quiet parts are just as essential as the furious creative parts.  You will know that it will make you angry at times and euphorically happy.  You will learn that it's not just you, it's all of us.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Switch Off Time

Half term saw us hurling down the M5 towards the lush green hills, valleys and coastline of South Devon for a camping trip with friends.  Before we left, I had pondered the possibility of charging up the ever present phone using the car charger in order to Be Connected, but then I stopped.  Do I really need a phone?  Do I really need to keep in touch with the outside world?  Would it hurt to just NOT for a few days? 

What would it be like to really switch off for five days?  No internet trawling, no Facebook, no Tweets, and absolutely no Instagramming of exciting random stuff?

Lets do this, I thought.  Let's get back to real life for a bit.

So, I switched off and we went to Exeter for a night, to wander around my old home town streets, and to catch up with some sorely missed, and well loved friends.

There was a bit of an itch going on at first, that habitual knee-jerk reaction to check messages, emails, play Scrabble, see what everyone was doing on social media....but it passed pretty quickly to be honest, and by the time we were in the sunny field pitching the tent with our friends, I actually forgot all about it and concentrated on lending a hand, talking and listening to the bird song and chatter of the children running about in the grass.

We took long walks through the dunes.  All the wandering paths create a sense of wonderful anticipation because you know that inevitably they will lead you to the sea.

Ahhhh...and there.  Stopping for a moment to listen to the breeze rushing through the grasses, a soft swishing sound accompanied by the call of oyster catchers over on the estuary to our left, and gulls crying high above the sea to our right.  And nothing else.

A gentle, and steady feeling of peace and tranquility pervaded my bones.  I took photographs on my camera instead of snapping happily away on my phone.

I became much more immersed in my surroundings.  Instead of being constantly diverted by beeps and tweets and the insane urge to document every living moment, I started to tuly live those moments.  There was a luxurious feeling of reality, of living life the way it used to be lived, before we all became gadget bound by technology.

I was a little surprised in a sense, because I had no idea that I had become so trapped by the various phones and pads I had in my life.  I was also amused.  

When you allow yourself to switch off, you slow down.  You really do.  You stop caring what people are having for tea or finding the need to photograph your food.  You don't think about the latest trending hashtag and how many Likes you have on your Facebook Page.  You stop wondering about emails - they can all wait, we're on holiday - and you just start being more present.  Switching off is like a meditation, but better.

I had better conversations without the distractions, I felt happier, I felt more peaceful and more connected with my actual life than I have done in ages.

We went to Dartmouth and spent a delightful few hours on the beach at Blackpool Sands.  The water here is like crystal - we sat by the edge of the sea and listened to the rhythmical shushing sounds as it gently pushed and pulled its waves over the shingle shore.

We drove to Dartmouth town afterwards for ice-cream and a wander around the lovely little shops and streets.  Dartmouth is very, very beautiful and the River Dart is chocablock with sailing boats; the rigging tinkles and snaps in the wind, such a magical sound which I associate with memories of living on the coast. The river mouth eventually opens out to the sea, and either side of this pretty waterway is clustered with pastel coloured cottages and houses among the trees.

There are two ferries too, to take you back and forth across the river, and the Steam Train still runs along its scenic track.

One of the lovely finds in Dartmouth is Baxter's Gallery.  Our visit coincided with their Spring exhibition - it was good to see some work by friends of mine on show, including Andrea Berry, Janet Bell and Kirsty Elson amidst all the other wonderful pieces by talented artists and makers!

After admiring the art work and having a nice chat with the gallery owner, Sarah, we left to have a final wander about the town before returning home to camp.

After five days of fresh air, sleeping under the stars and waking with the dawn chorus and excited children, we reluctantly packed up and set off for home.

Here are a few things I absolutely adore about camping and escaping technology:

It being OK to wander around a field in your pyjamas with strangers and nobody bats an eyelid.

Cooking outside - Rob rustled up some beautiful fresh sea bass on the BBQ which we enjoyed with new potatoes and crunchy salad.  Food tastes immense outdoors on a warm sunny evening!

Keeping it simple.  Paring back on things we use everyday at home and just going with the basics - soap, flannel, toothbrush, pillow, sleeping bag....

Drifting off to sleep listening to a lonely owl hooting in the woods.

Being outside at 11pm and seeing millions of stars in a clear, navy blue sky.

Talking and connecting in real life, with real people.

Feeling relaxed and happy.

Have you ever taken a break from technology?  How did you find it?  Did you like it?  Why not share your experiences here in the comments?  I will definitely do it again, and it's made me more aware of how much time I spend using computers and phones etc.  I plan to figure in more time to switch off at home on a regular basis, just to reconnect and be still again.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Ten Things

1. Bluebell woods in Spring are the most happy, smile inducing places to be.

2.  Letting our newly hatched Painted Ladies into the wild one early morning...well, trying to.  This one hung about for ages sitting on my daughter's hand.

 3.  The sea.  In particularly, our beautiful Yorkshire coastline on a sunshiney day.

4.  Watching the gannets at Bempton Cliffs, and being awed by their enormous size and their cliff side habitats.  We also spotted puffins, razor bills, kittiwakes and fulmars.

5.  Seeing my newest original paintings hanging in the very lovely Art House Cafe, at Penistone.

6.  Sleeping.  I do absolutely love going to bed with a good book, and settling down in this comfy nest of warmth.  Currently enjoying the latest Inspector Montalbano novel, and as I've almost finished this, I'll be looking forward to a Jenny Colgan next.

7.  Bits and Bobs.  I'm a bit of a lover of pretty things.  I have filled my house with them, bearing in mind the famous saying by William Morris which went along the lines of ~ Have nothing in your home that you do not consider to be useful or beautiful.  It may not all be useful, but it brings great pleasure to surround oneself with pretty tat.

8.  Drying washing outside.  That pure, sunshiney, breezy scent that infuses your laundry and that you just wish you could bottle and keep all year round.  This may be a sign of getting older, but I never fail to have a small moment of rapture upon gathering in my washing after a drying day.

9.  Getting organised.  After a very busy few weeks preparing for the exhibition with Hen's Teeth, I am now making headway with my paperwork and updating my website with prints and such like that have for too long languished by my desk, pleading to be put on sale.  'We're not much good stuck under here now are we?' they taunt.  So, I've done them the kindness of listing them in my shop.  Oh, and I've also done my accounts in record time this year.  Go me!
Seriously, you have no idea what a chore this is!  One day I would like very much to have a wonderful assistant who can help me wade through this side of running a business.

10.  These two.  My dearests; my other half and my little dot of a daughter.  Life would be pretty pants without them.

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