In a Sunday frame of mind

As I sit in bed, looking out of the window at the rain (finally!), I find myself thinking of rituals and comfort. We’re getting the little one ready to start school in just 6 short weeks (where the frack did all that time go!?) and the thing that is being shouted at us left right and centre is routine, routine, routing. Children sleep better when they have a bedtime routine, children behave when they are in a routine and know what to expect, children are more resilient when they have structure… If you have kids this isn’t news to you.

What about us though? Us, the fully matured (snork), developed adults of the world.

Sleep experts tell us to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Our routines and rituals are no less important than those of our smalls. I enjoy ritual. I love the comfort of things going as expected. When I’m feeling less than stellar, the first thing that takes a hit is my resilience. Usually is starts with not being able to stand the thought of someone else making my coffee. (I’m VERY particular about coffee, and there are few people I would trust with such an important job.) Baking is another ritual that calms. Taking a list of ingredients and bringing them together properly brings a reward not just of order, but of cake. I can’t think of anything more perfect. Take chaos, organise, create oder, get cake.

My life is full of little rituals. I like to start every Sunday by bing the first one awake. I fix myself some coffee, grab my laptop, and come back to bed for some reflection and Pinterest time. It’s bliss. Just a little beat, a moment in the chaos of life, but something to which I can bring order. So I do. What rituals bring you comfort?

So, half way through 2018, yeah?

I actually can’t believe that I haven’t written anything this year. It has been mental. What a year so far. Last time I went this long without blogging I was ill and growing a human (the two were related). No human growing this time. Really, really, really.

Milo is getting close to starting school now, and that totally baffles me. I’ve finally got around to finishing painting the doors in the house, which I started some 4 years ago. I’m still happily employed, although somewhat busier than I have been in a while – Both sides of the freelance line. My accidental activism continues and I’m still trying to convince the world that gender binary isn’t a thing. Still pushing outside of my comfort zone, still appreciating design and colour and all the beautiful, wonderful things.

Just checking in really.

Pantone Colour of the Year 2018

Pantone_Snipped_2017_0So! The colour of 2018 has been announced. It’s been a while since I’ve got really into the CoTY – in fact the last time I really paid close attention was 2012, with ‘Tangerine Tango’. In a fit of fashionable-ness, I colour matched some paint and painted my kitchen. Looking back, I’m not sure it was the best decision I’ve ever made. (On a side note, I do miss my old flat. It was perfect and bright and brilliant).

Here we are, hurtling towards the end of 2017, and the release of next year’s colour has got me thinking about plans. My flat is fairly static, and it’ll be a cold day in hell before I paint my walls anything that isn’t grey, so I’ll be looking at other outlets for colour. I’d love an excuse to pick up an amethyst geode to sit alongside my rose quartz and my smudge sticks, so that’ll probably be my starting point. The other element that will probably see more than a little purple is my hair. Silver grey though it is, it often ends up with a lilac hue, so a little more intention here could make my head the most consistent canvas for displaying 18-3838.

I wonder if there are hair dye manufacturers that subscribe to the PMS? ­čÖé ┬áThere’s a hipster market there…

Why “The Shadow Gallery”?

VweareinshadowI’ve been asked recently why I call my home ‘The Shadow Gallery’. First off, I like to read graphic novels, and I am a big Alan Moore fan. V for Vendetta is a hugely important book to me. It was the first ‘serious’ graphic novel I read, and was lent to 16 year old me by a very dear (and long, long, lost) friend. I put off reading it for a long time, and then hungrily consumed the whole tome in two days. ┬áThere is a lot to fall in love with. Let’s take all the political overtones out (tricky, I know) and focus on V and Evey.

They both grow so much in the time that they’re together, and find themselves capable of things that they couldn’t conceive of being able to do. V is always careful to present as an idea behind the mask, and never as a person. That always hit me incredibly hard – that our bodies are just the conduit for our will, and our identities exist to some extent for the benefit of others. V’s existentialism aside, the story largely takes place in The Shadow Gallery – a labyrinthine underground compound at least partially constructed in Victoria Underground Station after it had been abandoned. The Gallery was built by V and contains censored art, music and film. There are flowers and beauty and it’s a safe place for V both psychologically and physically. It is V’s home. V takes Evey in to this fantastic space unapologetically.

My home is my safe place. It is calm, it is ordered, it has everything I need. If the world is burning, it’s where I want to be. Like V, my home is a glimpse into my psyche, and I make no apologies. My home is there to please me and my family, and fit our exact needs. It doesn’t exist to please anyone else. It is not censored. It is The Shadow Gallery. It is my home. Do you like it? I built it myself you know.

The Sunday Soothe

“A Sunday well spent brings a week of content”.

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How true this is. As Christmas fast approaches, I find myself deep in the throes of purging. All the accumulated paperwork, Kinder Egg toys, Birthday cards for three and long expired vouchers. It’s the time just before Christmas, when you put all the presents on top of/at the back of the wardrobe and you suddenly have the revelation that you’re going to have to find a proper home for all of this on Dec 26 leads me into a slight panic. This has driven a bit of a tidy and a huge amount of reflection on my part.

I was talking to a friend this week about New Years’ Resolutions and whether we’d made any progress towards them. I think this year has been a bit of a shit-show all round really, so perhaps I should be kinder to myself and focus on what I have achieved, rather than the shortfall.┬áMy word for next year (this year if you follow the Pagan wheel…) is “Curate”. Curated possessions, curated friends, curated social media, curated clients, curated emotions. The Internet in general and Instagram in particular have a lot to answer for in showing how neat life can be. I’m a very neat monster. I like things to be tidy and ordered, and a visit recently to the Present&Correct shop in Islington really cemented how much I am soothed by order. I mean, my mental state should probably be the subject of another post, but in a nutshell, order=good, chaos=bad.

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Good life advice: Buy clothes that fit.

The struggle, as the kids say, is real. Two years ago now, I KonMari’d my flat. Clothes, sentiment, practical stuff, the kitchen – the works. Two years later and we’re still in pretty good shape. My flat is reasonably neat pretty much all of the time, and I have no worries about having to tidy up before my cleaner arrives. The only area I’ve had any trouble with is my clothes. I have a wardrobe full of basic tees and sweaters and I don’t/won’t/can’t wear them (this is today’s discard pile). Why…?

I’m between 5’7″ and 5’8″ depending on the time of day, but I am NOT evenly proportioned. I have regular – even slightly short – legs, and then this ridiculous torso. I’ve literally only just come to terms with this. I’ve spent the last 20 years buying tops that don’t fit. The shoulders are never right. The sleeves are NEVER long enough. They’re basically crop tops. This is not a good look for me. A couple of months ago I finally had this epiphany and bought a bunch of tops from UK tall person shop, Long Tall Sally. MIND BLOWN. Since that fairly basic revelation I’ve scoped out Next tall, ASOS tall and some other ranges, and it’s made a massive difference. Not only do my clothes actually cover my body, but I’ve had the psychological boost of not having to buy clothes 3 sizes too big (bonus). The elbows are in the right places, the head holes are the right proportions. The waists are in the right place.

So. Whatever your body – buy clothes that were made for it. If you’re petite, search out clothes designed with your frame in mind. If you’re larger, find designers that understand your challenges. If you’re top heavy, there are stores that cater for your struggles. Whatever body you have, be kind to it, and treat it to clothes that were made for it. Your body and your confidence will thank you.

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On Gender, and the massive problem of ticking boxes.

pronounsPart of my life involves being an accidental LGBT activist. I’m Bisexual (hi!) and I’m female. My sex is female, my gender is pretty much female. I’m comfortable with that. I’m a bit of a tomboy and I get stressed out by chivalry and the societal concept of gendered behaviour. I have a beautiful, long-haired boy and he wears jeans, corduroy trousers, bright chunky jumpers, and stripes, and every day someone mis-genders him. This isn’t a problem for me, I just quietly return the conversation to the correct* pronouns, and that usually does the trick. Occasionally people apologise, and that makes me chuckle because what the person is apologising for is calling my son a girl. They’re not generally apologising for making a gender assumption. Sometimes I can use it as an education and remind people that it’s easy to make assumptions, and a great was to find out what pronouns to use is to ask something like ‘how old is your little one’? Generally a parent will give a clue there, either in the name or by giving a straight up gender. Easy.

This week I’ve been running some awareness comms at work – where I chair our LGBT network – around gender identity. I’ve been highlighting the difference between sex (body bits) and gender (what your head tells you) and how to show respect to everybody. I’m designing and introducing pronoun badges that people can wear on their lanyards with space to write in their choice – be it he/him, they/them, she/her or whatever else. Personally, I’m about 99% she/her. That’s not quite the whole story though, as I choose a gender neutral name, I use the Mx title wherever possible, and I’ve been known to tick the ‘other’ box for the gender question. I’m not genderqueer or gender fluid, but I have the strong belief the gender is irrelevant. So, where does this leave me as a parent? I would never put my son in a dress or stop him from playing with diggers. I would never force him into a pirate costume for a princess and pirate party if he wanted to wear a tutu. I won’t cut his hair until he asks me to.

Finally, we’ve been trying to choose a school this past month. (Already. I know.) One of the questions I’ve asked at each school has been around the uniform policy and how strictly gendered it is. Partly I want to know that Lo will be OK to have long hair and to wear a cardigan rather than a sweater, but mostly I want to see how the schools handle that question. On our first choice school visit, I was able to ask the head teacher, and her response was amazing. She smiled and told me that the uniform was exactly that – a UNIform. For everyone. As long as the children were in uniform and long hair was tied back, she was happy. Girls in shorts. Boys in cardigans. ┬áThe fact that she didn’t baulk at the question was exactly the response we need to see. Love your children. Let them express themselves, see what they can do with no imposed limits.


*Correct pronouns: I may seem flippant here, but Milo is a boy. He is a he and will be unless he tells me otherwise. I think children (not toddlers or preschoolers, older children) are awfully astute and know themselves better than we give them credit for. However – I categorically disagree with the assertion that you can ‘give’ children gender dysphoria by encouraging free choice.

On what I do for a living and how I got there. (Subtitle: Do what you want).

So, this has been asked recently a few times, and I’m sure you can get a vague idea of my professional like from my Insta account…(recently changed from Mrs Elliott to Mx Elliott – more on that soon!!). I am…. I….. Well. I work in a small design studio. I would describe myself as a graphic designer but that’s not quite the whole story. Shall we start at the middle?

After doing a criminology degree and then working as an analyst for 6 years, I had a kid and took the plunge. I decided to do what made me happy. SHOCK! Despite my very analytical and ‘boring’ choices, I’ve always dabbled with art, illustration and design. While living with the Mista’s parents to save for a house, I decided to study study study, and put myself out there as a freelancer to gain a bit of experience and exposure. Yes, the industry has a ‘breaking-in’ problem, and working for exposure (as in, not cash) is not a good way to make a living, but as we were rent/mortgage/obligation free for a year, and I was still working full time as an analyst, I had literally nothing to lose.

So I did. I picked up a few gigs, illustrated for a magazine and some national campaigns, and even got a few award nominations under my belt. Working hard, and more importantly, working A LOT, opened the doors that I needed. Sleep is overrated, anyway.

Fast forward a couple of years and after returning to my analyst role post baby, I realised that all the ingredients were wrong. I found myself in the part-time mum boat of literally (and I mean literally) spending ALL my wages on childcare. I was going to work, so that I could afford to go to work. My role wasn’t making my happy, it was inflexible, I felt at odds with the management and I couldn’t see a future. When I went to work, I checked my crazy at the door. Age 28 and I was starting to turn into a bland, faceless corporate drone. The only thing that kept me sane (professionally) was that I had the opportunity to create and design data dashboarding, and was doing a bit of a job shadow with our internal communications team.

After a month back from Maternity leave, a part time role came up in said Internal Communications team. I applied and nailed it. The role still wasn’t the creative dream come true, but it was much closer to where I wanted to be. I was looking after business accounts and writing and editing copy, but there was an element of design to everything I did. Eventually, the other designer in the team left, and I had the chance to come in full time. I established a whole bunch of processes, and soon, the studio was formally created.

As I said, it’s a small studio, so there are lots of elements to what I do. In the last week I’ve created large format banners, digital assets, a new identifier (logo), an animation (kinetic typography – fun!), as well as headshots and videography. One day I’ll move into a creative director role, and for now, the skills I’m picking up in project and stakeholder management are definitely helping to build towards that. My advice to any aspiring creative is to do work – lots of it – anywhere you can. Whether that’s freelance (for fair pay – and I mean fair based on your skill and experience. Don’t work for free), or just starting to apply a design eye to whatever the hell is paying your mortgage right now – start. And don’t stop ’till you get enough.

House Tour Part III: The Rest!

And finally, time to move on to the other rooms that make up my little corner of the world – the bathroom and the hallway, and a bonus floorpan. The layout of the flat is fairly straightforward, with all the rooms coming off the hallway, as well as the front door in and the cupboard, which we affectionately call ‘the cupboard under the stairs’.

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The bathroom

The bathroom was the first room we tackled, and I’m so glad we did. Shortly after moving into the flat I got knocked up and had one hell of a rough pregnancy. When I wasn’t in hospital, I was in the bathroom, so at least it was nice. ┬áWhen we moved in the bath panel and the windowsill were made from dark stained ply, so the bathroom was a bit of a light suck. We had to replace the floor after the subfloor collapsed due to a leak, and went with a nice warm cork. After replacing the floor we built a new bath panel that followed the shape of the bath, and tiled it to match the wall. I totally love the utilitarian look of that. It reminds me of the original bathrooms in Barbican flats.┬á

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The sink originally had a full pedestal and a mess of pipes behind it, so we bought a new sink and half pedestal from eBay. The sink arrived smashed to buggery but the pedestal was intact. You win some, you lose some. The epic bathroom cabinet is an Ikea Godmorgen. It holds A LOT.

The Hallway

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I took a real risk in painting the hallway black. It’s dark out there so the choice was either to paint it super bright, or keep it dark and cosy. The wall unit is an Ikea Besta wrapped in worktop offcuts, and makes a great perch for the Ferm Living bowl for keys, the human skull (probably just don’t ask) and the moulding of my teeth. Again, probably don’t ask. The black is Valspar Downing Street.

There’s also the matter of Milo’s swing. The precise reason I love the swing is because it’s ridiculous and there’s not quite enough space and I think that’s brilliant.

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