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Catching Fireworks

Deborah Henry-Pollard: Creative Coaching


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Trick or Treat?!

Posted on 30 October, 2018 at 17:35 Comments comments (0)

As Halloween approaches, it marks not only the night when we use “the power of humor and ridicule to confront the power of death” (Portaro, Sam: A Companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Cowley Publications) but also just 2 months until the end of the year.

So, what have been the tricks or mischiefs which have been played on your life, work or career during the year? The plans which haven’t worked so far; the ideas which have stalled in the starting blocks; the brick walls you have hit?

Perhaps this is a good time to reflect on what your plans were at the beginning of the year and where you are with them now. Are you still committed to achieving them? What can you do to move them forward? Where can you get support? How much do you want to get done by the end of December or will you regroup and start it again in January?

On the other side, what have been the treats of the year? So often, we concentrate on the negatives whilst the positives just pass us by, so look at the goals achieved; the unexpected opportunities which came up; the moments when you powered through a problem and came out the other side laughing; the new friends and contacts you have made? This is a brilliant time (actually, it’s always a brilliant time) to give yourself a treat and celebrate all the great stuff which has happened and that you have created in your life.


Every life has a mixture of tricks and treats. Learn from the tricks, seize the treats and start to build for next year on the back of all this great experience!

Happy Halloween!


Photo by Toni Cuenca from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/backlit-black-candle-candlelight-619420/

What Would I Be Doing Without Coaching?

Posted on 25 October, 2018 at 5:35 Comments comments (0)

I was asked recently how I got into coaching and I told my story (as mentioned in a previous blog - link below).


I was then asked another question, which really got me thinking:


“If you hadn’t gone for coaching, what would you be doing now?”




Well, I can’t know what might have turned up if I had just kept going along the path I was on.  Who knows what other opportunities might have turned up? All I can give is the picture as I saw it from where I was then.  

I was a fundraising manager for a charity and the logical next step was to apply for jobs which were the next step up: Director of Development, for example. This would have been putting myself and my future in other peoples’ hands. Waiting for jobs to be advertised/become available; putting in my application to be weighed against others and found satisfactory/wanting; preparing for/getting stressed about interviews; waiting for the phone to ring to tell me if I had been successful or not.  And all this for a career that I didn’t really want to have anymore.


Having been employed all my working life, going freelance wasn’t even on the radar. Neither was bringing all my skills together and creating my own career.


Without the intervention of coaching, I probably would have carried on as I had for the whole of my previous working life - clocking in, drawing down a regular salary, getting bored every 3 or 4 years, moving on and looking forward to retirement. 

Instead, here I am 10 years on, having built a coaching practice, become a public speaker and written a book. In my freelance life, I can sit writing whilst looking out over London as dusk falls, having spent a morning with a marvellous client at their studio, before meeting up with a group of coaching colleagues and then going on to a Private View. Yesterday was totally different and tomorrow will be different again. I work hours I want and because I love what I do, health permitting, I don’t intend to retire.


You might not want to change your life completely. You may not know what you want to do. You may just have the feeling, as I did, that something needed to change. Whether that turns out to be changing your horizons, your mindset or a few unhelpful habits, coaching could be the way through.




Take Five with Annette Peppis

Posted on 15 October, 2018 at 9:45 Comments comments (0)

Annette Peppis is a graphic designer of many years standing who has worked for clients large and small, ranging from the BBC and NHS to small companies and solitary freelancers. She understand the challenges that businesses face and with every job, brings her common sense, imagination and excellent organisation. Annette is the designer of the What's Your Excuse books, bringing a cohesive smart and elegant design across the brand, whilst giving each book an individuality through the glorious colours of each cover. (As it is my favourite colour, and part of my branding, I asked Annette for an orange cover and she did not disappoint!)

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

Being able to solve clients problems creatively. It pleases them and I get great job satisfaction.

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

Herb Lubalin was one of the original ‘Mad Men’, an art director / graphic designer / typographer who ran his own advertising agency in New York in the 60s and 70s. He learned calligraphy at the Cooper Union in New York, and drew all his lettering by hand. His most well-known typeface is Avant Garde, still well-regarded.

Herb had fun with lettering, as his clever Mother and Child logo demonstrates (see link below). I think this playfulness with type was his most important contribution to graphic design; he opened up and allowed himself to experiment, creating work significantly different from the Swiss Modernism of the time. Herb was unfashionable for a while, but is currently very much in vogue.

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

I wish I had known the importance of networking and making good connections. For decades, I focused on creating beautiful, functional designs and ignored the commercial side of my business. My work was greatly appreciated by my clients, but in retrospect, if I’d had more connections I could have helped many more businesses and publishers. Deborah talks about the importance of networking on page 83 of her book, in the section entitled ‘I don’t know the right people’.

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

I have a change of scene, either going out for a walk to nearby Bushy Park or down to the river, or by going swimming. Something about swimming lengths clears the mind, and enables fresh ideas to populate it.

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

I’d be a walking boot – I love being outdoors and discovering new places and I go stir-crazy if I don’t get my fix!






Dignity, Always Dignity!

Posted on 12 October, 2018 at 0:55 Comments comments (0)

Imagine the scene: Nunhead Station, 7.30am on a cold, misty Monday morning. I am wearing THE coat. This is double breasted, scarlet, ankle length and has earned me the nickname The General from more than one friend. To accessorize, I am wearing a red and brown velvet scarf and a brown angora pill box hat. I am Julie Christie in Dr Zhivago and I look the business.

The train arrives and the doors open on an already crowded carriage where people are studiously ignoring each other as well as they can given that they are close enough to count each others ribs. There is no space for me so I dash along to the next carriage. Here, I find just enough room for my feet. I clamber in and lean slightly forward, because I have to make sure that the doors can close behind me. The door mechanism starts to beep and the doors slide shut. I've done it! I am on the train so I do not have to wait 30 minutes for the next, equally crowded one. I don't have to hold on because it is so full that there is nowhere to fall and anyway, I can just lean back against the doors. Whoops, a bit shaky there, but no problem because something is holding me back.

It is at this point that I realise that my extravagant and deeply loved red coat is trapped in the doors behind me. And not just a rogue corner, but all the way from hip to hem. I have suddenly switched from Julie Christie to Buster Keaton. My mind starts racing. I know that these doors do not open at any point between here and up to and including my final destination at Blackfriars. I begin to tug discreetly at my coat, but because there is no room, I can't get any real leverage and so the coat sticks fast.  To my mind, I have three options:

1 wait until I get to Blackfriars, wait for people to leave and then tug like fury

2 go to Blackfriars, stay on the train which I know will return to Elephant and Castle where the doors will open on ‘my’ side of the carriage and I can leave, get onto the Tube and make my way to town or if all goes horribly wrong,

3 get to Blackfriars, wait for people to get off, get out of my coat and leave it hanging there.  (Obviously, this would cause a possible manhunt as they try to find the body to go with the coat, but this is a minor consideration.)

The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that there is not an option 4) ask for help. I want to be inconspicuous - well, as inconspicuous as someone dressed like an extra from War and Peace can look. Being seen as someone with an eccentric style of dress is one thing; being seen as someone who can't even board a train without making a complete hash of it is another thing altogether.

So, here I am, still on this train. Just in case drastic action is called for, I have transferred my gloves and tissues from my coat pocket into my handbag. We pull into Blackfriars Station and draw to a halt. People rush off the train and hurl themselves at the ticket barrier. I stand coolly aloof, as if elbowing my way through the hoi polloi is beneath me. When the coast is clear, (and against the clock – the train is due to go the other way any minute), I grab the back of my coat and pull. It moves about an inch, which is promising. I just need to get a bit more leverage, so I plant my feet about a foot apart, take a firm grip with both hands and give it a damn good yank. Voila! Like a hero from a boy’s action story, with one bound I am free. Or to be more exact, with a hefty tug, my coat releases from the doors and I catapult across the carriage and out of the train doors like a shot from cannon.

My tango training (I knew it would come in useful!) allows me to stop the momentum dead and as I do, the doors of the train close behind me, ready for its’ return journey. I take a deep breath and walk purposefully towards the barrier. Aside from a long dirty black mark on the back of my coat, I think I have pulled it off and the words of Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain run through my head – “Dignity, always dignity”.

And the life lessons to take away from all this?

1 have several solutions, however silly, up your sleeve

2 always keep your cool - other people won't know how you are feeling

3 often, in fact most times, things never turn out as badly as you expect.

Who was your Favourite Teacher?

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

Most people have a favourite teacher, that person who lit a spark, opened up new possibilities and has remained an influence.  Mine was Miss Teagle, tall, slim, in sensible shoes and tailored suits in safe colours with discreetly patterned blouses.  Her accessories were neat and her only concession to ornament was sparkling brooches.  She had white hair in a Queen hairstyle (I’m talking British monarch, not Freddie Mercury, you understand).  She was somewhere in her late 50s, or early sixties. 

Miss Teagle taught English and at 10 years old, I was a poet manqué writing ditties about birds and dew drops and daffodils – you know the kind of thing.  It was dismissed as a phase by most teachers, or even completely ignored, but not by Miss Teagle.  She delighted in words; the sound of words, the look of words, the power of words, words which made you laugh, learn and think.  She didn’t worry about how bad the spelling, punctuation or grammar was because what she wanted most was your imagination.  We did learn how to write properly with her, but I’m not sure when it happened as she had a skill of disguising serious matters with a veneer of fun.  For me, this was a huge gift because I am dyslexic, although, as this was many years ago, it wasn’t diagnosed as such.  I was just someone who couldn’t learn to spell and got told off for getting my letters round the wrong way to the extent that I became frightened to write.  Miss Teagle freed me from this fear, encouraging me to write with abandon and sorting out the spelling later.

Miss Teagle made us write poems, book reviews and stories, and every week she would read one of them out, always from a different child so that no-one was left out.  It wasn’t until years later that we actually recognised how scrupulously fair she had been, making sure that everyone had their little moment in the limelight.  At the time, we just knew that we all wanted to be picked, to have her praise because as she read the story, she would always point out exactly what was right about it, even if only one tiny thing, that she could highlight to us all as a positive.  She used these positive points to teach us about styles and language, but probably more importantly, to encourage the writers.

We were not a class of prodigies, just normal 10 year olds who on the whole didn’t want to be at school and who were already getting used to a hierarchy where the clever ones got encouraged, the “stupid” ones got told off and the ones in the middle were overlooked.  But to Miss Teagle, we were all equal, with something valuable we could talk or write about – all we needed was someone to listen and to guide us.  We came out of her class with an understanding of the power of words, that if we read widely, we could learn anything we wanted and that we could open up new worlds for ourselves.

Of all the things she taught us, the most important was that she gave us the power to think and to dream, to realise that we all have potential to be creative in some shape or form and we just need some support and encouragement.  Her lasting influence on me is that this is what drives me in my work with my clients. 

Who was your favourite teacher?  What made them special?  And how might you tap into / emulate that to support your creative practice?

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?