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June 2017

Simple Marketing

How To Get Inspired – from the Instagram Community

June 25, 2017

I quite often ask big open-ended questions in my Instagram captions. I love seeing how different people’s brains work, how differently we all see the world, but also how many threads of similarity bind us together. Of nothing is this more true than creative inspiration.

From the conversations I have almost daily with Insta pals, to a general mood I sense in captions and tweets, inspiration seems to be running low at the moment. Maybe it’s this summer light messing with our grids, maybe we’re all preoccupied with holidays and activities, or maybe, sadder still, it’s a general disheartening. Whatever’s causing it, I wanted to help us all get out of it.

So I posed the question on Instagram: what/who/how do you get inspired? I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the responses. They span from the digital, to the analogue, the indoor to the outdoor, and a healthy mix of fence-sitting in the middle too. If you’re stuck in the creative doldrums, then the ideas below are sure to get you out of it…

Instagram and Pinterest

Unsurprisingly top of the list, looking at other people’s work on Instagram and Pinterest came up again and again in the responses. I must admit that this is where I go for inspiration, saving Instagram pictures I like the look of (or sometimes just with a really nice book I want to check out). Although I do think, based on my own experience, that this can lead to photography that is a little derivative. That’s why I loved what kerryvillers said about Pinterest: “I like to search for surreal photography. My photos aren’t in the least bit surreal, but I find this category really inspiring nonetheless.” Looking at something different to your usual aesthetic prompts you to look at things differently and take inspiration from a shaft of light or an idea, rather than a composition you want to copy.

I also find taking part in hashtag projects can be really useful for prompting creativity. There is of course Instagram’s own #WHP (Weekend Hashtag Project – check the Instagram feed every Friday night for the theme), but others in your community may have projects too, whether it’s my #a_sill_life, sarah_louise_ferg‘s #botanicalbodyhair or lapinblu’s #fridayfacelessportrait.

Props and Books

Having a new prop or product to work with can be really helpful for sparking new ideas. Whether you spend 75p on a charity shop vase, treat yourself to coffee in a pretty cafe or decide to completely redecorate, that’s up to you. But a new shape or colour to play with can be very helpful for making you think and look differently.

Many people also love to look at artworks and photography that aren’t on a screen. Illustration and interiors books came up commonly through the comments, and seeing images blown up on paper pages rather than in tiny squares is definitely useful for examining the craft and detail that goes into them. In much the same way as writers are encouraged to read more to improve their craft, the same is true for visual creatives. To maintain a stream of creativity and a visual vocabulary, you must look and learn from others.

kerryvillers “get your arse on eBay, you’ll find loads of reasonably priced lovely furniture there”

rae_of__light” l start with an idea/theme for each space, then find colors, textures, and pieces that will work toward that idea. Materials are very important to me, and the natural and artificial lighting. And there is absolutely no shame in thrifting! Some of my Goodwill finds are on my lnstagram, as well as some from Easy.”

mesmerize_garden “I took inspiration from Greenery being colour of the year, but not directly – so colour of green (mostly leafy palms inspired wallpapers) grey, white and touch of white. Find your theme, colour scheme and start with mood board on Pinterest.”

leaelmphotography “I get inspired by paintings, old photographs, other people’s writing, literature, books. Mostly I find creativity when I see a photo or a painting or read a text that connects with me through time. Something I relate to, even if it was captured, made or written a long time ago. It makes me look for stories that I wouldn’t otherwise have thought of seeking. I love Atget’s photographs when he traced the streets of Paris that meant something to him, I love the stillness and silence of Hammershoi’s paintings because I carry that silence in me too and I love Nemirovsky, Woolf and Austen, all those women that came before me to show me the way.”

beckyocole “For me inspiration comes from a great novel, nature, Vogue, old black and white movies, journaling.”

simpsonsisters “Much of my inspiration has come from the places in which I have lived; the elements within them, experiences enjoyed or endured, the smells and textures I associate with them and the objects I brought with me. Furniture that was in my childhood bedroom and is still with me today, pottery made and given to me in South Africa, buxus and hydrangeas from Belgium and a growing interest in simplicity and design from Sweden”

The Outdoors

As much as looking and playing provided inspiration, so too did doing just the opposite – heading outside and not thinking about creativity at all. Whether it’s lonely walks in the wild, or heading into the city to see friends, leaving the desk or studio seems to really crank up the creativity. Sometimes it’s to let the mind wander off in uncurbed tangents, or for others it’s to get a complete distraction and recharge the brain. Or maybe it’s a bit of both – either way, fresh air and a moving body seems to do wonders.

sarahdshotts “My favourite source of inspiration is micro-adventures. Something that breaks up my routine and lets me explore. A morning walk, trip to the library, afternoon in a museum, or even something like trying a new recipe or creative project that’s just for fun.”

songofthestitch  “Completely agree with those who said being outside is key for inspiration – taking a long walk is great for clearing my head and allowing my ideas to fall into place. Plus I am far more likely to see things that I want to photograph! I find that my head can get so saturated with ‘inspiration’ from different sources that I need to step away for a few hours!”

sarah_louise_ferg “The outdoors! The landscape. My daughter. The seasons…”

hasang89 “For me inspiration comes from nature (sunset/milkyway/flowers and so on) also a short story books (childhood books) and from a good memories with good people. I love to get inspiration from the pictures of other countries, cultures and people.”

acornandauger “Ethical clothing, nature walks (or strolls/picnics through fields woodlands) food foraging, cloud watching (finding shapes and pictures) the idea of travelling. Nothing beats the natural and wider world.”

ukyankeelife “I get inspired by taking myself out of my little home office cocoon & plunging into new places & experiences. Sometimes its hard to overcome the inertia but it is always worth it!”

damselinlondon “My inspiration comes from those days and moments when I get myself out of the house, even if just for a wander around London.”

Letting It Percolate

Of course, there will always be those who sit on the fence (!). For these girls, it is a combination of all of the above that come together for their inspiration. They need to take in one form of inspiration, and then let it simmer and percolate while doing something else before taking action.

katbluejay “I tend to look to Pinterest, my fave instagrammers and podcasts. I then, crucially, take a step back and go outside/spend time in nature/live life. The combination tends to work for me, I need that step back to let things marinate!”

vitavihandmade “I get inspiration from botanical illustrations, interior design magazines, walks in the nature but most of all from meetings with friends”

siobhanwatts  “I find being in nature about the best source of inspiration there is, but I love to curl up with a book or magazine filled with beautiful recipes and interiors.”

 

What do you think? Your challenge is to pick a couple of these tips and use them to inspire your own creativity – don’t forget to tag me in your posts so I can see and share them 😊

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Simple Marketing

How Online Community Can Improve Your Life And Business

June 18, 2017

Community seems to be everywhere right now. In every Twitter chat, Instagram caption and online conversation, the importance of online community is on everybody’s lips. At this year’s Blogtacular, community was a running theme throughout the talks, all the way to the ‘My Tribes Loves My Vibe’ goodie bags.

I, for one, believe wholeheartedy in the importance of online community for those of us pursuing a creative life. Whether you’re a designer-maker, creative entrepreneur, digital influencer or just a human, it is an essential part of the way we live and do business now.

But why?

The nature of work has changed more in the last two years than it has in the last fifty. No longer do we have to work in traditional roles, nor, crucially, in one place. Remote and home working in digital roles are increasingly becoming the norm, and women in particular are going further, taking control of their earning power and building businesses and careers on their terms, based around the internet.

As part of this expansion of traditional work, it becomes more vital to surround ourselves with people that get what we do. Our traditional support structures, like family and friends, may not altogether support our choices and decisions, or they might not understand fully what you do, its value and how the money comes out the other end. Either way, digital entrepreneurship can be a lonely place

Surrounding yourself with people who get it, who you don’t have to explain your business to for half an hour, who respect and believe in you as a peer, is a lifeline. More than before, they are the ones who can tell you everything will be ok, and you’ll believe it because you know they understand you.

Our online communities are also our new office mates, the ones we bounce ideas off and the ones who club together to achieve something big. My Instagram Pod mates are a shining light in my day, sharing ideas on creativity and composition, suggesting tweaks to images and giving suggestions to boost each other’s performance. We also moan about our unfair ‘boss’ (the algorithm), having a little whine at the imaginary water cooler and swapping ideas on how we can impress him.

Our community also becomes a ready source of collaborations, whether these result in products between makers or simply finding information and opinions for blog posts. Your community is your free focus group, ready to provide insights and tips to help you grow in a meaningful way. And, just like tradiotnal professional networking, your online community can help get you sales and clients that grow your business in the way you want.

So how do you leverage this community?

Create support networks

Instagram Comment Pods get a bad name, and if done badly they can be pretty gross and have a negative effect. There are services that match people together, but in my experience this does not a happy pod make. I’m a member of two ‘organic’ pods, all full of creative ladies whose days I enjoy to see. I started a pod of the people whose posts I loved to see and who were my Instagram friends.

My advice for setting up a pod is to start with the intention of chatting. With my Happy Podders (shout out), we all were feeling a little adrift and uninspired, so the creative communication was a key motivator in founding the group. When inviting your online besties, make clear that it’s not just a comment pod, it’s a place to share and chat.

If Insta isn’t your thing, you can join community support networks elsewhere. Facebook groups are having a bit of a surge in the creative world as they are annoyingly convenient, and there are plenty of excellent existing ones you can join. Similarly, Twitter chats can be a great way to connect with your tribe, particularly as many in our industry (#blogtacular, #theinstachat, #ethicalhour) are aimed at solving creative dilemmas and talking shop.

Engage and interact

You can be in all the support networks you like, but they won’t work unless you talk to people! If the idea of that gives you the heebie jeebies, then you might find this post on Instagramming for Introverts a good starting point to get your confidence up. The good news is that the online creative community are without exception a supportive and positive bunch

You won’t reap the benefits of community, nor build up your community, without being an active member. If you’re not sure of what to say, ask questions – ask something that’s been bothering you, ask what others a struggling with, ask what kind of flower they used in a photo. Questions are an excellent way to get a conversation started, and also to keep one going – just like real life awkward meetings. Answer the questions that you’re knowledgeable about too, and rapport will quickly grow.

Be valuable

In order for a community to thrive, it has to have valuable members. An online community where everyone just self-promotes instead of genuinely engaging will be a very short-lived one. There are two clichés to keep in mind here: give as much as you get, and do unto to others as you would have done to you. If someone comments on or interacts with your content, comment back on theirs in a genuine way. Join in conversations (people don’t mind) and answer other people’s questions.

Being a valuable community member will lead to more genuine and meaningful relationships, and therefore a more genuine and meaningful business.

 

If you’d like to learn all about building a community, you can get my free ebook, How to Build Your Online Community here. It has everything I know from the professional marketing world and the blogosphere, plus it’s super pretty. You just need to sign up to my Monthly Mail to get it free.

Interiors Simple Pleasures

3 Interior Design Commandments

June 4, 2017

My head is full to the brim with houses right now. For those of you who don’t follow me on Instagram, you have missed out on the saga of the last month – we’ve found a new home and are moving 202 miles away to a little town in the Snowdonia National Park. Bet you didn’t see that coming, right?

This new house has a lot of expectations on its shoulders. Not only our hopes and wishes of what our new life will be like, but practical expectations too. I will be working there, living there, it will be my sanctuary when I feel alone in a new town, and it will be a sometime hotel to the family and friends we insist on coming to stay.

So what goes into this new home, and the planning and design of the rooms and atmosphere, are more important than the last time we moved. How am I going to make this house a home, and how can I help it fulfil all the duties I expect of it?

Inspired by Blogtacular x West Elm I’m starting with the furniture we need, and how I want it to make me feel in this new chapter of my life. I’ve picked out some West Elm goodies that would feature in my #dreamwestelm makeover, but are nonetheless inspiring the aesthetic of our new home.

In our old house, it always felt a little like we were camping out. It always felt…temporary. A classic case of a house that had been rented out for decades, with only the bare minimum of work and updating done to it – there were cracks in the plaster, paint flaking off in chunks and peeling woodchip wallpaper. No matter how much I spread around my trinkets and spruced with flowers, the walls were still crumbling away from the persistent damp.

Our new home, however, is freshly refurbished with the counter tops of dreams and beautiful pine doors. An old Welsh miner’s cottage, it sits at the end of a teeny narrow terrace, has zero straight walls or angles and is built with huge thick grey stone. There are ferns growing out of the back wall and perfect views of the mountains from the window. So it’s pretty dreamy (not quite a farmhouse with an orchard, but still dreamy).

But still there’s work to be done to make it our own. Here are my three commandments for designing this house, and I’d love to know any you’d add in the comments.

It shall be light and airy

While the walls are painted a light magnolia (of course), I am conscious that this house will be prone to darkness. The Welsh climate isn’t known for its year-round sunshine, and with old thick walls come small windows and slate floors and sills.

I therefore want to avoid bulky furniture, dark woods and general clutter that will steal the light. Given that it’s a design aesthetic made to deal with limited light, I’m heading down the Scandinavian route when it comes to theme. Simple accessories, block colours, and light, mid-century style furniture are what I’m coveting. I’m hoping this look will also help keep the decks a bit clearer and make me commit to that clean-lined aesthetic.

West Elm Ladder Shelf Media Console

Image via westelm.co.uk

Case in point is West Elm’s Ladder Shelf Media Console. When you rent you can’t just be drilling holes all over the place, so you end up with a lot of bare wall, or big bookcases. These open shelves make use of that space without being bulky or light-stealing (and just imagine the shelfies…).

There will be quality over quantity

We moved into our last house very quickly, and we needed to buy a house full of furniture in a matter of weeks. As such we bought cheap and cheerful, and I think that is part of the reason it never felt homely. A cheap MDF coffee table is never going to feel as precious and stable as real wood with a gorgeous patina.

I think we underestimate that in our homes and furniture. Just how much effect they can have on our mood and well being. So I’m keen, where I can, to buy things that aren’t going to make me feel temporary, that will make me joyful and content. I’m going to be a little prone to loneliness as it is, so I want to be surrounded by things that build me up not bring me down. Things that I love, things with a little heart and soul, things which I can be confident in and things I can feel good about.

Each room will have it’s own purpose

At some point it became necessary, or fashionable, for rooms to have multiple functions – see kitchen-diner and bedroom-office. Of course, needs must in small and urban homes, but in our old home we really took it the extreme. We had a bathroom-utility, the lounge was a living-dining-exercise-office room and our bedroom tripled up as the attic and laundry room.

None of which was particularly zen or calming and led to a general feeling of mess and chaos all over the place. This is something I’m desperate to get away from.

I want every room to have a purpose. Moving into an area of much lower house prices has meant we’ve got a third bedroom, which has opened up a world of opportunity. In the old attic on the top floor of the house are the two rooms with the best views and light. My vision for up here is to have a floor of creativity. One of the rooms will be Dan’s room, where all his 60s and 70s vinyl can be displayed and played to his heart’s content (and maybe I’ll do a sneaky bit of yoga in there too).

The other room is going to be my office. It was really important to me to have boundaries now I’m going to be working for myself from home and I wanted to make sure I had a room to work in so the living room could be a laptop-free zone. This is the lightest room in the house, so as well as my writing and marketing work I’ll be doing the crafts I’ve been longing to take up and doing all my photography in here.

The #dreamwestelm Makeover

I’m focusing on this creativity floor for my #dreamwestelm makeover (it’s mainly just my office but I don’t want to be completely selfish now…😉).

Desk

I need a small desk – the bigger the desk the more space there is for me to dump piles of paper and photo props. I can’t choose between these two: I love the clean lines and openness of the of the Mid-Century Mini Desk (and it’s photo backdrop potential, obvs), but I’ve wanted a bureau-style desk since I was really little and the Mid-Century Mini Secretary is the stuff of my childhood dreams (yep, I was that kind of kid). Which would you choose? Maybe I need two desks….

 

Mid Century Mini Desk Acorn

Image via westelm.co.uk

 

West Elm Mid Century Mini Secretary

Image via westelm.co.uk

Seating

A spinny chair that looks and feels like an armchair – need I say more? I can just see myself in the winter months, wrapped in a blanket cradling a cup of tea, gazing out of the window trying to spot the mountain top through the mist. Given my persistent back problems it is doubly important for me to have a good quality, supportive chair to work in, and the Helvetica Office Chair comes a gorgeous dark grey, so winning (and spinning) all round.

Helvetica Upholstered Office Chair

Image via westelm.co.uk

Storage

Storage is key for me in our new house. In order to keep the clean uncluttered lines I crave I need to, well, keep the lines uncluttered. That means having furniture I can hide all my props and papers behind, while displaying only some key favourite items.

West Elm Fishs Eddy Sideboard

Image via westelm.co.uk

The Fishs Eddy Sideboard (above) combines practical storage with the lightness I’m looking for – the white and tonal greys lighten up the whole piece and slot just perfectly into the Scandi theme (and also you all know how much I love grey). Similarly the Modern Narrow Tower bookcase is just the right size for slotting into our weird angles while keeping it all airy.

West Elm Modern Narrow Tower

Image via westelm.co.uk

Textures

I still want to keep this space homely and cosy – I want a little soft feminity among the light wood and storage. I love decorating with texture, I think it’s the easiest way to create interest and comfort, so I’m looking for textures to complement my already huge wool blanket collection.

West Elm Mural Collection Abstract Rug

Image via westelm.co.uk

I’m looking at the Mural Collection Abstract Rug (above) with its pinky browns and greys to bring luscious softness, braided baskets for extra storage (and photos, of course), plus a statement planter to inject some energising greenery. All to be paired with my favourite prints from indie makers, and, if I ever get around to it, some homemade bits and pieces too. First on the list is a lovely textural cork board…

West Elm Braided Baskets

Image via westelm.co.uk

West Elm Mid Century Turned Wood Leg Planters

Image via westelm.co.uk

 

I’d love to hear what design commandments you have for your home, and any tips for creating boundaries in your home. And, most importantly, which of the two West Elm desks you prefer…