Bloggers by the nature of their work, tend to be insular souls, tapping away on laptops in their homes with only the cat to talk to. So gather a whole gaggle of creative bloggers in a venue in central London and the decibel levels rise.
Blogtacular! Is something I have wanted to attend for a couple of years now. At first I wasn’t sure I could justify the expense, then I was away on holiday, but the third time? I made a decision I was going.There is a Blogtacular Twitter chat every Wednesday night at 9pm GMT. As Twitter chats go, it’s pretty damn awesome:well organised, friendly and actually useful. I always come away from a chat feeling positive and like I belonged, so thought surely the conference would be the same, but on steroids.
I have been to smaller events for creative businesses and artists, but never a blogging event, so in all honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was nervous. I’m not good in large groups of people I don’t know, it reminds me too much of being the new girl in school and no one wanting to talk to me. (I’m even bad at meeting up with people I already know, just in case they don’t really want to be friends with me. You can’t be rejected from something if you don’t ever try to be part of it). But, I put on my big girls pants and rocked up all on my own. And I am so glad I did.
Yes I was scared, but the oddest thing was, that despite never having met a single person before, there were so many faces I recognised from blog posts, Twitter and Instagram profiles. I also saw a nervous expression on the faces of others that I am sure was mirrored on my own.
The weekend started on Friday with the photowalk, which I probably didn’t get as much out of as others, primarily because I am spectacularly awkward when put in front of a camera. My limbs become like just cooked spaghetti and I have no power over my facial expressions. I haven’t changed my personal Facebook profile picture in 6, maybe 7 years for this very reason. But it was a great ice breaker and I would never have taken the time to just wander around Shoreditch and take photos without it. Much to my great happiness, going for a cup of tea after was mentioned, where I found myself far more comfortable. I started chatting to Jennifer of Jennifer Grace Creates and Jodie of Maidenhead Mum we decided to go for food before heading to West Elm for the Craft Party.
Firstly, West Elm is gorgeous. Secondly, Craft Parties with lovely people, wine and nibbles should happen every Friday. I immediately sat down at the Calligraphy table, run by Lucy of Quill London. If you are a dedicated follower of this blog, you may know that calligraphy isn’t one of my strong suits. I can’t say I’m now an expert, but I got some great tips and pointers. I must have been concentrating so hard that I wasn’t aware of the photographer sneaking up and taking a photo.
Having said that I heartily dislike posing for photographs, I got thoroughly distracted (along with Jennifer, Julia of Just Creative Julia and Adele from Nest and Dressed) by the ‘photobooth’ which was actually a gloriously metallic backdrop and a printer that automatically printed out Instagram photos with the #WestElmCraftParty hashtag! Maybe it was the wine.
Realising that we hadn’t even made to the lower floor yet, we finally moved on and went onto the Paper Gem table, run by Mollie Makes! There was so much going on, and I feel like I only scratched the surface- I never got to do Paper Weaving with Fran of Fall For DIY, doodle with Zeena Shah or have my portrait drawn by Ella Masters. Before I knew it the party was over and we had to leave. I really wish the party had gone on longer, it just flew by!
After a not so refreshing nights sleep in my ever so glamorous Travelodge (not the Travelodges fault, I always sleep badly in hotels) it was morning, and after much deliberating of whether to get a bus or walk to the main venue, a stroll through the quiet streets of London on a Saturday morning won out. My route took me past some gorgeous buildings including Smithfields Market and St Barts hospital. I nearly walked in the wrong door to the venue, 200 Aldersgate, but I heard the excited chatter of women coming from the other side of the road. I turned around and recognised a couple of girls from my photowalk amongst the group. I remember thinking to myself, ‘they are my people!’ as I ran across the road after them.
Two of the ladies in this group were Karen of A Rose Cast and Kim of Finest Imaginary. We instantly recognised each other as fellow cat wranglers, and were sharing photos of our cats within minutes. We were treated to a lovely breakfast and I even had chance to visit the drop in ‘Creative Genius Bar’ and chat with Sara Barnes about making the most of my Pinterest account.
The opening keynote by artist Lisa Congdon was the perfect start to the day, and something that will stay with me. She spoke of the emotions involved with creating, the vulnerability this exposes within us and the pressure we place upon ourselves. I think the biggest takeaway for a lot of us came from the quote ‘if it’s not a hell yes, then it’s a no’.
I really wanted to attend A Playful Day’s workshop on creating a community, but I was too late and the room was full. Sad times. But I wandered into Blogging for Business with Kristabel Plummer , more because I was intrigued by listening to a blogger who not only made her living from her blog, but one in such a competitive area as fashion.
Lunch was delicious (the salmon!) and I ended up magically gravitating towards some other craft bloggers, without knowing who they were. Craftyguider, Butterfly Crafts and Tea, Cake and Rocknroll and my new Blogtacular buddy Jennifer. We all decided to seize the moment before the next session and all go talk to Cath Dean, editor of Mollie Makes. Cath is lovely and didn’t seem fazed by the small hoard of craft bloggers appearing en masse, complete with samples, diagrams and photos.
The afternoon sessions kicked of with Sara of Me and Orla in the Phoneography session. Her Instagram feed is a thing of beauty so I was eager for any tips I could glean from her! Practical tips like layering up objects and more the more emotional such as to take images of moments, not just of ‘things’ we more than worth attending.
I will let you into a secret, I was one of those teenagers who wrote pages upon pages of angst ridden poetry. Some of them were actually quite good, but it was the cathartic process of writing that was what drew me. But in recent years, all my writing has been in the form of blog tutorials, and it can be tricky to insert creative writing in between process steps and photos. With this issue in mind, I walked into Laura Jane Williams writing session. She might just be my new girl crush. She had us writing, editing and reading out loud, overcoming the barriers a lot of us tend to put up around our work.
After a break involving some of the best flapjack I’ve ever tasted, it was time for the last session of the day, the closing keynote from Enid Hwang from Pinterest. I didn’t know about Enid before Blogtacular, so I went without any preconceptions. Her description of Pinterest being for collectors particularly resonated with me. It was a reminder that actually, Pinterest is a contemporary version of the scrapbook, a place to collect ideas and gather inspiration.
All that was left to do was get our epic goodie bags and say our goodbyes. My train home wasn’t until later that evening, so I went for dinner with Jennifer Grace Creates. I may have misjudged how long it would take to get from St Pauls to St Pancras and duly missed my train back to Nottingham. Luckily, I was able to hop on the next one and rewarded myself with a cardboard cup of East Midlands Trains finest tea.
I met so many lovely people at Blogtacular. People who like me, have been sat behind their blogs for too long. Getting together with so many other creative bloggers was a wonderful experience, where I learnt I’m not alone in my fears or dreams.
And that is the story of when Make and Fable went to Blogtacular.
*** Special thanks to Kat and Kelly who organised the fantastic event, I’m pretty sure they should be running the country, and to Mollie Makes who are allowing us to use their photos!***