Saturday, 21 November 2015

Guerrilla gardening final update

I would LOVE to be sharing images of glorious blooms splashing colour all up and down our street. Alas, our first (but not last!) forray into guerrilla gardening hasn't been a runaway success. But that's not to say we feel like we've been left empty handed, far from it, we have this success to our name:

Ta da! Yes ever so slightly compact but still a strong and healthy nasturtium plant. Even more importantly it's still holding it's own while all those around him are loosing their leaves! :p 

Whether or not we should expect a late Autumn flowering or not is still up for debate and with the weekend's first frost of the year (Yes! Time to wrap up your sweet bundles of joy to protect them from this silent killer!) due, handed are looking increasingly slim! But not to worry, I am not as fickle as to do this solely for the flowers, that's under egging the importance of lively vibrant vegetation on our streets too! :)

You can see our earlier guerrilla gardening updates here and here! 

Monday, 16 November 2015

DIY Fantastic: NYC Holiday Map

This may be my longest running art project EVER. I dreamt up the idea on our trip to New York back in 2013. And I finished and framed it a few weekends ago. Yes, that's right, over 2 years in the works.

We'd had a frame AND mount ready and waiting for months - reflection of the impressive level of faith Mr Fantastic had that I'd actually get the thin finished. (I'd have long given up on me!!) But I have admit it was incredibly satisfying to sign off on a piece and then get it framed and up on the wall within an hour. Maybe this should be my new motivational ploy for all my art projects...

Back in NYC we ummed and aaahed about buying a city map for our walls. We saw some super fun ones at Brooklyn Flea Market. But getting them home in our carry on was going to be an absolute mission. So instead, I promised I'd whip us up a personalised version upon our return....

I started out with a general outline of Manhattan and the main districts and then started to fill in from there. I included little snippets of each of our favourite adventures in the city. We tried to remember all our little adventures, walks, dinners, concerts and memories from our whistle-stop tour and I worked them into a drawing with little illustrations and phrases!

I sketched out the outline of each district and the general shapes of each illustration in pencil and then dived in with a permanent fine-liner for the final draft.

Some of my favourite little snippets in the above and below include 'Giant fritto-misto' at Bianca's restaurant (aah-mazing!), our final day's shopping spree for gifts in Greenwhich Village, our 'crazy taxi ride' out to Brooklyn in a yellow cab (I am a super supporter of The Knowledge after that experience!) and the delicious 'Brooklyn Roast and breakfast donuts' we had when we FINALLY arrived!!

For the areas we left unvisited (there's only so much you can squeeze in in three and a half days!) I kept the districts simple, filling the shape of each district with their names. These spots will definitely be on my hit-list for our next aherm, anniversary, trip to the big apple (did I say that out loud?).

This has been a real labour of love, but I am so pleased with the result. The concept is super simple - the map base and the overlay of place names and drawings is something you could do for any trip, anywhere in the world! Although getting all that detail in the tiny sketches did take a wee while...

In fact, you could also do something very similar using memorabilia from a trip. Creating a map-collage using ticket stubs, cutouts from pamphlets and photos. Have you ever made any holiday inspired art for your walls? Looking for suggestions for our next big trip now!

p.s. for more Knicker Elastic art work and framing take a peek at these floral watercolours and our eclectic living room gallery wall. 

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Type Fantastic: A New Creative Habit

Knicker Elastic Fantastic Blog Typography 365 day Challenge 1
I have recently started to feel like a bit of  a creative hermit. It's always the same excuses, lack of time and commitment. But enough is enough! My creative side won't take no for an answer any longer!

To switch creative gears I've decided to start a new creative habit and break through from this creative drought I've been living! 
Knicker Elastic Fantastic Blog Typography 365 day Challenge 2

I've been mulling over a few ideas for a while, but have finally set on a 365 day typography project. When I was a kiddo I'd spend hours writing out my name in hundred of different type fonts. Simply using coloured felt pens on a stack of white A4 paper. I'd do it day in day out.

Soon my friends started asking for their names in their favourite fonts. I even starting selling them for a grand price of 20p a piece (which you know was quite lucrative for a 10 year old, back when Mars bars cost sounding like my Mum!)!! 
Knicker Elastic Fantastic Blog Typography 365 day Challenge 3
So I'm going right back to where it all started (and should never have stopped!). I have committed to doing a daily typography exercise. I'm right back there, with a bunch of sharpies from Wilkos and a pad of fresh crisp clean paper! I'll start each day with a new fresh blank canvas. The beauty of this daily exercise it that it should be quick, simple and inexpensive (no extra heavy weight watercolour paper and specialist inks here! Well, not yet... ;).

Let's be honest, I may not end up doing this exactly EVERY day. I may skip a day and then have to catch up. Or I may try and front-load a few at a time. But if it means I sit down at my desk and churn out five typography exercises, then even better! I'll have turned what was intended as a way to carve out time for a five minute task each day into a full half an hour session and I can't think of anything better. Getting started is the toughest bit. In fact, I actually hope it snowballs. Once I've started it's almost harder to stop and drag myself up to bed!

Knicker Elastic Fantastic Blog Typography 365 day Challenge 4
By making this commitment out loud (well writing it here at least!) I feel committed to keeping up this new habit. Sharing the best of the bunch over on Instagram I'm hoping will also help keep me in check! (You can follow along with me here @knickerelasticfantastic). I plan to experiment with lots of different handwritten types and fonts plus a number of different mediums. I'm hoping we'll see a serious uplift in my typography skills over the next 365 days if I keep practicing!! 

Do you keep up a daily creative habit or are you now tempted to do so?! I'd love to hear how it's going as I launch into my personal challenge...

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Do you need your own board of directors?

Last week we had a Sibling Dinner. Yes, with capital letters! This is a rarity these days (since the brother exited Europe stage right and spent longer than we care to remember hiding (I mean surfing) in Australia). So when it does we all sit up and take note! We had a brilliant evening, sharing anecdotes, debating each others lives and decisions and generally setting the world to rights.

At the end of the evening, after a heated debate about 'where I should be going and what I really should do next' (who isn't always deliberating this?!) my the brother exclaimed in jest 'Gosh, I feel like we're your own board of directors Marian!'.

And it's true. They are.

My rowdy rabble of a board on a recent Away Day in Tuscany (photo credit: Izzy Eeles)

I firmly believe that everyone needs a board of directors. It might seem like a rather dramatic statement, but bear with me on this one...

Why do we need a board?

Most of us will already have a few directors of sorts, although in reality they are more likely to be known as 'best-mate-Anna', 'Grandmole' or 'friend-I've-known-for-ever-Helen'! The people we naturally gravitate towards as we try and make our minds up on big life decisions or the people we seek out for refuge when the going gets tough.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. We all need others in our world who we can rely on to help guide us and mentor us through this whirlwind called life! We may find them in the most unlikely places - be it a kind face at the bus stop or a friend of a friend who just seems to 'get us' and we click with instantly. 

Execs vs Non-execs?

My executive directors I like to think of as those that I am closest to - they can be totally honest (sometimes brutally so!), they know you inside out and often know how you're going to act before you do yourself! In this bucket I'd include my brother, sister and 'rents plus my good friends. They're definitely all fighting in my corner!! 

On the flip side, non-execs would be the folk slightly less invested or engaged in your everyday life. Ideally with have a wealth of experience to drawn upon, in a particular area or just life experience in general. And these 'directors' play a slightly different role. When you feel like you've tried every avenue, they can offer up new potential solutions. When you're worried out of your mind, they provide perspective and calm. And when you're dithering and indecisive, they are a bouncing board for your ideas. 

The list of our potential non execs is long - ex colleagues, formal business mentors and partners, relatives and friends. We may check in with them every now and then, once a year or anywhere in between. Our relationship has strong foundations and they know us and our ambitions and yet at the same time they are distant enough to have a sense of perspective.

In this group I would count myself super lucky to have some ex colleagues who's opinions I trust, old friends who go 'way back' and some slightly newer ones too! 

The range is key. 10 people giving you the exactly same advice is not necessarily helpful (although it can help reinforce a decision you've reached). In reality, what we really need is a wide spectrum of opinions and perspectives. Some may not resonate with us and others will really strike a chord. But at least this way we will have considered all the possible options and leaving us free to follow our own gut feeling!

Give and Take

Who have you identified that are already on your board? And who do you want to add? Seek them out. Our relationships need to be nurtured and this is not a one way street. In fact, you are probably on quite a few other people's board of directors too!

So, next time you're stuck with a difficult decision or in dire need of a pep talk to pull yourself together, don't dither and panic - consult one of your directors!

P.s. you can find more ramblings on hanging out with my grown up siblings here

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Potting Shed Fantastic: Very Cherry

Do you ever sit at your computer with one hand on the mouse and the other tossing treats into your mouth? To suddenly realise you've scoffed the lot and you don't even remember doing it?! Yesss?!! That is exactly what I'm like with cherries. I get through a LOT of cherries.

So, you can imagine my delight when we discovered we had TWO cherry trees in our new garden! 

I know cherry blossom gets a lot of press. But, they have been the first plant in our garden that we've seen go through it's full annual cycle, it's like 'a year in the life of..'. And that's what I wanted to share here today, it's so magical!

From the delightful blossom of spring and these seemingly soft fluffy 'footballs' of flowers. 

Through to branches heaving with fruit and literally bending down with the volume and weight of them all.

All the way through to seeing the branches stripped bare. More often that not by smaller garden visitors, rather than me unfortunately. But I love feeding the local wildlife too, and who can blame those sneaky squirrels when the fruits are as plump, juicy and red as these?? :)

One lone cherry sitting in a tree...

Even still the greenery and remaining tree continues to bring colour, structure, shade to the garden and extra habitat to it's wildlife.

This is what gardening is all about to me. Nurturing and watching plants go through all the stages of life. Stages we take a lifetime to work through, plants get through all within one year! Excited with the prospect of new growth and shoots in Spring. Enjoying the beauty and exuberance of the tree in full bloom. Willing the small fruits to ripen and plump up as they grow. Feeding and gorging on the bounty. And then finally preparing and growing strong to survive the long winter and be ready for spring's fresh growth once more. Ever cyclical.

P.s. You can see more of our early spring garden here.

Friday, 26 June 2015

DIY Fantastic: Creating in Watercolour

Knicker Elastic Fantastic Watercolour Florals 1

I'm always excited to dig out my watercolours. The freedom, fluidity of adding water and pigment to thick heavy paper and seeing what happens is always amazing. The results can be mixed, but they are certainly always unusual, unexpected and impossible to replicate! These few factors make them a creative force to be reckoned and why I always try to let the watercolours do the walking and the talking, rather than vice versa. They will never bend to your will so it's a real test in letting go and guiding rather than controlling.

Knicker Elastic Fantastic Watercolour Florals 2

The quiet time I've had this week as I recover has been the perfect time for some relaxed watercolour experimentation. That plus the veritable explosion of flowers in the garden and from the folks' garden in Hereford has meant endless floral inspiration. Perfect for putting water to paper and seeing where we go...and this was where we went.

Knicker Elastic Fantastic Watercolour Florals 3

I'm super pleased with the results, the colours are vibrant and the intensity and textures varied and they sort of look like sweet peas too (always a bonus!).

I also love my watercolour palette below, I never tire of looking at this, the tiny cute block of colour and the crazy colour combinations I create on the mixing plates. Ha!

Knicker Elastic Fantastic Watercolour Florals 5

Are you inspired to get out your watercolours or any other favourite medium after this? Nothing like a little creative experimentation to help you feel alive!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Guerrilla Gardening Update

Over the last few weeks I have been the lucky recipient of a daily 'dirt' photo from Mr Fantastic! In his usual impatience he has been snapping every teeny green shoot he spots in the scraps of soil along our street and forwarding them over for identification!! I have to admit, the vast majority of photos sadly got a resounding 'no' in repsonse to the nasturtium identification challenge. They mostly looked like various weeds, but this week we popped out on to the street to study the soil more carefully and lo and behold, we spotted some seedlings!!! Nasturtium seedlings!!!

We were beyond excited and hopped from tree to tree inspecting as we went, leaping up and down in our flip flops and pjs every time we spotted one! In honest, there are very few compared to the ridiculous volume of seeds we planted out, but we still count this as a big WIN for the street! Some Nasturtiums has to be a lot better than none.  

As you can see they are popping up amidst all sorts of debris including cigarette stubs and chewed chicken bones!! Apologies for the macro shots of such paraphernalia. Not exactly photogenic. But I think that all adds to the charm for me...beautiful fresh new life growing through the litter of the modern world! How poetic.

They are still small, but I hope they survive and grow into thriving bushy plants over the next months. Fingers crossed for the odd rain shower here and there to keep them growing strong. I shall be sure to report back with an update as soon as we spot our first flower!