It’s all part of Crete’s Charm!

I am writing up this post in a much better frame of mind, thank Goodness! In fact, everything has improved since my last post.  But best news of all –  is that my second Grandchild is well on HER way!  So I will have a Granddaughter who is due to be born at the beginning of August.  I am so happy for Emma and Ash and absolutely thrilled that it’s going to be a girl!

The weather has been amazing and it seems as though we’ve not really had a winter this year. I’ve not had to buy any gas bottles for the heater and I’ve hardly used my electric blanket! I’ve saved money on not having to use the immersion because we’ve had so many days of sunshine these past three months. So haven’t we been lucky!

However, strong south winds have been battering Crete and bringing heaps of dust and sand from Africa with it. They brought havoc to many parts of Chania and also our area of Apokoronas, causing several fires to break out. We’ve had hardly any rain this winter and so the land is really dry and brittle. Where I live, perched high above the sea, it can be quite scary and I had another sleepless night worrying about the damage the strong winds might have been doing. It was like trying to sleep through a hurricane that night!

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Stavros – the beach of Zorbas! Standing next to Anthony Quinn!

I squeezed in another beachcombing trip to Stavros but I’m still not doing enough and time is running out. Stavros was lovely, though and I took a couple of friends along with me. This is the place where they filmed a large part of that iconic film – Zorba the Greek, and I got my friend Chris to take a photo of me standing right next to the life-sized poster of Anthony Quinn doing his ‘Zorba the Greek’ dance. The poster is situated in almost exactly the same position he was dancing. You can see the mountain behind him and the same mountain behind me!

I also went to Georgioupoli a couple of times, to collect the final stones and pebbles I needed in order to complete the 2 commissions I have been working on. This was indeed a challenging project but as with all my artworks – a most pleasurable one! Eric and Fahimeh were really pleased with the photographs I sent them of the finished artworks, but sadly, will not be seeing them in real life, until they move to Australia in a few months time. I am really impressed with Crete’s Hellenic Postal Service.

Georgioupoli Chapel, Acrylic Painting & Seashell Mosaic Collage - 40 x 50cms

Commissioned work, Acrylic Painting & Seashell Mosaic Collage – 1 of 2, 40 x 50cms

We thought it would take several weeks for the first artwork to reach Australia (they are being dispatched separately), yet it arrived safely within only six days and I think that is faster than a courier! I recently sold three of my Seashell Mosaic Collages from my Etsy shop, to a French lady and that parcel took ten days to reach France. Strange…

 

Georgioupoli Chapel, Acrylic Painting & Seashell Mosaic Collage, 40 x 50cms

Commissioned work, Acrylic Painting & Seashell Mosaic Collage – 2 of 2, 40 x 50cms

So all has been going swimmingly well after months of trouble and strife. A wonderful couple called Bob and Liz, whom I am only just getting to know, came over to my house one early evening a week ago, bringing wine and wonderful nibbles with them! They are such lovely, warm and generous people. They had asked to come over and choose a couple of my artworks for their fabulous villa in Kokkino Chorio. I was invited to lunch there about a month ago and it’s a really special place with wonderful grounds and views! Bob had previously commissioned me to create a Seashell Mosaic Collage of his three Granddaughters, before Christmas last year. Anyway, they purchased three pictures in the end!  Two of which were actually hanging on my lounge wall and the third was my recent Flamingos design. This was great news for me and goes most of the way to covering my next two months’ rent. The timing was perfect and so grateful thanks go to Bob and Liz for appreciating my art so much!

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Happily sorting my wonderful Coquina seashells into colours!

I received another wonderfully hand-selected Coquina seashell order from Bonnie and Nancy in Florida, and spent countless happy hours sorting them all into colours. Such amazing natural colours in all the shades you can imagine. Coquina seashells really are a joy to work with!

Naturally there have still been problems, but I’ve been able to handle them a lot better. A couple of weeks ago the council dug up the road near my home and our water got cut off because they damaged the pipes. For almost two days, life was a real hassle. We are so used to turning on a tap and bingo – there’s the water! You certainly find out just how precious water is when you haven’t got any! You can live without electricity, but not water. Meanwhile the job the council started appears to have been abandoned – leaving all the water pipes of the surrounding houses and restaurant exposed.. and no-one knows for how long!

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So many sunny days this winter… great for working on my lovely balcony!

On the subject of electricity, after getting used to power cuts for the last nine years, we seem to have had more than our fair share of them this winter. So for one night I was without electricity and water and the wind was howling around the house! Yet this is all part of the charm of living on Crete and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

As usual, Easter here falls a week later than in the UK and I am looking forward to going out next weekend to help celebrate Greece’s most special time of the year, with all the traditions that go with it. I’ve been out to my local taverna a couple of times recently, but otherwise – socially I’ve been such a hermit these last five months! It really is high time I changed all that…

Good Riddance to January & February!

I haven’t had time and I haven’t felt like writing a post for what seems like ages. I seem to have been in a depressive state and it hasn’t helped that I’ve had so many time-consuming problems to deal with in January and February. But most of all… My dear Sister Leonie’s sudden passing still feels so raw. I can burst into tears at the mere drop of a hat!

Despite all this, I have ploughed on with all the important things that have been on my ‘to do’ list for too long. Work that I have been meaning to do for so many months, but which always got shoved to the bottom of my priority list. My online Etsy Shop, as I’ve mentioned before – needed much work in order to fully optimize traffic to SeashellBeautyinArt (link on menu above).  As with any online shop – it’s a long term project and because I don’t physically have the time to produce my art as well as to promote it, I enlisted the help of someone who’s professional knowledge should help boost sales of my Seashell Mosaic Collages from my Etsy Shop.

Greek Blue Door & Steps in Seashell Mosaic Collage - 25 x 30cms

Greek Blue Door & Steps in Seashell Mosaic Collage – 25 x 30cms

I never knew this, but the key to achieving this lies with Pinterest. Pinterest is THE search engine for homemade art, but it takes time. First I had to optimize all the titles and tags for each listing. Then Stiliyana, (the wonderful young lady who is currently running my Pinterest account) had to link all my work to this Pinterest account. The work involved has taken many long weeks and with daily management of this Pinterest account, we should start to see the numbers grow and the statistics increasing… resulting, we hope, in more sales.

But, oh my goodness have we had problems with this Pinterest account! Many hours have been wasted when Pinterest would suddenly suspend the account without reason and we would have to open up a new one and start all over again! I cannot remember how many times I have changed the password and the major issue with all this hassle – is the total lack of customer support from Pinterest. It would appear that Customer Service there just does not exist! After several days, sometimes a week of no response to my ‘help’ emails, I called a couple of telephone numbers listed in search engines. Only to learn that these were people that were pretending to be Pinterest Customer Support, but were only interested in gaining remote control of my laptop! I called two separate numbers and both were bogus. Having been scammed just recently (I wrote about this in my November post), I recognised the scam immediately. I emailed Pinterest about this, saying that their lack of customer support had created an opportunity for this fraudulent activity – but they appear to be unconcerned. And so they have made things extremely difficult and stressful during this whole process. Stiliyana and I are hoping that things have settled down now, fingers crossed!

Whilst all this was going on I also had problems with my company, Art on Crete Ltd. It is a very long and sorry story which gave me so much stress that I refuse to relive the misery of it by relating it in this post. The end result is that I have shut down the company because sadly, it has all been a total waste of my time these past two years.

Time is such a premium for me… so precious because I need so many hours to produce my Seashell Mosaic Collages, and I was getting more and more stressed by all the time I had lost in terms of producing my artworks. Hours and hours have gone on all these other matters that I needed to prioritize. Such is life… and these things are meant to try us!

My Star Signs were popular last summer. Here's mine - Scorpio in Seashell Mosaic on Sand - 20 x 20cms

My Star Signs were popular last summer. Here’s mine – Scorpio in Seashell Mosaic on Sand – 20 x 20cms

Finally I was able to make a start on the two commissions I received last summer. They have been a real challenge but also a welcome break amongst all the horrid stuff that has gone on. I have spent countless happy hours on these artworks and still have more to do, so they are still works in progress. The couple who commissioned me are so nice and actually first contacted me in June – through this Blog! They were researching a visit to Crete, found my Blog and then clicked on the Etsy shop link at the top of this page. They loved my work and wanted to meet me during the course of their holiday. They wanted to commission me to do a pair of artworks for the wonderful new oceanfront home they are having built in Australia. Eric and Fahimeh toured around Crete and paid me a visit at my stall in Almyrida last September. There they purchased a couple of my artworks and then gave me some details for the commissions they wanted. It was so lovely to meet them and I am grateful to this blog that they found me!

On the way back from Elafonisis - An old Greek mountain village, taken from the road above.

On the way back from Elafonisis – An old Greek mountain village, taken from the road above.

I have also made a start on building up my stock for the coming summer selling season at the beach in Almyrida. Many of my new designs were popular last summer and the Star Signs sold well along with my Greek Blue Door and Steps and the Old Greek Urn and plant.

Another ‘must do’ and a pleasure I cannot begin to describe, is beachcombing. I haven’t done nearly enough to replenish seashell stocks and I’ve had withdrawal symptoms from NOT beachcombing! We have had such a mild and pleasant winter so far here on Crete. So many warm and sun-filled days when I’ve been itching to get on a deserted beach and explore… but have been too bogged down with what I call ‘shitty stuff’ to enjoy my usual winter pastime. I was so determined to get such a day organized and finally on Friday I went to Elafonisis with my friend Nick, his girlfriend Jenny and her puppy, Gremlin! It is by far the furthest place I travel for beachcombing.

Beautiful Elafonisis

So busy picking shells I forgot to take photos of the beauty all around me! So just before we got back in the car I took this one of my mate Nick, his grilfriend Jenny and her little dog, Gremlin!

It’s at least a two hour journey which was made longer because I had a flat tyre! Nevertheless, this did not in any way spoil the day. The weather was glorious, lots of blue sky and warm sun – the perfect day for beachcombing! We took a picnic as there would be nowhere to get a drink or some food for miles. But I just spent every possible moment collecting the beautiful seashells that are to be found in such abundance here at beautiful Elafonisis. It was such a wonderful tonic for me after all the shit that’s gone on and I loved every minute I was there.

I feel as though so far this year – I have not been my normal self. I am usually so positive… yet I’ve been feeling so low down in spirit. Going to Elafonisis reminded me of why I chose to live and work in this most wonderful and unspoilt place that is Crete, and has been my home now for almost nine years. Crete will always be my sanctuary.

Just after Sunset over Almyrida Bay

Taking a quick break on my balcony, after sunset the other day… just gorgeous!

Here’s Hoping 2018 will be a Good Year

For over a week now, I’ve been putting off writing this post. There have been so many ’niggly’ things to attend to and it’s been difficult settling back into and catching up with work. I am still grieving for the loss of my sister, Leonie.

Ralph at Attingham Park

Ralph – who is quite impossible to photograph when he is constantly on the go. Here I got lucky as he went to splash in a puddle at Attingham Park.

I returned to the UK for Christmas and New Year on the 19th December and spent the first four days with my lovely growing family! Zoe and Rich collected me from Karen and Mike’s and we drove down to Shrewsbury to stay with Emma, Ash and Ralph. As always, it was wonderful to spend quality time with everyone again, although I have to say that Ralph is still my favourite for playing with! That’s pretty much all I did at Emma and Ash’s, because he is just the cutest little boy and I am obsessed!

We all had three wonderful days relaxing, having fun, eating out, shopping and walks. We visited a beautiful park and stately home in Shrewsbury, called Attingham Park. When we arrived there we first asked to visit the Santa’s Grotto but sadly, it was fully booked so we couldn’t take Ralph for his first visit to Santa. I think that we were more disappointed than Ralph was! Never mind, we decided to take a good look around the mansion and found it to be quite fascinating!

All the family at Attingham Park

Rich, Zoe, Ash, Ralph & Emma – Inside the stately home at Attingham Park. There was a Christmas tree in almost every living room!

After we’d had some lunch in the cafe there, we went for a long walk in the woodlands and surrounding grounds. Ash pointed out several interesting features along the way, having lived and played in this area when he was a small boy and young teenager. The walk was exhilarating and Ralph was totally absorbed in exploring everything. He was such a joy to watch.  When he got tired, Ash carried him on his back, especially when we were able to walk so close to a small herd of Reindeer. We found lots of little dens made from broken tree branches, scattered around and just the right size for Ralph to walk comfortably into!

Ralph, Ash & Emma at Attingham Park

When Ralph got tired from running around, Ash carried him on his back

It was Ash’s Birthday on the Friday and in the morning Ash’s parents, Phil and Ange and also his brother and sister, Austin and Danielle, all popped in to wish him well. In the afternoon, we went into Shrewsbury town centre to do a little last minute Christmas shopping and discovered they had a Santa’s Grotto in the precinct! We were just in time to book a visit in for Ralph – the last one of the day! I wish I knew how to post up the video I took of him. He was so cute and polite and pleased with the book he got from Santa, Ralph loves his books! The days just flew by and the nights after Ralph had gone to bed, we watched some great movies which is something I rarely do.

Santa's Grotto

Ralph and I play with the false snow in Shrewsbury Town Centre, whilst waiting to see Santa!

Emma and Ash were spending Christmas Day with Ash’s family and Zoe and Rich were spending it with Rich’s Dad and anyway, Rich was on call all Christmas Day. So these few days we all had before Christmas were wonderful and special. It was indeed fortunate that Zoe, Emma, Rich and Ash were all able to get this time off work. Although I did not think I would be able to see them all again before my return to Crete, thanks to my new tablet we had skype contact for the rest of the time I was in the UK.

I was back at Karen and Mike’s by Saturday teatime. Mum was also staying and Sophie and Hannah had moved back home for Christmas and New Year. So there was just the six of us for Christmas Day and it was exactly what we wanted because we all miss our beautiful Leonie so much.

On Boxing Day Karen and Mike drove down to London to stay with their son Rob, his fiance, Emma and their new baby Grandson, Jack. Sophie and Hannah went too. With Mum and I left to our own devices – we got cracking on a jigsaw that was a Christmas present for Mum – and completed it in one day! Despite both of us coming down with colds and continuously blowing our noses, we just couldn’t stop doing that jigsaw!  Zoe was able to visit after work the next day and she stayed the night, so that was a bonus.

Debs, Karen and me

Deb, Karen and me, before we all went into Bramhall Village for the evening

Sadly the rest of my stay was dogged with cold symptoms and tummy cramps and as a result I got very little sleep. Luckily, after taking something to ease the cramps, I was able to enjoy a lovely evening with my dear friends Jill and Rick, who took me out for a great meal at Gusto’s, the night before New Year’s Eve. Jill booked a surprise holiday for Rick’s 50th Birthday and they will be staying with me in June. The medication also meant I didn’t miss out on the traditional Whelan New Year’s Eve Party, and so I am grateful for that. New Year’s Day was spent recovering from the night before and packing for my trip back home.

Back on Crete I have spent the last two weeks doing all the things I have been putting off for far too long. A priority was to finally search for someone who can promote my online Etsy shop, which I don’t have the time or ability to do myself. My unique style of fine art collages is in a very niche market, I think and I need a good marketing plan. I still have quite a list to do but feel I am finally getting somewhere.

Seashell Mosaic Painting Collage - 40 x 50cms

Two boats in seashell mosaic under a palm tree – Seashell Mosaic fine art – 40 x 50cms

For the first time I have found it difficult to get back into my work, but now that I am sorting other problems out, my head is starting to clear and I really want to get stuck into a new project. I have a couple of commissions I would like to start working on and as soon as these other matters have been attended to, I will be doing just that. I also have some new ideas I’d like to progress and know that I will feel much better when I am back in the swing of things and am fully absorbed in my art again.

Looking to the future… it’s set to be a good year with two family weddings taking place and these are really positive things to look forward to in 2018. Rob and Emma are getting married in June in Oxfordshire and Zoe and Rich marry in May here on Crete.

Picturesque Almyrida

Here on the beautiful Island of Crete it’s been a long hot summer and it isn’t over yet! September is proving to be a hot one too and I’m pleased to say that sales have really picked up during the last two months. Hence the reason I’ve not written for a while, because much has been happening in my life both professionally and personally and it’s all taken precedence over this Blog!

One of Almyrida's pretty beaches

One of Almyrida’s pretty beaches where Zoe spent much of her time relaxing.

Zoe came to stay with me for a much-needed break from the stresses of her job. She was in desperate need of some rest and of course was also here to progress with her wedding plans. Rich had too much work on so she came alone.  Originally, Emma and Ralph were trying to get flights out for the same week, but sadly Emma also had work commitments and so I didn’t get to spend time with her or Ralph and oh I do miss my cute little Grandson so much!  Such is life… but I really do believe things always  happen – when they happen… and for a reason.

One of Almyrida's pretty beaches

The other side of the beach, where Zoe and I spent quality time and swam last weekend.

That week with me in Crete turned out to be just what Zoe needed! We got so many important details about the wedding sorted and on the days I was selling, she was quite happy spending time by herself; lots and lots of swimming and relaxation; reading her book and feeling completely at home In Almyrida. Zoe has visited Crete so many times now, that it feels a little like her second home!  It’s the same for Emma when she visits.   I was able to join Zoe on other days and I couldn’t help taking some snapshots of the beautiful and peaceful setting we were relaxing in! I may live here but I rarely find the time to appreciate how lovely and picturesque Almyrida is!

On Thursday evening we met Neisha, the wedding planner and Kirsten in Chania – at the caterer’s cafe restaurant. Here we were treated to samples of all the dishes Zoe has decided to go for including the wine – all of which were complimentary. That done and food and wine decided, we moved onto the Harbour Front to a restaurant called Salis and who’s owner is a friend of Neisha’s. We drank a cocktail and I have to say that the food at Salis is all organically home-grown and deliciously different! I would definitely recommend this place!

At Salis Restuarant on Chania Harbour Front

At Salis Restaurant on Chania Harbour Front – Zoe, Kirsten, Neisha & I.

The following evening we went to Maddie’s in Kefelas, to watch a band that has been highly recommended and is a strong possibility for the wedding. We thought they were brilliant! They had everyone up and dancing all night and they were talented and accomplished musicians. When the gig had finished Zoe approached the lead and singer for a chat. What a genuinely nice guy he is, with no airs and graces and he has readily agreed to perform at Zoe and Rich’s wedding at the end of next May.  Fingers crossed that Rich will like them too, after he hears them on Zoe’s video clips and Youtube.

On the beach in front ofCafe Franscoise in Almyrida

Zoe and I on the beach in front of Cafe Franscoise in Almyrida.

And so it was a different Zoe I took back to the airport than the Zoe I had collected the week before. She was tired, negative and on edge when she arrived, but rested, positive and happy when she left and although she did not want to leave, I reminded her that in just over seven months she’ll be back again for three whole weeks around the wedding. Needless to say I did my usual crying all the way back from the airport, but (practicing what I preach) with my flight back to the UK for Christmas and New Year already booked, I know it won’t be long before I can see and spend time with everyone dear to me again.

Since Zoe left I have been busy trying to keep up with demand for certain designs of my Seashell Mosaic Collages which have been particularly popular in August and September. I’ve already mentioned how sales have improved during these months and this means I have more work to fit into less available time! Same old… same old story.

Lisa and I at Nikita's in Almyrida

Lisa and I at Nikita’s in Almyrida last night, where 4 different bands were playing.

My social life has been busier again too and yesterday I spent the day showing my good customers and friends – Paul, Sheila and John – all round Chania and they treated me to a lovely lunch at a restaurant situated high above the Harbour. Last night I went to a four band gig at Nikita’s in Almyrida and have to say that was a cracking night! Such a variety of music styles, entertaining and great to dance to! My Friend Lisa plays the beat box in one of the bands and so I went along to support her. There were heaps of people I knew there and I partied until collapsing onto my bed at around 2am this morning!  There is a big party taking place in Plaka Square on Thursday Evening.  There will be more Live music from Backtrax and I missed last year’s party, so I was told last night that I had better be there this year!