My Life

Strange Times!

I keep seeing the phrase ‘strange times’ on every platform: It is strange to have to stay at arm’s length from our loved ones and experience all the upheaval that the response to the virus has required. The repercussions will go on. At times, it is overwhelming and difficult to comprehend.
What has uplifted me and kept me going, is that in distancing ourselves physically, it seems to me that our sense of community appears to be bringing us together in new and multi-faceted ways.
Whilst many things have closed, other things appear to have opened up, especially in the art world.

Virtual Tours

So many of great museums and galleries have responded by bringing more of their collections to the internet. There is so much to see now online that I could sit all day and cruise the material available online:
https://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/virtual-museum.html
https://www.kew.org/about-us/virtual-kew-wakehurst

Engaging Activities

Lots of places have been actively engaging us with activities to help keep us stimulated
My own local favourite Wollaton Hall has an interesting project going called the Museum of Me.

Earlier this week, I watched Grayson Perry’s Art Club on Channel Four and it was fun to watch. He is encouraging people to submit artwork to the show and I might do that, if I can muster any courage! Each episode will have a drawing theme and yesterday’s episode was about portraits, so right after the programme, my partner and I drew each other with a 10 minute limit.

NHS Advice

I found this really helpful article from the NHS about mental well-being while staying at home.

Project

With things quieter on the business front, I have a little more extra time.
I decided to join in the 100 Days Project alongside other artists on Instagram! Decided to focus on the Animal Kingdom because it is an aspect of my painting I want to improve. I started at A and am working my way through the alphabet! My favourites so far are the Bat and Crab!

Vegetable Container Gardening

My partner and I have absolutely no experience with growing crops, so we decided to start off with buying starter vegetable seedlings from our local Homebase: Trying container gardening, rather than digging up a vegetable patch. Small steps.

We have leeks which are doing very well. The radish and tomatoes have grown bigger but look a little unhappy. Based on research, I realized that they may be happier being in a greenhouse, which we don’t have. The strawberries are doing well, however there are holes in the leaves. Gotta find out what’s munching them! Herb wise, we have rosemary, thyme and parsley. I have really enjoyed popping out and picking them for my cooking recently! Just like indoor gardening, it is a learning curve and a fun thing to do.

Indoor Gardening

It is the growing period for houseplants, so I have been doing re-potting sessions over the last three weekends. They seem to be very happy and growing new leaves! It also has been very warm recently so I have been paying attention to those that needed a misting or watering.

When we renovated our porch room in early February, we built shelves inside the window where we can display all the cacti and succulents! The porch room is south facing and gets really hot, which is a perfect environment for them. Just last week, I was very excited to see some of the cacti blooming flowers!

My partner’s parents got me some lithop and cactus seeds for Christmas which I sowed into 12 peat pots. All the pots eventually grew seedlings. Hurrah! They don’t look like a lithop or cactus but despite my puzzlement, I am overjoyed to see some green and I can’t wait to see them grow bigger!

Cooking

We have been doing a lot of new to us recipes during this time. Normally, when we are really busy, I cook our tried and tested favourites. However, having a little more time has allowed us to be a bit more experimental in the kitchen. We have been making a lot of new wholesome recipes using pulses and so far, we would recommend these recipes:

Creamy chicken, bean & leek traybake

Haddock with cannellini beans & artichokes

Middle Eastern lentils

We have the cookbook Tin Can Cook by Jack Monroe and it is a godsend if you want to go through your tins. Love lots of her recipes and are looking to buy more of her cookbooks.

Keeping in Touch

I have been trying to keep up with posting on Instagram. Also touching base with my family every day – even if it’s just a quick text or foodie photo!

It’s easy to forget the basic things that help to keep us healthy and emotionally sorted: sleep, exercise, fresh food, water, time outdoors – so we are concentrating on these things.

In these strange times, take care friends and stay well!

Spring

Spring

Spring is here! There are lots of signs: Colourful crocuses peeping out from the grass, swathes of dancing daffodils along embankments, beautiful cherry blossom hanging from the trees. There are so many beautiful flowers popping their heads up into these early cold months: Daffodils, tulips, crocuses, snowdrops, bluebells, and hyacinths, to name but a few. These brave pioneers of the flowering world pushing their heads up into the frosty world.

Beautiful crocuses in Woodthorpe Grange Park

Garden

We moved to our home at the end of 2018 and we have not had time to consider the garden very much. So many other priorities at first. But we have been discussing it from time to time. As the days get milder and the light stays for longer, I have found my thoughts are turning more and more to our garden space.

My mum gifted me this interesting old book at Christmas: Wildlife Gardening by Fran Hill. I certainly like the idea of having a wildlife friendly garden, even though we are in the city. Our pollinators, especially bees, could use all the help they can get. We are very lucky to have a garden and want to use it for growing food as well as lovely plants. So as winter rolls into spring we are having a think about what to plant in the garden. I will update you with our progress.

Some herbs and starter vegetable plants – tomato, strawberry, radish, leek and jalapeno chilli

Being Thankful

Spring – a season of fresh new hope and renewal. This year it is different for all of us across the world. To stay true to the spirit of this time, I am trying to think of all the things I am thankful for:

  1. Having access to the Internet means I have the world at hand. Sites like Instagram and You Tube means that I can keep in touch with communities and like-minded people.
    There are several art projects on Instagram encouraging people to keep in touch: Amy Rose Geden’s Stay at Home Art Club and Carson Ellis’ Quarantine Art Club, to name two.
  2. Museums and galleries are aiming to put more programming onto You Tube to share their collections.
    • I recently noticed a request from the V&A museum in London regarding what content we, the public, would like to see. V&A You Tube.
    • Then there’s the British Museum’s Curators Corner, which explores the curator’s favourite museum pieces. BM Curator’s Corner.
    • My local Nottingham Contemporary has some very interesting YouTube videos. Nottingham Contemporary You Tube.
  3. We are a long way from our family, but we can still have face to face time using Skype or video calling on WhatsApp.
  4. Our brilliant posties and parcel delivery companies are still working hard: I can send out orders, send letters and cards to my friends and family and receive the things I need without going out.
  5. Thanks to the people who are manning and stocking the supermarkets; the truckers who are transporting our goods; and the people who are still working to make and produce all the things we need. We managed to get some eggs yesterday. Yay! We were beginning to think we had an egg-less future.
  6. I am so grateful that we live in a country with universal health care: Free at point of use. It is times like these that we can really appreciate access to our health service. Not compromised by our ability to pay or by greedy insurance companies. I am so thankful for the NHS staff and the wonderful work they do.

The list could be longer – but this post has to finish.

Do take care, keep safe and well.

Welcome 2020 and the Top Drawer Event

I hope you all had a lovely holiday season and a great start to the New Year.

2020 already! Where did last year go? 2019 flew by as I continued to develop my art practice and grow my business and in a blink, it was gone. So, welcome 2020, I am excited to see what it brings.

I love having my online shop and, even though they are very tiring, I love market days too, especially because I get to meet lots of the lovely people who support my business.

Markets and fairs are such a good way for makers to showcase their work. When I am at these events, I am often reminded of the Just a Card Campaign, which was set up by artist and designer, Sarah Hamilton. The campaign aims to encourage people to support artists, designers and small, independent businesses, by reinforcing the message that all purchases, even ‘just a card’, does make a difference. So, while I can’t buy all the goodies that I come across, buying something small, like a card, really helps creators.

Being able to support myself as an artist and maintain my practice through income generated from my illustrations, can be very challenging. Whilst I would really love to sit and make art all day, the reality is that, like makers of any kind, I must keep finding new ways to sell my work in order to make a living!

So last year, with the hope of increasing my wholesale business, I applied for a stand at the January 2020 Top Drawer event – ‘the UK’s leading lifestyle trade show for design-led brands’ – and I was excited to be accepted into their ‘Spotted’ location in this month’s show.

There was a lot of behind-the-scenes work to get ready for the show, as well as developing my new Spring / Summer 2020 designs (more of that next month) so I was grateful to have the support of my fiancé, Aneurin, especially with the technical side of getting the wholesale catalogue ready and preparing the stand plan.

The show, held in London, is a regular, bi-annual event where buyers and retailers from all over the country can come and have a look at makers of all types: It is a five day event – two days to set up your stand and three days for the actual show, meeting, greeting and networking.

It was very nerve-racking and exciting. Being quite a shy person, it certainly stretched my communication skills. We had a British Sign Language interpreter with us, which helped. I managed to say ‘hello’ to everyone who passed by and learnt a few things about networking along the way. We aimed to be easily accessible, clear about the range of illustrations available and take orders quickly and efficiently. Adding SKU codes underneath every product on the stand, with a clipboard stacked with printed order forms, a calculator and a card reader at the ready, led to some very positive remarks on our organisational skills!

The show went very well, far beyond my expectations. I met lots of independent retailers and gained EIGHT new stockists. One of them was the Royal Horticultural Society, which is one of my dream stockists. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I received an email from them placing an order! Happy, happy dance! It is a great start to 2020 for Katrina Sophia!

Whilst there wasn’t much time to have a look around at all the other exhibits, I did come across some fantastic new-to-me artists. Do go and look them up:

Both Emilia and Alice are now on list for items as we do up the house.

It was an exhausting five days. Luckily, we were glad to be able to enjoy some home comforts by staying with my mum in London! Thanks Mum!

A big shout out to my fiancé, for his outstanding support both before, during and after the show. I am looking out for something special for him for Valentine’s Day!

And lastly, but not least, as 2020 begins its sprint, a massive ‘THANK YOU’ to all of you who have supported and continue to support my creative business, from reading my blog to buying a card to commissioning art works.

You keep me doing a happy dance! Follow the link to a fun little video from the Just a Card Campaign

My 2018 & New Year Goals

I can’t get over how quickly 2018 seemed to pass. It seems to me that time goes faster as I get older, and last year is definitely the fastest year I’ve ever had!

I think it has to do with how hectic my year was. It’s not a bad thing at all – I just can’t recall when was the last time before Christmas that I had a moment to catch my breath, especially in the festive period when I had markets almost every weekend AND prepared to move house at the same time.

Buying a house is one of my biggest bits of news from last year! Aneurin and I also got engaged! I wanted a short engagement but we agreed to focus on the house first. Now that’s sorted out, whether we are going to have a wedding is on my mind and frankly, the thought of walking down an aisle does not do my anxiety any good, so I like the idea of eloping! Either way I really cannot wait to marry my love!

My 2018 word was “GROW”. My sales improved significantly in 2017 and I wanted to work harder on my shop, grow my product range, and partner with more stockists. That is exactly what I’ve done over the last year and I saw results from the hard work. I hoped for more stockists, and need to work on outreach and promotion, but I launched a lot of products in 2018 – a Valentine collection celebrating sign language and the Deaf community; wire bound notebooks; new collections of prints and cards; Plant Ladies and Potted Plants postcards; aptly named GROW tote bag; a weekly planner, and ceramics.

I am most excited about my ceramics – my first ever glaze fire in late 2017 flopped and it left me disheartened, but in the summer of 2018 I gave it another shot and tried another kiln firing place. This time my ceramics came out really nicely and they were fit for sale! I have had an overwhelmingly positive response to my ceramics, and while I still love designing stationery I’ve found I really enjoy the hand building aspect that comes with pottery, applying my illustration in different ways and bringing more one-of-a-kind pieces to my shop.

I am stumped what is my word of the year for 2019 and I haven’t come up with any new year’s resolutions either – but I do know that I want to be better at self care while I continue to grow my shop by carrying on what I am doing. I want to improve certain areas in my business, such as my online marketing and connecting with my audience through this blog and my mailing list. I am also looking forward to settling into my new home and studio. I am feeling optimistic about what this year will bring and excited to see what else I can pull out of my hat in my work!

We’re Engaged!

Look at this beautiful portrait of us I commissioned Natalie Harney to illustrate.

On Valentine’s Day, Aneurin proposed to me with a emerald ring and I said yes! Well, I didn’t say yes immediately, I actually thought he was kidding. I had to pick up the ring and inspect it first! It was dark, we’d just finished watching an awful romantic film with a good cheeseboard but rubbish red wine. Once I realised he was serious about wanting to marry me, I said, “yes, I will marry you!”

He meant to propose on our 5 year anniversary in Edinburgh two weekends before, but the ring wasn’t ready then. Looking back, I am quite thankful that he didn’t propose in public somewhere in Edinburgh – I am very shy and I probably would be a little peeved with him for putting me on the spot!

The proposal was a complete surprise. We’d agreed quite early in our relationship that we would not get married. But Aneurin changed his mind after five years for the tax benefits, but after some prodding I got him to admit he is a little bit romantic after all!

Back to this commissioned portrait – I’ve always loved Natalie’s illustrations and her minimalistic style so when I needed an anniversary gift for Aneurin I knew where to go! Working with her was a breeze. I asked her to base the illustration on this picture and because some parts of us are cut off I sent her few more photos of us. She captured us so well and I can’t wait to frame it and hang it in our forever house (we’re currently house hunting and hopefully will find something perfect by next year!).

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