020 76393028
07946 044936

Catching Fireworks

Deborah Henry-Pollard: Creative Coaching


view:  full / summary

Take Five with Bridget Davies

Posted on 3 October, 2018 at 4:10 Comments comments (0)

Bridget Davies is an artist whose work I came across by chance when, if I remember correctly, someone retweeted a piece of her work on Twitter.  From the moment I saw that image, I was hooked!  Bridget creates beautiful women in gorgeous frocks in glamorous settings.  I adore the wit and stylishness of the paintings which feel to me like a continuation of the wonderfully elegant sketches you find in 1940s Vogue, or an evocation of the Golden Age of Hollywood.  They manage to be both a hark back to more glamorous times and right on the button contemporary. Bridget exhibits at art fairs internationally - check on her website (link below) for details.


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

There is no one thing, but an accumulation of lots of wonderful things. Creating and painting, and I like working by myself for myself. I also have a very varied routine, so I am never bored. I either have art fairs to prepare for, illustrations commissions to produce. I also work with interior designers. It is also good to be able to go off for a run or take part in a yoga class when I fancy. 

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

I love the work of Christian Dior in the 50s. He also worked with Roger Vivier the shoes designer, and used Rene Gruau to illustrate his fabulous opulent creations. The three came together like a dream! What beautiful illustrations, dresses and shoes!

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

Try to surround yourself with positive people and positive energy, and don’t be put off by some people not understanding what you are about or what you are trying to achieve…. There are plenty that will. There are so many ways of promoting one’s work these days, and if your work is good and you believe in yourself and your work you will be successful.

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

I guess creating a bit of distance for a while.

I don’t really have creative blocks… as soon as I wake up I start getting ideas. My head sometimes becomes over stimulated by new ideas or/and the development of existing ones, and this can slow my work down and cause me to be very ineffective with my time. I haven’t found an answer to controlling this yet!


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

How funny…. I’m illustrating a book on shoes at the moment. Although I paint lots of fancy looking shoes I keep the heels for ‘taxi’ nights only. I like my comfort. Probably a trainer!



Take Five with Rod McIntosh

Posted on 3 October, 2018 at 3:55 Comments comments (0)

Rod McIntosh is an artist who works between Kent and London as an exhibiting artist and consultant to the creative industries. He maintains a dynamic arts practice alongside a successful Arts Management career.  His works have minimal subject other than material, processes and an exploration of a visual language of marks.  Through this, he creates seemingly simple, but incredibly effective works of art.  He is also creative facilitator providing bespoke training across educational and business environments, he lectures and writes about artists professional practice. He is a regular exhibitor at major art fairs internationally.


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

To have gotten to a place whether through age or experience but definitely my choices! To do more of what makes me happy. That enables me to lead an integrated and authentic creative life. My studio is at home in rural Kent, and my day begins with physical and creative rituals that enable the walk across the drive to the studio to be the start of a great day.


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

Oh gosh.. So many people who have inspired me or challenged me, within and outside of the art world. However, I think I am grateful and connect with the finger tips and minds of our predecessors. That across the ancient world picked up a charred piece of wood or rock of exquisite ochre and discovered mark making and in turn a language to express and transcend themselves. 


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

You are the sum of your parts! Acceptance. And to breathe my way through a challenge.

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

Be active. I push myself through a fear or my procrastination by engaging myself in an activity that is part of a process. To not sit in front of a blank sheet of paper, waiting. I find preparing materials or following a methodical and repetitive process liberates me from a judgemental mind and ideas begin to formulate and flow. Always have note book at hand.

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

A pair of walking boots. I love to hike and trek up things. I love the feeling of experiencing an unobstructed horizon from a mountain and regaining a sense of perspective. So if I could not be the one wearing them, then at least I would share the adventure.



Take Five with Joanne Henson

Posted on 27 September, 2018 at 7:15 Comments comments (0)

Joanne Henson is a health, fitness and wellness coach who works with you to find the best way to alter your mindset around food and exercise. She has written two excellent books covering all the reasons we give ourselves for why we "can't" get fit or eat well which are both filled with great advice and good sense. Joanne doesn't force you into squat thrusts or endless lettuce, just shows you how to get healthier on your terms, changing the way you view food and exercise. Out of these books, she has also created the very popular 'What's Your Excuse' series of books, designed to tackle all of the reasons you’re not achieving what you’d love to achieve. Each book takes a fresh and practical approach, suggesting new angles from which to approach your sticking points and offering inspiration to help you change your behaviours so that you can move on and succeed. I am delighted to be one of the WYE Authors.

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

Hearing the happiness in my clients’ voices when they tell me they’ve reached their goals – they always thank me but really they’ve done all the work!

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

Tracy Emin.  I believe that what you do should be an expression of who you are, and Tracey Emin is a brilliant example of this.  If you look at a single piece of her work you might not be particularly impressed, but if you look at her work as a whole it’s a wonderful, multi-layered, multi-media, multi-dimensional autobiographical experience.  Every time I go to an exhibition of her work I feel totally moved by the authenticity and honesty of it.

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

That it’s totally fine to be myself and that it is possible to earn money doing your own thing.  For way too long I believed that work was something to be endured simply to earn money, and wasted way too much energy trying to mould myself into what I believed the corporate world wanted me to be. Being self-employed has been a truly liberating experience, I no longer have to pretend to be someone I’m not.

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

I create a deadline for myself.  For instance, when I was struggling to finish my first book, I started telling people when I intended to publish it.  I was then so concerned about being seen as all talk and no action and simply got on with it.

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

Can I be a different shoe for each foot?!  On one foot I’d be an elegant mock-croc pointy kitten heeled court shoe (the shoe I imagine myself wearing if I were dressed up) – stylish, interesting, but still practical and not a victim of fashion.   But on the other foot I’d have to be a worn-out Converse trainer (my real-life go-to shoe for all occasions) – reliable, easy, versatile and (hopefully) ageless. 




Take Five with Spirit de la Mare

Posted on 20 September, 2018 at 10:35 Comments comments (0)

Spirit de la Mare is an inspiring Renaissance woman - Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, Freeman of the Guild of Entrepreneur, Trustee of Artcan, public relations specialist, occasional journalist, published poet and project director and all-round culture enthusiast championing the arts. She has contributed to '#Woman Remapping the Territory. Our Way', a book of poems and performance pieces by 16 women edited by Rita Osei and Michelle Olley.

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

I am incredibly lucky that my professional work is a tapestry of my hobbies and interests. I adore the creative arts, literature, poetry and music and nearly all my work includes at least one of them, all of them if I can help it. A love of what I do enables me to stay connected and present within my work as well as nurture powerful creative bonds with those I work with. Feeling connected to something is probably the best thing about what I do. The arts open up dialogue and communication; they can make you feel strong knowing there is a global creative powerhouse of like-minded people out there.

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

I get asked this a lot and struggle to name just one. There are so many people that inspire me, some always have and some do with just one sentence, some within the arts and some in fields that have collided with them by accident. I wrote a piece of poetry some time ago called “My many Mothers” about the women that have guided me through the years. One of which I am fairly certain has changed and affected my life in ways that I don’t even fully understand, Maya Angelou’s words are a constant source of comfort, humour and courage. I read and re-read her body of work all the time and find solace in the sound of her voice. I also never tire of studying and writing about William Blake and am a member of the Blake Society. The rather splendid quote "I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create." Sums him up nicely. I had a truly remarkable dream about Blake when I was a child, all rather fitting given the nature of his work. I have kept a book of his work on my bedside for ten years.

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

Stay pro-active and productive. Anxiety and creativity are intrinsically linked, a consistent creative output will keep you on the right track even if things appear fruitless. Also, don’t waste your time concerning yourself with what others think. I still have to work on this as we are all sensitive when it comes to putting yourself out there and up for criticism. It is so easy to be intimidated by fancy job titles, position and other’s success or notoriety, but essentially we are all feeling the same things. Treat everyone with kindness, we have all been at the bottom of a ladder and over the course of our lives we experience moments near the top, this changes all the time and we should support each other when the chips are down.

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

Definitely walk it off. I am lucky enough to live very close to Hampstead Heath and take incredibly long walks almost every day. I normally do this at lunchtime to shake off the admin I do in the mornings. When I work up at Kenwood House I always arrive refreshed and buzzing with new ideas. Creative block hasn’t been such a problem (so far). I have too many ideas, focusing on one and seeing it through is an area I constantly work on. If I am working in town I’ll walk in St James’s Park and enjoy the people watching and snippets of conversations I catch. There is something about being outside and away from computer screens that re-ignites any dwindling flame. The lunchtime concerts at St Martin-in-the-Fields are also great for changing the pace of your thoughts, strings are my favourite. I probably shouldn't tell you but these concerts are my secret hiding place and go as often as I can.

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

What a question, probably a wellington boot. Durable and I rather love the rain.





Put On Your Dancing Shoes

Posted on 13 September, 2018 at 11:40 Comments comments (0)

Public speaking hasn’t always been something I found comfortable. I could do it, but I had to work at it to control my nerves.

My natural habitats are the coaching room and the tango dance floor. Those are the two places where I feel most naturally and easily “in flow”. When I am dancing, I feel energised, confident, open to possibility, ready to improvise and able to respond to whatever happens. I am not saying by any stretch of any imagination that I know it all - far from it - but it (and coaching) are the places where I am most centred. I am sure that you also have places or situations where you feel most at ease and those where you are slightly less happy.

I have a neat little trick that I am going to confide to you. As well as the extensive preparation that I do, I have adopted the habit that when I am doing any public speaking or leading workshops, I change my street shoes for tango shoes. These are not highly decorated, sparkly, brightly coloured shoes. To observers, they are neutral and could be “any old” smart shoes. But I know they are the shoes I dance in, the ones I wear when I am doing something in which I feel accomplished. It is not discernible to my audiences, but the shoes make me move in a different way, a way that makes me feel confident and ready for anything. They literally ground me and have helped me to embrace public speaking!

So, what could you take from an area where you are confident and use to give you a boost where you might need it?

Take Five with Ray Batchelor

Posted on 12 September, 2018 at 4:50 Comments comments (0)

Ray Batchelor is a Queer Tango activist, writer and historian. Ray has spoken internationally on tango and, as he details below, is involved in many exciting projects using tango to teach about life and how we as humans being can co-exist in harmony. He, like me, believes that what you learn in tango will serve you well in every area of your life. It will not surprise you to learn that I met Ray on the dance floor where we have shared many wonderful dances and I can assure him, he is never boring and always a joy!

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

I have the privilege of helping people remove obstacles and overcome fears which may lead to their leading fuller, more interesting and enjoyable lives, just as others have done for me - and I thoroughly enjoy doing it! I did it for years, teaching art and design history and theory to design students, student who were scared of history, of theory and of writing, but the same principles apply in my Queer Tango work. People can be afraid of dancing, especially of dancing with other people. The fear can be turned to advantage. I teach Queer Tango to managers to help them become better leaders; in the research project D/deaf CAN Dance!, I teach Queer Tango to D/deaf people with my esteemed deaf colleague, Melanie Parris, providing new ways for them to access music or musicality through the body of another human being; and most recently with the superb football coach, Jack Badu through The Football Tango Project we teach players gender blind tango (the guys dance with each other, as do the women, the women get to lead the men...) and practice some amazing, tango-derived football drills which Jack has devised. In one, each ‘player’ is a couple, two people, locked in a tango embrace, and who, if they let go of each other give a penalty to the other side. Afterwards, we lead discussions about countering homophobia in football. I love doing all these things.

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

Without a doubt, the Argentinian, Buenos Aires-based, Queer Tango activist and teacher, Edgardo Fernández Sesma. Edgardo has been indefatigable, teaching Queer Tango in a whole range of LGBT and mainstream contexts, but always with a view to making a difference to the world. I greatly admire his work. His Queer Tango flash mobs are a brilliant example: same-gendered couples turn up unannounced and dance in public spaces with the names of countries notorious for their homophobia tied to their backs. In 2015, I had the privilege of joining him to teach a couple of sessions for adultes mayores – pensioners – at a former naval base. It had once been a centre for torture and murder under the military, but now it is the Espacio Cultural Nuestros Hijos (ECuNHi). The adultes mayores danced with each other and with us, many with physical ailments and disabilities but none with the least hint of self-pity. They were so kind and welcoming to me. After the recent change of government in Argentina, Edgardo’s classes which meant so much to those who came to them, were axed, an act of social and cultural vandalism and stupidity. They keep in touch on Facebook and are now looking for a new home. Edgardo is an inspiration to me, but I am not Argentinian, not as young, and not as good a dancer! So, as an English academic and historian, I make my contributions to Queer Tango in my own way: in 2015, as part of the Queer Tango Project, with Birthe Havmøller from Aaarhus, Denmark in charge and fellow editor, Olaya Aramo in Madrid, I co-edited and wrote for a free, online international, community book The Queer Tango Book; earlier this year, also under the Queer Tango Project umbrella, Gonzalo Collazo in Uruguay and I co-curate and launched The Queer Tango Image Archive, an online archive of historical imagery from 1890-1995 relating to the themes touched on by Queer Tango; and in September this year, in Paris, Jon Mulholland at Middlesex University, Hélène Marquís of Universite Paris 8 and I are running The Queer Tango Salon: Connecting Bodies of Knowledge, where academics with intellectual knowledge of dance and gender will share a space with Queer Tango activists with embodied knowledge of dance and gender, talk to each other, and dance with each other. (We are still looking for proposals for contributions from anyone interested – practical workshops, papers, seminars, whatever – until 1 June.) Apart from a stellar line up of academics and activists as Keynotes, Edgardo Fernández Sesma himself will join us. I could not be more thrilled.

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

Given that each of us is obliged to be effective in imperfect worlds, trust your instincts about what you should and should not be doing and who you should trust and who you should not trust. Do not give in to ‘reason’ or ‘common sense’. Be fearless. Those instincts or ‘inner voices’ are far ‘cleverer’ than anything we might consciously work out. They are there to save us. Never be afraid to refer to them, or heed them.

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

Some would advise stepping away for a while, and that can work, but I would always consider advising you to keep going. Just keep going. In the case of dancing, I hit passages when I think, “I am rubbish. My dance is repetitive and boring, x and y are far better dancers than I am and I will never be as good as they are.No one will enjoy dancing with me so I might as well stop now and go home before my shortcomings are discovered, I am ridiculed and I suffer the humiliation of rejection.” Of course, the reason my dancing may be indifferent is that I am too busy thinking about myself and about how others might be judging me, to think about my dance partner and what I, now, as me, can do for them and how, jointly, we might create a satisfying dance. Intellectually, I know this is true all the time. Emotionally, I have lapses and forget. I can force myself to remember, which usually puts things right. I am pleased to say, most of the time, a great many people seek me out as a dance partner, which is flattering, even if it risks the pesky ego re- emerging...

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

A well-worn, men’s dance shoe, obviously, one of a pair, which while they may not always be moving, are always dancing. Or, alternatively, having just returned from “Salida”, a wonderful international Queer Tango event in St Petersburg run by dedicated Queer Tango activists (in Putin’s Russia, where the venues are kept secret so the heavies don’t find us and smash the place up), and seen some men in such circumstances acquit themselves beautifully in high heels, possibly a dancer’s stiletto, size 7...





Use those post-holiday blues

Posted on 7 September, 2018 at 4:00 Comments comments (0)

The main holiday season is just ending in the UK, so some of you will be returning from your breaks.

If you didn't go away, whenever your last vacation was, just think back to it.

Maybe you went away somewhere exciting and had a really great break, doing lots of things you loved, trying out new foods, meeting new people, having exciting experiences, maybe even being as radical as ditching the smartphone for a couple of weeks ...

Then came the day you were coming back to so called 'normal', everyday life.

As you were sitting in the airport waiting for your homeward flight to be called, or standing at the train station waiting for your train to arrive, or driving along the motorway, was there a little moment when you thought,

"I wonder what would happen if...

- I traded my ticket for another destination?

- I jumped on a train going in the opposite direction? - I took a different exit on the motorway?"

From time to time, I think we all have had a feeling like that, an urge to just get away - anywhere. Sometimes it can be a fleeting urge, sometimes it can become a constant undercurrent pulling at you as you try to get on with life as it is. I have been through this experience - more than once! I used to measure my entire working life from holiday to holiday.

If any of those thoughts came up for you, if there was a moment when you thought about not coming home, think about:

- what was driving that?

- what was it you wanted to avoid - work, relationships, your location?

- if you could have changed direction, where would you have gone and why?

If post holiday blues hit you, I'd invite you to keep these questions in mind:

- what is driving the desire to get away? - what is it you want to avoid?

- where would you go and why?

Think about what you would like your life to be like and create a vision for yourself. And then think what your next steps could be to getting away from a situation/job/life you might not be enjoying and to one that serves you better.

Take Five with Susan J Mumford

Posted on 30 August, 2018 at 4:50 Comments comments (0)

Susan J Mumford is a game-changer in the 21 Century art world. She’s an entrepreneur, mentor, speaker and author. While running a gallery in Soho, London, she founded the Association of Women Art Dealers (AWAD), a non-profit trade network with London, New York and Virtual chapters. Several years later, she started a social enterprise Be Smart About Art, which helps art world professionals thrive in a changing industry. In late 2015, her first book was published: "Art is your life. Make it your living" (the title taken from the organisation’s motto). Be Smart About Art also has tremendous online content as well as face to face and virtual events.

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

Seeing real change in micro and small businesses as a result of work done with Be Smart About Art and/or the Association of Women Art Dealers (AWAD). Job done!

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

Hands-down, Geena Davis. Upon observing that her young daughter lacked female role models in films, the Hollywood star set to using her celebrity status for good, by setting up the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. They’ve done phenomenal research that documents gender bias based on cold, hard facts – and are presenting solutions to work towards gender equality in children’s films (as a starting point).

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

Every single job and project contributes to the ongoing journey, no matter how insignificant it might have seemed at the time. And a cheeky addition for piece of advice upon embarking upon being a business owner is maintaining part-time work as long as manageable.

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

Get oxygen and the subconscious mind flowing. This can be in the form of a walk, run, or whatever you fancy that does the trick.

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

Without a doubt, if I were to come back in an after-life as a shoe, it would have to be a pair of luscious red boots. For what is the job of a shoe, but to protect the wearer’s feet and better yet, for those lucky enough to have a choice, make the individual feel fantastic, ready to take on social and professional occasions alike with confidence, glamour and vibrancy?





Take Five with Louise McNaught

Posted on 23 August, 2018 at 4:55 Comments comments (2)

I have followed Louise McNaught's work for some time via social media and always loved her very individual and beautiful way of approaching animal studies. They capture the essence of each creature from the tiny bumble bee to the mighty elephant, whilst throwing in a contemporary and refeshing spin, with neon backdrops and ocassionally some sparkle! I also had the pleasure of meeting Louise and hearing about how she approaches her work and her motivation. This is based around relationship between nature and man, often destructive from the latter, and how we feel about our actions. Since her graduation in 2012, Louise's work has been seen in international fairs and galleries around the country.

Louise's work can now be seen in a new book, 'Survival', published September 2018, where her illustrations highlight the fight for survival of 20 endangered animals. The book marries together Louise's drawings with text by children's author Anna Claybourne, to bring the issue of conversation into the spotlight.

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

I get to decide to do basically what I want every day! I mean of course there is boring stuff like admin, posting, wrapping of artwork etc etc, but essentially I don't have a boss and I get to decide what to paint. It's all up to me and in some ways that's so freeing and awesome, and in another way I have to be very self-motivated as I have to be everything from creator, marketing person, courier organiser, so whether it's a success or failure, it's all my fault.

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

I'm impressed with anybody that tries to make a go of their art career really, especially those who do so well, as it's not easy at all. There's no straight forward path, you are basically an entrepreneur and that can be very hard and quite lonely. Very often it's just you creating and promoting the work on your own in your studio. I don't really mind my own company/solitude, but it's not for everyone.

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

Don't just sign up to one gallery, as it's putting all your eggs in one basket. I was lucky that I was exclusive with a very successful gallery at the time, and I learned the ropes from that experience but it can hinder your growth as an artist.

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

I don't really get creative block, i suffer from the opposite of too many ideas and not knowing which to do first. I normally go with what excites me the most, or which has the shortest deadline! For creative block I'd suggest getting out of your environment to somewhere like a art big museum/gallery which will be full of inspiration.

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

Oh I'd be a high-heeled Prada boot, because I cant wear high heels as I have no arches and they look amazing.




How Big Should Your Vision Be?

Posted on 16 August, 2018 at 13:50 Comments comments (0)

If you read my blog or look at my website on a regular basis, you will see that I often talk about vision. It is quite a big thing for me as I know it helps me in deciding what I'm going to do next and it motivates me.  I am often asked if a vision has to be a huge thing, as often people find it difficult to think of a “big enough thing” to aim for. At moments like that, I tell them about a client I worked with a few years ago.

The client came to me with a single small project that she wanted to work on. During our conversations, we started talking about vision and she said that she didn't really have one. She was an artist, as was her husband; they got enough work to cover their living costs and to be able to pick and choose the projects that they took on. They were very happy and fulfilled, with enough time to enjoy all aspects of their lives.

I asked if there was any small change she would like to make in her life? She thought very long and very hard, then said, “I would like to go on a holiday that doesn’t involve a tent.”

Every year, she and her husband had very enjoyable jaunts to the countryside where they took time out, sketched, walked and enjoyed long pub lunches. Because they were on a budget, they went camping. My client didn’t hate camping, but she felt that when planning the next trip, she would like to have the choice between groundsheets and Egyptian cotton sheets, and not having to worry about rain and mud. We talked through the idea and because her desires weren’t extravagant, she said a nice little cottage would be fine.

She worked out the potential cost and how much extra money she and her husband (who was equally happy with the idea) would have to pull in to make it happen. They reviewed how much and what type of extra work they could take on, and looked at the prices they were charging for their works and fees, which they increased. Between these, it was less of a stretch than they had imagined and a few months later, they were on their holidays without a tent in sight!

Since then, they have been perfectly happy with staying in little cottages, with no desires to upgrade to the Savoy or The Ritz. However, having succeeded with this goal, it started them thinking of other small changes they want to make in their lives. Every year, they set themselves a joint vision, something which needs a little bit of effort to pull them forwards.

So, which metaphorical tent do you want to swap for a cottage this year?