Lockdown projects

We moved into our house just before Christmas and have become some of the lucky people to be able to spend time in the garden during lockdown. Sometimes I find it difficult to get over how lucky our timing was. We were on a small hot flat last year, going through IVF and then an exhausting pregnancy. Had we been just 10 months later with all these things it’s very likely I would have had my treatment cancelled and we would now be stuck, like many people are, in a small place with little out door space at all.

Since we’ve been in lockdown my partner has been growing things. We have little boxes of little plants like the all over the house. We have put up a polytunnel in the back of the Gary and are trying out the no dig technique to create flower/ vegetable beds.

Have you started any projects during lockdown?

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Posted in Craft, environment, grow your own | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

My cat is nailing social distancing

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In the UK we have been ‘social distancing’ for eight weeks now. I don’t think it has come that easily to many humans. People like to hug each other, even in socially uptight England. Social distancing prevents that for many people. I feel very grateful to be in lock down with my partner and baby, who I can hug all day should I want to, although they may find this very annoying.

My cat, in contrast, has developed social distancing into an art form. I think he has taken a bit of time to get used to us being in the house all the time. He now spends most of his day sitting in this basket high up on the top of a dresser. He spends his time sleeping, with occasional breaks to scowl at us or clean his bum. So at least some of us are having an ok lockdown.

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I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Posted in Anxiety, Cats | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Mothers day design – USA moms

Mother Love

Quite some time ago I posted this post in which I showed you a design I had created as a valentines day card for Mr Magpie when I was heavily pregnant with my first baby. A few people here, and else where said that they liked it so I had a go at putting it onto things at Redbubble in time for mothers day.

I put this design up back in march, just in time for Mothers Day in the UK. Here it is again in time for mothers day in the USA. Available on a range of lovely things at Redbubble. 

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Posted in Art, Craft, pregnancy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trying to be a new parent and creative at the same time: Write everyday?

IMG_20200302_041051151 It’s been almost 9 weeks since I had my baby and I’ve been beginning to get back thinking about how to be a creative person, at the same time as being a new parent. It’s been quite a learning curve, but I think that he’s beginning to settle into a routine, which means I’m beginning to be able to predict when I will have a little bit of time to engage with my creativity.

For anyone who has followed my blog over the years, you’ll know that I’ve always had several projects on the go, including writing a novel, making art (some of which is available here), and trying to finish a documentary, as well as a day job. The big, important thing I have learned since having my baby is that I am only likely to have a little bit of time in any given day, so I need to choose wisely how I use it. Most of my projects involve getting out camera kit or bits of paper or other stuff which will a) take half of the short amount of time I have to set up, and b) will be abandoned half way through my trying to do what ever it is I am trying to do to get tripped over or sat on by cats.

At the moment I’ve chosen to focus on my writing because that’s the one project I have that I can pick up and put down easily. At home I have two computers, one which is a mac that has all my film making software and word on, and a chrome book which is really designed for using a range of apps and the internet. At the moment I have a draft of my novel on the go in google docs, which means that I can work on it from either computer. I’m finding this really helps. I almost always have the chrome book to hand to add in a few sentences to a page. I turn on the mac for moments when I know I will have a bit longer to do a more concentrated bit of work.

I’ve also been listening to a podcast called The Bestseller Experiment (check out the website here), which has been going for several years now. I started right at the beginning and find it’s a good thing to listen to when I’m in the bath in the evening. The podcast is full of interviews with people who have written best selling books, and has lots of interesting insights. One of the big messages they have, which has come out of interviews with lots of authors, is to write everyday, even if it’s only 200 words. I am trying that out at the moment, which is a different approach for me, as before I was saving my creative work for times when I knew I would have a big block of time (half of which I inevitably spent procrastinating).

I am finding the write every day approach is helping a lot, as it forces me to keep continuity on a single project. I’m finding I’m having a lot more ideas as I work this way, and am making a lot more progress than I did with the big blocks of time approach, so this is a win I think. I expected parenthood to be teaching me all sorts of new things. I was concerned that I would lose the creative part of my life to being a mum, so it’s really nice that some of those things are about how to be more creative.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Posted in Art, Craft, creativity, parenting, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

New product on Redbubble: cloth face masks

work-27373674-mask Followers of this blog (hello!) will probably know that I have had a little shop on Redbubble for some time now. They emailed me in the last few weeks to say that they had added a new product on Redbubble – cloth face masks. These are masks designed for use in public, and would not be appropriate in a medical setting.

I feel a bit weird about the idea of making money from a crisis like CORVID-19. However, Redbubble have pledged that for every face mask bought they will donate one to the charity Heart to Heart international, which is an NGO that is working with partners internationally to distribute equipment needed in the fight against CORVID-19. I thought I would upload a few of my designs onto these face masks to support that.

Most of the designs I have are not particularly appropriate for face masks, and with a new baby I’m not in a good position to make anything new right now. However a few years ago I made a few pieces of paper cut art that were completely comprised of paper cut flowers. I was pleased with these and these were among my first designs on Redbubble. They aren’t particularly popular (although I don’t sell a huge amount of my art so it’s actually difficult to tell), but I have now added face masks to the available products here. If you were thinking of buying a mask you may want to take a look at these, and if you don’t like my designs there are many, many other wonderful designs on Redbubble to choose from.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Posted in Art, Craft | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Learning to be a mum

We’ve been using terrycloth nappies to avoid sending tons of rubbish to landfill, but it’s been a bit of a learning curve. Let’s just say partner’s attempts to domesticate me are getting less and less subtle!

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Posted in environment, parenting | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Love in the time of coronovius

There is a quote about history which goes something along the lines of ‘the past is a different country, things are different there’. It’s been over a month since my baby was born and I am beginning to feel something similar about being a parent. It is a different kind of existence. Time moves differently here.

Before I got pregnant I thought quite a lot about how to use my time efficiently, how to fit the most in. Now days pass and I have little idea about how the time passes.Yesterday I managed to spend half an hour editing an early chapter in my novel and it felt like a big achievement.

This morning I have spent a significant amount of time watching my baby smile as he farts in his sleep. He seems content with himself, and so I am content to sit here with him.

It feels good, even with the coronovius raging outside to be present in these moments with him. I thought was quite a patient person, but am learning new things all the time about that. It is another thing to feel greatful for.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Posted in gratitude, mother's, parenting | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mother’s Day and difficult times

As I write the I’m sitting in bed with the baby asleep on my chest and I’m managing to sip luke warm tea without dripping it on his little white best. I’m not sure what parental skill level that is but I am grateful for being able to do it at all. Yesterday was my first ever Mother’s Day. It feels a bit strange to me, like I can’t quite own that title yet. I’m not sure if that relates to having an IVF pregnancy, or if it’s because the world feels a bit upside down at the moment.

I have been writing a novel over the last year in which one of the main characters goes through a psychological/ physical change which involves becoming more aware of their physical body. When I became pregnant it didn’t occur to me that this experience would help me get under the skin of that character, but having a baby has turned out to be a profoundly physical, almost animal experience.

I was always a bit suspicious of the pastel coloured, sugary depiction of mother hood that seems to predominate in our culture. So far motherhood for me has not been particularly picturesque. I’ve been strongly reminded that however much I may like to live in my head, I’m very much a biological being. I had a cesarian section and have been limited in what I can do as I recover. I’m only just able to lift things again, and still get very tired when I walk for more than half an hour. My body automatically produces milk to sustain my baby, who decides when he wants to feed whether it is convenient or not.

It’s also been a bit difficult to get ‘back to normal’. We have been hibernating as a little family for almost 3 weeks as the coronovius upends normal life outside. We are just getting to the point where we are ready for little trips out if the house, but everything has closed and all of the little social groups and things like that for new parents are on hold. My body begins to look like it did before I was pregnant, but I can’t swim because the pool is closed, or walk far because we are social distancing. It will probably never quite be the same again.

Even against that background I think we are very lucky. We delivered the baby and came home before the hospital was full of people with the virus. Inside my partner makes me tea and does the washing while I cuddle the baby. We are happy and warm together, and have enough food for a few weeks. I have much to be greatful for.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Posted in gratitude, infertility, Living in London, pregnancy | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Thoughts on Radical Kindness: Why writers and artists should practice it (Part 3)

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[This is part 3 of a series of blogs about kindness. Please see parts 1 and 2 here]

When I began writing these posts I kind of thought this would have been one of my ‘here are my random thoughts on this’ kind of posts and that would be it. However life rarely turns out as you expect. I have been thinking a bit about my own journey as a person, and as an artist and writer, and what I’m about really through these posts.

I actually wanted to write and make art when I was a teenager, but I also wanted to ‘help people’ and somehow got it into my head that being an artist/writer would mean that I wouldn’t be doing that (I have seriously revised my view on this now!). Instead I went off to university to study medicine, thinking that doctors ‘helped’ people so that was what I should do. While I really loved learning about the science, and believe that having the opportunity to study human anatomy through full body dissection was one of the great privileges of my life, it turned out that the practice of medicine was not for me. I left after four years to do a PhD in psychology, during which I studied things like advertising, persuasion and the impact that stories can have on us. I still wanted to write and make art, but some how I wasn’t ready, because I hadn’t really found my subject.

Later I did research into mental health and genetics, and I left a long term relationship because my then partner would not even talk about having children (hence I am quite late to the baby party). After this I had a bit of a break down really, although I would not have called it that at the time. I was depressed, very anxious, and drinking lots. I was in a bad way, and (cliche alert) I became attached to a number of men who were not attached to me.

I continued to work in mental health but the kind of work I did changed so that I was doing research with colleagues who also had mental health issues. We talked a lot, and I listened a lot, and in the middle of all of that, I found I was ready to make things and write things. I am now writing a novel in which people have experienced trauma and who live with those things. It’s also a fantasy novel, so I am trying to weave in strands of myth and magic, which makes things a bit complicated, but and I think I finally found my subject. I think this is the many splendid forms of being human and all the emotional consequences of that. 

So why do I think that artists and writers in particular should practice radical kindness? I think that, beyond just being a good person, there are a number of reasons. I think to create art, or convincing characters that really speak to people, it can really help to understand people. It can really help to understand the rich and varied emotional lives many people live. To understand people, you need to connect with people on an honest level. To connect with people, it really, really helps if you are kind. People will tell you things about themselves, and help you, incrementally, to better understand all the different ways of being human, if you are kind.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Posted in Anxiety, Art, Craft, creative work, creativity, listening, Radical Kindness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on Radical Kindness as a Daily Practice: Part 2

img_0390[This blog is Part 2 of a series blogs – see Part 1 here.]

When I started writing this blog series I just wanted to express a general thought about kindness; that posting nice quotes or stories is not enough. We need to think about it like yoga, as a kind of daily or weekly practice to actually make a difference. I see this a potential political movement, not just a personal practice, although perhaps more developed thoughts on that can wait for later.

In writing that post I realised that I had learned a few specific things in the last few years working in mental health that were helpful to me. You may or may not find them helpful to you, so I’ve made a little list:

  1. Listening to, rather than talking to, people. I think this has been my major learning in the last few years and it’s also something I keep banging on about. I have even blogged about this in the past here. Learning to listen carefully to people, and to be able to show that I am listening to them has, I think, been the thing that has made the biggest difference in being able to really connect with people. I have learned a whole set skills that relate to listening over time. I will write a separate post about them at some point.
  2. Resisting the urge to ‘fix it’, and understanding that is often not what people need anyway. I think that ignoring or avoiding the urge to immediately jump up and try to fix something for someone when they are having a difficult time is really important. I am not sure if this is a British thing or more broadly applicable, but in the UK we are socially accustomed to avoiding difficult conversations. This often leads to the impulse to jump up and ‘do something’ when one arises, rather than giving someone the full extent of space and time they need to explain themselves. While practical is often help is very much appreciated, if offered too early it is often inappropriate and may just demonstrate that you weren’t listening in the first place.
  3. Resisting the urge to interrupt, or finish people’s sentences. Actually I have a really hard time with this one, because I find myself doing this quite a bit and then being cross with myself. But it’s also the biggest indicator for me that someone is not listening, or has lost patience with me when they do this. So this is an area I am working on.
  4. Don’t dismiss someone’s feelings, or suggest someone may be overreacting or making it up. Just don’t. It’s not nice. It’s not kind.
  5. Understanding that kindness may look different to different people. You can’t always get it right. I have often said things or done things that have landed badly, often when I was too tired, or took too little time to understand. It’s ok to get things wrong. It’s not ok to stop trying, or to avoid understanding why things went wrong. Try, try again. 
  6. Try not to give advice. Lots of people with mental health problems have heard all the advice before. I have found asking people what they have tried, and not tried out is a much better way to get into a conversation about what to do next. For example don’t tell people with anxiety to try a puzzle book, or a colouring book. They very probably have six of each sitting at home, half finished. Please don’t tell people to ‘go for a nice walk’. It’s not that simple. I always come back to listening. A lot of people feel a little bit better when they feel heard, and that they can trust you to keep a confidence.
  7. Don’t assume you know what someone is feeling. Even if you have been through the exact same thing, which you probably haven’t, you don’t. Let them tell you instead.
  8. Understanding my own boundaries, trying to protect them. Again this is something I have really struggled with in the past because I thought being kind meant being there for everyone else all the time, at the expense of what ever may be going on for me. Then I got really ill for a while with anxiety, drank waaay too much, and realised that this approach, amongst other issues in my life at the time, were not working. Now I try really hard to limit the time spent in social situations as I find these very tiring, and to basically give my self a sensible amount of time to do things like replying to emails and texts rather than being ‘on tap’. I think some people may have felt that I have become very anti social because of this, but I’m happy with the focus on quality over quantity. 
  9. Don’t consume things that are cruel. As a rule I don’t buy gossip magazine or tabloid newspapers, I try to avoid clickbait type articles online (with partial success). I don’t follow people like Katie Hopkins or Piers Morgan on Twitter. Most of these media forms have, in part or in full, cruelty built into their business model. Let’s think about that. They make money by spreading things like racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, disability hate, rape myths and assorted forms of ignorance, and untrue stories about people’s private lives. These things make the lives of ordinary people harder, and those people are often people who had a difficult run in the first place. It that what you want your hard earned money, or your precious time, to be doing? We can make things better, collectively, by refusing to reward anyone who makes money from this kind of content. Don’t pay for it. Don’t click on it. Don’t follow it. It’s like adding poison to your own well. As a happy side effect, you’ll feel a lot better without that kind of influence in your life. I have not bought a single ‘woman’s magazine’ for ten years, and I have not missed them at all.

I will have missed loads of things so please add your thoughts in the comments below.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Posted in Anxiety, Radical Kindness | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments