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Posted on September 23, 2016

Cherry blossom joy inspired by Marie Kondo

This week I’ve been reading ‘Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to Tidying Up‘ by Marie Kondo, the sequel if you like, to ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ (which incidently, I have yet to read.)

Cherry Blossom time & sparking joy with Marie Kondo

I’m late to the party on these books I know, and I’m also a bit of a hoarder; collecting bubble wrap and ‘nice’ empty boxes and ‘things-that-might-one-day-be-useful-for-that-amazing-project-I’ve-yet-to-start…’

I expected the book to be all about discarding as many possessions as possible, being ruthless with your sentimental ‘komono‘ items and keeping nothing if it wasn’t of the utmost practical use.

There was an element of that (the part about her getting rid of her vacuum cleaner because it didn’t spark joy was particularly amusing), but much more than getting rid of things, the focus was on what to keep, and most specifically, what to keep that sparks joy.

Does what it says on the cover. Good start.

But I didn’t really think I had that much to learn about all this.

I love tidying and reorganising things and feel like I’ve been on a mission for half my life to do just that.

But then that’s the problem too.

The point of the ‘KonMari Method‘ is that once you decide to keep only the things that spark joy and allocate them all a space in your home, there should never be a need to undertake a big ‘clear out’ ever again. A hefty claim when you consider the modern crisis of fast fashion, perk-me-up purchasing and the Western culture for accumulating possessions as status symbols.

And it turns out I had a lot to learn.

Cherry Blossom

This week I’ve KonMari-ed the clothes I keep in drawers – basically folded them into squares and rolled them up, and it was pretty joyful KonMari-ing the kitchen. I will never again be defeated/deflated/deafened by pans and oven trays falling from the cupboard.

And I’ve started using things I’d almost forgotten about.

A beautiful pen, a roller-ball perfume stick, hot pink lipstick, a heart-shaped casserole dish and some bright, colourful dresses that I’d never had ‘occasion’ to wear.

Use the things that spark joy!

I also discarded about 15 pens that didn’t work, didn’t write well or were just cheap promotional pens I’ve gathered over the years and kept for no reason except maybe ‘you can never have too many pens’. Except you can.

I’ve recycled manuals and papers and been able to part with things I’ve agonised over for years.

I’m not going to analyse the book in any further detail (and plenty of people already have), but I do want to share this anecdote that Marie Kondo gives in the book. I think it sums up the point of it all for me and I keep thinking of it because it’s such an uplifting story:

Not long ago, I went cherry blossom viewing with my family for the first time in fifteen years. We didn’t go anywhere special, just to a little park near my house. Despite the sudden notice, my mother had prepared a picnic lunch…but that was not all.

My mother opened another package to reveal a bottle of pink-hued amazake, a beverage made from sweet fermented rice, and small pink glasses with a cherry blossom pattern. When filled with the pink amazake, it looked like cherry blossoms were blooming in our glasses. ‘How beautiful!’

The blossoms I viewed with my family that day were the best I had ever seen. The glasses that my mother had chosen showed me the precious piece I had been missing.

Her take-out thought after this wonderful day with her family was: I want to live my life in such a way that it colours my things with memories.

I love that so much.

I want to live my life in such a way that it colours my things with memories

Cherry Blossom time & sparking joy with Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo also suggest some changes that might occur when you start to tidy:

  • You gain a little confidence

  • You start to believe in the future

  • Things begin to go more smoothly

  • The people you meet change

  • Unexpected things happen in a positive way

  • Change begins to accelerate

  • You begin to really enjoy your life

I don’t agree or disagree with these statements – I didn’t feel shy or disbelieving in the future before I read the book (or before I started this special process of tidying to spark joy), but I think for some people the act of tidying up can become a deep psychological process because it forces you to analyse how you really feel about each possession and also why you are keeping it.

One statement I do agree with comes near the end of the book:

Tidying is contagious.

Yes, yes it is!

Do you have a special ‘cherry blossom’ memory?

Posted on August 10, 2016

Designing the French Riviera S/S 2017

For the last week I’ve been obsessively designing patterns for the Make it in Design ‘Beginner’ Summer School. It’s been so much fun!

The brief was for simple, stylised designs for multiple applications across fashion and home.

The colour palette was provided as Pantone colour samples and I used these by colour matching them in Photoshop/Illustrator using the eyedropper tool (I haven’t worked out how to load Pantone palettes yet).

My first thoughts were of palm trees, ship’s wheels, sunsets and prawns. A heady mix for the French Riviera jetset!?

Palm Tree Line Drawing

I’d forgotten how tricksy Illustrator is. Why can’t you move between artboards and still have the colour selected? #firstworldissues

I managed to learn a few new Illustrator skills in the process. Like adding gradients (a key element in the design brief), and isolating different elements of an image-traced live-paint group to change colours.

After playing about with the below design for a while, I couldn’t decide which version I liked best – thoughts?


Then I had to remind myself: gradients don’t repeat, but they still look nice for a single placement.

I can see this design on a beach towel, face cloth, napkins, plates (especially picnic plates!), t-shirts, a beach bag. Loads of possibilities.

The limited palette really helped me to focus on the designs, and re-use colours where I would normally have gone for more of an obvious impact. I think it’s proven to me how much cohesion it creates too. That’s particularly true with the pink ship’s wheel design below. I created it in another colour way (not shown here), and had fun playing with scale.

Here’s a few of my other favourite designs for this brief:

French Riviera SS17 'Graph Prawn' surface pattern designFrench Riviera SS17 'Leaping Prawn - with Gradient' surface pattern designFrench Riviera SS17 'Pink Ship's Wheel' surface pattern designPrintFrench Riviera SS17 'Leaping Prawn' surface pattern designFrench Riviera SS17 'Sunset Palm' surface pattern design

Most of the designs are simple grid repeat vector patterns, but the ‘Graph Prawn’ is a single ‘placement’ design. He’s cheeky isn’t he?

Which one is your favourite? I’d love to know.

***Update, Update 15.08.16***

So excited to find out that I WON one of the ’20 ways to draw…‘ books for sharing my pattern-progress on Instagram. Taking this as a sign to focus more on my patterns and design work!

Posted on July 15, 2016

Reflections on a Boutique Eco Pod Retreat

Two weeks ago the husband and I headed North to a tiny place called Appin, near Oban in Scotland. We were going to an Eco Pod.

It felt cool, adventurous and loaded with anticipation; the trip had been booked for months and it was a place I’d wanted to stay for a while.

Eco Pod Boutique Retreat, Appin, ScotlandThe sun came out briefly as we drove over the narrow bridge, in awe at the sight of Loch Awe.

It soon started pouring again as we arrived at the Castle Stalker View CafeI was glad I’d brought wellies and a rain mac.

A winding path led through the woods like a mystical fairy trail. The leaves seemed more green, the rustle of nature amplified; more noticeable, the air laden with purity and relaxation. We’d arrived. The door was unlocked.

Eco Pod Boutique Retreat, Appin, ScotlandThe Eco Pod was much bigger than we’d imagined, but looked just as luxurious as the pictures on the website promised (we stayed in Pod 1).

Except it was cold. The weather didn’t help, but even looking back over the pictures now, a shiver goes down my spine. (Did I mention it was cold?)

The hot tub was wonderful – the second time.

The pod features a Japanese cedar-wood affair, and for hygiene it requires to be run fresh each time. So far, so good. But on our first attempt the gas ran out resulting in less than luke-warm water, followed by a freezing shower.

The situation was quickly rectified after a desperate voicemail, text, and a hot breakfast in the cafe. (Thanks Jim.) I felt warmth for an hour, and then it was back to the Eco Pod. It was raining and we could see our breath in the air. (Did I mention it was cold?)

Eco Pod Boutique Retreat, Appin, ScotlandEventually the hot tub came into its own. The view was unadulterated tranquility. The view is the reason to visit. The view is worth every penny.

We took our own champagne and a basket of goodies left in the fridge meant we didn’t go hungry (eggs, smoked salmon, cheese, chocolate…)

Eco Pod Boutique Retreat, Appin, ScotlandOne thing the Eco Pod does guarantee is privacy and isolation, but when you want it, there’s an Apple TV, iPod dock and Wi-Fi. And a hairdryer. (If you need that kind of thing in the rain-strewn wilderness.)

On the Saturday we headed into Oban. Read more

Posted on June 15, 2016

Perseverance, hope & reinvention

I’ve been single-focusing on a passion-project of late which hasn’t left much time for creative play.

I’ve been in the ‘dark forest’; lost in the details of my debut novel. That’s how my new fav creative guru Jessica Abel might describe it, anyway – ‘the dark forest’ – (I’ve spent the last few days ingesting her podcast).

But all the while a little miracle has been unfolding right outside my window.

Reinvention, Perseverance & Hope: Bob the Christmas miracle to be

His name is Bob. Don’t ask me why. It just is.

I’m a personifier. I’m a bit crazy (a lot crazy). It brings me comfort to name things (and to know/admit I’m crazy).

Last Christmas was Bob’s second year with us, and until then he flourished, but a few months back I noticed he was constrained by his pot. It was like I could hear his desperate, silent screams.

I decided to move him. It was a struggle. He scratched and clawed. There was blood.

I made a new bed for him; a bigger pot, half a whisky barrel in fact.

I tucked him into rich, earthy folds of fresh compost and lovingly fed and watered him. I felt like I’d rescued him from the brink. But instead he began a steep decline, shrinking into himself and turning brown.

I tried talking to him. Nothing.

I tried prodding at him. His needles began to shed even faster, the ground literally littered with his skeleton, the spindly broken bones of his body.

I felt bad. I left him alone. I kept watering him. Still nothing.

I realised the move had finished him off (similar to my transgression with the seedlings, but I can’t even think about that just now).

I realised it was time to get rid of Bob.

He was taking up valuable real estate in the whiskey barrel. I had other fish to fry. I would drop him into the depths of the garden recycling bin and we would talk of him no more. My tools were at the ready, gardening gauntlets primed for the fight.

Reinvention, Perseverance & Hope: Bob the Christmas miracle to be

But then.

I noticed signs of life. Little green shoots sprouting from the centre of his uppermost branches: Bob was alive.

I kept on watering him, caring for him, waiting to see what would happen, wondering if I was imagining this stunning reinvention.

Almost daily more green needles appeared: bushy and smooth and strong and healthy. Bob flourished. Bob is flourishing.

Reinvention, Perseverance & Hope: Bob the Christmas miracle to beReinvention, Perseverance & Hope: Bob the Christmas miracle to be

He’s reinvented himself from the inside out. He’s shed the ghosts of Christmas past, he’s shed the memory of his time trapped in the too-small pot. And now he’s king of the whisky barrel; king of the whole garden!

It feels like a message of hope to us all but to me especially.

Just keep on doing what you’re doing. Don’t give up. The seeds you’ve sown are growing, growing stronger and more visible. Your time is yet to come.

Reinvention, Perseverance & Hope: Bob the Christmas miracle to beReinvention, Perseverance & Hope: Bob the Christmas miracle to be

I’d like to thank Bob for this little lesson. He’s going to be this year’s Christmas miracle!

Posted on December 24, 2015

A Gallery of Snow

For me, snow at Christmas makes the occasion that much more magical.

It becomes Narnia-esque and fragile and bright and fairytale, like being inside a snow-globe for a day.

I’m not sure if it’s going to happen this year, and for those in the Southern Hemisphere, I think snow on Christmas Day would be a definite sign that the world’s weather systems were in complete revolt!

But in Scotland, there is always a good chance that a flurry of snow will come to bless Christmas.

I’ve been obsessed with winter-wonderland images on Pinterest – check out my Winterland board for inspiration:

Follow Rebecca Johnstone (Dainty Dora)’s board Winter-land on Pinterest.

And just in case it doesn’t snow in time for Christmas Day, I’ve created a Gallery of Snow from the ghost of Christmas (and winters’) past.

Enjoy, and Merry Festives to all x


Posted on December 14, 2015

Krakow Christmas Market: Photo Diary

This time last week I was on my way to Krakow, Poland, for a few days of touristic wanderings and festive indulgence.

Market Square festive scene, Krakow

Even the airport had a beautiful Christmas tree, and the shopping centres too, festooned with baubles and lights.

Around the city oversized baubles lit the way, providing an opportunity to pause a moment and take in the surroundings. They were a good way to orient yourself in the dark too…once you realised there was more than one.

Christmas Bauble, Krakow

In the heart of the ‘Stare Miastro‘ (old town) the market square, one of the largest in Europe (the largest?) boasted the illuminated stalls and oversized barrels where you could buy the Grzaniec Galicyjski (the Polish version of ‘Gluhwein’), with its pungent blend of red wine and spices.

It was strong. It was hot. It was delicious.

IMAG3824 Polish Bread, Christmas Market, Krakow

The horses and carriages lent the square a fairytale charm, and I never tired of taking pictures of them (even the man who had to keep jumping off the back to collect the dung…!)

Horse & Carriage, Krakow Christmas Market

The image below has gone a bit wrong, but I love it. It conjures a lovely sense of movement and atmosphere, like a reflection or a glimpse of another time?

Horse & Carriage, Krakow Christmas Market Read more

Posted on November 9, 2015

Kine: A weasel in the woods

A little pencil drawing of a book cover from The Kine Saga – a story about a weasel written by Alan Richard Lloyd.

The book was originally published simply as ‘Kine’ in the early eighties, but was republished as ‘Marshland’, part of the Kine trilogy in the nineties.

'Kine' book cover pencil drawing

The cover is different now, but I still remember studying my mother’s copy when I chose to draw it as a teenager, and I read the book too, though it was probably a bit advanced for me at the time!

The image feels rather fitting for this time of year as the nights draw in (is it ever daytime right now?), and the forest/woodlands take on dark, new mysteries.

Below is a close-up of the toadstools and leaves on the forest floor as I experimented with the interplay of light and dark, one of my favourite concepts:

'Toadstools' pencil drawing

Autumn: September, October, November, woodlands, marshes, branches, twigs, the hierarchy of the animal kingdom.

It takes me back to ‘Danny the Champion of the World’ by Roald Dahl, to pheasants and traps and the dense brush of a golden-leafed copse and candles in windows and thick mists hanging in city-centre streets…

I’m looking forward to spending more time sketching and drawing and painting over the winter – a joy I rediscovered earlier this year.

Meanwhile, there’s always a place in my heart for a weasel! (And leopards!)

Do you draw? Does your subject matter shift with the seasons?


Posted on November 3, 2015

The Autumn Pages

I feel like I’m ‘missing out’ on autumn because I’m so invested in writing my novel and it has me firmly in its grip (finally).

I’ve neglected my art journaling and I miss it, collage-ing too.

But, sometimes you’ve got to ‘single focus’ to make progress with your passion-project, and that’s exactly what I’m doing (it was in my New Year Fortune Cookie manifesto at the start of 2015 – to write my novel, to write everyday, to single-focus. Tick, tick, tick).

My beautiful acer tree in autumn

My beautiful acer tree

Autumn in my local park

Autumn in my local park

Occasionally I’ve allowed myself some respite from writing to rip and glue and stick and create colourful pages in my scrapbook.

'The Autumn Pages' scrapbook pageInspiring a mood: one of my scrapbook pages 'Fall in Love Again' scrapbook page Autumn Scrapbook Page

There is no real theme for them except the beguiling season of autumn, and of course, I’ve been pinning like mad on my ‘Oh So Autumn’ Pinterest board…

Follow Rebecca Johnstone (Dainty Dora)’s board Oh So Autumn… on Pinterest.
Read more

Posted on September 30, 2015

Autumn Inspirations

I’ve been so absorbed in the arrival of autumn that I haven’t been able to write about it yet. But then today…

Misty Autumn Morning

Autumn is like a second ‘new year’ because it is a huge season of change and renewal, as well as a slow wind-down into the hibernation of winter.

The days have been surprisingly glorious and dry, such warmth beaming down from the sun and the nights ushered in by tempestuous sunsets in a cacophony of colours, mists hanging low above the ground.

Autumn Sunset

Leaves are falling in the park and it’s time to harvest little crops planted in spring.

I want to wear darker, richer colours and cosy layers and start knitting again and collect beautiful leaves.

I’m drawn to headier scents like Chanel’s Coco Noir and Hermes’ Eau des Marveilles (described: “from surprise to magic and from magic to enchantment, Eau des Merveilles wraps us around its finger on a cloud of fancy…”), the liquid is a satisfying deep orange flecked with gold.

And of course I’m wearing the beanie hat my Mum knitted for me, everywhere, and I’ve gone brunette and I’ve been wearing my new leather skirt and my wool cape and boots (I didn’t really stop wearing boots).

IMAG2344 Read more

Posted on July 2, 2015

Skinny-dipping Bucket List: Season of Adventure – Wk5

This week has been…busy.

But nevertheless, I was first in the queue for the Get Messy Art Journal prompts for the week, and I’m revelling in the Season of Adventure.

So: the bucket list. I’ve never actually written one. Until now.

My first page took me splashing into a skinny-dipping tangent, with silver and blue-black fingerprints to personalise the page:

Skinny Dipping in the Season of Adventure

I love the idea of the fingerprints making this ‘thing’, this item, this bucket list entry, my own. Mine.

My personal, frivolous, secret, not-so-secret wish (longing?), or perhaps I just feel like this is one I won’t get to do because time, like water, like waves, slips on by and skinny-dipping tends to be a pursuit carried out spontaneously on a teenage, or twenty-something whim.

Mmm. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, my main bucket-list pages were set alight by this double-spread fashion image of the girl jumping. It has such energy and spirit, driving the adventures to come. Read more

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