My 2012 in review

2012 has been a busy year for me. I started a new job in August, which has kept me out of trouble, and I’ve been working hard outside of the day-job too, trying to get more freelance writing work and make more connections in the UK-Japan community in London and also with street artists in the UK. I haven’t written on AliMuskett.com as much as I would have liked to, but have been busy with Haikugirl’s Japan and Picturing England, my two main blogs.

Still, I’ve managed to post 54 times on AliMuskett.com and have received 15,487 views in total this year, which is wonderful! My top 5 posts in terms of views this year were:

1. Brainwashed in London (August 2012) – 932 views

Mr Brainwash

2. An interview with graffiti artist Paul “DON” Smith (April 2012) – 766 views

Street Art & Graffiti in Shoreditch - Don

3. Sex & the City? Do it yourself! (February 2012) – 312 views

Bleeker St

4. The locks of love…  (January 2012) – 233 views

Locks on the Brooklyn Bridge

5. Rave Art: Mr Brainwash & David Guetta know how to party (August 2012) – 213 views

David Guetta, The Queen, Prince Philip & Mr Brainwash!

As you can see, it’s been quite a year! I’ve really got into the street art scene in the UK, and hope to be able to meet up with some more artists next year and conduct a few more interviews. I’d also like to write more about London, because it really is an amazing place to live and there’s an awful lot going on here.

I’ve been looking at the handy annual report WordPress.com has produced for me, and was very interested to see that most of my readers this year have been from the UK, but that the US and Mexico (?!) are in second and third places, closely followed by Japan in fourth place and Spain and Canada in joint fifth place. It seems my blog is more international that I imagined, and I’m delighted to know that people all over the world are stopping by.

Wondering how people are finding my blog, I looked at the popular search terms which lead people to AliMuskett.com. The top five this year were all to do with the Big Egg Hunt, and yet my Big Egg Hunt post featuring photos of the 209 eggs I found hidden around London earlier this year didn’t quite make it into the top five posts (it was sixth, actually, with 178 views).

Anyway, enough of these statistics! Anyone who is following me on Twitter is probably wondering what’s got into this girl who used to hate stats so much at school, as this will be my third ‘2012 review’ post this afternoon! Thank you all for reading, whoever you are, and please do keep reading in 2013! Leave me some comments, introduce yourselves, suggest things you’d like to read about, and do get in touch if you’d like to discuss a review or interview, or some freelance writing work.

Happy New Year! See you in 2013!

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Another Freebie Christmas!

Christmas can be really depressing. Don’t get me wrong – I love all the decorations and the food and everything, but it’s so damn expensive. Even if you don’t have a lot of people to buy presents for, those you do have to get can really add up. On top of the expense, there’s always the feeling that most of the things you buy are unnecessary and perhaps even unwanted, too. How many of us can honestly say we’ve never received a Christmas present we didn’t want? Come on, be honest. We all have. Each and every one of us has, at some time or other in our lives, received something hideous and groaned at its inappropriateness. But did we stop to think that the present had cost someone money? That perhaps the giver had agonised over whether or not it was the right gift?

Choosing gifts for people can be a minefield, and even more so when you’re on a budget. That’s why last year my Mum and I started ‘Freebie Christmas’. Throughout the year we collect as much free stuff as we can for each other, and save it all up for Christmas. The aim is to spend nothing at all (although I did pay a few pounds postage on a couple of items this year, which I suppose is technically cheating), and we’re allowed to get things through any legal means (that means, using your Boots points is ok, buy one get one free is ok, stealing is not ok – except in the case of tea bags in hotel rooms, which we all know is not really stealing). 😉

If you missed it, here’s last year’s post. This year I think my Mum outdid herself:

Christmas freebies

A magazine, tea, hot chocolate, free coffees, a notebook, pen & pencil, chocolate biscuits, sweets, hand cream, shower gel, a DVD, a Hello Kitty purse… ALL FREE!

Not only did we both have a lot of fun collecting things and rising to the challenge, all of the usual pressure was off. There was no concern over one person having spent more than the other, just a fight to see who could collect the most. There was some thought (some of my presents are really cool!), but there was also some silliness (but really, who doesn’t love free tissues?). I didn’t receive a single thing I didn’t like or couldn’t use, and even found joy in the surprise of opening things.

I’ve mentioned Freebie Christmas to a few people and everyone I’ve spoken to seems to think it’s a good idea. It’s amazing how much good stuff you can get for free (just see above!), and think of how much stress and money you could save yourself if you agree to a Freebie Christmas next year.


NaNoWriMo 2012 – Winner!

Well folks, November has been quite a month! I’ve battled a lingering cold, fought with the pavement (the pavement won, temporarily causing me to have to limp everywhere, but I’m ok now), worked full time (plus the occasional late night), worked as a reporter for three days on top of my usual job, drunk a LOT of coffee, taken a gajillion photos (none of which I’ve uploaded yet), written 2 blog posts on AliMuskett.com and 10 blog posts over on Haikugirl’s Japan, attended a few workshops and exhibitions, and somehow… somehow… managed to write a 50,000 word novel for NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo 2012 certificate

Yes, The Shizuka Tea Shop which I promised to write way back at the end of October is finally in first draft, sitting comfortably at 50,106 words.

The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to get the words out and to lay the inner editor to one side for a month. That part has been hard – my novel is riddled with spelling mistakes, typos, things I could have worded better, facts that need checking, but all of that can come later – early next year when I start the editing process. I do absolutely intend to come back to this manuscript and edit the hell out of it to turn it into something publishable. The idea is there, and I think it’s a good one, so just watch this space.

I can’t say too much about The Shizuka Tea Shop at this point except to say that I’m calling it ‘travel chick-lit’, which is a title I would apply to books such as Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s set in Japan and England, and is pure fiction, although I have drawn on some of my own experiences to set scenes. The Shizuka Tea Shop is a book I hope people will simply enjoy for what it is – a sweet, funny, story about people everyone can relate to. Oh, and it would probably make a pretty good film, too. Just saying… 😉

Thank you everyone who has supported me during this month of madness. It’s been an interesting experiment to see if I really do have time in my overly busy life to write – and I’m happy to have found that I do (although it has been hard to force myself to actually do it, and I’ve been writing right up until the bitter end). It’s worth noting that I wrote more than half of this book using Pages on my iPad. When I bought my iPad I originally told myself it was so I could get some writing done on the Tube, but really that was just a lie to myself because I wanted a new toy. Well, my iPad is finally being put to good use! I’m no longer just playing Scrabble and Kumo Lumo on it, or watching catch-up TV in bed, I’m actually using my commuting time to write, and that’s a habit I hope to continue.

November is nearly over, and December will be upon us tomorrow. Before we know it, it will be Christmas and then 2013. It’s a little early for a New Year’s resolution, but I hereby promise to keep the spirit of NaNoWriMo with me throughout 2013, although I don’t intend to write 50,000 every month.

NaNoWriMo Winner 2012


Urban Masters pop-up exhibition at Factory 7, Shoreditch

Until 18th November there is a fabulous pop-up exhibition called Urban Masters at Factory 7 in Shoreditch (13 Hearn Street, EC2A 3LS). The exhibition, organised by The Opera Gallery, showcases street and urban art by some of the greats, including Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Blek le Rat, C215, Sweet Toof, ROA and Ron English, to name just a few of the 33 artists involved. Urban Masters attempts to capture the feelings and experience of the artists who were invited to give their personal interpretation on the marks left by art history-makers. Proceeds from the show’s catalogue go to Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest human rights organisation.

Here are some of my favourite pieces in the exhibition:

C215

C215

Rone

Rone

Zeus

Zeus

Banksy

Banksy

Rone

Rone

Blek le Rat

Blek le Rat

Nick Gentry

Nick Gentry

Nick Gentry

Nick Gentry

GRIS1/DMV

GRIS1/DMV

Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey

C215

C215

Joe Black

Joe Black

Here’s a video of the exhibition’s installation and opening night:


Paul DON Smith @ Graffik Gallery

Despite my general dislike of exhibitions of street art in galleries, I’m always curious to see if it can work and was quite excited to hear that Paul DON Smith had an upcoming exhibition. I’ve been a fan of DON’s work for a long time now, and walked to the gallery yesterday with my fingers crossed, hoping he wasn’t going to let me down.

Graffik Gallery

I needn’t have worried. Although DON’s work on the streets often works because of the location or surface, his art work is actually perfect for the gallery too. DON paints the most outstanding portraits, and his work really is the kind of art I would want to buy and hang on my walls.

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON’s famous ‘Banker’ image was also in abundance in the gallery…

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

As well as DON’s usual portraits, there was also a series of star sign themed pieces, with small lights inserted in them:

DON @ Graffik Gallery

I prefer his portraits but I can see how these pieces could be popular.

The centrepiece of the exhibition was this curious cupboard which I just couldn’t stop peering in…

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

I’m not quite sure what the meaning of this piece was, and felt a little self-conscious in the tiny gallery staring into it on my own, but I loved looking at it. I wonder if this is what it looks like inside DON’s head…

My only criticism of the exhibition would be that there wasn’t enough space. I’d love to see DON’s work spread out a little more in a slightly bigger space, like perhaps the Pure Evil gallery or Stolen Space. But other than that – wonderful! DON is one of the hardest working street artists I know of, and he never disappoints.

DON’s solo show at the Graffik Gallery is open for another week – check it out while you can! For more information please visit graffikgallery.com and pauldonsmith.com.


NaNoWriMo 2012

In November 2010 I participated in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. Now, two years later, I’ve decided to have another go. My 2010 novel hasn’t seen the light of day since I finished it, but finishing it was actually the main achievement. If I read it back now I would probably cringe at how badly written it is, but that doesn’t matter, because NaNoWriMo is all about putting that inner editor to one side and bashing out 50,000 words. Yes, 50,000 words – that’s about 1,667 a day for 30 days.

This time round though, I’m intending to write something that could actually be commercial. I have an idea forming which may not make me the next Elizabeth Gilbert/Helen Fielding/Candace Bushnell/[insert name of favourite chick-lit author here], but it might actually be something that people want to read.

So, from November 1st until November 30th I shall be tapping out my story which is provisionally titled ‘The Shizuka Tea Shop‘. Keep an eye on the counter to the right of this blog to see my word count progress… and wish me luck! 😉


Exhibition: Pablo Delgado at Pure Evil Gallery

Every time I’ve come across a piece of Pablo Delgado’s art on the streets I’ve felt excited, because it’s like discovering secrets. His work is tiny, and so easy to miss, which is such a contrast to a lot of street art which seems to be about being bigger and better than the last piece. When I heard that Pablo Delgado was going to be having an exhibition at the Pure Evil Gallery on Leonard Street I wasn’t sure if it would work. I like his art because I have to discover it, so I wondered if having it presented to me in a gallery would take away some of the magic.

I needn’t have worried.

Pablo Delgado’s exhibition is wonderful. In the ground level part of the gallery the work is nicely presented and fun to look at – I love these monkeys:

Pablo Delgado

And the display in the window is pretty cool:

Pablo Delgado

There are cardboard boxes scattered around the exhibition – make sure you look inside them!

Pablo Delgado

But it’s not until you step downstairs into the basement that the fun really begins.

Pablo Delgado

It’s like stepping into a magical world where little people really exist, and they’re everywhere.

Pablo Delgado

Pablo Delgado

A lot of the work retains the feeling of being on the streets, but there are also pieces in different styles, which work perfectly in a gallery. Like these people in vases of water:

Pablo Delgado

Pablo Delgado

And these wonderful reflection pieces:

Pablo Delgado

Pablo Delgado

I was quite fascinated by this dark room containing people in illuminated jars, too:

Pablo Delgado

Pablo Delgado

Delgado has used the gallery space really well, playing to the rough, urban style of the small space and its exposed brickwork. This isn’t an exhibition that would necessarily work in a big, shiny gallery like the Tate Modern, but it seems perfect for the space it’s in.

Pablo Delgado

Pablo Delgado is at Pure Evil Gallery, 108 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4XS until 28th October. For more information visit: pureevilclothing.com. It’s so good, I might go back for seconds…