Recently I’ve been having some fun with clay and I thought I’d share the results.
It started at the end of last year when my friendship group decided to do a handmade Secret Santa. I took that as an opportunity to try a material I’d never usually go for and after browsing Hobby Craft for the best part of an afternoon, I settled on air-drying clay.
Material chosen, I then had to figure out what to make. At first I was going to craft a bust of my friend Jess’s head. She’s a classical musician so I thought it would be pretty cool if she could have a clay effigy of herself, like Chopin. I totally underestimated how hard it is to render someone’s visage in clay. Lionel Richie’s girlfriend makes it look far too easy.
In the end I made these Adventure Time figurines. My friend absolutely loves that show so she was thrilled. I was kind of sad to let them go. Particularly Beemo, he’s just too cute. And Ice King. I have a soft spot for him these days.
You can see in the left picture that originally, Jake’s arm stretched around Finn and Beemo in true Jake-style and his legs were much thinner. Sadly, all his limbs kept breaking off so I had to give up and make him a bit too thick with no magic.
After that, I got the clay bug big time and decided to make my nephew Kobi something for Christmas. He’s only 20 months old so there’s no way he can play with something as fragile as clay but even so, I’ve got into the habit of making him gifts since he was born.
One of my all time favourite films is My Neighbor Totoro. No one else in my family likes Hayao Miyazaki films so to give Kobi the gift of Ghibli I bought him the DVD and made him a little Totoro of his own.
I tried using black spaghetti for whiskers that I stuck on with nail glue but it didn’t work. I also made his mates, the little blue guy and the even littler white squidge. They came out alright but this fella is definitely the best. I like to think he’ll look after Kobi like Totoro looks after Mei.
Later, in March, I went to a Raku ceramics workshop and learnt how to use different glazing methods. Having stuck to a set design before, I did the opposite and went for an abstract nude with a pot belly and no arms. I used copper to glaze it and then it was fired at 600 degrees and all these glorious colours came through by happy accident. I really love it actually. It’s such an unusual object.
I also made a teacup and saucer, and a bright blue crescent moon with a face. Raku is definitely something I’d like to do again - the glazing method is so sporadic that the finished result is always a bit of a surprise.
Incidentally, Raku is a type of Japanese pottery traditionally used in the Japanese tea ceremony. Note to self: visit Japan.
Somehow, I managed to polarise the opinions of tens of thousands of people and the post went from the most (modestly) successful article on my personal blog to viral content over night. It was all a bit absurd at one point. I woke up to about 40 twitter notifications when I usually wake up to 1 telling me that I’ve been favourited by my mum, and I had that sinking feeling that told me that something had kicked off. And it had, royally.
The bitter sweet irony is that the article is about the social validation of viral content and yet I feel so socially validated now that my content has gone viral! Ha! It says it all really. I guess I’d rationalise that by saying that the volume of likes shows how many people I’ve touched, and that means a hell of a lot to me.
You can read about the whole decale on my company’s website, who were kind enough to publish a news story about it.
Thanks to everyone that supported me throughout this thing - and to those that didn’t. Debate and diversity are an important part of any opinion editorial, and I relish the fact that it inspired so many people to get involved and raise so much money for Cancer Research UK,.
Yesterday, I was tagged in friend’s Facebook post nominating me to upload a make-up free selfie in the name of breast cancer awareness. My friend’s picture was beautiful and it was encouraging to see her bare, smiling face on my timeline - a place that’s usually populated with pictures of people at their very best (with a little help from Instagram and Perfect360).
Before long, many of my friends had followed suit, posting their make-up free selfies and nominating their friends to take part. It was all very well meaning and inoffensive but, as far as I could tell, absolutely nothing to do with breast cancer awareness. If anything, it was trivialising a very serious issue and using it to justify a vanity project.
"Here’s a picture of me. Beautiful. Bare-faced. Make-up free me. Like it. Share it. Validate me. Do the same and I’ll validate you. Go on, take a selfie. It’s for a good cause, LOL!"
Tell me, what is the good cause? Who exactly is this benefiting other than the person in the picture, whose natural beauty will undoubtedly be reaffirmed?
The narcissism of the internet age
Since the term “selfie” entered our vernacular, it’s come to characterise the narcissism of the internet age. Every social network cultivates the self and in many ways, selfies grasp at our hero worship of celebrities - the modern day messiahs. Getting lots of likes on a picture offers a dizzying taste of this reverence, validating our physical appearance and so validating the carefully constructed image of who we want to be.
Now I’m by no means unaccountable. I grew up on the internet so I’ve been engrained in this culture since myspace was life. I take selfies because they serve as a reminder of my own self-worth. On days when I feel like a deflated balloon, I look at these pictures and think, “See. It’s not so bad. You scrub up alright.” So I understand why people do it. I understand the need for validation and reassurance. I understand the buzz you get when someone tells you that you’re beautiful. What I don’t understand is why this has been hijacked as a force for good and why this trend insinuates that a bare face is worthy of adulation?
"The only awareness it raises is that of a society that’s sick and that values beauty above all else. Of a society that systematically batters self-esteem so that people consume."
Are so many of us hiding behind a mask of foundation and fake eyelashes that sharing a make-up free picture is shocking enough to raise awareness of a disease that destroys lives? No. The only awareness it raises is that of a society that’s sick and that values beauty above all else. Of a society that systematically batters self-esteem so that people consume; so that people spend thousands of pounds on beauty products and clothes just so they can feel good about themselves.
And this too is true of slacktivism. If we do something that dresses itself up as altruism, we feel good. And when it’s so easy, why wouldn’t we? Take a picture, post it to Facebook, good deed done for the day. Aren’t we wonderful? But this kind of behaviour is a lot more passive than actively donating money to a cancer research charity, much more passive than coming up with an original idea that attains the heady rush of do-goodery.
This issue has been hotly debated on the Cancer Research Facebook page, with many people announcing that they’ve donated to charity because of the selfie campaign (which Cancer Research UK does not claim ownership of). But it’s the same thing. If you need to tell people how much of a good person you are, it’s time to question your motivation for doing good at all.
Goodness should permeate throughout life and in every decision we make, not because a trend on Facebook tells us to.
Some have argued that the selfie campaign serves as an antidote to the mindless hedonism of Neknominate, which was an incredibly destructive and tasteless trend that actually cost lives. But instead of turning these social memes into a force for good, the selfie campaign has only highlighted how conceited and contrary we are.
After all, if social media caters to the individual, why do so many of us share trends and viral content without independent thought? There have been so many instances of this in recent years, with KONY 2012 being the most memorable. That video spread like wild fire because it was supposedly altruistic. Then, someone did their research, exposed the lies and the issue was dropped. People stopped caring about the child soldiers of Uganda and all the traffic was diverted to articles explaining why KONY 2012 was a sham. From one extreme to the other, just like that.
Facebook is a playground, where peer pressure and crazes reign supreme and the blind lead the blind because it’s easier than thinking for yourself. But to counteract a society that values the individual’s beauty above the individual’s mind, and makes so many people feel self-conscious in their bare skin, it’s time to question the wider social context of viral content before hitting the share button.
To donate £3 to Cancer Research UK, text BEAT to 70099.
Thank you, anon! I’m so glad you appreciated the blog post. Yes, the report in question can be found here, not sure why I didn’t link out to it in the first place! Thanks again.
Starting today, I’m going to show this blog a little more love and affection. Although it’s effectively a place-holder for my work, I might as well use it a bit more because it’s mine and I’m allowed.
I’m starting a new feature. Yes, a new feature. Whenever I’m online (which is often), I always find interesting things that I either want to save for a rainy day or share with other people. For fear of over-sharing on Facebook (which I’m told I do) I usually just bookmark things of interest and then forget about them forever more. But not today. Today I’m going to launch “Interesting Things,” a feature where I share things that interest me, to be read by no one, because not even my Mum reads this blog anymore. Consider it launched.
Both of these queens are 17 years old and make me feel all panicky and lame like I haven’t achieved enough and I’m not cool and I’ll never edit my own magazine when I’m 14 years old because let’s face it, that ship has sailed. They both reek of success like a wet bin in August and together, they’re simply dazzling.
This 11,000 word interview is incredibly inspiring and encouraging, and I think it showcases the women that will be running the world in years to come. My, what a world it will be.
Two things stuck out for me. What Lorde says about creativity and what Tavi says about feminism, transcribed below:
“…Try not to think about what your art might mean for others. I know that sounds bad, but honestly, if you want it to be meaningful to other people, you need to just totally not even think about that part and make something that will mean something to you. Then other people will be able to live inside it too and understand it. But if you’re making something like “this is for this demographic” in the hope of “they will get this from it,” it’s not a healthy way of creating. “- Lorde
“Ultimately, I think we are all here for the same reason. I think it’s so personal, though, for each person who identifies as a feminist, and it can be related to the hardest shit that they’ve had to put up with in their lives and all of these different ways in which they’ve been oppressed and marginalized. It can be so delicate and hard to navigate, that sometimes I just feel like, “I never want to write about this again, because how can you ever know enough?”
“How can you ever have read enough to be able to talk about this in the right way?” What I’ve learned is that the answer isn’t to retreat into ignorance, but to find the ways in which it’s important to you and talk about that and help other women talk about their experiences too. Just finding the human part of it is what I find myself coming back to when I feel disillusioned with feminism as a community.” – Tavi
In other news, I’ve been listening to Lorde’s album a lot lately and it’s really rather brilliant - Buzzcut Season is my fave.
I’ll always be attracted to anything that features Audrey Tautou because she is a goddess and her sweet little French teeth fill my days with springtime. However, when I learnt that this movie is directed by the same person who directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it instantly entered my Top 10 favourite movies of all time even though I haven’t seen it yet. Check out the trailer. It’s so delicious and enchanting, I can almost taste it.
I’ve been an avid Jezebel reader for quite some time. It’s one of the few publications about celebrities that I don’t feel guilty reading because of its girl power vibe and aversion to bullshit. Recently though, it’s got a little mean and shameless. This meanest came to a head when it was revealed (by Jezebel themselves) that they’d spent $10k on the un-retouched pictures from Lena Dunham’s Vogue shoot. I guess Jezebel expected Vogue to photoshop the hell out of Lena because of her anti-Hollywood body shape. Turns out they were wrong and Vogue just tweaked the lighting and pulled up her top. They decided to get all angry about it anyway because, you know, they’d spent $10k.
This was not only embarrassing because Jez thought they’d scored a photoshop-shaming win, but because their short-sightedness about acceptable body shapes came to light. Why single out Lena just because she’s not commercially beautiful? Surely Jez would want to celebrate female diversity and the fact that Vogue ran a cover featuring a size 14 lady without making her look a size 8?
Sadly, the ad revenue and traffic was probably worth the cool $10k. Shame on you Jezebel.
As with every year, I’ve decided that this is the year I’ll start writing fiction again. The last story I wrote was for my dissertation and it was about Joseph Fritzl and the obscene things he did to his children. I think it broke me a bit because I haven’t written anything since then - even though it’s been three years and I think about writing stories every single day.
Hopefully, short story competitions like these will provide the push I need to get back into the game big style. Then I’ll write my novel, get it made into a movie, sign up J-Law for the lead role and laugh for a hundred million days.
Just like every twenty-something chick who feels like a total goof ball, Jenny is my imaginary best friend, lover and sister all rolled into one. I think she’s the single greatest thing to have happened to Hollywood since Audrey Tautou and I want her to be in my life forever and ever amen.
A very nervous Jack Gleeson (aka Joffrey from Game of Thrones) addressed a huge crowd at Oxford University, discussing celebrity culture and his aversion to it. Overall, he comes across as a very intelligent and switched on human being, and his reaction to the fandom of the Game of Thrones HBO series is very refreshing indeed. More actors like him, please.
Sometimes I worry about what will happen to the world when David dies.
Since her part in the Leveson Inquiry I’ve been following Charlotte Church on Twitter. I think she’s ballsy and says some good things about the vulnerability of women in the music industry. Who can forget that music video to Call My Name where the voice of an angel strips off her childish garbs and struts about in a corset? It was common-or-garden child star to sex symbol stuff and Church has since said that she was coerced into that corset by her management.
Anyway, the other day I absentmindedly clicked on a link to her latest EP and was pretty gobsmacked by what I heard. She’s obviously been heavily influenced by her new band but the music is great and kind of reminiscent of Bjork. I think it takes a lot of guts to reject that pop starlet sound and, whilst it doesn’t seem that Church’s new material has been all that commercially successful (figures), I really respect her for taking such a different direction and experimenting with her voice.
Lastly, this video, forever.
“Look at how it goes to us! Oh my goodness.”
Whenever I hit publish on a blog post, I imagine myself attaching it to a catapult and propelling it into the sea where it will sink to the darkest depths of obscurity alongside all of the other blog posts that only get traffic from erroneous search terms in Google. Down here, oblivious prose and paragraphs scuttle around the ocean bed seeking the social solace of a like or a retweet. Despite the fact that they are mostly ignored, the blog posts quiver with purpose, bubbling opinions that rise in a synchronised ascent of insignificance until they reach the surface and fade out like a noiseless qweef.
In a world where the news cycle is impossibly short and only early-adopters are spared the apathetic eye-roll of the information-addicted reader, there’s a real risk that my blog post is just adding to the white noise. I mean, how many more Top 10 lists does the internet really need? Even the subject I’m writing about this very second has been done to death. What if I’ve missed the Good Ship Topical? And even if I haven’t, even if my blog post is impeccably well-timed and I manage to rise above the sheer volume of words on screen, I then risk something far worse than apathy, far greater than insignificance… I risk comments.
In the olden days of print media (*turns eyes mournfully skywards*), readers had few options when it came to complaining about an article. They could send a letter to the editor with absolutely no guarantee of it being seen, moan to their friends or stop reading the offending publication altogether. That was it. They could call the writer a brainless twat all they wanted but chances are, the writer would never know about it.
These days, the comments below an article (not to mention on Twitter) are like a verbal mosh pit - except everyone has knives in their hands. And there’s not a writer today who hasn’t been caught by the pointy end.
Googling “don’t read the comments” pulls up 4,320,000,000 results and a twitter campaign, illustrating the enormity of the issue. In fact, Google’s recent and unpopular profile integration with YouTube was, according to them, an effort to clean up the abuse on the notoriously venomous video sharing website (although to everyone else it was a thinly veiled attempt to get everyone on Google+). Similarly, the Huffington Post has stopped accepting anonymous accounts in a bid to do something about what they call “online toxicity.”
And it doesn’t stop there. In September, Popular Science decided to shut off their comment system all together, sighting ”vexing commenters” as the predominant cause. For the self-same reason, Charlie Brooker took to his Guardian column in July to announce a break from writing. “I’ve recently been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of jabber in the world,” he writes, “Reader comments form part of the overall wordstorm… and it’s true I’m not a huge fan of them.” In the article, he seems genuinely world-weary and it’s a sad thing. If vexing commenters can break Brooker, how the hell are the rest of us supposed to cope?
Although mankind has relocated to the internet, writing for the web still lacks the romance and respect associated with print media. It’s this kind of attitude that makes people wrinkle their nose at parties when I tell them what I do for a living. “I’m a writer,” I say. “Who do you write for?” they ask, hoping for a national or a magazine they know. “Um…the internet?” Queue the stony silence that means “we’re all writers on the internet love.”
Maybe that’s why some readers are so unflinchingly critical? Despite our increasingly virtual lives, we still value the tangible. We’re still more impressed by a published book with pages and a spine than a Kindle edition because the internet isn’t real, it’s just an ephemeral clusterfuck of information lingering somewhere between today and tomorrow. If we can’t see the direct impact of our actions, the impact doesn’t exist.
However, the measures taken by the Huffington Post and Popular Science signal a cultural shift and the heady days of unaccountability are numbered. People are realizing that it’s not okay to vilify and publicly shame a stranger just because you can (although, as Caitlin Moran found out in August, if you’re going to start a campaign against online abuse, make sure your own digital footprint is clean first).
Luckily, although publishing this article fills me with aquatic metaphors and dread, I’m no way near as traffic-baity as Charlie Brooker and I can cradle my adolescent ego in the relative safety of the blog post abyss. Oh, the bitter sweet protection of obscurity.
Originally published by the Huffington Post.
With people reading blog posts more than they read traditional media, online content marketing has become a highly valuable industry that’s worth in excess of £4bn in the UK alone. This means that writers, particularly those capable of spinning gold out of a sales pitch, are finding an abundance of work online.
Naturally, this has created significant opportunities in the graduate employment market for those with digital skills. And yet, a recent report from Facebook exposed a digital skills gap amongst UK graduates; with many not possessing the necessary experience or training required for a career online. “It’s really not easy,” said Simon Milner, Head of Policy at Facebook, “We don’t tend to find a lot of British young people who are ready to come and work.” It’s a convoluted dilemma. The jobs exist and the graduates are certainly willing and capable, it’s just a case of experience.
When Fountain Partnership, a local internet marketing company, recognised this dilemma, they alerted the University of East Anglia to a commercial opportunity. The company needed to outsource some copywriting and felt compelled to offer the work to students – they just didn’t have the means to do so.
Fountain’s initial interest represented a wider employability opportunity. If UEA could create a pool of talented student writers and offer their skills to online businesses, they could plug the digital skills gap by giving students professional references, portfolio material and hands-on paid commercial experience.
Based on this understanding, a pilot scheme was quickly created.The University Writers Service, as it became known, was designed to hire 7 students as copywriters for Fountain, who would train and mentor them in the ways of the web. If this was successful, there existed the potential for expansion in the New Year.
In the first week of the new semester, UEA held an introductory workshop to gauge student interest. It was a sell-out, with over 160 students signing up. The initial talk was led by Fountain’s co-founder, Marcus Hemsley, and explored the basics of search engine optimisation (SEO) - teaching students how to optimise their online presence and how to develop their writing and research skills for the web.
After the event, students could apply to become writers for the service by submitting a short article on a chosen subject. Almost 50 students applied for the job and seven were chosen to take part in the pilot. Since then, it’s been a huge success, with one student writer saying, “I already feel like I’ve learnt a great deal. Writing concisely and to a specified brief -and especially writing for the web- is completely different to anything I’ve studied within my degree. It’s really nice to see potential uses for my interest in writing in the future.”
Looking to the future, the University Writers Service has two long term goals: to provide applied digital skills training to a large number of students and to create a national client portfolio of agencies, publishers and businesses that want copywriting services from an employability scheme. The service hopes to double its database of writers by the New Year and to offer its services to a host of new clients. Should this be successful, it will become the country’s first self-sufficient, university-based writers’ service that not only produces great content for the web, but significantly improves graduate job applications.
For the latest updates, follow the University Writers Service at @uni_freelance
Originally published by the Writers’ Centre.
This year, a number of actors with disabilities enjoyed success in high profile television roles. From Emmy Award Winning Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones to RJ Mitte as Walt Junior in Breaking Bad, both television programs have been commercially successful and have turned Dinklage and Mitte into red carpet regulars.
And yet historically, able-bodied actors have been cast as disabled characters and are often praised for their “realistic” portrayal. Leonardo Dicaprio famously played an intellectually disabled character in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and said of the experience “I had to really research to get into the mind of somebody like that.” Able-bodied Sam Worthington played paralyzed marine Jake Sully in Avatar and Patrick Stewart has been paraplegic Professor X since the X-Men franchise began in 2000. Whilst suitable roles exist for actors with disabilities, it’s extremely difficult to get cast because big names equal box office success.
However, television has often trumped cinema in terms of its progressive attitude. Who can forget Star Trek breaking from the prejudice of cultural tradition and screening the world’s first interracial kiss in 1968 (an episode that was pulled from the British BBC until 1994)? Consider, too, The Cosby Show and Oprah – both immensely popular TV shows that have been widely credited with improving race relations in America.
The Cosby Show helped many sitcoms with lead black characters get air time, namely The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (which launched Will Smith’s career). Whilst empowering black females the country over, Oprah has also been dedicated to high impact media visibility for the LGBT community, a dedication that has normalized alternative sexualities on television and popularized shows like The Ellen De Generes Show and Will and Grace.
And yet, a 2011 report on television minority representation revealed that credited characters with disabilities represented less than 1 percent of all scripted, regular characters. Furthermore, a vast majority of characters with disabilities were played by white able-bodied males - highlighting major gender and race disparities in the representation of people with disabilities in the media. For example, Hugh Laurie (House) and Kevin McHale (Glee) both play white male characters with mobility issues. Both actors are able-bodied.
However, as Christine Bruno points out, there is no substitute for the lived experience of a real disability. Bruno is co-chair of the Tri-Union Inclusion in the Arts & Media of People With Disabilities (I AM PWD) and goes onto say, “It is not a technical skill that can be easily turned on and off. Disabled actors bring with them a lifetime of unique experiences that allow them to present authentic, nuanced portrayals that add not only to the rich, diverse fabric of our country, but create a greater understanding about the society in which we live.”
Whilst disability on television is still dominated by white male roles, increasingly the actors playing them have disabilities themselves. The Michael J. Fox Show began airing in September. Depicting Fox’s real life Parkinson’s disease (and featuring RJ Mitte’s on screen aunt, purple-loving Betsy Brandt), the sitcom is about a retired anchorman who’s returning to work. Fox, whose four children have only ever known him with Parkinson’s, told the Guardian, “If you asked my kids to describe me, they’d go through a whole list of words before even thinking about Parkinson’s. And honestly, I don’t think about it that much either. I talk about it because it’s there, but it’s not my totality.”
Then there’s the aforementioned RJ Mitte, who has cerebral palsy and has recently been named by The Screen Actors Guild as a spokesman for actors with disabilities. “Playing Walt Junior has been an eye-opener to what I’ve managed to become,” he says, “Until I got the role, I never thought what I went through was something odd… I just thought that putting on [leg] braces was one more thing that I had to do to get ready for the day.”
RJ now regularly campaigns for the inclusion of disabled actors in television and is currently filming two movies, due for release next year. “My disability made me who I am today. Hollywood shouldn’t be afraid of actors like me. Diversity can only make the stories better.”
However, what about female actors with disabilities? Whilst representation is still nominal, there has been some positive traction. Just the other week, a hugely popular contestant on the X Factorrevealed that she is blind in one eye and has limited use of her hands due to a medical condition called arthrogryposis multiplex congenita. Thanks to her great attitude, Rion Paige has become somewhat of a spokesperson for disability rights.“You have to be accepting of yourself,” she said, “Which is a difficult thing, especially when you’re 13 and a girl.”
Moreover, Lauren Potter, who plays Becky in Glee and has Down syndrome, was recently hand picked by President Obama to join the ranks of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. “We all can do whatever we put out minds to,” she told Glamour Magazine, “And I hope to show people that we’re all different in our own way. But that’s okay. After all, I always say that different isn’t bad—it’s just different.”
Whilst there’s still a long way to go, hopefully this signals a shift in minority casting and one day, we will witness a more gender and race representative Hollywood that truly reflects the society it seeks to portray.
A version of this was originally published by the Mobility Resource.
By Emily Buchanan.
I’ve started working on a new pilot scheme at UEA based in my old school (Literature, Drama and Creative Writing). I’m still working at Further, albeit part time, and my week is now cut into slices of agency and university life. It’s challenging but I’m managing to keep my head screwed on.
As project coordinator, it’s my job to establish the processes, feasibility and future of the University Writers Service. This means funding applications and succession planning and profit forecasting and market research and quantifying everything within an inch of its life. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done before and I’m relishing the opportunity to dust off my unloved left lobe.
The University Writers Service recruits UEA students from every school of study as writers. With training and guidance, students are paid to write commercial content for the web - a platform that is positively teething with opportunities, if only students knew how to harness its potential. We’re aiming to establish a regional and national client portfolio made up of agencies, publishers and businesses that want to support an employability scheme.
In this difficult graduate market, I think businesses are starting to recognise their social responsibility to young people. The University Writers Service plans to leverage this social conciousness and in doing so, give students the opportunity to build their portfolio before they’ve even graduated. Plus, any money the service makes will go straight back into the school - an aspect I find particularly gratifying.
We launched just over two weeks ago and had 160 students sign up for the introductory workshop in under a week (Freshers Week at that!). The fact that we’ll pay our writers is a massive incentive, but we’re also offering SEO training and digital careers advice. I’m hoping that in the near future, the service will become the country’s first self-sufficient, university-based writer’s service that not only produces highly polished content for the web, but significantly improves the success rates of graduate job applications.
Have a look at the coverage on paper or check it out the article online.
By Emily Buchanan.