Thursday 15 December 2016

Xmas Wish List 2016 ★

It's that time of year again, so i'm carrying on the tradition of the annual extravagant Xmas wish list post! I know what you're thinking, "what ridiculous list of materialistic tripe has Jade put together this year?!" well all I can say is read on dear reader, read on.

I actually ended up getting 3 of the items off last year's wish list, but I bought them all for myself so I'm not sure if they count. Despite the mega hints I drop, I never seem to get any of the things off my wish lists. I mean, it's not like I ask for anything unreasonable or anything *laughs nervously*. So now I just buy stuff like that for myself. You gotta treat yo self right? Of course you do.

As per usual, this year's wish list includes a mix of reasonable (aka more affordable) gifts along with some more unattainable (aka super expensive) ones because it's Christmas and I'm allowed to dream! Although I'll be honest, some of the things here are definitely NOT that affordable, but I can't help it if all the things I really like are expensive! I clearly have good taste ^_^

Anyway, on with the 2016 wish list. So Santa if you're reading this grab a pen and write these down because this year I would like...

1. A Dionysus top handle bag in blue stripe from Gucci - £2,020

Go BIG or go home right? Well, what better way to kick off this year's wish list than with something I'll definitely NEVER get! I've been a Gucci fan for years but this year they really blew me away with their 2016 collections. I've lost count of the winter clothes/bags/shoes I've seen on the high street that were clearly inspired by Gucci. If you've bought anything on the high street with ruffles on this Autumn/Winter, then you have Gucci to thank for it.

I make it no secret that I love luxury fashion, unfortunately my bank balance doesn't agree, otherwise I'd have a Gucci bag for every day of the week. Anyway, this year I've been lusting after this one in particular. I'm not even sure why, I just really, really love it okay?! Maybe it's the bamboo handle or the military inspired star and stripes or even the fact that it's named after Dionysus from Greek Mythology. Whatever it is, I adore this bag.

Available to buy HERE (please Santa, pleeeeeeaaaaasssssseeeee!!!! I mean, obviously i'll settle for ANY Gucci bag, but i'd really like this one. please)

2. A 'Don't Panic' necklace from Snikt and Bamf - £35't-panic-necklace

I love acrylic jewellery and I love The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, so it makes sense that I'd also love this brilliant necklace from British brand Snikt and Bamf. But then what's not to love? It's red and sparkly and shows off my love for Douglas Adams iconic books. I'm not afraid to declare my geekiness to the world (see THIS post for proof. Yes, it's the one where I'm dressed as a Ghostbuster, in public.) and apart from this being a super cute necklace, I also think it would match my red lipstick really well. Just saying.'t-panic-necklace

Do I even need to justify it? No, not really. This is a wish list and I wish for this necklace. That's really all that matters.

Available to all hoopy froods HERE

3. A Harry Potter themed Book Print Skirt from Pick n Mix on Etsy - £35

Do I even need to explain this one?! Come on people, if you're here reading this then you probably already know about my lifelong book addiction. Why wouldn't I want a twirly skirt covered in spell books? Trick question because obviously I NEED a magical book print skirt ASAP.

I might not be a librarian anymore but that doesn't mean I still couldn't rock a book themed skirt. Plus, just think how well it would go with my book themed necklace and brooch.

Ooh and I could wear my time turner necklace with it as well! And my Ravenclaw badge. And my wand.

Wait, what do you mean why do I have a wand?! I don't have to explain myself to muggles.

Available to order HERE, Owl delivery not guaranteed

4. A Frida brooch from Baccurelli - £41
I did say I love acrylic jewellery didn't I! Well i've been a fan of Baccurelli designs for a few years now and while I'd be happy with any of her lovely brooches or accessories, I particularly like the Frida brooch. Maybe it's the artist in me, or the mix of red and black (my favourite colours), but this would go with soooo many outfits. I can see it already!

Plus it goes without saying that Frida Kahlo (who the brooch is based on) was a total badass and a truly amazing woman. So who wouldn't want to wear a little brooch of her likeness!

Available HERE along with dozens of other gorgeous brooches and accessories

5. A pair of 'Marvel' lace-up leather boots from Ted & Muffy - £225

October to March you will find me pretty much living in winter boots. Boots are the BEST. But every year I usually end up buying a cheap high street pair of knee boots from somewhere like Asda or New Look but unsurprisingly a year later they look wrecked. I'd love to invest (or be gifted...) a high quality pair of leather boots that will last for years.

Until last year I still wore a lovely pair of brown leather lace-up pirate boots that I'd had since I was 16, so I know that good quality boots can last for ages. But unfortunately they finally gave up the ghost, so now I'd like a new pair of lace-up boots to live in each winter. Why lace-up ones? Well for starters I have quite chunky calves but very narrow ankles so I usually struggle to find high street boots that will fit me properly. Lace-up boots make it easy to customize the fit AND they look really nice. I think so anyway.

These are really rather lovely though and I would very much like a pair. Available HERE

6. A colour changing Unicorn mug from Firebox - £12.99

That's right people. Not only is it a mug shaped like a Unicorn, IT CHANGES COLOUR!!!

This would make my afternoon cup of green tea soooo much better. I don't even have words for this, It's amazing and I need it. That's all.

I'm not even kidding, if I don't wake up to this mug on Christmas morning I'm gonna flip. Or go online and order one myself. Whatever.

Available for all magical unicorn lovers HERE

7. A Fatale black embroidered dress from The Pretty Dress Company - £315

I know, I know... why can't I just pick a dress that's affordable. Mainly because most affordable dresses aren't as heavenly as this one! LOOK AT IT.

all those embroidered roses! It's too much perfection.

Since this dress was launched, I must have visited the site 3 dozen times, just to look at it and imagine twirling in it. Not only was in designed in collaboration with burlesque goddess Immodesty Blaize, it looks so damn good on everyone! It's a veryflattering dress and I've yet to see a photo of it being worn where it doesn't look gorgeous, no matter the body type.


Available to buy HERE

8. A Rouge Louboutin Lipstick from Christian Louboutin - £65

If you just projectile spat tea across the room and screeched "£65 for a LIPSTICK" please allow me to explain/justify myself. Also, look at it, this ain't your standard lipstick!

Ok so I LOVE shoes, especially those designed by Christian Louboutin. Unfortunately I inherited my dad's rubbish feet so I am the reluctant owner of a pair of bunions and generally quite wide feet. This means that buying shoes is a miserable experience for me, because 'wide fit' shoes usually do NOT look like the kinds of things available in the Louboutin shoe room at Brown Thomas.

So probably the only way I'm ever going to get some Louboutin red on myself, is as a nail varnish (which I already own) or this lipstick (that looks like a piece of art).

plus I think we can all agree that while unnecessarily hedonistic, £65 for a lipstick is a lot more affordable than £650 for a pair of shoes.

Get it HERE

9. A Bathurst 'all over stickers' handbag from Anya Hindmarch - £1,395

It seemed only fair that I begin and end this year's wish list with a handbag. If you thought I was gushing about the Gucci one, you ain't seen nothing yet. This bag... how to describe it. It's as if I had a dream where I designed my PERFECT handbag and then I woke up and it existed for real!

Luxury polished leather CHECK, a top handle + optional shoulder strap CHECK, absolutely covered in wacky sticker designs CHECK CHECK CHECK

This bag is what dreams are made of. My dreams anyway. I'm all about statement pieces and this bag certainly makes a statement. It says, nay... it screams "THIS BAG IS PERFECT FOR JADE, SEE HOW WELL IT MATCHES HER LIPSTICK AND COAT!"

Available HERE (come on Santa, this one, I really deserve it!)

And that's it for this year. See, I don't ask for much do I?

No, that's a lie. I ask for a LOT. But somehow I don't think I'll be waking up to fancy lipstick and designer handbags this year. I'm sure whatever I get will be brilliant though, I'm already excited about a gift my mum got me (spoiler: it's a RED record player!!!)

So it's gonna be a great day no matter what :)

What's at the top of your Christmas wish list this year? Leave me a comment below or let me know on one of my social media profiles.

And whatever you're up to this holiday season, I hope that you have a lovely time with your friends and family or by yourself if that's how you roll.

Merry Christmas to you all!

see you on the other side (of Christmas)

Thursday 8 December 2016

Pingame ★

Hello darlings, this is my first blog post in 6 months!!! So yes, it's true I really am the worst blogger ever. But this year has flown by so fast and I've been so incredibly busy that I have simply neglected this blog in favour of other pursuits. Namely, running my online business and general daily life. But today is special and it warrants a return to the blogosphere because you see, on this day last year I launched my first ever enamel pin!

So let's call it my Piniversary.

Why is that special you may ask, well I recently brought out my 30th pin design so, you know... it's been a pretty good year.

all of the pins I currently have in stock.

You might be wondering 'what's the big deal?' what makes pins so special? While I can't give you a precise reason why they've become so popular in the last few years, I personally like collecting pins because they remind me of my childhood when it was 'normal' to collect dozens if not hundreds of the same kind of item like pokemon cards, pogs, pound puppies, polly pockets, tazos to name but a few. I think pins give people a sense of nostalgia, especially if they feature 90's toys and candy, like a lot of mine do.

I'm also well aware that pins aren't a new fad and that they've been around for ages and that this isn't the first time they've seen a resurgence in popularity (I know, I had a betty boop pin on my denim jacket in the late 90's). But as cliché as it sounds, pins are SO hot right now!

90's themed pins to remind me of my childhood

If you spend any time on instagram then you might be aware of this already. If you don't collect them yourself then you've probably spotted people showing off their pin collections and purchases under the hashtag #pingame. Pins have blown up this year and now everyone and their granny is selling pins online and at craft fairs. The market is becoming a little over-saturated right now so the big question is, what's next? What will the next 'must have' accessory be? I don't think pins are done just yet, but it's starting to get difficult to come up with original or pop culture inspired designs that haven't already been turned into pins.

This time last year I had just begun collecting pins (I had a grand total of 6) and after launching a woven patch design I decided that I needed to get into the pingame myself, sooner rather than later. I didn't really know much about what would and would not sell but I picked a design that I'd sold well on patches and stickers.

my first ever pin!

As I'd already bought 6 pins from other makers, I realised there was a certain way to package the pins for buyers, but it took me a while to figure out the best way to actually post the ruddy things. I started with envelopes but I use PIP mailer boxes now as they ensure that the pins arrive undamaged. I send my pins to customers all over the world (i've posted to every continent but Antarctica) so they need to travel a long way and stay intact and neat, hence the boxes.

When I brought out my first pin last December I really had no idea what I was getting into. I remember the first day I added them to the shop I sold 5 in 12 hours and I thought that was brilliant! Last month I restocked 150 of a popular pin design and it had sold out completely within 3 hours. What a difference a year makes.

my most popular pins to date, a set of 3 Polly Pins.
Pins are definitely my favourite products to design. I've launched new pins every month since last December and I still have a dozen designs that I haven't even had made yet. So it looks like next year will be a busy one as well (hopefully). It's incredibly time consuming to unbox, unbag and card hundreds of pins, that's part of why i've neglected the blog so much. When you have 700 pins to card and bag ready to be posted the next day, you don't really have time for blogging, or even netflix.

It's worth it though, I feel so proud to look down at a bag stuffed with boxes ready to go to the post office, or whenever customers send me photos where they're showing off their new Candy Doll Club pins. There's just something so fun about pins, maybe it's the fact that most people wear them on their jackets and bags, I love the thought of people walking around wearing something I've designed. Personally I keep my pin collection on a set of corkboards, but only because I'm scared to lose any of them! Not to mention the fact that they're not cheap to buy, I keep mine on display next to my desk.

my current Pin Collection
It has been a steep learning curve having to deal with larger numbers of outgoing orders and incoming restocks and deliveries. I've never dealt with things of this scale before, and i'm still small fry compared to many pin makers. I've gone from ordering my boxes in 10's to needing 1500 every few months and I've been taught so much about international postage by the lovely staff at my local post office. I now have an at home supply of customs labels, 'safe to fly' and airmail stickers along with a book of 'proof of postage' certificates and an entire box of post office receipts. I think they groan when I walk in with 2 bags crammed with orders. I'm lucky they're all so friendly and patient.

Selling pins is great but it's really not all fun and games. An average pin launch involves days of prep beforehand: getting the pins carded and bagged and assembling and labeling hundreds of boxes (luckily my lovely mum helps me with this part, otherwise i'm not sure how i'd get it all done in time). Once the pins are delivered and go live in the shop it's a race to get the address labels printed and get the orders boxed up ready to go. I visit the post office a few times a week and I know all of the staff by name. They must be sick of me by now!

my other most popular design this year, Magic Pony Pins.
 I've learned a lot more about my customers as well this year. I've been selling my work for about 8 years now, but never at these levels and not to people that come back again and again to buy each new pin I release. It's amazing to think that people like my designs so much they want to buy them and wear them! It's hard work keeping this all running smoothly, and it's definitely a full time job now.

Long gone are the days when I'd have 5 orders a week and spend the rest of my time reading or painting or watching netflix. Now I don't finish working most evenings until after 11pm if i'm lucky. Of course, working for yourself means that you can also take a whole day off to sit in bed and eat chocolate but I don't get to do that as often as I'd like to. I do still do it sometimes though, of course.

my Bubble Tape pin

 Like I said, it's been a learning curve, but a fun one nonetheless. To begin with each pin funded the next one until I learned how to pick my designs better and work out what my customers would want to buy. I've gotten better at judging which pins will sell fast and which ones won't, I don't mind slower selling pins but obviously it's nicer to get ones that fly out. If i'm honest, a lot it has been trial and error (and there have been more than a few errors!) but I also owe a lot of my successes over the past year to the Girl Pin Gang, the international all female pin makers collective I'm incredibly lucky to be a part of.

a few of the super babe Girl Pin Gang members.

My first three pins came and went before I was invited to join the Girl Pin Gang. I was one of the first members and at the time there were only about 20 of us, but today we have almost 60 members all over the world and people message us every day asking to join (we only open admissions a few times a year on a nomination basis via existing members). The majority of the members are in America so sadly i've not been able to go to any of the GPG meet ups or flair markets yet. But we all talk online and I think it's safe to say that together we're a pretty influential bunch of ladies.

It's exciting to be part of something like this and it's great being in a community with like-minded individuals going through similar problems in life and business. We often help each other out with design ideas, share discount codes for printers and talk about life in general. When you buy from a small online business I think a lot of people can forget that there's a real person at the other end packing up your order and working on new designs. In the age of amazon it's easy to think that you'll get what you've ordered instantly and that nothing will go wrong. But orders still go missing in transit or get stolen, and sometimes customers can be very difficult to deal with, so it's nice having people to talk to about these pitfalls, as we've all gone through them at some point and we can help support one-another.

just a few Girl Pin Gang pins.
I love how diverse all of our pins are as well! Everyone in the group has their own unique style of design. I think that when you sell pins, people can sometimes get confused about how it all works. I've had people look at me bewildered when I try to explain that I design all of my pins myself. Yes I sat down with a pencil and sketched out an idea, then i put it on my computer and added colour, then I sent it to a manufacturer and now I have pins with my design on them. See, not that confusing.

I've also had a few people look down on my work as though it's not 'real art'. I'm totally fine with this. I never used to be but now as far as i'm concerned, i'm no less of a 'real artist' just because I sell 1000 of something i've designed. Contrary to what some people seem to think, this does not make my work any less valid. My art has always been about commercial viability, and that isn't going to change anytime soon.

a handful of my pins
We live in a world filled with mass produced items, and sure, pins can be mass produced as well, but most pin makers (myself included) often do small runs of pins, limited to just 100 or 150. This isn't that different to purchasing a signed limited edition print from an artist, we still designed it and it's still limited edition, you can just put this on your coat instead of your wall. Besides which, I've always said that i'd rather sell a thousand prints or pins of a design than one single painting. And I do.

Reading this, I make it sound like all I do is design pins, but obviously I still sell other items as well, including patches, stickers and colouring books. But the majority of my design time is spent working on new pins and the matching backing cards to go with them. It's time consuming coming up with a card for each pin but it helps showcase the design and my customers always comment on how nice the cards look.

a few of the backing cards I designed this year
This means that unfortunately this year I haven't had chance to work on many Candy Doll pieces. I miss creating the Candy Dolls but they were always more for my own enjoyment than anyone elses, so at least now I get to produce things that other people actually want to buy!

So I guess that this year I've spent more time thinking about my business than my art. I've always created but now I create for a reason, not just for fun. Each new pin is a gamble, will it sell, will I be stuck with it? Only time will tell. But you know what, I can't think of anything else I'd rather do for a living right now than this! Even when i'm awake at 3am to edit proofs from my manufacturers, or sitting in all day waiting for DHL to deliver the next box of pins, or even when my fingers are shredded with paper cuts from making boxes, it's all worth it.

1 of every single pin i've designed since December 2015
and on that note i'll bring this to a close.

If you've seen a pin in this post that you just HAVE TO HAVE then get your butt over to my Shop asap and treat yo self! I'm not biased or anything but my pins make great stocking stuffers and secret santa gifts, so you should definitely get one. or two. or all of them!

I also send out a free girl gang sticker + sherbet sticks with every pin order, so you know... you'll get pins AND sweets!

I'm also giving away a £10 credit for my shop tonight over on my instagram, you can enter the giveaway HERE

And I promise to try a bit harder and make time to blog more in 2017.

I'll be posting my annual Xmas Wish List blog next week (probably), so keep an eye out for that.

and until then, thanks for stopping by, hope you enjoyed looking at the pins!

Sunday 15 May 2016

Colouring Books ♥

hello! It's been about 3 weeks since my last blog, which is a vast improvement for me and my blogging track record of late. It'll just be a quick post today, not rambling essay like last time.

So why am I making the time now to post a little blog? Well, i'm actually super excited to share my first ever colouring book with you all!

I've wanted to bring out a colouring book for years now, and i'm really pleased with how they've turned out, not bad for a first attempt. I was a bit nervous, even though I triple checked every page, I always panic that something might go wrong and i'll end up with something that I have to bin. But these arrived and they turned out perfectly.

I own a few colouring books myself but I rarely take time to fill any of them in (I get headaches from some of the more detailed ones!) so I thought it might be fun to have a go at creating my own instead. pretty much 'colour-in' for a living and when I post any of my lineart designs online, one or two people usually say 'oh you should make colouring pages', so that's what i've done.

as expected, the books are super girly and feminine, with girl gang themed pages and lots of candy and other sweet treats. Inside there's a selection of Candy Dolls ad a pair of Sugar Skulls along with some brand new designs created JUST for the books.

all of the images have a nice bold outline and while some of the candy doll images are on the detailed side, a lot of the 'montage' pages are nice and spaced, plenty to colour in without giving yourself a headache or hand cramp.

I think my favourite set of pages are either the 80's/90's ones (above) or the Space Babe ones (below). I had a lot of fun putting the pages together and coming up with cute things for each 'pair'. I think there's something for everyone inside, or at least for every girl. Someone asked me why I didn't put anything for boys in there... but why should I?! they get enough already.

So this is 100% girly, just like the rest of my work really.It has cakes and sweets, unicorns and trolls, a princess and a witch and heaps of GIRL POWER!

The colouring books are A5 sized (148 x 210mm / 5.8 x 8.5") saddle stitched with 32 pages and 28 pages to colour. The cover is 300gsm silk coated stock (nice and sturdy to keep everything safe) while the inner pages are 170gsm uncoated stock, perfect for pens, pencils, paints or even sharpies!

The books really are SUPER cute (even if i do say so myself), they're perfect for young, aspiring girl gang members, or grown-up girl bosses!

Here's a sneak at some of the other pages inside. As for the rest... you'll just have to order one of the books and see for yourself! 

speaking of which, I also have a brand new online shop. Although I still have items for sale on Etsy, I think my time with them might be coming to an end. So i've opened a brand new shop on Shopify.

and if you want to get your hands on one of my brand new colouring books, you can find them right HERE

if you do decide to get one, please, please, PLEASE send me a photo! I've already had a few snaps from customers, but so far I've yet to see anyone actually colour in any of the pages and i'm dying to see what cool colour schemes people come up with!

is that it, do you think i've plugged it enough? well, I hope so.

i'm just really proud of my colouring books, okay?

and on that note, i'll say goodbye, and hopefully it won't be too long until i'm back for another blog post!

so until then, thanks for visiting...


Sunday 24 April 2016

Aspie Girl ♥

So it's true... I am the WORST blogger ever! Every week I think 'ooh I really MUST post a blog' but it never happens. When I got back from Malta (over two months ago now...) I was determined to write a big post showcasing some of the snaps I took during my trip, but it never happened. And now it's been so long since I was there, i'm not sure if there's even any point in doing a blog about it?! Is there? I did take some pretty lush photos so if you'd like to see them...

Anyway, April is Autism Awareness Month, so I thought i'd take some time to talk a little about my own experience with Autism. This is probably going to get quite deep at times so if you're not interested, just close the page now, I won't mind. Oh and i'll probably ramble on quite a bit as well.

I'm at a point in my life where most, if not all of my close friends and family are aware of my diagnosis. They all accepted it pretty well, acknowledging the fact that it doesn't change a thing and that i'm still very much 'me'. But in recent weeks, a few old faces from my schooldays have popped up and i've been torn over whether or not to tell them about it. When you haven't seen someone in years and they ask you what you've been up to, it seems a bit weird to just blurt out 'oh by the way, it turns out i'm Autistic!'. So I simply haven't said anything about it.

I only found out that I even had Autism last August when I was officially diagnosed with High Functioning Autism aka Aspergers, it's been almost 6 months since then and i'm still learning what it means to be Autistic. If you missed my post about it last year you can read it HERE.

dressed in Blue for Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd
Recently I started volunteering at the Family Library in Douglas (where I worked for 8 months between 2013-2014) on Wednesday afternoons. I spend most of my time there processing new books to go out on the shelves, including many from the brand new section of books dedicated to Autism.

Going through the piles of books, I was impressed by just how many there are readily available on the subject of Autism and its many varying areas of interest. I scanned in books about dealing with daily life, teaching children with autism about puberty, books on dating advice for women with aspergers (I should probably borrow that one...) and even picture books designed especially for young children on the spectrum.

It really got me thinking about what i've already learned, and what I still don't know about in regards to my own diagnosis. Most days my experience of living with autism is pretty much non-existent, in the sense that I don't even notice a difference. Most of the time I function well enough to pass as 'normal'. I'm fortunate that i've developed a good ability to 'read' other people, I think this helps me to blend in more and not seem too 'weird' when I talk to people. But then some days it becomes blatantly obvious that i'm not as good at dealing with certain situations as most 'normal' people. I know, I know, there's no such thing as 'normal' but in this sense 'normal' simply means a neurotypical person, aka someone not on the spectrum or not dealing with a form of abnormal psychology (personality disorders etc).

When i'm out and about I can 'play the part' fairly well, if you passed me in the street you probably wouldn't give me a second glance or suspect that I was 'different', but that's only because i'm a good actress. If you know me well then you're probably aware that i'm not great at dealing with things that I really don't like. It's not as easy for me to shrug things off or pretend that everything is fine when i'm falling apart inside. Sure I can pretend and play the part, but sometimes the mask slips and the real me is left standing there shaking and trying to remain calm. That's often what it feels like, wearing a mask every day and playing a part in a play.

my kind of mask...
You see the thing is, I don't go out very often. I leave the house maybe 4 times a week tops, usually for swimming on a Monday, volunteering at the library on a Wednesday, visiting my god-daughter, her sister and their mum on a Thursday, and then teaching a craft workshop at the library on a Saturday or seeing my friends in Town. Other than that I occasionally go to the cinema in the week or for walks at the weekend, but most of the time that's it, that's how many times I leave the house and it's never for more than a few hours.

It might seem odd to you, i'm sure you leave the house so many times a week you don't really keep track; for work, errands or social activities. The truth is, if i'm 'forced' to go out more than this for whatever reason, it often drastically affects my mood and energy levels. It will probably sound extreme, but if I have to go out for more than 2 days in a row, i'm a wreck. By the 3rd day, i'll be so tired and irritable that there's probably not much point in me leaving my room let alone going out and 'doing things'.

When i'm at home it's not even an issue, i'm just 'Jade', my parents are used to my particular peculiarities and foibles. Most of the time i'm too busy to think about whether or not I should be going out more or being sociable. I work every day from home, in my 'corner office' (in reality a corner of my bedroom next to a window with 3 desks piled with materials, paint and envelopes). Running my online business is a full time occupation; everyday I have orders to pack, commissions to work on, emails to respond to as well as the constant ongoing promotion of my work online and overseeing the manufacture and launch of brand new products. When i'm at home I get a lot done, because i'm left to my own devices, I can spend the entire day in my room listening to opera while I work on my 'brand'.

a standard to-do list while i'm working from home

As long as i'm at home it doesn't matter that I hardly ever go out or see other people. To be perfectly honest, it doesn't usually bother me, after all it's completely 'normal' to me, but sometimes I stop and think, 'why am I like this? Why can't I go out everyday like everyone else?'. Most people work full time, they're out every day working 9-5, then they might go to the gym afterwards, or out for dinner/drinks in the evening, they could have children to take care of, ultimately they might spend every minute of the day in the company of other people. This seems like an impossible scenario for me. If I spend too much time around other people, even people I love, it completely drains me. Even one full day out of the house is a trial, even if it's for something good like a wedding or party, by the time I get home i'll be exhausted and will probably require the following day in to recharge, by myself of course.

Any form of long-distance travel really takes it out of me, to the point where I need almost a full day to recover. And I don't just mean long-haul flights (which to be fair, take it out of everyone) even a few hours flying to somewhere in Europe or a 3 hour boat journey to the UK will tire me out, i'm like a toddler! I truly envy people who can wake up, get on a plane or boat to travel somewhere, then arrive and just go straight to a meeting or event. I probably couldn't do this, which certainly puts an end to my dreams of being a jet setter, traveling the world and having adventures. My version would be more like traveling the world and sleeping a lot.

I don't deliberately avoid any and all events that I know will be tiring for me, i'll assess the situation and if I think it's worth the exhaustion afterwards, then i'll make an effort and push myself to go. You're probably thinking that I sound rather selfish, but it's difficult to explain unless you've experienced it yourself. Contrary to misconceptions about people with Aspergers, i'm not emotionally 'dead' or unfeeling, and even if I really don't want to do something or go somewhere, most of the time I will, because I know that it's important to someone else (for example, a birthday night out or a christening).

spending time with my cousin Sienna, always fun

I used to think this was just a general 'introvert' thing but i'm wondering now if my method of 'avoiding most social situations because I find them draining' is more of an Aspie thing. From what i've read, most people with aspergers feel the same way I do, it's not that we hate social events, it's just that they can be really, really tiring for us. On the contrary, I love seeing my friends, visiting my family or even on occasion, meeting new people. But during these situations I have to concentrate hard to make sense of the social cues and constantly pay close attention to make sure I don't accidentally come out with something too inappropriate during a conversation.

It's not that I don't have a verbal filter, it's just that sometimes I don't realise that what i've said out loud might not be ideal or appropriate until after it's too late, unless i'm making a serious conscious effort to censor or double check myself. Imagine carefully thinking through every word before you say it. You might think before you speak but an aspie will think, double check, alter, rewrite, verify then cancel and probably just not say anything. And like I mentioned already, after a few hours, it can be utterly exhausting.

This is the area where I struggle most to be 'normal'. Most of the time I can pretend, I can slap on a smile and say the things I know i'm 'supposed' to say, but I cannot train myself to 'snap out of it' and just magically transform into a social butterfly. I'll be a socially awkward caterpillar forever, and you know what, i'm perfectly fine with that. I just wish that sometimes it wasn't such a trial to get through a normal day out of the house.

advice we should all take
I'm coming to terms with the fact that it's just part of who I am, I can't change it, and all the acting lessons in the world won't make me any better equipped to deal with day to day life and dreaded 'small talk' (seriously, to a person with aspergers, small talk is the WORST!).

Since I was diagnosed some people have asked me if being autistic is really as much of a disability as they've been told. First of all, not all types of autism = disabled. While it's true that some levels of the spectrum leave a person non-verbal and low functioning, for some of us it's more of an asset than a hindrance. I owe my lifelong love of books to my aspergers, i'm truly never happier than when I have a new book to read and I don't have to do anything for hours except sit and read it. It has also given me a bafflingly accurate memory for song lyrics, lifelong obsessions with Classical Mythology, Architecture and Art History and the perfectionism to create superflat paintings that apparently look like they've been printed instead of painted. It's made me grow into a bit of a polymath, I am quite literally full of useless skills and oodles of information, I'm definitely the sort of person you want on your team at a Pub Quiz!

I'm also fairly used to making a fool of myself in public, which is ironic for someone who received treatment and medication for social anxiety. I blame the aspergers for this but I've often found that I worry and panic over the most trivial of things (oh no i've been walking around with mascara under my eye WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK!!!) but when faced with something hugely embarrassing (tripping over and falling flat on my face in front of 500 people at my graduation ceremony) I just brush it off as no big deal. Honestly I still laugh now thinking back to my graduation, and that's just one of many similar situations where i've embarrassed myself on a grand scale.

almost always unafraid to look like a prat in public...
I think it's made me a little more willing to be silly in public. I'm very much the sort of person to start dancing in a shop if a song I like comes on, I also get incredibly excited if I see people dressed up as characters wandering about (I was jumping up and down at the opening night of Star Wars when I spotted Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, Jawas and Stormtroopers outside the cinema!). I'm the person that ends up sitting at the kids table at weddings and parties, busy colouring in or blowing bubbles with the children. I've always been a big kid at heart and I think now I know why.

I'm not saying it's a bad thing, personally I quite like being the daft one in my friend group, the one that knows all the words to a Disney song or the names of all the characters in a cartoon show. It doesn't bother me in the slightest, but society tells me that I should 'grow up' and become a responsible adult. Being a 'grown-up' doesn't appeal to me in the slightest but on some level I know that my current lifestyle choices probably aren't viable in the long-term.

I worry about my future, as a young woman with aspergers and just as a young woman in general. I panic that I'll never be self sufficient or responsible enough to take full care of myself. Right now I'm back living with my parents after a very unsuccessful 18 months living in a flat-share in town that only ended when my flatmate found me cowering in the hallway with a bloody knife in my hand and cuts on my arms (self-harm is just another aspect of my aspergers that i've been coming to terms with). I absolutely love living at home, i'm in such a better place now mentally than I was, i'm happier and busier than ever with my business. But I'll be 25 next month and I know, deep down, that I should be looking for stable income and my own place to live, regardless of my aspergers. Instead I often spend the money I earn on stupid toys for my desk (inflatable flamingo cup holder anyone!?) or on silly rides and games at the funfair. I also like to spoil family members with gifts and treats, so it's not all bad.

acting like a Big Kid with my two nieces, wasting my money at the fair
The thing is, I don't want a job. That is, I don't want to work for someone else. I like being my own boss, I like setting my own work hours and dealing with clients and customers. I love it because I don't have to leave my room to do it, it's a job that I can do wearing my pj's at my desk. I'm not at all put off by the thought of working alone and to be perfectly honest the idea of working in a bustling office environment fills me with dread! I have never been a team player, there might not be an 'I' in team but there's a 'ME'.

If I could just get past societal expectations then I think i'd be a lot more content to just carry on as I am. But people tell me this and that, get a job, get a boyfriend, get married, learn to drive, have children and so on and so forth until my brain hurts! Why should I have to do any of these things?! I think one of the best things about getting diagnosed with aspergers is that it's opened a whole new world of possibility up to me and shown me once and for all that I don't 'have' to do any of the things people expect me to do. Maybe I will get married, maybe I won't. Maybe I'll adopt 20 dogs and live in the forest. Who knows, only time will tell.

I think until then I should probably just ignore what 'normal' people tell me to do, and keep doing my own thing. Aspergers has also taught me that there's nothing wrong with being yourself, however weird or wacky you might be. Its helped me deal with things a lot better than I used to; for 10 years I struggled with depression and anxiety because I felt 'different' somehow, I thought there was something majorly wrong with me but my diagnosis has also taught me that there's nothing 'wrong' with me, it's everyone else that's weird! ^_^ (i'm kidding... well sort of anyway).

me as a Disney Princess, thanks to Snapchat
Can anyone remember the original point of this post because I'm not sure if I can. Anyway, the gist of it is that I'm delighted with my diagnosis, 6 months on I'm still learning so much and finding out about other people's experiences living on the spectrum. I have aspie friends that I talk to online and i've even spotted it in other people in my life (turns out my dad definitely has aspergers as well). I've probably got a long way to go before I'm ready to truly 'grow up' but until then I intend to make the most of being a big kid (albeit one in their mid-twenties) and try not to let other people get me down too much with their attempts to tell me how I should and shouldn't be. I'll be whoever the hell I want to be, thanks anyway.

okay I've probably rambled on for long enough now so i'll bring it to a close. Thanks for stopping by, feel free to ask any questions below in the comments. I'd also love to hear your own experiences if you're on the spectrum, drop me a line, i'm always happy to make new friends online.

bye for now...

Sunday 24 January 2016

The Ways of the Force ★

Hello darlings, I would wish you all a Happy New Year but it's been over 3 weeks since NYE so I shan't bother. Apologies for the total lack of posts since 2015, I've started at least 3 on here but never seem to find the inclination to finish any of them!

Until now anyway. When I last blogged (last year!) I promised to do a post all about Star Wars... and you know i'd hate to disappoint you. I want to start off by saying that there are NO spoilers in this post, so if you haven't seen The Force Awakens or any of the Star Wars films, don't worry, I'm not about to spoil any of them for you. So let's crack on!

But first let me set the mood. Click play then carry on reading.

So then, Star Wars. If you're not a fan then you're probably rolling your eyes right about now thinking how you're SICK of hearing about Star Wars all the time... but if you ARE one of the sensible ones who likes/loves Star Wars then you'll no doubt rather enjoy this post.

I for one absolutely ruddy LOVE Star Wars. I was born in 1991 so practically all of the media I grew up watching/reading/listening to was from the 70's and 80's. Growing up I was allowed to borrow videos from my dad's movie collection and as a child, one of my favourite ways to spend a Saturday or Sunday was to watch all three original Star Wars films back to back.

I could read before I started school aged 4 and although I spent most of my time playing in the garden or indoors, I was never discouraged from watching TV or videos if I wanted to. This means that I grew up with a love for movies, especially the Star Wars ones. When I was at Primary School my parents took me on holiday to Las Vegas and there is a photo somewhere (I tried to find it but wherever it is, It's well hidden) of me in FAO Schwarz standing with a life-size Darth Vader with a massive smile on my face.

as you can see... things haven't changed much in the last 16 years!
To be honest my choices in VHS material weren't monitored very well. Sure my parents had told me not to pick any of the films with the red circle showing 15 or 18 but that was just a suggestion, right?! I watched the Exorcist when I was 7, surprisingly it didn't affect me at all but when I watched Alien aged 8 I had nightmares for weeks. You'd think this might scare me away from Sci-Fi for good, but when it came to Star Wars too much was never enough.

just 'some' of the Star Wars goodies I took with me to the Cinema on TFA opening night.

The kinds of films I would watch over and over and over again until I could practically quote them by heart included all 3 Star Wars, Ghostbusters and the Blues Brothers. At school one or two of my female friends had heard of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader or Princess Leia, but none of them were interested in playing playground games with make-believe lightsabers or spaceships. There was no chance I'd get to run around the playground flying an invisible Millennium Falcon with my best friends, because they wouldn't know a Corellian YT-1300 light freighter if it fell from the sky (as you can probably tell, I was a Geek from a young age).

Star Wars water spotted in a local shop in January 2016. and NO, I didn't buy any.
Growing up I tried to hide my geeky tendencies from friends, well the female ones at least. The 1 time I remember admitting that I loved Star Wars and watched Star Trek on TV pretty much every day to my female friends, I was met wish looks of horror and simply asked 'Why?!'. But by the time I reached sixth form I found myself one of only 2 girls in a Design & Technology class full of boys and for the first time ever I had no reason not to join in and talk about sci-fi movies, video games and other geeky stuff, you know... the FUN stuff! Since then I've never seen the point in pretending that I don't like something I secretly do.

yes, that is me on the left. good guess.
To me Star Wars was and always will be an escape. As soon as the music builds and the opening crawl begins, you're already being taken away, across the galaxy to witness new worlds and creatures. To this day the Star Wars score gives me chills, no matter where or when I hear it. I know that in the lead up to the new movie I've probably driven my friends and family MAD with my excitement over each new trailer release and snippet of cast/plot info. Sorry but I'm NOT SORRY!

the amazing Star Wars gifts my friend Danny got me for Christmas 2015.
 It's been at least 20 years since I first saw 'Episode IV: A New Hope' but I never grew out of my love for Star Wars. Sure the early noughties saw the arrival of the prequel movies (but we do not speak of those!) and there's been frequent talk over the years about possible reboots or sequels, but I was happy enough rewatching the originals and imagining how the story might one day continue.

Thankfully December 2015 gave us all just that. The Force Awakens has already broken several box office records and will probably continue to take over the world (if it hasn't already). I think it's success is mostly due to the fresh new characters introduced in the film. I mean yes, it was incredible seeing some of the original cast return but it didn't take long for me to get way more excited about the new characters.

Me after seeing TFA on opening night. Yes I really do love 'Rats Sraw'.
I've been to the cinema to see The Force Awakens 4 times since it opened, which is a personal record for me but somehow doesn't seem like nearly enough times. It's no secret that I LOVE this film. Sure it has a few plot holes and you leave the film with more questions than answers but OH MY GOSH IT IS SOOOO GOOD! I love everything about it, the action and the drama, the new villains, the new heroes, it's just all very brilliant.

the original movies centered around the trio of Luke, Leia and Han, and the new movie gave us the similar 'dream team' of Rey, Finn and Poe. It didn't take much to win me over to adoring these new characters! I was already a fan of Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron, on the right) and Finn (John Boyega, left) and Rey (Daisy Ridley, middle) are both fantastic and funny and BRILLIANT! And yeah, I like the new 'baddie' as well, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren is awesome, but it's the trio above that really stole the show.

the 300 Star Wars stickers I bought to decorate my desk. for Science.
I'm hopeless at drawing guys, I mean I'd love to have a go at illustrating Finn and Poe but it will only end badly. + Rey is the MAIN CHARACTER, so I decided to have a go at drawing her. Now as I've said many times, I'm not great at making my drawings look like the people they're supposed to, so bear that in mind here. I tried my best though, I even added BB-8 to keep her company on Jakku. So... here's my fanart of Rey.

The detail on this one nearly killed me! I considered giving up soooo many times, or kept asking myself why I had to draw every single fold and crease in the clothing. But it was probably worth it right?!

To be honest I can't remember the last time I drew someone who didn't have rainbow hair or candy coloured clothes. It was strange to use such a muted palette, but somehow Rey wouldn't look right in a pink outfit! She's a scavenger on a desert planet, she's a survivor and a fighter, hence the bloody knuckles and dirty, worn clothing. She's also utterly BRILLIANT and amazing and perfect!

I added lots of textures to the fabrics as you can see, and it took forever. But you know what, it was still super fun to work on this one. Probably because I listened to the Force Awakens score on repeat while I drew/edited. But what else was I supposed to listen to?!

if you've a keen eye, you might have noticed throughout the post that I'm a bit of a Darth Vader fan, and yes... my lightsaber is red just like the ones belonging to the Sith (no, that's not a typo). I'm not sure why but I've always sided with the dark side, being a Jedi just seems kind of boring sometimes. The Sith get to dress in black, wield blood red lightsabers and generally go around being dangerous and badass. Thanks to an online dress-up game, I had a go at dreaming up what I might look like as a Sith and I think it's safe to say that Sith Jade would be EPIC!

just call me Darth Jader. or don't, whatever...
Black and Red are my favourite colours so on a very basic level it makes sense that i'd align with the Empire/First Order. Sure they're all morally corrupted and power mad, yes they often go around murdering people and messing stuff up but hey... they sure look good while doing it.

Hmm I'm not really selling it am I?! Ah well.

Anyway, the point of this post is that yes, I do love Star Wars, and no... I will never grow out of it.

Now all I have to do is keep waiting along with everyone else for the next installment, Episode VIII in December 2017. At least we have the Rogue One movie this December, just give me ALL THE STAR WARS!

so on that note i'll say goodbye, i'll try and blog again soon but we all know there's a chance you might not hear from me on here again for a few months.

so until then... May the Force be with you!