Local creatives

There is something about creative people that draws me to them. Whether it’s the delicious treats or foods they make, the jewellery I can buy and know is original, or just their love for life and ability to bring people together, I don’t know. But in the past 5 or 6 years I have met and become friends with some incredibly talented people and it got me thinking that maybe you’d like to meet them too!

One of the best places to meet local artists and craft workers is at the many fairs that are held around our little country, and my personal favourite is the North Down Craft Collective fair which is held in Holywood Old School on the second Saturday of each month.

The amazing NDCC members outside Holywood Old School on their Demo Day last August.

The amazing NDCC members outside Holywood Old School on their Demo Day last August.

Run by Debbie McCann of Wee Yarn Designs and William Clendinning of The Local, it is a showcase of some of the best local talent around and I’ve found it nigh on impossible to leave without making at least one purchase! From homemade fudge, preserves and cupcakes to lino prints, pit-fired ceramics and hand-crafted jewellery, it’s an absolute treat from the moment you enter the building.

But it’s not just the people I love. It’s the feeling I get when I buy something that I know someone has made from literally nothing. A lump of clay that has been transformed into a mug that brings me joy every time I drink my tea from it. A pair of earrings that started out as molten silver that make me feel just a little bit special when I wear them. A dollop of chutney passionately made from local ingredients that elevates my crackers and cheese from the ordinary to the sublime. It’s hard to put a price on the feeling of enjoying the fruits of someone’s heartfelt labour.

Debbie and William also own and run The Craft Room Comber, which is a one stop heaven of the goods you’ll find in the monthly markets, and a studio where some of the artists and crafters teach workshops which allow you to also create something beautiful from nothing. I’ve been to several, including needle felting, lino cut and nature printing on linen. Some people will get their buzz from watching Love Island or I’m a Celebrity, but give me a handful of materials and tools and a teacher whose passion literally oozes out of them and I’m all in!

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the creatives who are part of the North Down Craft Collective, and over the next few months I’m going to introduce you to some of them and give them a chance to share a little of what they do, where their inspiration comes from and some ideas for helping you take a few creative steps yourself.

I’d love to know of any local makers and crafters you love - do share in the comments. And if you’re an artist or creative and would like to know more about working with me I would love to hear from you!

Shared Threads (or local women making a global difference!)

Shared Threads (or local women making a global difference!)

Instagram.I love it. It's my online happy place. A community of squares of loveliness and amazing people from all walks of life sharing a little bit of beauty and inspiration every day.Yet while we worry about who our kids are meeting online and the potential dangers of that cyber world, I find I am meeting more and more like minded folk through this little app.  And not only that, some of these instapals are becoming friends IRL (that's In Real Life in cool kid speak FYI!!)

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The session where I made the baby cry

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I like to think I'm pretty good with kids. I've photographed plenty, have 2 of my own and I'm a trained teacher. But none of this matters when the baby doesn't like your face! All you can do is try not to look too hard in their direction and not take it personally, in the hope all will settle down and you can get some shots without teary eyes. So this is the mode I adopted with beautiful Benjamin during our at home session. I was advised not to take it to heart as he does the same thing with his own grandpa on a daily basis! Also, look at that face. You couldn't help but smile in spite of the tears.Babies at this age are so much fun to photograph. Mum and dad are long past the days of being unsure of their new little one and the smiles, gurgles and spit bubbles are coming along nicely. It's a pretty perfect time and one of my favourites to photograph. It's just...well...joyful! Also, elastic band wrists and dimple elbows are immense!!Summer sessions are booking up fast, so if you'd like to document a little of family life as it is right now, jump on that contact button up there while there's still some availability. I promise, you won't regret it!

Family, chickens and tyre swings

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I am finally getting around to blogging some of my favourite family sessions from the second half of last year. I really don't know where the time goes!This first session I want to share was one of the most fun sessions I had all of last year! It all started with an email from a lovely grandmother (who looks far to young to have all these grandkids!) who wanted to get some lifestyle photography while all her family were in one place. And before I knew it, I was knee deep in kids, dogs and chickens and laughing non-stop! These are the best sessions, where you're made to feel like part of the action, called by the kids to come and see what they're doing and getting mums and dads a couple of minutes to get possibly the only photo of just the two of them since their wedding day.I'm taking bookings now for June, July and August, so if you'd like to get some awesome memories up on your wall please get in touch - I would LOVE to hear from you! Spaces are tight so don' t leave it too late and miss out on grabbing one.

January

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It was tough.It was 374 days long.That's longer than a year!But it was quite pretty. And frosty. And snowy. So we'll let it go.But it if lasts that long again next year, I'm writing a letter of complaint to the Spectator!Also, there were these eejits!!And that super blue blood moon as a final flourish somewhere around day 368!Here's to February, which thankfully has but 28 days clear.It better not snow!!

People and places :: K and the horses

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There's something special about photographing people in places they love. They sort of lose themselves in the moment and it's a bit magical watching it all unfold.This is my friend's daughter in the place she would probably live if her folks allowed her! Horses are her everything, so capturing her before a competition was an amazing experience. I've had next to no experience with horses, but watching her work with them and seeing the trust between them was just incredible and put me completely at ease. I'm looking forward to brighter, dryer days when I can capture her riding and jumping.If you're thinking that this is the year you really need to update your family photos, or you would like to capture a place or activity that is special to you, I would love to hear from you. You can use that little contact button or find me on Facebook or Instagram.

Dear dads

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You are awesome! I have watched a lot of dads at work during newborn or family sessions and at weddings. And we'd be lost without them. From making sure they don't fall off a climbing frame to jumping on a trampoline with them. From giving smushy newborn kisses to changing nappies that should have a health and safety warning attached! From walking daughters down the aisle to welcoming new sons and daughters into the family. There isn't much I haven't seen.In honour of day of the dads, I thought it would be nice to share some of my favourite images of dads with their kids of various ages from the last number of years.Dads, you really are amazing!

AQE and lessons learnt along the way

After going through the AQE transfer process for the second time, I thought it worth sharing some of what I learnt from the whole experience.For those of you who may be unfamiliar with AQE, let me explain in brief. AQE stands for Association of Quality Education. It is used to refer to the transfer tests that P7 pupils in Northern Ireland take to gain a place in our local grammar schools, and when I refer to it here, I am also including the GL tests which many children also take. We used to have an 11+ exam which all schools used and most children sat and whilst it wasn't ideal, many would agree it was better than this system we now have. Each November, 10 and 11 year olds across the country sit 3-5 tests, then wait for 2 months for a score before applying for school places and waiting 4 months to find out their educational future. It's been a rollercoaster and I am thankful we are finally done with it!Today we finally found out which school Conor will get to attend next year, and while we are delighted that he was happy when the letter was opened, I can't help but feel something else that I can't quite put my finger on. It hovers somewhere between anxiety, anger, frustration, disappointment, hopefulness and helplessness. I know I'm not the only one feeling this way today. And I know of many others who are still in that place, hoping that things will work out when the transition takes place. Praying for new friends for their child who won't get to transfer with their friends. And generally just wondering how on earth we got to a place that puts our 10 and 11 year olds under so much unnecessary (unacceptable?) stress and strain.So what exactly did AQE teach me?Well firstly, it taught me that our children are not defined by a score. Obviously no one ever defines their kids by a score, but it's amazing the power those numbers on the results letter in January had. We had tears as we processed higher scores as well as for friends who had scored lower. For weeks our children seemed to refer to these numbers as if they were the be all and end all. But I ask  you, how can a number add meaning to this?It will come as no surprise to anyone that another valuable lesson I learnt through this second time round is the value of friendships. I could not have come through this last few months without the incredible support of my friends, whether that support came in a text, a hug or a gin! And I know that the one thing that has sustained Conor has been his friendships, particularly with those who love him just for who he is. So thank you to all of you - you are truly angels sent from the Lord.The transfer process is truly awful for any child, but I don't really have the words to describe my experience of being an anxious parent trying to guide an anxious child through the last year. Maybe if you can just imagine feeling constantly on edge, waiting for the next meltdown and trying to be prepared to remain calm and not let your own insecurities come to the forefront, you might be able to begin to understand. And I know categorically that this is how so many other friends of mine have felt too. So I've learnt that we need to be gentle with ourselves and with our kids. My mum and sister will be howling at this, as this lesson is a serious case of don't do as I do, do as I say! Anyway, it has been the little things that have reassured us during these months. A kind word, a gentle hand of encouragement and taking comfort where we can find it are treasures to store in our hearts.Of all the observations I've made recently, perhaps none has resonated more with me than the need for each of us to embrace who we are and be ok with that. I have long ago accepted my own weirdness as a good thing! I no longer care what others think about my iMusic playlists and I have embraced my love of paranormal teen fiction (along with several of my closest friends, might I add!) That I choose to wear yellow shoes that look like I'm undergoing some sort of foot treatment bothers me not a jot! And I will keep trying to encourage both of my sons to do the same. You love cricket? You go play cricket. You want to make your own Lego WWI soldiers? You go for it! You want to dance along to the beat of your own drum? Be my guest!But if there is one thing that AQE has taught me more than anything else, it is this.Family. Is. Everything.The end. Beyond the people we love and live with there is little else that matters. It is these people who push us through when we are scared, and catch us when we stumble. They share our successes and failures without judgement. They couldn't care less what numbers are on a piece of paper or really what school we go to. They only care about us. Worries, warts and war wounds.So if you've been in the same boat as us this past year and have finally closed the door on possibly the worst experience imaginable for our children, then I salute you. That's a job well done!To those of you who have just started the process, maybe you'll take some comfort from this post and remember over the next year that your child is unique and amazing and that's all that matters. Because my son is this...But he is also this......and this.The beat he is dancing to is his and his alone. And we wouldn't have it any other way. PS:: The family photo and those portraits of Conor at the end are by Gather & Tides - they are amazing at celebrating their own family and I am so glad they captured ours last summer.

The Millars

One of the best bits of photographing a couple's wedding, is that sometimes you get a call a year or two down the line to share the amazing news of a new addition to the family and the need for some new photos. I was had the best time second shooting with Aly Harte at Pamela and Andy's wedding several years ago, and as Aly has decided to focus full time on her art and wellbeing blog (and sold me most of her equipment!) it was me who got to document the new family of 3.Now we all know I'm a sucker for a baby session, but the cuteness of this and Eva's facial expressions for one so young literally tipped me over the edge. Also, is there anything more beautiful to watch than new parents who are in love with their baby? I think not. I have some space for family sessions through the summer, so if you would more information I would love you to fill in the contact form at the top of this post. I promise you won't regret it!