All posts by Cate

A Slight Change in Direction

Bit of a crazy few months. I’m back at the fabulous Wellcome Collection Reading Room, running sessions relating to wellbeing and yarn craft with gentle conversation. The first three were just wonderful, with lots of interesting people, including a group of business students who sat with me for over an hour, and learned to crochet.

Last month I was speaking at the Digital Transformation conference in Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland. What an amazing even that was! Fascinating, creative people all sharing thoughts and ideas. I talked about attention and focus, and how video gaming can be a way to engage with young people who feel they are on the edges of society. It sparked some great discussion.

I like people! I just do, and all my working life, I have worked in areas that help or support people in some way. I’ve been a teacher for a long time now, and I am definitely ready to move away from ‘education’! I’ve loved it. I really have. But a few things have guided me towards my new path over the last couple of years.

I’ve noticed more and more that the diets of the students I teach are quite often terrible. Really terrible. More and more of them are becoming seriously overweight, and some are under-nourished. I’m not blaming parents here, we are bombarded with so much conflicting information that the whole subject is crazy. I have wondered whether nutrition can have an effect on learning…. more on this later…

In my dressmaking role, my main work is alterations to bridal gowns and bridesmaids dresses. Nearly all of the women I have seen just this year are on some sort of diet. It’s quite extraordinary.

And me, as I hit menopause I began to put on weight. I’ve always been slim and never had to worry about it. I’ve never been on a diet. But now here I was, not fitting into my jeans. And so began my journey. I have read dozens of books, journals, articles, blogs. I’ve listened to podcasts and watched scary stuff about obesity on TV. I decided I would retrain in Nutrition. Last week I gained my first qualification as a Nutritional Therapist, and I hope to complete my Clinical Weight-loss Practitioner course very soon.

Thank you to all of those who helped me with case studies and were prepared to be my guinea pigs! I’m so happy that between us we had such success!

I’ll be setting up in practice very soon – bringing nutrition into my wellbeing umbrella.

So that’s my slight change of direction. I’ll be taking on private clients next month, and bringing out my first little book on losing weight gently, mindfully and permanently.

Happy times, namaste

Cate x

That Wonderful Place

Thursday night found me in my second favourite place in London, The fabulous Reading Room on the second floor of the Wellcome Collection, on the Euston Road. It is truly magical. Imagine a library, an old fashioned museum, an art gallery and your cosy living room… that is the Reading Room. You can go there and curl up on a sofa with a book, or explore the curios in the glass cabinets.

The Reading Room at the Wellcome Collection

 

It was one such cabinet that caught my eye last year, and so I put together a little lecture and workshop, called an Event, and the Wellcome Collection people (who are just lovely), invited me back. The Event is advertised on the day, and an announcement is made. People can just turn up, and so I had no idea how many would come along. But this is the Wellcome Collection, and everyone here is curious. And they turned up. They really did. All sorts of people, and we had to find some more chairs.

My Event was called The Magic of Objects and Words, and I invited people to look at the Amulet collection as I talked about charms, luck and magic. We then made our own amulets from bits and pieces, beads, buttons, string, pins and other detritus I’ve gathered over the years. I was so happy that someone used an old mustard spoon.

I am fascinated by sound, and the human voice. I create my soundscapes from the everyday, and as I recited the wonderful poem by Ralph Waldo Emmerson, Amulet, I asked those present to repeat certain words. If they felt like it. If they wanted to. My lectures are gentle.

It was fabulous. Everyone joined in and before long complete strangers were chatting away like best friends.

Happy times.

Tt’s been a busy few weeks, but I have given myself a bit of time to just stop and be still. It’s something I have to remind myself to do.

I’m delighted to say that my book Not Another Scarf! A collection of easy crochet patterns for beginners will be published on 7th March (which is my mum’s birthday). I’ll send out the link for pre-orders in the next couple of days.

For the knitters among you, the Not Another Scarf! A collection…. knitting patterns… is due in April.

I’ve been putting together thoughts and plans for my Creative Wellbeing workshops for those who lead stressful lives and who need time and space to collect their thoughts, relax and play in peaceful surroundings. I’m still looking for suitable venues, so if you know of a place near you, please get in touch.

I’ll be running a session at the glorious Reading Room at the Wellcome Collection, Euston Road, London, this Thursday between 5:30 and 7:30. You just turn up and it’s free. It would be lovely to see some friendly faces. Apologies to those who aren’t near London…

Every Tuesday morning I run a craft club at our local centre for people with learning disabilities, LinkAble. It’s a fun session with a lot of laughing. This morning we made totem poles from cardboard tubes and tin cans, and we sang along to Abba. It was quite joyful and the sessions always leave me smiling.

Have a wonderful week,

Namaste

Cate

x

Sometimes it’s time to stop for goodness sake

Oh dear. That feeling of being overwhelmed is coming on again. It’s a visitor that many of us have, and we all have various ways of coping. I knew it coming along last week. I was driving between appointments and listening to BBC Radio 4’s fabulous Woman’s Hour with Jenni Murray. As I listened without paying much attention, an Australian woman started to speak to me. Meshel Laurie, comedian, writer and Buddhist was talking about overload and busy-ness, and I began to cry. I really did. Oh my goodness.

I thought I’d conquered my feelings of being sad and depressed at times. I have found many good ways to help myself, but over the last few months, I seem to have forgotten them.

I’ve helped others, and I’ve forgotten myself.

We often do this, I think. I am so lucky, and I am grateful for all I have. And that makes me feel guilty for feeling sad. Been there?

So it’s time for me to slow down and do the things that make me feel good. Knitting, crochet and sewing. Visiting museums and libraries, walking in the country and being by the sea. And seeing a few friends. But not all at once.

My book Creative Wellbeing (I’m getting stressed about it!) isn’t finished yet. But that’s ok.

My lists are getting longer, so I’ve extended the time frame. Lists and plans make me feel better so that’s ok.

I’m not taking on any more commissions for a while. That’s ok.

When we are perceived as happy, optimistic, sunshine people, it is very difficult to admit to feeling sad.

I’m going to gather a few people together for a chat about wellbeing over tea and crochet. It might turn into something more structured like a course. But it might not. And that’s ok.

Be kind. To yourself too.

Cate

No Arts and Craft | No point in living

Sadly, this week, I was told that the Art class I run for disengaged students is no longer viable. Once again, short-term finances override the abundance of evidence that shows just how beneficial the arts are for well-being, focus, self-esteem and general happiness. It might have had something to do with not being able to measure the outcomes… or something like that..

The students I teach are not in school. They don’t fit into a highly organised, busy, structured environment. Some fell away gently, and some in a high explosion of disruptive and violent behaviour. Some are very anxious and find life overwhelming. A couple of hours painting, drawing, sewing, printing, knitting, playing with colour, texture and form, has an immediate effect. There is calm. There is gentleness and conversation begins to flow.

Colour wheel collage

When we work with our hands and create something from nothing, we have feelings of joy. How I long for a day when the happiness and well-being of students is valued as much as their ability to complete tests.

The Gentle Art of Crochet and a Russian filmmaker…

I’ve always had eclectic interests. I love a snuggle on the sofa with a good book, and I love a loud, noisy party. I like walking in the mountains and wandering around museums. I love libraries and heavy rock gigs. This festive season I have been sofa-bound with the flu, so I missed all the parties :(. But I did do a bit of knitting and crochet, and I watched films.

Over the last couple of months, the ICA have been showing an Andrei Tarkovsky retrospective, which unfortunately I couldn’t get to… but there are loads on YouTube, so I’ve indulged in a bit of Russian culture – my goodness, his work is so beautiful.

My elbow is improving and so I’ve been working on a few crochet and knitting projects, including a crochet mandala blanket which might take me some time. I’m learning new stitches and need to concentrate! Which brings me to….

A new training video – I know that there are so many training videos out there, and some are truly excellent. However, the majority are American with US terminology, so mine will be very English and very gentle. I’ll keep you informed so that you can join in the fun.

Meanwhile, make sure you’ve signed up for the newsletter, and I hope you have a wonderfully creative 2018.

Mandala crochet blanket beginning

Love Cate

x

 

 

Sprouts, Carrots and a Nudibranch

The world of knitting and crochet is full of wonder and delight. There is literally nothing that some creative person hasn’t knitted or crocheted… from Star Wars characters (yay!) to the Knight Bus for Harry Potter, to full-on armour and hobbit costumes, I am always amazed at the creative activity of people with needles and hooks.

Sprouts and Carrots

Crochet Carrots

 

I just love these! Two very creative people 🙂

Crochet Sprouts

So, if your New Year’s resolution of to learn how to crochet, look out for my crochet for newbies book released next Friday 22nd December. Sign up for the newsletter to get a special subscriber’s preview and a discount price.

 

The yarn crafts can soothe our minds and calm our souls. I’ll be writing more about mindfulness and wool in the coming months.

What’s a nudibranch? So glad you asked (unless you’re a marine biologist, in which case you already know!)

And there’s me thinking she was a slug!

Nudibranch

With love, as always

Cate

Stress and the Bully

Sometimes everything feels like it’s piling up on top of you and you can’t breathe. Too many things to do, too little time, too many demands, too much stuff… and no time at all to even think.

Our lives can become so busy that we completely lose sight of what we actually want in our frantic busy-ness.

In today’s long blog post, I want to write a little bit about stress. It will be a theme that I come back to as it’s the theme of my latest book… as yet unfinished and untitled, as I’m sifting through all my research :).

We feel stressed for a number of reasons, but I want to focus on CONTROL. We know that we feel most stressed when we feel that we are not in control of a situation. We feel afraid and unable to do anything. In the workplace, this can be seen in a style of management that I’ve experienced much too often. That manager who is always breathing down your neck. Always asking what you’re doing. Always checking up on you. To the point of bullying. The manager who puts you down in front of colleagues, and who questions your judgement. The one who makes you feel ridiculous, pathetic and useless.

This makes me so angry! And I am a very gentle person really 🙂

A little story:

I was teaching in a city secondary school (a long time ago). I was experienced and my students were successful. Being a creative (I was an art teacher after all!), I wanted to teach in innovative ways, introducing the students to exciting techniques and new ways of thinking. And I didn’t care for rules that made no sense. (Some might say that I didn’t care for rules at all, which isn’t quite true :)). We were instructed to complete a particular form after each lesson… yay, another form… I asked what it was for and who was going to read the form after I completed it. I asked how the data gathered was going to improve the learning experience of my students, and whether there was evidence that completing the form would benefit anyone? Hey, was I popular? I refused to complete the form until I had answers. I never received any answer. None whatsoever. Not even a token answer. So I never completed the form. Fellow teachers completed the form religiously after each lesson, taking precious time away from important stuff. They got stressed about the form, they got angry about the form. One new teacher actually became tearful because she forgot to complete the form and worried that she would be in trouble. Fortunately, she came into the art room and I made her a cup of tea, and I told her not to bother with the form. She looked at me shocked. I told her my philosophy of doing anything unless it benefited the students in some way, but she couldn’t bring herself to rebel, and she went away and did the forms in her own time.

After about a term I was questioned about my lack of form filling… yes, a whole term… I was approached in the corridor between classes.

“What are you doing with the data?”, I asked.

“Perhaps you could come along to my office after school?”, she smiled.

I went to her office. The conversation went a bit like this:

Her: You haven’t completed the forms

Me: No, I haven’t.

Her: I understand your thoughts but we really need the forms.

Me: Why exactly? The data on the form is already available on form A, which we complete already.

Her: Yes, but it’s in a different format and there’s other information we need

Me: Who needs it and why exactly? And what are you doing with the data you’ve already collected?

Her: We are analysing it for the governors

Me: Analysing what exactly?

Her: Cate, you really are being very argumentative, and unhelpful. The governors have asked for this data and we need to give it to them.

Me: Can I speak to the governors and ask them?

Her (horrified): Well no, I mean, well, I…. that really is not necessary. I think we need to talk about your compliance…

Me (smiling sweetly): Are you trying to intimidate me?

Her: What? No, of course not… look… let’s talk about this another time

Me: Good idea. See you later..

And I left. And we never spoke of it again. Ever.

The form was dropped and is festering somewhere. I am a strong person, and a bit of a rebel. But my point in telling this story is that so many teachers spent hours and hours doing something that was utterly soul destroying and stressful. This is WRONG.

So, my message to teachers or anyone asked to do something they feel is a waste of time is this:

Ask the question why? Ask it politely and with curiosity, after all, there might be a really valid reason that you didn’t realise.. we don’t all have the big picture.

And my message to those in authority:

Why are you asking your staff to do this? Have you given them a real reason and purpose? Have you considered the time it will take and have you considered the consequences? If you yourself have been given the task of telling the staff to do the task… have you asked the question why??

We feel stress when we feel out of control. We can gain some control back when we can ask questions.

And with the time saved from filling in pointless forms, we can get back to the knitting and crochet (or whatever).

Have a wonderful, calm week ahead.

Love Cate

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Singing Along…

Paper plate weaving

This week’s craft class at Woking’s fabulous LinkAble was just wonderful! We all ended up singing and dancing which lifted my mood no end. I run the class each week for young people with learning disabilities, and each time I come home smiling. There’s something about helping other people develop their creativity through art and craft that is so rewarding.

This week we made window charms from paper plates and weaving. Such an easy little project that can be adapted to each participant. Decorating the plate first means that you only have to weave a small amount, and it looks good. I’m all for quick results now and then.

We chose bright colours as it was a grey day, and whilst we created we sang along to a variety of songs from a rather eclectic playlist! The session was enhanced by the addition of a few students from Farnborough 6th form college who were doing some voluntary service as part of their Volunteering Week 2017 #volunteeringweek2017 . They were so enthusiastic and went home with their own window charm!

 

A Simple Pleasure…

I’m missing one of my favourite pass times, knitting whilst curled up on the sofa with the real fire glowing and a cat on my lap… I’ve hurt my elbow and my right hand is very painful… so I can’t knit or crochet for a little while. It’s given me time to sort out and finish a few patterns that I’ve been working on 🙂

Short post today as many things to do…