Womenfolk Series: Shani Nottingham – Rare Pear Studio Creative, Artist & Photographer

Today The Morning Drum would like you to meet our first Womenfolk feature for 2017.

You might notice that the format has changed a little. It’s a bit lighter than the previous format, but doesn’t deviate from telling you all the great things about inspiring, smart and creative women.

Dear readers, let me introduce you to Shani Nottingham.

Shani and I met within the lovely online Blog With Pip group, where lots of cool and kind blogging peeps hang out, get advice, compare notes and generally support each other.  Shani is an artist, and the creative talent behind Rare Pear Studio.

She is also behind the current trending project, #ProjectTlove, which she started just for herself but it’s going a little bit cray cray! People have been invited to hashtag anything they create, be it a collage, painting, drawing, sketch, photos, or anything related to TEA. Shani planned to do it for 100 days, it looks like it may go for even longer!!! She would love others to join in. Take a look here.

Shani also hosts creative workshops, does commissions and collaborations big and small, as well as illustration work.  She is also the head admin and founder of The Collage Club on Facebook, and A Virtual Cuppa – a place for women, especially creative types, to connect and share over virtual cuppas.

But I won’t go on, Shani is here to chat to you all.

Hello there! My name is Shani (rhymes with rainy). Pleased to meet you. So what can I tell you about me? I am an open book, probably too much sometimes. I am a middle aged mother of three, happily married to a lad I met at Uni. I have a white picket fence house and two 4WD vehicles. On the surface, that sounds pretty normal huh?

Do not be deceived. My world is crazy nuts. After growing up in Newcastle, I finished a bachelor of Arts Visual Arts degree, had a few years bumming around, then went travelling for a few more. All with the guy who is now my hubby. Then we came back to Australia, and moved to Central West NSW because of a teaching job for hubby. We planned to be here for a few years, and 20 years later, we are still here. WTF?!

I never thought this would be where I would live, but it is beautiful, and a great place for the kids to grow up. Huge skies, lovely surrounds, and we live in a great old house.100 years plus, but with a big modern extension designed by our architect best friend and added a few years back. I love my house, it is full of my collections  (I am a bit addicted to opp-shopping, have been since I was a kid) and things special to me. I love my garden, a total work in progress, and spend hours out there dreaming and pottering. I could become a hermit, just pottering about painting, quite easily.

What else? I am also a teacher, getting my second Uni degree while I was breeding. I am a vegetarian, and have been since I was about four years old. I have a pet green tree frog, a dog, two cats, and a new kitten (this week!). I love cheese, dreaming, sleeping, creating, iced coffee and Instagram. 

I have had depression on and off since my teenage years, and a bit of anxiety too. I live with it, manage it, and it is part of who I am. I guess it is my sensitive nature that also makes me attuned to fine things, observant, and it fuels my creativity. It has given me a roller coaster ride, but I know no different.

My world is full of colour and drama, never beige or boring. Sometimes I wish it was, but never for long.

When I wake up… 

I moan, and try to go back to sleep. I am NOT a morning person. I am a total night owl!

My childhood was spent… 

In Newcastle NSW, at the beach, camping, travelling, and being exposed to lots of wonderful experiences and places.

Motherhood has taught me… 

That parenting is hard work. That love for your kids is not describable to someone who does not have kids. That I really appreciate the great job my own parents did.

Raising three children is…

a  bloody tough gig. I wish we had more family support out here, but the distance away from family has prevented it. Incredibly rewarding too…but exhausting.

My role model is… 

hmmm. Tough one. There are two creatives I really love and hold up as examples. I am inspired by Olive Cotton, an Australian female photographer, and how she maintained her passion for her craft, throughout her life. I am inspired by so many people…

My definition of success is… 

being happy. And content.

If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing today…

I would be travelling the world, filling sketchbooks and diaries, soaking up new experiences.

My mother taught me… 

to collect! To love my home, and clean before guests come over!

A dream that came true for me… 

At the risk of sounding soppy, marrying my husband, and having kids. Hubby  and I were ridiculously immature nutty Uni students when we met, and we went through A LOT to get to the point of being responsible adults ready to make a life commitment… And I had endometriosis for years, and was told there was a very good chance I would never have children naturally…

My favourite season is (and why)… 

Autumn…crunchy pretty leaves, cooler weather, I do love Spring too, the promise of new. I really do not like Summer!

My biggest career highlight was… 

winning the Kidspot #voicesof2015 in Sydney. Being asked to contribute to some colouring in books. Being asked to run creative workshops by people I hugely admire. Having a famous Interior writer ask to buy my art…

My time management secrets are…

 I wish I had some! It is NOT my strength! I make to do lists, for my day, my week, my month. That is my starting point…

Today I’m wearing… 

as minimal as possible. It is REALLY HOT!

The last meal I ate was…. 

Homemade vegetarian ratatouille and salad.

I get stressed when… 

I realise I am shitty at time management!!!

Asking for money when I create art, knowing how much to charge for my skills and time…

My most annoying habit is… 

Being bad at time management! lol! To be truthful, my life seems to take up all of my time…

Favourite thing to do for yourself…

Quiet alone time, faffing with my paints and drawing… or reading… or walking in my garden… Quiet alone time really.

My happy place is… 

My hubby says he can see me going to my happy place when I gaze at my coloured glass collection!  But as a place? South Island New Zealand. I adore it. I dream of it. I miss it. When I go there my heart fills.

I am inspired by…

Nature. Colour. Other creatives. The need to create.

If I could live in any other era, it would be… and why

Wow. Tough. The swinging 60’s I think, or late fifties. Because I love the fashions, homeware trends, the grooviness, the music, the positivity that seems to be signature to that time. Walking on the moon, and so many breakthroughs! Exciting times. Free love!

You can find out more about Shani and all the cool things that she is involved with here on her Blog, or follow her on Facebook  or Instagram: @rarepearstudio, she’s also on Pinterest and she has a website and a shop too.

2017 Spinning The Plates

Well, I know it’s like… half way through January, but dang, how did that happen??? 2017, I mean, it’s like I looked up and the year was over, and the new one had begun. That isn’t meant to happen when you are trying to live a ‘slow’ life.

I’m about to head off camping for a week so thought I’d jot down a few musings for 2017. I’ve done the whole ‘choose a word’ thing for each new year for the past couple of years, but like past resolutions, the word was quickly forgotten. I can’t even remember my last year’s word, and given 2016 finished only two weeks ago, I’m thinking that the ‘word’ thing doesn’t work for me.

I know that that particular exercise is inspired by that lovely feeling of possibility that comes with the start of a new year, and I completely embrace those possibilities. There is something so wonderful and energising about possibilities.

But I want to start as I mean to go on.

And I want to mean it. 

I’ve found what most inspires me is hope. Which can include ambition, and professional goals. But I think there is so much more to life than this limited framework. For me, hope includes plans for travel; working towards more meaningful interactions: with my family, with my friends, with my clients and work peers, and within the community that I live in.

Those connections are so important. Call me a cynic, or perhaps a little bit jaded, but there seems to be a lot of grabbing going on, in insidious ways. People ‘reaching out’ with the sole intention of trying to sell you something, sign you up to something, to get you follow them to increase their stats or numbers…

This year, 2017, is about looking for hope, enjoying what I’ve created, hoping it continues, investing myself in projects, and people and family so all the beauty does continue.

Finding joy in the small things and continuing my slow journey is a central focus. I feel lucky to be able to say that mostly I’ve got the ‘work/life balance’ right in my life. That’s partly due to committing to a slower lifestyle; you actually need less when you live slowly and intentionally. I know. A revelation.

 I’m looking for things that are bigger than me. The world is shrinking into the tiny social media connections of Facebook and Instagram and I don’t want to shrink with it.

Last year, I was in a client meeting and a team member was introduced and one of her ‘achievements’ was growing her Instagram followers to over 50,000. This was one of the reasons for having her on board. I left that meeting feeling a little disillusioned.

I’d gone back to uni to do my Masters’ in Editing & Communications. During the time that I was studying I gave birth to two of my three children. Visited the Mother & Baby Sleep Unit with both of them, sold our house, bought another and moved across the other side of the city, and in my final semester of uni I joined the Marketing and Communications department of a top tier law firm. It was a struggle to say the least. To hear that someone was on board the project because they grew their Instagram followers to 50,000 left me wondering if I’d wasted my time, energy and money on study.

When I say that the world is shrinking into our social media connections, I fear for struggle and the pain and the energy that people put in to doing work that has depth and real meaning. When someone can appear with a large Instagram following and be hired on the strength of that… Social media is the way of the world, I get that, but I live in hope that there is movement beyond this flakey imaginary world. I know now that my MA could never be wasted, because it was so personally enriching. That’s what I’m coming back to. Enriching my life, my family’s life, my friends’ lives.

This is why I took the month of December off Facebook and I rediscovered life before social media. Time to read, watch great TV (although there was no Netflix back then!). Don’t get me wrong I’ve actually made some lovely friends online, through blogging, who I’ve never met in person but definitely have a connection with. So YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, they all have a place, but rightfully, they should only take up a small space in our lives.

On my month off I discovered an embroidery in a box that my mother-in-law gave me so many years ago, when we still lived in England – before we were married. I had done one corner and started the second, put it away and forgot it ever existed. I’ve come back to that, I’ve done a little bit more on it. I’m rusty, that’s for sure.

When I started I had my mother-in-law to defer to, but now we live on opposite sides of the planet. I had forgotten how to do a french knot. When I realised I couldn’t remember how to do this, she would have been asleep so I couldn’t even Skype to ask. Thank goodness for YouTube (see, not all bad!). I’m still rusty, but at least I know how to do it now.

These are the little things that I speak of. Having projects, making plans, investing in my lovely community and friends and family. Rumi offers advice for those who have lost hope in life:

“Look as long as you can at the friend that you love.”

Friendships can nourish us. Strong relationships can nourish us.

Retreat in equal measure is just as important, which I experienced with my Facebook break. But it is also part of a living a slow and intentional life. Retreat provides sustenance. I’m still learning how to spin all the plates and keep things ticking over, but setting out with the intention to go gently means I look forward to the new year, whatever it may hold, with a simple recipe up my sleeve.

Retreat, hope, love, kindness and repeat. Practise one at a time, or all together.

Do you have a plan for your 2017?

“Get It On”: Why Dawn O’Porter’s Podcast Is Essential Listening

This is how it came to be. A friend of mine said to me ‘you should listen to Dawn’s podcast. It’s called Get It On, it’s really good’. I nodded, agreed, yes definitely I should listen to that. Knowing that I perhaps would never be able to fight the din of Alvin and the Chipmonks, or Lego Friends. And such is the ferocity of my three year olds demands for Netflix shows that while I dreamt of listening to Dawn and Get It On, I didn’t really think I would.  [Read more…]

Summer is HERE! (A tentative declaration) ☀️

At the beginning of a new season I get so wrapped up in the possibilities of said new season, and do often declare that this said new season is most definitely my favourite season of all. So Summer is my current favourite. (Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever declared Winter my favourite, but for my northern hemisphere readers, I did write an article for Essential Kids about the things I love about winter, you can read that here, if you’re shivering your way through pre-Christmas celebrations).

I love the seasons and while I complain about the cold weather, I don’t think I could live in a climate that doesn’t have all four seasons. So, I say this very tentatively, because well… Melbourne. Four seasons in one day, and all that. But I think I can say it now: [Read more…]

The Hardness: It’s Just That Sometimes Life Is Hard

I have an amazing life, I am the first to recognise this. I know it. I have three beautiful healthy children. A gorgeous, generous, thoughtful and hilariously funny husband, a comfortable home. I am healthy (mostly). But sometimes the hardness comes and sits on my chest. For no reason at all.

When I say hardness, I mean the hardness of life. When easy things become hard. Life is ticking over, the world is turning as it does, but suddenly life is like swimming against a tide.

I go into a zone where I am critical of myself. I convince myself of all sorts of not good things. The world beneath me is shaky and uncertain.

This partly why I decided to have a break from Facebook, as I think if your armour is fragile social media (but particularly Facebook) can easily crack through it.

My husband has had surgery recently so my workload on the home front significantly increased for a time (testament to how much he does at home). I also have a dodgy hip and because of this I can’t sleep properly. I get sciatica at night and it continuously wakes me up. I feel like I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in weeks. Sleep deprivation alters your world view. I know this from experience.

And Christmas… And I miss my Mum.

I got a text message from my daughter’s ballet school to say that I should make sure that I am at their Christmas party because she is getting an award. So proud and happy. But sad too, because Mum is the first person I would call to tell.

But, no one to call.

Everyone is busy, and frazzled, and tired.

I think there are more people than we know who feel like I do. Particularly at this time of year.

Why do we hide vulnerability? Is it so bad to be human? Struggle is a deeply human experience so I am perplexed about why we try to pretend that life is peachy all of the time.

Social media certainly perpetuates this. But I think it’s ok for life not to be peachy all the time. And it’s ok not to pretend that it is.

But I know that tomorrow is a new day.

There is sunshine ahead. 

How are you feeling at this jolly time of year?