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April 2017

Simple Marketing

How To Style Your Windowsill For Instagram

April 9, 2017

Regular checkers of my Instagram will no doubt be familiar with my windowsills. They are a semi regular backdrop, and one of only a handful of places in my house that are photogenic enough to be used in my photo-taking. I think windowsills are a great photo setting, and here I’ll share my styling tips.

(And look out for the new hashtag alert at the bottom of the post!).

But first of all, why windowsills?

There are many reasons why windowsills make a good backdrop, the first one being that almost everyone has them (or at least access to one). Not only does this make them cheap and easy to use, but also relatable – whether you are selling products or a lifestyle, everyone can relate to a windowsill, right?

On top of that they have strong lines to base your composition around, they are neutrally coloured to fit any Instagram palette or style, and they come with a ready source of natural light. What’s not to love?

How to style yo’ ‘sill

Height

One of the benefits of using your windowsill is that the human eye recognises and gets it, so you don’t have to worry about things looking weird or out of proportion by standing them up like you would in a flat lay. The viewer’s eye will recognise the the familiar windowsill and compensate for it.

That means that unlike with traditional flat lays, you can afford to use items like clocks, picture frames and candles standing up rather than laying them flat. Using height adds interest and depth to your composition, helps to sell your subjects and creates a relatable and engaging image.

Light

One of the best things about windowsills is that they’re flooded with light. One of the worst things is that at certain times they are flooded with too much light. So tip one is to shoot when the sun is on the other side of the house – this creates a lovely soft light and reduces the shadows.

Another way to use light is to stand back from the sill and include part of the wall. This creates a lovely contrast, whites out any nasty views and is good for especially tall subjects like flowers. You also get some nice squared angles. See the example below – you can’t see the horrible roof outside the window, there’s a nice contrast of dark and light and the square angles of the window complement the delicate flowers.

Shape

I’m willing to bet that 99.9% of windowsills are rectangular. While those straight lines are a godsend for lining up your composition, if your subject is a book, or a print, or absolutely anything else made up of straight lines, it all ends up looking a little angular. And not in a good way.

My toppest tip for sill style is to bring in curves – cups, bowls, pots, pine cones, pebbles, even your hand. Circles soften the composition, create a visual contrast and make the whole image so much more interesting.

Angles

Working your windowsill is all about working the angles, as they are by no means perfect spaces. Maybe it’s the line of cars outside, maybe it’s the hideous plastic roof right below it, or maybe it’s  the view of other people’s satellite dishes (these are all things that are true in my case, by the way) – there will always be something to ruin your perfect shot.

This is where you use your props to your advantage. Strategically place them to cover up the big white van, or use a book to cover up the flaking paint work. Use your focus tools to blur the background (you can do this on your smartphone) or shoot from slightly lower than you usually would so that all you can see is sky.

Take the two pictures below from the Tea Journey – the first image uses books to the lift the subject higher, and a print to block out the cars parked outside. the second image is clearly shot from below, avoiding the ugly roofs and sheds, must using a cushion as a feature in the composition to soften the upward effect.

If you’re shooting straight down onto the sill, think about your floor. Use a rug to pretty it up or let the composition spill over onto the floor to add more interest. If you have a radiator issue, drape a blanket over it or prop cushions along the offending area to cover it up (although sometimes judicious use of brightness and contrast in editing can solve radiator woes).

In the shot below the curtain, and my washing basket(!) are included, while the napkin falls off the edge of the sill. This adds depth and more interesting shapes and textures.

#a_sill_life

If you’ve been inspired by this to go dust off your windowsills and scatter some petals, I’d love to see your work! I’ve started a new pun-a-rific hashtag for us to share our windowsill works of art: #a_sill_life. There’s also a Windowsill Styling board on my Pinterest you can check out for inspiration (and give this pinning a newbie a follow 😉).

Tag your Instagram images with #a_sill_life so we can all see and comment, plus I’ll do features on my feed too!

 

I’d love to know your thoughts on this post – and if there are any other Instagram tips you’d particularly like to know 🙂

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How to style your windowsill

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Simple Marketing Simple Self

Monthly Simplify: Planning For The Life You Want

April 5, 2017

Each month I pick one easy thing we can do to simplify our homes, diets and lives. This month, it’s planning for the life you want.

This month’s Monthly Simplify was something I decided quite last minute, but it makes perfect sense with where I am in my life and what I’m working on this month. Most of you will have seen on Instagram or on here that I had a pretty dark March – I was experiencing a lot of stress and negativity at work, my mind was so chaotic and I felt completely out of control.

You may not know but in my day job I’m a Marketing Manager for a global children’s brand. I work on content, branding, social, web, but a lot of my time is taken up with project management. What I’ve struggled with recently is how out of sync with my own consumer habits and beliefs my job is. I’m all about shopping small, supporting local makers and using our powers as consumers to fund a varied and wholesome marketplace. Filling the coffers of corporations doesn’t sit well with me morally, nor does it light my motivational fires.

So I feel March was my time to experience and process all that angst, but from April I really deal with it. I don’t have to put up with a life I don’t like, and I’m starting to plan for the alternative future. In my Hello to Spring post, I spoke about new starts, although I later realised that it sounded a lot like a pregnancy announcement was imminent! To clarify, I’m not having a baby. Not a human baby, at least.

But I am growing an idea inside me. Through Simple & Season I’ve quietly taken on a little consultancy work with start ups and creative businesses, and that has given me back a little of my raison d’etre. This month I’m working on my business plan with a view to launching full services and courses soon (note that I’m not putting a date on it..😬). You will see a little of this trickle through to the blog with newsletters (to help me out with this skip to the end of the post) and some more creative marketing content.

The reason I’m writing this longer-than-expected post is because I don’t think I was alone in my March blues. From those I’ve spoken to I feel there was a lot of dissatisfaction and chaos around, so I thought I’d pull together some of the things I’m doing to get back on track in the hope that you can too…

Do a personality test

I am a huge advocate of the 16 Personalities Myers-Briggs test, and always re-take it when I’m going through a period of flux. Myers-Briggs personality types tell you what drives you, how you work, how you interact with the world and generally why you are the way that you are. This Being Boss podcast explains it much better than me.

16 Personalities is great because the post-test insights are so spot on and useful that when you’re reading you just think ‘even I couldn’t have written a better description of myself’. This process, for me at least, is invaluable for confirming that your gut instinct about your life is correct, or confirming that you’re already on the right track, or even opening up something that you’d never considered about your life. It’s a great point at which to start your change and quieten the noise.

Plus, there’s something satisfyingly reminiscent of teen magazines about doing a personality test, right?

Podcasts

I’ve never been really into podcasts as I’m much more of a reader than a listener. However a few things coincided (Sara Tasker launching Hashtag Authentic and me starting to listen to podcasts to get through the working day) that has opened them up to me. I am far from a font of all knowledge on this, but I started listening to Jen Carrington’s Make It Happen for the stories of inspirational ladies who have done what I want to do, then Jen got me on to Being Boss, which is not only super inspiring but full of really great advice for creative entrepeneurs.

Get your sh*t together

Part of my bad March was just being completely chaotic and disorganised. Blog deadlines were whizzing by me, emails were going unanswered and I had no idea where I was. I don’t think I opened my paper planner for the whole month (because it’s just so far away from the sofa).

I downloaded Asana to organise my blog tasks after we trialled it at work and I felt the weight lift off my shoulders and a let out the most almighty sigh of relief. I separated all my projects, and created boards for all the things I had to do in each project. Seeing it laid out like that helped me to process and prioritise it, and now I have my daily tasks to focus on it stops me freaking out about everything else. I love lists SO MUCH, and Asana is all about the lists (and ticking stuff off).

Use your network

As I mentioned earlier, hearing that other people were having similar feelings to me in my Instagram circle was really reassuring to me. There’s a reason I used the word ‘network’ here and not ‘friends’. I love my friends dearly, but, and this might just be a me thing, I don’t feel I can talk to them about this stuff yet. They are too close to me, they’ve lived through all my phases, they know my history. I feel like we couldn’t have an objective conversation about it.

My network of Instagram friends, on other hand, don’t know the historic me. They know the me I’m trying to be, and they aren’t bogged down with who was at 17, or even last year. The conversation is more neutral, more practical, not so emotive. These conversations help things feel real and do-able, not just something I’m shooting the breeze about.

Plus, your network of people you idly chat to on social media are all like minded people in similar situations. They may know someone at a magazine you want to write for, or be going to a cool craft workshop, or may have some tips about getting paid. People love to share knowledge and to give a helping hand, so give them the opportunity!

Thank you for sticking with me on this – writing it has been cathartic, and I hope it helps you to think about the life you want if you too had a black March.

As mentioned above, I’d love your help to form an email newsletter. What sort of thing would you find useful and/or enjoyable to receive from me? Would you like a monthly challenge, how to’s, resources, or something completely different..?! I’d really appreciate your feedback in making it the best it can be.

If you’d like to hire me for creative marketing consultancy and coaching, email me for pre-launch rates 😉

I’m feeling the love right now, I hope you are too x

Simple Pleasures Simple Self

14 Beautiful Untranslatable Words

April 1, 2017

With the worldwide domination of ‘hygge’, and the increasing prevalence of its little sister ‘fika’, untranslatable words, particularly from Scandinavia, are rather in vogue. On our little island we are quick to borrow traditions, cuisines and language from other cultures – hence why we haul in our German Christmas trees, enjoy a curry and speak a hybrid latinate-Francophone-Germanic language. It is, in my opinion, what makes us interesting (not to get all Brexit on the subject, of course..).

But our quickness to borrow tends to make things all about us – how we can use and adapt it, how it relates to our culture and lives. What I love about some of these untranslatable words is how much they are a part of the place from whence they came. Like the word ‘Hanyauku’, from a Namibian language, which is the feeling of walking on tip toes across hot sand. That’s never a word we would come up with in the British Isles. Similarly, Japan, whose capital Tokyo has more Michelin-star restaurants that Paris and New York combined, has ‘Kuidaore’ – to eat yourself into bankruptcy.

Of course there are many words that have meanings so universal that it is quite a wonder that we haven’t adopted them already. There are romantic, soulful words, like ‘Mamihlapinatapai’ from Tierra del Fuego, which means ‘the wordless look between two people who both desire something, yet are equally reluctant to initiate’. The word itself may be a bit of a mouthful, but perhaps it speaks to our British emotional backwardness that this sentiment that we all know so well, has no English name. Similarly, Germany has ‘Fernweh’ – a homesickness and longing for a place you’ve never been.

Not all these universal words have such sophistication, of course. In Georgian, the word ‘Shemomedjamo‘ means ‘to continue eating past the point of being full because the food tastes so good’ – I experience this on an almost daily basis, WHY is there no English word for this?! Others include the Filipino word ‘Gigil’ (the overwhelming urge to squeeze or pinch something very cute) and Sweden’s ‘Tidsotimist’ (a person who is always late because they think they have more time than they have). One of my favourites following a recent trip to the hairdressers is the Japanese word ‘Age-otori’ – to look worse after a haircut.

Dotted through this post are pictures with other words that I’ve taken a particular liking to – here’s a list of them altogether:

Waldeinsamkeit
(German)
– the feeling of being alone in the woods
I think we all have our own version of this feeling – and what’s so lovely about it is that it will have a slightly different meaning for every different person.

Komorebi
(Japanese)
– sunlight filtering through trees
Of course there needs to be a word for this.

Mångata
(Swedish)
– the glimmering, roadlike reflection the moon creates on water
This is the word that inspired this post. It was so romantic, so evocative, so in tune with nature and the earth – I just loved it.

Sobremesa
(Spanish)
– the time after lunch or dinner spent talking to the people you shared the meal with
How wonderfully Spanish to have a word for this part of communal eating and socialising – it is also one of my favourite parts of a meal (because when the food’s there I do have a habit of silently ploughing through it ignoring my companions. Sorry).

Tsundoku
(Japanese)
– the act of buying a book and leaving it unread, often piled together with other unread books
This is basically the definition of me – this house is brimming with unread books, so I can totally relate. Seriously, this one made even my long suffering boyfriend snort with irony.

Meraki
(Greek)
– to do something with soul creativity and love; when you leave a piece of yourself in your work
This really speaks for itself – it encapsulates everything I love about the maker community and independent, local producers. Well done Greece.

Aware
(Japanese)
– the bittersweetness of a brief and fading moment of transcendent beauty
Quite a deep one to end on, but I liked how linked it is to the English meaning of ‘aware’ – showing how we are all perhaps not so dissimilar.

Have you picked up any favourite untranslatable words? Or if English isn’t your first language, I’d love to know if you have any favourite English words 🙂