Thursday, 30 June 2016

My 'My Little Pony' Collection

Extremely photo heavy!

I've been collecting My Little Pony since childhood. I got my first pony, Confetti, when I was two, from a car bootsale. A large proportion of my herd were secondhand to begin with and have been thoroughly played with in my early years, so unfortunately they are not in as good condition as they could be. But I still love them!

This is the first time I have had my whole collection together and on display. Usually at least some of it is boxed up at any given time. I did used to have some more - a beanbag, which sadly disintegrated over time; a set of curtains; miscellaneous other things that went astray during my childhood and duplicate ponies which I apparently felt the need to distribute amongst pony-less friends.

This is also the first time my partner has seen my collection. I think he was somewhat startled. But in a... good way? ^_^

I mostly collect generation one MLPs, but I have somehow acquired a fair amount of gen twos and have recently fallen in love with generation threes and intend to get some more. Generation four is not doing it for me, I can't lie. I love Friendship is Magic (yes, I'm one of *those* people) but the actual figurines I'm just not so keen on. They're so... small.

I've never actually managed an exact count, but I believe I have somewhere in the region of 300 ponies (which in the world of MLP collectors is not exceptional). (This is my attic, hence the annoying beam shadows across some of the photos. Being faced with this amount of colourful plastic ponies also startles the people who come to do maintenance on the water tank or electrics.)

My Paradise Estate is sadly damaged (not by me!) and incomplete. But I do have quite a few sets of Pony Wear. ^^

I also have a fair amount of miscellania, including magazines,  a sewing machine, cake molds, clothing, wall hangings - even a voucher from my childhood for a free horse-riding lesson with the purchase of a particular pony (I have no memory of this lesson but apparently I did go, with my friend Holly).

I have recently started to become more involved in the pony-collecting community online and was delighted to find what a friendly bunch of people they are. This may be a slightly bonkers hobby but it's harmless and keeps me out of mischief. I am proud of my collection! :)

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Book Review: The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

There is a lot of hype around about The Artist's Way, both good and bad. I read Julia Cameron's The Right to Write a few years ago and I have to admit I found it to be one of the most inspiring books about writing I've ever read, so when I came across a copy of the Way in a secondhand bookshop quite recently I was excited to try it.
The Artist's Way lays out a twelve-week programme for 'creative recovery' - helping blocked creatives, of any and all kinds, find their path and overcome frustration and fear. The main tools that Cameron presents are the morning pages - three A4 pages of writing, longhand, to be done first thing every morning - and the artist date, a weekly solo outing to replenish one's well of inspiration and nourish the 'inner artist'. Throughout the twelve-week plan, there are tasks and exercises for each week (though you don't have to complete them all) and a weekly set of questions for you to check in with yourself and note your progress.

The morning pages are daunting. Scanning reviews online, I noticed that this was one of the things that most people found hardest about the programme. But I like a challenge, so I was determined to give it my best shot. No, I didn't manage to do the morning pages every day for twelve weeks, but I did manage an average of six days out of seven. At first, I absolutely hated them. And while I still wouldn't say I'm a total convert, I noticed that I did indeed feel calmer and more able to be productive on the days I did my pages. By week six, it felt more natural to do the pages than not to do them.

The artist date I found harder. Cameron insists that the date be done solo, and indeed one of the things I did find slightly hard to stomach about the book was encouraging the budding creative to jettison whatever aspects of one's life - including friends, family, partners - make demands on your time that potentially come between you and your creativity. Perhaps for some people, who do not have supportive families or significant others, this is good advice, but I am very fond of the relationships I have and do not wish to completely alienate the people I care about. Perhaps I am lucky in that the people I choose to have around me are creatively inspiring rather than draining or demoralising. So I did decide that a trip to the beach with my partner, collecting pretty shells and running around in the sand like children, absolutely counted as an artist date.

The very hardest task set in this book was for one week only - and it was reading deprivation. At first I balked at this, reading being one of my greatest joys, but Cameron suggests that frustrated creatives may in some cases be using obsessive reading as a way to avoid doing the actual work. Unfortunately, for me this hit a nerve - far easier to read a novel than to write one, isn't it? And hey, if you read the right kind of books, you can convince yourself it's 'research'... which only counts if at some point you knuckle down and do the actual writing. So for one week, I quit reading. It was HARD. I didn't do a perfect job - it's astonishing how much reading you can do automatically! But during that week I mended a falling-apart pair of jeans, had a day out, did some sketching and painting, cleared out half the attic, listened to music, upped my yoga game, and yes, once I had exhausted every other avenue of procrastination, did some writing.

One of the most common complaints about The Artist's Way is the emphasis on spirituality, which doesn't work for some people. I didn't think it would work for me. I still have a hard time with Cameron's concept that there is a God who loves artists and actively helps us when we begin to let loose our creative side. It's a nice idea, I'm just not sure I buy it. I did as Cameron suggests in an early chapter and mentally replaced the word God with 'the universe' (or your personal equivalent), which, while I still felt my eyes start a-rolling a few times, did keep me from feeling put off.

I don't know what I expected to happen when I started reading this book. Well, actually, yes I do - I was half-hoping for a furnace of creative inspiration to ignite within me, to suddenly be awash with ideas and to be writing and creating each and every day in some kind of frenzy. You may not be surprised to hear that it didn't quite work like that. In week one I was grumpy. Week two, I thought about quitting. Week three, resignation. In week four I bought some oil paints. By week five I was writing again, doing regular exercise and going for long walks almost every day. In week six, forgotten childhood interests suddenly made themselves known again with obsessive fervour - which I really did not expect as a side-effect. Call me soppy, because goodness knows, I am, but the essay for week eleven, 'Recovering a Sense of Autonomy', made me teary-eyed. The process was subtle, so gradual as to be almost unnoticed, but in its own quiet way I realised that the programme was working for me.

The Artist's Way is not without its flaws. Cameron is prone to name-dropping and not a touch over-dramatic. I did elect to ignore some of her advice about selfishness in favour of not being an ass to my nearest and dearest, and yeah, some of the Great Creator stuff is a little out there. That said, I'm very glad I managed to suspend my cynicism long enough to give The Artist's Way the old college try, because for me, it worked. Creativity became an organic part of my life, another thread woven into the everyday, rather than something to procrastinate about or tick off the to-do list. I will be keeping the artist dates as a part of my life (solo or otherwise) and maybe, maybe, even the morning pages too. We'll see.

Friday, 10 June 2016

This is Not Going According to Plan

This week is just... odd.

(Also, I'm really annoying on social media. I feel sorry for those friends who do not share my interests but have followed me on Instagram, for example, out of a sense of duty. Your sacrifice is appreciated.)

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Summer Style Goals, Inspired by Un-Fancy

In my endless mission to de-clutter and create a more curated life, I keep stumbling across excellent minimalist blogs out in the interwebs. Whilst I'm never going to be the 'perfect' minimalist - I like a bit of cosy chaos - my goal is to only keep the things around me that make me happy, and not to simply accumulate things out of greed or boredom or a sense of lack. Which is why I seem to be forever working on this - I did go through a decade-long spending binge, essentially, and I have always been something of a hoarder as I get sentimentally attached to things very easily! So I am continually trying to gently pare down all the edges of the hoard.

The blog that caught my attention this month is Un-Fancy, and I particularly enjoyed this post about Caroline's plans and goals for her summer style. I definitely don't have what you could call a capsule wardrobe, but I have finally fallen into something approaching a personal style. The only downside is, I sometimes feel lately as though I'm playing it a bit too safe.

For the last few months I have been working on relegating clothes and fashion to the bottom of my list of priorities. I had several reasons for this - firstly, I may shortly be slightly homeless (my mum, who I currently live with, is thinking of moving to a smaller place, and I can't currently afford to either rent my own place or move in with my partner. Mum did offer to get a bigger flat with room for me as well, but I know that long-term it isn't what she wants and she'd only end up having to move again when I finally get my shit together, so I told her to go for what she needs and I'll put my stuff into storage and couch-surf for a bit. Since I'm only in the country for another year or so, it's not a huge deal.).

Secondly, I'm going backpacking with my partner. What would be the point, I asked myself, in getting excited about my personal style, and then putting all my clothes into storage and heading off to Peru with two mosquito-proof shirts and a pair of cargo pants? And thirdly, thoughts of my appearance had dominated my life for such a long time that frankly, I wanted to learn how to just not care.

But the thing is, I like to think of myself as a creative person, and I enjoy expressing that through my style, even if only in a very small way (like a pair of fun socks or quirky earrings). Secondly, whilst comfort is my priority with clothing, paying a little more attention to taking care of how I look does make me feel good about myself. Oh, and I've gone up two dress sizes (this has been a good thing. I now have proper, working circulation in all my digits. Huzzah.) so a lot of my former go-to clothes are currently a no-go (ALL the expensive jeans are not going over the butt now, dammit), and I don't really want to buy new when I still have an awful lot of other clothes.

So I decided to apply Un-Fancy's more intentional approach to my laid-back, fangirl uniform, by setting some goals and thinking a bit more about my standard go-tos (the ones that still fit, heh). (I did try a similar-ish approach before by trying to formulate a style concept; the trouble is I have a tendency to focus more on feelings and imagery than actual items and outfits, which does not always translate well into reality and can produce a feeling of wearing a costume instead of being authentic.)

1. Wear more of the clothes I have
2. Stop buying so much new/buy more thoughtfully (this one comes up a lot! I am getting there with it, this is really just a reminder to keep me focused. I really don't NEED any more clothes yet.)
3. Have fun - with accessories etc.
4. Focus on comfort

Inspiration + Planning
I guess my ideal style would be somewhere between the Parisian artist (I found the book Paris Street Style to be very inspiring; I'm usually far too strange and scruffy for the traditional Parisienne look but I did enjoy the more offbeat styles such as this image of Julie Bocquenet. I also love the glowing-skin, undone-hair, minimal-make-up French beauty looks, although I like to add some shimmer around the eyes from time to time for a slightly more ethereal take), a hint of my nerdy/geeky interests, and some strong quirky vibes. Casual, relaxed, creative, and artsy. (My main Pinterest board for my style is this one.)

Planning-wise, I am very aware of my upcoming trip which will of course involve a level of enforced minimalism! So I don't want to rely too heavily on make-up, jewellery or serious fanciness to feel like myself. I am also a lot more active than I used to be - I am doing a LOT of walking and moving around lately so I like to feel comfortable and carefree and not have my movement inhibited. Lots of bangles or heavy jewellery have become immensely irritating to me.

Summer Staples
(I haven't worried too much about outfit formulas because thankfully all of my staples are relatively easy to mix-and-match and I don't really have to think about it.)
1. Nerdy T-shirt
2. Patterned cardigan
3. Quirky shoes (my glittery Converse, crochet Toms, or my new blue tie-dye skate shoes)
4. Customised backpack
5. Flared jeans
6. Statement jewellery (e.g. my coffee cup earrings, wooden mushroom necklace or the woven bracelets I tend to pick up in souvenir shops. I find a few pieces of jewellery can make a jeans-and-tee outfit look more 'art student' than 'lazy failed adult'.)
7. Vintage-style dress (this is vague, but that's because I love dresses, although I don't wear them much, and I have a fair few, mostly in replicas of 40s, 50s and 60s styles. My current favourite is the 60s-esque dress below which I actually got at the supermarket a year ago.)
8. Miniskirt (I have several basic ones which go with all of my T-shirts, and one or two fancier ones for going out.)
9. Pencil skirt
10. Vest top
11. Jazzy pants (anything not jeans! I have a few patterned pairs and a great pair of pinstriped trews that I have been making the effort to wear a bit more.)

I made this skirt!
Elbow patches are my favourite. (I got this cardigan for 95p because it has holes in it and the elbow patches are functional rather than decorative since the elbows are worn away. I still love it and wear it all the time!)

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