27 February 2017

This month I have been mostly…

A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled by Ruby Wax, and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion which has been on my to-read list for years! Also Deliciously Ella with Friends which I happened to see half price and liked the look of even though I’d only just heard of her recently when she appeared on a Horizon programme about food. Vegan Food & Living magazine, which had loads of tasty recipes in it, and, of course, my bloggiversary presents to myself, Blogosphere magazine, and How to Style your Brand by Fiona Humberstone.

No Offence, Unforgotten, Timeless, Call the Midwife, The Great Pottery Throw Down.

26 February 2017

10 years of emuse: Today is my bloggiversary!

I can’t believe that ten years have gone by since I started my blog!
Of all the celebrations I’m doing for my bloggiversary, I’m most excited by this big paper wall-art display that I created in the shape of my blog header!

At first I was just going to create the emuse bunting to use as a photo prop. This was the very first idea that I had for my blog’s 10th anniversary – take some photos with me holding an emuse banner. I was going to use a fabric one that I use on craft stalls, but I didn’t think it would stand out well in the photos so I started on a larger one made from card then I realised I could put it up on the wall. Once I had the banner idea, I then thought of adding the little bird from my blog header. I wanted to hold this above my head because in the original collage it was sitting on someone’s head! From there it was a small step of the imagination to add all the other elements like the Japanese doll and craft materials.

Luckily I had some free wall space in my craft room, and that wall just happened to be almost the same colour as I had used in the original collage I created as the blog header, so it seemed like fate!
I cut all the pieces from white card, added coloured card for some of the elements, and embossed some pieces to match the collage I’d made 3 years ago. I braided some thin string to make the cord for the bunting. The only thing I had to buy was the blu-tak to attach it all to the wall.
I did intend the display to just be a short-term thing, but I love it so much that I think I’m going to leave it up for the whole year (even if the blu-tak does stain the wall!).

25 February 2017

10 years of emuse: Shrink plastic bunting necklace

Here’s another little project I did to celebrate my blog’s 10th anniversary – a shrink plastic necklace in the shape of the bunting from my blog’s header! I was then able to wear this when taking photos to celebrate my bloggiversary.
1. Test shrink a piece of the shrink plastic, to work out what amount it shrinks by

2. Decide what size you want the triangles to be, then make them bigger by the amount determined by the test piece

3. Draw the triangles on paper then add the lettering. If you want the shiny side to be the front, make sure to reverse the lettering!

4. Punch holes in the triangles.

5. Cut out the triangles from shrink plastic and trace the lettering onto them with a black pen. Add any decoration you want, and colour in with colored pencil or pen.
6. Shrink the pieces using an oven or hot air gun.

7. Thread thin wire through the triangles, bend into a pleasing curve, and make a loop at each end.

8. Add a chain. Or you could make it with string or thong instead.

24 February 2017

10 years of emuse: emuse vignette display

To celebrate my blog’s 10th anniversary, one of the things I did was to create this little display in my craft room. It’s at the opposite end of the room from the large wall display that I created, which works out well as now I have blog-related displays at both ends of the room. It’s also right beside my computer, so I can glance up and be inspired by it when I am blogging!
I added items to the display that were either things I had made with the blog’s name, emuse, on them, or that were based on the letter E. I was surprised by how many things I found around my house that I could use!

23 February 2017

10 years of emuse: The story of emuse

It’s hard to believe that this week I’m celebrating 10 years since I first set up my blog, emuse, and wrote my first posts here! I didn’t know then that it would still be going all these years later, and that it would have grown and become one of the achievements I’m most proud of in my whole life!

The story starts before that, though. Some years before I even thought about starting this blog (or even knew what a blog was), my internet service provider had offered free web hosting and I decided to set up a website, also called emuse, with various sections on crafts, family history, books, tv, etc. I’d learned a lot about html and website design through my MSc course in Human Computer Interaction, and I really enjoyed setting up and running my site. But sometimes it did feel a bit of a hassle to update it, and I didn’t really feel part of a community.

I can’t remember much about other people’s reactions to me starting my website, other than my boss, who, when I told him the name of it, said, “Are you really sure you want to call it that?!” But, in fact, the name emuse is something that I still love and I’m glad I called the website and blog by that name!

I got to my mid-thirties, and suddenly realised that more than ten years of my life had gone by since I had started working, and I couldn’t remember much of note that had happened in those years – I felt they had gone by with nothing to show for them. I knew I’d done things, but had no real record of them other than some photos.

Then the whole idea of blogging came along, at just the right time. At first I wasn’t that sure about blogs – they just seemed to be online diaries, and I wasn’t sure who would want to read about my boring life! But then I realised that I could use a blog just for myself, as a way of remembering and celebrating all the little things that happened in my life – craft projects, days out, etc, and I also realised that a lot of the sites I read and enjoyed were blogs. It was February when I started emuse, a month that I tend to find myself feeling really fed up, so I think I was in need of cheering up and a creative project! And I liked the idea that once I had the blog I would be able to look back and see the things I'd done, to boost my mood if I was feeling down.

For the blog header I used a collage of some little characters I'd been creating at that time, made from a stamped circle for the head, and cut paper for the body.

The idea of the most recent post being first on a blog was a bit strange to me, as I was used to having a hierarchical structure on my website. It took a while for me to realise that I could use things like tags to group posts on similar subjects together, and that it was more of a magazine format that kept readers coming back for fresh content.

I joined Flickr a few years later, and this was where I really found the sense of community that had been lacking when I had my old website. I began to follow a lot of craft and illustration bloggers, many of whom I still follow now. But these days I more rely on Instagram for that sense of community.

I still kept the website running in the background. It was a useful record of some of the craft projects I’d done before starting my blog, and it was also a way of distant relatives finding my family history research! It only finally came to an end in the past year or two, when Virgin did away with their personal web page hosting.

A major turning point for emuse came three years ago when I decided to redesign the blog. I was actually a bit fed up with blogging at that time. I was really just going through the motions, especially when it got to the point when all I wrote in a blog post was "did these drawings yesterday". It was starting to feel like a bit of a chore, and I was seriously considering giving it up altogether. But, instead, I somehow got a new spurt of creative energy and started to redesign the blog and try to attract new readers.
I changed the colour scheme and added a new hand-cut collage header, which included various elements that I felt were important to the blog – various crafts, books, Japan, dolls, etc. I also kept the little bird motif from the original banner, to keep a sense of continuity. I liked the idea of keeping a handmade feel by using the cut paper illustration. I added buttons to make navigating the blog easier, and over the next few months I added other features like having the most popular posts in the sidebar, and having related posts at the end of each post (although this last one is something that’s been playing up a bit lately, so I really have to fix that!).

The following month A Beautiful Mess began a Blog Life course, and it came along at just the right time for me. It got me thinking about the purpose of my blog, and my talents, interests and personality. This led to me creating themed weeks and months on the blog, which meant I could take advantage of the way I get obsessed with one topic for a while!

The blog redesign and the Blog Life course gave me the creative boost I needed, helped me to brainstorm lots of ideas for the blog, and made me get more organised. I started having a monthly calendar with all the blog posts marked on it, and roundup posts at the end of the month.

This all led to a massive increase in posting on emuse. Over February and March of 2014 I only posted once, but in May, June, July and August of the same year I posted 31 times each month! After this initial flurry of activity, I settled down a bit and went for a more achievable goal of posting roughly 3 times a week, although this can vary. After the redesign and improved posting regime there was an increase in readership too, with the monthly hits being more than double what they used to be.

Something else I learned from Blog Life was to bring my personality more into my blog, and to let the readers get to know me a bit. I’d also been reading the A Beautiful Mess photo idea book at that time, and was getting into taking self-portraits, so these became a regular part of the blog.

I also started taking more of an effort with my blog photos in general, making sure to get good light and to use simple backgrounds. Now when I look back at the earlier photos I cringe, and I can tell which photos are from before and after the redesign!

Over the past 10 years emuse has grown to become not just a way of recording the little achievements in life, but a big achievement in itself, and, in fact, my biggest and most important creative project ever! I’ve written almost 1300 blog posts, on lots of different topics, and the blog has helped me to record and remember lots of amazing experiences, shown me what an important part of my life creativity is, and also helped me to be part of a wonderful blogging community that stretches all around the world.

22 February 2017

10 years of emuse: Faux succulent and concrete monogram letter E

I had a couple of cardboard letters that I’d bought a few years ago, so, since E is the initial of both my blog and myself, I thought decorating one would be a fun project for my bloggiversary.

I’d seen some projects with felt faux succulents, and they looked particularly good against a concrete background, so this is the look I decided to go for, using a stone-effect paint.

1. Paint all over with stone-effect paint - this may need a couple of layers. You can dab or stroke it on, depending on the effect you want.

2. Cut ovals from felt, add some chalk for shading, and glue together with hot glue to make the faux succulents
3. Use hot glue to attach the succulents

21 February 2017

10 years of emuse: Self-portraits through the years

Since the very first photo I posted on emuse was a self-portrait, and they have become a feature of the blog in recent years, I thought it would be fun to look back at some of them and see how I've changed over the years!

So here's the very first photo that I posted to the blog:

A moody sepia one that I really like:

 The sexy librarian one that I used as my profile picture for a while:

The Amelie style one:

Doing a mini-me with my first Blythe doll (and looking very like my mum!): 

An example of the really awfully lit and composed outfit photos I used to take indoors: 

A favourite of mine, with the paper kanzashi I made at an art college course: 

When I really started to get into taking creative self-portraits for my blog: 

The pre-braces photos:

The during braces favourite:

I really liked the ones I took with my brooch cushion: 

Probably my favourite photo of me ever! I really want to get my hair back to this length (and have turquoise ends in my hair again!):

New colour, and new cut:

Another Blythe mini-me:

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the school where I work: 

And finally my then and now photo, from 2014 and now: 
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