Link Love – Refuel Your Creativity, Instagram Art And What Literature Is For

Cassy Fry reading

This month I’ve spent a lot of time reading about writing, daydreaming or just generally hanging out on Instagram, and it probably shows in the stylish and creative links I have selected for you. Hope you like them…

10 Ways To Refuel Your Creativity
I love this list of ways to boost creativity and keep your ideas tank full of inspiration fuel! I only have two things I would add: (1) listen to music, and (2) go out, get a change of scene (especially if you’re stuck looking at a blank screen, page or canvas!). 

10 Things You Need To Learn To Start Living The Life Of Your Dreams
Thanks to Shauna at Nubby Twiglet for this bit of link love as I found it though her post. There is so much good advice and amazing photography in this list of life lessons. I need to work on some of these. Note to self: Start learning. Keep dreaming. 

Turning Instagram Into Performance Art
Why of course, Instagram is the perfect place for performance art! Amalia Ulman‘s project ‘Excellences and Perfections’ shows just how captivated we are with depictions of personal dramas and how willing we are to believe all we see on line. 

Selfie Fables: What If Disney Characters Had Instagram Accounts?
I’m a such a sucker for illustrations re-imagining Disney characters and judging by the number of parodies and pastiches on the internet, I’m not alone. This one is fab, not just because the illustrations are great (the evil queen is my favourite, although I also have much appreciation for Peter Pan’s photo bomb), but because the captions are all kinds of insta-hilarious.

Literary Cures For Emotional Crises
I’m a big fan of turning to a book for comfort, wisdom or just distraction, so I love these prescriptions from the super glam Caroline at Sparkle and Crumbs. Definitely some material for my reading list here (but I leave you guessing about which emotional crises I may be in need of treating!)

4 Reasons Why You Should Read
I’m going to end on an animation that continues the literary therapy theme. These quirky cut outs illustrate four benefits of literature. I especially love the idea that reading gives you time, rather than takes it away, that notion alone has added years onto my life and I’ll definitely think differently next time I take an hour or two to curl up with a good book. Plus we really are all weirder than we’re allowed to admit!

What is Literature for? from Marcus Armitage on Vimeo.

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Creative Challenge: What #Lovetober Meant To Me

#lovetober 2014 Gala Darling Instagram Challenge - Cassy Fry

This October, I mean Lovetober, I have been posting photos every day, responding to a creative prompt. I love a monthly creative challenge. Doing something every day for 30 or 31 days in a row is enough time for it to become something meaningful, but not so long that it stops being fun. The Lovetober instagram challenge was set by Gala Darling, so there has been a good dose of self love, appreciation and magic making along the way, as well as lots of like-minded ladies taking part and sharing the experience. 

It’s been kind of wonderful, so I thought I’d share some of my highlights. 

  • Squeezing three people into a photobooth in the corner of a supermarket on a Friday night to pull funny faces in a hilarious attempt to recreate some photobooth poses from my teenage years.
  • Finding emotional calm while carrying a crystal and realising I might be more magical than I thought, there might even be a spiritual side to me yet.
  • Drinking a bubblegum ice cream milkshake from Makcaris in Herne Bay because I HAD TO create a perfect weekend!
  • Sharing some of my favourite artists (check out Tobias Ross whose amazing cosmic cat picture is featured at the top of this post, and Rococo Wonderland who I saw at The Other Art Fair).
  • Finding this photo of me, my sister and my cousin and then smiling about it intermittently over the last week.
  • Allowing myself some cloud-gazing time.
  • Editing my pictures on the VSCO CAM app (which is making my snaps all kinds of amazing and will definitely be an addition to my must-have creative apps).
  • Going for more walks in an effort to locate snapable scenes.
  • Sharing a snippet of my bucket list and getting loads of inspiration from everyone else’s. 
  • Reflecting on the last 10 years, which have been hard, emotional and wonderful, and realising I am so glad I discovered eyebrow make up and, dark circles aside, I’m aging rather well!  
  • Doodling the things I am thankful for.
  • Managing to crowbar my darling Eddie Cat into at least two photographs.
  • Daring to admit my big dream (although it probably doesn’t surprise anyone) and then REALLY feeling like it’s up to me to make it come true, in a terrifying and exciting way. So… I’ve signed up for my next monthly creative challenge NaNoWriMo!

Have you tried any instagram photo challenges? I know there are loads out there – let me know which ones have inspired you to get creative and improve your photography.

How To Find Fabulous Blogs To Read… because we all need inspiration, information and insight

How to find fabulous blogs to read

I love clicking on a link to a blog post and discovering a blogger who I just click with. When it happens, I’m guaranteed to lose an hour or two, but gain a whole load of insight and ideas. I know we are all utterly overwhelmed with on line information, there is a lot of noise and all that shouting can keep us from hearing the good stuff. Trust that the good stuff is out there and you will find it, but maybe to speed your discovery along, try these ways to find fabulous blogs to read. 

A Good Blog Guide
In case you missed the shiny icon somewhere over on the right, or me getting all excited about it on Twitter,this blog has been featured on New Writing South’s Good Blog Guide. As well as making me super proud, this lovely guide has also led me to discover some seriously good blogs. 

Your Fave Bloggers
Bloggers love reading blogs, when we’re not writing posts, we’re reading them! Then we share them, I post my favourite reads on a Link Love post. Lots of bloggers write these posts or their own version of them. I’ve found so many good reads through Gala Darling’s Carousel posts. I write one every month, but some bloggers do it weekly. Then there is the curated blog post, Daffny at A Vintage Nerd recently penned Everything A Beginner To Vintage Fashion Needs To Know, which features lots of other useful posts and is a great example of how finding one great blog, can lead to another, and another.  

Google
Still the best way the find anything! Ok so the catch is you need to know what you are looking for, but I found most of my favourite vintage bloggers, including Retrochick and Vintage Current, during my quest for the perfect pin curl! 

Social Media
If you find a blog post you love, share it and others will find it. I have found most of my favourite bloggers through retweets (because I’m often found loitering on Twitter). Twitter chats are also a great way to discover new blogs. Instagram is great for finding fashion bloggers or stylish people (check out hashtags like #fblogger fashion blogger #ooto outfit of the day or #wiwt what I wore today). Having fantastic images has become part of being a successful blogger because we are all drawn to a great picture, so Pinterest is another good way of finding great blogs.

News, Magazine or Lifestyle Websites
As well as reading independent blogs, I like reading articles on big media sites, like Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Guardian Culture Professionals or Hello Giggles and many of their journalists and freelance writers also have their own blogs. 

The Blogcademy
I know I am not the only Blogcademy Grad to have cyber-stalked other participants across the globe! I admit that you will find a certain type of blog – ones written by awesome women, many (but not all) with a penchant for sparkly ears. If you like this kind of blog (and if you’re here there is a fair chance you do!) then you’re in for a treat. It’s like going to the cupboard in search of something sweet and finding a never-ending supply of all your favourite treats spilling out! 

In Real Life!
Whatever industry you’re working in, someone will be blogging about it, so you’re likely to find bloggers, not just by networking on line, but in real life. Whether they call themselves a blogger or just have a blog as part of their business, you’re bound to know some one who writes a great blog.

Adventure To… The Other Art Fair

The Other Art Fair 2014

Last weekend I ventured into London for The Other Art Fair. A day in my favourite city, spending quality time with an inspiring friend and discovering new art. I was pretty happy.

I went specifically to see the amazing neon artwork of Rococo Wonderland who I have been insta-stalking for a little while. I love meeting people via Instagram, it’s a little weird, but lots of wonderful. I have a thing for neon, probably in part due to being a seaside-loving girl, and one who is easily dazzled and distracted by bright lights. I’m also a sucker for text-based artworks so I adore her work. 

With 130 artists exhibiting work, there was so much to see. My eyes were drawn greedily around the displays. I was impressed with the quality and variety of work we saw and all the artists we spoke to were lovely. Here are some of my favourites.

 

New Favourite Song: Riskee and the Ridicule – Roots

Riskee and the Ridicule Dawn of The Dog Roots

This song is my latest obsession. I’ve spent this weekend listening, dancing, travelling, thinking, dancing, sorting out, working out and dancing to it. Yeah, it is hard to keep still when listening to Riskee and the Ridicule.

By the way, the whole album Dawn of the Dog is awesome. Listening to it felt like a punch to the chest in reverse, one that fills your lungs with air rather than pushing it out, as if a fist has sucked the pain out and replaced it with catchy hip-hoppy punk ska music.

But back to Roots, a track I am sharing because I love it and I think you will too. It’s a feel-good anthem for those of us who want to be the best versions of ourselves, reach up towards the light, but keep our feet on the ground (while stomping in time with the beat). Because “if you ain’t got roots, how you gonna grow?”

We’ve all done stuff we’re not that proud of, had things happen to us that we wish hadn’t, made mistakes, done embarrassing things, made dubious decisions, or maybe just regret the things we haven’t done. We all have a past. We all started somewhere. Whatever our stories, let’s just own it. 

I love the potent messages packed into this tune, but also how they are expressed in punchy poetic lyrical lines about blooming plants and telling tattoos… “every scar is a memory” and “just because you came from the dark, doesn’t mean you don’t deserve light”. 

Also, the video has some quality nostalgia…

Play it loud, reaching for the skies, standing tall, with an army of skeletons behind you.

9 Lessons In Body Confidence Worth Remembering

Body Image Confidence

Yes, I’m doing it, I’m writing the inevitable body image blog post. It is a style blogger rite of passage and in case that isn’t reason enough, I already have another excuse lined up, as it is Body Confidence Week.

I actually started writing this post back in April, after 2000 words and only a third of the way through, I realised it had become moany monologue (a moanologue?) and while it was quite cathartic to write, it is not something I want to inflict upon the world. My body and I have always had a rocky relationship, probably in no small part because I refer to it in the third person, it’s definitely a wild ride and something I have to continually work on. So I thought I’d rework my original draft into something a bit more constructive – the lessons I have learnt, then forgotten and learnt again. Hopefully sharing them will help me remember them.

Body confidence has nothing to do with how you actually look
It has everything to do with how you feel. The moments I have felt content, pleased with my body or happy in my own skin have been when I have felt strong, fit, healthy, exhilarated, well-rested or pampered. When you feel good, you look good. Work on how you feel rather than change the way you look.

Look after your body
This is one of life’s most important rules, yet it is the one I am pretty much always bending and often outright flouting. Crimes against self love include forgetting to feed yourself properly, depriving yourself of sleep and being a bitch to yourself. Self-neglect is hard habit to break, but real body confidence begins by knowing you are worth looking after. When you’re busy and things start to slip, go back to basics: eat well, drink more water, sleep or rest when you need to, move more, go for a walk, dance to your favourite song and be kind to yourself, and I mean being super lovely to yourself.

Changing your size won’t necessarily make you happier with your body
I’ve been skinny, average and overweight, none have resulted in instant happiness and contentment, each had their pros and cons. If you are fixated on your appearance in a dysfunctional way, getting one thing right just means you’ll move your attention onto the next body part. Focus on the things you love about yourself, work on being happy, not perfect.

Only buy clothes that fit and make you feel fabulous
Clothes can help! Of course we have all had wardrobe angst and changing room dramas (it can’t just be me) but when you find the right clothes, they really do make it much better. Don’t worry about the size you want to be in, that is just a label, only ever buy things that fit well and feel good. Don’t settle for the first thing you grab because it is easier, seek out the beautiful and comfortable items that your gorgeous body deserves to wear. This takes time and money of course, but start infiltrating your wardrobe with lovely things, aiming towards only owning things you utterly adore.

Be nice to and about strangers
I have heard kind, generous people, who I love dearly, make negative comments about strangers across the room or passers-by due to their size, fashion sense, hairstyle or body modifications. I have also heard strangers mutter things about me, and in some cases confront me directly with insults (seriously uncool ladies). How someone looks, what they choose to wear or how they present their body is none of your business, you don’t have to like it. Comments always say more about the person uttering them than their subject. If you hear one, ignore it. If you’re about to make one, stop and ask yourself why.

Keep it in perspective
Today I feel pretty rough, so I went to work with no make up on and my hair just grabbed back in one of those lazy half pony-tails. There is no way I’d post a selfie today as it’s not how I’d choose to be seen. However, I can still leave the house and get stuff done. Contrary to what cheap celeb mags suggest, no one is going to be traumatised by a woman not wearing make up. 

You are beautiful right now – appreciate it
I hated the way I looked when I was younger, my face, my body, the whole package, but when I look back at photographs, I actually looked alright! I just didn’t know it or feel it, but I wish I had so that I could have enjoyed the way I looked at the time. I fully intend to get improve with age, I’m definitely more confident now and looking forward to things getting even better as I get older. I don’t always look or feel good now, but I do know that when I am in my forties and fifties, I’ll look back and think I looked great. Now I realise that, I always try to appreciate how I look and to feel beautiful right now. 

Compliment others and let yourself be complimented
Everyone needs to learn how to accept compliments right now! I did this on a self-confidence adult-ed course, we all had to give and accept a compliment with the other people in the room. It was quietly hilarious being in a room full of uncomfortable, shy, socially awkward strangers each trying to be genuinely nice to each and accept the niceness in return. It made me realise that giving and receiving compliments are both difficult. Giving compliments can make you feel great, but having one rejected can knock your confidence. If I tell a friend they look fabulous and they disagree, I get really frustrated. I don’t think they are being modest, I think they are basically telling me they don’t value my opinion, which makes me sad. If someone compliments you, just say thank you!

Your body is amazing!
Listen to your heartbeat, do some deep breathing, think about all the things your body does automatically. When you have or live with someone with chronic illness, you realise how wondrous the human body is when it works! Appreciate how your body works as well as how it looks. Don’t forget how amazing your body is. 

Book Review: The Sunken by S.C. Green

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The latest novel from S.C. Green is a dark steampunk fantasy set in an alternate Georgian London with a vampiric king, flesh-eating monsters and… dragons! That’s all I really needed to hear to know I wanted to read it (actually she had me at steampunk).

The Sunken is the first book in the four-part Engine Ward series so inevitably there are introductions to be done and scenes to be set. Now I have finished the first book, I cannot wait for part two (and there is a sneak peek at the end), but it did take me a while to get into The Sunken, to get to grips with the rich and complex alternate history and to suss out the many different characters. Then, all of a sudden, I found I was completely immersed in the Engine Ward world, the adventure kicked in and I couldn’t put it down.  

Told mostly in third person narration, the story is interspersed with entries from the unpublished memoirs of James Holman ‘the blind physician’, a central character, who I was delighted to discover, was inspired by a real-life blind adventurer with the same name. He isn’t the only famous historical figure reworked for fantastical fictional purposes, Isambard Kingdom Brunel is in the middle of the action in this story and provides some innovative twists and turns to the plot. Completing the trio of boyhood friends is Nicholas Thorne, a mysterious character who can sense the thoughts and feelings of animals, and who leaves a trail of unfortunate accidents and murders in his wake.

I loved the alternate history; familiar names and public figures pop up all over the place, but not quite as you ever imagined them. I know the Royals are always up to some mischief, but there is something seriously sinister going on with the King in this book.

Industrial advancement is given an entirely new context as politics, religion and innovation interweave. In the Georgian London of the Engine Ward world, engineers are political and religious figures with their own churches. Knowledge really is power, but only if you can play and win the political game. It may be fantasy, but the social and class structures are instantly recognisable. The women are mostly wives or servants, we only get a glimpse of Bryon’s brilliant daughter and a mention of Mary Shelley. The working class ‘Stokers’ are not allowed to innovate or invent, and therefore kept from power or influence. Of course, a young Stoker Engineer called Isambard disrupts all that. 

Why I liked it

  • I liked the friendships between the main characters, which felt unpredictable. Each of them has their own backstory and personal baggage and I never felt entirely sure how their relationships would play out.
  • It’s adventurous with a bit of violence and gore!
  • The playful alternate history features prominent engineers, scientists, poets and innovators making appearances.
  • This line made me do a weird snort-y chuckle “Turner secretly had popular artists killed in their sleep”.
  • I became intrigued about our actual History and started looking up some of the figures I didn’t know much about. This is unusual for me as I don’t really get excited by History (unless you include vintage fashion!), but maybe not that surprising as I do get excited by stories of individual people, whether fact or fiction. 
  • The Free-Thinking Men’s Blasphemous Brandy and Supper Society (how do I join?)
  • I found the industrial relations in this book really interesting (probably due to the fact I’ve previously worked in HR and I live with a Trade Unionist!).  I find the similarities to real life in fantasy fiction just as intriguing as the differences, although obviously flesh-eating monsters and dragons are a lot more exciting! 

Read this if
…you’re a sucker for a steampunk adventure tale, full of invention and innovation.
…you like a dark dystopian fantasy.
…you are ready to discover a series that plays with history to create a rich new world to lose yourself in. 

Thanks to Steff for sending me a copy of The Sunken to review. Steff is an author, artist and heavy metal maiden. When she’s not writing books, she is writing an awesome blog about metal music, writing, living off-grid, and her adventures with home-brewing at http://www.steffmetal.com

Style Shortcut: Customise Your High Street Bargains

Customising a High Street lace top with Faux Fur

I love vintage fashion and handmade quirkiness, but lots of my clothes come from the High Street, because I’m a babe on a budget.

The things I want to spend more money on are classic wardrobe staples that fit well, last ages and go with anything. I don’t want to spend a huge amount on cute quirky items that will get worn infrequently and don’t go with many of my other clothes. This is all well and good, but can lead to boring, predictable clothes shopping, which in turn leads to boring, predictable outfits (gasp!) and of course, I do want all the cute and quirky things, I just can’t afford them all!

One of my solutions to this is to customise! You don’t need a lot of know-how to do this. I don’t have a sewing machine and to be quite honest, my hand-stitching skills are a bit slap dash, that’ll do. My DIY projects are unpredictable, some work and some don’t. The one I’m sharing today worked a treat, so I thought I would share (you’re welcome!).

I started with a lace top from Primark and a piece of multi-coloured faux-fur from eBay.

Sewing faux fur onto a lace top

I decided to add the faux-fur onto the sleeves, but this could work on collars, cuffs, etc. wherever possible work on an existing feature because it makes it much easier! 

Cut the fur to a workable size, I always allow more than I need as it is easier to trim later than patch a piece that is too small. I pinned the fur around the sleeve so the edges met under the arm, so any dodgy finishing would be hidden from sight!

I used the existing seams on the lace as a guide and used a whip stitch. Usually I’d go for the thread the same colour, but as we are going multi-coloured here I went for yellow (also I already had some spare!). I kept the stitches quite small and adjusted the fur to cover them.

Customising clothes with faux fur

I quite liked working with lace and faux fur, as they were quite forgiving! Once I had gone round the bottom of the sleeve, I went round the shoulder. It can be tricky to get the tension right, I just went slow, then un-stitched and tried again when it went wrong. Then I finished up under the arm.

I am really pleased with my unique quirky top and it cost me less than a tenner. It had it’s first outing back in August to Lounge on the Farm accessorised with sparkly kitty ears from Crown and Glory.

Cassy Fry in customized lace top

I still have some of this super cute faux fur left, I’m still decided what to use it for. I’m tempted to sew a multi-coloured fluffy heart onto the front of one of my jumpers. What do you think? Any other cute and crafty ideas for me?

Adventure To… See Honeyblood at Ramsgate Music Hall

Honeyblood at Ramsgate Music Hall

You know when you hear a song for the first time and you instantly love it? I hope you do, because it is an awesome feeling. That moment when you think to yourself, this is the band my record collection has been waiting for! I need to know who this is! If I was my own best friend I’d be so excited to share this with me! This was how I felt when I heard Honeyblood. I’m a sucker for female musicians making feisty lo-fi punk rock music with melodic pop and grungy indie influences. I went and brought their album straight away on the strength of one song (the one I’m sharing at the end of this post).

So I was thrilled to see their name on a flyer for the Ramsgate Music Hall and I was surprised too. I hadn’t heard of Ramsgate Music Hall. How had I missed this venue in East Kent that is programming good music?! I was consoled by the fact it only opened about six months ago, so I’m not too late to the party. 

I was delighted by my first visit. It’s small but perfectly formed and ideal for the intimate gigs I am so fond. Also, the toilet walls are covered in egg wallpaper (srsly this is the ladies) and I have it on good authority that the egg cartons in the gents are empty, with the exception of eggs spelling out PEE over the urinals. 

Let’s cut back to the music, the evening was opened by Canterbury based indie rock band The Doctorates, who were fantastic. Then Honeyblood took to the stage, it was the last night of their UK tour. Singer Stina had that sexy raspy end of tour quality to her vocals, but still smashed it, sipping whisky and oozing friendly charisma between songs. Cat is just completely awesome, her drumming skills are a joy to watch and dance to. I’m so glad I got to see the amazing duo and discover a fab new venue. 

Link Love – Too Many Ideas, 100 Questions And Embracing Kookiness

Cassy Fry in Kooky Unicorn Jumper

It’s time to say so long September, but before we start a shiny new month, here are some stylish, creative and cultural links for you to enjoy. 

Why It Is OK To Have More Ideas Than Time
If you saw my somewhat tongue-in-cheek advice on How To Be Super Productive, you’ll know I’ve been big on ideas and short on time. Kate shared her blog post with me when I was hitting her up for advice. The bit that made me say YES!… “ideas make ideas”. Let’s keep them coming,

100 Questions To Inspire Self-Discovery
This epic list of questions is sure to inspire personal epiphanies, creative projects or stimulating conversations. 

It’s OK To Embrace Your Kookiness
I met the fabulous Jo Christy this month and I’m hoping some of her opportunity-seizing energy is going to wear off on me! I am probably well on my way to embracing my kookiness, but there is always work to be done. This post is essential reading for anyone who needs to network, market their own business or create opportunities. 

Maybe You’re Not Lost, Maybe You’re Reinventing
I love Reina’s writing, she is so insightful and her advice and ideas always ground me without tying me down. I read this post about reinvention just when I needed it. It could apply to you personally, professionally or to a creative project. All is not lost. 

Majorie Salvaterra’s Weird And Wonderful Photographs Of Women 
This series of cinematic and surreal photographs exploring the roles of women are stunning. My favourite is ‘When The Universe Has A Bigger Plan’ (the one with women standing in the sea throwing umbrellas in the air!). There are some nice quotes from Salvaterra in this Huffington Post piece.

Get A Free Download From The Doctorates
So I had my first visit to Ramsgate Music Hall this week and I was delighted. Nice programming, capacity circa 125 people and cool decor, just the kind of small music venue we’ve been missing in East Kent. Headliners Honeyblood were utterly awesome, have so much love for this band right now. Support was provided by Canterbury based indie rock band The Doctorates. I’d already heard good things about them locally and they didn’t disappoint. There is no weak link in this three-piece, they are all seriously good. Hear for yourself by grabbing this free download of their Soundcloud page. Unfortunately it doesn’t come with the bassist’s funky moves, so you’ll have to go see them yourself for that. 

Mark Grist ‘Girls Who Read’
I’ve heard a lot of amazing poetry this month, so I thought I’d end by sharing a poem. I saw unlikely battle rapper, rogue teacher and Poet Laureate for Peterborough, Mark Grist at the Wise Words Festival and he was fantastic.

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