September 2016

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When Craft Holds You Back. I have been thinking about this subject a lot lately and found, like I usually do, that writing it down in my note book in a quiet cafe helped me put some tangled thoughts into perspective. This subject is very close to my heart at the moment and perhaps some of you will have had similar ideas and feeling too. I am defiantly in an exciting/scary time of creative change within my business and life – and that is ongoing- so as part of a series of more reflective/creative business orientated articles I thought it was important to share and reflect!

For me it really began to become a noticeable thing/dilemma a few months back when I just couldn’t come up with a new craft DIY for the blog. I made lists of projects that fit with relevant seasonal themes and that might work on Craftgawker etc as was my usual routine… but when it came to actually creating the project, photographing and editing, I felt lacklustre and uninspired. And I felt disappointed in the end product, like it wasn’t a representation of my skills, taste or even my creative ethics. As we all know these projects take a lot of time and effort to create, shoot and edit. This repetitive process began to suck the joy out of the making/creative side of each new project idea. This quickly became a recurring feeling which I couldn’t put to one side anymore because I was avoiding doing the thing my business was largley all about… making things/projects with my hands and sharing the skills and joy with others.

I think this is when I first realised that for me ‘craft/crafting’ had become a set of limitations and was kind of restricting my creativity. And that social media was playing a huge part in extinguishing my inspiration.

Shock/horror. Queue some serious anxiety and a fear that I had A) lost all personal style and skill, and B) might not ever be able to create another craft project for the blog or even workshop that I felt happy/proud of again C) that weighty feeling of impostor syndrome.

I decided to take a step back and put all craft projects (not commission work) on hold until I could figure out why I had lost my creative mojo and how I might find it again. Or at lease find a version that fit with where I am in my life/business now…

What has come to light is quite simple to see now… definitely part of an ongoing creative development and by no means down to one thing along. Like I said, simple right!?

1, My passion project has become work/job and therefore my down time which was usually spent crafting felt like work. Which meant no distinction between work and play, more pressure from myself to achieve certain things and be constantly creating new content.

2, The curse of social media and the negative impact that spending too much time looking at beautiful instagram feeds belonging to peers and friends can have. More often than not we compare and criticise ourselves, even without noticing we are doing it, way to harshly. (There is a whole other article here on the inner critic which I may come to later).

3, This aversion to what I am now calling ‘fast craft’ projects coincided with ideas about what my business is about and what I want to be known for changing and shifting into new and different territory. Fears about re positioning myself as a craft based creative and wanting my projects to have more long term meaning/use and interest.

‘don’t compare your real life to someone else’s show reel.’

By focusing on ‘fast craft’ in my online projects I’d kind of lost sight of how and why ‘crafting’ brings me joy largely by focusing on the end point. Creativity can be found in everything not just yarn, fabric and felt based projects. For me creativity is inherent in all parts of my life. And it largely comes down to making things with my hands. Cooking & baking, gardening, writing letters, repairing or altering a piece of clothing, making a good cup of tea, imagining a new project, writing a list.

But the most important part of craft and also creativity is the messy, tangled middle ground when we are actually doing the thing we love… not just the end product. And as is often the case with social media and a lot of the projects I myself have whipped up for the blog and also commission work, we only see a polished finished product and a set of curated step’s to achieving that project. That’s not to say they are of less value but are in an area that perhaps I am moving away from naturally.

Reconnecting with craft and creativity

So I decided to take it back to basics… replacing the verb to craft and this new self defined area of my business/creative life ‘fast craft’ with creativity in order to take back my passion for making and see where that takes me. Zooming out to look at the broader picture, the why not just the what and to try to reconnect with the joy of creating fun quicker projects but also to create content that is more authentic/genuinely me and feels valuable again.

‘Craft’ often gets a bad rep for being cutesy, pointless and not related to traditional ideas of craftsmanship. I want to find a middle ground.

Here’s some small activities i’ve been trying out – and will continue doing in small steps – to get back to more frequent joyful crafting practices… and also to help me move my style, projects and ideas/business forward. Some of these things might also be of help when you get in a rut too.

Try some of these…

Take a step back, write down 10 things you enjoy doing, creative or otherwise. Keep that list close at hand and read over when you feel like you’ve lost your motivation. This may help you keep on track and find more clarity when choosing new projects/commitments.

Take a break from social media – or at least limit your use for a while. Break the habit and use it as a useful tool again. Try taking the main apps off your home screen or creating a separate folder. I have removed FB from my phone and try to post on IG max twice a day. I have also stopped looking at my phone in bed when I wake up, now I try and wait until I have made a tea and am sitting on the sofa. I have also turned any sound notifications to silent… don’t let FOMO stop you from actually doing something fun with your own real time!

Sketch it out – grab a note book and a pen and scribble down an idea. Jot a list with it and develop your ideas in paper instead of on a screen or pinterest. Draw out a wonky picture. This is the fun part and no one has to see how messy it looks! Be messy with it! Its all part of creating something new!

Try something different/new or pick up an old hobby. This can be a crafty project or something unrelated.

Try using up old scraps or making something with no plan! Again, no one needs to see this project or hobby it should be all about you having fun and being in the moment! You don’t even need to finish it… there is no pressure.

Make something as a gift – Put some love into the item you are making, it might not be craftgawker worthy but the person receiving it will be totally thrilled that you spent the time on them. You could even start trying out christmas or birthday cards for family and friends! Collaging is super fun or make something different like some chutney? Just keep it simple.

Read a book, listen to an album from your uni days, do nothing… remember switching off is good too!

do less better

Getting back to craft…

Yarn bomb – Create a small snippet or sample of crochet, embroidery or knitting and take it to the streets! Add a simple positive message like ‘have a nice day’ or ‘you are loved’ pop it on a paper tag and attach your wonky creation to a lamp post or tree branch for a passer by to find. Again you could just use a scrap from a past creative project which needs nothing extra doing to it.

Join a craft social or local meet up or even get a few friends together at home and work on a creative project together! (see xmas gifts or yarn bombing for inspiration)

De clutter your materials stash – I am a prime culprit for hanging onto tiny snippets of fabric, yarn and beads. But having a good clear out makes space for new ideas and you might also find inspiration along the way as you come across a half finished project or even craft book you had ‘lost’.

Once you’ve de cluttered you cold organise a craft swap with friends and peers. Though i’d advise trying to only bring one new thing home otherwise your hard work will be undone!

Why are all these activities a good idea? Well, they help us reconnect with ourselves and others on a more personal/in person way. Perhaps this idea of redefining craft and creativity can also help you in smaller ways too such as…

slowing down the pace

less screen time

updating your style and ideas about what is available

make, do and mend

authenticity over originality – moving your thoughts and style forward.

This is a great article to read for some more actionable things to try when it comes to social media.

To end this first post on a positive note i’d say that although creatively this past few months have been more difficult and felt less productive, and stressful at times they have also been amazing because space has now been made for me to explore new ideas, projects to grow into. I can see and feel that this is most definitely an ongoing evolution of ideas, projects and minor freak outs… I am excited to see where my next steps take me.

Women Who Create / Kate Rochester. In this fortnight’s edition of women who create things I am excited to introduce to you designer and illustrator Kate Rochester. I first met Kate some years back when she took on a studio space with us in Brighton at our old HQ. Her joyful and colourful work always brings a smile to my face! Her love of colour and texture has filled many a children’s story book, map and more recently murals!

Tell us a little about your background…

I was always encouraged to cook, sew and draw as a child. I went on to study surface pattern at college, where I developed my drawing and practical skills. This enabled me to achieve a diverse career in print for textiles, graphics and illustration. My work is a combination of good old painting and drawing mixed with digital. I make all of my own textures and draw everything by hand before scanning in and refining on the computer.

kate rochester illustration

Do you have creative habits or rituals within your work that help you stay focused and happy?

If I know my dog has had a good morning walk and is settled, then I can focus. I listen to music, podcasts, womanise hour and desert island discs.

Lists are essential! I have lists everywhere from scraps of paper to notes in my sketchbook and diary (old school hard copy, not digital!)

What two things can’t you live without?

My dog Dolly, and Pinterest!

dolly the dog

What is your biggest source of inspiration?

Instagram, Pinterest, blogs, magazines, nature, and every day things like packaging and the shapes in architecture. I treasure hunt at antique shops and flea markets looking for children’s books, textiles and ephemera. I like to use hand lettering in my work and love looking at the variety and individuality of fonts. I get really inspired by group workshops, strengthening techniques and learning new skills.

kate rochester illustration

What is the meaning of ‘craft’ to you?

Home made, hand made, thrifty, recycled. I love to bake, sew and build and re-use vintage and second hand stuff wherever possible. I haven’t bought a birthday card to send for years, although I have got a box full for inspiration! I make gifts for friends too when I have time and always have a craft or DIY project on the go.

kate rochester studio

If you could collaborate on a creative project or idea with anyone… who would it be & why?

I would love to work on a big mural or window display for Anthropologie; produce some inspiring pages for Flow or Uppercase magazine; or create my own range of screenprinted products

Do you have a favourite piece of equipment that inspires your day to day process?

I have recently got into collage and papercutting and have rediscovered my scalpel and scissors.

kate rochester collage

What is the best thing about working for yourself?

It is flexible and varied and I pay my bills by drawing and painting! It can be challenging sometimes to balance financial security with freedom and creativity, but it is worth it.

What is your proudest creative moment in your journey so far?

I was commissioned to design a series of panels for a specialist heart ward at the Royal Brompton hospital in London. They feature buildings and scenes from allover the world. There are animals hidden throughout to give the patients something to do and the palette is bright and colourful so I like to think they bring some to an otherwise daunting hospital visit.

kate rochester mural at royal brompton hospital

Kate’s newer work is filled with collage… hop on over to her Instagram to find daily inspiration and website for more wonderful projects!

Etsy / Printable Planner Pages. Hi folks! Those of you who are signed up to my newsletter will have already received this little treat and hopefully be using it to plan your weekly projects, blog posts, social media and life in a joyful fashion!

After weeks of fine tuning I am mega excited to let you know that the first Super+Super downloadable planner page PDF is available for you over on my Etsy UK store as digital download to print out at home.

This new design includes a weekly social media planning page and a 3 column week to view projects page!

3 pdf files are included so you can print 2 A5 size pages on one sheet and then turn over and print back too… Then trim & punch then add to your weekly planner. Once you have bought your pdf file you can print as many as your heart desires!

Or print off as A4 size single pages and stick on your pin board! I use mine with my gorgeous kikik pause planner and they really have changed how I plan my week for the better.

I am also in the process of getting sets of this page plus another exciting edition printed for my store so if you want to buy the ready printed versions drop me a comment below and I will add you to the list for round 1 print run. I am very excited indeed!

Happy planning x

planner pages from supersuperhqplanner pages from supersuperhq

printable planner pages

printable planner pages

Mollie Makes / Christmas Gift Sack DIY. Yay a new issue of Mollie Makes and a fun new fast craft tutorial from me for you to make yourself at home :) Find the full tutorial plus tips & hints on pages 42-45 of the newly released Christmas crafts edition 71 in stores now!

I’d love to hear about what you are planning this year for crafty gift making! Are you starting simple and slow with gift wrap and cards? Or going the whole hog with a proper handmade christmas!? I am trying to make even more treats for my family and friends this year and am hoping to get several of these lovely sacks filled in time… You can find some of my favourite hand made gifts inspiration over on the ‘Craft Lover’s Christmas’ board I have been topping up since last year. There are some wonderful treats for Autumn & Winter alike.

Happy Crafting folks! Amy x

mms71-santasacks mms_71_cover_web

Women Who Create / Helen Hallows

Welcome to this weeks instalment of Women Who Create Things. This week I am happy to introduce you to artist/designer and one of my newest creative peers Helen Hallows. Helen’s work is full of texture, tone and the richness of nature and her no nonsense business practice & advice are extremely refreshing! Her gorgeous home garden studio is a trove of inspiration… take a look for yourself.

Tell us a little about your background… 

I trained in textile design at Loughborough College of Art and Design before working freelance for an agent who sold my designs internationally. I created embroidered and appliqué designs for home wares, bedding, ladies and children’s fashion and stationery. My agent closed her business around the time that I started my family. My creativity went out the window as soon as I had little people in my life and it took me a while to find it again. I did some greetings card designs for a Nottingham based agent but really missed creating handmade, crafted work. I started to create some personal work based around family memories and out of this grew some work about memories of places, and captured moments. I used a mixed media approach with paint and paper and stitched into them, much as I had my appliqué designs. Fast forward seven years, and now I create framed artworks that I sell at art fairs, I run workshops and art holidays to share my ideas and techniques and I license my art for cards and prints as well as selling my own range of limited edition prints and products through my website

helen hallows work

Do you have creative habits or rituals within your work that help you stay focused and happy?

In the last two years I have been exploring the process of creativity and how to sustain creativity after hitting a period of creative block for the first time in my life. I’ve learnt to keep a notebook/log book/journal of my life that keeps me centred and my creativity flowing. It swings between shopping lists, to-do lists, sketches, doodles, scrapbook and a place to let everything out and pour my heart out. I wrote about my creativity and overcoming obstacles to creative flow and from the writings I recorded a spoken word CD called’I am Nature – creative visualisations for working with nature as inspiration’ to help others find flow on their creative journey.

helen hallows cd I Am Nature

What two things can’t you live without?

Ooh, good question. My notebook/journal and sunshine!

What is your biggest source of inspiration?

Nature…everything I do comes from nature. I feel very much in tune with the seasons, a time to grow, a time to rest. I’m most inspired in the summer…I really do need the sunshine to thrive.

helen hallows art holidays

What is the meaning of ‘craft’ to you?

Working from the soul, Making from the heart. Becoming an expert at a technique. My work falls in the gap between art and craft, art because it is framed, craft because it is stitched into. I dislike the delineation and wish there was a word for ‘creating something with passion’.

helen hallows art commission

If you could collaborate on a creative project or idea with anyone… who would it be & why?

I’d love to create some large scale tapestries. I’ve dabbled in tapestry weaving before but it’s a long and skilled process. I’d love to collaborate with an established weaver.

Do you have a favourite piece of equipment that inspires your day to day process?

My sewing machine. Sewing is rooted in me. I use the sewing machine to draw into my work. I don’t think I could let that go.

What is the best thing about running your business?

The best thing is the variety and being able to create a new project or decide to try a different way of doing things. I love running a creative business because I can be creative in how I run it. I meet such like minded souls too, through art events and at my workshops.

helen hallows art

What is your proudest creative moment in your journey so far?

In 2011 I had an exhibition at Sock Gallery in Loughborough. I had just started selling my landscape work and it was my first exhibition so I didn’t know what to expect. The night of the private view I arrived and people were buying my work, red dots appearing left, right and centre! I felt that I had stepped into being who I wanted to be.

helen hallows art work

Find more from Helen on her website or book a wonderful workshop and find your own inspiration x

Craft Kit Box / Crochet For Beginners. Hello Folks! After months of slow development, miss-prints and time restraints I am extremely proud to be able to share with you the first carnation of my Crochet For Beginners Craft Kit Box which is now available through my little Etsy store.

This kit contains a collection of products from the S+S collection which I have been focusing on developing and is a superb gift for a friend or family member (or yourself obvs!) who wants to learn all the skills to become a crochet pro and build a fantastic foundation in this wonderful yarn craft. This kit is a combination of tried and true patterns, projects and materials which I love!

What this kit includes:

1 x Super+Super crochet project book
4 x balls of DMC cotton yarn in varying colours
1 x 3.5mm hook
1 x screen printed hand sewn craft kit project bag (to keep all your goodies inside!)
1 x loyalty card

1 x welcome pack which includes membership to our online craft community + 10 exclusive crochet tutorial videos via my online school of craft (link details included)

Because of the handmade nature of my product range this craft kit box is only being produced in small runs of 5 at a time. I pick, cut, sew, fold and wrap each item. Seeing all these pieces come together makes me super joyful and I am excited to help new students learn to crochet from the comfort of their craft room or sofa! It certainly makes wonderful gift for a friend or new hobby for yourself!

*First 5 purchases get a limited edition original vintage ‘Special Offers’ card + a secret extra gift*

And just to highlight the super value of buying a kit the RRP for all these items separately is up to £87.99

So if you know someone who is looking to master the art of crochet in simple digestible steps with lots of help and fun projects along the way… plus the option to join a fantastic creative community on-line… then this new kit might just be perfect.

craft kit and bag

craft kit box contentscotton crochet yarns


Inspiration / Crochet Plant Hangers. Since moving to a new home which has more space and much more natural light I seem to have tripled the number of plants indoors! I just love them, cannot get enough of propagating old plants, swapping seeds and rescuing sad plants from the reduced isle of the supermarket or garden centre. I am proudly turning into a crazy plant lady!

I have soon come to realise that I can combine two of my favourite past times craft/crochet and plants together as I experiment in making lots of different pots and plant hangers! There is now a crafty hanger creation of some kind in at least one corner in every room and I strongly recommend you all join in and create you own too.

Tips for creating crochet plant hangers…

  • use a strong cotton/synthetic yarn that doesn’t have too much stretch for the hanging cords (plants can get heavy!)
  • make sure your crochet body/pot is lined with a water tight tub or lining – soggy crochet is gross!
  • keep your colours bright or light to highlight the details on foliage
  • light leaved plants love sunshine! hang in indirect sunlight in the lightest part of your house…
  • unless you have lots of dark leafed shade loving plants such as stag horn or fern which are happy in partial shade or in a bathroom
  • don’t over water!
  • don’t be afraid to pull off all old leaves and damaged stems – this is very important for making room for new growth! Often the plan is NOT dying it just needs thinning out a little and crispy leaves removing
  • add beads to your hangers for a little extra fun!

I also thought i’d share some of my favourite inspiration for crochet plant hangers from my home and Pinterest too…

crochet plant hangers_72dpi
 Find links to these brilliant images over on Pinterest by clicking through below

  1. Crochet cotton cord hanger with beads from Pinterest here
  2.  Textural plant holders here
  3. Vintage crochet doily holder here
  4. Jersey pop colour hanger here
  5. Chunky cotton colour work crochet from my recent on-line crochet class

I hope this post has inspired you to grab a hook and rescue some sad plants!

If you need a little more inspiration head over to my Plants & Home Pinterest board. Please do not hesitate in emailing me if you want to know more about this post, future workshops or anything else craft related at Super+Super!

Happy crafting

Amy x