March Happy Highlights 2018 ~ Glimpses of Spring ~ Sunray Sister

Hello,

How are you? I am a little late with my Happy Highlights post, which I usually share at the end of each month, but we’re now half way through another month! It’s ok, I forgive myself. In these posts I like to look back on the previous few weeks, and consider which moments made me smile, and which achievements made me feel proud.

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Sketchbook page – watercolour and coloured pencil – 27th March

Even though the month began with lots of snow, it ended with some hopeful glimpses of Spring; both literally and in terms of things gradually coming together in my creative career!

My Happy Highlights for March 2018…

  1. We had a lot of snow! It caused a bit of trouble and changed plans, but I still found it so magical.
  2. Continued teaching piano, gained a couple more students and shared my poster to get even more students hopefully!
  3. Went to a Susanne Sundfør gig with Fraz. She is BREATHTAKING! Please go and listen to her music now! I also had the best day exploring Stockport and Manchester by myself, stumbling across all sorts of interesting places.
  4. Had a curry tapas meal out with Fraz and his parents. Yes, curry tapas! It meant we could have a few little dishes, and experience lots of wonderful flavours.
  5. Video called mum and dad; which is always lovely!
  6. Got to do some window displays for the charity shop where I volunteer. I really love creating fun displays!
  7. Secured a stall at the ‘Party in the Park’ event in Leek this June. Looking forward to selling my art and drawing lots of sunny, happy faces!
  8. Entered a national art competition, which also meant writing my artist statement. I found this super hard for some reason! But I’m glad I’ve got one now; I might add it to my ‘about’ page here on the blog.
  9. Discovered a new direction and freedom in my 365 day art challenge. I explained more in my previous blog post, which you can read here! Remember to follow my daily progress on Instagram and Facebook.
  10. Went out on a long walk along the canal for the first time; it was so peaceful! I love exploring new places so much!
  11. By the end of the month there were lots of happy signs of Spring; in particular I’ve been noticing all the birds singing sweet songs. I can’t wait to see more flowers and full green trees everywhere!

I’ve already done so many exciting things during April, which I can’t wait to share in my next Happy Highlights post, and possibly in that newsletter that I keep meaning to start!

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Sketchbook page – watercolour and coloured pencil – 27th March

How was March for you? Did you get a lot done? Or are you still emerging from Winter hibernation? Share your happy highlights in the comments, or over on Instagram or Facebook. Speak soon sisters!

 

Peace and love,

Rachel x

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November Happy Highlights ~ Sunray Sister Monthly Favourites

Hello!

It’s that time again, the end of one month, and the start of another! At this time I like to share all the little things and moments that brought me joy in the past few weeks, and I call this list my Happy Highlights. (I’ve been using a ‘5 year diary’ to record how each day has been for the past few months now, and this helps me remember all these things that go into my list.)

I would love to read your list of happy things from November. Share it in the comments, or over on Facebook or Instagram.

My Happy Highlights for November…

  1. I started my 365 day art challenge! I’m now at day 33 and going strong. Plus I am really enjoying it, and discovering little things about my style and process.
  2. Went out to a local fireworks display, which was very DIY! It was exciting though!
  3. The following day me and Fraz had lunch at our favourite café in town, called Penguin, and walked around Rudyard lake. It was lovely!
  4. Had a good long chat with my parents; must do this more often!
  5. Went to London for a weekend. Fraz needed to go for work, which was so amazing, because he is doing so well in his new job. We also got to spend time with my sister and her boyfriend, in their new flat and neighbourhood, for a lovely catch-up. Additionally I had some time to myself; I treated myself to new art supplies and a visit to the V&A, (plus I successfully navigated the underground!)
  6. I got some of my handmade notebooks and Christmas cards stocked in a local shop, which is a big step for me!
  7. Had fun using gouache paint. I rediscovered the magic of colour mixing, and the freedom of using a brush and paint to flow around the page.
  8. Fraz’s sister had her second baby, called Alison Artesia. We haven’t met her yet, but she looks so cute and tiny in photos!
  9. One Saturday morning we had freshly baked cinnamon rolls (thanks to Jus-Roll!), and homemade pineapple, banana, almond & ginger smoothies. Yum, yum, YUM!
  10. I filmed two new YouTube videos! The first was published in November, and is all about my Etsy shop. I’ve also just released the second one at the start of December, which is a fun chatty video sharing my Autumn favourites. It feels so good to be back in the YouTube game! I have so many ideas and footage ready for lots more videos in December and the new year.
  11. We woke up to snow in Leek! I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen snow in November; it was so magical.
  12. I received a letter from my new pen-pal, Mandy, who contacted me after watching my pen-pal video. Her letter was so sweet; I’ve just finished my reply today, ready to send out this week.
  13. ‘Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp’ was released, and I am obsessed! It is SO. DAMN. CUTE.!!! GAAAAAAH!

…and now – to celebrate the full moon – I’m off to have a special pamper night, including a bath and face mask! See you soon sisters.

 

Peace and love,

Rachel x

Slowing Down with Meditation // Love Lessons

Welcome back to class sisters!

In case you missed the first class, ‘The Wonderful World of Tea’, catch up here.

What’s this all about? Find out in detail here. Love Lessons is my new series of blog posts all about a love of learning, and learning about things to help you love yourself, or just get inspired. The first lesson was about tea, and this second lesson is about…

Slowing Down with Meditation

What is meditation?

To most people in Europe and America, meditation is the latest health trend, to those in Asia, it is a sacred practice.

As a beginner, I see meditation in two halves. The first is a daily dedicated ritual, the second is a continuous perspective and mindfulness of the present moment.

So meditation can be many things viewed from different perspectives. In the purest sense meditation is simply taking time to pause. It is stopping and saying, “I don’t need to do anything right now. All I need to do is breathe, and be aware of my present self, without changing anything or trying to solve anything.”

How can it help me?

The benefits of meditation are widely documented, from ancient tradition, to modern revelation. It’s important to remember that even though this is a global movement, mediation is personal and can be tailored to you. You can practice almost anywhere, at anytime. You do not need to sit cross-legged, burn incense and chant mantras. But you can if you want to. Don’t worry about all the accessories and stereotypes. If you prefer, you don’t even have to call it meditation. It could simply be your quiet time.

The purpose of meditation is to slow down, to find focus, to observe your mind and your surroundings and to live in the present moment.

Beyond that it can develop into other things with further benefits which you can research in the numerous books, blogs, podcasts and videos on the subject.

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Find your inner calm – a quick illustration by me!

How can I meditate?

Personally, I have found guided meditation most helpful. This can be found in the form of an app, where I would recommend both ‘Headspace’ and ‘Stop, Breathe & Think’ (plus they both have great design!). The first is good as a starting point, with cute and useful videos, but after 10 days you need to subscribe if you want new content. ‘Stop, Breathe & Think’ is great because it asks you to ‘check in’ each day too, so you can track your moods over time. I also recommend reading this article: Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Understanding the Mind, from one of my favourite blogs.

Otherwise you could simply put on relaxing music, or sit in silence, set a timer for between 5-20 minutes, and try the following:

  • Begin by getting comfortable – on a chair or on the floor – closing your eyes, resting your hands on your knees and taking a few deep breaths.
  • Now notice the connection of your body to your surroundings, notice any sounds around you.
  • Then bring your attention inwards and begin to count your breaths up to 10, and begin again at 1, for a few minutes.
  • When thoughts distract you, simply step back and watch them pass, then return to counting your breaths. Don’t become frustrated or try too hard to focus.
  • You could then do a ‘body-scan’ where you go to each part of your body, working from head to toe, and see how you feel. Move your mind around your body.
  • At this point you could also meditate on a certain subject, such as gratitude, or compassion for others. Guided meditations are useful for this.
  • Or you could bring your attention back to your body and surroundings, stretch, open your eyes and continue your day with a refreshed perspective and sense of calm.
  • As an additional step you could write down your thoughts and feelings, plans and dreams in a journal.

 

Homework: This week sit down for just 10 minutes and try meditation, using the advice above. How do you feel now? Do some further research for bonus marks! Report back here, or on social media. I can’t wait to hear how you got on!


Coming soon…

  • This Sunday: Playtime episode 10. A music mix tape from me to you!
  • Wednesday: Venture out into the wild Spring countryside with me in my next YouTube video! Find my most recent video below.
  • Friday: Is it that time already? The end of the month means April Happy Highlights.
  • Next Sunday: My monthly review, reflection and plans to move forward with my creative ideas, business and personal life.

 

Enjoy the weekend sisters, I hope it brings you love and learning!

 

Peace and love,

Rachel x

February Happy Highlights // Sunray Sister

Welcome back sisters! How has your week been?

My Happy Highlights posts are a monthly reflection of what’s happened, what I’ve learnt, how I’ve changed, what I’m grateful for and what made me smile.

I usually create the list in my sketchbook along with a collage or drawing, but this month I’ve got caught out and haven’t had a chance to do this. Perhaps that’s one thing I can learn from for next month. I’m also going to have a post up soon with a more in-depth review of my business goals and personal goals that I set at the start of the year.

Anyway, here’s my list of happy highlights…

  1. Celebrated four years of love with my awesome Fraz!
  2. Completed a 14 day blogging challenge.
  3. Launched my YouTube channel, and uploaded three videos.
  4. Fraz’s parents visited, and treated us to some lovely meals and their lovely company!
  5. Preparing for my first exhibition as Sunray Sister.
  6. Starting to learn about Buddhism.
  7. …and wanting to learn even more about a million other things!
  8. Starting to meditate each morning.
  9. Wanting fewer possessions, and discovering amazing people online who share this view.
  10. Noticed some tiny birds which live in a hedge in the middle of town; where everyone seems to be rushing from one place to another, I just stopped and observed nature for a moment. Now whenever I walk past it makes me smile to hear them chattering away.

 


What were your best moments from February? What are you most proud of? Who made you smile? Take a minute to give thanks and reflect on how far you’ve come. Share your story in the comments, or over on social media!

Coming up this Sunday will be an exclusive preview of some of the work I will be displaying at the Spiralling Exhibition next week, then on Wednesday I will share a little tour of the exhibition for my fourth YouTube video. The opening night is this Monday at The Island gallery space in Bristol, UK. Hopefully see you there!

Also, in case you missed my latest YouTube video, you can find it below!

 

Peace and love,

Rachel x

Day 11: How to Love Yourself // Sunray Sister’s 14 Days of Love

Welcome back! We’re into the home straight of Sunray Sister’s 14 Days of Love, and today I have the first of a trio of posts all about how to love. The first step is to love yourself sisters!

This can mean many different things for different people. Whatever is healthy, peaceful, simple yet significant… whatever is true to you; make time to do those things. Below are some of my ideas on how to show yourself some love and respect… 

“The tools for happiness are within you” – Leo Babauta, Zen Habits

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Eat healthy food

What you put in, you will get back. So give yourself wholesome and natural food; you will feel so much better! I dream of growing my own food one day, and being totally connected to the earth.

Make time for tea

The tea ceremony goes back centuries, and is something I am fascinated by. So simple, so overlooked, yet so important. Take a break. Take time to be mindful of this small ritual and appreciate every hot sip.

Move outside and connect with nature

Inspire. Expire. Feel renewed. When I am stuck inside all day I feel horrible, and often forget how healing a quick stroll can be. But I long for a huge hike through the woods and up a mountain somewhere!

Explore mindfulness, meditation and yoga

Be still with yourself for a few moments everyday. Sit and observe. Listen to your breath, consciously take your mind through every part of your body, notice how every part of you feels. Repeat positive affirmations and mantras. Radiate positive thoughts. Then stretch! Also try to bring a new awareness into everything you do everyday, try to be mindful of every move, and grateful for small things.

Release your thoughts in a journal 

There are always difficult thoughts and painful feelings. But they should not be squashed and hidden. They should be observed and released. Do this in a journal with words, or with images too. I adore collage; the physical action of cutting, arranging and sticking is very therapeutic to me. I’ve also been using an old typewriter recently, giving me a fresh angle for putting words on paper.

Express yourself through creativity

As well as letting out thoughts in a journal, try expressing yourself through other techniques. Paint, draw, sew, build, bake, plant, dance, act. Let your imagination go wild, and find others who share your passion.

Read everyday and learn something new

There is nothing more wonderful than constantly building upon your knowledge of the world and all the wonderful things in it. I seem to find a new subject to explore every week! My current interests include: small business, self-love, slowing down and crystals.

Schedule a regular self-love session

All of the ideas above should be incorporated into your daily or weekly life. But when you can, maybe once a week/fortnight/month, set aside a specific day/morning/afternoon/evening, when you just stop and pamper yourself! Take an even longer walk than usual, blast out your favourite music when you get home, create a magnificent wholesome lunch. Then read all the books and articles, watch all the YouTube videos, play all the podcasts. Whilst you’re at it, steam your face, apply a face mask, do a manicure. The most important part is that you specifically book this appointment with yourself, to make it just as important as all your other plans.


 

I am still at the beginning of my self-love journey. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself, I just want to learn and develop. So always remember this is a journey, and always remember to forgive yourself. How do you love yourself? How do you make peace with yourself? What are your favourite ways to relax and reconnect with what matters? I’d love to hear about your self-love rituals.

Tomorrow I will be looking at how to love others; from your closest companion, to a stranger on the street. There’s only three days left of Sunray Sister’s 14 Days of Love, I hope you can join me!

 

Peace and love,

Rachel x

 

Day 8: When Love is Misused // Sunray Sister’s 14 Days of Love

Welcome back sisters! Wednesday is here, and it is day 8 of my fortnight of blogging about love. So far I have covered mainly positive and fun stuff, but today I want to look at love from another angle.

This is most likely going to be a topic to return to in the near future, as it will be hard to get all my thoughts into one comprehensive blog post. It might come across as a little negative, but I want to represent the other side of my message of positivity. Basically I aim to adress the problem of too much love and not enough love. The lack of balance. The lack of authenticity.

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Sometimes love can be misused. Often we say we ‘love’ something, when really it is not love at all. Let’s try to change our thinking…

When we love people too much, we become idolisers, fanatics, stalkers, extremists. We call it love but it turns into obsession. I am thinking of celebrities in particular, and the extreme focus put on their personal lives and every little thing that they do. They are just humans like you and me! Stop looking up to others in this way. Stop wanting to be like others. Love yourself first, spread love to those around you.

When we love food too much, we can become unhealthy, obese, lazy. Food is so necessary to our wellbeing. When we stuff our bodies with poison, we feel terrible and look terrible, and a vicious circle of self-destruction begins. Respect your body like a temple, worship it and bring it healthy, wholesome offerings. This is a lesson I am still learning.

When we love material things too much, we become suffocated, and damage the people and planet around us. This creates not only the direct result of more stress, less money, and less time to enjoy ourselves, but also unseen and indirect results. This includes harming the environment and the lives of people who have to deal with the results, especially in less developed countries. Respect what you have, consider where your possessions come from, and where they might end up. Give up the devotion to new and disposable things! Use your voice and your skills instead, influence and teach others to do good.

When we think we love, we can become blind and patronising. When we think we are looking out for others, we are not actually listening, we are only making ourselves feel better. The number of times some random person has said to me “sorry love”, or “are you alright love?“, is endless and drives me crazy. The fact that they couldn’t care less about how I am, or are not truly sorry at all is bad enough, but then they have to add love in the most un-loving, highly patronising way possible. When someone uses love to suggest they are superior, that is their weakness. True strength will always come from vulnerability and kindness.

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Balance is crucial to life. Life and death, past and future, joy and pain; these are all the extremes of life that must be accepted. Balance can be found in the moment; no comparisons, no worries, no obsessions.

Love people you know, get to know new people, find good teachers.

Enjoy food and learn what is best for you.

Have only the useful things that you need and the small treasures that bring you joy.

Only ever love truly, and wholly. Be your authentic self.


In the final few posts of Sunray Sister’s 14 Days of Love I will be digging deeper into these subjects, as well as a couple of fun things. For tomorrow’s post I will be sharing a list of some amazing influencers and teachers that are helping me; I think they will help you to progress on your self-love journey too. I hope you can join me!

 

Peace and true love,

Rachel x

Business Goals for 2017 // Sunday Sunray News

Sunray Sister only began in September this year, and I already have so many plans and ideas for where to take it next. So in today’s edition of Sunday Sunray News I want to share a few of my goals for 2017. I have split them up into four main categories: brand, product, business and online goals.

Also, my Etsy shop is now on holiday! When it re-opens in January there will be lots of new things, so stay tuned.

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Brand Goals – my image and message

Right now I am taking some time to step back and ask, “What message do I want to send out with Sunray Sister?”, “What is the point of Sunray Sister?” and “What value can Sunray Sister bring to other people; to my potential customers?”

From the beginning I wanted to create something positive, and I wanted to make myself feel more positive by being creative. I feel like my image is almost focused, but the message is still a little blurry. I love using pinks and purples, with neutral backgrounds, and hearts or faces. I love sewing cute little things for people to buy, with positive messages.

In recent weeks I have been revisiting my interest in minimalism, mindfulness and zero-waste. Now I am asking, “How can I be a minimalist if I am creating more stuff to clutter up other people’s lives?” This makes me sure that I really need to focus on bringing positive messages to people, via useful items which will add value to their life and serve a purpose. What’s more, buying handmade and from small businesses promotes a more ethical lifestyle, away from consumerism. Using reduced and sustainable packaging with my products is also really important to me. So these will all be additional elements that add up to create my brand.

Love yourself, love other creatures, love our planet. 

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Product Goals – what I’m selling

I love drawing and painting, but I feel like my sewn, tie-dyed and embroidered ideas are more focused, more unique and can deliver my message more effectively than any 2D artwork could. There are enough illustrated, pretty, positive messages available to put in a frame on the wall. I want to create pretty, positive things to wear and use.

In 2017 I am going to be making brooches, pouches, patches, dolls, bookmarks and book-covers with tie-dye fabric and embroidered messages. I also realised I could scan some of the embroidered messages and use these as unique greetings card designs.

At the same time, I still have ideas for illustration based work, such as zines and the images I already share on this blog. Perhaps these ideas can just stay online, in digital format where they don’t take up any physical space, but just spread certain messages. What’s more I could run workshops, write more in-depth blog posts and create YouTube videos all about positivity and creativity.

So for now, drawing is something for me, and this blog, and not something to sell as Sunray Sister. Saying that, I would love to take illustration commissions for portraits or similar projects, but only on the side as myself.

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Business Goals – serious stuff

Even though I keep saying I have a small business, I haven’t really done any of the proper business stuff yet. I have a name and a logo, a business card and a shop, and this blog and social media accounts. But that’s it. So a big thing I need to do in 2017 is write an official business plan. Goals cannot be achieved without a plan! The Prince’s Trust could help me with this on their Business Enterprise course, which I will hopefully do in January.

Another big goal for 2017 will be to take part in more markets and fairs. I was so proud of going to my first ever market last week, and I know that they will get easier. One serious thing I need to do is get public liability insurance, so that I can have a stall at regular weekend outdoor markets. I also went to my local Etsy team meet-up in November, which was really hard for me, but is something I need to do more in 2017.

In addition to markets, another way to get out into the ‘real world’ is via local creative co-ops. These are small shops run by a group of artists, that sell work created by artists. Examples in Bristol include Blaze, The Little Shop, Paper Plane and Co-LAB. There are also opportunities halfway between a market and a shop called pop-up shops, which would be great to get involved with, especially ones in association with Etsy. So in 2017 I aim to have my work in at least one local ‘bricks-and-mortar’ shop.

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Online Goals – spreading the word

Without the internet I think creating this little business would be quite tricky. In 2017 I want my Etsy shop to be fuller than ever, with a range of different items at different price points. I also aim to have 50 sales by the end of the year. Of course Etsy isn’t the only online marketplace, so I would love to join Not On The High Street and possibly create a Folksy shop too.

I really enjoy planning, creating and publishing posts on this blog, and I want to keep it up in 2017. So far these behind-the-scenes style posts have been most popular, so I want to create more content in this style. One problem at the moment is that I usually write the post on the same day that it is published, or if I am doing well, a few days in advance. So in 2017 I aim to create the following week’s posts in one day and schedule their publishing times.

I also want to add a YouTube channel to my repertoire. As with blog content, I have endless ideas for videos. I want to create craft videos, drawing videos, artist date videos, lifestyle videos, and look-book videos, and lots more in between. As long as they extend my positivity via creativity message! Plus a little feature I already have a name for: ‘Sunray Sister Sings a Song’, since I haven’t given up on music, it just has a slightly different place in my life now.

Social media is a huge part of my business, but my use of it could be more effective. In 2017 I aim to set social media schedules using spreadsheets. Right now Instagram is my most popular platform, with around 100 followers (the number seems to fluctuate each day between 100 and 120). By the end of 2017 I aim to have 300 followers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

All of these different channels may seem like extra distraction for me, but I think, if I use them properly, each website will compliment the next. My blog posts will lead to my Etsy shop, and my Etsy will link to social media, my social media accounts will take people to my YouTube channel, and from there people will find my blog.

As long as my message and image is consistent across all platforms, and I am regularly sharing good quality content, which is strategically planned, I will be successful.

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Conclusion – what have I achieved and what are my goals?

In 2016 I have:

In 2017 I will:

  • Focus brand on spreading positivity through creativity
  • Write business plan
  • Stick to products which are sewn/made of fabric
  • Use reduced and sustainable packaging
  • Create YouTube videos
  • Have 60+ items in Etsy shop at one time
  • Have 50+ Etsy sales
  • Get public liability insurance
  • Have a stall at 20+ craft fairs
  • Get products in at least one local shop
  • Attend 5+ Etsy seller monthly meet-ups
  • Increase social media following to 300+ on each platform
  • Use a social media strategy
  • Write blog posts at least one week in advance
  • Gain 20+ WordPress followers

Of course, I have some personal resolutions, alongside these goals for Sunray Sister. They include minimising my possessions/de-cluttering our home, eating differently and getting outside more, all of which I might discuss in future blog posts.

What have you achieved this year? What are your resolutions for 2017? What big dreams do you need to transform into attainable goals? Let me know in the comments or on social media, and we can cheer each other on!

In case you missed any of my recent posts, catch up now!

This evening I will be finishing off some handmade gifts! I also plan to upload two final blog posts in 2016, this Tuesday and Friday. If they don’t show up, just assume I got sidetracked with wrapping and Christmas films, and I’ll see you in 2017 with a December happy highlights post on the 6th of January!

Peace and love

Rachel x