Monday, 30 November 2009

Open for business

Oh you made it! I am so glad you could come along. It's quite a party here, come on in and grab yourself a glass of bubbly and something to nibble. Now don't worry, not everyone knows each other so let me introduce you to a few people. Follow me... Mind you don't trip on the red carpet, Kate Winslett just went such a cropper and snapped a heel on her strappy sandal. It was a good job Jimmy Choo was here with a few free samples just her size - that's him over there on the floor checking out feet and about to be stepped on by Kevin Spacey.

Well, this is the party room, I'll take you through to the gallery shortly. There are some wonderful artists here already though. Oh look, over here are the lovely ladies from Inspiration Avenue, they are such darlings and the most creative creatures. Can I tell you a secret? They've asked me to join their little tribe. I'm so honoured I'm virtually speechless. Well, I would be if I wasn't such a chatterbox! Oh, there's one missing... where's Luthien? Ah there she is. I knew I shouldn't have invited Robert Pattinson, she's been glued to his side since he arrived...

Look who else is here, or should I say 'Hugh' else - Mssrs. Jackman and Grant, why don't I leave you in their charming company while I ready myself for my opening speech.

Ahem, Ladies & Gentlemen, thank you so much for making the effort to fight the rain and paparazzi to be here with me today at the opening of my Gallery. I'm delighted to see you all. I can't believe it has been only a few short months ago that I once more picked up a paintbrush after years spent in creative exile. It has been through the encouragement of you, my fellow bloggers and superstars that has prompted not just an artistic outpouring but the opening of this Gallery - my Etsy shop. Without your support and wonderful comments I would never have believed in myself enough to take this gigantic step. I am proud to be a part of this inspirational tribe.

Without further ado, and before Shirley Bassey starts singing again, may I now proudly declare, my Etsy shop well and truly open!

Do step on in and have a look around and please let me know what you think. I'll be adding more as the weeks progress so feel free to help me clear some space in the stock room!

Picture up topwas created just for today. I was going to put her for sale but I'm rather attached. She's another mixed media piece - I painted a party background on a canvas block. Transferred on the image of the party girl using gel medium then painted and oil pastelled over the top of her. I even 'sewed' on the sequins!

A special invitation...

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Game

Cheryl turned sideways, sucked her tummy in and drew herself up to her full 5 foot 5 inches. She was ready for battle and had no intention of becoming a casualty. Her eye on the prize she began to move imperceptibly across the field. Sidestepping the eye of the enemy she kept her focus. It helped to turn sideways, she could slip through the ranks un-noticed, then a quick flick of the shoulder and she was past the first wave. Watching carefully she judged her next move. Where would it be safest to position herself? It wasn't just a matter of grabbing the first safe spot, it was about who would be her wing man. She hesitated almost a moment too long as she spotted an incursion to her left. But Cheryl was a veteran, she knew the game. A sharp elbow, a small imperceptible shove and she made it to the front of the bar, smiling sweetly into the topaz eyes of a besuited City type. Captured by her sparkle he allowed himself to be drawn into her net until, almost without thinking, as the indifferent barman handed her the large glass of Chardonnay he uttered the words "let me get that for you" and handed a crisp note across the counter.

A Sunday Scribble on the subject of 'Game'.

Friday, 27 November 2009

French revelations

I was so incredibly excited by this creative challenge - it had such possibilité. Create a piece inspired by France... But where do you start? Paris seems as good a place as any, but that's rather cliched so I clambered down from the Eiffel Tower, ignored the Mona Lisa's gaze and boarded le metro to the nearest Gare. I travelled the length and breadth of the country, the TGV speeding me through the wintering countryside. How could I possibly encapsulate all that was French in one simple creation?

I returned home scented with the fruits of the vine (that's right I spilled a Merlot down me) and rummaged through my art supplies. Taking canvas and paint I began to create le drapeau tricolore. I transferred some images using gel medium onto the canvas. It didn't work too well, but there was a kind of vintage appeal. Next I planned on painting on top... but I thought I'd first experiment with what it might look like by scanning it into Photoshop then 'painting' in a wine bottle. Naturally, this looked far better than anything I could achieve... and I was tempted to 'paint' some more in this medium. I added a few more snapshots of my whistle-stop tour and threw in a little present for Luthien (that has absolutely nothing to do with France, but I know she'll love it when she spots it!). Toulouse Lautrec rose from the grave to pen a quick sketch of some romantic lovers (merci mon ami). The whole thing was softened and made subtle before a poster filter returned a little clarity. Que pensez-vous?

I always I feel I've cheated a bit though when I 'go digital' so my guilt got paper out, squeezed some acrylics on the palette and then borrowed a bit of inspiration from Monet et al to create a provencal lavender field bathed in golden sunlight. I can't decide which version I prefer - my original (above) or the same with a poster filter applied. It was a very quick sketch and lacks much detail but it was fun to paint which is surely the point. My cat liked it. She sat on my lap for some time studying in depth!
Challenge from Inspiration Avenue.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Oh my...

I bought a book at the weekend recommended by a friend. One of those obscure novels no one has ever heard of. I took a sneak peak last night. I shouldn't really because I'm already knee deep in another adventure and it seems cruel to leave those friends in such dire straits. Poor Pug is captured and faces a life in slavery and Tomas was in the middle of battle... Anyway, life is meant to be torment for novel characters, (for how else will they have a happy ending?) and I was only going to read a page or so, just to get the feel.

Something happened though. Forces beyond my control pulled me deeper into the pages until I was sunk in chapters completely mesmerised by a hypnotic gaze, eyes that swing from bronze to darkest black, brooding looks... I'm not going to be doing any more blog hopping or painting this evening... I must read....

I've forgotten the name of the book now but it's about a young woman called Bella and the most incredibly sexy guy called Edward... Perhaps you've heard of it?

Big steps

Wishcasting Wednesday this week asks what us what step we wish to take. Well, readers, you know I have taken mine. Less than a month ago I quit my job. It was quite a moment I can tell you. I put myself out of work in the middle of a global recession. Sometimes I feel quite fearless. Yet, why should we be scared of following our hearts, for that after all is what I have done? After a long career of working for other people, I’m taking back a little more control. I’m bringing together all I’ve learned over the years and taking it out in the marketplace for others to have a bit of use of. I’m going freelance…

This week and next I’m working with a communications agency helping them with a project for a High Street bank. It’s literally throw yourself in at the deep end drama but it’s OK. I’ve had lots of practice at swimming and my little lifejacket of knowledge is keeping my head above water. In fact, I’m rather enjoying it. Naturally, the pressure is on and it really is a case of sink or swim – I’m rather expendable, not tied to any employer contract. One mistake and I could be out… but then I always did thrive under a bit of pressure, there’s nothing better to sharpen the focus than an impending deadline or that VIP to impress.

I’ve no doubt there’ll be moments of calm and catch up too when my focus will shift to marketing myself, networking and hunting out the elusive paying opportunities. Also expect to see some serious paint slopping about during these ‘stand down’ days.

There’s a down side naturally. I do get a bit lonely – I miss the colleague sitting beside me to bump ideas around with – it’s not quite the same when you have to call someone and the cats don’t have much of an opinion. It also gets a bit cold here in November and it seems an extravagance to heat the whole house when I’m spending all day sitting at a desk in one tiny (and very untidy) corner. Ah yes, untidiness. My natural predilection toward having all my work spread out around me in a seemingly chaotic mess has meant an even more untidy workspace than usual and I can’t just go home and leave it at the end of the day! My little Lottie cat is most upset at me sitting on her ‘bed’ all day and is getting quite vocal in her complaints. She exacts her revenge by leaving muddy paw prints all over my paperwork. Her brother just clambers onto a lap already laden with notebooks and scribbled reminders and makes himself comfy where he can.

Regrets? Not one. The little teaser on my blog earlier in the week is to tempt you toward my forthcoming Etsy shop. Keep stopping by here to pick up your invitation to the star-studded launch!

So, I’ve taken my step and I’m feeling good!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Why you should always wrap up warm in winter

May this be a lesson to all those fair maidens out there who don't heed their mother's wise words. Keep your neck and chest wrapped up darlings!

This little bit of digital fun was for SoArtfulChallenge. They invite you to take this little picture below and make something of it.

Well, in the olden days vampires weren't of the dashing Edward Cullen variety I'm afraid and young girls like Mina were far more foolish. I'm sure that Bella or Buffy would have successfully sent him packing! I wonder if he stole her hat when he'd finished drinking her blood, it really is rather fetching...

Monday, 23 November 2009

Poker Face

I might play with this a little more, I can't decide. Can you tell by looking at me... Am I inscrutable? Can I hold my nerve? Or am I bluffing?

Collaged playing cards, acrylics and some other little surprises... look very carefully...

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Something's coming...

It's not Santa... well not yet anyway.... but it brings gifts and sparkly things... What could it be??? I'll leave you guessing....

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Romantic fairy tales

Once upon a time in a fairy tale castle far, far away lived a radiant Princess. Her beauty was legendary in both her own and neighbouring kingdoms and many fought for her hand. She had eyes for only one but, as is the way of fairy tales, the path to true romance was not smooth. For he was not only the son of one lowly born, but belonged to the sworn enemies of her Kingdom. How could they ever be together? Love will find a way...

My romantic entry to this week's Inspirational Avenue challenge. Mixed media on canvas block - quality of image not too good as it didn't fit in the scanner. Collage, acrylics, pastel, mica, stamps and a sprinkle of romance. I had such fun with this I even made a sister painting. I nearly sold it too. A lady had it in her hands... she was captivated by the romance... she came back for a second look... she asked if I would do a commission using a picture of her daughter instead.... I gave her my details...

This week the Etsy shop goes live! If I say it here then I'll have to do it won't I?

PS: Happy Birthday little sis!

Friday, 20 November 2009

On tribes and drawing boards

"Despite current ads and slogans, the world doesn't change one person at a time. It changes when networks of relationships form among people who share a common cause and vision of what's possible. This is good news for those of us intent on creating a positive future. Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections. We don't need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits. Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage and commitment that lead to broad-based change."~Margaret Wheatley

I came across this quote while blog-hopping and it yelled “look at me – more on this tribalism topic you are suddenly so interested in!”. I liked the sound of this Wheatley woman so I travelled hundreds of miles to a suitably-sized academic library and spent hours researching to find out more… or did I just google?

In other work she talks about the pitfalls of the ‘same old, but better’ techniques employed by many companies when planning their business strategy or even Governments with public policy. What’s missing, she suggests is room for a creative approach, something to shake up the entrenched thinking. It’s about doing the ‘unthinkable’, being brave enough to step outside our conventional ways of working.

She had me jumping up and down in agreement there. I left my last employer for this very reason. As a right-side of brain creative thinker, I feel particularly uncomfortable with the same old, same old – particularly when it is linked with death by powerpoint presentations. Where making it ‘better’ actually meant give me more slides, with more information on a slide (that the participants already know anyway). This company was just not my tribe.

My experiences at the New Brand Tribalism workshop earlier this month gave me a reminder (as if I needed it!) that it doesn’t have to be this way.

We are no longer playing by the same rules. When I began my career in the early 1990s, if I’d come across an interesting quote by Margaret Wheatley, I would have needed some serious intent to go and research about her. Today, having stumbled upon her completely by accident, sitting in the comfort of my own home, I was then reading her articles within seconds. The world shifts. Economies shift. Business shifts. Employee relationships shift.

Scientists concur that the only building block in life is relationships. How well do you understand the relationships, or tribes, in your organisation? What social networks are building behind your back? Interesting food for thought.

Leaping about a bit (well, it’s my blog, I can do what I like!), I wanted to somehow bring these thoughts around to blogging too. When I started this back in February, I had absolutely no expectation of joining any tribes. I just thought I’d write an online diary of musings. And yet here I am, regular participant in various blog art and writing challenges, making new friends across the globe, joining in debate and offering support on topics close to my heart. We’re forming new tribes all the time and I’m more than happy to be a member of many great ones (see also new blog badge for new brand tribalism on right hand banner!).

One tribe I am still desperate to join is that of ‘selling artist’. I had a stall at the my son’s school’s festive fayre last night. Half my stand smelt sweetly of hand made soap. The other looked ‘pretty with pictures’. Perhaps the customers were just a grubby lot, because the soap sold, but the art, despite admiring glances, did not. Perhaps it was not the right market. Oh well. As they say, back to the drawing board… !

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

It's only art...

... but I like it!

I was enthralled by a wonderful piece of television. No, it wasn't Jordan picking cockroaches out of her cleavage or Sam Fox balancing a large and very alive water spider on her tongue... It was culture darlings, of the kind that you can only trust the BBC to produce.

OK, I admit the 'I'm a Celebrity who needs a bit of publicity so I'll allow myself to get tortured on TV for three weeks' was rather tempting, because sometimes you do have to indulge in a little trash, just so you put things in perspective. However, 'Art on your walls' was just lovely!

Little Sue Perkins took us on a journey of nostalgia from the sitting rooms of our grandparents in the 1950s to IKEA just last weekend. This was a programme celebrating art for the masses, as interior design, escapism and joyful sentimentality. You might love looking at a sheep in formaldahyde in a gallery, but over the back of your sofa? I think not. We prefer the windswept branches of a silvered tree on a white beach or the hypnotic sunset over Ullswater.

This mass-produced art selling by the canvas-load is giving birth to a whole new breed of artist. What's so special about them? Well, they're still alive for one thing which is a novelty and making a tonne of money which is another!

The programme paints an evocative picture of our childhood visits to Nan's with a Tretchikoff exotic lady with a strange tinge to her face giving a bit of colour to the woodchip. Then it took me to student digs where our poster choice indicated our tribe. This put you very clearly into the camps of those you either had something in common with or, more likely, wanted to be a part of. Coming from small-town-in-the-Midlands-that-nobody-has-heard-of put me at a distinct disadvantage on day 1. Your choice of cheap art from Athena (or even cheaper knocked off from street traders) was a statement about YOU. Were you, like Sue a Betty Blue? Or did you favour the political statement perhaps? My romance was more traditional. I think I might still have this poster somewhere - a little tattered and frayed but I was too unwilling to part with it - a little episode of my history! Oh how I longed to be passionately kissed by a tall, dark & handsome man on the Champs D'Elysse!

So, what did I take from this programme? A reminder of my Nan's hallway. Memories of bug-eyed children looking sadly down at me from 1970s portraits. The reminder that to be cool, you really have to be French. And the lesson that what defines art is up to you. It's what gives meaning and pleasure to your soul and opens a window to another world.

Oh yes, and a new item for my 'to do' list. Create some very marketable art and sell it to The Art Group - these are the people that fill IKEA, Argos and B&Q with affordable art and make the artists a fortune in the process and guess what.... they are based about 2 miles away from my studio (aka dining room table)! Serendipity??

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Finding the key

I'm an Autumn person when it comes to colour. A professional (hello Tina!) told me so. The rich orange and green hues bring out the best in my skin colouring giving me a healthy glow. I love painting with these colours too - a peek in my acrylics box will see rather a lot of rust!

I started this picture for Inspiration Avenue's rust challenge, but felt it lacked a focal point. It's another of my collage with acrylics, pastel, ephemera and a bit of transfer experimentation. Then, I mosied* on over to check out this week's theme for the Three Muses - Keys! What a perfect fit! The keys have been added digitally to my original picture. Thank you for finding me my focal!

* I have no idea how to spell this word, but you'll get my drift I'm sure!

Monday, 16 November 2009

I am woman

I'm wearing make up today. And a skirt. I'm not going anywhere. In fact I'm sitting at home working. I was prompted by this piece for Mixed Media Monday's I am Woman challenge. It reminded me to be feminine and to embrace that feeling. So, I envelop myself in soft scents and pastel hues and remember that I am woman!

Digital collage - various pictures from magazines, some of my artwork and photography.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Cinnamon rust

Warm and deliciously spicy, the scent of cosying up in front of a crackling fire, nibbling on sweet pastries or swiss cookies crafted for Christmas. Ah cinnamon, my favourite spice and half of the theme for this week's Inspiration Avenue creative challenge.

I hope you're listening to the song. It's one of my favourites, by a little-known band called The Storys. I saw them live once in a tiny venue. I was in the second row. It was the kind of gig where the band wander out into the foyer afterwards and sign star struck 30-somethings' tickets.

And so, I tried to bring Cinnamon, she of the long, tangled hair to life... She started as a painted canvas board in rich hues, her face was transferred from the fashion pages then she was collaged and painted and dabbed and daubed, rubbed and smudged and painted some more. Her hair disappeared somewhat under a shawl, she decamped to Moorish tiled corridors in Marrakech. She really didn't scan very well, so I dabbled with her a bit in photoshop where a spotlight brings her out of the shadows. She's rather introverted.

And because I'm of the attitude, why enter one picture when you can have two... I also present a little result of my visual poetry course - aka doing fun stuff with photoshop. I gave this rusty padlock a retro feel which some lighting and colour adjustment and finally learnt how to make those lovely rounded corners!

Look what I found hiding away!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Mother realises she is not a super human

Shock! Horror! UK Mother realises she is not super-human after all!
Disturbing news from suburbia today when the mother of five-year-old came to the sudden realisation that, despite her best efforts, she was not capable of doing everything.

We caught up with the distraught woman to find out more.

"It's terrible," she trembled. "I really thought I was super human. I just kept taking on more and more. I'm setting up my own business working as a freelance internal communications professional, bringing up my son, keeping house, organising a craft sale at my son's school next week, making art, crafts, soaps and bath fizzies to sell there, cooking fresh and healthy meals, being a loving girlfriend... Something just had to give..."

The not-so-super-Mum admitted that this week she had not taken part in the Joy Diet blogging group (because she hadn't actually found the time to read the relevant chapter); she had only managed a few thousand words on her novel for NaNoWriMo and as for working her way through the Artist's Way... Well least said about that the better.

Let this act as a warning to mothers the world over. Remember. It is not possible to do everything. Just priorise and you'll be fine.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

It's dare

Can't embed this clip, but I invite you to follow the link for a bopping soundtrack to this post.

OK, are you wriggling to the rhythm? Dancing comfortably? Then I'll begin...

Tomorrow I dare. I dare to take the BIG new step in my career. I dare to take everything I've learnt in safe full time job environments and spread it about in the freelancing world. Tomorrow my first assignment begins. I'm daring to be big, bold and adventurous. I'm daring to live my dream. I'm daring to believe...

Next week I'm daring to put my artistic efforts for sale at a craft market. I even dared to organise it!

Dare I open that Etsy shop as my next step?

I dared to make quick art by flinging paint and ink on paper. How very satisfying. Two minute art! (See, I knew there was a good reason never to pack your paints away!)

Dare you make your wishes at Wishcasting Wednesday?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Do you dream...

Do you dream in black & white, or let your coloured wings take flight?

A dream theme from the Three Muses - this could have kept me busy for a week and indeed it was a bit of a late one last night as I snipped and dipped. This mixed media piece contains... wait for it... acrylics, collage, stamping, inks, tissue, old book, a scrap of black lace... with the final edition a little omni spotlight from photoshop to really highlight the butterfly.

I am very tempted to write a long post about my weird and wonderful dreams but won't for several reasons. 1) It can be rather boring listening to other people's night time adventures; 2) You might think I'm insane; 3) I must get back to my novel!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Fashioning art

Up to this summer, I hadn't bought a fashion magazine for years; I'd rather spend the money on a good book or some juicy art supplies. However, this year I bucked the trend and went 'glossy'. My most thumbed and now a touch dog-earred is June's Vogue. Being a little off-trend I bought from a discount market stall in July - for a mere 80 pence - a top tip for the cash-challenged. I've devoured its pages since in a fashion probably never seen before. No, readers I have not been eating it, but I have tried out a few recipes.

Vogue inspires many a fair maiden - most often to part with their cash on clothing, make up and accessories and to drool over Jimmy Choo's. For me however, it's the paintbrush, pastels and acrylics, it's the new photoshop skills I'm learning on my visual poetry course; it's the colouring in of Nicole Kidman, the magical mermaids swimming off the swimsuit pages and the experiments with shade. I have collaged, gessoed, snipped, stuck and now had a bit of fun with my scanner and photoshop.

Thank you Vogue - June 2009 - you have helped release my creativity. In your honour I create this digital collage from you and for you ... and also Mixed Media Monday's 'Fashion' challenge.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Ice Maiden

Ice Maiden: Sounds a bit heavy metal when I wanted it to be ethereal and conjuring up a sense of magic.

I've been writing about elves all week for NaNoWriMo. I should be there now - I left my travellers recovering from an attack by stinking trolls. They are about to make a new acquaintance. My lead character, provisionally named Fila (which makes her sound like some sort of pastry) has a silver streak running through her hair - the result of a powerful magical encounter.

She's a lovely thing with a binding destiny to fulfill. When I saw that this week's Inspiration Avenue challenge was 'frosty', she begged me to give her visual as well as written form. So meet Fila - as her skin is so pale, perhaps she earns the surname pasty!

Fila Pasty - frost maiden, is a mixed media creation formed magically from scrapbook papers, acrylic painting, old book (you may have noticed a slight obsession with me and bits of old book in my artwork), ink, pastels, mica and some silver stars I found in my bits & pieces pot. The mica looks much more silvery and frosty in real life, the scanner seemed to intensify the colour somehow.

Friday, 6 November 2009


"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."

Picasso was a chap who wrote a lot of terribly useful quotes about creativity. Apparently he also knocked up the odd canvas or two but I'm not sure if he was terribly successful in those endeavours or matched the success of his perfumier daughter.

Thinking on the same vein, Martha Beck in the Joy Diet, argues that 'play' is something we as adults should ensure we don't forget the value of. Play is how a child learns. Rolling the ball teaches that round things ... well, roll. Simple stuff. Play is what differentiates us from our animal cousins. They stop playing and just get bigger and stronger. We keep playing and learning and forming our minds. We get clever. What we mustn't do though is ever stop playing.

You know she's right and I've had the perfect experience of this. I've been playing at writing a novel. Yes, you are permitted to pick yourself up from the floor. I have finally begun what I've been wittering on about all year. I am taking my barely formed novel concept and giving it some substance. I'm switching between modern day London and LA to a magical land that exists (somehow, don't ask for exact details please) in parallel to our own. My characters are dusting off their cobwebs, pulling on some fine clothing and getting to know each other (they don't all get along too well just yet). The shock of the whole experience has even seen one poor Elf's hair be shot through with a silver streak!

As participant in NaNoWriMo I have been instructed to banish my inner critic and get words onto pages. I'm not to worry about it being any good. I just have to write a 50,000 word story. It's about play. It's about practice. How can I ever expect to write a publishable piece, let alone Pullitzer Prize winning novel with my first attempt? I'd have to be some kind of freak genius which I am well aware I'm not. So, we don't worry about publication. We don't even have to show anyone else what we've written. We just play.

And do you know what? It's actually rather fun! Take away your inner critic, the voice of reason, the need for a market, possibility of a multi-million dollar screenplay and a film starring George Clooney and just let go and write a story. Takes me back to primary school where we wrote stories for the fun of it and illustrated them with little bunnies and squirrels dressed in pinafores!

No animals in costume so far in my book (but I wouldn't rule them out - you never know what direction my imagination might choose to head in).

NaNoWriMo, aside from being an intensely irritating acronym to type, is my route to finding out if I have the bones of a novel in me and more importantly the real desire to become a novelist. As Martha so wisely writes "when we know we're playing a game, we're less attached to the outcome". If this novel turns out to be a D minus then so be it. I'll learn from it and move onto the next one. I know I love writing, we'll just see if that actually extends to novels too. Stay tuned and we'll find out.

OK, to finish up a little something for British readers of a certain age - check out that Playaway poster up top, team portrait below and the names starring alongside the legend that is Brian Cant... They didn't amount to much did they?

And now for a spot of playful nostalgia?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Up the revolution

Did you ever wish you were part of a revolution? Wouldn't you have loved to be pulling down walls in Berlin, dying your hair green or embracing free love?

I'm afraid I didn't do any of those things. The closest I've ever been to becoming a revolutionary was walking through Trafalgar Square about five minutes before the peacefull Poll Tax protest turned into an out and out riot, but those crucial five minutes ensured I missed even that!

But hey, you know what? I have the opportunity to be in at the beginning of something new, a trailblazer and banner waver. What? What? I hear you cry and is it legal?

Yesterday I attended a New Brand Tribalism workshop. Get used to this phrase because I believe it's going to become much more commonplace in the years ahead. Not wishing to steal the thunder of those who came up with the concept, why not pop along to their website to find out more.

In short, these clever folk believe:

"Brands don't belong to corporations anymore, they belong to the people, the customers, the employees, the media, the analysts, and the activists. We are now all part of a myriad of sub-tribes and can choose at any moment to act, to comment, to contribute, to participate, to consume - or not.

We call this new reality New Brand Tribalism™ which is the biggest challenge for companies and organisations to address when they want to manage; sustainable, responsible, relevant and successful brands in the next 5-10 years."

Tribes create a sense of belonging. Today we associate that with the brands we buy and support or even the TV programmes we watch - who has been on the X-Factor forums? You're a part of that tribe. A brand is no longer just about image and identity - culture is moving us way beyond what has always been the norm. Brands are creating association and building communities - often out of the control of the very companies themselves. In five minutes, for example, I could nip onto Facebook and create a fan site for any brand of my choosing - powerful stuff.

As I understand it, brands today stand on a tipping point. Increasingly redundant are the companies still thinking "20th century" who focused on being a complex functional organisation. Change was slow and structured. Strategy was black and white. What's happening today as the world shrinks and new markets emerge is a more fast and fluid approach that shifts with the tides and fashions. Interpretation is open, involvement from consumers and suppliers becomes an essential component of the mix. Just think of Apple - whose suppliers for their ever popular Apps are most times the very consumers they sell to. Who would have imagined this even a few years ago? This is a fundamental shift in business where we see consumers no longer buying just the product but the experience too and likewise employees are demanding more - what does it feel like to work here? What am I getting out of it? Right now we are just seeing the start... now just imagine the possibilities! What's important to remember is that after such major corrections, the world is never the same again - look what Rock n Roll did to pop music! Management of brands going forward therefore must be based on different notions.

For an internal communications professional like me this is incredibly exciting stuff which sends all my creative bells a-clanging in a deafening fashion! If companies get this right and align passion for the brand with their employees and their consumers then a bit of magic happens - what the new brand tribalists are calling the 'sweet spot' where fully engaged employees and consumers drive loyalty by building a tribe and, by default, increase business value.

It's all about creating authenticity in both your brand proposition and culture. We spend far too many hours of our week at work for it not to have some meaning for us. Bringing your employees into a tribe and creating a sense of belonging is therefore key. Work no longer has to be about turning up, getting the job done and going home. It can be much more than that. It is our job as communicators, marketeers and HR professionals to ensure that the meaning and experience our colleagues and customers take away is really something quite special.

What excites me most is how it ticks all the boxes of how I like to work, gets my creative juices positively gushing. This is all new thinking so we can invent as we go along, trying on until we see what fits and having a lot of fun in the process then adjusting and adding to keep up with the world around us. It's not prescriptive but joyfully multi-levelled, holistic and dynamic. It's never going to be about a uniform approach, one size fits all again. I can't think of a better time to be involved!

If you're interested in finding out more pop along to or contact my buddies at The Alternative.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Experiencing life

Jamie Ridler's spell around the dream pot this week invites us to announce what we wish to experience. Well, with your permission I will comply but with a little digression along the way. If it's alright with you I'd like to interpret this question from another angle. Could I perhaps discuss what I experienced today instead? It's more than one thing, so bear with me and be patient!

Today was most refreshing, invigorating, inspiring... I think you're getting the message. I was ensconced in a room surrounded by a tribe of like-minded individuals. Many of you may experience this every day but believe me, when you've been out of this environment for six months it's like finding a bar of chocolate at the back of the cupboard when you were scrabbling around in the hope of a dry biscuit at best!

I was with over 100 'new brand tribalists'; thinkers on the same wave length. I'll tell you more it tomorrow when I've time to digest and cogitate. Right now it's been a long day and I've a couple of units of very fine alcohol racing around my bloodstream, a full belly and a boyfriend that needs to be cuddled (whether he likes it or not, though as Arsenal are currently 2-0 up at half time he's in a good mood for receiving affection).

After my experiences at work these last few months, you have no idea what a breath of fresh air this has been. I met some great people today, both old acquaintances and new. My newly-sprouted wings are fairly fluttering with excitement.

So, that dear readers was experience number 1. I'd like more of this please - more exciting, forward-thinking engagement, more visionary thinking, more joining in with the revolution (cue T-Rex). It's great stuff - I promise! Come back tomorrow and read all about it!

Then, experience number 2 comes down to location location location. I was in London. Regular readers will be well aware I LOVE THIS CITY! I lived and worked her in my 20s. I miss it. Walking the crowded streets between train/tube and venue today was like filling my veins with narcotic. It was my City. It still is my City. I need to experience it again and again - I need my fix. I might not live or work there anymore but that's no excuse. It's a mere hour away by train.

The workshop I attended today was masquerading by day as a corporate venue. However, at night the Latin fairies come out and reveal its true persona. The bands arrive and beat out a Cuban rhythm; Argentines tango out their passion across the dance floor and Londoners transport themselves to Havana with a sip of Mojito. I want to go dancing, let my (short) hair down, flick up my tail feathers and.... EXPERIENCE!

If you're interested in learning about New Brand Tribalism, you might like to check out my previous posts here and here or just turn up tomorrow, notebook in hand.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Na-Nu Na-Nu

Woah there! I am officially feeling very strange. I'm at home - on a work day. I don't currently have a job. It's great!

I finished up at lunchtime today - the world is now my oyster. But right now I'm sitting at home on my own feeling a bit lost. Part of me wants to dive straight into setting myself up as a freelancer, investigating opportunities, putting out feelers... Another bit says "hey chill woman, go and hide under the duvet for an hour". Well, I confess I tried that and it lasted about 5 minutes. I am in no mood to relax. This is good. I've already written a to-do list for the rest of the week which is getting longer by the second.

I have PLANS. I am back to being me the professional internal communications expert. I'm not a part of that dull company anymore that was sucking me dry. It's amazing when you tell people you're leaving how you suddenly discover how close to going they are too, how depressed the place makes them feel, how resistant to change.

Well, enough of that now. Moving on. I'm free and tomorrow is another day. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, this afternoon is another day.

You know what else I could crack on with today? Why it is what I affectionately refer to as Na-Nu-Na-Nu - national novel writing month (NaNoWriMo - what a mouthful!). This could be the moment that my book finally sees the light of day. My characters are all packed and ready to head off on their adventures. I wrote 500 words yesterday, only another 45,000 to go! The beauty of Na-Nu is the simplicity of the concept - write a 50,000 novel in 30 days - but don't worry about how good it is - just get it out. Inner critics are bound and gagged and left at departures. Authors and characters are at the boarding gate about to head on the trip of a lifetime!

There's still a few seats left on the plane if you want to join us, though you might end up sitting next to one of my egomaniac baddies - they don't wash very often so frankly its no surprise there's a free seat (naturally though they bagsied the one by the window, being egomaniacs and all that). Before you get too excited, the Unicorns are travelling in the hold - you'd think they'd be willing to fly themselves but it's all about health & safety these days and equal rights for mythical animals...
Right I'm off to do .... exciting stuff!
PS: Did you know that Mork was originally in an episode of Happy Days? It's amazing what google can teach you...

Sunday, 1 November 2009

More chickens and a rose centred block

How frightfully appropriate that I sit in a darkened room on Halloween writing about zombies.

My black wig with the silver streak has fallen to an odd angle and bits of the nylon hair are sticking to the orange face paint, joining the dots of my stick on warts. My hat keeps falling off and I smell of wood smoke. We left the party before they announced the winner of the best costume... (frankly it was so dark, I have no idea how they intended on judging it!). But am I dejected? Why of course not dear readers, for I am nonetheless a winner - twicefold!

Yes, once again, I climb the award winner's pedestal in Bloglandia to collect my glittering prizes. And what prizes... On the desk beside me sits a rather pretty pastel block with delightful rose centre and... an undead chicken....

The zombie bird in question is giving me a strange look from its one eye that swings droopily from a gaping socket. I think it might be smiling but that is probably just the way its beak is rotting. If you view him from the side you can actually see right through his ribs - amazing.

I've moved the pastel block with the rose centre away from the shedding feathers and onto the mantlepiece with the other awards to keep it nice. I'm not too sure what to do with the zombie. Will it stay on display or insist on wandering around the lounge groaning with its wings held at a slightly forward angle? Ah well, it matters not - it's a conversation starter...

Speaking of which... I know you are dying to ask... Zombie Chicken awards?? Well, allow the proud owner of one enlighten you:

“The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken – excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all.”

I must say I'm rather chuffed that Chapter Forty wished to award my poultry efforts. I thank you, I thank you, I thank you. Now I have to pass it on... Hmm.... decisions, decisions:

That's a chicken in the post for you all - enjoy!

Now, my poor pastel block with the rose centre is feeling a little left out. It doesn't groan dramatically or shed bits of flesh. It does however, give me a rosy glow. How delightful to be given the title Kreativ blogger (even if creative is spelt wrong!). Thank you Mana Moon... too kind.... too kind.

Well, what do I do next with this little beauty?
Thank the person who gave this to you.
Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
Link back to the person who nominated you.
Name 7 things about yourself that no one would really know.
Nominate seven 'Kreativ Bloggers'.
Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
Leave a comment on each blog letting them know you nominated them.
OK, we start with the amazing facts...

  1. In a previous life I was a paintbrush.
  2. Almost every year I wrote to Father Christmas asking for the game Mousetrap. I never got it. Last night I dreamt I bought it. Shall I get it for my son?
  3. I eat too much chocolate.
  4. I did not win the lottery again this week.
  5. I found John & Edward 'entertaining' tonight on the X-Factor in a painful sort of way.
  6. I would love to live life in a musical where folk regularly burst into spontaneous (yet perfectly choreographed) song and dance routines.
  7. I once fell down a hill, banged my elbow on a rock and landed with my face in an ants' nest.
I may have to go to bed now and finish this tomorrow - it's either that or dance around the kitchen...

It's quite hard deciding who to bestow these awards upon. It will take me all day to visit all these sites and give them the good news! I shall be exhausted, yet happy to be the bearer of such glad tidings.

I pass to:

Now, if I didn't mention you, please don't be sad. I tried to find a nice mixture of different sites. Some people know me; others don't. Just remember... I love you all!

Mwah Mwah - lots of kisses.
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