A Cup Of Creative With Toni from Lemon Freckles

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Hello everyone! How are you? Today I am really really excited to share my very first 'A Cup of Creative with...' interview! And it's a good'un! I chatted with Toni over emails about community, going back into education and the mental health benefits and possibilities of creative pursuits. Many of you probably know of Toni from Lemon Freckles, where she sells her super cute designs and blogs about everything from her work to her personal life. Toni really comes across as a positive force in life, and is somebody who has not only embraced her creativity but is really comfortable with it. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed chatting with Toni!

Hi Toni! Thank you so much for chatting with me! So the first thing I'm asking everyone is a pretty open question... Can you tell me what creativity means to you?

Gosh. I guess for me creativity means freedom. Freedom to express myself, freedom to do a job a love, freedom to make my own path in life. I think creativity is a huge word and is probably something that is thought of differently for every individual.

You're an illustrator and run an online shop among other things! I know you've fairly recently graduated in the last year or so, so was illustration something you’ve always been interested in and always done? Or was it something fairly new? 

I actually graduated some years ago, I did my degree in Mental Health around 2005 and worked within that sector for about 10 years. However, after being made redundant from a job, I thought it was a good time to reevaluate my life and took a year out to do a course at a college in design, photography and video, while working within a GP surgery.

I’ve always had an interest in illustration and design, I draw for relaxation in my spare time, always have. When I was thinking about a career change, I knew my heart was set on moving over to the creative industry but I wasn’t sure what I actually wanted to do. Then one day I had a a epiphany and realised I didn’t have to be in a box, I didn’t have to be just one thing, I could be lots of things, I could do lots of things.

I had no idea you worked in mental health before. Do you ever think of combining your two careers? Here in Lancashire we used to have a service called Arts on Prescription that helped isolated, lonely or people with mental health issues gain confidence in expressing themselves through creativity.

I may possibly combine the two one day but I don’t think I would ever go back to working in mental health full-time or in a similar role. I think if I ever did go back to working in mental health, even on a art based level, it would be only as a volunteer. It was an intense 10 years, I learnt a lot about myself and people, I wouldn’t change them but I don’t think people are aware of how much pressure a mental health worker has to go thru, although it is possibly one of the most rewarding jobs you can have. 

Why did you go to university? Did you feel it was important to get some sort of formal qualification, or was it more for your personal development?

I think I went to university because it seemed like a natural path to take. When I was 18, I had no idea what I wanted my life to look like, I don’t really know many people who do at 18. So university seemed like the right place to go and try to move forward. I’m really glad I had that experience, I learnt a lot, I had so much fun but if I could go back, I probably wouldn’t do it again. I think we get focused on achievement sometimes in our lives, university seems to be one of those things that need to be ticked off a list. But now in my 30s, I think I only know two people who are in a job that actually requires / uses their degree. 

I couldn’t agree more with what you said about going to uni. It really is not a golden ticket to a career but it can teach you so much about yourself. Could you tell me a little bit more about how going to college, after already having a career, to study something more creative has helped you with your confidence/starting your creative business? Do you think you'd be where you are now without that course? Or did the course enable you confidence wise?

It was a really basic course I did at college, that introduced you to a wide range of subjects. I both loved and hated it if i’m honest. I’m super happy I did it, for me it was for sure more about confidence. I actually started the course, thinking I would choose to go to university again from there but after a few months, I realised it was something I didn’t have to do. Thank goodness. 

You also run a number of workshops, for instagram and things, tell me a little bit more about that?

It’s something pretty new. I run them with Debbie, who runs Moonko in Sheffield and is genuinely one of the kindest, compassionate and most inspiring of people a person can meet. Not that she realises that. We just had coffee one day and talked about our love for people, our love for seeing others grow and how we wanted to be encouragers. It all fell into place from there. 

We run really small groups, no more then 10 people and we just get together, get to know each other, introduce them to everyone else in the community and go on our journey’s together. The workshops became more then I was expecting, they kind of took on a life of their own and a community of incredibly kind, creative, beautiful individuals was born. I feel just the most privileged to be able to be a part of it.

You seem pretty well embeded in the creative community in sheffield. How important do you think it is that creatives who are trying to run an online business, have that community?

So important. The most important. Honestly, community is everything and it is in everything you do. Who wants to walk alone, when you can skip with friends? I’m really lucky to live in Sheffield, it is such a creative, kind place. I feel like I meet a new friend every time I leave the house and that is just magical.

Community will not just get you where you need to go but it will also make the journey the most fun you can possibly have. If you don’t surround yourself with a community of likeminded individuals, who can celebrate in your successes, without a hint of competitiveness, then what is the point of friendship? Everyone is equal, don’t ever forget that.

I really feel the same about community and it is something I feel like I'm missing at the moment. I work in the arts and know so many arty people but we rarely get together to just chat and inspire one another without worrying about the end goal. Do you think an online community can substitute a real life one? And what advice would you give to someone looking for their community?

Hmmm good question. Yes and no. I think an online community is amazing and one not to be thought of lightly. I’ve seen online communities accomplish all sorts, you only have to look at something like Anonymous to see just what a difference an online community can create. However, there is something powerful about people getting together, face to face. When i’m with my friends, there is a different energy, an excitement in the air, anything could happen. There is nothing better then swapping ideas back and forth with someone as well and doing that online, just doesn’t work as well as it does in person. 

I struggled with how to create my own community for a while. I moved from Cornwall to Sheffield as an adult, I knew no one and even though I was surrounded by people, I had a few very lonely years. Here is the thing though, the majority of people want the same thing, the majority of people want friendship, on various levels. So I reached out to people, asked people I had been ‘following’ online for a while and gotten to know on that level, out for coffee and cake (who says no to cake?) and I got emails from other people asking for the same thing. Friendships were built because one of us was brave enough to ask the other for a ‘date’. Sounds ridiculous right? Around 90% of my real life friendships now are because of Instagram, how crazy is that? We liked each other’s photos, we started conversations, we encouraged and then one day we had cake together. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t, much like romantic relationships, you can’t fake that friendship spark. 

That’s definitely something I need to be more proactive in, is making my online community more of an offline one! And I’ve met up with bloggers before and it is EXACTLY like going on a date! 

And finally, something I am asking everyone... do you have a golden piece of advice for people embracing their creativity?

I guess following on from above. Create your own community. Make friends. Don’t worry if someone rejects you, it happens to everyone, cling on to the ones you have and make more. Kindness will get you a long way in this life, don’t forget that.

Such amazing advice for life in general not just creativity! Toni thank you so much for talking to me, this has been a really inspiring conversation! 

You can find Toni over on Lemon Freckles, Instagram and Twitter or go and check out her Etsy shop, for pins, badges, and adorableness.

And there you have it! The first 'A Cup Of Creative with...' interview! What did you think? I'm so new to doing these! Was there anything you wish I had asked that I didn't let me know in the comments! x


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