Getting one’s arse in gear – a tale of networking and getting on with it!

Pro-Cras-Tin-A-Tion…. (proh-kras-tuh-ney-shuhn)

“the act or habit of putting off or delaying, especially something requiring immediate attention”

I feel like ‘procrastination’ should henceforth be spelled as above, since it’s all about putting things off – seems somehow fitting to introduce a few dashes, capital letters and some dots….

Now this has always been one of my best skills – putting things off – I’ve been a master putter-offer for some time. In all areas of my life, and since I can remember, why would I do something now when I could do it later? This resulted in me keeping hold of a few boyfriends far longer than was necessary in the 80’s and seems to have developed into a bad habit now I’ve turned 50! If I’m not rushing out the door at the last minute to get somewhere by the skin of my teeth, frantically clearing up and hoovering the house 5 minutes before guests arrive, or ironing school uniform every morning just because 5 shirts seemed like a chore on Sunday night, then I’m having great business ideas and putting them on a shelf in my head marked ‘pending’.

My very tolerant friends and family have got used to me being ever so slightly late all the time, but it’s a bit rude really isn’t it? I’ve been trying to work out what makes me rebel against being organised and pro-active. I wouldn’t say I’m lazy – I am always busy with something, but maybe not always the right things!

How do we break this habit then? Well, I’m not sure about the school uniform or the housework thing, but certainly with regard to the business thing, I think I’ve finally understood how I can break this bad habit! It’s called accountability!

Since about February, I have been planning (and I use that word very loosely) how I’m going to take my glass business to another level and actually make some money – like real income type money, not hobby money – and I have slooooowly been acclimatising myself to the world of NETWORKING (deep breaths!) Yeah I know right? Scary!

Now I’m a fairly good talker, in fact it was once my paid job to stand up in front of lots of people and talk (I was a management development trainer) so the actual talking bit of networking isn’t the scary bit for me…. it’s the “am I a real business?” and “will anyone be interested in what I do?” and “what if they just stare at me blankly?” (Like at the hockey that time – you know the one, and if not, scroll back a couple of years…)

So, how do you turn these (frankly self-limiting) barriers around and make yourself confident to get on with it? Well, you have to realise that it’s all a mind set issue. Actually when you find your ideal network, (there may be some trial and error involved here – look at it as kissing a few frogs) you gain something very powerful – the support of other people who want to see you achieve stuff!! Add that to ‘saying it out loud‘, and you have accountability. I have personally found 3 great networks, which are all a bit different, but all have one thing in common – I feel confident and comfortable enough there to ‘say it out loud’. I say what I am aiming for, what I need and what I’m going to do to get myself there. Once I’ve voiced these things to my groups, I often find that someone else has a great idea to add to my plan, is willing to help me, or just that now I’ve put it out there, my mindset has changed from ‘pending’ to ‘action’, with a deadline of before the next meeting or sooner! No room for procrastination now, because there’s no way I want to stand up at my next meeting and say ‘oh yeah I didn’t actually get around to doing that!’ This is so important if you are, like me, a one-woman band, solo-preneur, micro-business of one, etc etc because you don’t have a team or a boss or shareholders to hold you accountable – nobody is going to sack you, smack your hand or give you a warning for being late or ineffectual – your business will just FAIL. YOU are your own boss, so YOU have to motivate yourself, but having networks where you can hold yourself accountable to others, is very powerful. Soon you realise that just as procrastination is a bad habit, networking is a good habit, and that actually you will be networking away wherever you are and with everyone you meet! So go on – look up your local networks – yes now! Off you go! In the words of Mr Nike, ‘Just DO It!’

Here are some I recommend from my own experience:

ABC Networkshttp://www.abcnetworks.co.uk – There are several fortnightly meetings held across Kent

Women in Businesshttp://www.wib.org.uk – Several across the SE – I attend the North Kent & Medway group

Sally Marshall’s Steer Your Business Academyhttp://www.steeryourbusiness.com – get in touch with Sally!

And for all your mindset reprogramming needs, you really need to meet Ash Lawrencehttp://www.ashlawrence.co.uk AKA the #flipfloppsycho

Go on, you know you want to!fullsizeoutput_1dc5

Here I am (far right) networking with some of my Women in Business group – look, we are all laughing! Nothing scary about this at all!!

Bev x

 

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School Holidays are the dementors of creativity!

I don’t know about you, but we are now on week 5 of the school summer holidays and I’ve had the creativity and enthusiasm for work literally sucked out of me in the manner of a dementor from Harry Potter!! Admittedly I’ve been away on a cruise and also on a trip to Scotland for a family wedding, but even so, in the remaining weeks, I’ve had no inspiration whatsoever! Is it just me? Or does anyone else vicariously feel the pain of teenage apathy?

Gone are the holi-days when a trip to the coast or the park was considered the best fun that could be had for the price of a picnic! What do you mean my teenage son, you just want to stay in your room and ‘hang out’ with your friends (virtually) on your Play Station?! A reluctant agreement to go to the cinema seems like progress but is short-lived. I try to persuade said teenager to actually invite real friends over to play in the actual world and not virtually, or for him to actually go outside and do an proper activity that uses more than just his thumb muscles, but nope! As if this isn’t frustrating enough, we discover 4 weeks in, that he has omitted to tell us about the English homework for the Summer Holidays, in which he has to read both The Lord of the Flies AND Macbeth, and answer about 8 questions per chapter. If the mind-numbing routine of trying to get him out of his bedroom wasn’t bad enough, the bribery, blackmail and threats involved in brokering a deal for GCSE reading, has definitely sucked out what scrap of enthusiasm for work and creativity I had left!

I hear you saying “leave him to it and go have fun in your studio!” And that would be a good plan and it’s very tempting, but then I would feel like the worst mother in the world for not trying to think up exciting and engaging, whilst possibly educational and hopefully mind-expanding things for a 14 year old boy child to do in his 8 (yes bloody 8) weeks off!! And there are only so many 12A films being shown at the Odeon!

Has anyone tried hypnotising a 14 year old teenage boy? Asking for a friend!

In the meantime, here are some nice pics from my holiday….

Well that went better than expected!

So, you may remember from last week that I was in what I like to call ‘a bit of a panic’. I mean, who actually likes tidying up stuff?! But with the help of my lovely sister-in-law Denise, I did actually get my studio all in order, work nicely hung and displayed and tea and cake set out for Open Studios, all by 10:58am on Friday!! I even managed to have a shower and wash my hair before the 11am opening! Phew!

As it turned out, it all went rather well; I had loads of lovely visitors, sold some glass, have lots of interest in both beginners glass fusing workshops and some bespoke, skill-specific days for some lovely novice glass fusers – so that went better than expected!! And as my studio looked so pretty with my work set out and hung up, I’ve decided to leave it where it is. One of my friends did point out that it will get dusty if I leave it out, but hey! who ever cared about a bit of dust? Not me! After all, I made it to be seen, not wrapped in bubble wrap and stuffed in a box in the garage! So until someone else wants it in their house, I may as well enjoy it myself. And anyway, I’ve already filled all the shelf space in the garage so it won’t fit ;0)

Here’s a little peek of some of it in my studio…..

Clearly the Fairy lights are an essential feature of any studio display!

It’s not too late to brighten up your summer wardrobe with some funky jewellery either! Look at all those yummy chunks of swirly glass – that was very popular! And yes, you spotted the Xmas display – to be honest I really never want to make another Xmas themed item again, so these were all in ‘bargain corner’ lol.

The other thing we did was some coaster or sun-catcher making – so much fun!

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I’m going to be doing some coaster and sun-catcher making sessions at my local Wisdom Hospice so Emma who is part of the team there, popped in with her lovely daughter to have a go and see what we would be doing. Great job girls!!

And finally, I received this lovely pic of Colin the Cockerel who flew off to a new home and is now sitting on the kitchen wall surveying the goings-on and looking very happy!

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All-in-all a fab weekend of chatting about glass, drinking tea and eating cake, and I still have a tidy studio! But more importantly, now it’s such a pleasant space, I have renewed motivation to get in there and get making stuff!! 50 jelly babies already in the kiln and 3 light sconces for a client in the planning stages – YAY!! The sunny weather helps and my view into the garden is a bonus, but I must admit, having a tidy, well ordered studio is the best motivation, so maybe if I just do the tidying up as I go from now on……..

Bev x

Ever wish your dog was really a house elf?

img_0920.jpgNow I’m not saying Harvey isn’t a super dooper lovely helper in the studio – he does after all keep me company and warn me of all impending doom like the postman arriving or a squirrel trespassing on the fence – but today I really could have done with a bit more in the way of practical help – if only he was actually a house elf!

You see, I made a spur of the moment decision, after feeling grumpy that as usual, we would be on holiday for Medway Open Studios, and I would therefore not be able to take part – again; I decided to hold my own, stand-alone open studios, created a FB event, published it, announced it on twitter, instagram, FB and LinkedIn, made some DIY leaflets, handed them out at 2 networking events, and before I knew it, there really was no going back. Small problem was, I had taken delivery of a new larger kiln and wedged it into the garage. To make space for it, much of the garage was now in my studio and in the conservatory! But no worries – I had 6 weeks to sort this out before open studios :0)

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OK, so now open studios is day after tomorrow, and I am still ‘tidying’ stuff! Why is it that what seems like a perfectly do-able task when the decision is made, gradually becomes the last thing on the planet you want to do? I have no problem getting on social media and promoting it – I’m even going to be a guest on Molly Moodle’s Mashup on Channel radio tomorrow to talk about it (do tune in between 3 & 4pm to listen). It’s just the getting around to actually making a start bit, that I’m struggling with….. so……. I’ve just paused for a cuppa and a couple of chocolate digestives, and to write a blog post – as clearly that’s what you do when faced with deadlines!

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I may have had more than a couple of chocolate digestives by the way….

Actually this behaviour is pretty much par for the course (and I fear that my son Ellis has inherited my propensity for procrastination) – every exhibition I’ve put on, every holiday I’ve packed for, every piece of homework I did at school – all last minute dot com! I like to say I work best when I’m running the gauntlet, but actually it just serves to make me stressed! Once I thought it was a good idea to go to Ladies Day at Ascot on a vintage bus for a friend’s 40th, the day before my holiday, and pack (for me and my son) when I got back that night….. if the bus hadn’t broken down twice on the motorway coming home, that may have not been such a bad plan as it turned out to be – going to bed at 3am and getting back up at 6am to get to the airport suddenly erased all the fun of Ladies Day from my memory!

Anyway, it’s 5 mins to school pick up now, so I’d better drink my tea… I mean I’d better do a bit more tidying up….

Come on Harvey, if I promise you a sock of your very own, can you just magic my studio in order? Pleeeaaase!

 

From mould-phobic to mould-enthusiast in 4 days

Well what can I say?? What a revelation it’s been this week – I spent a fantastic 4 days on a course at Creative Glass in Rochester, with the marvellous Marina Hanser (look up her work!!). The title of the course was ‘Hybrid Processes’ – it was a combination of techniques involving casting glass into hand built moulds and taking impressions using various every day objects and living entities… It was truly a revelation for me!

Now don’t get me wrong, I like to experiment, and I’m not averse to getting wet or making a huge mess, and I’m a magpie for tools and stuff. Plus, I’m all about process and I like nothing more than learning a new skill – but I have always shied away from mould-making and casting. Over the past few years however, I have noticed that the glass competitions I enter are always won by a piece of cast glass….. so I got to thinking that if you can’t beat ’em then you just have to bite the bullet and join ’em!

I was thrilled to discover therefore that I actually enjoyed the process of making my own unique moulds (just as well huh? the class wasn’t cheap!) The sad thing is that once your glass is cast (fired), you need to break the mould off the glass. This to me seems like such a waste, as they are not quick and simple to make and you will only ever be able to use it once. But maybe that’s the key to the allure of cast glass? Maybe knowing that there will only ever be one piece of glass like it IF it survives the casting, that it is therefore unique and individual – is this why judges love it, and people pay a lot of money for it? I think that is part of it, that, and the time and effort and electricity and materials and trial & error and mess and the need to wear a claustrophobic face mask and development of skills & knowledge and getting wet doing cold-working and the extortionate cost of cold-working equipment and praying to the kiln fairies and understanding the difference between a negative and a positive impression…… Yes I can appreciate the pedestal upon which casting is placed, now I’ve done some.

Here you can see a few pics of the process and how it comes out with still a lot of work needed to make it look like glass again! These two pieces were made in moulds taken of (top) scrunched up paper and (bottom) draped cloth – wonderful shapes and contours can be found in the simplest of familiar things x

Glass Artist and Proud!

Well after last weeks little incident at the hockey and the subsequent self-doubt, you will be pleased to know that today’s ‘Old Girls’ gathering at my old school’s centenary afternoon tea was refreshingly jolly, nostalgic and full of lovely Old Girls – some of whom were the class of ’55!!! Blimey!! Me and my lovely friend Sam who is also a sculptor turned up and immediately met 2 others from our year who seemed genuinely interested that we are real artists who actually sell our work!! Phew! I’m not going mad after all :0)

The thing that made my day however, was not their appreciation of my chosen career, but the fact I found my name in the 1983 Sports Day programme – My record for the 4th year long jump (4.27m!!!) had been unbroken for the next 6 years! Those people who  know me will appreciate how very exciting this was – not only had I completely forgotten I’d ever won anything, (let alone long jump) but I was easily the shortest person in my class, not known for my athletic prowess and never picked first for teams! When I saw my name, I not only took a picture of it on my phone, but I looked around me for someone to tell – anyone! Random old girls were told ‘I’ve found my name here and I was good at long jump! Look!!’ And nobody gave me any blank or ‘nutter alert’ type looks – they just enthused along with me and smiled, because everyone was happy! I have to thank the PE teacher Miss Stuart, who, 30 years later is still there, for keeping such fantastic records – of every sporting fixture we ever attended, of all the sports days, of all the sporting colours awards, and had pictures of girls with their wooden tennis rackets and their perms……. She would never have known at the time how one entry in the records would have brought such satisfaction 31 years on – YAY for Miss Stuart!!

And so, with renewed enthusiasm, I must now turn my attention to my son’s school Art/DT showcase on Weds, followed by Medway Open Studios the following week…..

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This is Ellis’ entry (he’s 10, and yes, he made this completely on his own, apart from me programming the kiln, and taking the photos!)

I still can’t get over my long jump record… lol

A strange thing happened at the hockey…….

In between making glass goodies for the forthcoming Medway Open Studios, this Sunday the whole family relocated to our son’s Hockey club for the juniors to have a practice session with the Men’s 1st 11 – who include the current GB Men’s captain Barry Middleton, and serveral other of the recent GB squad who came 4th in the recent world cup! What with that and the offer of a BBQ, we were all keen to go! Plus, the sun was shining and the club house bar was open – win-win!!

However…… shortly after arriving, I spotted one of the other mums, who I had not seen there before and realised that she and I were apprentice engineers together some 30 years ago! Not only that, but we had shared lifts to the training centre, I had sat with her for weeks in her knackered VW Beetle when she was learning to drive, and I had also worked in her parent’s pub when I turned 18 – As you can imagine, 30 years ago, we had shared a lot! I finally plucked up the courage to go over and say hello, thinking that she may not recognise me since I’m not really the tiny size 8 I was back then lol. I’m not sure what I was expecting really – it was a tad uncomfortable when for what seemed like hours, I was just waffling and not sure if she even knew who I was! I said ‘you haven’t changed a bit – I recognised you instantly!’ She said ‘I recognised your voice’. Hmmmmm – it went a bit down hill from there really!

She asked ‘What do you do?’ – I replied ‘I’m a glass artist! (smiling happily) – She just stared at me, looking like I had spoken Russian. Then she said ‘OH!’ followed by ‘What?!’ followed by ‘How come?’ – maybe I was speaking Russian?! It didn’t occur to me that my job would render her practically speechless! I endeavoured to explain a bit about what it meant to be a ‘Glass Artist’ – she continued to frown!

In the end I stopped talking and said ‘So what about you then?’  ‘Oh, I’m the Director of the British Chemical Engineering Contractors Association – I stayed in Engineering.’ Aaaaah! You know when you wished you had just carried on walking and gone straight to the bar?? Yes – that’s how I felt. Somehow I know this is not about her – she has done phenominally well – has an MBA, and a string of impressive jobs on her CV, whereas I am a Glass Artist and she has no idea what that is! Should I have felt insignificant? Should I have felt like a massive under-achiever? Should I now be hatching plans to avoid her at all future Hockey socials? NO I should not! So why did I?

Maybe it’s because being a ‘Glass Artist’ is a title I have bestowed upon myself – I have created the world in which I am my own boss and I make as much or as little as I wish. I make time in my week for the things that are important in my life, like my family and friends. I am involved in fundraising for my son’s school and I volunteer a day a week at Nucleus to keep the gallery running, which supports other local artists. Maybe I am not one of life’s high-flyers – although I used to be! Maybe I could have had a list of impressive letters after my name and an office in the city if I’d kept at it!? But maybe I am just as happy (albeit brassic lol) to be using my creativity and my engineering skills to make glass art that people who do know what that means, appreciate and buy, to make themselves happy too! Yes, I am very happy not to have the stress and politics of the old days in industry and I don’t even think about it until I meet someone from my past and feel like I have to justify it!

My immediate hope is that I get over this little episode of self-doubt before this coming Sunday, because I am attending my old school’s Centenary Afternoon Tea for ‘old girls’. I am bound to bump into many more high-achieving old friends and have to explain what it is that I ‘do’. Mind you, with the help of another ‘old girl’ who is a ceramicist, sculptor and rescuer of donkeys, I’m sure we will manage! If not, there are always the scones!

In the meantime, I will just go back to my workshop and make more suncatchers for Open Studios…… Or maybe I’ll have a cup of tea and a biscuit and do that later…… just because I can!

*skips over to the kettle with a little grin*

cuppa

x