When I first met Karen from Dots and Blocks I knew that we were going to be good buddies, like me she has a love of being creative and is a mental health champion and she loves sharing her skills with other people (and she's wonderful calm and knowledgeable tutor).
Karen has been teaching her lovely workshops at the Studio since I first opened, she was the first tutor to put her faith into what I was building here and has been a regular ever since.
Join us as we have a bit of catch up - talking all things small business, living a creative life, looking after your mental health and of course lockdown!
Hello my lovely friend - can you give me a quick summary of who you are and what you do, for those people that might not have come across you before?
Hi there - I'm Karen from Dots and Blocks, and I live in Durrington with my husband Chris and our furbaby Shadow 💖
I am passionate about promoting mindfulness through creativity using Dot Mandalas and Block Printing 💖
Can you tell me a little bit about your business?
I have been a creative and crafty person for as long as I can remember, even as a child. I started young with fabrics and cross stitching, and drawing birds and nature, then as an adult moved into scrapbooking, card making and much more!
Then in 2010 I had extreme work related stress, which gave me shingles leading to fibromyalgia (not diagnosed until 2013). Things kinda hit bottom in 2016 when I resigned from work due to a new line manager being a bully.... I was already battling daily with anxiety, stress and depression (as well as chronic pain), and the new line manager tipped me over the edge. I spent a year in bed, had severe panic attacks if I went outside, and inside my head was a dark and scary place.....
I was referred to a specialist at hospital and they advised me to take up meditation and use my creativity for mindfulness, but I was such a mess I couldn't get my inner voice to shut up! That's when I discovered Dot Mandalas in 2017 - they engaged my brain in a way no other crafty hobby did, and I attained a meditative state naturally.
Following 18 months of recovering, I finally felt that I wanted to return to society - but knew I wouldn't be fit for a normal job. So, I decided to use my skills as a corporate trainer to share my passion for mindfulness through creativity with others. I trialled the workshop idea for 6 months, and Dots and Blocks was launched in July 2019 🙏
I would say that my approach to teaching is about giving students the confidence to give it a go. Teaching the basic steps, and empowering them to be brave - creativity often takes courage, and I love to help people and see them learning new skills. The look on their faces when they have finished pieces at workshops is priceless - they are so proud of themselves and it truly warms my heart.
You are obviously a very creative person - are there any other arts or crafts that you enjoy?
Oh absolutely! I am definitely a mixed media crafter, and love trying new things! The one thing I do most of myself at home is Block Printing. Creating artisan fabrics using wooden printing blocks that are hand carved by artisans in India 🙏 Hand printing is a slow & methodical process that is deeply absorbing and quiets the mind. It is another craft that I teach others - with both kits and workshops.
What would your top tip be for someone looking at learning a new craft?
Be brave and give it a go! As adults we are often scared of taking the plunge. Embrace your inner child and go for it! You have nothing to lose, and you may even discover a hobby that helps you in ways you could never have imagined 🥰
Finally, how did you cope with lockdown and the new social distancing rules?
As soon as the pandemic arrived and the measures were put in place, my anxiety levels went through the roof! Personally I developed palpitations and so I set up my table for creating Dot Mandalas. After a couple of mindful days of dotting, I felt much calmer and rational. It was then that I realised how much creativity helps me, and led me to think about how (without workshops) I could help others.
That's when the concept of creativity kits sprang to mind. I already had all the physical supplies - but up until then I had not created any written guidance or video tutorials. I have created and launched 3 different kits so far, and have 2 more that are being worked on right now.
So, although all the workshops and craft fairs are on hold, I have found a way to share the inner peace and calm that comes from creativity.
I am always looking for the opportunities to share my passion with others, because mental health matters.
You can find out more about Karen and her business on the links below - please do pop over and give her a few thumbs up!