Life affirming dust….

The world that is Scottish island mum is a wee bit busy at the moment but mostly this is supported by strong and inspirational teamwork so I feel rather blessed.  For me there is no greater achievement than when people pull together towards a common goal as it is transformational.  The journey towards the outcome is full of enriched and life affirming moments where memories are built that result in twisted faces accompanied by peels of laughter.  One thing Scottish island mum knows how to do and that is laugh.  Just at this time I find myself surrounded by people in different contexts that all share that capacity.  Within that the teams that I am currently working with are some of the most inspirational people I have ever worked with.

I think it may be both a gender and an age issue.  I am used to mixed gender teams but just at the moment I find myself working with mainly women and, more than that, women of a certain age that are learning to let go a wee bit and let the consequences find themselves.  We are on a shared pathway and that is a blessing in its own right.  As regular readers will know I try and balance my life with time for family and work and time for charitable projects and this has always meant that I have worked alongside a wide range of people and learnt from all of them.  I can never really see the point in surrounding yourself with people the same as yourself – better to aim for diversity as with that comes increased learning.  If I ever stop learning I suspect I will have stopped breathing.

Much of my world is creative and that transcends much of my daily occupation.  I work with online communities such as Etsy and Remade in Britain on a commercial basis but these places are jam packed with creative people.  I work with students from all over the world on my portfolio of e-courses and some of their thinking blows me into a new universe and I work with media companies full of young people seeking new truths that seem to genuinely believe my writing has something to offer the world.

In my charity work I work with UNICEF, Save the Children and Oxfam on an international level where the focus is about finding creative ways to reach the hearts and minds of those more fortunate in this world.  These professionals often sit towards the top of my favourite people list as their work is relentless, tireless and compassionate.  I am not sure it gets much better than that.   On the island I work with a community project called Eco Savvy that aims to make the island a more sustainable reality.  I also work with other charities on an occasional basis especially with fundraising initiatives.  My work with charity is aligned with my family life as combined they support me as I exist.

IMG_5578This post however focuses on one wee group within a group.  I have been working with a creative upcycling group all summer on the island as part of the eco savvy project and I am not sure I have ever worked with a better group.  I measure this in terms of mutual respect, support, creativity and commitment.  Each and every member of these have all these qualities in bucket fulls.  We are working towards an upcycled story telling show in the few weeks and as the show approaches this wee group of women just keep on delivering.  We don’t do cross words, we don’t do ego. and we don’t do gossip.  We meet every second week and we create, chat and each cake.  Between meetings we all continue to create and share via virtual platforms and the sense of being a team has never been stronger.  I may be writing and directing the show but I am not leading the group.  A group like this needs no leadership.  It is far outgrown that concept.  We do, from time to time, need more cake however.

It is easy to thank people after a show has gone out and there is a mix of relief and pride and I am sure I will do that in spades.  But I wanted to say thank you now by writing it down and letting others read about this wonderful group of women.  You don’t know their names – you don’t need to know them.  You wouldn’t recognise them in the street if you saw them – you don’t need to. Perhaps it is just enough to know they exist proving that this type of team spirit in alive and kicking.  Think of it as life affirming magic dust.  May a little of it escape from this screen and keep the faith that human beings really are remarkable.

To my wee group of ladies I would just like to say that it has been an honour and a privilege.  Rock and roll girls.  xx

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The island begins to shine

cropped-growing-may-2014-045.jpgSeptember is my favourite month on the island.  Families have all returned home and the island settles down a wee bit and, more often than not, the sun shines.  I get to walk on the beach alone and park right outside the bank when I need to.  The midges begin to decline and the autumn breezes begin to arrive.  More importantly than all of that the seeds begin to travel through the light breezes and I find that sight magical.  The lightness of motion and new places are found for new growth next spring.

On our land the leaves on the willow are just starting to turn and I am hopeful for a super crop for Christmas wreaths this year.  Creatively September is a month of designing and collecting materials ready for the big October sew for the Christmas collection.  Things are a little different this year because of the success of the Arran Open Studios event as I am also trying to find time to work on my bowls.  If you want to follow the progress of this work you might want to follow my sister blog HERE.  

Santa sparkle 026The other difference this year is the scope of my Christmas range.  I always do very well at the island events as I am very well supported by the locals.  I am keen to create an additional event to support some of the craft workers who support the village markets with me throughout the summer.  So I have invited a number of them to join me on an open house event called Christmas Cottage which will run from the 4-6th December.  We will work as a group to set our spare cottage up as a festival for all things Christmas and I will bring my workshops all together to run over this weekend.  I am also planning a cheese and wine shopping evening and a hot chocolate and cup cake gathering so it promises to be a lot of fun.  The Bobbin Collective will also be well represented.  Much more detail nearer the time and do keep an eye on my FACEBOOK PAGE.

The scope extends further with my partnership with Remade in Britain as we not only stock our shop for Christmas gifts but we also offer stock items for their two stands at The Festival of Thrift in late September and the Country Living Christmas Fair the first weekend in December.  I am truly delighted to be working with Remade in Britain as they extend their impact and reach for all things upcycled.

creative arran whiting bay 036So this autumn promises to be even busier than normal and I am feeling up for the challenge. From January 1st I have decided to take a years sabbatical from writing with the exception of Scottish island mum and my related blogs.  This will allow me to focus on my emerging art portfolio and my increasingly successful upcycled craft work.  I can’t just bolt my new art work into an already busy schedule so it was a decision that was quite easily made.  After the sabbatical year I will have a stronger feeling for the most obvious direction from there.  I have always made considerable time for my voluntary work with the island project Eco Savvy and my work for UNICEF, Save the Children and Oxfam.  During 2016 I am still going to make time but I need to be more structured about it and limit it to sensible, but worthwhile contributions.  I work best in a project context so that should give me an excellent steer.

I am also taking a years break from my e-courses but that is part of an earlier plan as I use 2016 to turn some of the courses into e-books.  It will seem odd not have students to communicate with on almost a daily basis but it should provide me with the ‘space’ I need to do the conversions to ebooks and begin a virtual library of what I hope are useful texts relating to mindfulness and intuitive journaling.  I very much hope to pick up my e-course work in 2017.

Scottish island mum will continue to play a central role in my life as it is the space where it all comes together and begins to make sense.  The community that is ‘Scottish island mum’ is very important to me and I can’t imagine that ever changing.  If you want to follow me across my social networks the links are here –




Meantime, I wish all of a productive and bountiful autumn and do drop me a message or comment with your plans as I would love to hear them.  Blessings to you all.

scottish island mum

Arran Open Studios – A Review

PicMonkey Collage1The short version is a wee jump in the air shouting ‘I did it’ followed by a little jig round the room.  The longer version is below….xx

My goodness I had absolutely no idea how this event would go.  I had heard mixed stories from artists who had been part of Arran Open Studios before so I decided to take it as it came.  That may not, however, been the best plan as I am quite sure I resembled a rabbit in the headlights throughout the entire four days.  From the minute the studio opened on the Friday I had visitors and a constant stream followed them for the entire duration of the event.  So much for getting some beading done!  I am not grumbling but you do need to see my studio to appreciate the slight problem this many visitors can cause.  It is not very big but it does me nicely.  At one point we had seven people crammed in to hear the wee talk I gave on the processes I use to make my work.


As this was my first exhibition of my three dimensional free motion machine embroidery I was really seeking feedback.  People were incredibly generous with their time and feedback and I was deeply humbled throughout the entire process.


For those who don’t know the journey it began in January when I decided to enter this event and paid my fees.  I knew I had until August to attempt to create some art using my sewing machine.  Had I known back then that it would take four months to master and refine the process I might have booked for next year!  But in April I had my Eureka moment when I finally liked what was coming off the machine and my first wee bowl was made using waste thread and shredded fabric.

IMG_5453 (2)Sensible people might have just continued to use this formula going forward but I am not sure I have ever been sensible.  So between April and August I experimented with a range of both natural materials and waste materials so see just how far I could push my sewing machine and my creativity.  I must admit that when working with seaweed my sewing machine sulked for days afterwards….



Out of 65 attempts just 11 bowls made the exhibition as I was determined to only show the best of the best.  I was also keen to show a wide range of materials in the making of the bowls and feedback on this aspect was always going to be vital.  I priced them very last minute with no real sense of how to do that and was not prepared for any sales.  Two mistakes wrapped up in one.


From the very first set of visitors came the very first sales and in those sales I saw the power of art.  If people see what they want they know they have seen it and they want it.  It is a simple formula for decision making as they know they will never get that chance again.  Each of my bowls is unique and that is vitally important as I shift from craft to art.  Each piece has its one narrative and its own integrity.  That all sounds excellent but what I also hadn’t anticipated is how attached I would become to each and every bowl.  So when that very first bowl walked out of the studio in the clutch of someone else I took a sharp breath in before reminding myself how much it was loved.  Every bowl featured in this article has sold and has a new home now….


So as the four days unfolded in a blur of visits and sales I was also unprepared for the significance of commissions.  Putting a wee notice up saying commissions welcome is a reflection of my experience in my craft business where people will give me a piece of fabric with a family history and ask me to make something with it.  Commissions are not new to me but art is and there lay the problem.  When I was commissioned for the first time early in the event I must have look terrified as the potential customer put her arm around me to comfort me!  But a sensible conversation later and I felt more confident but also incredibly humbled to be asked.  I start with sketching with pencil before I go anywhere near creating a two dimensional pattern of a three dimensional bowl on fabric.  So, it seemed sensible to send sketches to the customer for feedback and that is just what we have agreed to do.  With this approach I hope she will have involvement throughout and her own creative investment.  Flutter of nerves in my tummy….


One chap said to me ‘you have asked for feedback and you have received the very best of feedback so what are you going to do with it?’  Of course I couldn’t answer that fully except to say that I was interested that all the bowls had been appreciated and that the range of materials allowed the bowls to ‘speak’ to different people.  But I knew where he was heading.  He wanted to hear a commitment from me that I would be pursuing this work and even told me he would be back in a year to see how far I had got.  I felt a hint of my late father in that comment.

Just as the sales were continuing and the people footprints were increasing in walks a wee delegation from a local art gallery.  Without hesitation it was affirmed that they would like to feature them in the gallery before passing advice on what is most likely to sell in their context.  This included making some larger than my current largest bowl which will retest the process once more. I found myself smiling at the challenge.  They also informed me that I had massively under-priced my bowls.  Going forward they will be available to advise.

I have worked in the craft industry most of my adult life and will never abandon my roots but just at this time I need this challenge.  I need to explore further the creation of bowls using materials that are both unexpected and beautiful.  When I started writing a blog every day for a year back in 2013 I very much felt that that was something I needed to do and look what that lead to.  But I move forward with my bowls with no real sense of expectation and an appreciation that I am on a massively steep learning curve.  I see those as life enhancing positives though and you just know I will document it here.

May I just take this opportunity to thank everyone for their incredible support leading up to and during this event.  In particular my beloved family.  There have been tears from me on more than one occasion and a feeling that I should walk away but they all believed in me and the darling bowls that began to emerge.  I would not have made this event without them and I think they know that.   In addition there is one woman who taught me to use a sewing machine when I was just 11 years old and right about now she would be smiling down at me and my precious bowls.  Thank you to my gorgeous late Grandmother, Ella Stevenson.  If you want to read her story you will find it on this PAGE.  

Much love to all,

scottish island mum