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Catching Fireworks

Deborah Henry-Pollard: Creative Coaching


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Christmas Lessons on Time Management

Posted on 11 December, 2019 at 5:20 Comments comments (0)

Photo by Barry Plott from Pexels


I had a conversation with a freelance colleague recently about Christmas and the lessons we can learn from it.

As a freelancer, with a freelancer husband, she was talking about the dilemma of having to work for some of the time during the holiday period, whilst also wanting to give their young children a great Christmas break. This is a situation which many people find themselves in.

We talked through all the possible logistical options, for example: 

  • deciding in advance which days were going to be their ‘working’ days and which ‘holiday’ days with their children; 
  • agreeing with two sets of grandparents, very eager to babysit, when they would take the children on treat days; 
  • setting up one play date in their home in exchange for their children going to other childrens‘ play dates; 
  • finding out what activities there are in their local area;
  • each parent having a special day with the children, whilst the other one worked, etc.

My colleague, already excited about getting Christmas handled, had a real lightbulb moment when she realised she could actually think like this all the time. She could plan ahead, to try and make her work and childcare balance better, giving both her and her children a better experience. And even those of us without children can use forward planning to make sure we make the best use of our Christmas time - and any other time for that matter.  (Obviously, life is never straightforward and something will often come along and throw things into disarray, but at least a good chunk of your planning will turn out as you expect.)

The second lesson to take away is that if you have identified a ‘work’ day and a ‘play’ day, then make sure you enter into it fully.  Don’t spend your work day feeling guilty about (in this case) not being with your children. And definitely don’t spend the play day feeling guilty that you should be doing working.  Be mindful, savour what you are doing and do it wholeheartedly.

However you decide to work, have a happy Christmas!

Take Five with Helena Appio

Posted on 4 December, 2019 at 4:45 Comments comments (0)

Helena Appio is a multi faceted creative with parallel careers as an award-winning film-maker, textile designer, artist, writer and educator. Her creative output defies easy classification but exhibits a profound commitment to the stories of humble people existing outside the media limelight, whose everyday work makes a difference in the world. 

Helena has recently created a suite of paintings, 'The Wisdom Of Angels' combining imaginative portraits of women with the talismanic iconography of traditional African indigo texile designs. 'The Wisdom Of Angels' draws our attention to the women who distribute good wishes and the protection of love, without name or acknowledgement. It is a tribute, celebrating female industry and creativity, and holds a critical mirror to the hierarchy in Western art criticism between ‘fine art’ and ‘craft’. It is also a manifestation of Helena's intention to extend the magical tradition – each piece is intended to act as a shrine, conveying a blessing to its audience.

Helena's pieces will be on display in a group show, 'Other Perspectives" with three other artists, from 6th December 2019 to 4th January 2020 at J Brown, 281 Portland Road, London SE25 4QQ.  (See Links below for more details.)

In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

I love working in many different mediums, painting, film making, drawing and writing. My perfect project would be one where I can bring all these elements into one place. I’m currently working on a multi media, partially written, partially graphic novel, partially filmic piece about my mother! Ideally I’d like the project to include images of embroideries I created about her and fragments of films that I have produced about her.


Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?

I admire all those women artists who just kept on working whether they received recognition in their lifetimes or not, so, Alma Thomas, Frida Khalo, Annie Albers, Elaine de Kooning, Harriet Powers.


What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

I made a documentary for The Arts Council many years ago called “A Portrait Of Mr Pink”.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXh_sho2NGw) Mr Pink had come to the UK in the 1960s from Jamaica and had bought a house in Lewisham, London which he decorated himself with vibrant colours both inside and out. It became a local land mark. I found the experience of making the film profoundly moving. Mr Pink had created a world for himself and had not allowed the opinions of others to influence his creativity. At one point in the film he says about his house, “Some people may like it, some people may not, but I like it myself”. His attitude taught me not to compare myself to others and to accept that not everyone will like everything you create.


If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?

Have a rest, go out, see a film, go to an exhibition, meet friends and take some inspiration from life, then start again, things often don’t look so bad after a rest. If a piece of work is really not what you want it to be, try re working it, cutting it up using parts of it as a collage etc.


And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?

I’d be a sparkly shoe of many different colours covered with all sorts of feathers, jewels and embroidery. I trained as a textile designer and I can’t resist collecting buttons, fake jewels, votive ornaments, sequins and vintage embroidery.




A Thank You Goes a Long Way

Posted on 27 November, 2019 at 4:40 Comments comments (0)

Let me tell you a story.

A woman has a painting which was created for and given to her late father.

Enjoyed during his lifetime, the painting continued to give the woman pleasure after his death, for itself and for the family link.

After a few years, the woman decided the get the painting reframed, to suit her new home and to give the painting a longer life. This made her think about the artist, so she Googled him. Luckily, he was still alive so she wrote to him, to thank him for the joy the painting has given; she included a photo in its’ newly reframed state.

A few weeks later, the artist phoned her. He was delighted to see his painting and to find out it was still much loved.

The woman was delighted to hear the full story of how the painting came into being, instead of the sketchy details which had been passed down. Between them, they shared stories of the man for whom it was painted - a friend to one, a father to the other.

Both went away from the call having shared some lovely memories and happy to have enjoyed the glow of gratitude, as receiver and giver. (It is lovely to receive a letter of thanks out of the blue and just as lovely to write one.)

So, who could you write a thank you letter to today?

Take Five with Ruth Thomas

Posted on 20 November, 2019 at 4:40 Comments comments (0)


Ruth Thomas is a printmaker who graduated in 1985 with a degree in Fine Art. Then she concentrated on painting, collage and drawing. Since the early 1990s Ruth has concentrated on etchings, screenprints and drypoints but the process which allows her to express herself best is collagraph, a print from a collage, particularly an intaglio print. (If you folow her on Facebook or Instagram, you will see fabulous time lapse videos of her at work.) She has had several solo shows, won awards and in 2019 was selected for the Royal Academy Exhibition. She is currently represented by London Contemporary Art.

As well as making, Ruth also gets huge satisfaction from sharing printmaking skills with others. She regularly leads workshops and undertakes artist residencies in schools, galleries and community centres. She finds that running workshops for others also gives her ideas for her work.

In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

I just love making, being creative, and it is even better if the end result is something that seems to work. Exhibiting, selling, workshops are all wonderful but to spend time in the studio, drawing, cutting, sticking, applying ink and so on, is bliss, even though it also has its frustrations. The process of exploring and discovering is the single best thing.

Do you have a creative hero/heroine and if so, why?

Not really but I relate to the work of Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Long for the way they work directly with natural materials and in the landscape. I very much admire the work of Rachael Whiteread for the way she explores negative spaces in her work and makes casts of unusual objects. So much of printmaking is about taking an impression from an object, particularly so in my case.

What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

That suggests that I am wiser now and I still feel I have a lot to learn!

If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?

I haven’t really been troubled by creative block, but I do know that it’s no good waiting for inspiration – the best thing is to start making and ideas will then flow. Being creative is so much easier if you can keep the momentum going.

And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?

 We live in rural North Wales and I gather a lot of the materials I use in my work from stepping out the door and going for a walk. So, I would be a walking boot, something practical and good for exploring the outdoors and getting muddy!




Too Early To Start Thinking About Next Year?

Posted on 7 November, 2019 at 4:15 Comments comments (0)

Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels

Does this seems familiar? January 1st, all fired up with good New Year intentions, you decide you are going to lose weight, exercise, eat more healthily, read more, learn an language…

You try to change everything at once and it all gets too much. You go to the gym a few times then decide you don’t like that environment and getting fit sort of goes out of the window. Or you decide that meditating first thing in the morning, but it is all too rushed and meditation falls by the wayside. For many of us, by mid January all our good intentions have disappeared like an ice cream in a heatwave.

Talking with clients, one of the problems is that, for instance, you have your mindset on one thing - say lifting weights - and when that doesn’t work out or feel right for you, that’s when the “give up” gene kicks in, often followed by its close friend, the failure gene.

So here’s a trick I’ve used with clients (and myself). Use November and December for test runs. For example, say you want to get fit. Use the 8 weeks before the New Year to try out different types of exercise. What suits your personality best? Which activity do you enjoy most? Do you prefer being on your own or working in a group class? What time of day/week suits you best? You may think after work is best and there is a class near you. But if you are always exhausted at the end of the day and just want to get home, chances are you will find any excuse to get out of the class. Maybe you need to get up earlier in the morning to work out in your sitting room, or go for a lunchtime swim?

I’ve used exercise as the example, but it could be about when you meditate or start writing your novel. If you want to change your diet, it could be when you try out different foods, recipes, etc. This year, I wanted to listen to more podcasts, but wondered when I would get the time to get into the habit. Before the New Year, I played around with times: during lunch? This ran into coaching time and mindset. At the end of the day? I was often going to private views and events. I tried out several times and in the end, I found that best time for me was in the morning whilst getting ready for the day.

You can’t always change habits overnight or even find the right thing straightway. By doing some experimenting for a few weeks with new routines, tools, etc., you can give yourself a better chance to hit the ground running in the New Year and succeeding in your new habits.


Posted on 31 October, 2019 at 6:35 Comments comments (0)

“If you don’t know what you want you’ll end up with what you get”



We are all somewhere - home, location, relationships, job, etc.

How much of that has been through choice and how much because it has just “happened”, that you have just drifted into?


In a lot of our lives, there can be things when, if someone asked us why we are living in this house going to this group, etc., where we might not be able to give a clear answer: “I just fell into it.”

I fell into project management and administration because that’s how my mind works, putting things into plans. Add to that my ability to ask questions and draw out peoples’ ideas and you can see how I drifted into a career in fundraising.

So drifting can be fine? It can be if the drifting has happened because you don’t have strong feelings either way, you are enjoying the journey or it is just the thing you need to be doing at that time.

As an example, having fallen into my fundraising career, I had a period where I knew it wasn’t where I wanted to be. Then I had a series of personal events which took over my life and I parked changing my career. I simply didn’t have the head space to deal with a further upheaval so I trod water. Once the other areas of my life settled down, I could refocus on my career and make the changes I needed.

To carry on the drifting analogy before you know it, it can be like being carried too far out to sea by a strong current. Getting out of your depth can be a very creative place to be. (As David Bowie said, "If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.") 

However, you can also find yourself in unfriendly waters, buffeted by the elements and out of control and the drifting is the thing that is stopping or blocking you. Often this can make you believe that you don’t have a choice.

So if you feel you are drifting and not in a good way, how can you begin to make those changes?

Create a picture of what you want in every area of your life.

Decide which parts of your life you are happy with, those you can live with and the real pain points, the bits with which aren’t happy.

You don't need to change everything at once. What small changes can you make and over what timeframe?

And before you know it, you are deciding when to stay on course and when to allow a bit of creative drifting to take place. 

Take Five with KV Duong

Posted on 24 October, 2019 at 5:00 Comments comments (0)

KV Duong is a London based painter and action artist. His work focuses on personal identity, migration, sexuality and human relationships. KV’s current body of work explores the migration journey of his family; having gone through the Vietnam War, his parents immigrated to Canada to give their children the chance at freedom and opportunity. KV draws from these personal experiences to explore the integration and conflict of Eastern and Western cultures and values, the idea of place, belonging and home. KV is also a member of ArtCan and often has work in our exhibitions. He has exhibited in group and solo shows consistently since 2016 and was a featured artist in the BBC’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Programme 2019.

KV is one of four international artists who will be showing together in ‘Cultural Diaries’ at Old Brompton Gallery London, 25 November - 1 December (**Private View** Tuesday November 26 6-9pm)  (See links below)

In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

 The best thing about being an artist is having the liberty and freedom to create whatever you like (the trick and challenge is developing your ideas and figuring out the execution).

Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?

I don’t have a specific person but definitely the abstract expressionism and Gutai artists have been influential in my artistic development. I am a creative sponge and on the constant lookout to explore contemporary art, soaking in new ideas and inspiration. 

What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

Brainard Carey’s art videos and Bloomberg’s Brilliant Ideas series (both available on YouTube). I wished I came across these two sources earlier. 


If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?

Start a new piece (I am normally working on 3-5 pieces simultaneously). Go see an interesting exhibition. Hit the gym/ tennis court. 

And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?

The ones that Iron Man has so that I can fly from A to B quickly :) 




The Goal or the Journey?

Posted on 17 October, 2019 at 5:50 Comments comments (0)

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

As a coach, I am often asked how many of my clients reach the goals. It is an obvious question because it is a useful measure of success for the client, for me and for people thinking of working with me.

But it isn’t always that simple. Yes, some of my clients have reached their goals. Others have far exceeded what they set out to do.

When we first begin the process, we do look at setting a goal, what the client wants to achieve. There is often a bit of a stretch in it, pulling the client gently out of their comfort zone. The goal is set from what the client believes is possible from where they are at that moment.

As we work together, with the goal as our guide, we uncover all kinds of marvellous things. We look at where where the client is, what they want to do, what is in place, where they might need to develop, things which are stopping them. People remember and recognise past achievements which they had forgotten about and which give them confidence, inspiration and motivation.

As they grow in confidence, see new opportunities and possibilities, sometimes the original goal can seem too small, not as appropriate or just “different”.

So why set a goal in the first place, if it is going to change?

Because having a goal, any goal, gives clarity, focus and purpose. It creates motivation and pulls us into action. Each achievement along the way, however big or small, can be celebrated, motivating us further. Reaching for a goal can bring out the best in ourselves and also gives us the impetus and confidence to stretch that little bit more. It keeps us concentrating on the possible and the positive.

So in answer to the question, do my clients reach their goals? Many of them do - and most leave their original goals far behind as they really get in touch with what is possible.

Can I just ask????

Posted on 10 October, 2019 at 6:00 Comments comments (0)

Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash


Have you ever been at a meeting or conference where someone has asked a really simple, basic, obvious question?


And that really simple, basic, obvious question has been the one on everyone’s mind? So much so that you can almost hear the sighs of relief from the rest of the audiences.

So often, it isn’t us that asks that question, even if it is the one nagging away in our mind. We don’t want to look foolish, stupid, ignorant, uncool - fill in your own reason for keeping quiet.

Not asking questions can be a major barrier to not getting what we want. This can lead to miscommunication from lack of information and unclarity; false assumptions; unfulfilled expectations; frustrations.

This can come in part from thinking that if there is a question, there must be a “right” answer, or an either/or answer. Or that everyone else knows the answer and we are the only ones who didn’t get the memo.

(In fact, it can often be because other people just assume that everyone else knows what they are talking about. I was always saying to people that I couldn't meet them because I was going to a PV, until someone actually called me out and asked what a PV was. It is Private View, which I write as PV in my diary and is how I always think of them.)

But a question is just a tool, an invitation to discussion, to discovering answers together. A question can always be prefaced with, “I know this might seem a silly/cheeky/improbable question, but go with me on this one…”, “Sorry, I might have missed something - can I just check…”

And you might just find that the people around you breathe a sigh of relief and say, “I’m so glad you asked that!”.


(One of the comments which often comes up from clients during coaching sessions is “no-one has ever asked me that before”. It can be the beginning of the clarity they have been looking for. If you would like to engage with questions for clarity, apply for a coaching space.)

What to Take From Compliments

Posted on 3 October, 2019 at 3:50 Comments comments (0)

Photo by Morvanic Lee on Unsplash


I have written previously about compliments and how we can be bad at accepting them, even though they are gifts.

Building on that, compliments are not just lovely things to receive. They are also very useful indicators of how people perceive us. We are often so full of chatter in our heads of what we think others are saying about us, that we miss the real messages. Or we disregard the compliment with our own negative thoughts. How often have you said to yourself," oh they are only saying that because...". Never mind the ”because”, just stay with "they are saying".

What are the attributes and skills people compliment you on most? Make a list and see what threads emerge. And if these are things people like most about you (otherwise why would they comment?), how can you make the most of them?

For example:

- If people always comment on the way you dress, can you use that to build your visual brand?

- If it is the loveliness of your voice, is your best method of contacting people by phone, podcast or public speaking?

- If it is your timekeeping, be at the person they know can always be relied on.

- If it is your sense of humour, can your website reflects that to engage people?

- If it is your energy, how can you use that to engage people in your goals?

Your examples maybe different and your imagination better at coming up with answers.

In the meantime, jot down every compliment you get, big or small. For professional and personal development, this information is a goldmine of possibility.