Find Your Focus

Neutral textile background with the words Find Your Focus Online Course with Ruth Singer 3-31 January 2023

The world is pretty distracting at the moment isn’t it? Creative practice is pretty distracting too. Confusing as well. It’s all too common to find ourselves wading through too many ideas and not knowing which to concentrate on, or struggling to know what ideas are worth pursuing. Running a business and keeping moving forwards with creative practice is even more complicated. There are so many potential projects, ideas, collaborators, ways of marketing, types of selling, different products and oooh that new shiny thing over there that is tempting us away from the stuff we’ve already started.

Do you struggle to find the right focus for your creative energy? Keep trying different things in the hope that this is the ‘right’ one? Want to do all the things and not concentrate on just one at a time? I really do understand. My early years in creative practice were pretty messy. I wanted to do everything even though I didn’t remotely have the time. I wanted to experiment and try new things but I also wanted, desperately, to be proficient and skilled and really expert in one thing. It’s all a bit much.

What I’ve learned in the 17 years I’ve been doing this is that focus is absolutely vital in making a success of a creative practice or business. You can’t do everything. And the thing(s) you focus on have to be the things that are most important to you, not what someone else told you should do.

That’s really what Find Your Focus is all about, honing in on the things that really matter, the stuff you love and want to put all your energy into, not what distracts you and that you think you ought to be doing instead.

Work at your own pace with this online course

I’ve created Find Your Focus from my Gentle Goal Setting course, workbook and live workshops over the last couple of years. After working with lots of people and doing the gentle goal setting process myself three times, I have refined and expanded it into a wider course looking at identifying your focus points or guiding lights for the year to come.

Over five weeks of online video courses, plus two workbooks, we will look at your creative core values, review the year in a realistic and gentle way, dig into what matters to you most, why you do what you do and how to single out those areas of focus that will be taking you forwards into the new year.

You’ll work at your own pace through the video lessons and workbooks but with accountability and reminders through the weekly course emails. There are two workbooks to download and keep too which you can refer back to whenever you start to lose your way. They include printable sheets of your key focus points and help you break down each focus into achievable goals and action steps.

I honestly find this process so valuable and have loved sharing it with many of you over the last few years. I hope this version of Gentle Goal Setting – now Find Your Focus will help many more in being gentle with ourselves and our plans while also achieving the things that really matter.

Find Your Focus starts on 3rd January with a pre-recorded video lesson and four more each week until 31st January. You can join any time.

If you find you want more support there will be a discount code for subscribers of the course to book 3 or 6 sessions of 1:1 mentoring with me.

Artist Mentoring

If you are feeling a bit at sea with your creative practice, I’m here to help. I’ve created my mentoring programmes after years of working with and supporting artists and really understanding the challenges of creative life. I’m on your side to help you figure out the meanings and the reasons behind your creative practice and how to move forwards. Find out more here.

If you are looking for a creative community with ongoing support and resources to challenge your thinking and take your creative practice further, have a look at my Maker Membership. It’s a monthly rolling membership that you can join any time. I create workbooks, blog posts and videos about all kinds of things including research, creative development and reflection. There’s also a lively community who share their work and their thoughts via the members chat and we meet monthly on Zoom for a group mentoring session which is always really inspiring and encouraging. Find out more here. It’s £25 per month to join with no minimum term. Find out more here or click the button below to join.

Working for free

Artists and freelancers regularly get asked to do unpaid work for organisations and institutions. In this blog post I discuss one of the common scenarios, share some thoughts on how things need to change and suggest some actions you can take.

Photo by kevser on Pexels.com

Should I say yes to unpaid work?

This is a perennial complex problem for those of us working in the arts and one I regularly want to moan about. So instead I’m giving it some thought and offering some alternatives to approaching this thorny question. Opportunities to give away your artwork, time, expertise, knowledge, potential earnings and wellbeing are bountiful. The creative world is full of ways for you to not earn any money. Finding ways to do the opposite and make an income is one of the greatest challenges of creative practice.

There are some things in the sector that pop up again and again which involve working for free and I have been thinking a lot about about how to make these decisions for yourself and how to try and make changes in the sector so this happens less.

There is no one simple answer to whether or not you choose to work for free as it all depends on:

  • where you are in your career
  • what you are being asked to do for free
  • your own financial situation
  • the financial situation of the organisation offering the thing
  • what else you might get out if it

The main thing to remember and to focus on is exposure does not pay the bills. Artists cannot live on goodwill. Those of us that have to make a living cannot keep being undercut by those who can afford to work for free. What ends up happening is those who need to earn a living say yes to unpaid things because it’s presented as ‘good for their career’ and they don’t have the confidence or leaderships skills to say no and why.

Choosing to work for free is a different thing – writing a speculative application, a proposal, responding to an open brief, donating work for a charity etc is a matter of choice. The problem really is when artists are asked to do work which really should be paid, such as running events, providing design or creative work or giving up their time & expertise to help a funded organisation do their job. It’s the latter I am focussing on here.

Over the 17 years I have been self employed, I have done plenty of unpaid work and I still chose to do some now, but only if I don’t feel exploited by the organisation and when it is otherwise beneficial for me. I choose not to work for free when it is mainly beneficial to an organisation with paid staff.

I do consultancy work for organisations on artist support and development activities as well as offering mentoring, training and business support to artists and creative businesses in partnership with organisations. Please get in touch if this is something your organisation would like to develop.

In the last few months I have been asked to be on a selection or jury panel for open exhibitions, both run by organisations with local authority funding support and salaried staff. With exquisite irony, this is exactly the thing I have been writing a report about for Artquest – for which I have been paid a professional consultancy fee. The report I’ve written is about artist Open Calls and making them more equitable and fair for artists. There’s a lot in this project about unpaid labour for artists, about paying fairly, about appreciating the value that artists and freelancers bring to an organisation, and paying them fairly for their work, including those on selection panels. So in both these cases, I have declined to do the work. In the first case I asked about fee as it was not mentioned and then declined in a vague way citing busy on the day. But more recently I’ve tackled the issue headlong and said why I can’t do the work for free, that I understand their budget restrictions etc and why it is important to value artists time.

My own work in my Narrative Threads solo exhibition 2015

In both cases I’ve felt vulnerable doing this and sad not to do the work – it’s something I would really enjoy doing, but I have to practice what I preach and not take on unpaid work in order to (hopefully) further my professional relationships with the organisations involved. That’s the issue I’m weighing in the balance every time I consider some unpaid work –

Will there be other benefits to me in doing this?

What is the non-financial value to me in this transaction?

Is there a value to me in this transaction at all or is all the value benefitting the organisation?

Why should I give up several hours of my potential income-generating time in order to benefit their open call exhibition? They are not charities. The people asking me have salaried jobs. Would they do it for free?

1292 Foodbank Visits in 18 Weeks, Ruth Singer, 2020. Hand stitch on cotton.

Its really important to remember that it’s not the fault of the person doing the asking, it’s the fault of the structures they work within who expect freelancers and artists to work for free. There is a pervasive culture of creatives working for free, an established, but unspoken rule that artists will do stuff for free because we need to further our careers and being helpful to organisations who are the gatekeepers of exhibitions and other forms of paid work is seen as necessary.

As a result of this culture of unpaid labour, it falls to me, as the unpaid artist, to explain to them, to pass on to their managers and budget-holders why they shouldn’t ask artists to work for free. If you value my professional expertise in this project, I deserve a professional fee.

I freely admit I didn’t know or think about this properly when I was employed by an organisation. I employed artists but I did expect them to travel across London and come to an unpaid meeting to discuss the 2 days of paid work. That’s not fair. I know that now and I point it out to organisations as often as I can, where they haven’t already addressed it (some have).

In conclusion, the most impactful thing we can all be doing about this is talking about it rather than hiding our frustrations and disappointments and letting bad practice continue unchallenged. We can sign up to campaigns like the brilliant Paying Artists. We can also make conscious choices about what we do for free, rather than just accepting it as the way things are. If you feel able to share, I would love to hear your thoughts about when you are asked to work for free and how you responded.

If you are struggling with this issue, I suggest starting with this: record all the unpaid work you do in a project or in the development stages of a project with an organisation. You may not do anything with this but it is so useful to have some data. If you feel able, you could share it with the organisation and just say “This is the amount of [additional] work I did unpaid in this project, if I was charging, this would be £££ value.” Making our unpaid work visible is a great first step in opening up the conversation.

This is the first in a series of blog posts tackling money issues around artist and freelance practice. I’ll be sharing more soon as this stuff is really important for us to talk about and for organisations to be aware of, and ideally, act upon. Please share this post or my social posts to try and get the message across. It would be great if you wanted to write your own post addressing some of the issues and how you approach working for free / getting paid for your professional expertise. I would also love to hear from organisations about what you are doing on this issue! You can get in touch with me here.


Email inboxes can be full of all kinds of tedious and boring things. Work. Bills. Adverts for things you don’t want. I’d like to brighten your inbox with a couple of emails a month full of inspiration, ideas and ways to see and share what I’m doing. 

Joining my Studio Stories email list is the best way to keep in touch with what I’m doing, more blog posts about creative business and about my work and projects. I’ll share courses and workshops too as well as behind the scenes studio stuff.

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If you would like some support in development your work, sorting out your fees and deciding what to concentrate on, I’d be happy to help. I offer 1:1 mentoring for artists exploring their practice, as well as my Find Your Focus course running in January. Find Your Focus covers core values, a realistic review of your year, looking at what matters most and then working on how to build in more of the good stuff and less of the stuff that’s not taking you forwards. The course is delivered through 5 video lessons starting on 3rd January, fresh and ready for the new year.


Artist Mentoring

If you are feeling a bit at sea with your creative practice, I’m here to help. I’ve created my mentoring programmes after years of working with and supporting artists and really understanding the challenges of creative life. I’m on your side to help you figure out the meanings and the reasons behind your creative practice and how to move forwards. Find out more here.

My Creative Retreat

What I learned from taking a week out to just be an artist again

It makes me laugh when I get comments saying how nice it must be just to stitch all day in my lovely studio. I think it would be nice too, but that isn’t quite the reality of making a living from my creative practice. I spend 90% of my working hours online and sometimes it feels like 90% of my entire life in front of the computer! Time spent actually making stuff with my hands is only a small part of what I do. But I’m not saying that to make you feel sorry for me. I chose this working life and on the whole it suits me. I love the work I do on the computer from 1:1 mentoring to writing resources for my Maker Membership to recording the Making Meaning podcast to writing blog posts like this. It’s all creative practice and it’s all stuff I love but I also love the artist studio bit too. It’s all too easy for that to get squeezed out by the challenges of making a living, delivering projects and running a complex multi-stranded business pretty much singlehandedly.

Moving house last year and settling into my new studio has proved to be an excellent decision. The new space is inspiring and I have access to country walks within minutes of my home which really helps me with thinking and reflecting on my creative work. I haven’t however, got into a good routine of using this space for making / studio work on a regular basis. I have only just over the last 6 months or so got back into making new work after lockdowns which sapped pretty much all of my creativity.

I’m winding up a lot of projects at the moment and looking forward to the autumn and winter of getting back to some things of my own that have been on pause for far too long – a book I planned in 2018 for a start – and finishing off several pieces and groups of work that have been waiting for me. To kickstart this I took myself on an artists retreat in early September and I’m going to share a bit more about that and why it worked so well for me.

A few years ago I started taking a few days in autumn or winter to reflect, focus on my practice and basically get away from the computer for few days. It seems like a real indulgence, spending money to go somewhere else to do what I could be doing in my own studio. And yes it is, in some ways, but also it is an acknowledgement that my artist practice doesn’t get the attention it deserves in an average week. Also I tell myself, I have a home studio so I am not paying rent for it every month, so I can save it up and go away for a few days of space to think and work.

Drawing and printing materials, plus cups of tea set out on a table, one pair f hands with sketchbook
Gillian’s printing and drawing set up outside

This time I invited my long-time friend and collaborator Gillian McFarland to join me. We used to share a studio in Leicester but she now lives back in Scotland so we met in the middle, near Barnard Castle. We also co-mentor each other so have really got to explore our practice together in the last few months so this was a perfect time to reflect and get moving with some new things.

Collection of found objects and natural materials including acorns and old broken pottery, feathers and twigs
Our nature table and found items

We walked and talked, gathered and drew. We did some printing and some natural dyeing and lots of reflecting on our own practices and where we were going. There was lots of reading and sharing ideas, and listening and suggesting.

I made a start on some ideas that have been brewing for years, stitched paths on fragments of cloth and printed paths on lino.

Long narrow textile with fine pink stitched line along the length, displayed on a rugged stone wall
Stitched paths in thread
Black and white artist prints laid on a table. Prints are wiggly lines travelling across the print plate.
Experimental prints

I also visited a lot of medieval sites, churches, abbeys, castles – returning to my roots as a medievalist! This has been a powerful reminder of just how much I want to revisit with the eyes of an artist rather than an academic history student.

I did two research visits to museum collections as well, looking at corded quilting which was absolute heaven! And spent some time just browsing for fun at the Bowes Museum. Museum browsing is probably my top choice for inspiration and idea-nurturing.

Broken roman and medieval pottery display from the Bowes Museum
Broken roman and medieval pottery display from the Bowes Museum

So what have I learned from this trip?

  • Creativity needs space to thrive. I can find that space at home in a normal busy week but allowing myself the space to expand into a bigger creative space was really useful
  • Time to think and reflect is fundamental.
  • Talking to someone about your practice helps you figure things out yourself
  • There’s always a lot of unknown with creative practice. You have to learn to be comfortable with not knowing if what you do will be good or useful or what you intended.
  • Experimenting and releasing some of the self-imposed restrictions on what you do can be joyful as well as scary
  • And I learned that the ideas that are bubbling away under the surface need to rise up and get the attention they deserve, whether or not they turn out to be good.

So that’s what I’m doing over the next few months. Allowing my creative practice some space. Pausing and ending some projects to allow the capacity for some others – my podcast is pausing over the autumn and will restart some time in the new year and my community projects are all coming to an end. I’m going to try spending one day a week properly focussing in my studio and not turning the computer on at all. I am going to take drawing and writing out on my walks and do a lot more visiting inspiring places and just see what happens.

Cloth scraps and threads in beige and purple dyed with natural dyes
Cloth scraps and threads dyed with foraged natural dyes during the week

If you would like some support and nurturing of your creative practice, wherever you are in your career, I would love to help. I really do love mentoring, being trusted to travel alongside a creative journey and help you figure things out. I would love to grow this side of my work and help more people so I have created some new mentoring package – 3 or 6 months of 1:1 support via monthly Zoom calls. You can find out more here. If 1:1 isn’t right for you at this time, you might like to look at my Maker Membership which is by far the most affordable way to work with me and get feedback on your creative practice, as well as be part of a supportive community. And finally, my Find Your Focus course runs in January – this is a development from my Gentle Goal Setting workshops / workbook which involves reflection, finding your own criteria for success and creating guiding light principles and activities which will take you forwards. Find out more here.

Artist Mentoring

Support and guidance with your creative practice with experienced artist & mentor Ruth Singer

My 1:1 mentoring sessions are back! I took a break in August and September to get a few other things finished and to have time to figure out what I wanted to do with my mentoring practice.

I’ve been mentoring since at least 2014 (according to my oldest testimonial!) but I am sure I was doing it more informally before then too. And I really do love it! It’s so energising to feel like you are making a difference to someone’s creative practice and to see the change and growth in your clients.

The two episodes of this series of Making Meaning Podcast are with two of my recent mentees and both talk about how useful and nurturing it is to have support in your creative practice. Mandeep’s podcast episode is here and there will be a new one out 29th September with guest Gillian Lee Smith reflecting on mentoring.

Here’s what Mandeep said on Instagram

“Today involved a moment of reflection within my practice – looking back, looking at my present stance, and looking ahead. 

It’s been a few months now that I’ve been working with artist and mentor @ruthsingertextiles to help articulate my creative thoughts, and today’s session was as fruitful as always. I’ve come to think of each session together as a series of layers gently building towards the bigger picture. 

The biggest and most important factor in choosing to work with Ruth is her holistic approach – having the capacity to engage, listen, provide space and show a genuine interest in bringing out the potential of my professional practice in line with my own holistic way of working, through inner and outer care. I’m felt understood in my visual language; the exchange of conversation never fails to inspire or encourage my wider ambitions.

This isn’t a push to gather more clients for Ruth nor is it a paid partnership; more an open sharing of thoughts, of how the idea of togetherness contributes to raising one another, of how what we can learn from one another organically weaves into our individual practices. 

This linocut was a print I began last year which went miserably wrong, yet taught me a lot about technique and about myself. But most of all it invited conversation of all kinds to take place with printmakers and non-printmakers, influencing the developmental direction of my practice. It was an eye-opener, much like mentoring is – expansive; your hand held, with soft focussed guidance in finding your footing in your practice, and individual seat in the big art world.”

I’ve realised over the last couple of years of online mentoring that figuring out your creative practice isn’t something that can be achieved in one session! I now offer 3 or 6 session packages which give the mentee time and space to figure things out and move forward.

Find out more about mentoring here. If what you are looking for is community and a lighter touch of support then you might find my Maker Membership is the right space for you. I share loads of resources in the online space and we meet monthly on Zoom for group chats where you can ask for advice or feedback on your work. You can find out a bit of what it’s like by listening to Maker Membership episode of the podcast here.

What kind of things do you struggle with in your creative practice? What kind of support or help might take you forward into doing your best creative work? I’d love to hear from you, you can comment here or on my Instagram page.

Goal setting when projects are over

I’m in a curious space at the moment. I have been working on project with external deadlines (like my Community Spirit and Criminal Quilts projects) for years, and finally, by the end of October, all of them come to an end. I had applied to do another big project this winter but that didn’t happen, so here I am contemplating the autumn and winter with no ongoing things with external partners. I still have my ‘own’ projects like my Maker Membership which will keep me busy and inspired, but I won’t be working with anyone else, project-managing, delivering workshops, designing print or moving exhibitions around. It’s both WONDERFUL to have a break and quite disconcerting to have the space.

I’ve been on this project-to-project rollercoaster for so many years I can’t even think about adding them up. There was a bit of a pause at the start of the pandemic when my exhibitions got cancelled and I stopped doing anything external, but I soon got stuck into Textiles in Lockdown and then other projects happened and have continued, until now.

I usually do my planning and goal setting in January but there’s no point in waiting, so here I am heading into autumn, the new academic year, thinking about my annual reflection and figuring out what I want to be doing at least for the next 6-12 months.

I’m starting this process with a week-long artist retreat with the wonderful Gillian McFarland so I can really think about my creative goals for the next while, separate from my more business-focussed plans. Because of the way I work, I find it easier to separate the two, although my long-term intention is to bring the two more closely together.

During this break I will be working on my own Gentle Goal Setting workbook, really digging into what matters to me, why I do the work I do, what my goals, hopes & dreams are and how I can be working towards them, steadily but crucially – gently – over the next year or so.

My Gentle Goal Setting process is designed to be responsive to your needs, energy, creativity and working life. I believe that goals should be more like guiding lights, directions to follow not a time-restricted set of things you must do or you have failed. I create goals which take me towards they kind of life I want to live, not goals that make me feel pressured, exhausted and risk falling behind before I’ve really got started. The self-study workbook is available here for £20

Over the next few weeks I’ll share some of my goals that I’ve been working on this year and how I’ve made progress. You can also, if you wish, look at my 2021 goals in two blog posts here and here.


If you are looking for a creative community with ongoing support and resources to challenge your thinking and take your creative practice further, have a look at my Maker Membership. It’s a monthly rolling membership that you can join any time. I create workbooks, blog posts and videos about all kinds of things including research, creative development and reflection. There’s also a lively community who share their work and their thoughts via the members chat and we meet monthly on Zoom for a group mentoring session which is always really inspiring and encouraging. Find out more here. It’s £25 per month to join with no minimum term. Find out more here or click the button below to join.

Mentoring for artists and creative businesses

Book now for current mentoring prices before I have a rest from 1:1 and prepare a new support programme

I currently offer 1:1 mentoring and business support to artists, makers and anyone running or starting a creative business. Over the last 10 years or so this element of my work has grown and even more so during the pandemic when I was able to mentor via Zoom and work with people around the country. I absolutely love doing this work – talking to people about their creative practice is great, helping them find a way through the many challenges of creative practice is a privilege and a joy. But it’s still work, it’s work that requires me to be highly experienced and knowledgeable about the whole creative sector, to be reflective and open to learning all the time, to listen well and be perceptive, to be a good communicator and to be a supportive, welcoming and safe person to talk to. So although this work is joyful for me, it is tiring and requires a lot of input and thinking outside of the hours I spend talking to people. I need a break.

I’m winding down my current mentoring offer which starts with a single session at £60 so I can have a rest in August and then I’m going to relaunch a new programme of 1:1 support options in September. I’ll continue to take mentoring bookings until the end of June 2022 (or until I’m booked up) then that’s it until September, when I’ll release limited slots for 1:1 support and the price will go up.

The new programme will focus around longer-term mentoring about creative practice and have alongside this a more defined business support offer for people who need a more practical, skills and knowledge based input from me.

I’ll also be releasing a lot more of my workbooks and self-led development toolkits for your own reflection and development as well as some online short courses and ebooks. I’ve got loads of ideas but I need the time to properly plan and develop them. I already make my Gentle Goal Setting course available as a download workbook which you can use alone or alongside a 1:1 session.

So if you have been thinking about mentoring or business support from me, now is your time to book! I will keep the bookings open until 30th June (or until I’m booked up) but all sessions (regardless of how many you pre-pay for) will need to take place before 10th August to be within the old pricing structure. Just drop me a line if you want to find out more and check availability using the form at the end of the mentoring page. If you have already talked to me first and are ready to book a session or several, you can find the payment page here.

Gentle Goal Setting

The workbook for my Gentle Goal Setting process is now available for self study download.

I believe goals should be like guiding lights, reminding you what you want to do and how you want to be during the year. Gentle Goal Setting self-study workbook is 20 pages full of supportive thinking exercises to help you set meaningful goals. We look at reviewing the year, working out your own criteria for success and creating achievable, realistic and inspiring goals and keeping going with them through the year.

You can read more about my goal setting process in my blog here and here. The workbook download is £20. If you want more support you can add on an hour 1:1 online mentoring with a £10 discount too. Find that here.

You can find all my courses, membership and development programmes on my Podia teaching site here.

Monthly Reflections

One of the most useful habits I have developed over the last couple of years is to review my work & life every month. It’s such a simple thing to do at the end of each month but for me it has really helped me focus on what is and isn’t working in my business (and life) and has empowered me to make the changes I need to. It’s a little like having a mentor or coach to check in with every so often. It reminds me to think about what I’m doing and why I am doing it, rather than just getting on with the things I have always done or the things I feel I ought to do. I’ve used other people’s monthly review documents and found them really helpful in asking some difficult questions, and above all, giving myself a little bit of time to think and reflect before just ploughing on with the endless to-do list. Late last year I decided to create my own reflection sheet with questions that were specific to me and the way I work & live – so there’s a question about health and balance which I can so easily forget about until I’m ill and it’s too late.

This kind of reflection and writing about how things are going is fundamental to a lot of the mentoring, membership and courses that I run including Gentle Goal Setting which starts on Monday 10th January. I find it an incredibly powerful tool in my own growth and in supporting others to find their way and I want you to be able to use this to help your business or creative practice grow this month too so there’s a link to download the file for free below.

This is just a taster of what my Gentle Goal Setting workshop covers. The workbook for the course includes a thorough but empathetic review of what has been going on for you over the last year. There’s no judgement and no right and wrong, just reflection on what you have learned about yourself through what did and didn’t happen. From that review I encourage you to look at what success really means for you, not what society or your own self-criticism expects. We consider what is really important to you in making you feel good and how to make those things part of your goals. The goals we then create are more like guiding lights, principles of how you want to be, live, work and create, not hard, target-based things that you must push yourself towards, no matter what. There’s no setting yourself up to fail here, just creating gentle goals that empower you to feel expansive and excited about what you do, whether that’s a creative business or an art practice that’s just for yourself.

When you download the Monthly Reflection, you will get a discount code for the Gentle Goal Setting workshop and for mentoring too. Find out more about Gentle Goal Setting too here.

Launching and Letting Go, my review of 2021.  

I talked a little in my last full podcast episode about what I’d done over the last year and my plans for the future. I said in the podcast that I didn’t want to be one of those people listing all their successes…. there’s being inspiring and there’s being annoying. I prefer the former! I’m not sure anyone (other than my parents) would want to read a list of my achievements in 2021. But then I am not sure that a list of failures and things I didn’t get round to is any help either. Believe me, there are plenty of highs and lows over the year of running my creative business and getting on with my life. 

Last winter I created my own review process to close the year and a structure for creating doable goals for the new year, called Gentle Goal Setting. I’m running this again in January in a new format with a live session exploring why you do what you do and how to apply these values in your gentle goals. That’s alongside my workbook which I’ve revised following feedback from last year and some ongoing support for people who take part throughout January. 

For this year’s review, I thought I would reflect on the gentle goals I set for myself this time last year and see how those goals have helped me. This doesn’t involve any targets or tick lists, it’s just a reflection on how those gentle and inspiring goals worked for me. You can read about last year’s goals below.

My 2021 review to goals

Develop and nurture connections with others

I’ve probably done less of this than I might other have done because of moving, so even in less horrendous pandemic phases I’ve not seen many in person. But I’ve made new friends this year and nurtured professional relationships and networks but also let some fall by the wayside. The work-specific element of this goal group was to create programmes to support other creatives and for that I’m going to give myself a big tick. The thing I planned when I wrote that goal hasn’t actually come to fruition yet but instead I created Maker Membership and it’s been an absolute joy. Things I have established and created myself have definitely worked better for me, rather than trying to adapt and modernise an existing group to which I eventually admitted defeat a few months ago. Management doesn’t work for me. Creating communities really does. So that’s something to remember for my 2022 goals. 

To work with coaches and mentors myself

I recognised last year that I was giving a lot to support others and not filling my own well sufficiently so this year I have made that a priority and invested time and money into supporting my own development. I have tried a membership group, several courses and one-off sessions and a 6 month coaching programme with Sarah Fox, as well as a peer-support group with two other artist-coach/mentors. I’ve got a much clearer idea now of what I need to nourish myself so I can better support others and myself!

To nurture my own creativity and set aside time for studio practice

I set a goal to work on my own stuff. It’s pretty obvious isn’t it? But I haven’t done this anything like as much as I wanted to. Instead I’ve poured my creativity into other projects and made some wonderful things happen. They just aren’t textiles. Or my new book, which was also on my goals list and hasn’t progressed at all this year. Looking back at these goals, if I had given myself the goal of creating new things that I am passionate and excited about (whatever the output) then I would have achieved this goal too. So for next year my goal will be more broad about being creative and doing things that I feel passionate about at the time, not just what I wanted to do in January!

Write more funding applications 

This is a good demonstration of my gentle goals principle. It’s specific but not target-focussed. I didn’t set myself a goal of getting XX amount of funding or even applying to a set number of funds. I just wanted to do some. I’d lost my momentum and wanted to find a way back into it. What helped in the end was collaboration. I worked with a group of other artists to do a funding application. And then another, which has also been rejected too. But I’m going to try again in the new year and hopefully we will succeed. I’ve also been persistent with others and have finally got some progress. The goal was just to try and that has paid off in the end. 

Decluttering my house

This goal I absolutely succeeded with! At the start of the year I was giving myself a couple of years to move but by February things had changed a bit and I decided to try and move as soon as possible. In the end I sold my house in April and finally moved in August, with a lot less stuff than I’d had in January (although you wouldn’t believe it looking at this photo of my stuffed studio!).

My new studio, part unpacked!

Build rest and retreat into my life

On a small scale, I haven’t really managed this. Moving house is far from restful and I’ve had a couple of 3-day holidays in the autumn as my only time off. I’ve not had a creative retreat as I’d hoped either, which is why I’ve not got very far with the goals around making / creating new work. Having said that, moving house, once done, is massively achieving this goal as my home situation is much more conducive to rest. I’m enormously lucky and grateful to have been able to move to a nicer house. Overall I’ve not been too bad at resting, other than in the moving house period. I’ve been better health wise this year than some years so I think I’m doing ok. There’s always room for improvement here and I maybe need to get more specific here for myself.

And finally I set myself a goal of doing more PR and marketing to build my profile and sell more of my work. Again I’ve not done what I thought I wanted to do with this – press releases to magazines, online shop growth and product sales, new product ranges and all kinds of things that I can’t even remember now. If I’d written the goal more gently and less specific, I would have achieved this without a doubt. The podcast has been an amazing profile-builder and connection with audiences. The other work I’ve done has all connected me with others. I haven’t sold much textile because I haven’t tried. But I have sold my other work, my memberships and courses and books and mentoring. And that’s a wonderful thing. 

The pandemic changed my priorities in work and life and continues to change how I want to work and live in the near and distant future. My goals haven’t been a stick to beat myself into working harder, they have been a guiding light for how I want to live my life and run my business.  By reviewing my goals I can see how much my thinking has moved on in the last year and how I can be more gentle with my goals this time around and adapt to the changes life keeps throwing at us. 

Next year’s goals are going to be even more holistic, reflecting the reality that work and life are not two separate states of being, especially as an artist. But I’m not choosing my goals just yet, I’m letting this review and reflection sink in. I’m spending time using my own reflection prompts from Gentle Goal Setting workbook and waiting to see what I really want for 2022. 

Once that’s settled and feeling good, I can then look at the building blocks of making my goals a reality – the planning, the structure. My goals will help me evaluate projects and ideas to see if they really fit in with my wider ambitions and the way of working that suits me and my life. And then I can happily plan, schedule and make lists in my new notebooks, diaries, journals and Trello boards and fulfil all my planning nerd dreams. 

If you would like to work with me on finding your gentle goals by reviewing your year, your needs and creating your own criteria for success, join me in Gentle Goal Setting in January. Find out more here or book now below if you are ready.

I’m running two live sessions: Monday 10th January 5pm-7pm GMT

Monday 17th January 12-2pm GMT

These live Zoom sessions will focus on your creative values and introduce the review and goal setting workbook. 

All participants will also have access to 1:1 support via email or message chat at set times throughout January. 

Gentle Goal Setting Course for creatives

Reviewing the year and gentle planning for creative practice in 2022

It’s hard to see the wood for the trees at the moment. It’s hard to focus on keeping your creative practice thriving when the world is chaos. The last couple of years have been really rough for small businesses and creatives. I truly believe that it’s much easier when you can by find and focus on what matters to you and create goals that are gentle, manageable and nurturing to your creative spirit, whether you run a business or not.

Last year I shared my ways of gently reviewing the past year and making plans for this year. You can read my posts about my own goal setting here and here. I’m doing this again for 2022 and invite you to give yourself the space and time to reflect and plan with gentleness too.

My approach is built around self-compassion and taking your energy into account, not just focussing on finances and big leaps. Tiny steps are enough.

This winter’s Gentle Goal Setting comprises a self-study workbook full of supportive thinking exercises about celebrating your achievements (however small they may seem), looking at your values and what is most important to you. Through working through my exercises, you will be able to create create realistic and meaningful goals for the new year. It’s suitable for for artists / makers / writers / creative businesses / freelancers (and anyone aspiring to be one of those in 2022) who want to take a reflective look back over what you have learned and how you can grow and develop in a gentle and mindful way.

This is Kate’s feedback from last year’s Gentle Goal Setting

I have worked for myself for over twenty years and have been stuck in the trap of setting myself ridiculous goals, having unrealistic expectations of what I can achieve  “when I set my mind to it” and being hard on myself when I don’t tick everything off my list or have unproductive days. Working with Ruth on the Gentle Goals Setting course has really helped me to look at what I’m doing from the point of view of an observer, accept and celebrate how much I actually achieve and realise that setting more realistic goals and factoring in time for longer breaks, more time off and room for days when I just don’t feel like working has actually made me more productive and happier. I now have the workbook and tools to help me re-assess in the future when I am feeling unbalanced and make changes that will nurture me as a creative person and feel happier and healthier with space for things other than work. I can highly recommend it.

Kate Unwin, The Moon and The Furrow, 2021 Gentle Goals Participant

I’m revising Gentle Goal Setting for this year, with new exercises and adaptations following feedback from last years participants. Firstly I am running this in January instead of December so you can get this year out of the way first! The workbook is now suitable for anyone who wants to set goals for their creative practice / business and / or life, not just those running a business. There’s a live session at 5pm GMT Monday 10th January for two hours and a repeat on Monday 17th January at 12pm. These sessions will be recorded so you can catch up afterwards. There will also be a community chat space for you to share with other participants about your own gentle goals work.

The course is open for the whole of January too if you prefer self-study without taking part in the live session. If there’s interest from participants, we will also book in a follow up later in the year to see how we are all getting on with our own goals.

I’m also adding in ongoing 1:1 email support from me during set hours throughout January.

I will guide you through my review process in a live online workshop, then give you a workbook for quiet, slow reflection on your own creative journey. This will take you from reviewing the year to working out some goals about how you want to feel about your business / practice.