Thursday, 13 February 2020

Children's Wellbeing Activity Books

I'm delighted to announce one of the projects that were keeping me oh so quiet last year... two beautiful and brilliantly written activity books, published by Upside Down Books - the new children’s imprint of wellbeing publisher, Trigger Publishing.

It'll Be OK: My Feelings Activity Book

Each book features 64 illustrated pages of thoughtful and fun activities to help kids learn about the themes of feelings and mindfulness. It was such a joy to be given a major role in bringing all these practical exercises to life. 

Chill Out: My Mindfulness Activity Book

It makes me happy to see mental health being talked about in books, at home and in schools from a young age nowadays, and I can't wait to share more about these fabulous books. I will leave it there for now however, as there’s still a few months to go before the books are published. You can pre-order the books here (it was an exciting day when I found I was Amazon-able ☺️)!

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

2019 Review: Work life balance as a full time illustrator

In the world of indie makers, some people choose to have 'a word' for the year, to remind them of an aim they want to keep checking in with. I've been thinking that if I did have a word for the year, it should probably be 'balance'. It ended up being a theme of this post, which started out as a review of the last year (maybe becoming an annual thing) as I am now entering my third year of full time illustrating.

2019 was a crazy year, which you might have guessed by apologies for my silences and hints on Instagram when I couldn't say too much about what I was working on. The results of a lot of this hard work is starting to come out into the world now. One of the books I worked on was published last week - which was Be Happy Be You for Harper Collins. There is more work I haven't shared yet but plan to soon, and some books are being published later in the year that I will patiently wait to share.

At the start of 2019, I spent time sending samples of my work to publishers and preparing my portfolio for London Book Fair. My efforts from both paid off, as later in the year I started some work for two new clients - Harper Collins, as previously mentioned and Upside Down Books (a new children's imprint of wellbeing publisher, Trigger Publishing). I was also commissioned some lovely mural work for Sheffield Hospital and HSBC - and more spot illustrations for Little, Brown Book Group, which will be shared soon.

Showing my work at London Book Fair was a great experience and encouraged me to take it up a level this year - I'm going to Bologna Children's Book Fair! I've always fancied it but for some reason, the world's leading children's book fair in Italy seemed that little bit more of a pipe dream that I hadn't taken the steps to actually do. The flights are now booked, so it's definitely happening!

The Illustrator's Gallery at London Book Fair 2019

I was very happy to gain two new stockists in Sheffield in 2019 - the Sheffield Makers shops. Starting with the Winter Gardens branch back in March, followed by Hunters Bar in the summer. I'm so proud to have these as my stockists, the shops are lovely and the makers who staff the shop are all super friendly. The perfect environment for my products. Having regular income from my new stockists and being busy with book illustrations enabled me to do less markets this year. I replaced the hectic run of Christmas markets with one week long Pop Up Shop in December (more on that to follow).

A lot of the work I said yes to this year had very short deadlines and some were really big projects in terms of hours to put in. It was intense - there were quite a lot of late nights and working weekends - something I'd like to improve on this year. In my quest to keep up the flow of work but achieve more balance, a new thing I'm trying is having a set finish time of 6pm, trusting the theory that you can get as much done in less hours when you're focused and rested. I know there will be crazy times when good habits go out the window, so when that happens, I'll be intentional about planning in chill time or rewards - to remind myself that me working silly hours is not the norm.

I had a small mindset shift during one of my busiest times of 2019. I was thinking about how when you're your own boss, you're taking the place of someone else who would usually (ideally) acknowledge and reward your efforts. Not only that, but I could also choose to be a really lovely boss who gives myself gold stars (literally, I have made myself a chart) or rewards of some kind, to balance out the graft. I think we independent makers can be great at providing our own discipline and criticism, but can forget to offer the support and compassion we'd hope for from an ideal boss.

Made myself a lil' reward chart... because I'm nice like that

Back in January 2019, I was ill for most of the month - it was my first official 'burnout'. After several markets and last minute commissions being collected just days before Christmas, I ended up with a full blown cold, a chest infection and other nasty symptoms that lasted for weeks. So this year, I was quite focused on avoiding that happening again. As the busy season was about to ramp up, my really lovely boss stepped in and booked myself a spa day to look forward to. I also booked a trip to London with my sister the week before Christmas, bringing my finish day forward. I also kept my wellbeing in mind when sending quotes and time scales to last minute commission enquiries. These things helped enormously - even while I was still in the thick of it at the start of December, I could feel my brain starting to make the shift to holiday mode. I was delighted and grateful, this time, to feel healthy over Christmas and extra rested in January.

So my takeaway from that story is... when you're having a crazy time (or see one coming), book yourself some treats to look forward to, even if it's just marking off an afternoon in the calendar to take off. Keep visualising the lovely things you'll do on that designated day, to convince your brain that it's definitely happening. It's amazing what you can trick your own brain into!

Going back to my review of 2019, my conclusion wouldn't be all that different to this time a year ago - keep sewing seeds! Big and small, different types in different places - fling them about allover the place. Some will definitely grow and you can't predict which will. I'm hoping that I'll get lots of lovely jobs again this year, but find ways for it to work with this new thing of achieving more balance. I have a few ideas for how I can do this, so watch this space to see how I get on...

I hope this blog was helpful if you're at a similar stage to me. I'd love to hear how you balance crazy work times with fun and rest... it's an art in itself. Wishing you a happy 2020!

Thanks for reading :)

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

It never ceases to amaze me how quick the smear test is. Even though I’m not usually nervous about it, there’s always a small part of me that thinks it’s going to be worse than it is. My most recent was last year and the actual test only took a couple of minutes. Around that time, it was in the news that numbers of women going for their screenings had dropped to their lowest in 20 years. 

A survey by Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust revealed that almost 1 in 3 women aged 25-64 had never had never been for a smear test and 81% said they felt embarrassed about it. Please don’t let that feeling stop you going for your screening. When I’m going for my test, I always remind myself that the doctors or nurses who perform the screenings see intimate body parts all day long. They’re not judging you. It’s no big deal to them. Yours could be the 23rd they’ve seen that day, or the 200th they’ve seen that month. 

This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention week, so I thought I’d share this today. I’m so grateful that I live in a country where it’s free to get tested and the NHS will remind me when my test due. Please don’t let fear stop you… it’s 5 minutes every 3-5 years that could save your life ❤️

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Hello! Oh goodness, I can't believe it's mid November already and spreading the word about my pop up shop as well as preparing for the workshops (as well as creating new stock!) is proving to be a real juggling act. 

It's less than two weeks to my Pop Up Shop  so I thought I'd share my current round-up from my newsletter - to give you a whistle stop break down of what's going on and when. You can sign up for my newsletters here - I like to make them fun and personal, but I am pretty terrible for not sending them out often - so I promise you won't be spammed!

From the 2nd-8th December, I'm hoping to bring the Winter Gardens Pop Up Shop to life with some creative workshop activities - a chance for everyone to get involved and get a bit festive with me! See below for details and feel free to email me if you have any questions.

I'm so happy to have teamed up with The Better Together Project - a community project that is organising a free Christmas party for people in Sheffield who are likely to be spending the festive season alone. Throughout my week at the pop up, you can drop in to make and write a card - and the lovely people at The Better Together Project will be giving them out to their guests. Click here to find out more.

Next up is Let's Draw Sheffield! Another free activity where you can come along and draw your favourite building or place in Sheffield and add it to a giant map I've been busy illustrating. The collaboration will be made into prints after, which will be sold to raise money for a local charity, to be announced very soon. To keep updated, please visit the Facebook event here.

As well as the free activities, there is also one ticketed workshop on Sunday 8th December. Create Your Own House Portrait will be collage focused, with materials I've illustrated and collected to reflect the architecture theme of my prints. You can create your own home, favourite pub or shop, as a handmade gift or to keep for yourself. Ticket price is £15 and includes a free collage pack to take home. Space is limited so please book soon if you'd like to join us! Visit the event page to find out more.

Last but not least, there are some shiny new things on the way to join my range of prints and products at the shop! Though my main hope for the pop up is for the community to get involved in the activities and to create a lovely (and little bit festive!) atmosphere, I am still very excited to share some new items I've been working on too. Please keep an eye on my Instagram or Facebook for updates! 

Friday, 15 November 2019

I'm delighted to announce this free activity that will be running throughout the duration of the Pop Up Shop. Stop off at the Winter Gardens Pop Up Shop between 2nd-8th December to make a card and send a festive wish to a friend you’ve never met. 

It warmed my heart to read about The Better Together Project - a project aiming to alleviate isolation and loneliness in Sheffield. They organise a big Christmas party for lots of elderly people who may be spending the festive season alone... and you, me and everyone who stops by can make a card and write a message for one of those people. 

‘For the last 3 years, The Better Together Project has hosted a christmas party for many elderly people in Sheffield, who may otherwise be spending the festive season alone. Each event has been incredibly successful, as a result of overwhelming support from the local community. One lady told us that we had transported her back to the best days of her life...what more could you ask for than that?’
- The Better Together Project

Whether you want to draw or make an abstract collage, no art skills are necessary - all ages and abilities welcome. Visit the Facebook event page for more info!