Adventures in Nerdland

Post one of “Operation: Get Exploring.” Warning – many photographs!!

I said in my last post that I wanted to make sure I have a damn good time, and things have been pretty lovely recently with friend meetups and birthdays and family time but I wanted to start getting out there a little bit more and getting myself back into my adventuring mindset.

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So, last weekend I very definitely got out and went wandering around the Manchester Comicon! I met some fantastic people (cosplayers are literally the best people) who very kindly agreed to let me take their photo. Thank you to everyone who patiently posed whilst I tried to figure out how to focus the lens, and to the much more experienced and super nice photographer who gave me some tips. You are all legends 🙂

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For anyone featured in these pictures, please feel free to use them if you wish. Crop them, throw on a filter, anything you like. They are practice shots and I just really appreciated your time and your amazing costume work – you were so much fun to photograph. Crediting back to me would be lovely 🙂

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I have to admit it felt a little strange to not be in costume myself, but that’s just because I normally adore any excuse for a dress up and it was so fun to be in a costumed gang last year. You absolutely don’t need to dress up to go to a Comicon, it was about a 50/50 split in terms of who was rocking their normal clothes and who bossed their costumes.

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However, as I was wandering alone with my camera for a chunk of the day, I did feel pretty exposed as I’d very firmly put myself in a role where I needed to approach a LOT of new people. Not daunting at all(!!) I really appreciated how lovely everyone was and how open people were to having a chat though, and once I settled into things it was great spending a bit of time getting to know some of the artists whose work was out on display – there were so many secret fine artists and painters hiding in the comic book ranks!

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There were some amazing things on offer from all the merch stands – from big companies and small handmade outfits. Artwork, comics, homewares, props, jewellery, plenty of general merchandise, costumes, weapons, games, loot boxes and goodness knows what else and with my limited funds it was seriously hard not to just blow a bundle on half of the stuff there.

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It was also fab to meet up with the fabulous Nat and Jordan for a catch-up, and pretty surreal to be wandering around and then have people keep stopping them for a photo. Your outfits were awesome guys, and thank you for letting me tag along with you for the rest of the day and for introducing me to your other cosplay friends – I’m hoping I paid you back handsomely in all the freebie trading cards I accepted on your behalf and I can’t wait for a board game day!

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My favourite of the day had to be the couple with the giant Chocobo costume, complete with internal puppetry for the head to move, and in-built bird sound effects. That was a pretty awesome piece of work and my inner theatre designer was itching to see inside to see how it worked.

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Others that particularly stood out for me were all the Disney costumes as I bloody love Disney. From Peter Pan, Hook and Tink who were really fun to talk to, to the Disney princesses, and Meg who was really nice too.

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And this guy was also really lovely, and I could not believe the amount of work that was involved keeping all those blinking gemstones attached. It would drive me insane but the effect was amazing.

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But honestly, the level of detail in ALL these handmade outfits was fab. Cosplayers fascinate me – so much hard work and skill involved for something that, for the majority, is purely just for the love of it.

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And that love of all things pop culture, anime, movies, tv, games, Disney, board games, alt-fashion, books and anything else wonderfully nerdy is pretty darn infectious.  I left happy, with a full memory card of wonder, fifty gazbillion ideas for my own next costumed caper, and a mahoosive smile.

Thanks guys!

Peace out x

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Turning 30 at a fork in the road…

 

Me, Summer 2018

Last week, I went to my beautiful friend Lorna’s 25th birthday.

Next week, I turn 30.

And I can’t help reflecting on everything that has changed for me in the 5 years since my own 25th.

Back then I was only 6 months into a new relationship, unsure of myself, working in a call centre (with some awesome people), and I was happily coasting along without any real vision of what my future would be. I couldn’t ever see myself being able to afford to buy a house, and couldn’t really picture where my career would take me. I had a list of places I wanted to visit, but no idea how I would get there. I defined myself as creative but wasn’t actually doing anything artistic with my time, and wanted to build more for myself but didn’t know how.

Now, with a little over a week until my 30th birthday dawns, I fully expected to be feeling a little desolate. I’m still coming to terms with losing my Dad, and quite frankly who wouldn’t feel fed up with everything when a relationship of 5 1/2 years ends suddenly a couple of weeks before your big birthday?

But actually, when I think about it, I’m ok.

Over the last 5 years, I had an amazing relationship with someone I loved at the time, even if it didn’t last, and it’s left me changed for the better. I know more clearly what I want from life, who I am and what I stand for. I also know now that for my own happiness I need to value and chase my own dreams fully, purely and with abandon, rather than pinning my joy on someone else.

I also had some of my best years with my Dad and our family, making memories with them that I will treasure forever. His loss will forever define my life far more than a milestone birthday ever could. In the end, the number doesn’t matter. Everything is just before and after that day. But I have learned that I am stronger than I thought, and that his ability to love freely and fiercely is at the core of the strength I found. Even in the darkest of times, I can love. And I will continue to love both people and life, freely and fiercely, no matter what.

I embraced my artwork and had a go at setting up a little business from it. For the moment, I have things on hold whilst I sort out my personal life. But now I’ve found my creative fingertips again, I’m not letting anything stop me completely. I am drawing at least once a week still, and have a list of ideas as long as my arm for when I have a little breathing space to make a proper mess with paint and sculpting.

I changed job twice, from the call centre to a lovely HR team and now I work in a creative role at a University doing work that I love with a team who are awesome. I’d love to build on that in the next few years, but for now I’m happy learning.

I’m finally in a position to buy a house and have a mortgage, and have made tentative first steps towards trying to buy one that I like. I never thought this would be a real option for me. And now I just can’t wait to get my home base settled so I can go adventure!

My list of places to visit and what I’d do there has developed exponentially. Some I’ve been to, some I need to go back to, and some are freshly beckoning me. To help me get on the road (literally), I’ve booked in a whole bunch of driving lessons and have a car ready and waiting for me. Wish me luck!

And throughout all of the last 5 years, I have been held together by my amazing family and friends. From people who have known me since I was teeny (I know I know, I’m still teeny), to the people I have met over the last 5 years who have become part of my life… I hate the instagram hashtag but I really do feel #blessed to have such wonderful people around me. My family are incredible, and my friends have become a second family who I love dearly. We have laughed, cried, danced and adventured. We’ve grown and built things and consoled one another when things didn’t work out.

But most of all we’ve had fun.

And if I can wish for anything for my 30th birthday and beyond, with all the uncertainty that holds for me in this current moment, it’s to spend another five years having a damn good time.

Love, Stephanie x

 

 

 

 

 

Wishes for 2018

2017, I was very glad to shut the door on you yesterday.

You were a year defined by loss, and unsteady ground beneath my feet.

But you taught me a lot too.

How to love better, how to stay kind when my world was broken. How to just keep going. How it’s ok to step back, scale down, and admit that I don’t need to achieve everything I ever wanted by 3pm last Tuesday. How to find peace in small, blissful moments – and how to enjoy them without feeling guilty.

And amongst the days when my still-healing heart has been heavy, some wonderful things happened almost without my really noticing them properly:

  • Ben, Mango (the cat) and I moved into our first home together. I had a grand time making everything look festive for winter. Ben finally learned to appreciate that squidgy sofa cushions are marvellous. And Mango is happily snoozing her way around every blanket, cushion, bed, chair and fluffy rug in my collection of cosy things.
  • I had a lovely week away in a log cabin with a wood burning stove, where I taught Ben how to light a fire and taught myself how to whinge a little less when being made to go walking down country lanes – especially when those lanes lead to seaside chips and farmhouse breakfasts.
  • I spent a lot of time with my family, who I appreciate more, and I’ll probably always hug them a little tighter from now on.
  • There were some gorgeous days and nights with my favourite friends. My first Comicon, The Crystal Maze, celebrating an engagement, Escape Rooms, board games, cat cafe’s, cocktails, fluffy new additions to families, stately homes, Eurovision, carolling concerts, craft fairs, Halloween, and Christmas cheer.
  • I saw my first ever shooting stars and cried a bit at how amazing it was. And then I got very tipsy with some crafty loons who I love, in a field by a lake.

And I decided that these moments are my 2017. Appreciating loss, always missing, but clinging to these to shape my memories of the year – home, exploring, family, friends, and remembering to look up at the sky once in a while.

And for 2018?

I have two resolutions.

The first is simple – keep finding these small moments and make them my focus this year. Just to enjoy things.

And the second – I want to be a little kinder to this world we call home. From cutting down on meat and dairy to finding eco-friendly craft materials and switching to sustainable products at home. Just another set of small moments that should make another big difference by the year’s end.

x

Wait! It’s Still Christmas!!

Today, it was back to the day job for me.

My emails need answering, there are plans to make, videos to edit, web pages to update and graphics to design……. but I’m really not ready for it to be another year already. It’s too soon. Last year was loud. And crazy. And exhausting.

So far, I am observing the fact that it’s not *actually* 12th Night yet, and so Christmas isn’t really over. It’s helping me to avoid the shock of all that “New Year, New You” expectation that I’m magically going to be £1000 better off and a stone lighter by the end of the month, and making me be a little kinder to myself.

It means I’ve carried on my creative binge from Christmas week and am still making things rather than switching off and going straight back into desk mode. It means I can focus in the day job, because I’m not worrying about all the stuff I am supposed to achieve this month, season and year at my desk. And it means I’m much happier for it 🙂

And, most importantly, it means I can still eat lots of chocolate. Which is the most fun part surely!!

However, some New Year traditions remain – and yet again, I am making just one New Year’s Resolution.

Last year, I vowed to start showing people my artwork again after years of keeping it largely to myself and close friends. I made LOADS of things, developed my style, worked out what I was truly interested in and started developing new skills (woodcarving anyone??). By the end of 2016, I’d developed a little business that I am excited to grow this year and create even more exciting new things, and I met an amazing bunch of new friends who have taught me so much and laughed with me when I’ve ended up in a pickle with paint.

This year, it’s all about taking care of myself a little better. I’m not one for January Diets or impossible goals, so I’m keeping it simple:

Every week in 2017, I am going to do a minimum of one hour of proper, sweaty, exercise – and very occasionally, I might talk about it and how it’s going.

An hour, when you think about it, isn’t a lot out of a whole week, but I think it’s a good baseline for me to work from.

  • An hour is one Zumba class with my work mates.
  • It’s three quick 20 min sessions from my 30 day shred DVD.
  • Or a quick swim one day, followed by some hula hooping on another.
  • It’s some time laughing at myself falling over on a fake ski slope.
  • And, at a push, it’s an all-day walk in the hills with the boyfriend at the weekend if I’ve been feeling super lazy that week…

Overall, I’m excited to see where I get with this. I have 12 fitness DVDs that I’ve borrowed or found cheaply so I’m never without something new that month to do at home, and want to see how many different ways I can fill my hour as the year goes on. And if I really like them, I might even do TWO hours of things! In ONE WEEK!

But for now, it’s back to the art desk – top secret projects are afoot!

S

x

Pop Up Sale!

So, this week has been the final week for me to get my designs ready for the LLD Pop Up Emporium this Sunday 05 June, and in between hospital visits and a cat who was determined to try and sit on everything I drew, I just about made it!!

If you like art, jewellery, handbags, steampunk incredibleness, beutiful seascapes, papercutting, adorable unicorns, ghostly bunnies, tiny clay houses or awesome mixed media mashups, you will love this sale. AND it’s being done on Facebook, so you don’t even have to leave your sofa/ bed/ nest!

To join in, please click here for the codeword, which will be released at 8pm BST on Sunday 5th June 2016: https://www.facebook.com/ladylockdesigns

You can then use the codeword to nab some amazing items from the album here: https://www.facebook.com/ladylockdesigns/albums/1014945408585627/?__tn__=C

I’m a little daunted by this, as I will be listing alongside some amazingly huge names in the online art world, but I am psyched to be able to show off my first set of pieces in an event like this… and hopefully nab some of the amazing work on sale for myself too!

Happy Shopping 😀

 

 

The right tools for the job

When I first starting getting into art properly (around my first year of 6th form college), I’d convinced myself that, because I was a poor student, I couldn’t afford ‘the good stuff’ and I needed to just pick up rubbish versions of good products and bodge things together.

Cue never testing out my designs – or even bothering to design things before I started! – along with cheap paintbrush sets that came apart on their first use, £1 sets of acrylics that were so watered down they just bled everywhere, and trying to glue pieces of wood together with PVA. And then I would just bin them and get more because, well, they were only cheap!

And my work was, well, rubbish.

But it didn’t need to be. One or two good tools, and I could have done anything. I found an awesome artist on Instagram this week who makes really cool jewellery out of recycled toilet roll tubes. The reason her projects work is that she takes time to design them properly, measures out the pieces, and uses good tools, colours and adhesives to make the finished products shine with her little bit of awesome. And she’s recycling, which is always awesome in my book. (For anyone interested, she lives here: LINK)

Now that I saved up some money and took the time to choose some good tools (and actually design my projects and make prototypes out of some lovely cheap recycled paper before I take a knife/brush/needle/hammer to my final pieces) I am noticing a huge difference in my work.

However, with that difference I’ve also noticed that while my work is getting better, I’m often distracted by personal stuff. Like whether I fancy a nap, which biscuits I should munch on, and my slowly expanding waistline.

It’s all very well and good sitting and making things all day, but I’ve realised that if I don’t treat myself the way I treat my tools, I’m going to end up like one of those rubbish sets of paintbrushes and come apart. Because as an artist, I am my most important tool. (Yep, get those “Steph’s a tool” jokes out folks!!)

And for your success, you’re a pretty important factor in that too! So make sure, if you’re not looking after yourself the way you would that customer, or report, or project or even paintbrush like me, try giving your most important tool a little TLC. Go for that walk, eat that salad (or soup, I love soup), get someone to give you a shoulder rub, and balance your time so you get chance to stop and watch the clouds occasionally.

Maybe you’ll create some better art too!

Telling Stories: First Sale Item!

I really feel like I’ve been starting to find my ‘place’ recently with my work. I’d tried copying all sorts of people for practice at home, trying to figure out whose style was ‘mine’. I’d even bought some little bits of art from some of my favourite people to see if some of their talent would rub off.

The thing that really made me settle down though, were these two questions:

“When someone looks at something you’ve made, how do you want them to feel? And what things make you feel that way?”

And they started me off on a little adventure.

Because what I want people to do when they see my work is stop for a moment and smile. And I want them to feel entertained, and taken away somewhere else for a second. Somewhere lovely that reminds them of when they were six and wanted to be a knight or an astronaut or a ballet dancer or a doctor or a chef with a big floppy hat.

And the sorts of things that make me feel like that are the theatre, fairytales, nature and science. Sure, I have LOTS of things that I love. But it’s these four themes that cover all the moments in my life I can think of where I have stopped and just had to let the world around me sink in for a second because I’m so happy.Weather Life's Storms

Fast forward two weeks from those two incredibly helpful questions, and my work has really changed. I’m still happy to take commissions… but I can’t guarantee that the finished work will be serious! In my day job I am serious, and technical, and sharp. With my art, I am silly and joyful and I tell stories. And my first piece that came out of this (which honestly really feels like an actual piece of my heart out there for the world to see) is my first Story Box.

I plan to make lots of these, each one hand made and hand painted and hand built and hand everything. And each one will either tell part of a story or an entirely new one of its own. Little homes for my imagination. I really hope you like them, because I do!

Steph x