Surface design : Anna London

Anna London is a serial creative, and for a long time had been filling her life with various classes in print making, graphic design and fashion design. It wasn’t until she took a course in hand-printed textiles while studying Art Studio and Design in university that she thought about turning surface design into a career.

Swinging between florals, tribal influences and abstract geometrics,  Anna’s work is distinctive for its soft, bright palette and its hand drawn feel. Despite this, it still manages to still retain a particular boldness and graphic edge through the use of vectored shapes and flat colour.


Anna London - bouquet on green

Anna London – bouquet on green


Often starting with a doodle in her sketchbook, she brings in the many things that she loves and have influenced her – natural forms, mid-century style, the work of painters Wayne Thiebaud and Henri Matisse, and designers such as Marimekko, Leah Duncan, Julia Rothman and Elizabeth Olwen. (In fact, Anna was thrilled about actually getting to meet Elizabeth and help her out at Surtex this year. “She’s such a nice person, and it was really exciting to meet one of my favorite contemporary designers!”)


Anna London - pink sunsets

Anna London – pink sunsets


anna london - quirky ovals

anna london – quirky ovals


Anna loves that something that is so creative still has a functional end. “I love art, but I also have a really practical side which I think I get from my scientist dad. I love creating patterns because I get to make art, but I know that it can be placed on fabric or products that people will use in their daily life.”

She grew up surrounded by art and always knew she wanted to do something creative; her mother was a painter, and was always encouraging. “I loved to create things, from paper boxes and handmade notebooks to miniature furniture for a dollhouse… One of my strongest memories is of sitting in our living room with a huge stack of colored paper spread out on the floor in front of me. I was so happy to see all the colors together, and I spent a whole afternoon just looking and arranging the colors.”    {mmmm colour…. :D  -JG}


Anna London - chevrons

Anna London – chevrons


After graduating from university, she continued making patterns on her own and slowly taught herself about the pattern design industry, including taking a few classes from Pattern Observer.

She moved to Berlin with her boyfriend (who moved there for work) recently, and while she says it was hard leaving a job, family and friends, she loves the adventure of it all, and is very happy with the extra time it has given her to be able to focus on her designs. She is struggling through German classes, but is now proud of the fact that she can walk into a restaurant and order a meal!


Anna London - abstract diamonds

Anna London – abstract diamonds


Anna London - abstract triangles

Anna London – abstract triangles


Her best piece of advice comes from Ira Glass, and I must say, it is one of my most favourite quotes ever as well.


“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”



Anna London - floral

Anna London – floral


You can find more of Anna’s work on her website,

My 4 most powerful takeaways from the Artful Business Conference

My head has pretty much exploded from all the INCREDIBLE (and that is an understatement) information that I heard when I attended The Artful Business Conference last week. OH!

I was a bit sad that I could only attend virtually this year, plugged into my computer at my kitchen table. BUT from the time I logged on in the morning there was a palpable buzz in the conference room that I could feel from my kitchen … I spent the day glued to the screen.

There was SO much – from good ol’ get-down-and-get-your-hands-dirty practical advice on stuff such as using specifically targeted Facebook Ads (apparently very good value – I’ve yet to try) and reminders on working out your hourly rate and sticking to the important stuff (keep a timesheet; if you had to write down that you had spent an hour floating around Facebook then you’d think twice about doing it!), right through to the gobsmackingly-incredible-in-anyone’s-books Lisa Messenger who started with no money and no publishing experience and has now managed to author/co-author 20 books and head up the Collective Magazine, currently distributed in over 30 countries (and done heaps more than that too).

I will take the next week or two to digest it all I’m sure, and re-watch it – and I’m positive I’ll pick up even more insights. But for now, there are a few points that have really stuck.


“It’s Not a Tattoo”

Karen Gunton ( has said this before and I know she’ll say it again, and I absolutely love being reminded of it! (this quote would make a great tattoo, no!? ;) ).

Everything about your brand – colours, fonts, logo… NONE of it is a tattoo. Don’t feel like if you put something out there, you’re stuck with it. Very definitely, plan it all out and make sure what you have is cohesive, but don’t consider that it’s been set in concrete. Get it out there! Launch it! Live with it!

As you grow and evolve, so will your brand. You’ll know when it’s time to change. You will! Just get it out there.



Upgrade your life

Denise Duffield-Thomas ( is great. So very definitely the fun, can-do person you need to get you opening your eyes and ready to grab life and biz with both hands.  She got me thinking about several things – but the best thing was how to upgrade my life.

Many people, especially women (myself included) tend to defer things and/or make do – we don’t buy new clothes, we delay getting something fixed (including our health), or we just buy the cheaper brand. We do these things for all sorts of reasons for sure, but Denise told us that when we invest in ourselves, the results often far outweigh the reason for scrimping.

When you upgrade your life, you become more positive, happier and therefore more likely to recognise opportunity and act. You have higher expectations and achieve better results. Better than that, other people – in personal relationships and in business – respond to your energy.

Don’t live your whole life in economy class. Upgrades can be incremental – don’t feel like you suddenly have to be Oprah; and in fact, doing it a bit at a time gives you a chance to adjust and feel solid at that level. But keep going, and upgrade constantly.


I started upgrading my life by cleaning out my cupboards. It IS cathartic and I feel gooood.



“Tell your story. People want the hero to win.”

Valerie Khoo, founder of the Australian Writers’ Centre (, says that stories are one of the most powerful things we can have in our business. She described to us the classic hero story, and paralleled its structure to the story of our business.

In the hero story, we as the audience always want them to win. The hero has a quest (although the goal may not always be clear at the start); but when we see them try we cheer them on, when we see them stumble and they get up again and keep going, we cheer them on more. When they stand up, determined and crystal-clear on their goal, we cheer them on. When they face more challenges, beat them and emerge transformed, we are ecstatic.

(And we soon forget those who stumble and give up.)

So take your audience along with you for the ride; they want you to win. Let them in on your story, let them spread the word; you are worthy of winning!



As I said at the beginning, Lisa Messenger ( was an absolute stand-out for me. Her message was simple and powerful.

What’s your business “Why?”

It was a message told by many of the other speakers too.

It’s about figuring out why you do what you do. What makes your heart happiest? What change do you want to see in the world?

It’s about having an absolutely unwavering belief in you and what you do. Lisa told us to “Figure out your biggest hairiest most audacious goal, and when you are clear on that, then everything else will fall into place.”

When you’re clear on your WHY but you don’t know how to do something, you’ll figure it out. When you’re clear on your WHY and you don’t have the money to back yourself, you’ll figure out a way around it. Any problem you have, when your WHY is there, you’ll figure it out.

Lisa had her WHY in buckets.




At this point I must also send seriously enormous thanks to Elle Roberts ( for pulling it all together.
On behalf of everyone there, thank you thank you THANK YOU!!!!


It was SUCH a fabulous conference; so good to connect with others there – during the chat while the videos were streaming, and afterwards in the Facebook group. Everybody is STILL buzzing!!


And for me, for now, GAH!


my brain



One thing is certain: I am damn sure I’ll be there again next year. IN PERSON.

See you there!

Julie X


(And the good news is, you can STILL get Virtual Tickets to the Artful Business Conference, and that gives you access to ALL the videos from this year, a virtual goodie bag AND the recordings from the last two years as well!. Yep, get tickets here (click on the “Tickets” tab and scroll down to the bottom of the page).

The crafted object : A Plus Designnn {crochet jewellery}

I love these organic little textile accessories from Anda Toma (aka APlusDesignnn). They are curious and intriguing and speak to me of sealife – coral, nudibranchs and strange deep-sea creatures.


aplusdesignnn - anemone brooch

aplusdesignnn – anemone brooch


Tactile and colourful, Anda crochets and beads her brooches, bracelets and necklaces in her spare time away from her interior design practice. And when she’s not crocheting, she’s felting. Or making equally cute little handpainted ceramic bears and owls for her other shop, SeleneMini.  For someone who is so obviously compelled to make, it is ironic that she never enjoyed craft activities when she was a child. But she loves it now, and is constantly amazed at the variety of things you can do with just simple crocheting, weaving, or modelling with clay.


aplusdesignnn - bubbles brooch

aplusdesignnn – bubbles brooch


aplusdesignnn - green spots - 2 x brooches

aplusdesignnn – green spots – 2 x brooches


Working out of Bucharest, Romania, she is inspired by many things, including nature, architecture, interior design, and fashion (you must check out her Pinterest board on knit and crochet fashion that truly stretches the boundaries! It’s here).


aplusdesignnn - necklace from the Cellular Series

aplusdesignnn – necklace from the Cellular Series


aplusdesignnn - reverse flower brooch

aplusdesignnn – reverse flower brooch


“My life has always been full of color, since I was a child and I was playing in the country side. I loved the trees, the woods and the mountains. I always used to draw little house with big mountains in the back and a big smiling sun! This is the image I want to represent, the image of happiness that you can wear day by day!”


selenemini - totem bear brooch

selenemini – totem bear brooch


selenemini - tribal bear brooch

selenemini – tribal bear brooch


Anda also has another shop selling beautiful vintage clothes, and writes a blog about her finds – not only interesting for the clothes, but also for the architecture of Bucharest in the background (yes I’d LOVE to see more, thanks Anda!!)

You can find more of her crocheted jewellery in her Etsy shop, aplusdesignnn. You can also find a cute bear or two in her other Etsy shop, SeleneMini.




Small biz how-to : meet Uncommon Goods

How did I not know of Uncommon Goods before now? I am so very glad they contacted me, as I love finding new ways to help artists and designers to sell their work!

Uncommon Goods is a platform for artists and designers from around the world to sell their work through, and is based in Brooklyn, New York. They offer a huge variety of homewares, wall art, stationery, jewellery and more. There’s a large range of categories, and the site is super easy to navigate. (How fun are these upcycled shark slippers I found in the handmade section here?)


shark slippers - josh title

shark slippers – josh title


Their point of difference is this: beyond their core purpose which is to support artists and designers, their mission is to impact the world in a positive way.

So, besides ensuring that emerging and established artists get paid fairly for what they do, they encourage ethical and environmentally friendly goods – all of their products are produced without harm to animals, and around a third of what they offer is upcycled or recycled goods. AND they have connected with a number of non-profit organisations – for every item that is purchased, they donate to the organisation of your choice, such as Reach out and Read (a literacy program for school kids).

So, already they’re an awesome company in my books.

And it gets better (for both artists and buyers!). It’s a curated site, so that means the quality is consistently high – if you wish to sell your work through them, you need to apply. And when you submit your work  for their assessment, you can also allow it to be voted on by the public so you can get immediate feedback on whether your item is a viable product! So if you’re feeling a bit shy or hesitant about putting it out there in the big wide world, here’s a very quick and easy solution to your dilemma. Uncommon Goods also have a calendar of Design Challenge competitions and encourage new and existing artists to enter their work for kudos AND a variety of prizes, including money and ongoing royalties It all adds up to helping you improve your own work, by encouraging design excellence throughout the whole site.

I love the clarity of this necklace; it’s reminiscent of mid-C atomic style, and I can’t go past the paired colours of aqua and coral (I found it in the handmade jewelry section here).


lotus on wire necklace - ronni kappos

lotus on wire necklace – ronni kappos


AND there is also a section for personalised items – posters, wall art, bottle labels… and embroidered portraits (found here).


personalised cross stitch family portrait - elizabeth dabczynski

personalised cross stitch family portrait – elizabeth dabczynski


If you’d like to apply to become one of their artist/designers, you can do so here.

I urge you, go ahead and do it!! And good luck!!


Julie X



Disclaimer : This post was written in collaboration with and supported by  But rest absolutely assured I only ever share things  that I believe in, and that I think will be genuinely useful for you.


Surface design : Cathy Helmers

Cathy Helmers always thought of herself as a writer, not an artist.

When she was growing up, her older sister was always considered the artist. “She’s quite talented, even was as a child, and I felt I never measured up to her. As a child I was easily intimidated and comparative and usually judged myself to be lacking.” It is only now in adulthood that Cathy has come to the realisation that her artistic talents are just different; more hidden and mysterious.


chelmers - glow

chelmers – glow


Currently working as a freelance marketing strategist and copywriter in Dayton, OH, her move into art began in 2006 when she and her sister started a business called The Art Garden, which was a space for  artists’ studios, workshops and events. One time they hosted a beaded art doll class, and even though it didn’t interest Cathy, she felt obliged to take it.  “I ended up thoroughly enjoying it, went on to make another beaded art doll, and then another, and another… I decided to start selling the dolls mainly because I didn’t seem to be able to stop making them and I didn’t know what else to do with them. I continued to make beaded art dolls until a couple of years ago, selling them through galleries and occasional art festivals.”


chelmers - leaves

chelmers – leaves


“Along the way, I discovered Zentangle, which is a fun way to create images by drawing structured patterns. It seemed that each time I tangled, I thought the design would make great fabric. So I also began designing and selling fabric through Spoonflower.”

For Cathy, Zentangles rarely have an end idea and just evolve. “In fact, if I have too much of an end goal when I start, I find I fight with it and end up going in a different direction in the end. The creative process is exactly that for me – a process. I find if I just start with something that inspires me (fabric, nature, a piece of lampwork or a stone cabochon), my hands will find the way.”

And unlike the more commonly accepted technique of structured text, this slow evolving of the work is the same way she approaches her writing; “If I simply sit down and start the work, inspiration will come. The process of doing the work is what opens the creative flow for me.”


chelmers - spiced spiral

chelmers – spiced spiral


Quite apart from her designs for Spoonflower, she still spends a good amount of her time working with bead embroidery. Not in any fancy studio though – she told me that often she is “On my couch, in front of the TV.”


chelmers - horns

chelmers – horns


chelmers - bulbs

chelmers – bulbs


Her best advice? “As a young adult, I took a mask-making class. We made plaster masks of our own face and painted them. As we began the painting process, the instructor pointed out that there was no right or wrong, no good or bad to our color choices and how we decided to paint our own face mask. It was an expression of our unique self. I felt that statement at a deep level and it completely changed my relationship to art. I no longer looked at what I created (or what anyone else created) as good or bad, as better or worse– only as an expression.”

You can find more of Cathy’s designs on Spoonflower at chelmers, and find her beadwork on her Facebook page here.