Monday, 23 June 2014

The Slow Moving Blog Hop

When my lovely friend Sinéad over at Stories of Life and Craft mentioned nominating me to take part in a slow moving blog hop, I have to admit, I was filled with some amount of trepidation and apprehension. Not because I didn’t want to participate, but because of my current lack of creative time that’s almost bordering on the ridiculous! Which brings me to the very reason I haven’t blogged in what seems like forever – work, a massive research project and running between one home and another (my own home and my family home, which is undergoing some renovations) seems to take up the majority of my time and leaves me very limited space to indulge in anything creative. But here I am on the hottest day of 2014  (so far…!) in a quiet little corner of my dreamy castle, under the swaying boughs of a hawthorn, with my brand-spanking new Mac Book perched on my knees while I stretch my toes out on the greenest grass in all the universe, determined to write a blog post for the first time in months.

My small stack of books will not be read today. It’s not a day for research.
Instead, I’m watching the swallows dip and dive and disappear like torpedoes in and out of the tiniest crevices in the castle walls while cows plod through the undergrowth behind me and lazy dogs stretch out in front of me in the shade.

Tractors gently rumble in the distance in a race to cut, toss and bale the hay before this heat wave breaks.
The sky has taken on that rare shade of perfect blue and butterflies dance in the midsummer sunshine.
The castle waits for visitors, but I know the sun will draw them to the coast today.
All is quiet.
At last, summer has officially arrived.

What a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the rare lull here in my little corner of the west.

I am writing this post a little in advance because next Monday, June 23rd (today, to you readers!) I will be jetting off to the west coast of France for a week of sunshine, culture, history and…well, just some long-awaited time out with my other half. It’s our first summer holiday in almost three years but now that our house is well and truly built, our itchy feet can finally be scratched again! Travelling has always been a big part of our lives and we are both revelling in the opportunity to resume our overseas adventures. Charming harbours, cobbled streets, vineyards and chateaus await our hungry eyes.

But to get back to the point of this post – talking about crafting why I love to create. I’ve been following others in this creative journey and feel honoured to take part alongside some of the most creative bloggers out there. Today I am going to talk about two of my creative endeavours – Scrapbooking and why I love it, and of course, photography.
So, here it goes!

I think creativity is possibly in my blood. My Dad is one of the only Master Bespoke Tailors in Ireland (and is the only person I know who can play the trumpet!) and has spent the past forty years perfecting his expert craft. His talent and attention to detail never ceases to amaze me. True bespoke tailoring is such a creative and innovative skill and I would like to think that he passed some amount of this down to me, which manifests itself in putting photo to paper rather than chalk to cloth! Then on the other side was my Mother, who as a child, would knit and write lots of stories. Highly imaginative, she was creative from a young age but as she got older and had a family of her own, her writing changed to reading but she always kept up with her knitting. Our school jumpers were often carefully knitted by her gentle hands. Although I can’t knit (or sew! Eeek!) Sinéad has recently taught me to crochet! I am slowly but surely getting through a granny square and loving it. Some day it will become a cushion!
I know my Mom would be proud.

I like to think of scrapbooking in its purest, simplest form - collecting stories and memories and pairing these with photographs and pretty paper. So if I ever get a little overwhelmed by this incredibly dynamic and versatile craft - which can happen with the amount of amazing display of talent out there in blog-land as well as the endless array of products to buy, I just remember those simple things.

Grab a photo, stick it to some paper and write the story.
It actually is that simple and this is the reason I love it so much.

Scrapbooking has not just become my crafty passion, but a part of who I am. It’s more than just a hobby as I have made great friends through this craft and I know it’s something that I will continue to do forever. It happened by accident but I think it was the craft that I’d been looking for my whole life. I’d always loved anything “artsy” and that combined with an emotional attachment to mementos and keepsakes provided the perfect outlet to unleash my creative side.

And I think that’s what drew me to it most - that it blends two of my favourite things – photography and recording stories and memories. Before I scrapbooked, I always kept a journal as well as a separate book which I filled with keepsakes – tickets, postcards, clippings, flyers, invitations, receipts of special meals etc, so it was only a matter of time before this type of memory keeping evolved into full-scale scrapbooking! My Dad recently found a scrapbook in our attic that his Mother kept in the 1960s. It’s filled with newspaper cuttings and photos of my Dad as a child. It’s such a treasure to have and I just wish I had gotten the opportunity to meet this amazing woman and tell her that I too, appreciate the importance of treasuring keepsakes and memories and hope that one day I can pass my scrapbooks onto my own grandchildren.

Which is exactly the point of scrapbooking - it allows me to reflect on my life right now, just like a journal, recording and documenting both the big and little details that may be otherwise forgotten, and to one day pass them on.

But it's also more than that. I scrapbook to de-stress, to get lost in a world of paper and colour and ink. It's therapy for the soul. It's relaxes me, it invigorates me, it awakens my creative spirit. 
Basically, I scrapbook because I really, really enjoy it.

In the beginning, I started out small, with just a few sheets of patterned paper, letter stickers, a few embellishments, glue and a scissors. I had no idea what I was really doing and would spend hours trawling the Internet for ideas and inspiration. Then I discovered Two Peas. And Shimelle. And so many wonderful blogs! Now I have a room in my new house dedicated to my craft where I am free to get lost in this colourful world of paper and glue and stacks of photos. And blast my music as loud as I want.

So now my world is filled with stacks and stacks of pretty paper, letter stickers and a whole host of embellishments to layer and add to the clusters on my layouts. My everyday vocabulary includes  “Thickers”, “Glitter Girl”, and “TwoPeas” and my other half actually knows what all these things are, whether he likes it or not! He listens as I talk endlessly about various products, techniques and styles and always eagerly awaits my newest layout. So it’s no wonder that he features in most of my pages!

My scrapbooking style is fairly simple. It took me a few years to really find my “style” but I think now, I know what works for me and what doesn’t. I like using lots of patterned paper and clusters of embellishments. I love stamps but don’t use them nearly as much as I’d like! I don’t really use mixed media  - I dabble in inks and embossing powders and masks but I prefer to stick to what I’m comfortable with and that is definitely paper. I scrapbook the everyday as well as important events, activities, weddings, weekends away and foreign holidays. As much as I’ve been tempted, I’ve never delved into Project Life as I don’t think I’m in a position to commit myself to weekly memory keeping. I work quite erratically – sometimes spending a whole day up to my elbows in paper and glue and then I might go two weeks without scrapbooking at all. The seasons can also dictate how much I scrapbook – short, dark winter days are perfect spent in a cosy craft room while these long, balmy summer days warrant time spent with family and friends, going to concerts or on road trips or just being lazy! But on a wet summer evening (which is common in this part of the world!) you will more than likely find me in my craft room working on my next layout!

At the moment I’m scrapbooking photos from our trip to Berlin in January as well as a few left over pictures from last autumn. I print in bulk so I don’t have any current photos to scrap with at the moment, but once I come home from France, I will make another, huge print order and once again, be inundated with piles of photos to get creative with.
All I can say is, bring it on!

I think I fell in love with photography long before I got my Nikon DSLR back in 2008. I was always one of those people who carried a compact digital camera everywhere and on nights out, I was always the girl with the camera. Now it has become a huge part of my life and I look at the world now with different eyes, always wondering, “would this make a good photo?” and “how will I scrapbook this?” or more often “I have a set of papers that will be perfect for this photo!” I have gradually moved past the automatic settings and am slowly coming to grips with manual. I love the control this gives me and am more often than not pleased with the results. But of course, practise makes perfect! Something that I'm not getting a lot of lately...and I blame this on one thing, and one thing only.

The iPhone.

Since I got my first iPhone last year, it's getting most of the action lately. It's just so easy to whip it out and take photos of just about anything because it goes everywhere with me. And of course I blame this on Instagram which I'm a huge fan of! But even so, my trusty Nikon is always charged and ready to go and was my first port of call on two road trips with Sinéad earlier in the month.

Kylemor Abbey, Co. Galway

Lahinch Beach, Co. Clare

Its only when I see my DSLR photos that I'm glad I don't use my iPhone all the time. And that's when I remember why I got my camera in the first place.
It takes awesome photos.

So that brings me to the end of my post. 

I want to sincerely thank Sinéad again for nominating me and bringing back into the world of blogging again. If it weren't for her gentle coaxing, I probably would have gone the entire summer without ever posting so I'm very thankful for this opportunity.

I honestly don't know who I would nominate to continue this chain, as I don't really know any bloggers, so instead I will leave it up to whoever reads this post to nominate themselves to join in.

Talk about your craft. It's that easy.



  1. I know I really shouldn't have favourites, but honestly this is one of the expanding blog hop posts I have loved the most! I have discovered lots about you (found myself nodding at the hand knitted school jumpers bit) and now you've got me wanting to beg to go a field trip with you too. Bit of reading, bit of looking at castles, bit of photographing...sounds like bliss.

    Have a brilliant holiday!

  2. I was SO excited to read this post Jenny and it did not disappoint! I just love it :) I can almost imagine myself there with you at the castle while you were writing in the sunshine, you describe it so brilliantly! I love how you've traced the creative streak in you back to your mom and dad and those photos from our road trips are gorgeous. Hope you're having an amazing time in La Rochelle so far and can't wait to meet up when you get home! Thanks so much for taking up the invitation and joining it - I've loved reading this :) xxx

  3. Your photos are gorgeous and i enjoyed reading a bit of why and how you got into our wonderful hobby!

  4. Hi Jenny, hope you get this as I see you haven't posted on your blog for a few years. You left a comment on my blog about Dr Morton Jack but you didn't leave me a contact email, please feel free to use the photos you want for your book, you can either copy them from my blog or leave me your email address in a comment (I won't publish it) and I'll send my original scans of them, probably better than copying the blog ones. Cheers....Dawn