Thursday, 30 August 2012

Half the year away...

Here's a little heads-up, in case you hadn't noticed yet...both my Etsy shops are back up! Ok it wasn't quite 6 months absence but getting on for it. I've decided that now is the time for The Return of Cat. The future of JumpUp and Scatterbox Originals remains unclear, but I definitely intend to keep them up and running until at least Christmastime.

You can reach either shop via the 'Etsy mini' links over on the sidebar, right there.

I'm not doing any making for a little bit still, because I am wearing so many different hats these days, I need to try and keep things simple. There is the job-hunting hat (I got a job as a cleaner, but it's part time and semi-seasonal, so I need something else), the flat-hunting hat, the good-friend-who-replies-to-emails hat, and the doing-the-housework hat. That's a fair few hats, I think you'll agree. And I only have a dinky little head (stops my brains from rattlin' around)

I also thought you might be interested to know that I added an About page to JumpUp. Etsy introduced this feature at some point while I was away, and I think it's a great idea. I can't remember who it was that first suggested it, but I think it was back in 2005/2006 in the very early days of Etsy that sellers started asking for a place to share some more information and photos of themselves and their workplace. I don't have a very photogenic workplace (the mugs of half drunk tea make it look a bit unsightly) so no photos of that just yet, but I thought I may as well share a picture of MY mug (ie my face, in good ol' British English) So I set about taking self portrait photographs.

Now, I am one of the people in the world who suffers from Camera Gurn, a little-known affliction which forces a person's visage to become horrifically uncomely the moment a photograph is taken. So, getting a decent photo of me looking as attractive as I'd like to, without resorting to Photoshop and some photos of Scarlett Johansen, wasn't entirely possible. After deleting more pictures of me with Camera Gurn than I care to admit, I finally hit upon a few pictures I liked.

Etsy's About page, which I hadn't originally realised, has a nifty bit of programming that changes your profile photo into a circle, cropping out the edges of your picture. So I couldn't really use the picture I wanted to use...

So I thought I'd share them with your here. Getting the backdrop to sit right in the photo was surprisingly tricky.


 This one was meant to be a quirky sideways smile at my 'cloud' but for some reason in this one, I remind myself of a coy pony. I don't know why, or even how!


I tried to look less like I was about to whinny and blow my hair out of my face through my nostrils...

And then I just looked plain worried.


Finally settled on this one, but like I said, didn't work with Etsy's cropping. Pah. Pretty cropping though.

 
And me with my glasses, giggling at myself, trying to be less blummin vain!


So I ended up going with this one, which has the unfortunate effect I get from trying to frame my photo by using a mirror to look at the reflection of the viewfinder screen...always gazing off to the side, looking slightly distracted...but hopefully I can pass it off as a look of artistic daydream-y inspiration...

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Bad at Doing Stuff

So, I might have dyspraxia...

It comes from the Greek words for 'difficulty with' and 'doing'. Yep, that's right, a proper posh word for what might be the reason why I tend to be clumsy, forgetful, sensitive to noise and yet struggle to make out different sounds, why I can take ages to do things, why I tend to ramble on rather than just get to the point... and all sorts of other strange little quirks I've had as long as I can remember. I've been considering it as a possibility on and off since I first heard about it when I was studying A Level Psychology, and it turns out my mum had wondered about it when I was a teenager but wasn't able to get a diagnosis for me.

Having to quit the New Job prompted me to try and find out if I really do have this condition. So, armed with a list of symptoms printed out from the internet which I had underlined anything that sounded like me, and feeling like a bit of a hypochondriac as I always do, I set out for an appointment with my GP to discuss it.

On the way there, I fell over. Of course.

It happened pretty quickly. It might have been because the pavement was wet...or it might have been that I got my foot caught in my trouser hem (I was wearing my super-wide legged trousers which I love - they are very comfy but sadly not so good for hurrying about in) or it might have been because I was hurrying. Or maybe because I had my mind on other things. Anyway, before I knew it I was on the ground, stunned and feeling sore.

I broke my glasses (they somehow came right off my face and fell in front of me, after the right side of the frame half-snapped apart near the hinge. The right arm has since broken off completely, after I fiddled to try and mend the glasses.) and the impact of doing this gave me a little graze on my temple and a little bump, which was sore for a few days but thankfully hasn't bruised.



I got a few little cuts on my right hand, and I grazed my right knee, ripping a hole in the knee of my lovely wide leg trousers. So I arrived at the GP surgery quite dazed and shaken, holding my broken glasses and cradling my hand to avoid getting blood on anything. I meekly asked the receptionists if there was anything they could give me for my hand - they gave me a tissue and told me to go sit and wait to be called...so I went and waited in the waiting room, until the doctor called me and noticed that I was a little hurt.

Don't look if you're squeamish...



There were two advantages to my mishap on the way to see the doctor - obviously, for one thing, there was a nurse on hand to help me get the grit out of my injured hand and provide rescue remedy, dressings and TLC. The other advantage was that when I told the doctor my ironic reason for making the appointment in the first place, he agreed pretty quickly that yes, I probably am dyspraxic...


The doctor referred me to the neurology department of the hospital (yikes!), and my appointment has come through in the post already, though it won't be until early August. I'm not sure how I feel about it all - if I am dyspraxic, it's going to explain a lot...but I'm not sure what help might be available for overcoming it.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Mayfly

It's been a while, and quite a bit has happened, so I'll try and give you the abridged version in rough chronological order...
New job - Yaaay! 
New job might not be enough money - argh. Maths. Stress.
Leaving old job - eek, sniffle.
Old boss got me bouquet of flowers - aaaaaaaaaaaaw!
Holiday in London - eeeee!
Turning 30 - waaaaaaaah!
Visiting poorly grandad - sniffle.
Training for new job - huuuh?
Struggling in new job - wibble.
Last day in old job - erk.
Visitors for birthday celebrations part 2 - sniffle-ish smile.
New job people being lovely - aaaah.
Struggling in new job, bosses suggest taking on a lower level role - wobble.
New job people being lovely but unable to help much more - eeep.
Struggling in new job - waaaah!
Ask bosses to change to a lower level job - erk.
Bosses say sorry, we can't do that after all - aargh!
Quit job -sob, sniffle, sigh...sleep.





Nobody has ever bought me flowers before, so even now they are dead and dried up, I am keeping some of them.

So now it's back to the job hunting...and figuring out what to do with the Etsy shops etc.



Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Reviewing The Situation...

You might have noticed, my shops are all set to 'vacation mode'. I've decided to take a break from the making and selling because I need to get my stocktake done for the end of tax year, and also because I am needing to re-evaluate some things (namely, whether to keep going...and if so, how...) and because I'm preoccupied with job hunting (FUN!)

Anyway, I thought I would post to let you kind folks know that I am indeed alive, and as I hurtle towards my 30th birthday, I thought now might be a good time to review the New Year's Resolution (be braver/tackle phobias) before my time is overly consumed with the aforementioned things and also plucking out all my grey hairs. So...

Scary Things Wot I Have Done In 2012 So Far

  • Stood and watched a bonfire from a safe distance
  • Lit matches
  • Gave blood (first time since my original blood giving session in 2005, this time I didn't go faint or pale, yay!)
  • Done more job applications (x17) and interviews (x4)
  • Went to an event on my own (James Henry talk at the deli in Falmouth) - and spoke to people there, and came away with some new acquaintances
  • Went to a music gig (I find evening socializing oddly intimidating) - The Ambassadors of Sorrow - they are very good
  • Made phone calls to helplines (I'm not great with phones) when a parcel didn't arrive and to get help getting my computer online. (note to all, PC World's helpline people are very nice, but the customer service from Yodel delivery people is non-existent)
All of these things were more scary for me than going to see The Hunger Games, so I am giving my life in 2012 so far a 15 rating...or at least a 12...

Scary Things Wot Are Still To Come in 2012!!!

  • Fear of insects (mainly spiders)
  • Fear of heights (London Eye)
  • Fear of busy bustling places with lots of crowds (London)
  • Starting a new job (hopefully)
  • Going on a proper date (...maybe...)

Saturday, 10 March 2012

You Never Can Tell, With Bees

When I was still at secondary school (which would be about half my lifetime ago now) I remember one warm summer's day when a wasp landed on my ear. I stood stock-still and let it crawl about on my ear and head for a couple of minutes - to the amazement of the others in my class - not out of bravery, but out of sheer terror and a determination not to 'spook' it and get stung. Another time, a massive hornet (at least two inches long) appeared inside the little changing room in the school Drama classroom - I think I screamed a bit. I've never been stung by anything (touch wood) but my intuition tells me I wouldn't like the experience very much (my intuition is very well informed on this subject, I think). To this day, I have a strong dislike of wasps - you could call it a phobia, I suppose.

And so I'm a big fat hypocrite really, because I quite like bees. Is it because they make honey? Is it because the bumble-variety are furry and sort of cute? Is it because of the charming 'Beehave and Beequiet' characters from Stoppit and Tidyup (one of my childhood era's finest cartoons)? Maybe it's how they bob in and out of flowers, looking half industrious and half like they're just pottering around waiting for the kettle to boil. Maybe it's because I learnt in Psychology how clever they are, with their special wiggling figure-of-8 dance they do, angled towards the sun to talk to each other about where they can find a really good score of pollen? (No, really!) Most likely, it's a combination of all these things. (WARNING: there are images of bees coming up. If they bother you, cover your eyes as you scroll down...um...sorry)

A few years ago, I attempted to make an illustration for my portfolio inspired by The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. It's an interesting book set in the '60s in America, with themes of family secrets, race and religion, all pulled together with surprising analogies to the behaviour of bees. I've never been entirely happy with the image I made for the pretend book cover illustration, so lately I've been trying to persuade myself to have another go at it. I particularly struggled to get a good reference image for bees, so the idea kept going on the back-burner. This is the image I made originally (the idea was for the house to be on the back cover and the honeycomb on the front - but I want to change the layout and tweak the honeycomb and the bees)



This week, I was having a lousy week. Feeling drained by job hunting woes and having been quite under the weather in general, I was padding around in my pyjamas on Friday, trying to shake a severe case of the 'Blehs' when I looked up in my bedroom and saw a visitor resting on my skylight window.


She kindly stayed there long enough for me to get quite a few photos, and even tolerated me talking to her a bit (oh, the Mad Lady in Attic cliché...) I said to her "Are you a bee? I think you are a bee. You look like a bee to me. Hello Bee. I will take a photo of thee. In case I ever feel illustration...ee."

So...I'm hoping she was a bee (and I'm assuming it was a 'she' because apparently male bees don't get out much). She seemed like a friendly little creature anyway, so if she was actually a type of wasp, I think I might have to decide I like wasps too. But I don't think she was...do you?

Friday, 2 March 2012

Twisted Firestarter...

As I've mentioned, I'm pretty much a lifelong pyrophobe. Even carrying a candle in a jar as part of the Christmas nativity was too much for me as a kid. Eating at a table with a candle on it still made me quake well into my teens. Bonfire Night - out of the question. As part of the resolution to be braver, I decided to overcome the fear and do what I had never done before...light a match. I'd always been terrified of having flames so close to me, and on the rare occasions I had tried lighting a match, I'd strike it so tentatively and weakly, not even a little spark would come off.

In January, I bought some incense cones, to make my home smell a little nicer. The other day, I finally decided to go ahead and try to light one. I bought some matches and cleared an area, got a little tea plate to put the cone onto (they supply a little metal disc but this didn't feel secure enough) and a mug of water ready for me to drop the match into in case I panicked or had an accident with the match or couldn't blow it out. I tied my hair back, rolled up my sleeve...

I imagine Hercule Poirot looking at the aftermath of my incense-lighting session and deducing, with his little grey cells, just by the amount of blackened burntness on each matchstick, how it went...



Attempt one - when the match finally lit I instinctively blew it out straight away in surprise and panic.
Attempt two - ditto.
Attempt three - didn't blow it out but couldn't get the flame to 'take' on the cone and had to blow the flame out before I burnt myself.
Attempt four - ditto.
Attempt five - thought I had lit it successfully at last, but blew out both cone and match at the same time.
Attempt six - ditto.
Attempt seven - ditto.
Attempt eight - SUCCESS! Oh no, actually, the cone's gone out...
Attempt nine - Lit cone, *turned* to blow out match, let the cone start to glow, blew out the flame...and, finally, it worked!


There was a subtle lavender aroma in the kitchen area for hours afterwards, which was lovely walking to and fro. My sense of smell isn't great but passing between kitchenette, utility nook and bedroom I usually get a waft of the rubbish bin (loooovely) so this was very nice. So nice, in fact, I lit another incense cone the next day, and another a couple of days later. It's a nice way to freshen up the air - certainly better than room freshener spray, I think. I still have the emergency mug of water each time, but I haven't used it.

I proudly told my mum on the phone about my little triumph, saying that I'd always had this silly fear that the match would snap and the flaming tip go flying, catching fire to something. Haha, silly me. Then Mum kindly pointed out that in fact, this can happen, and does happen...

So I'm a little scared again. But I think perhaps a normal, rational amount?

Sunday, 26 February 2012

And the winners are...

Firstly, thank you to everyone who entered my little competition, it was great to see your tweets, re-tweets and blog comments coming in.

Last night, I cut up my list of entries and put all the pieces of paper into my trilby-style hat, which I never have the courage to wear. It is useful for these giveaway draws, at least. I have drawn the names for the winners of the first and second prize...

The winner of the mountain brooch is...
 Joanna!

The winner of the discount code is...
Jhitomi!

If you didn't win this time, thank you very much for entering anyway and for all the nice comments.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Win a mountain...kinda...

JumpUp Competition/Giveaway!

First Prize (one winner): a specially made Mountain brooch similar to one of these:
 
Click the image to see the listing page which gives details on the brooches. The prize will be a brooch similar to the ones available in the listing, which I will make specially for the winner.

 Second Prize (one winner): code for 25% off your next order from JumpUp on Etsy.com

To enter on Twitter: tweet a link to something you like in my shop www.jumpup.etsy.com with either of these hashtags: #loveupcycled OR #winamountain
OR retweet one of my promo tweets - look out for the tag #winamountain (click here for my twitter page)
To enter via the blog: post a comment on this blog post mentioning your favourite thing about JumpUp (it could be your fave item or just something about the shop)
Terms: 
Each tweet you make that fits these requirements will get you one entry into my draw on the 25th - the more you tweet, the better your chances! Every blog comment that meets the requirements gets you one entry into the draw too. You can enter in more than one way if you like.
I will be drawing names of winners out of a hat with the help of an assistant. 
I can't track private tweets, sorry!
I will need to contact the winners for their address/giving discount code details.
I will announce the '@' names or blogger names of the winners on this blog and on Twitter after winners have confirmed their details for me.
The first name out of the hat will win the mountain brooch, the second name will win the 25% off code.
The discount code will be valid to use on one order from the JumpUp shop on Etsy.com (can be used for more than one item, excludes postage) - after use, it will be deactivated.
Open to entrants from anywhere in the world (please note, you need to be an adult with a Paypal account to buy from me on Etsy.com) You will need a Twitter account for this competition (if you don't have one, it's quite easy to sign up or you might have a kind friend who will enter for you?)
(I've now decided to also allow entries via the blog as well, for those of you who aren't on Twitter.)
 Closing date for entries: noon UK time, 25th February 2012


Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The Sensible Thing To Do

Ahem.
*Sensible Public Announcement*

In these times of economic doom and gloom, it seems only right for a small business such as mine to sell things which can only enrich lives, enliven spirits and generally en-Sensible (why yes of course it's a word...) the day-to-day goings about that we all do. But I do think there is a difference between being Sensible and being serious. It is very Sensible, for instance, to have a zip-up pouch to contain your spools of thread, your pencils or biscuits or what-have-you. But that doesn't mean the pouch has to have a serious design, does it?

And so I give you...the Sensible Survival Kit...


And we also have the coin purse dedicated to your very sensible and restrained spending (there's a recession on, don't-you-know), in prussian blue...


I'm also pleased to announce the return of Mr Squirrel. He was quite a popular fellow back in 2009, having appeared on 4 (very) limited edition wristlets/pouches.


Those were applique design ones (in other words, I cut out the pieces to my own pattern in felt and stitched them onto a cotton base) but applique takes quite a lot of time, and I knew I wanted to offer something similar but at a lower price point. And at last, here it is! It's a screenprinted version, without the acorn, minus the wrist strap and the dimensions are a little different. But it's still a good size for all your squirrelling needs!



The new 'Sensible' range is a collaboration with my good friend Debbie Greenaway, who has done the screenprinting of these designs for me. They went from my brain, to my pen and paper, to the scanner, to Debbie's computer, to her magic screenprinting apparatus, and back to me printed on lovely calico sent by the good old Royal Mail. I did the sewing, but Debbie deserves a lot of credit for getting the printing so nice and the colours just as I wanted (with only my descriptions via messenger to guide her) Please do check out her blog here

The new Sensible range things are popping up in my Etsy shop Scatterbox Originals as and when I have them ready for you...so watch that space! :)

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

No more scaredy Cat

After pretty much a lifetime of being a pyrophobe (I am yet to be able to light a match or lighter myself!), I managed to happily spend quite some time on New Year's Day watching this from a safe distance:
 

As the sky darkened, the sparks from the fire became more apparent, each one trailing behind it a little streamer of golden-orange light which made them look like fireworks or like hundreds of swimming tadpoles (or something similar!)
 
I'm aiming to be braver this year...possibly I will post on my other varied phobias later in the year.