December 9, 2017

Trying to do the Holidays without Consumerism

I love buying gifts.

I love picking out just the right thing for so-and-so, or the perfect surprise gift for the hard-to-buy-for person on your list. I love walking into a store and looking at all the wee gift options, all the visual stimulation of pretty things. I love scouring webpages online until I find exactly what I'm looking for. It's exciting and it really puts me in the spirit of thinking of others for the holidays.

This is in direct contrast to how much I take issue with consumerism. As you know if you've been following along for a while, I am all about the thrifting and the handmade/small business shopping. Not only is it nice to support smaller companies, it also contributes to helping the environment (reuse recycle!) and not "buying in" to big chain businesses that almost definitely come with a bundle of ethical concerns.

So, how do I give gifts and not buy into buying?





I'm not very good at it. I bought most of my gifts this year, and I ended up buying for myself too. Oops. I wrote here about a Good Gift Guide a couple of years ago, and it's still true. But I feel conflicted even in so doing. I love making gifts, but for one, that takes buying materials, and two, there are only so many scarves I can knit for loved ones before they run out of room on their necks and in their closets!


Here are some of my brainstorm ideas for how else to cut back on consuming this holiday season:

1. Do a "Secret Santa" or Gift Exchange with your family
Talk to your famjam and see if they're down for a Secret Santa or similar gift exchange this season. My cousins/aunts/uncles/grandma on one side all decided that we would do a Secret Santa where we each buy a gift for only two people. It is insane that we've been buying gifts for everyone for the last 25 or so years - the family is huge! We are spending and buying and receiving way less if we do it this way, and I think we, the universe, and all of our bank accounts are happier for it!

2. Donate. Donate. Donate.
This one was on my Good Gift Guide too, and I'm still into it! I really learned this in the last few years from my fella and his family who all have a strong belief in giving back, especially during the holidays. It is inspiring and I realize that it can mean a lot to some people. I was looking for the perfect final piece of a gift for a friend, and everything I found felt repetitive and useless. Then it clicked! A donation to a cause that is of great importance to her. Perfect cherry on top.

3. Gift experiences.
In my schooling I've come to realize that "experiences" are also a huge part of consumerism: we work to make money, we then use our money to 'better' our leisure time. Leisure and recreational activities are damn expensive. But offering them as gifts doesn't have to involve experiences that cost you anything. Gift a family member an afternoon at a gallery with you, and go on the free day! Your presence and time is the gift. Gift your lover a weekend together at one of your places (if you're like me and don't live together yet) when you can spend dedicated time just the two of you. Maybe throw in some free massage coupons and a home cooked meal ;)

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I suppose a lot of this involves having the receiver of said gift be into the idea, for it to have the same effect. This is the part I stumble over a lot. I want the gift to feel good for the recipient, and not impose my beliefs on them when it should be all about them! But at the same time, you've got to start somewhere, and who knows when you might plant the seed for change on their end, too. It's all a balance, one that I haven't really perfected yet. But here's to trying!

December 3, 2017

Thrifty Outfit: Orange and Jeans


The weather has been fluctuating between blustery, grey and cold, and then some lukewarm days where I can wear my lightest jacket - the denim patchwork kimono from my last outfit post! Most of the time, though, I'm wearing my comfy cozy jackets with faux fur that wraps around my neck and cuddles my cheeks if I zip them up all the way. This is one of those jackets!


This outfit made me feel really faboo! I don't know if it was the headband, the flare pants, or the heels (which I never wear), but I felt pretty gussied up... while also casual. Either way I felt great!


(Jacket: Black Market Clothing | Headband: St Jacob's Market | Sweater: Thrifted | Flare jeans: Secondhand | Cowboy boots: Thrifted Bag: Handmade by Cass Moy)

Total Thrift Tally: 8/8

Wahoo, a perfect score! You can't see them, but the white blouse and necklace I have on here are also thrifted. Hence the 8/8 tally here. 



These jeans were a find from my grandma's barn, where lots of my mum and aunts' clothes were stored for decades! A few things fit me just so, so I've been wearing and cherishing them ever since.


Photos taken by my talented friend Annie Somers.

November 13, 2017

Lessons from an Instagram Hiatus (+ Bedhead)


My dear friend instagram, you are that friend I love and find inspiring some days, then totally anxiety inducing the next. I find myself 'tolerating' you, more often than not. But I just can't quit ya.

Instagram was one of the reasons I started my Bedhead project in the first place. When I post flattering photos of myself, I get on average about 50% more likes than posts of my artwork do. If it's me AND my artwork? Bonus!

So what happens when I feel I can't take a flattering photo because of x y or z about my face or my body or my outfit? What happens when all these other folks are looking faboo in every post they put up and I'm left here on my end feeling real frumpy? Well, that answers it. I feel frumpy.


While the bedhead project has helped me greatly in feeling better about myself, I decided to also try a whole month without Instagram. I did this for several reasons:

That frumpy feeling. It's no good, and the artistic or creative inspiration that instagram gives me isn't really worth that feeling.

• I spend way way way way way too much time on instagram. I tried imagining all the work I could get done or the creating I could do in the time I spend scrolling through photos of others' work and life.

I'm working on tackling some anxieties that cause me to fidget, all the time. I constantly need my hands and eyes to be stimulated and I found that instagram was an outlet for that behaviour. Probably a relatively healthy one, but I'm trying to work on mitigating the need for that stimulation altogether.

I managed to stay off instagram for the month of October! I did check it once when someone had told me they'd sent me a message, but otherwise I deleted the app and kept it off my phone altogether.


It's hard to tell if it was instagram alone, because of other efforts towards minimizing my stress and anxious behaviours, and I moved in with my boyfriend for a October as well (as a 'trial run'... exciting stuff for another post!), but my anxieties were at an all time low! Honestly, my appearance was rarely even on my radar beyond having fun with clothes and making myself presentable for work. It was very freeing. I also found myself knitting or reading or working on school work much more deeply and frequently, without little bubbles of distraction from my phone.

As soon as I put instagram back on my phone on November 1st, I spent way too long "catching up". The feeling of being sucked right back into the app was so apparent to me, that I deleted it again the same day! I started comparing myself to others again, mainly when it comes to appearances. I started day dreaming about cutting my hair or dying it or getting a nose piercing. I've caught myself online shopping and wanting more more more, flattering outfits, trendy outfits. Something new. I don't actually want to do these things, but here they are, new ideas in my head.

I've decided not to delete instagram again, though I have been feeling very close to it. I want to learn to find the self confidence and will power to use it wisely. To use it in a way that works towards my goals: sharing my art work with followers, and engaging with other artists on the platform. That's really what I want it to serve as. So, I started by unfollowing all the beautiful fashionistas I followed. Not because I don't still love their style, but because it is damaging to me to see their feeds day in and day out on my phone.

Do you have an instagram where you share your art? I would LOVE to follow you! My instagram for my art is @katiaengell_ , and my instagram for this blog is @house.of.ell if you'd like to follow back.