Nothing in my year excites me, challenges me and motivates me as much as Blogtacular. This two day creative conference for bloggers sees major names from the creative world speak. I have come back from the conference buzzing, exhausted and excited to put what I learnt into practice but I wanted to use this post to share what I got from the whole experience.
This year (my second at Blogtacular) really picked me up by the scruff of the neck and shook me. These are the 6 Ways Blogtacular 2016 Inspired Me To Change My Perspective.
YOU are enough.
I made a commitment at the beginning of this year to push myself beyond my comfort zone and really flourish. I have found what I am passionate about doing with my life but now the devil is in the detail as to how to accomplish it. I have spent a lot of time feeling a bit like the rug has been pulled out from under me. I am 41 and self employed for the first time. Working from home I have put on some weight (up until now I have pretty much always had jobs where I am on my feet all the time) and there is no-one to blame for any decisions I make but me. I was feeling old, out of touch and frumpy. How I used to define myself is no longer relevant. I am at a big crossroads where I have to choose how the rest of my life will go.
Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-91
In he late thirties our keynote speaker Lisa Congdon found herself, newly single and unhappy in her job. Lisa joined her brother in an art class and found her purpose in life. She became an artist and illustrator and her colourful, quirky work was hugely in demand.
Earlier this year she reached another crossroads. She realised that she had let her work become how she defined herself. She was perilously close to total burnout. She shared with us Jen Pastiloff’s “Girl Power Manifesto” as illustrated by Emily McDowell
Words © Jen Pastiloff Design © Emily McDowell
We are bombarded with the work, appearance and opinions of others via the internet. That makes it hard to hold onto this. Lisa admitted this which took her to her next piece of advice…
Choose the metrics by which you evaluate your success or failure.
Image © Lisa Congdon Quote © Tara Rodden Robinson
The quote that Lisa shared from Tara Rodden Robinson stopped me in my tracks. The metrics by which I judged myself were all wrong, all skewed, how did I know that? Because I didn’t use the same criteria to judge anyone else, and, most importantly, I hated the thought of anyone else judging themselves like that.
Lisa shared her criteria for measuring her own success and I think they are a great starting point for me (and pretty much anyone), although I expect that they will evolve to become more personal over time.
Time for a change and to embrace the principle of Wabi Sabi .
Know what you are offering and have a plan.
This gem actually came from Kristobel Plummer’s session on “Blog Business”. Her point was actually made with regards to working with brands for sponsored posts and alike but I feel it fits very well with life in general. Everyone has principles and being clear about what they are equips you to evaluate any opportunity and maybe avoid that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realise that you are on the wrong path.
Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-106
Be clear and intentional in your communications.
Kristobel also stressed the importance of clarity in all your business communications. You can then manage expectations successfully and build a relationship that is beneficial for both parties. This started me thinking about how clear and regular communication would benefit every aspect of my life.
Sara Tasker reminded me that not all communication is via words. In her “Phoneography” session. She talked about the fact that “you are only as good as your top 3 rows” (of images on Instagram) and her 126k followers can’t be wrong. By having three words that describe your style. If your image does not fit at least one of these words, it doesn’t make it onto Instagram. ALL my communications matter and using some of Sara’s visual techniques will help improve mine immensely.
Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-195
When the blurb on the Blogtacular website boldly stated that “Laura Jane Williams believes that none of us is screwing up like we think we are.” I knew that I had to take her writing workshop. I wasn’t disappointed. Funny, bold and brave she had all of us working through three drafts of a piece about a first meeting and she also made the point that words can either paint a picture or move a story along with pace.
Both of these have their place but I need to be clear which I am aiming for.
Laura shared the Maya Angelou quote,
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-220
All of this emphasis on the importance of the quality of your communication could have been, quite frankly, terrifying. At the last Laura saved me from paralysis as a result of the expectation placed on me by telling us to write (or communicate) from a place of “NOBODY CARES”. This lets you find your voice while no-one is listening. This is going in big letters above my desk!
You have a tribe and many of them will be struggling with the same things you are.
This year I decided to jump in with both feet and apply to get onto one of the organised photowalks on the Friday afternoon, attend the party at West Elm on the Friday evening PLUS the big event itself (9 1/2 hours plus travel time) on the Saturday. I used the last of my tax rebate to fund two nights in a hotel and off I went. During the course of the two days I chatted to a LOT of people. As we Photowalked, at the West Elm Papermakers Party and during the conference itself, and do you know what I found?
Quite simply this tribe “gets”me. They understand an outgoing introvert because a lot of them share the same traits. Some of them went through far more than me to get to and get through Blogtacular. As we talked they shared the same insecurities about blog post frequency and quality and there was loads of excited “me too!” moments. Even the speakers seemed to be kindred spirits. Lisa’s “vulnerability hangovers”, Kristobel’s regret that she hadn’t educated herself on business matters from the get-go, Sara’s belief that life is messy and your images should reflect this, just about everything that Laura said and Enid’s office with the “Done is better than perfect” poster on the wall!
I lost count of the number of times that I heard other bloggers say that they didn’t think they were posting enough or that the quality of posts wasn’t strong enough. I read a lot of these blogs for pleasure and I would totally disagree. I hold their blogs up as examples of what I want to achieve and how I wish I sounded. Everyone looks at themselves and their work with a very distorted lens. Being able to discuss our issues and insecurities in person was liberating.
Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-181
Be brave and be flexible.
In my opinion all of the speakers were brave for just getting up in front of the crowd and sharing their stories. As if this wasn’t enough they all put themselves out there in a very personal way via their chosen creative outlet. That requires a huge amount of bravery just to keep “showing up”. As Lisa explained it was about balancing the potential they have for great creativity against the risk of exposing themselves to trolls. That takes bravery.
All the speakers showed that they have all evolved from their starting point into what we see before us today. Something has helped them do this. Enid Hwang spoke of the importance of having a process to help you deal with change. This flexibility allows a creative person to roll with the punches and find a way to get around the reach of the person throwing them. Being flexible gives you the capability to keep showing up.
What the other 349 (ish) attendees took home from Blogtacular (aside from an awesome goodie bag) I would be really intrigued to learn. I know that some of the things I picked up on certainly weren’t explicitly spelt out and were a result of where my head was at just before the conference. It was the message I was ready to hear and the one that Blogtacular gave me.
It really helps that the conference is sponsored by brands which really “get” the importance of fostering creativity. West Elm, Mollie Makes, Sudo, Microsoft, Annie Sloan and Pinterest all sponsor and most of them are returning for at least the second year. That helps make Blogtacular a “safe” space for all attendees to get the most from the experience.
Thank you Kat and Team and thank you sponsors for charging my batteries for another year.
Image ©Claire Reynolds
Being a volunteer at the Handmade Fair last year changed everything for me. This year I wanted to share a little of why it is such an amazing experience.
The Basics of Being a Volunteer
You volunteer for part or all of the three days of the fair (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and you roll up on Thursday afternoon for the staff briefing and to help set up if possible. You get your (thankfully shower proof) wristband to allow you to get around the site.
I volunteered for the whole three days again this year and I definitely recommend doing that as you get to know people, they get to know you, and you get to be involved with a greater variety of activities.
Be warned it is a very busy three days! One of the reasons that the photos for this post are not top quality is because I was much too busy to carry around and use a DSLR whilst my iPhone was quick, easy and pocket sized!
I spent two days manning (or should that be womanning?) the Information Point and one day helping with the Skills Workshops. Other volunteers helped in the Super Theatre where Kirstie Allsopp introduced and often interviewed famous crafty names such as Charis Williams, Emma Bridgewater, Annie Sloan and Lauren Child. More volunteers helped out with the “Grand Makes” and Skill Workshops (of which there were 6 themes).
You wear smartish clothes for the days of the fair.
Be prepared to work really hard and follow the instructions of your expert or the Brand Events staff (they are the organisers). Volunteers get two tea breaks (although when tends to be a bit hit and miss because of reacting to events) and lunch provided. You also get issued with the obligatory and “glamorous” Hi-Vis vest.
The Pay Offs
One of the top benefits of volunteering for me is that you get to help set up and run the workshops. This means expanding the range of crafts that you understand and at least know the principles of doing. At worst you get to help the workshop attendees with their pieces, at best you sometimes get to start a piece yourself.
Admittedly there is rarely time for a volunteer to finish a piece to the standard you would like as you have a job to do but you can try new crafts without spending money for the kit and take home your piece. With crafts that are expensive on the initial outlay (like needle felting or lampshade making) you have a perfect opportunity to see if they hold any joy for you.
Before the workshops start you layout all the materials for that activity ready for the public, you then collect tickets. The experts will tell you what kit to lay out (I had the great joy of working with Rosy Nicholas, Riannon Selcuk, Ellie Jarvis, Jayne Emerson, Claire Gould, Hester Van Overbeek, Georgie Kirby and Sonia Bownes all of which were lovely and very happy to talk to you about their craft, offering tips and inspiration).
Once the public are in you get to watch the demonstration and listen to the tips from the experts (all of which you can hear and see because they have microphones and video cameras focussed on their table as they work. There is a bit of background noise (hey, you are in a tent after all!) but generally not enough to cause a problem.
Once the demo is over the experts wander and help the public and so do you. I met some really amazing people doing this and the atmosphere is wonderful because nearly everybody is doing something they love and there to “have a go”.
Workshops this year included Modern Cross Stitch, Clothes Upcycling, Knitting at three levels, Marbling, Calligraphy, Fascinator Making, Cake Pops, Flower Crowns, Gift Wrapping, Papercutting, Origami, Lino Printing, Biscuit Icing, Willow Weaving, Upholstery, Lampshade Making, Stencilling, Shibori Tie Dye, Needle Felting, and of course the obligatory Pom Pom’s! There is a HUGE range of things to see and do and you get access to that knowledge without buying a ticket!
As a volunteer you are quite likely to see the workshops that you are assigned to more than once and I found that a bonus because I really got to see what worked, what the common mistakes were and how to sort them out. No two workshops were the same and I got a huge boost from talking to all the like minded people. Ideas and inspiration were bouncing around like Tigger and I came away with a phone full of notes and ideas which was the quickest way I could record things over the weekend without being distracted from my job. If I was helping with a workshop I had seen before it was pretty easy to get the public settled and then pop into whatever was going on next door and see what they were up to for ten minutes or so. I was lucky enough to be next door to the Annie Sloan upcycling workshops and picked up a lot of tips. Their Lampshades were particularly beautiful but I didn’t get to take a picture of one 🙁
The next “perk” I found was the shopping!
The Fair has two shopping villages. Being there for all three days gave me ample time to browse all of the stalls. I admit that the recce was in short bursts in between grabbing a cup of tea or setting up workshops but I managed to get a thorough understanding of what was on offer and make wise decisions in my purchases.
When shopping the Fair I fell it that it has a lovely balance of artisans to inspire you (and adorn your person and home!) and craft supplies to play with. There is no pressure or scrum to buy and the artisans are happy to answer questions and give out cards for your Christmas shopping! I am currently drooling over sewing patterns, lino printing kit, books, and a tapestry kit amongst other things.
I have to be honest and say that what really makes volunteering at the Fair for me is the atmosphere. Yes, you will work hard, yes your feet will be killing you but you will also be relaxed and energised. Working on the information point just inside the main gate for two days I met a LOT of the people who came to the show, on the Saturday that was roughly 3,000 people. Most people didn’t know each other but they were happy to chat, share experiences and have a laugh. I ended up with face ache from smiling too much.
The same goes with the other volunteers. A number of us had kept in touch throughout the year via a Facebook group and it was like catching up with old friend. It also meant that instead of camping this year I had a lovely comfy bed in the home of one of the more local volunteers and since last year a friend.
We were invited to attend the Saturday night drinks with all the stall holders and experts where Kirstie herself was in attendance and happy to mingle and chat. This took place in the central “foodie” area and the atmosphere was almost like a cocktail party. The event didn’t last the full evening and going out to dinner with a fellow volunteer and one of the experts afterwards was a really easy walk to a number of great restaurants.
Looking at that picture you can see we were having a good time. That was my friend, fellow volunteer and erstwhile landlady, Dorinda and Origami expert Caroline Preston.
The last of the reliable “perks” is the parking. I know it is shallow but you are guaranteed a free parking space everyday! At the end of a long day on your feet that is an incredible boon to be able to stagger only a few hundred metres to your car.
I won’t lie there are other things that crop up that give you a huge thrill.
Last year I helped to count the Pom Poms in the world record attempt for the longest unbroken chain of pom poms. That meant I got champagne and to meet Kirstie in person. This year I held one end of the opening ribbon for the Fair two days running and had a front row seat as Kirstie opened the Fair. The first year volunteers were given a VIP goodie bag as a thank you and I know of volunteers who have been able to request tickets to the event for a friend or family member.
My advice would be not to rely on anything but to relax and enjoy the experience. In my view it is a really enjoyable and valuable one.
If you are interested in volunteering at next year's Handmade Fair follow their Facebook Page as requests for volunteers are put out via that, usually 3-4 weeks before the event. If you have any questions about being a volunteer I am happy to answer them via the comments on this page or one of my social media channels.
As regular readers will know I spent last weekend as a volunteer at the first ever “Handmade Fair”. The idea was to offer a huge crafty “get together” for crafters and non-crafters alike to learn from each other, share ideas and embrace the amazing feeling that crafting gives you.
What were the best things about this amazing event? It is very hard to even know where to start. In no particular order…
(Please excuse the photo quality but the iPhone was the most practical thing to carry with me as I dashed around!)
#One – The People
There were the most amazing people in attendance. I was manning the information point inside the front gate for most of the weekend and people were (almost without exception) lovely. Easy to talk to, friendly and interested. The staff from the events company (Brand Events), the exhibitors and teachers, everyone.
The queue eagerly waiting to get in on the final morning.
As for my fellow volunteers… words fail me. They were an AMAZING bunch. Hugely talented, great fun and we were all united by the sisterhood of the Pink Hi-Vis Vest!
The prestigious Hi-Vis Vest!
#Two – All Crafts Were Embraced
There were workshops on cake decorating, sewing, needle felting, furniture upcycling, crochet, origami, printing, jewellery making, calligraphy, decoupage, knitting, embroidery, making bath salts, gift wrapping, the list goes on… (No wonder Il Magpie loved it!)
Chalk Paint Workshop with Annie Sloane
#Three- The Food
There were loads of amazing food vendors to suit almost every taste. French, Indian, Gluten Free, Mexican, I could go on and on! There were amazing mobile bars with clever mixologists and to put the icing on the cake they all seemed to have the most amazingly cute transport!
Cake bar anyone?!
A touch of Gallic charm.
#Four – The Venue
Where else can you come to work in the morning and be greeted by two bewigged gentleman taking the morning air, or make a new avian friend on the way home? Hampton Court was a truly beautiful and inspiring.
Hampton Court in all it’s glory.
A morning constitutional!
My new friend.
#Five – The Decor
There was bunting galore,
Custom made, beautiful bunting.
There was washi tape,
Washi tape cutting table
And there was origami!
Origami door curtain.
They even thought about how to divide up work stations and protect the surfaces (brown paper and butcher’s twine anyone?!)
One of the “Grand Make” tents ready for action.
#Six – Kirstie Allsopp
The amazing Ms Allsopp was around all weekend. She was warm, funny, friendly and inspirational. She always had enough time for people (much to her assistant’s dismay at times!) and may have the world record for the most number of “selfies” taken with her in one weekend.
She hosted the “Super Theatre” all weekend in conversation with many famous crafters (Annie Sloane, Cath Kidston and Kaffe Fassett amongst others) and refereeing “mash ups” where different crafts competed for supremacy.
Despite this busy schedule she still managed pop up everywhere and even ran a surprise workshop (which I happened to be taking as one of my “perks” for volunteering!)
Kirstie’s Surprise Glitter Bauble Workshop.
Me getting in on the act, photo by Sheree Green – Molloy
#Seven – The Exhibitors and Shopping
There were the most amazing range of exhibitors in the “Shopping Villages”. Etsy were there and even ran some craft entrepreneur workshops. There were craft supplies of almost every type and a huge range of very talented crafter selling amazing works that took your breath away.
The thing that impressed me most for a show with the motto “Everyone has a craft they can do”, there were lots of crafters who had made up kits of their designs for those just starting out to buy and follow instructions until they got comfortable with their own crafting “skin”.
#Eight – The “Annual”
As I was selling show guides (or “Annuals”) I was really relieved that they were a publication I could really endorse.
They were half show guide, half “Molly Makes” magazine. There were the usual maps but I really liked the alphabetical list of exhibitors (with their contact details) which meant I could put a star by the ones I wanted to get Christmas presents from and not have to carry lots of things!
The cutest “Annuals” ever!
Not only was there that but there were some very stylish “makes” in there. A knitting pattern, a cross stitch chart, a paper craft mobile and other items. There was something worth taking away and keeping to remember the day by.
#Nine – The Experts
Almost all my heroes were there; Annie Sloane, Zeena Shah, Mr X Stitch, Kaffe Fassett, Jane Means. I even got to meet some of them they were generous with their time and expertise, many of them even ran workshops to let you into some of their secrets!
Experts pitching in and sharing their secrets.
#Ten – World Pomination!
The event saw a world record attempt for the most woolly Pom Poms strung together in a continuous row.
They were everywhere all weekend and you couldn’t help but smile as you saw them. It was even fun being part of the the team sewing them all into one long string.
Sewing up the Pom Poms, does that make me the Pominator?
I was one of a two person team counting them with another amazing volunteer because we were “independent” (i.e. not employed by the organisers) and we counted THOUSANDS of them!
Ready for count off!
One, Two, Three…
and because I cannot resist…
#Eleven – The Atmosphere
The whole weekend was so inspirational, positive and buzzing! I made crafty friends I hope to keep for life. I got to experience many new things, see how a large show like this works behind the scenes. I had more fun than I have had in ages and even better I got to craft!