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Monday, October 7, 2013

Dominic Yard: Toy Inventor & Designer

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Step into a world of imagination with pinner Dominic Yard, as he tells us about creating innovative and exciting new toys for kids. Read on to find out how Dominic uses Pinterest and why he says, “It gives other people a great overview of your personality and style and is also a great way to promote your own work!”

Hi Dominic! Share with us a little about yourself and what you do?

I’m a toy inventor & designer based in East London. I have been inventing toys & gifts for the last 5 years and while working for Fuse London, I have designed items which have been licensed to brands such as Polly Pocket, Hot Wheels & Tech Deck. In 2012, I managed a team of designers at a London based giftware company creatively directing products such as a Unicorn sprinkle shaker, a bird house disco radio & a bottle opening cap launcher! I have recently set up my own toy inventing company called Yard.

Outside of design, I spend my time mountain biking, surfing, snowboarding and adventuring to different places around the world to take part in these various pursuits!

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When did you first know you wanted to work with toys?

I actually started out designing toys by chance. I had graduated with a product design degree from Sheffield Hallam University in 2005 and then spent 18 months in Queenstown, New Zealand, snowboarding and working as a graphic designer before moving to London. I was applying for lots of different product design jobs and the one I landed was as a toy designer working on the Polly Pocket Brand.

Strangely, I hadn’t really considered toys before this but I had always had a playful design style. As soon as I started, it made total sense that toys were the best thing I could be making! You get to think as weird and wonderful as possible, act like kid, make lots of cool little prototype models and basically play with toys all day! Much more fun than standard consumer goods!

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You have designed incredible toys for Polly Pocket, Hot Wheels & Tech Deck. Tell us about one of your favorites.

I think my favourite is from working at Fuse London. I coinvented Custom Motors with Emily Ward for Hot Wheels. The interchangeable, modular system features easy, snap-on parts allowing kids to build and race their very own customized Hot Wheels cars. It is really fun to play with and the Hot Wheels team made this amazing interactive YouTube game to promote the line.

As a toy designer, how has pinning been useful to you?

Pinning has been a fantastic way to store, organise and curate all the inspiring things I find online. These would have previously been dragged to a cluttered file on my desktop and I would usually forget about or never be able to find the pictures I was looking for again.

Besides design work, I use it to find and pin lots of cool things to do with my hobbies from bikes to cool video edits. It gives other people a great overview of your personality and style and is also a great way to promote your own work!

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What was your favorite toy(s) growing up as a kid?

That has to be Lego, for sure! I had drawers and drawers of the stuff and my mum even took me to Legoland in Denmark. That was pretty mind blowing for a 7-year-old!

You have other fun, fast & adventurous toys. Tell us more about mountain biking and why you love the outdoors.

I love to be active and outdoors. Action sports have always appealed to me and have always been a massive source of inspiration, which goes back into my design work. I grew up racing mountain bikes and although now I only do the odd race here and there I still ride all the time. I also surf, snowboard and travel all over the world to ride in different places.

In February of this year, I spent two weeks surfing in Sri Lanka and have just gotten home from racing the Megavalanche in the French Alps. This is a mass start downhill mountain bike race with 350 riders stating on the glacial snow of Pic Blanc (3330m) in Alp D’huez and race down a 30km course to the valley floor 2000m below! This was my run last year.

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Thanks for the pinterview and sharing your story with us, Dominic! To see more of Dominic’s designs, check out his website, showreel and boards on Pinterest.

Read "Dominic Yard: Toy Inventor & Designer "

Monday, September 30, 2013

Brit Morin: Maker and Founder of Brit + Co.

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When it comes to making and creating, Brit Morin is your go-to gal. From handmade totes to Halloween costumes, she takes us into her colorful world of DIY projects, favorite Pinterest tips and tricks and more. Read on to hear Brit’s story and details about her upcoming event for makers—Re:Make!

Hi Brit! First, can you tell us about yourself?

I’m originally from Texas and moved out to Silicon Valley after college, where I now live with my husband and our dog, Pixel.

I have always loved to make and create. Given that I had two working parents growing up, I taught myself many of the traditional “home making” skills like cooking and sewing. I was a very curious kid and loved to experiment with new ingredients, materials, and machines.

After spending years at Apple and Google, I left my career in Silicon Valley to create a new kind of company, Brit + Co., which aims to inspire and enable women to be more creative, and uses technology to do it. Our core focus is around DIY and all the ways creativity and technology enhance a modern lifestyle.

While I’m a fan of all things DIY, I have to say that this company has been my ultimate DIY project. Our core belief is that everyone — yes, everyone — is innately creative. You can see it the first time you watch a child pick up LEGOs, crayons, or blocks. I’m particularly interested in reaching and inspiring those of you who sometimes think you can’t achieve something beautiful because you aren’t creative enough. That can’t be true! It excites me to watch as people begin to believe in themselves, and their innate creativity, all over again. That’s truly what I love most about doing what I do.

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You have so many great DIY hacks! Where do you find your inspiration and which project(s) are you most proud of?

I get inspiration from all over the place: store windows, billboards, nature, and of course, the Internet. I’m obviously inspired by content I come across on Pinterest, too — I’m human, after all! I love perusing pins and figuring out how to translate beautiful images into things I can make. Usually, it’s harder for me to narrow down WHAT I’m going to make, rather than when I’ll make it! (No seriously, check out my To Make board. It’s crazy.)

My first sewing project is still one of my favorite projects, mainly because I had no idea what I was doing, yet it came out well. It was a purse made out of empty Capri Sun cartons that I collected from other girls on my soccer team after a big game. I have to say it’s still one of my biggest teenage accomplishments; and if you’re wondering, yes, Capri Sun bags make for amazing beach totes ;)

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Halloween is around the corner. Can you give us a peek into your costume and party plans?

Halloween is literally our favorite time of year at Brit + Co! We’re already decking out our office with our favorite DIYs from the Brit + Co. Halloween Shop. We also have a HUGE party in the works that’s going to be held here. Get ready to see some epic DIY costume photos! On that note, I still haven’t picked out my costume, but my husband and I are considering one of these fun couples costumes. The biggest dilemma? Trying to find the perfect dog costume for Pixel, our sweet bernedoodle. Is it possible to turn a dog into Miley Cyrus?

What are some Pinterest tips and tricks you love?

First and foremost, only pin things you really love! Quality is better than quantity. Be authentic. I always try to pin beautiful images and add my own custom captions. It’s a good way to remember why you pinned something. It also might spark inspiration for one of your followers.

Keeping your boards organized is important. It’s a good idea to make sure you pin from the source when you’re adding your own pin, too. There’s nothing worse than hopping from website to website trying to find the original source for a recipe or a DIY project, am I right?

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Who are some other maker types on Pinterest? Any favorites you can share?

I’m a big fan of Ez Pudewa from Creature Comforts and Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day. They consistently pin beautiful and inspirational content. Caitlin Flemming of Sacramento Street, who also happens to be joining us on October 4th and 5th for Re:Make, is another one of my favorites. I especially love her style pins. You can also check out some of the awesome makers who will be joining us at Re:Make here.

Thanks for the pinterview and sharing your story with us, Brit—and hope you have a great time at Re:Make! To see more of Brit’s work and DIY ideas, check out her site Brit + Co. and boards on Pinterest.

Read "Brit Morin: Maker and Founder of Brit + Co."

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Donal Skehan: Chef, Cookbook Author & TV Presenter

Donal Skehan: Chef, Cookbook Author & TV Presenter

When pinner Donal Skehan isn’t whipping up delicious bites in the kitchen, you’ll find him writing about creative recipes on his own food blog and indulging in DIY projects. Read more about his food adventures and why he says, “Pinterest creates a non-stop source of delicious inspiration.”

Hi Donal! To begin with, tell us how you got started with Pinterest?

Hello fellow pinners! My name is Donal and I’m a Pinterest addict. It started small, a nice book case idea for the living room, some tasty supper inspiration and a big dirty chocolate cake. It quickly spiraled, I found myself adding new boards, pinning when I couldn’t sleep, and noting DIY projects I HAD to do! You see for someone who’s life revolves around food, Pinterest creates a non stop source of delicious inspiration. Alongside plenty of travel, eating out and trawling through cookbooks and food magazines, I have now planted Pinterest firmly in my heart as a truly brilliant source for new ideas.

Donal Skehan: Chef, Cookbook Author & TV Presenter

When did you first start your career in the food industry?

I began my career in the food world by starting a food blog in 2007 and since then, with a big thanks to an online medium, I’ve had the opportunity to write cookbooks, present a TV cookery series and so much more. For me, the thing that is special about blogging is the same thing that’s special about Pinterest, it’s all about sharing what you love with other people.

Donal Skehan: Chef, Cookbook Author & TV Presenter

How do you use Pinterest in your day-to-day?

Apart from the general drooling I do on Pinterest on any given day, it also has realistic functions I now use in my day to day work. In the process of writing cookbooks, one of the things I have always done is to create moodboards to demonstrate the direction I want to take the book, from photography, fonts, jacket design and colour scheme. Doing this allows me to show a publisher or designer quite clearly what I’m hoping to achieve. It’s a super way to open the discussion on artistic direction and since Pinterest started, I no longer have to create these moodboards in photoshop. I simply create a board, pin the images I like and then invite them to the board. Really simple and very effective.

While we shoot, I also keep these Pinterest boards close by to make sure we are keeping to the direction we agreed upon. Now, anytime I have a new project or even a smidgen of a new idea, I start a board and shovel a whole pile of related pins into it, sometimes they take me somewhere, sometimes they don’t but either way I love doing it and it’s a great way to clear my head!

By using Pinterest, you got the idea to start your own online food magazine. Can you share more with us?

I actually got the idea to start my online food magazine, FEAST: A Dinner Journal, through a board I created last year simply entitled FEAST, where I had been pinning images of epic meals and dinners. The more I pinned, the more I fleshed out the idea of a magazine that would travel across Ireland to visit the artisan producers behind each seasonal course, coming together to appear in one epic FEAST at the end. A few months later, I had an editor and designer on board and the first issue was born, going out to over 1.1 million people worldwide. I’ve just finished the second issue and it’s now available here.

Donal Skehan: Chef, Cookbook Author & TV Presenter

How would you describe your pinning style?

When I first started pinning what I really loved about it was that it created a space to save all these beautiful recipes ideas in one place and so I no longer had a long list of bookmarks in my browser. I am definitely what you could call a selfish pinner, I pin what I like and what I want to see again. One of my favourite boards I have on Pinterest is quite predictably my Food board, it has the most pins, and I love just scrolling through it for inspiration.

Donal Skehan: Chef, Cookbook Author & TV Presenter

But it’s not just food, I love a bit of DIY and gardening and this summer, I built a cool structure in my vegetable garden to grow beans up after spotting it on Pinterest. Plus, another pin inspired me to paint and decorate an old kitchen dresser I bought at auction. In fact, I even pinned the results!  

Donal Skehan: Chef, Cookbook Author & TV Presenter

What excites you about pinning?

The pins that make me most excited are the ones that tell a story and are beautifully composed, the ones that make me want to click through to find out more. I did originally think Pinterest might have been the social network that broke the camels back but that turned out to be Vine and so instead of 7 second videos, I now spend my time much more creatively pinning wonderful and inspiring images that make me happy.

I often feel guilty that my boards aren’t better organised but I’ll put that down to being a guy, but if I can give any advice to anyone just starting out on Pinterest, just pin what you love, what inspires you and most of all what makes you happy.

Donal Skehan: Chef, Cookbook Author & TV Presenter

There are a huge amount of incredibly inspiring pinners out there and I almost feel ashamed at how much repinning of their pins I do, but without people like, Marte Marie Forsberg, Mimi Thorisson, Sam at Petite Violette, Linda Lomelino, Bakers Royale, Caitlin Van Horn and Nicole Franzen the my Pinterest boards wouldn’t be half as beautiful as they are!

Thanks for the pinterview and sharing your story with us, Donal! To see more of Donal’s amazing recipes, check out his website, Facebook page and mouth-watering boards on Pinterest.

Read "Donal Skehan: Chef, Cookbook Author & TV Presenter"

Monday, August 19, 2013

Melissa Taylor: Mom, Teacher, Imagination Soup Author

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Parenting hacks, an education and learning blog, and summer writing workshops for kids are just a few of the many amazing projects from Melissa Taylor. As a mom, teacher, author and blogger, she takes us in to her creative world of writing, “Imagination Soup” and more.

Hi Melissa! To start, tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

After teaching children and teachers for a decade, I began freelance writing and blogging for others and myself with a education and learning blog, Imagination Soup.

I started working for local magazines and book blogging for a local parenting magazine for which I got paid in books. Once I developed my skills and clips, I started writing for nationals magazines and blogs including Parenting magazine. Although I do have a traditional book agent, I’ve self published two books — Book Love and Pinterest Savvy — with a third coming soon, Lunchbox Love.

My favorite thing in the world is to get kids excited about reading and writing. I read piles of kids books every week so I can help kids, including my own, find that perfect book that hooks them for hours. Not only that, I started teaching summer writing workshops for kids for the same reason — I know I can help show kids how fun writing can be. It’s magical to see a young person totally jazzed about writing!

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You have so many great boards for parenting and things to do with kids, but we’re most intrigued by your board Imagination Soup. What’s the story behind this board?

Aaah, thanks.

Imagination Soup, the board, comes from Imagination Soup the blog - my learning activities blog. I pin my Imagination Soup content on the same name board first for branding reasons, even if I repin to other boards later. You’ll find lots of book recommendations, writing ideas, and recommended games, toys and apps to make learning fun.

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Have you discovered any “parenting hacks” on Pinterest that has made your life easier? We’d love to hear about it!

Are you kidding? I think my next book could be titled, “Everything I Ever Learned, I Found on Pinterest”. It’s a gold-mine of great content — for free. LOVE. Plus my kids always ask, “Did you get that idea on Pinterest, mom?” whenever we do anything new - from a craft to a recipe. (Which is kind of sad that they assume I can think of ideas on my own —without Pinterest!)

Parenting hacks —

My daughter just got her ears pierced. But, they’ve been infected like crazy. Lucky for us, I saw a hack on Pinterest to use Vaseline on the earring post before you put it in the ear. Miracle of miracles - it worked.

Chores is another recent hack. There are some great ideas for chore charts on Pinterest. I took someone’s checklist and adapted it to my children’s ages, laminated it, and voila — I had chores under control (mostly).

Best of all, at least half of the summer activities my babysitter has done with my kids have come from my Pinterest boards. It’s been great for her and them!

What are some suggestions you might have for other parents on Pinterest?

1. Follow pinners who curate excellent content. That way you won’t have to search around too much, you’ll have great ideas in you Pinterest feed.

2. Before you repin, check to make sure the link works and goes to the correct site. (I right click to open pins in a new tab and check all links at the same time.)

3. Collaborate with friends. You can invite friends to boards with topics you have in common. It’s a great way to get more information and to be social.

4. Follow the pinner rabbit hole. When you’re on a pinner’s profile, look at the “Repins from” on the top right and click on those names to see if you like their boards. You’ll find a ton of new people to follow this way.

5. Only share some pins on Facebook — it may just annoy all your friends if you share them all.

Who are some other parents on Pinterest that you find inspiration from?

Some of my favorite parent pinners are:

Laura Hutchinson @ PlayDrMom, Amy Locurto {LivingLocurto.com}, Amy Mascott @TeachMama, Deborah @Teach Preschool, The Educators’ Spin On It, Holly Homer

I’ve learned so much from others. For example, Stacy Teet of Kids Stuff World and Zina Harrington of Lasso the Moon both generously invited me and others to collaborate on their boards. They helped me reach a bigger audience and given me new ideas and suggestions for using Pinterest.

Read "Melissa Taylor: Mom, Teacher, Imagination Soup Author"

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Laara Copley-Smith: Garden & Landscape Designer

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Meet Pinner, Laara Copley-Smith, a talented designer who creates beautiful gardens that range from courtyard to countryside landscapes. With summer underway, she shares her tips and tricks on how to plant a colorful harvest for your backyard vegetable garden—read on to hear her story!

Hi Laara! First, can you share with us a little about yourself?

Principally, I am a Garden Designer working on residential and commercial projects. The majority of my projects are for private clients and each project is individual because often my clients are undertaking extensive renovation, restoration or a complete new build of a property. The individual properties vary greatly from traditional and classic architecture, including grade listed properties, modern and contemporary to an integral combination of the old and new. The garden can be anything from a tiny courtyard to a much larger acreage in the countryside. I often work alongside other professionals such as architect, engineers, interior designers, bespoke house building contractors.

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When did you first know you wanted to be a Garden Designer?

I had previously worked in the Arts and TV for 10 years. I lived in London at this time, which as a country girl, was not a natural setting for me. As a result, I became a passionate gardener and an allotment holder spending any free time I had outside tending to my vegetable plot and flowers. As a creative, I was often exploring new potential fields of work including mixed media, painting acrylic on canvas, sculpture of many mediums including clay, stone, plaster and resin. The garden design was a natural progression aligned with this exploration and the inspiration I received from my gardening passion.

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Tell us about one of your favorite projects.

I have many projects that I have enjoyed immensely. One project, which is a favorite project yet, is not complete but in the process of design and creation. It is such a unique site that has been untouched for many years and was previously an RAF site, which is situated upon a hill and is framed with native hedgerow. The only other existing plants are coppices of silver birch apparently planted by the RAF as seeds. The open sky is just incredible when one is on site. Nothing overlooks the entire space, which is a total of 40 acres - approximately 14-20 acres will be garden zones. It is like being on another planet which has a flat landscape and the sky. Having worked with the clients previously, there is a `language` of gardens which is known, comfortable, previously explored and as you can see, it is an exciting project in the making. I believe it is not all in the result and that the process is as important as the finished garden with many people working as a team towards this end creation.

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You must spend lots of your time outside, so how do you use Pinterest in your day-to-day?

The great thing about Pinterest is that it’s so quick to use. Five minutes can be all one needs to feed ones creativity. For me, this does not have to be about gardens, but it may be about architecture, colour, shape and patterns. On one project which had extensive water, I researched water pools, pond and Charles Jenks fabulous water installations.

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If you could replicate any garden or landscape design in the world, what would this be and why?

I am passionate for topiary, clipped and shaped form. This goes back to my exploration of sculpture and creating shape with solid form. So, it would to be inspired by, not replicate, the many wonderful gardens filled with topiary. It would be to create within a large garden estate a series of inter-linking rooms which foundations were created with clipped form, hedging and topiary. Specific garden zones would be incredibly simple, such as an extensive lawn, clipped formal hedging and stone statuary. Extending into a topiary and water garden, then a series of side gardens all with a classical topiary vision. This would inter-link into formal, strict clipped parterres, then clipped parterres and soft planting. There may be a contemplative garden too, but as you see, there is just so much to create that there would never be one garden to be inspired by!

This summer, you are making a Vegetable Garden! Can you give us a sneak peak into what’s growing and offer any tips for other gardeners.

What to plant really depends upon your climatic conditions, soil, sunlight and location in the world. However, as are climate continues to change, one never knows how tried and tested vegetables will grow. I say this as it has been to date a very odd weather year in the UK.

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Crops which are easy and worth experimenting with:

Lettuce: try all types of lettuce, especially `cut & come again` varieties

Beans: broad beans, french beans, climbing & bush, bolotti beans and peas will grow well as long as they get lots of water

Carrots: they must be protected from carrot root fly

Kale: black & curly kale, spring greens, cabbage, purple & green all types, kohl rabi white & purple must all to be protected from pigeons & cabbage white butterflies

Sweetcorn: they will grow well as long as it gets enough heat and sun

Squash, cucumber, courgette, gourds and pumpkins: they will grow well as long as they get lots of sun and heat

Spinach and swiss chard: easy to grow yet they can bolt quickly in warm weather

Other green leaves: try rocket, endive, purslane and others.

Tomatoes: they need a long season of sun and protection from tomato blight

I am growing all of this in my garden and probably a few other crops, although I generally do not grow tomatoes due to tomato blight. For everyone else, you should evaluate your climatic conditions, then get sowing seed and experiment to see what works. Enjoy the process.

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Thanks for the pinterview and sharing your story with us, Laara! To see more of her amazing designs, check out her website, Facebook page and boards on Pinterest.

Read "Laara Copley-Smith: Garden & Landscape Designer"

Monday, August 5, 2013

Donna Staten: Art Teacher & Creative Extraordinaire

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Meet Donna Staten (on right, with a fellow educator Jessica Balsley), a longtime art teacher who loves discovering everything from lesson plans to creative tips and tricks and organizing them in her boards. Just in time for back to school season, she shares her plans for the new academic year and advice for other teachers using Pinterest—read on to hear her story!

Hi Donna! To start, tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

I am a Kindergarten through 5th grade art teacher in Round Rock, Texas. I will enter my 28th year of teaching art this fall. I suppose my love for creating started when I was very young, I just didn’t have a label for it. My schools did not offer art classes and I always craved being creative! I didn’t have real art supplies, so I was a recycler before it was popular! I remember painting my mother’s empty glass perfume bottles with her nail polish. I also remember making lots of mosaic pictures with the dots from a paper punch- I still have some of those in my classroom. One of my elementary teachers let me stay in from recess to make holiday decorations for her! I was from a very sports-oriented family and my father was a coach. I grew up playing sports and was even an all-district athlete in high school. But, the nagging feeling for art was always there. I considered myself a “closet artist” spending hours upstairs drawing, painting on river rocks, and dabbling in oils rather than practicing free throws! Fast forward a few years and I was extremely fortunate to be hired right out of college to teach art at a Fine Arts Magnet School in Temple, Texas. It was a great place to be with the Arts being woven into the curriculum. I still hear from those students telling me how much art impacted their lives.

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As art teacher, how do you use Pinterest in your day-to-day?

The other part of my personality is that I am very organized. So, the first time I saw Pinterest it seemed like someone had created it just for me! It is the perfect tool for visual art teachers! Over the years, I have created/acquired many books, prints, posters, slides, transparencies, videos, etc. for my lessons. While they are great to have on hand, Pinterest has pretty much replaced the need for them. I can simply project a Pinterest board onto my white screen and show the same information in a larger view for everyone to see! I also have access at both school and home. I use Pinterest daily in my classroom. When starting a new project, we might watch a short video about the history/artist as well as look at variations of how the project turns out. I no longer have to keep boxes of “samples” as I have them pinned. One of my favorite pins is Dr. Suess’ Color Song. My school is dual-language with many students speaking other languages first. My kindergarten dual-language kids loved singing the Color Song and sometimes would just start singing it when they saw me in the hall! Another favorite use of Pinterest is having awesome, short videos quickly available when we have a few minutes left after cleaning up. The students love this and will clean up quicker to see one. One of the favorite topics is “Pour Paintings.” Within a few days of watching, several students brought in their own Pour Paintings that they had created at home! The students also love looking at my Art Parody boards.

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Who are some of your favorite artists (on Pinterest)?

I have so many Pinterest boards about artists- it would be hard to choose favorites! Two of them that worked very well together for a successful lesson were Pablo Picasso and Kimmy Cantrell. Both of the artists created colorful abstract portraits that we were able to compare and contrast. My fifth graders made incredible portrait sculptures in their style using almost all recycled materials. The students said this was their favorite project ever, and judging by the excitement and results, I would agree! I also presented this lesson at the 2013 National Art Education Association conference and opened by showing the two Pinterest boards to get us going!

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Back to school season is here! What are you looking forward to the most?

I still get excited to try new projects- even after this many years! I see many projects on Pinterest that I have done before, but sometimes with a new twist. Of course, there are also projects and materials that are totally new to me. Last year, I “recharged” my classroom with ideas from Pinterest such as the Calm Jar for behavior and Crayon Brownies for rewards. I also made faux canvases from boxes to spell out “CREATE” and “ART ROCKS.” This fall, I want to use the great ideas from my Art Sayings/Posters board to encourage creativity and responsibility in the classroom.

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What advice do you have for other teachers using Pinterest?

I remember the first day that I ever went to the Pinterest website. It was a cold Saturday morning in January, 2012. I had nothing in particular that I needed to do, so I grabbed my laptop and logged in to the site. I searched for art lesson plans, and could not believe the wealth of information! I started pinning, and reading, and learning. Before I knew it, it was dark outside and I was still pinning! I had no idea that a year later I would have over 20,000 followers, 350+ boards, 58,000 pins would be speaking about “Pinterest in the Art Room” at conferences! I can truly say that I have learned more on Pinterest than from any book, class or conference. I receive frequent emails with questions from other art teachers following me and I am glad that they have discovered it as well.

Thanks for the pinterview and sharing your story with us, Donna! To see more lesson plans, art how-to’s, and creative classroom ideas, check out her boards on Pinterest.

Read "Donna Staten: Art Teacher & Creative Extraordinaire"

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ian Peter Bugeja: Opera Conductor and Keyboard Player

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Photo by Malcolm Laudi
Pinner Ian Peter Bugeja, is a full-time Maltese performer, conductor and keyboard player, who travels to world-renowned cities inspiring audiences with his musical talent. Read about how Ian got started and why he enjoys making music with young professionals.

Hi Ian Peter! First of all, would you share with us a bit about yourself and what you do?

Hello! Well, my name is Ian Peter Bugeja and I hail from the Mediterranean island of Malta. I am currently based in the UK. I am a graduate of the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, where I read for an MMus in orchestral and opera conducting under the tutelage of conductor-in-residence David Jones (while there I was generously supported by the Janatha Stubbs Foundation). I previously studied piano and theory of music with Maria Dolores Amodio and Stephanie Quintano Lauri respectively, before furthering my musical studies at the University of Malta – reading for a B.A. (Hons.) degree in Music (major in piano performance and conducting), mainly studying with Michael Laus. In September 2013, I will be commencing my doctoral studies on the DMus course at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London.

As a keyboard player, I was invited to perform in Damascus (Syria), and have also performed throughout the United Kingdom; I was also a prize-winner during the fourth edition of the international piano competition Concorso pianistico W.A. Mozart, which was held in Italy. I specialise in historical performance, regularly taking on the double role of conductor and soloist with various seventeenth and eighteenth-century keyboard (harpsichord/fortepiano) concertos; I also conduct early instrumental music and operas from keyboard.

In the past, I have worked with a number of groups and orchestras that include the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra, Orion Symphony Orchestra, Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, RWCMD Chamber Orchestra, REPCo Orchestra, and the ‘Wales International Academy of Voice (Saturday Academy)’. Operas in which I have featured as main conductor and assistant conductor include Mozart’s Der Schauspieldirektor (Teatru Manoel, September 2012), Salieri’s Prima la musica e poi le parole (Teatru Manoel, September 2012), Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus (RWCMD, March 2011), Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (RWCMD, March 2012), Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (Mid-Wales Opera, September 2011), and the Mascagni-Leoncavallo Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci double-bill (Teatru Manoel, March 2013).

I have recently performed for HRH Prince Edward of Windsor, Earl of Wessex, and other distinguished guests at Palazzo Parisio in Malta for a World Fellows dinner (Duke of Edinburgh event).

Forthcoming engagements as conductor and keyboard player include chamber music concerts in Cardiff, London, and in Istanbul with Broschi Ensemble, as well as symphonic and operatic concerts in Bath, Berlin, and Malta with Les Bougies Baroques and as part of the ‘Valletta International Baroque Festival’ (January 2014).

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Photo by Francis Micallef

You must have grown up with a keen ear for music, so when did you start playing the keyboard?

I started playing the keyboard when I was six. At the risk of sounding incredibly verbose, music has always been something that reaches deep down to my soul. It is the reason I breathe and wake up ready to face the day every morning. It is very hard for me to imagine a life without music.

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Photo by Francis Micallef

Much of your time is spent playing beautiful music or conducting concerts around the world, so how do you use Pinterest in your day-to-day activities?

I am constantly busy traveling and performing, but I find that Pinterest is something that grounds me in my manic day-to-day activities. It is also indispensable to me as a collection of visual references. You see, when it comes to baroque operas (and certain concerts in which there is a particularly creative visual element) I am not only the music director – I am also the stage director, and I design the costumes and sets. Pinterest is therefore incredibly useful as it serves as an easily accessible interactive collection of historic (as well as current) visual references – visual references without which my product would not be as three-dimensional as it is.

Currently, you’re the artistic director for Les Bougies Baroques, which you founded in 2012, and Coloratura Ensemble. What do you love about working with young, talented professionals?

I love working with young talented professionals because it provides one with a scenario that encourages intimate music-making, which in turn generates a fresh product that is teeming with life and character. One of the main reasons why I love early music and conducting from keyboard so much is that early music and the practice of conducting from keyboard both encourage intimate musical interaction – with a particular brand of communication passing between the music director who is directing from keyboard (who is actively making music with everyone else) and the players.

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Photo by Malcolm Laudi

Aside from being a talented conductor and player, you’re also a vocal coach. Can you tell us about this?

Since I am an opera conductor, it is of course of the utmost importance that one fully understands how the human voice works, what it can do, and what is bad for it. However, that being said, I must point out that a vocal teacher and a vocal coach are very different. Vocal teachers focus on vocal technique and health, while vocal coaches focus on the interpretation of the music – namely the aspects of language and style. A vocal coach must therefore have a working knowledge of vocal technique and what vocal teachers would have worked on with the singer/s in question, as well as in depth historical knowledge of the music and language.

Last year, I had the honour of musically preparing internationally-acclaimed countertenor Max Cencic in Vienna in anticipation of the release of his new album ‘Venezia’ with the record-label Virgin (this album was released in January 2013). This musical preparation involved coaching and writing the ‘Da Capos’ (decorations added when singing repeats in baroque arias) for his album. This musical preparation with Max was pretty intense, as it was the most high-profile coaching I had ever undertaken – but I enjoyed every minute of it while doing a good job, as I do love new challenges!

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Photo by Alexander Vann

If you could go back in time and play with any composer found in your ‘Composers I Love’ board, who would this be and why?

I could no sooner pick a favourite star in the heavens… However, I can certainly tell you that the top three candidates would be Mozart, Haydn, and Bach. Mozart for his unabashed humanity and unparalleled genius, Haydn for his tasteful humour and gorgeous sound-worlds, and Bach for momentarily letting us taste the divine here on earth.

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Photo by Anastasiya Kryvanos

Thanks for the pinterview and sharing your story with us, Ian Peter! To see more of Ian’s musical work, you can visit his website, boards and Facebook page .

Read "Ian Peter Bugeja: Opera Conductor and Keyboard Player"

Monday, July 22, 2013

Jackie Elton: Eco-Friendly Mom and Salsa Dancer

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British pinner, Jackie Elton, is a business owner, group speaker, salsa dancer and blogger, who enjoys living a ‘green’ lifestyle with her family, by using such things as solar panels and alternative remedies. Read more about her eco-friendly gift store and essential tips on being environmentally friendly!

Hi Jackie! Share with us a bit about yourself and what you do?

I am a single mum to two fantastic kids, and I’m living an eco-friendly life on a smallholding in Lincolnshire. I have lived in Lincolnshire most of my life and the smallholding has been in my family for about 100 years.

My home is energy efficient and greener than the average home. I have both solar thermal and Solar PV panels on my roof, a wind turbine and a wood burning stove, which I can cook on and heats the bungalow in the winter. I also use natural cleaning products to clean my home, buy organic food and use natural skincare products. I used washable nappies on both of my children, when they were babies, which was quite a while ago, as they are ten and nine years old now.

I also write about Green and Natural Living on my blog and run a business called Green Aspirations selling environmental and ethical gifts. In my spare time, I love to go Salsa dancing.

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When did you first become interested in environmental issues and natural, green living?

For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in the environment and the natural world. Recently, I found some primary school work that my mum had saved and it was about what you could do for the environment, I must have been about ten when I wrote it. I was brought up on the smallholding (where I live now). My mum kept goats, sheep, chickens and pigs, mum also grew alot of vegetables and is a fantastic cook. I would play outside in the paddocks with the goat kids. I would also help with making the hay and I would shearing the sheep using hand shears. I remember when I was young nothing seemed to be wasted vegetable peelings went to the chickens or pigs and my grandad saved newspapers for recycle and the money would go to the local church.

I also did a degree in Zoology and got a job as a trainee ecologist doing wildlife surveys for protected species like Great Crested Newts and Badgers. I was then a recycling and waste minimisation officer for a while, before having my children.

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Tell us more about your retail business, Green Aspirations.

I started Green Aspirations in April 2009, because I couldn’t find the fairtrade and natural products I liked to buy in Lincolnshire, so initially I did craft stalls and parties in people’s homes, also being self employed meant I could fit it round the children being at school. In June 2010, I went on-line with my Green Aspirations website, then in January 2011, I started my blog, Green and Natural Living. I also give talks about Green Living to groups in Lincolnshire. I want to start doing video blog posts to inspire more people and help them realise that Green Living can be good for you, fun and save you money!

All my Green Aspirations products have to meet my environmental and ethical criteria, which is that they have to be fairtrade and/or natural or environmental and be good value for money. For example the Fairtrade Fairies are designed in the UK and made in India, the company has creche facilities for mums to use and they put money into a local primary school, secondary school, dentistry service, health clinic and veterinary medicine for the local rural community. So, the £6 for a beautiful fairtrade fairy not only helps two small British businesses but also the people and local community in India.

Who are some of your favorite pinners who have inspired you to make your life a little greener?

I love Wildforms, they have some great photos of British Wildlife, they inspire me to get outside and look at the wildlife around me. They also have some great nature kits for kids. Recyclart has lots of fantastic pins showing ideas for re-purposing, reusing and upcycling materials we would usually throw away. Holiday Organic showcases lots of places to stay, most of which are based on Organic farms, there are also boards about organic food, self sufficiency and wildlife. These Pinners all inspire me to keep doing what I am doing and I hope I inspire people too.

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You’re also passionate about alternative therapies, so how do you use these in your daily life?

I use alternative remedies for my children and myself, including Bach Rescue Remedy if the children are anxious about something or for nightmares. Hypercal cream for cuts and grazes, Arnica cream for bruises and tea tree for spots. I also use other homeopathic remedies for childhood ailments. I use herbal remedies for myself and meditate daily.

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Give us a sneak peak into your other passion…salsa dancing!

I have been dancing Salsa for over five years and go social dancing in Birmingham, Derby, Nottingham and London. I love dancing, the music and meeting new people. I have made lots of friends through Salsa dancing, it is also good exercise. Salsa dancing is my time to be just me. My favourite dancers are Marchant & Davina and Mitchell & Monica. They are fantastic performers and teachers. Last year, I did a Marchant & Davina MaD Salsa Bootcamp and I have done two of Mitchell & Monica’s masterclasses. For the last two years, I have attended Mambocity 5 star Congress in London, the largest UK salsa congress!

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Everyday you show people that living an eco-friendly life can be easy and fun! Any advice for those planning on going green?

It is easy to get overwhelmed when thinking about environmental issues like climate change, endangered species and habitat loss, and lots of people think that they have no control over these things so why bother. However, if we all start out by changing little things then all those little things can add up and make a huge difference. Things like using reusable shopping bags rather than plastic bags, thinking about what you buy, how it has been made and how long it will last, donating clothes and toys to a charity shop. There is a lot of information about what you can do for the environment and there are also groups you can join, like Transition Town groups.

Choose actions that will fit with your lifestyle, not everyone can afford solar panels and not everyone can have a wood burning stove. But everyone can think about what they recycle or reuse and what they buy. So, whether you decide to start growing your own vegetables, if you have the space or cooking from scratch a couple of nights each week or making your own skincare products, it will have a positive effect and telling your friends and family about what you are doing will hopefully magnify the effect.

Thanks for the pinterview and sharing your story with us, Jackie! To see more of Jackie’s eco-friendly gifts, visit her shop, green living boards, Facebook page or watch her dance!

Read "Jackie Elton: Eco-Friendly Mom and Salsa Dancer"

Monday, July 15, 2013

Hannah Longmuir: Landscape and Wildlife Artist

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To start her day, Scottish pinner, Hannah Longmuir, takes a stroll through beautiful countryside terrains and then starts drawing alongside snails, swallows, and even spiders. Hannah gives us a sneak peak into her one-of-a-kind studio where she illustrates landscape and wildlife drawings that come to life!

Hi Hannah! Share with us a bit about yourself and how you got into the arts?

Hello! I’m a 26 year old from the Scottish Borders in the south of Scotland. I’ve been exploring the Borders countryside since I was a little girl, collecting pebbles and feathers and toads and insects and bringing them home to draw. I spent 8 years living in Edinburgh, did a degree in Divinity, work in a Library, then decided it was time to get back to the countryside and start my own business drawing animals, making illustrated paper goods, and doing commission work.

My pencil is my weapon of choice. I love working in pencil because it is simple, flexible, and readily available - it’s like that fact about how you’re never more than 10 metres from a rat - I doubt I’m never more than 10 metres from a pencil and some paper.

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The view from your studio is one-of-a-kind! What is it like to work there?

I’m very lucky to live and work is such a beautiful setting. One of my drawings - 4pm in November- is the view from my shed every day during November. There is a rookery over to the West of our house and the birds travel across the house, swooping and hollering and circling, making their way to the roost for the night. It’s pretty lovely.

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What do you love most about exploring the Scottish Borders countryside? Tell us about one of your most memorable experiences and drawings.

I love the unexpected encounters. I’ll be out walking my dog and suddenly he’ll freeze because there’s a Roe Deer on the path. She’ll look at us then bound off, her little white rump bouncing over a fence and away. Suddenly you’re aware that there’s all this movement and life around you. It’s the same if you turn over a stone on the river bank - an entire ecosystem scuttles out - tiny fish and larvae and tadpoles and alien-looking insects.

Because of the type of work I do, I get great opportunities to meet people who work with animals. I was invited to draw Hoggy, a little rescue hedgehog, last year, which was one of my favourite ever encounters. And just yesterday I met two Barn Owl chicks, the fluffiest little things, which was the best day of 2013 so far!

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Many of your drawings can be found in your boards, such as Wildlife. How do you use Pinterest and what inspires you?

I find being able to organise images into boards really valuable and it definitely suits how my brain works. I use Pinterest like a visual journal or sketchbook, collecting images that make my heart skip a beat, and putting them alongside each other. I pin my own work too, because it puts it into a context of other lovely work.

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Who are some of your favorite pinners that you’ve discovered on Pinterest?

I follow quite a lot of people, and I’m always on the hunt for lovely new boards to follow - mainly animal and bird illustrations and artwork. I think one of my favourite pinners is drawdrawdraw.

When you’re not drawing, you love to collect postcards. Can you give us a sneak peak into your collection?

My postcard collecting started when I was very young. I’ve always been into writing letters and penpals and stationery and postcards (one reason why I now make illustrated letter writing sets). This photo features one of my prize postcards - a wee Scottish chap with his kilt on in the rain, and its too windy for his umbrella. I found it amongst my dad’s things. It was sent from Largs in Ayrshire in 1917, from Bertie, and he says “I’m having a great time sailing my boat in the pond. This is a grand place to have a holiday.” How lovely is that?!

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Thanks for the pinterview and sharing your story with us, Hannah! We can’t wait to hear about your next wildlife encounter!

To see more of Hannah Longmuir’s work, check out her Etsy shop, website, boards & Facebook page.

Read "Hannah Longmuir: Landscape and Wildlife Artist"

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sierra Blair-Coyle: Professional Rock Climber

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Summer is in full swing, which means pinner Sierra Blair-Coyle is spending most of her time exploring the outdoors. As a professional rock climber, she loves collecting sports photography, discovering workout ideas, and finding healthy recipes on Pinterest. Read on to hear about her summer plans and all the things that lure her into the outdoors.

Hi Sierra! First, can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a 19 year old professional rock climber and a full-time college student at Arizona State University with a full-ride academic scholarship. I tried climbing when I was 8 years at a local mall and instantly fell in love. Since I began climbing I have had many incredible opportunities around the world, competing, attending photo shoots, and media events. Some of the highlights of my career have been being a US team member, deep water soloing (climbing above water) in Maui, and winning nationals twice as a junior. I love climbing and all of the doors that it has opened for me.

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You spend a lot of time exploring rocks and everything nature has to offer. What do you love most about the outdoors?

In addition to climbing, I love to take adventures in nature. I love to wander and stumble upon amazing places and things, being outside is especially incredible when you are blazing a new trail.

Summer is a great time to be outdoors. Do you have any fun travel plans this year?

This summer I’m attending an IFSC World Cup in Toronto, 2 photo shoots in Colorado, and the opening of the Sender One Climbing Gym in California, all in the next month! After that I am hoping to head to Maui and Puerto Rico for deep water soloing (rock climbing over water), and take some day trips to Las Vegas and various towns in Arizona. I love traveling, especially when it is spur of the moment.

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How do you use Pinterest in your day-to-day?

I use Pinterest for everything! I get a lot of ideas for hair, nails, and make-up off of Pinterest, I am always trying something new. I also like to find new places to travel and different foods to cook. In addition to all of that, I am also always looking for workout ideas. One of my favorite workouts courtesy of Pinterest it called the “5-4-3-2-1” workout. It is great cardio and a lot of fun.

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As an athlete, you must know all the healthy food finds. Who are some of your favorite foodie pinners?

My favorite healthy food pinners are Chocolate-Covered Katie, Taralyn McNitt (Undressed Skeleton), and Vegan Yack Attack. They always have so many healthy, yet simple and creative recipes to choose from.

Thanks for the pinterview and sharing your story with us, Sierra! To see Sierra in action, check out this competition video and more videos on YouTube.

Read " Sierra Blair-Coyle: Professional Rock Climber"