'Hey you guys!'
'Hey you guys!' Name the film reference? Ok, so this isn't how I thought I'd be starting this blog post but I've not written a chatty post for a while and 'hey you guys' just felt right. Bloody love this film too, my sister and I would watch it on repeat as kids. Have you seen it? Its a classic, wouldn't you agree?!
I'm going to start by saying sorry for the radio silence of late. If you follow me on social media you may have noticed I've not been posting much lately. I feel like all I talk about these days is my mental health and feeling rubbish and this is definitely not the tone I want for my little business. Its very moany and miserable so rather than beat myself up and add any unnecessary pressure, I have made the conscious effort to just stop! Have you even noticed? Probably not!
Why have I made this decision? Well who wants to hear someone moaning all the time? Not me, that's for sure. After a mega meltdown a few weeks ago I thought it was time to take a break... again. I feel like I say this all the time and that's not healthy. I'm clearly not learning my lesson, am I?!
It's ok not to be ok!
I have suffered with my mental health for the past few years and its progressively got worse. Late last year I took a leap, asked for help and completed some cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The therapy worked wonders but I've got complacent and things have slipped again.
When things started to come undone again a few weeks ago I contacted my support worker at the Wellbeing Hub, arranged a visit and instantly began to feel better. Having the support of someone who really understands me is invaluable. From there we got the ball rolling for some additional counselling. I'm currently on the waiting list but just knowing that its going to be available soon is a motivational force. I have an incredible network of people around me, fantastic friends and family but sometimes having an unbiased ear to hear your voice helps change your mindset more effectively.
For anyone that needs to chat to an outsider, an unbiased ear then I would highly recommend Wellness in Mind, they have been fantastic.
Finding out what's important and being 100% present
My anxiety and low moods have affected all aspects of my life. I get low, I cry a lot, I have little patience and get angry. I am an over thinker and constantly put additional pressure on myself unnecessarily. So what does this mean for my business? Well, at this present time I am not achieving what I set out to do and its making me ill. My family is suffering and my moods are filtering into my day job. Not good!
My mega meltdown has made me stop in my tracks and reevaluate my creative world. I spread myself way too thinly and its got to stop. The summer is always a time when the cracks begin to show, my workload increases and I feel torn to do all.
So, who am I? Crochet designer, crochet tutor, graphic designer, marketeer, community artist, volunteer, wife, mother, home keeper... right now I'm trying to be all of these things and I can honestly say none of them are getting the best of me. Something has got to give!
My family, my home and my mental health are where I have to focus right now. Crochet for pleasure will follow closely behind. Crochet has such a positive effect on my mental health and I love it so much but I seem to have turned that into an anxiety as well. So I'm stripping things back to basics!
I'm trying to be more present and embrace each moment. I'm limiting my time online and focusing on the here and now without the distraction of social media and all the pressures I put on myself to be present. Funny that, isn't it? I strive to be present online but then I loose the ability to be present in real life. I'm sure we can all relate to this. Being consistent with my planning, working on one project or activity at a time, setting small achievable goals and communicating well with those closest to me are all things that are going to help me stay level headed and focused and in turn, help me feel happier and more empowered to live my best life.
What drives me?
I have spread myself that thinly recently that I'm clouded by overwhelm to really enjoy what I do. I am torn between my career job as a graphic designer, taking on commission design work within my local community and my crochet work, the reason I set up my business in the first place.
It's so important to reflect on what we do, where we want to go and set goals for ourselves. What do I want to do? Where do I see my business going? What do I want my life to look like? It's all a little bit confusing at the moment but writing this blog is allowing me to begin the process of evaluating and reflect on whats most important.
Me, the Graphic Designer
I'm a good graphic designer, it often comes easy to me after twelve years of experience and is the thing that pays but is it really what I want to be doing outside of my day job? No, I don't think so... my heart lies elsewhere. It is, however, very satisfying to help people/organisations create an identity and transform their brand into something more relevant, current and eye catching.
I have been a volunteer for the Bulwell Arts Festival for the past three years, volunteering my time, creative input and graphic design skills and have had some great feedback for the work I have created. I have rebranded the festival, given it a clear defined identity and produced all the visual elements associated with it. Everything with the Bulwell Arts Festival logo and design style on since 2017 has more than likely been created by my fair hands.
Each year the Bulwell Arts Festival grows in size and popularity, we're getting our message out there and people are loving what they see and take part in. Wow, what an achievement for such a small team of volunteers. I feel passionate about everything the Bulwell Arts Festival is trying to achieve and feel proud to be a part of that. Unfortunately, with my head the way it is, I'm loosing my way a little bit. Most of my time is spent on the graphic design work. I'm lucky enough to be a designer and a maker and have, for the past couple of years, hosted a community based yarn project as well as produce the marketing material. Yarny stuff often comes secondary simply because the graphic design side takes up so much of my time and energy. Next year I intend to switch the priority level of these two around and make 2020 my year for yarn. I'll still, no doubt, be the main (only!) graphic designer producing the programme and stuff but with a different mindset I hope its a more enjoyable process.
Off the back of my voluntary work for the Bulwell Arts Festival I have, this year, taken on a commission project with the Bulwell United Reformed Church. The Church is undergoing a rebrand and I have been brought in to create their graphic design and marketing material. In comparison to the Bulwell Arts Festival the Church's rebrand is a doddle, there is a huge amount of it however, which adds pressure to my already epic list of things to do. Again, is graphic design where I want to be focusing my energy?
I first attended the Bulwell United Reformed Church about five and a half years ago, when Martha was a baby and I was pregnant with Elsie. The playgroup they ran (and still run) on a Thursday afternoon was a huge game changer for us as a family. We made some of our bestest friends there and have been welcomed into the churches family. Playgroup was the beginning, then Messy Church on the first Saturday of the month, then coffee mornings, ladies night, youth groups, their is truly something for everyone. I wouldn't say I'm a religious person but I love what the Church offers; community, storytelling, friendship, tradition and fun! So, when I was asked to help, I just couldn't refuse.
Are you beginning to see a pattern here? I just can't say no! I want to help but I don't want to help! Graphic design is my job but is it my passion? Umm...but I love my community and if I can help others by utilising the skills I have, why wouldn't I help? Right?!
Me, the Crochet Designer
Oscar Cat and my Ay Up Duck Cushion are by far the best patterns I have designed. They're my first pair of designs and where it all started. They've lead the way for all my other designs. I design predominantly toys and homewares but have more recently toyed with garment design on a personal level, guys I'm talking about my gorgeous Porthminster Cardigan here! I love the designing side, taking a ball of yarn and turning it into something brand new, right from my imagination but struggle to find motivation to write patterns up. This often means the task becomes a big chore, anxiety sets in and I add pressure to my already chaotic brain to find the opportunity and brain power to write it up. I have designs scribbled in my note book that I sampled years ago that still need to be written up.
I mainly sell my patterns on Etsy but have recently added my first pattern to Ravelry. Yey! I believe Ravelry is the place to be, it opens up huge potential for building my community and I'm keen to add all of my current designs and anything new to my Ravelry store. Initialling I will run Etsy and Ravelry alongside each other but can see me dropping Etsy to focus more effectively on one platform. That's the plan anyway and has been for about two years so what's stopped me from achieving it already? Well, I have too many graphic design projects and volunteer work as well as a young family to actually find the time and once again, brain power, to sit down and concentrate. I have evenings and most Fridays to work on my business and quite frankly my brain can only take so much time at the computer, which means after a day in front of a screen at the day job I am unable to focus once the kids are in bed and the jobs are all done. It is still me plan to get all of my designs onto Ravelry but think I'll be taking a break from designing for a while. This seems like the best thing to drop until my heads a bit straighter. It'll also be interesting to see if I actually miss this side of the business. We'll just have to wait and see.
As I'm sure we all do, I follow a lot of crochet designers on social media and often watch in ore at the amazing things they do, the designs they create and the workshops they run. I'd love to be at their level. Why can't I be like them? Why don't I generate the following they do? Well, do you know what the answer is? I am not them. I am me. I am clearly not built the same way as them, what drives me is different. They've obviously found their thing and for me, I have too many things that nothing really gets the love and attention it deserves.
Me, the Community Artist
Since meeting my friend Nicola Curzon, the Bulwell Arts Festival Coordinator and being apart of creating something amazing in my hometown of Bulwell, I have gained a new found love for community.
I love to share what I know, I love engaging with people and I love where I live.
I have lived in Bulwell all of my life and my opinion of the area has changed massively over the past few years. During my teen years I was very much influenced by the thoughts of those around me, I just lived where I lived because I had to, it wasn't by choice. Growing up, my sister and I would say we lived on the outskirts of Bulwell or the upper part of Bulwell in a bid to make it sound like we lived somewhere different, somewhere better. Why? Who knows! I guess it was learnt behaviour, a generational thing, many of our peers would do the same.
It wasn't until I became a wife, homeowner and mother that I really began to embrace where lived. Bulwell has got so much going for it and if the people that live there can't take pride, talk it up and look after it, how can we expect outsiders to do the same. Its even more important now that I have children because I think its so valuable to teach the next generation about heritage, tradition and belonging.
Joining Lines the Beginning of Change
My involvement with the Bulwell Arts Festival and the people I have met along the way has meant I have had the opportunity to work on some incredible projects and meet some amazing and inspiring people.
My most epic opportunity to date was being commissioned, as an artist, to run a community project and exhibition. My Joining Lines project opened my eyes to a whole new world. The world of an artist and the world of community.
Joining Lines was a collaboration between new and experienced crocheters from Nottingham and surrounding areas. The projects aim was to promote community involvement and skill sharing. Joining Lines 2018 showcased the work of 37 crocheters which joined together as part of an impressive textiles installation of over 145 doilies which was displayed at the Bulwell Riverside for a month long exhibition last summer.
I absolutely loved every minute of the project. It was the hardest and most rewarding thing I have ever worked on and I feel so proud every time I think about it. Research, planning, demonstrating, crocheting, sewing, constructing, promoting, communicating, you name it this project had it all. I designed a pattern, I created a video tutorial, I hosted workshops, promoted it face to face within the community as well as online via social media, I produced a book and fundraised, not to mention the forthy plus hours I spent sewing each and every doily together and hanging it in its exhibition space. Wow, just wow! The response to the final piece was incredible too. So many people were blown away by it, saying how nostalgic it made them feel, how they felt empowered by the sense of community and the spirit of the project. I felt empowered by this too. Little old me, brought these 37+ people together to produce something so beautiful in a time where, often, we feel isolated and disconnected from each other.
Stop guys. This. This is what I love. I believe my heart lies in community arts!
Joining Lines has been put to bed for awhile, simply because I have't had time to give it the focus it deserves, but it has by no means been forgotten. My aim is to take the project on tour and further explore the key driving factors of it. Bringing people together, building community, sharing skills, encouraging creativity and opportunity and simply embracing a slower more mindful pace of life.
Let's Yarn Bomb Bulwell
Joining Lines, the installation, maybe packed away nicely in my loft but the values of it live on in a lot of the other things I do. I have hosted, for two years in a row, a yarn bomb event as part of the Bulwell Arts Festival which has brought members of the local community together in a colourful, yarn filled day of decoration. Both years have been a make and attach kind of event with colour and texture being the main focus but after some great feedback and participants interest this year there has been a request for a themed yarn bomb next year which is very exciting, watch this space.
Crochet Clinic, My Tribe
A lot of the work that is made for the yarn bomb is created by members of my Crochet Clinic as well as local knit and natter groups and residents. I launched Crochet Clinic back in September 2016, it runs on the first Wednesday of the month, 6.30-8.30pm at Bulwell Tesco Extra. It took a while to take off, with some evenings just being me and my friend Lisa, but three years on the group is flourishing. With between 7-14 attendees each month its everything and more I could want from a group. Its a free crochet social (other crafts welcome, we don't turn people away), with tea and coffee on tap, there used to be cake and biscuits too but no one ate them so I stopped buying them - it was making me fat!
I always bring spare hooks and yarn to Crochet Clinic for people to use as well as a selection of my favourite books. If you're a beginner and need a bit of help, I'm on hand to offer tuition and guidance for a donation of £5, alternatively plenty of our members are happy to welcome new crocheters and show you the ropes. What started out as me wanting to host a group to earn an income has quickly turned into a fun and relaxed evening with an amazing bunch of friends.
The group has grown organically from word of month and the small amount of flyers I have on the notice board at Tesco. I couldn't have dreamt it would be so wonderful. It would be nice to give it a bit more attention, like most things on my list, and offer more focused demonstrations or workshops but for now its plodding along nicely. Maybe the Crochet Clinic name could become a brand and we could have them popping up all over the city, further building our tribe and introducing more people to the world of crochet. Who knows?! For those that can't get along to the monthly Crochet Clinic but want to be part of this wonderful community I also run a Facebook group called Crochet Clinic Out of Hours. Again, this hasn't had the attention it deserves but is slowly growing and gaining more interaction from members.
Being Part of a Bigger Tribe
Crochet Clinic is my local tribe but I also feel I am apart of a bigger tribe within this wonderful yarny world. The super fabulous business owner that is Eleanor from Knit Nottingham has took me under her wing and introduced me to so many talented and supportive knitters and crocheters. I've taught crochet in many places over the years but I can honestly say that I feel most at home at the Knit Nottingham shop. The people are great, the lessons I teach are great and in turn I feel great. Surrounding yourself with strong minded, talented, folk really is empowering. Whenever I visit the shop and talk to Eleanor and any of her tribe I feel motivated to do so much. I feel confident, I feel worthy and I feel blessed.
I love sharing what I know, bringing people together and creating something wonderful with crochet. I always thought I wanted to be a crochet designer but I now believe my heart lies with the community, my crochet tribe. So with some fantastic workshops lined up for the Autumn/Winter, Crochet Clinic each month and a clearer focus on whats important lets begin this journey together. You and me in our yarny community.
My mental health is crap but with the right focus and the right people around me I can do anything! You too can do anything. Lets support each other and be each others cheerleaders, in this, often cruel and fake world we live in.
In a bid to live my best life, I'm going to cut back on the amount of projects I get involved with or create for myself. I'm going to constantly ask myself, 'Does it really need doing?' 'Is it really important?' 'Could I spend my time doing something better or more productive or even, more restful' in a bid to stay focused and not sink into this anxious mess as life currently knows it.
I want to feel relaxed, laugh, be silly, feel confident and be myself. I want to find myself again. Its been a while since I really truly felt like me. I plan on scaling back my commitments and begin working on all of the personal projects I've been talking about for years but haven't had time to do. I plan on fully embracing family life and showing my children how much fun life can be.
Thank you so much for sticking with me this far, I hope I've not bored you. Change is afoot, I'm excited by it but I will need you all to help me stay on track. When the moany post pop up more frequently again I need you to give me a poke. Lets make the second half of 2019 an epic one. Here's to staying focused, having fun and living our best lives.
Love and hugs
Hi, I'm April.
Crochet designer and tutor based in Nottingham.