Course Review, Events, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Pause for Thought

Last Tuesday I attended a crafting class.  Not an unusual experience for me – my regular followers know how much I love a craft class!

This time the class was Aromatherapy in Jewellery.  The class was held at the Bead Shop in Nottingham – one of my favourite places to visit!    The class had two parts – the making of the jewellery, followed by the Aromatherapy.  The lovely Steph started off with an over view of what we would be doing, and we got started making a pendant using lava stones.  Once the pendants were complete we got to design our matching bracelets – lava stone and hematite!  The bracelets were made on elastic cord, which I have never used before, so I got to try out something new!

After the jewellery was finished, Karen from Bamboo Yoga took over the class (see below for her details) – It started off with an explanation of her background story, and how Bamboo Yoga came to be, and her passion for oils, yoga, and clean living – and her complete faith in the healing benefits of oils.

Then we got started on the oils!  Karen had bought a selection of oils which we were able to smell (divine!) and as we went along she explained the benefits and the uses of the individual oils.  It was absolutely fascinating, and the time flew by!  After a very thorough talk, where we were able to discuss individual points of concern, or particular ailments we all suffer from, we were then able to select an oil to use on our jewellery – and we got to take a small vial home with us as well!

By chance, we all chose the Lavender oil – which smells absolutely glorious!  We applied it to the jewellery, and I could immediately feel a sense of relaxation coming over me.

I could have happily stayed there chatting for hours!  The class really did fly by, and it gave me so much food for thought, which is what this post is really about!

I have been thinking for a long time about lifestyle.  In todays modern world, everything is so immediate, and fast.  People don’t take time for self care anymore, and I think it is fairly safe to say we all feel the downside of this.  Everything we drink, eat, use on our skin, use in our house – it is all packed full of chemicals.  Which cannot be good for us.  We are obsessed with social media – we spend hours and hours every day looking at the phone in our hand, instead of seeing the beauty of nature around us.  Connectivity has never been so easy, but we are so disconnected from each other and the world around us.

I have been suffering with niggly ailments for so long now.  Nothing major, but a series of annoying illnesses, periods of anxiety and stress, and an overall sense of things just “not being right”.

Sitting in the class, listening to Karen talk really made me start to think about all these things.  Changes that I need to make, things I need to do, the most important of all, to just take time for me. 

So……what does all this mean?  It means I need to take stock of my life, and decide how I want to live it.  It really is that complicated, and also that simple!  I really think it is fate that someone comes along at just the right time to prompt you to sit and consider the things that have been at the back of your mind for so long.  Watch this space as I delve into the realms of healthy living!

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Where am I?

Christmas is a coming, and I am taking part in a selection of online emporiums between now and Christmas! 

8th to 11th November      Paper Panda & Friends Emporium            https://www.facebook.com/groups/PPFEmporium/

30th November                  Enchanted Christmas                     https://www.facebook.com/events/306022997012242/

3rd & 4th December                          The Makers Emporium                  https://www.facebook.com/groups/498933563623248/

7th December                     Paper Panda & Friends Christmas Stocking Fillers                  https://www.facebook.com/groups/PPFEmporium/

Love and hugs

Zoe xx

Bamboo Yoga    https://www.bambooyoga.net/

Facebook            https://www.facebook.com/yogabamboo

Events, Inspiration, Uncategorized

For the Love of Learning

For the love of learning!

I love to learn!  Anything, and everything!  I have an inexhaustible appetite for learning new things.  From new stitches in embroidery, to new jewellery techniques, and new crafts.  But I also have what some may call “academic interests” as well.

Those of you who know me personally may already know that I left school at 15, and went straight into the workforce.  This was my choice – I hated school, but I have always loved learning.  It was only in later years that I finally realised that “school” and “learning” are not necessarily the same thing!

My “academic interests” have always been a great love for history, and for mythology.  My favourite book as a child was the Greek and Roman myths by Robert Graves (I still have several copies) I was incredibly lucky to have parents that shared my love of reading, and learning, and they always encouraged me in my interests.

When I attended my local comprehensive school, I didn’t even take history as one of my GCSE options.  This was due to the fact that their idea of history was World War 2!!!!!  An important part of history of course, but not the type of history I wanted to learn.  I wanted to know about the Ancient Egyptians, and the Aztecs, the Middle Ages, The Renaissance, and Regency times.  But these did not form any part of the National Curriculum!

After leaving school I fell into an office job, and I have worked in offices ever since.  Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly lucky to have been in full time work my whole adult life, and I have generally always enjoyed my employment (some more than others!), but my day to day work has never addressed my deep seated need to learn, to know, to discover!

Sadly, I have never been able to afford to go back in to education (university is faaaaaar too expensive!), but what I have discovered is night classes!  Too many people turn their noses up at night classes!  With certain people you get that slightly condescending air that somehow a night class is not “a proper course”.  To these people I say Piffle!     

Around 18 years ago I discovered the WEA (Workers Education Authority) and I have never looked back!  The WEA holds night classes in most localities, and their courses cover a vast range of subjects.  Over the years I have attended classes on Greek Mythology, Egyptian History, Persian History, the History of Art, and most recently early British History, starting from around 330AD, working our way through the Anglo Saxons, Viking Invasions, up to the time of Alfred the Great!  For the last 3 or 4 years it has been more or less the same group of students, so it becomes a really lovely learning experience.  This term we are veering off history slightly, and tomorrow night we start Norse Mythology!  I cannot wait to get started learning more about Odin, Thor, Freya and Frigg to name but a few!

In the interests of keeping myself out of mischief, I have also signed up for a distance learning course.  Distance learning is another wonderful option for those who (for many reasons) struggle to get out to a physical class, or want the comfort of learning at their own pace, in their own home.

The course I have signed up for is Cryptozoology!  I looooove mythical beasts!  It caught my eye online a little while ago, and I put it to the back of my mind, but a friend recently tagged me on Facebook with a link to the course (and it was on offer!!) so I felt it was fate really!

So why am I telling you all this??????????????

Really, it was just to get the point across to everyone that it is never, ever, too late to learn.  There are so many options available nowadays, and you should not let anyone, or anything hold you back.  I want to empower everyone to accept, and to believe, that just because they don’t have a University degree, that they are capable, intelligent people.  That they can still learn what they want, when they want, and thrive while doing so.

So go forth and learn!  (and let me know how you get on!)

Hugs

Zoe

To find out more about WEA courses in your area, go to https://www.wea.org.uk/

Inspiration, Uncategorized

Spring is Springing!

Dare I say that spring appears to be well on its way?  I don’t want to jinx it, but the last few days have been considerably warmer, the nights are getting lighter, and my garden appears to be blooming!

I like this time of year – it sounds a little twee, but it really is a time of new beginnings.  I see it as a time to dust of all those things that have been dragging you down, and start afresh with a spring in your step. 

For crafters, inspiration really is all around us now.  The flowers are blooming – cheerful daffodils with their faces up to the sun, the pretty crocuses and tulips in the fabulous colours, and my personal favourite, muscari in all its purple glory!    The birds are nesting, there is plenty of billing and cooing, and you can see the signs of nests being built all over the place!

So what has all this got to do with Athena Makes you may ask!  Don’t worry, I haven’t lost the plot – on the contrary I think I may have found it!   Followers of my Facebook page, especially those I am also friends with, may have noticed several references to losing my mojo.  This has been the case for quite a while now.  I have been going through the motions, making hoops, making jewellery, but my heart has not been in it, and I believe this has been reflected in my work.  When you are not putting your heart and soul into something, it shows.  This is made particularly obvious when your work isn’t selling.  I hate to talk about “sales” and “money” but the simple fact is that I have been really struggling to sell my work.  The last few sales events I have taken part in have been the worst financially, and by number of sales, that I have ever done.    This has given me a bit of a wakeup call that things need to change.  Quite frankly, there is no point in making large numbers of items if no-one wants to buy them!  for a short while I even toyed with the idea of closing Athena Makes down altogether.

But……I don’t want to.  I don’t want to give in to the niggling voice in the back of my head that says it’s because my work isn’t good enough.  I want to prove it wrong.    After much thought, and consideration, and taking advice from a very valued friend who got me into this in the first place, I have decided to do things differently.  Instead of focusing on making a dozen hoops or a dozen pieces of jewellery, to get the maximum number of items in events etc. I am just focusing on doing one or two.  But those one or two will be more complex, using more detail, different techniques, and making them to the absolute best of my ability.  There is still so much to learn in embroidery, and I am devoting my time and energy into progressing my skills – and hopefully making some embroidery art that people love!  My first endeavour into this new mind-set is my lion hoop.  I have had this pattern for nearly a year – I love it as soon as I saw it, but I never had the confidence to tackle it as I was scared of mucking it up.  So last week I bit the bullet and I did it!  And you know what?  I think it turned out great!

There are so many different forms of embroidery – stumpwork, whitework, crewel, kantha.  I intend to embrace them all!  This is going to be a real period of learning for me, and I will be sharing it with you along the way! 

I do apologise for the length of this blog post – I have a tendency to waffle once I get going!  But I really just wanted to share my thoughts and feelings with you.  If anything I have said has struck a chord with you, please let me know – sometime we all just need a tweak to our mind-set!

Congratulations if you have got this far!  

Hugs, as always

Zoe

Events, Uncategorized

Knitting and Stitching Show

Last Saturday (24th November) I took myself off on a coach trip to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Harrogate.  That’s right – me, on a completed unsupervised day out shopping!!!!  Now obviously this trip was all for business purposes…..Honest!!!!!

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After joining my coach, which very conveniently picked up about two streets from my house, I settled myself in for the hour and a half journey to Harrogate.  After a very smooth, and relaxing journey (toilet on board – very civilised!)  the approach into Harrogate itself gave the first indication of how busy the day was going to be!  After a few quick instructions from the driver, it was just a couple of minutes walk to the Convention Centre, and the crowds were already massing!

After a quick check ticket check, I entered the centre itself – and straight in front of me was an amazing exhibition of crochet work by TOFT – the entire Edward’s Menagerie of over 300 amigurumi were there in all their glory, including this gigantic handsome fella!

As well as the over 200 trade stalls to peruse, there were a number of special exhibitions on show.  They were all extremely awe-inspiring in their own way, but these are some of my favourites;-

The Royal School of Needlework had a display showing off some of their students works – which were absolutely amazing, and so different in the styles and approach to needlework – the poppy necklace is my absolute favourite – so beautiful!  The dragonfly is stunning, so delicate. 

These boots are so fabulous!  I am not sure I could wear them without breaking my neck, but I would certainly give it a go!

Last, but certainly not least, this beautiful example of goldwork embroidery, on the Peter Pan bookcover – how gorgeous is this!

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The next part of the show I wanted to share with you is the amazingly touching display of historic pin cushions  – the story of these is told so beautifully by Diane Grant.

I then moved on to a display of caskets, by students of ornamental embroidery inspired by works from the 17th century currently on show in the Ashmolean.  These were so awe-inspiring!  I have long wanted to give stumpwork embroidery a try, and these have completely inspired me!.

For those who know me personally, you will be aware of my love/addiction/obsession with embroidery scissors – imagine my glee and delight, when I saw this!!!!

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There was obviously an awful lot of shopping involved in the day – gorgeous threads, hand dyed fabrics, silks, and speciality threads were all purchased!  I have soooo many ideas rattling around in my brain following the event – I can’t wait to get started!

All in all, it was an exhausting, but completely inspiring day – I can’t wait to go again next year!  I just need to start saving!!!!!

 

Inspiration, Uncategorized

Inspiration!

Inspiration!

One question I do get asked quite a bit, is “Where do you get your ideas from?”  and it is a question that I struggle with sometimes!  By nature, I am quite a random person, and rarely have any type of plan!  And much as I hate to admit it, quite often I just make whatever I feel like at the time!  Great from a creative point of view, lousy from a business point of view!

At any one time, I have a huge list of projects that I want to do – ideas that come to me, suggestions made by friends, or by my lovely Facebook group members.  Sometimes they involve purchased patterns – these tend to be embroidery, and are very straight forward – you buy a pattern, and you stitch it!  Even then, I do rebel against instructions, and if at all possible, I alter a stitch, or a colour, to make it that little bit more unique!  One of my favourite places to purchase patterns online purely provide an outline drawing – perfect for me!  I can choose what stitch to do where, what colour scheme to use, and even leave out sections, if I choose.  Wonderful for someone who can’t draw for toffee!

Sometimes though, inspiration does strike at the strangest of times.  I visited a town near me called Bakewell – famous for its tarts!  Also famous locally for its fabulous Monday market.  Bakewell is a very picturesque town in the heart of the Peak District, on the banks of the River Wye.  To get to the market from the carpark, you have to cross the famous Lock Bridge, and this is the view!  How beautiful is this?

I have been looking back at these photos for a while, trying to decide how I could translate them into an embroidery.  I really wanted to incorporate the water, and the trees, but with a distinct lack of drawing skills, I was a little stuck!

Inspiration struck when I was browsing Facebook, and saw a post from one of my favourite jewellery makers, Louise Goodchild designs.  Louise was taking part in the #Inktober campaign, and the prompt for that day was #tranquil  It really struck me as soon as I saw it, that it was the perfect interpretation of what I had in my mind!  Louise very kindly gave me permission to use her sketch as the basis of an embroidery, and this is the result.  I was so pleased with how it turned out.

This just goes to prove that inspiration strikes at strange times, and things come to pass in strange ways!  Now, if only I could get someone to sketch all my other ideas for me………….