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Lifestyle and Interviews

Interview With Manchester’s ‘Bee Love’ and ‘#WeStandTogether’ Artist Amy Coney

July 3, 2017

In the aftermath of the tragic events at Manchester Arena, like everyone within the local community, Artist Amy Coney just wanted to help. The horrendous attack had taken place just minutes from her house.

The very next morning Amy did what knew best: she picked up a paintbrush and started to create a giant worker-bee mural in central Manchester a symbol of the city’s hard-working past, during the Industrial Revolution. When I saw the photo of Amy and her friend hugging in front of the painting I cried. It really conveyed the grief of the community and how everyone was trying their best to support each other in the aftermath.

Amy didn’t stop there. In a bid to help raise money for the victims and their families she set up a collaboration with poet Tony Walsh who delivered the now iconic poem entitled ’This Is The Place’ at the official vigil outside Manchester Town Hall. This piece is called ‘Bee Love’ and has captured the hearts of musicians across the world including Elbow, the 1975 and George Ezra who have flocked to sign her canvas in support. In this interview I catch up with Amy about the process.

You created your beautifully moving street art piece #WeStandTogether featuring Manchester’s worker bee the morning after Manchester’s tragic bomb, can you tell us what you were thinking when you picked up your paintbrush and set out on that journey?

Two of my friends at Social Chain contacted me that morning with the idea that they wanted to do a mural, something positive in reaction to the heartbreak. I jumped at the suggestion having spent the last 12 hours mainly pacing and feeling helpless as we watched everything unfold on the news and Twitter.

A few phone calls to Outhouse MCR (they provided the wall) and by 1pm we were painting. Social Chain’s team helped me with the base and I managed to get most of the detail finished before running off to the vigil at Albert’s Square, I then came back to do final touches a day later.

The whole thing was quite surreal and adrenaline-filled, feeling the most intense need to do something as well as be around people. There was comfort in the comradery of creating something positive publicly – something for others, not just ourselves, something unifying. The #WeStandTogether was and is a powerful message and so relevant. When I put the brushes down and paused to see what we’d created, all of the emotion that had been numbed in the shock came over me like a wave. Sad and grateful tears all at once.

The Charlatans with Amy as they sign Bee Love

What has the reaction to your street-art piece been from the local community in Manchester?

Whilst painting several people gave their appreciation, including many from offices whose windows overlooked the piece. The lovely people at BooHoo actually gave us a round of applause from their window when we finished on the day which was incredible.

From then there has been so much positive feedback especially on social media – people are still photographing it and leaving the loveliest comments.

You are working on another Manchester Bee piece featuring the words of ‘Longfella’ Tony Walsh’s inspirational ode to Manchester at terror attack vigil. Tell us a little more about this project and how people can get involved.

Bee Love is a giant worker bee painting with the words from Tony Walsh’s famous poem entitled ’This Is The Place’ written in the wings with all proceeds going to the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund and Forever Manchester.

The canvas has been signed by a number of celebrities baking the cause including Elbow, the 1975, George Ezra and Jonny Marr. The auction will be resuming on the 1st August after we’ve gained more signatures. Prints will be available shortly. If people want to donate or purchase a print they can, alternatively people can help make noise by sharing it on social and telling as many people about it as possible.

Johnny Marr is one of the many musicians that have signed Bee Love

In what way did the words of the poem influence your piece?

I listened to the poem every day following the attack, there was something comforting about it, powerful, raw and strong. Tony’s poems are fantastic, but this one resonated with everyone, and it was also his delivery that made it so and his ability to stand in front of that crowd at a time when not many could have done the same. It gave a lot of people strength. It is Manchester.

‘Some born here, some drawn here, but all call it home.’ I was drawn here and this is my home.

 Art has always been your passion and you have turned this dream into your career. What advice would you give to other people that want to follow in your footsteps?

Keep persisting, and surround yourself with people that support you. Work with others that are better than you and listen to them, they speak from experience, be appreciative of their time and don’t undervalue your own. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there or fail, you can always go back to your office job but what a waste if you never tried. Enjoy learning.

For those of you that are new to LedByLucy you may want to have a nosy at the People and Projects section of my blog where I regularly feature interviews with inspirational women working within the creative field. You may also like the Travel and Places section.

Lifestyle and Interviews

INTERVIEW WITH MATT HENRY FROM KINKY BOOTS

May 8, 2016

DSC00183Cyndi Lauper, sequins, drag, dancing, a little bit of cheese and a lot of sass. Watching Kinky Boots is like attending a kitch-tastic party, by the end of the night the whole audience is up out of their seats, singing and dancing. But at the heart of this musical is a poignant message: you can change the world if you change your mind.

After watching the show at The Adelphi London, I caught up with Matt Henry who stars as Lola. 

Life lessons are one of the main themes in Kinky Boots. What have you personally learned from your experience of performing as Lola?
I have personally learnt to listen more. Its so easy to run away with your own opinions and point of view that you don’t really listen to what people are really saying.

This production features some fabulous drag queens and you all seem like absolute pros, dancing in those killer heels takes serious skill. Have you and the Angels all performed in drag before or is this your first time?
This is my first time performing in drag. I know that Luke Jackson one of my angels was in the original production of Pricilla Queen of the Desert.

Matt Henry (Lola) and Angels in Kinky Boots - photo Matt Crockett

The cast seem like a hoot, once you’ve sang your heart out and slipped in and out of those infamous sequined outfits umpteen times do you all get a chance to celebrate and party together offstage?
We are such a close cast and have such a great time working together. So any excuse to throw an after work social get together is always welcomed.

Your performance as Lola in Kinky Boots was fabulous. It must require an immense amount of self-discipline to maintain such high standards. What is your typical day like?
Typical day –
Vocal rest until 3pm
Eating healthy-  small and often (due to corseted costumes)
Gym -Weight training or Pilates
Massage

What advice would you give to other people with big dreams and ambitions?
It’s your dream so build it yourself. Stay focused. It’s not always going to be easy but learn and grow from every experience negative and positive experience and don’t give up. Nothing happens before its time.

To book tickets to watch the show visit the website here.
Photo Credit: On stage image taken by Matt Crocket, other by me
Lifestyle and Interviews

MUSE Of THE MONTH|SEDGE BESWICK, GLOBAL SENIOR SOCIAL MEDIA & STYLIST MANAGER AT ASOS

October 15, 2015

SEDGE Beswick-LedByLucy-ASOS-Interview-1 I love ASOS. It comes in particularly handy when I’m racing against time to find the perfect fashion fix for an impromptu party. My first step is to look up my ASOS stylist of choice @ASOS_Megan on Instagram to see what she’s been wearing lately, perhaps drop her a tweet if I can’t find the link, then I’ll have a quick browse at the ASOS #AsSeenOnMe hashtag for further inspiration. With next day delivery I can have a quick office fashion show in the morning, select my favourite and return the rest for free. Voilà, I’m all kitted out.

Wowzers, social media has completely changed the way we shop. But who is behind it all? Queue Sedge Beswick, Global Senior Social Media & Stylist Manager at ASOS. I caught up with Sedge to find out more about her role, the pressures that come with managing a 3.3 million strong Instagram account, her career highlights, overcoming #EpicFails and how you too can tweet your way to success…

Tell us a little about your journey to becoming Global Senior Social Media & Stylist Manager at ASOS

I can’t lie, it’s been a pretty fun journey. I actually got into social via a social competition! The entrants had to see who could get the most Facebook friends onto one page within a week, my page was called “Sedge’s Seriously Social Page” and with 8K followers in 7 days, I came in second… and as the lyrics go, “The winner takes it all”. The winner threw an epic competition for Three UK and I thought that was that.

Whilst at university in Nottingham I organised events at a club with a brand strategy that focused on secrecy and mystery. Social played a lead part in the events as it gave us an opportunity for consumers to discover more about the brand, outside of club hours and online. The event was a huge success and off the back of it, I was asked to go to Pretty Polly for 3 months to set up their social. A day or two after graduating, Three UK called and explained that they were setting up a social team, off the back of the competition and my crazy Facebook competition, the winner didn’t take it all, I was offered my first full time job.

Three was incredible, it taught me a ton and most importantly, about the world of mobile which is imperative in today’s world. I had two very geeky years at Three before moving back into the world of fashion (my degree was in Fashion Marketing and Communications at NTU), I’ve nearly done four years at ASOS now, it’s been superb for my development and progression. I’ve learnt a lot and had a few epic fails along the way, that of course, is the joy of social.

ASOS has 3.3m followers on its Instagram feed alone, it must feel daunting to manage such a large account. People are often afraid of using social in case they make a mistake or get it wrong. What do you say to that?

Mistakes are proof that you’re trying! We try to be as relaxed as our 20somethings are when they’re posting onto social, there’s no million and one sign off processes. Social is supposed to be fun, we inject the same level of fun and enthusiasm into our content. I have, however, had one of my biggest social faux pars on ASOS’ Instagram – I was at the NFL, few beers in when I had the “I’m supposed to be looking after ASOS’ Instagram fear. I took my phone out, quickly regrammed a picture of a girl in ASOS jeans with her dog. Threw my phone in my pocket, relieved that I’d remembered to post and carried on drinking/enjoying the game. At the end of the game, I took my phone out my pocket again and felt like Beyonce – I’ve never, ever received to many texts, tweets, WhatsApps, calls… I’d made an epic typo. Instead of saying “Nice ASOS jeans, cute dog too – can we borrow him?”, I’d put “Nice ASOS jeans, cute dog too – can we bottom him?”. Not my finest moment, the call to our customer care team was an interesting one. BUT, we’re only human – these things happen.LedByLucy-Sedge-Beswick-ASOS-Interview-Social-MediaWhat is a typical day like for you at ASOS?

Typically, there’s no such thing as a typical day. ASOS still has a very start up mentality so there’s lots of buzz and excitement, all day, every day. That also means that there’s always a hell of a lot to do so you’ll often be pulled in different directions to deliver the absolute best thing for our 20something audience. A typical day has a lot of meetings, a lot of Diet Coke and the occasional N-Sync song blasting out from someones Spotify account.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?      

Ooo, good question! My biggest highlight was being invited to Number 10, Downing Street to host what they call, an “Inspiration talk” to their digital teams. It was amazing to be invited (& of course, to get the picture outside the door!).

What advice could you give to bloggers that would like to work with ASOS?

Get a social channel, that you love, and keep it up to date. You don’t have to be interested in Fashion, we’re looking for people who are huge lovers of social and really understand the platform, and understand the amount of time it takes to define your tone of voice, create content, engage with your community. I am the ultimate social stalker when I’m recruiting, the worst is when people either don’t promote any social handles or when they do promote them and they’re completely redundant.

I have a real passion for educating people on social, and careers in social so I’ve written a book, 140 Ultimate Twitter LOLs, which is aimed at students and I often mentor and lecture at universities across Europe (currently typing whilst stranded in Florence due to a storm, post talk).

Favourite Instagram profiles and blogs to follow and why?  

I’m all about Instagram, that’s my platform of choice. My favourite accounts are:

  • ASOS_Ashley: Okay, I’m biased but there aren’t enough great streetwear and menswear Instagramers out there. Ashley has a real eye for a strong pair of sneakers.
  • FatJewish: No explanation needed, just look at the feed. That guy has me in stitches, daily.
  • SRSLYsocial: Also, biased but I’ve just launched a t-shirt company focused on social slogans, we’ve got 9K followers in 9 weeks so I’m pretty chuffed and our engagement rates are amazing, our first line sold out in 24 hours. If you haven’t seen the tees yet, check ’em out here.
  • FashionGrunge: Mainly because I’m Kurt Cobain obsessed but also because this account has such a clear aesthetic and interest (that obviously taps into my own).

SEDGE Beswick-LedByLucy-ASOS-InterviewFor those of you that are new to LedByLucy you may want to have a nosy at the People and Projects section of my blog where I regularly feature interviews with inspirational women working within the creative field. You may also like the Fashion and Beauty section which does what it says on the shoe box😉

Lifestyle and Interviews

MUSE Of THE MONTH: THE CLOTHES HORSE

September 10, 2015
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There are so many different kinds of fashion blogs. At one end of the scale are those that share their daily rants and raves from their bedrooms, accompanied by iPhone snaps with #NoFilter realness. Then at the opposite end of the scale is Rebecca’s blog, The Clothes Horse. Her ethereal posts are carefully curated using the woodlands and beaches of Northern Ireland as the backdrop for her stylised photography. Scrolling through her posts is like reading a never ending fairy tale with daily doses of magic.

I caught up with Rebecca to find out about how she became the protagonist in her own online fairy-tale, what she dreamed of doing when she was growing up, the thought process that goes into creating a post and what her dream shoot would look like…

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Your photographs always seem to tell a story. Some remind me of fairy tales, others vintage fashion photography and then stylised films too. What is the process that you go through to create these looks and themes? 
Part of it just happens organically. I watch a lot of old films and I read a lot growing up so these influences are still with me. Sometimes I’m just out on a walk and I see something and it’s very fairytale-esque, I don’t have to plan the image it just happens. It probably helps that I’m an American and I just moved to Northern Ireland; I see things differently than a local who drives by rock walls and castle ruins every day, for me it’s very old world and romantic while to them it’s just mundane. Being new to an area always helps, you see things more romantically than the locals and since I grew up moving every few years I’m sort of constantly in the state of being new and appreciating my surroundings because I’m not accustomed to them. If I break down the process then it usually starts with an outfit; once I have the outfit I think about what sort of settings would highlight it and then I go for a walk–I have some images in my mind but I also walk around and see what I can find. Sometimes I had a flowering bush in mind for a set and when I get there the plant died or the light is wrong, so I just walk or ride my bicycle a little farther and try to find a better fit. If I lived in a city I think my style would be completely different because I do pick out clothes thinking “this would work in the woods/countryside” or more literally I’d look at stilettos and think “where am I going to wear those?” because so many of the roads I walk along are dirt or gravel.
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What was your dream job as a 17 year old?
I wanted to be a “fine artist;” in my head that was really the dream to make a living doing art but the sort of art that belongs in museums and exhibitions. Even back then I remember my art teacher recommending that I look into illustration because she thought it suited my talents and interests more, but I felt it wasn’t as “cool” and “special” as fine art back then! Of course shortly after that my family moved and the next school I attended didn’t really have any art program so when college rolled around I was completely off the art track and trying to find a new goal! Now I’d probably love to get into illustration!
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If you had access to an unlimited budget what would your dream shoot look like?
Oh gosh there are so many dream shoots I’d love to do. The wardrobe would probably be Valentino, the location would probably be Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany (it looks like a Disney castle), and I’d love to get some of Tim Walker’s old props out for it as well! He’s created giant moths, cameras, and monsters for some of his shoots and I’d love to borrow a few for my own pictures. That’s really the next level–finding a way to create giant props to use but I wouldn’t even know where to store them once I built them!
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 So if ever you are in need of a little bit of sparkle on a dull day you know where to head.
For those of you that are new to LedByLucy you may want to have a nosy at the People and Projects section of my blog where I regularly feature interviews with inspirational women working within the creative field. You may also like the Fashion and Beauty section which does what it says on the shoe box 😉
Lifestyle and Interviews

INTERVIEW WITH ASHLEIGH GRAY, WICKED’S LEADING LADY

June 29, 2015

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At The Lowry Theater on my way to watch Wicked

Ashleigh Gray, a graduate fresh out of drama school, once sat wide eyed in the audience of Wicked, then turned to her friend and said “I have to play that role.” Of course she meant Elphaba. A dream that many budding young starlets undoubtedly share. But for Ashleigh, this dream really did come true.
I saw a quote recently that said “everyone wants to be successful, until they see what it actually takes”, it was superimposed onto a photograph of a ballerina’s battered and blue toes. A sight that is usually hidden by silk ballet shoes.
Wicked’s emerald green Elphaba is one of the West End’s most renowned and coveted roles.
The leading lady Ashleigh now blasts out the famous, unwavering notes from Wicked eight times a week, making each performance seem like the first.
I wondered what a day in her ruby slippers is really like and how she overcame the challenges along the journey to becoming Elphaba.
I caught up with Ashleigh after watching her performance at The Lowry to find out more.

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Have you always wanted to become an actress?

For as long as I can remember I’ve loved to perform. It started with singing really, I was always found singing around the house or the playground as a child. I guess the natural progression was to get involved with amateur dramatics and then go on to train professionally! I feel very lucky to be an actor. It’s not many people that can say they love their job!

Show business is an industry that many people dream of working in but only a small minority actually reach success. How did you keep yourself inspired and motivated to reach your goals?

I’ve been so lucky that throughout my own personal journey, I’ve had wonderful people around me, spurring me on and encouraging me, especially through the tough times. Be it Music Teachers, Directors or my own family, I’m so grateful to everyone who has helped me get where I am now. I do it for them, just as much as I do it for myself! I’m so passionate about this industry and I think that’s what’s kept me going all these years! I just don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t a part of it!

What is your favourite part of the job?

Meeting audiences who’ve been touched or moved by our performances. There’s nothing better than live theatre! A live audience will have no hesitation in telling you just how much they are enjoying or not enjoying a performance! And as an actor you can absolutely learn from that. I am forever learning and evolving, not only as a performer but also as a person thanks to the nature of my job! Luckily, Wicked seems to reach out to people in such a positive manner that the reaction is always one of love.

Your performance as Elphaba at Wicked was spectacular and incredibly intense. I read that you perform eight times a week when you are on tour which is unbelievable. It must require an immense amount of self-discipline to maintain such high standards. How do you achieve this?

It does take a lot and especially on tour. Being out of your own comfort zone and away from your usual support network of friends and family can be very difficult! I count myself very lucky that I have such an amazing ‘tour family’ around me. We get each other through! But I also have to look after myself. I eat well, sleep a lot and work out everyday to try and keep up the stamina requires, both physically and emotionally, for playing this wonderful gift of a role 8 times a week!

What is your typical day like when you are on tour? Have you managed to see some of the sights of Manchester?

I’m lucky that I’ve toured here several ones before and Manchester is such a great city! With only having Sundays off, time is a bit limited and I spend most of my weekdays either swimming or doing a bit of yoga or just relaxing and recovering ahead of the show. Saying that, I took a trip into town this weekend, did a bit of shopping, had some wonderful food at Artisan and took in the Makers Market at Spinningfields, it was delightful! I look forward to getting in again and seeing more of what the place has to offer.

What is your favourite quote from Wicked?

“Everyone deserves the chance to fly!”

I think it’s so true – and not only in the literal sense we use in the show. I firmly believe that everyone should have a chance to shine in life and never be brought down by anyone else! If your head and your heart are flying high, happiness won’t be far behind! And happiness is the key…..to everything!

From now until the 25th July 2015, you can catch the spellbinding performance at The Lowry for the last leg of its UK tour. Visit The Lowry website to find out more about the show or book tickets.

Suggested Post: Interview: Yellowstone Art Boutique’s Hannah Stoney

Lifestyle and Interviews

Interview: Yellowstone Art Boutique’s Hannah Stoney

February 8, 2015
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Let me introduce you to Hannah Stoney, the owner and creator of Yellowstone Art Boutique. This is one of my go-to places for creative ideas, gifts and homeware. The walls are full of trinkets such as bobbin spools reworked into coat hooks and maps of the world transformed into artwork. The stock consists of handpicked, British artist’s work and Hannah’s own paintings, fabric and stationary.

Hannah launched Yellowstone when she was fresh out of University and it has since become a roaring success. She recently launched a series of master classes including: Approaching Shops & Galleries (to sell your artwork), Mixed Media and Floristry.

Here is my interview with Hannah and photographs from my tour of Yellowstone Art Boutique.

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Where did the idea for Yellow Stone Art Boutique come from?

I always knew I wanted to have my own space, even at University. I thought it would be more of a gallery back then, as I was on a Fine Art degree. I wanted torepresent artists and makers who didn’t have a reputation and give them achance. As soon as I began looking in to the work I wanted to showcase, Idiscovered a world of handmade that got me so excited! It shaped my businessplan and the idea for Yellowstone was born. I worked on my business plan, researching and sourcing for a few years before I even thought about renting a retail space so I felt more than ready.

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Have you always wanted to run your own business?

I never really thought of it like that – I knew I wanted my own gallery so I guess I did, but I’ve only recently come to think of Yellowstone as a business. I knew I couldn’t open up with anyone else because I had such a clear idea of what I wanted to do. I also knew it was a risk, and I didn’t want anyone else to be responsible if things went wrong! I’m so glad I do run my own business now. It totally balances out my brain. I’m too organized to paint all day every day, but wouldn’t hack the business side 24/7. So being an artist and business owner is the perfect combination for me.

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In the recent years there has been a craft revival, why do you think people love handmade?

I hate it when people harp on about the recession (we opened in it’s lowest low) but I really think it made people stop and think. We found that our customers wanted to buy less, but of higher quality. Customers began to care where the item was made, who by and why. They trust us to be fair on pricing and they know that their money isn’t going to a big corporate company of suits (I don’t even own a trouser suit). Their purchase supports a small independent shop, that in turn, supports over 40 British artists. We have lots of customers that are creative themselves, and although they may not be full-time makers, they come for inspiration, for positive words, and to learn about what other creatives are up to. It’s lovely to feel part of the handmade community.

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Your brand prides itself on championing the work of British artists; tell me more about how you meet the designers and select the products?

Mostly, I find new makers at shows (both trade and retail). There are some wonderful craft and design shows all over the country, and that way, I can meet the artist and chat straight away. I also find artists on twitter on instagram. I find there are little networks of like-minded artists who ‘hang out’, so if you find one, you often find a little team of brilliance.

The bottom line of it is, that when I see a product, I just know. If I have a flicker of doubt, it’s usually right, so I always trust my gut.

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What is your favourite piece in the store and why?

This question is impossible because I don’t stock anything that I don’t love! I’m so proud of everything in here. However, Emma Louise Wilson’s ceramics still make my heart melt even after years of selling her work. She’s become a firm friend, and we’ve watched each others businesses grow. The care and detail that goes in to every single bowl astounds me. They really get our customers excited and I totally understand why.

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Who or what inspires you? Both creatively and in a business sense too?

My customers. I get all my best ideas from them. Not many artists get to stand and listen (mostly anonymously) to feedback from ‘real life’ customers. They often assume I’m not the artist, so you get pure honesty- for better or worse! But this is invaluable to me, as those comments have grown my collections for my exact audience. My partner and family, inspire me to keep pushing the
boundaries of Yellowstone, as they know I have more to give. Just knowing that people have confidence in you can make a world of difference.

I used to gain lots of inspiration from blogs and other businesses, but if I was having a bad day, I’d compare myself to them and beat myself up about it. It can be so damaging to compare yourself to strangers on the internet but it’s so hard not to! So I try not to spend too much time doing that these days. And I feel much better for it.

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What is the goal for Hannah Stoney and Yellow Stone? What does the future hold?

I decided last year that rather than push the business in its obvious way (to open another store), I’d focus on my work as an artist to grow Yellowstone. Since then, I have developed my range of cards, prints, ceramics and fabrics and I have launched my Wedding Stationery Design, which I run alongside the shop. I split my time between my ‘freelance’ design work, Yellowstone design work, and ‘business’ work (invoices, chasing orders, ordering etc.). I also work in the shop – sorting framing, displays, commissions, customer queries and serving. Oh and run the social media channels. Basically, my aim for the future is to keep
doing all of these things that I love, together. I’m so lucky to spin so many plates at once. I think it really shapes what I, and Yellowstone Art Boutique are about. I’m not sure if you can tell but I’m not very good at doing nothing…

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Suggested Post: BUSINESS WOMEN OF THE BLOGOSPHERE

Lifestyle and Interviews

Owl Cats And Morrissey Dolls – Interview With Liz Kenny, Creator of Bettie’s Pets

April 20, 2014

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I met Liz, the creator of Bettie’s Pets and her animal creations at a Manchester WI clothes swap party. I was lucky enough to win one of her personalised pets in a competition and I requested a Shih Tzu with an under bite like Dougal, my favourite pooch. The resemblance was uncanny.

Her creativity is infectious e.g. when Liz carved a pumpkin for Halloween, she didn’t just butcher a wonky grin like the majority would. Instead, she chiseled a sculpture that would give Tim Burton a run for his money. She then casually threw together a Raven made from leather gloves adding her own hand-beaded embellishments to complete the theme!

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Liz stitches intricate replicas of people’s pets over at Bettie’s Pets, she also designs and makes costumes at the Royal Exchange Theatre. In this interview Liz discusses her favourite tunes to craft along to, plans for Morrissey dolls and the time it takes to create an ‘Owl Cat’.

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What are your favourite tunes to craft along to?

I love music, music and cups of tea are essential work-buddies. In fact, I keep meaning to do some dolls based on Rock Stars (well… Morrissey!). I have eclectic taste but my latest faves are Deap Vally, Tame Impala and Sleigh Bells. I’m not cool though, I also have B*Witched on my i-pod.

Owl Cat is pretty adorable, how long did he take to make? (Pictured above)

It usually takes a few weeks to make each pet, depending on the size and specifications. The Owl-Cat  has taken nearly two months because it was so different to anything else I’ve made.

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Which pet are you most proud of?

Probably the first pet I ever made, a big tabby cat called Beefie because I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it. I still sometimes feel like that and it’s a buzz when it actually comes together. I love a challenge!

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Tell us more about your work at the Royal Exchange

I’m a volunteer Wardrobe Assistant at the Royal Exchange. It’s really good fun, you never know who will walk through the door. It could be anyone from a CBBC presenter to someone throwing a fancy dress party. I help people choose costumes and I also get to make them too, which is a fantastic opportunity.

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You can see more of Liz’s work and shop the Bettie’s Pets collection over at  www.etsy.com/shop/bettiespets

Lifestyle and Interviews

My Interview With The Huffington Post – Forget Tea And Cake, The Young Women’s Institute Members Would Rather Have A Beer

April 2, 2014

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I am the former president and co-founder of Manchester Women’s Institute, one of the largest and youngest W.I’s in the UK.

The Huffington Post  journalist Brogan Driscoll interviewed me lately to find out more…

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The Women’s Institute (WI) has long been associated with blue rinse, homemade jam and knitted cardigans – but, as the organisation reaches its centenary year, there is a new generation of WI members who are breathing fresh life into the old order.

Now the largest voluntary women’s organisation in the UK with 212,526 members, the WI has more than six thousand groups to cater to different ages and interests – including many who would sooner share a bottle of wine than a pot of tea.

But swapping bunting for burlesque or pearls for pamper days doesn’t mean rejecting the organisation’s traditional values.

The WI was founded in 1915 to involve women in food production during the war effort and revitalise rural areas – today food and community spirit remain deeply engrained in the fabric of the organisation, simply in a more modern form.

We caught up with four WI members from across the UK to discuss the organisation’s changing reputation, modern femininity and the importance of giving back.

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Name: Lucy Adams
Age: 25
Occupation: Project Co-ordinator and in my spare time I write a lifestyle blog www.ledbylucy.com
Joined WI: I spent just under two years as president and co-founder, and am now a proud member.
Name of WI group: Manchester WI

How long has your group been running?

Alexandra Taylor and I launched Manchester WI two years ago. It started off as just an apple in our eye and now it is one of the largest in the UK.

We had eighty members rush through the doors on our first meeting, we had booked the room with a capacity of 40 – it was so exciting!

What sets your group apart from others?

I’d say the vibrancy of our meetings and members. Manchester WI puts its heart and soul into sourcing interesting speakers and organising the creative events.

The members are an eclectic mix of ages and backgrounds which make the meetings so vibrant, people have met their future bridesmaids, housemates and employers at our meetings. It is a real melting pot of activity.

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Lex Taylor, Manchester WI Co- founder

Describe a typical meeting

There really isn’t a typical meeting! Each has a different theme. My favourite meeting was the sustainable fashion event, we had stylists and designers speaking about the effects of disposable fashion then we hosted a huge clothes swap party. The clothes were amazing; I bagged a Megan from Mad Men style 1960’s dress and one of the other girls got a Vivienne Westwood ring!

I also really enjoyed our sisterhood meeting, the speaker was feminist artist Charlotte Newson who created a huge portrait of Emmeline Pankhurst using images of inspiring women from around the world. It was really relevant given Manchester’s suffragette history.

Do you think the current reputation of the WI is fair?

For some groups it might be, but not at Manchester WI. A blogger from Mancunian Matters joined us for a meeting and summed it up with: Forget twinsets and pearls, unless making a sartorial style statement, these are women aged 25-40 who are more drum n bass than Jam and Jerusalem.

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Lucy Adams, Manchester WI Co-founder

What are you doing to bring WI into the 21st century?

I think the very fact that all of our members are working women, living in the city with lots of passion and energy makes it really relevant to current day.

Also Emmeline Pankhurst is featured in our logo, but she is winking and has a tattoo!

Would you consider yourself feminist?

Absolutely. There is a strong sense of sisterhood at Manchester WI, it’s all about learning new skills, networking and having fun.

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Manchester WI Members.

If you like this post then have a read of Business Women Of The Blogosphere. 

Lifestyle and Interviews

Interview With Artist Tash Willcocks

March 9, 2014

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 Tash Willcocks’ artwork is peppered across Manchester transforming spaces such as Tech Hub and The Juice Academy. When she isn’t creating her own artwork, she is teaching as the Graphic Design programme leader at The University of Salford.

Tash recently posted the pictures featured in this blog onto Instagram, they are drawn directly onto the pages of Red Magazine, check out her hashtag #Mundaneaday for a daily dose of doodles.

 I interviewed Tash to find out more.

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  What tips would you give to new artists just starting out in their career?

There’s so much advice out there, it’s easy to get lost. Social media has really opened up the opportunities available, you can find yourself talking to your design idols on Twitter, but it can quickly turn from a happy design pond into an ocean of information. I think this is where some people can drown (don’t worry I’ll leave that metaphor there haha).

Basically, talk to people. In Manchester the design community is amazing and there are plenty of great places to hang out, have a tipple and a talk to other artists.

I recommend meet-ups like Northern Digitals, talks like BLAB and places like 2022NQ.

I was once told to ‘make friends not contacts’, sage advice. Another piece of good advice is an Anthony Burrill quote: ‘work hard and be nice to people’.

Which piece of your artwork are you most proud of?

 

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Elbow debut album cover, Asleep In The Back (above).

So, although I wouldn’t say it’s the best (it’s now over ten years old) it’s still one of my favourites.

The building is long gone now. At the time I was very interested in what went on behind closed doors. It felt like that was what Elbow was hinting at in the album.

The photo is hand developed and printed/tinted, I don’t think you can ever quite replicate that feel. The logo was a handmade print as well that almost killed me when it needed to be enlarged.

The main reason that I love this piece is because the Elbow boys and V2 took a chance on me. I had to pitch against others but mine got chosen in the end. Along with Micah who did the inners with me, we beavered away after our late night jobs and sent zip discs nervously to-and-fro. The day I first saw the entire window plastered with my artwork my mind almost popped!

So there you are, I think this may always be my favourite design.

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 I love following your #mundaneaday posts on Instagram, what is your favourite account to follow?

 Oh, so hard! I LOVE Instagram, can I have a couple?

  • MrsEaves101: amazing lettering from Australia, also best pseudonym ever
  • Laylasailor: fantastic stylist, hoping to hook up on project soon
  • BIJDVLEET: just ace hand lettering
  • Staygoldmaryrose: a friend who moved away, AMAZING jewellery and general taste
  • Luanna90:  just an Instagram crush… ace hair

My favourite Instagram hashtag is #TYPEBRUT, it was started by ex Salford Uni student @lemike76 and it’s going global. It’s addictive, like the typographic version of Pringles, once you pop…

 

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Where do you go/what do you do when you have artist’s block?

 I’m incredibly lucky to teach, I have 300 creative brains to bounce off every day at Salford Uni. I’m also a ‘doer’. I do a #Mundanaday everyday and I believe in research through practice.

I’m permanently grazing images and looking around me, but there’s nothing better than just DOING to actually get the creative blood flowing, or go for a walk, look around you, dance with your cat and just loosen up.

My fear is the internet is the first stop for most people and you just get bombarded with images/generic design. Don’t get me wrong there’s some incredible work out there but it becomes all consuming and I fear that you can get trapped looking and not doing (and just because it’s out there doesn’t mean it’s all good)…

Just dance like no one’s looking, be aware of everything around you visually/physically/aurally, live a bit and learn to love your mistakes. You need to make them to make you better…

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