Dear Fellow Cat Lovers, if you have been following along for a while you will know that I’m a lover of animals and slightly obsessed about cats.
I have a dear cat called Avedon (after Richard Avedon, one of my favourite photographers) and I’m also helping out on a Greek Island at the moment feeding a neighbourhood of 40 cats.
I’m very honoured to be talking with Michelle Adams from Chatty Cats Care about dreams, business, creativity, finding your happy place and doing the things that you love that make you feel alive.
Feeding and helping cats is one of those things that makes my heart beat a little faster as well as inspiring women to go after what is true for them. If you need a little inspiration and just so happen to love cats (as a bonus), you will enjoy her fabulous podcast Catmaste Chronicles.
Episode Description: This week Michelle speaks with Carla Coulson. She is a photographer and life coach and helps women say Yes to themselves by reconnecting to their creativity, joy, and passion. Her mission is to lead women out of chaos, confusion or feeling stuck so they can access deeper creativity, love, health, success, confidence, and fun. Carla has authored 3 photography books Including Italian Joy, her story of leaving Sydney to find the right life for her as a photographer in Italy.
Dear Lovelies, I’m so delighted to share with you this interview the lovely Susan Papazian did with me about a life of possibilities on her blog:
If anyone truly understands the power to change, to design a life full of possibilities, it’s Carla Coulson.
Carla says the biggest obstacle of her life was the first 35 years. Running a business that didn’t fuel her passion left her emotionally depleted and longing for adventure and connection. Who knew all those years ago saying YES to herself would lay the foundation to her stellar career as a Paris based photographer and publisher of 8 books with Penguin and hundreds of feature articles in magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Gourmet Traveller and Collezioni.
Today, Carla calls Paris her home and spends most of her time working as a creative life coach, helping women all around the world to reconnect to their creativity, passion, personal power and purpose. And it doesn’t always have to be grand and world-changing, Carla says. It just has to bring deep personal satisfaction to you.
Read on as Carla talks about love, joy and how creativity has given her the opportunity to connect with herself and the army of women who are also saying YES.
Over to you Carla…
Your job can be driven by results and outcomes. Your work is your legacy. How do we find value in our work, rather than in our job?
My advice is always do something that brings you joy or where you feel a sense of true purpose and deep satisfaction. There is a lot written about doing what you love and I have had the fortune to do that in both my photography and coaching careers, ultimately if you have a strong sense of creating something worthwhile, serving a group of people whose lives will be impacted by your work, that brings an immense satisfaction that never feels like a job. It’s like mainlining life, you feel like you have a reason for being on this planet and everything becomes clear. You have a deep sense of belonging, to yourself, to the community and to this glorious planet. Life feels good.
What were your obstacles, setbacks, triumphs or joys in your road to defining your work?
I think the biggest obstacle for me was the first 35 years! Not having any true guidance or tools to understand what it was that I liked or how I could design a life and go make it happen. The idea that I could co-create my life, have a true purpose that I was deeply connected to, was foreign to me. Like many people I started figuring it out when big life problems started happening that I could no longer ignore. I thank the obstacles, the setbacks for pushing me out of my comfort zone, causing me sometimes to break down so I was forced to change how I did things. I now love adversity because I know there is a chance for growth.
The first greatest joy was when I said yes to myself and I said no to the way I was living and had the courage to walk away from a comfortable life to go find the right life for me. For the first time I started asking myself what was it that I liked or what could a new path look like? Then I allowed myself the luxury to go and check it out. The joys have been numerous, moving to Italy and Paris, becoming a photography, gaining self-love and self-esteem, realising you alway have space for new friends and love, life can begin again in a heartbeat, making a life being on the road, feeling alive and seeing other people’s lives influenced by that is an immeasurable joy. That we are all connected.
I am so excited to present to you today another fab interview in Magic Is In the Doing series with a creative making her dreams happen, this time it’s author Louisa Deasey.
Louisa has recently published a memoir titled A Letter from Paris and it is a very special book for many reasons. Louisa went on the ultimate creative journey, she followed her curiosity and had the chance to get to know her long lost father’s hopes, dreams, loves and adventures after a mysterious letter arrived from Paris.
Over to Louisa…
You recently published a memoir A Letter from Paris… which unfolded after you received a letter out of the blue from the granddaughter of a woman in Paris who once knew your father.
This was the ultimate creative journey, you used your curiosity and allowed it to take you on an adventure that ended with you writing a book about it. Can you tell us about ‘the trail of breadcrumbs’ you kept following to bring this journey to life? When did you think it had legs?
Pretty much as soon as I received the email from Coralie (in Paris), I had this feeling of impending doom – lol! You know when you just know you’re going to have to follow something through no matter how or where or what it takes from you? It was that intense and that immediate. It was about my dad, who I’d never known, and I just had this immediate feeling that it’s now or never. If I don’t pursue this now, it won’t just be me who never knows dad, but none of my siblings and their children or this family in Paris who had apparently been wondering about him for decades. I felt like I was the only one who could tell the story, and research the story, and that was a huge responsibility; a huge thrill, a huge fear, a huge risk.
Like anything creative and authentic! It was just ‘huge’.
I should also add that I’d been fruitlessly pitching a fiction novel, I’d worked on for 6 years, to various publishers for about 18 months when A Letter From Paris landed in my lap. Before I’d even written a synopsis for A Letter From Paris I had an offer from a publisher, so I also had this feeling then that – my god! this story was a gift. As much as I knew it would take out of me, it was a gift if I wanted to write another book.
A Letter From Paris is a creative project of love, sweat and tears; it embodies the ultimate sense of ‘creative living’ – using your life as an art form. How did this project enrich your life, what experiences, people or insights did it give you? What were the challenges?
This is the whole thing about a memoir that I love – we are creating art from the material of our lives, which is oftentimes from pain. It also unites us with people we may never have met. It is a very intimate and personal form of writing. The whole thing was just miraculous. Not only did I find my dad’s memoir (of life in France in the 1940s and 1950s) when I started to research it, I also connected with people who’d known him all across the world; through letters, diaries, and social media accounts.
I opened my self up a lot, writing this book. It was quite painful, which I write about in the book – having to keep repeating that I didn’t know my dad and asking if anyone had any memories or letters to share I would be grateful. 99% of the time they were open, but the ones that didn’t really hurt, because I had put myself in such a vulnerable position to ask.
But I met this incredible French family and I made new friends in France, London and Australia. One of the most special connections was a woman whose dad had written a very long eulogy for my dad, which was never published. I found the full eulogy in the library and went on a wild hunt to find his children (the author is no longer alive). After a strange bump into a long-lost friend on my way home from the supermarket, I sent an email to someone he suggested, who then forwarded it to the children of the man that night. By morning, I woke up to three emails with recalled memories of dad and their phone numbers. Two of the children lived just streets away from me!! I called one of them up and she was home, looking through her family photo albums and invited me to come over. I saw all these photos of my dad I never knew existed, because I’d dared to take the risk.
She’s still a dear friend and has been a huge support in this journey!
But the writing was tough. It’s so emotional – excavating your family history. Unravelling stories that do or don’t have truth in them, exposing yourself on the page. At the same time, I felt in some ways I didn’t have a choice, as the story fascinated me so much. I was quite obsessed!
I have a saying that ‘magic is in the doing’. That we can all take our dreams to reality if we take inspired action. What were 5 key things or actions that you did to bring this project to life?
Listen to your gut. Like I said, the moment I received the email from Coralie I felt this buzzing in my stomach, I knew I had to pursue it. Follow those feelings.
Start wherever you are. I had very little information about my dad when I began. I had to just start with that…
Find understanding friends – even one could make all the difference. A lot of my most understanding friends have come from the internet! It’s easier than ever to make connections with like-minded people, thanks to Facebook and Instagram and the incredible world wide web. It’s like a global portal! Not everyone gets how difficult the creative process is. I really learned who I could trust when I was working on this book – it’s so personal. Creativity takes a HUGE amount of risk and it may not pay off in the ways you expect (it rarely does!) but you have to do it for your own reasons. Find friends that believe in you or also value these special projects.
Keep going, but have breaks when you’re getting overwhelmed
Remember that creative work lasts a lot longer than any momentary agony that you might feel during the process. I have this funny quote from Leo DiCaprio while he was filming Romeo and Juliet with Baz Luhrmann: Pain is temporary, film is forever. Yes, you’ll have to mine the depths to bring forth your best and deepest work. But when it’s out there and finished you can rest and know that you’ve made the most of this one wild, beautiful life you’ve been given. You’ve created something that’s going to last longer than you!
How important was it to get your message out there? What were 5 things you did in those moments of difficulty that kept you moving forward and what did you learn about this process?
I wanted to get a publisher because I needed a deadline. If I didn’t have a deadline I could have researched my dad’s life for twenty years!! His material is in over a dozen library collections and who knows how many private collections across the world. So even though I didn’t even know the end of the story, and it was intensely personal, I pitched it to an agent and a publisher within weeks of hearing from Coralie. This was really emotionally tough as I felt so exposed. I found an agent for this reason as I needed someone to negotiate the money, business and contract side of things that wasn’t me (ie. grappling with accepting the value of the story and of my own writing.) A friend had said to me after I was made an offer on the book (before even writing the synopsis!) it was the only time I would have any power in the process so I should get an agent at that moment. So I did, and I’m grateful to her for that advice, as I’m not that comfortable with being in a position of ‘power’!
A Letter from Paris has now been published in Australia, the United Kingdom and will be released in the US in October – the ultimate creative dream!!! How does it feel to look back to that first email and now hold a book in your hand and see it on bookshelves or photos of them from around the world?
It’s pretty beautiful actually, but what makes me happiest of all is that the French family (Coralie’s family) love the book as they feel it’s brought their grandmother back to them. And Coralie read her initial email out on the BBC London podcast, which was amazing! I love hearing how it’s received in different countries. The English response about my obsession with European trains was funny – they don’t understand how bad our train system is in Australia! I’m really curious to see the response in the US. Dad wasn’t famous, and none of the book is set in the US, but there was a strong American contingent in Paris in the 1940s and 1950s (on the GI Bill) who dad associated with. So it will be exciting to see. It’s a dream come true!
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone else who wants to follow their dreams?
Have a vision and keep driving forward. If it feels right in your gut then you have to pursue it – until completion. Don’t give up when it gets tough! Have a break, sure, but don’t give up.
How do you keep saying YES to your dreams and what do you do when fear strikes?
I get scared all the time, but I also know that I can trust myself when I give myself enough time to listen to my intuition and check in with what feels right. It has to feel right. If it’s not authentic I just have no interest in doing it. When fear strikes, I just try and be a bit gentle with myself and see if it’s because of a valid reason or if I’m just feeling vulnerable. I put myself out there a lot with this book, and all the publicity around it, and the kickstarter to publish dad’s French memoir! So I’ve needed to just take lots of ‘cocoon’ breaks and get back to my study/cat/house and remember who I am: a writer who loves to sit and tap tap tap at the keyboard, and communicate with beautiful people across the world. I love writing – emails especially!
A huge thanks to Louisa for sharing her story and her creative process with us. You can follow Louisa on Instagram HERE and get her regular blog updates HERE.
Love, light, and creativity,
P.S. If you would like to know more about how you can realise your dream you can download my video series on how to Get What You WantHERE.
I am super excited to share this interview with talented creative Domenica More Gordon in my series on Magic is in the doing, about taking a creative idea and making it real.
Domenica is such an inspiration working across different artistic fields including illustration and watercolour, felt animal sculptures and her recent venture, a stop motion film for the BBC about her wonderful dog Archie from her books of the same name
Dominica’s creativity and honesty make you open your heart and see you can be good at more than one thing and how embracing our creativity is also about embracing our vulnerability.
Over to the beautiful Domenica.
How many years of practicing art did it take to make dogs such an intrinsic part of your art? Was there a special feeling that happened when you first drew Archie?
I had been struggling with trying to write a children’s book since my own children were born. It began with a strong like/dislike to what I was seeing on the bookshelves, further fuelled by memories of my own childhood. So I suppose a sort of unconscious process of sorting and choice was sparked and then turbocharged by the intensity of emotion having children released in me. It was at this time that I gave up working in magazines and began to concentrate on my art. I had no idea if I would be successful, but I trusted the strength of my feelings. Dogs seem to me to be pure emotional transmitters and that appeals to me enormously.
What is the importance of getting your work out there and being seen? I’d love to know your thoughts on platforms such as Instagram, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Amazon and all the opportunities for creatives.
There is a great strength to be had from positive and generous feedback from strangers. That is a huge part of why I enjoy Instagram so much. It gives me confidence that I am on the right track and a sort of startled delight that people like what I do. It never tires. At the same time, I think it is important not to go after coverage just for itself. Let it come to you. Grow slowly. If I like an image I put it out there, if I am undecided I don’t …I wait until it feels right. Take pleasure in the process and it grows by itself. If you allow likes etc. to be the driving force behind your choices, you lose your own compass. I am married to a writer and for us the emergence of all the internet platforms is a boon. It is a golden time for storytellers and makers. We can appeal directly to people without having to go through a gallery or an agent (though agents can be very useful at the right moment).
Whether you are illustrating the beautiful Archie series what is your secret to putting so much emotion into your work?
I look for an idea, and it can be a tiny thing that sparks it, like the way someone sits or walks, or seeing a bird on a twig or a certain shape or colour but it has to give me a flare of excitement, no matter how small or fleeting. I have learned to take note of these moments. I then try and feel the feeling behind that flare before I put pencil to paper, then I just let it flow with as little judgement as I can. Often I have to leave what I have done and come back to it before I can ‘see’ it with clear eyes. Then I start to ink it in and add colour. I know it is finished when a right feeling suddenly clicks, and there it is. Until then I never know if it will be any good. I’m getting better at trusting the process.
I believe for creatives so much of our magic comes actually playing around with our creativity or taking an action step forward. What ‘magic in the doing’ have you have learnt about showing up for yourself and your creativity every day?
I agree with that strongly. It is only in the doing that you find out what it is you are and what it is that you are telling yourself. It starts a conversation with yourself which does not include any other voice but yours. That is both exciting and scary. It is the most rewarding journey I can think of. After a bit, you will find that you are also talking with an unseen group of others who are the following the same path and that is a joy.
It appears to be a bonus growing up with artistic parents but I am sure there are all sorts of comparisons that can block you as well. What did you have to let go of to find your style?
My father was a brilliant watercolour painter and my mother a wonderful artist who hid her light under a bushel. They both influenced me. They showed me about focus, about dedication, about process and just doing… and about getting out from under that bushel.
It made me feel two opposing things at once: ‘If they can do it, so can I’… and at the same time, ‘I will never be as good as they are.’
It took me a long time to find my ‘voice’ as opposed to a version of theirs, especially my father’s… I never thought I’d be good enough… I still struggle with that sometimes…I think that’s a very female tendency.
You are a great believer in following your curiosity, can you share with us your number one way that people can start to understand their inner vision or style?
Follow the feeling. If you are excited by something, pay attention. That feeling is your compass and belongs to nobody else but you.
How do you keep saying Yes to your creativity and what do you do when fear strikes?
If you do what brings you joy and satisfaction, regardless of the self-defeating spanners which you and others will throw in your path you will find that you have begun a totally fulfilling journey which in my view is pretty unbeatable.
Her iconic ‘Italian Joy’ and ‘Jeune Fille En Fleur’ photographs have become collectible items for fine-art fans worldwide. But it’s Carla Coulson’s azure-blue beach shots that have sent our wanderlust levels stellar. Now living in Paris, Carla Coulson has her eye set on snapping the Med’s luxury shorelines next. Here, she speaks to Nicola Moyne about following her heart, Leicas and the art of shooting beach life.
You had been running a successful business in Sydney before you started studying photography. What made you take the leap?
I had a camera and took photos, but I didn’t know how to use it on manual. When I started at photography school in Florence, I didn’t know anything about how the photography business worked. At that point, I was really focused on learning and the first time I developed something in the darkroom, I was obsessed. I would take my camera with me day and night and I adored shooting daily Italian life.
Atrani, one of Coulson’s most iconic Italian beach shots
Who has inspired your career and style of photography?
I had a teacher at photography school who was really passionate about reportage, so I looked to all the great humanist photographers of the 1950s, such as Robert Doisneau and Henri Cartier-Bresson. I spent hundreds of hours ‘learning’ by looking at images and discovering new photographers. Paolo Roversi set my heart and imagination on fire; I love the joy and fun in the photos of Ellen Von Unwerth; and Richard Avedon has an innate class that inspires me. Over the years, I have looked at so many different photographers but at the moment I am letting my inner voice speak. I had the great fortune to work with a fashion editor, Marta Innocenti Ciulli, who was the editor of Collezioni and she told me not to worry about the clothes but shoot images that were from the heart and full of emotions. She told me, ‘If the photos were beautiful, people would feel connected to them’. I think you can go on learning forever.
Monopoli: A colour choreography of beach umbrellas and beach toys on a background of turquoise.
Your fashion and travel photography is so immersive. How would you describe your style?
I am obsessed with life and all the nuances. I adore people and creating photos that have a connection. I get bored when there are no emotions so I work to create emotions in a picture even at first glance when there appears there are none. I would describe my style as emotive. I am inspired by Italy and the emotions of life. Where there is life, you will find me.
La Fontelina Beach in Capri
Poolside: Coulson’s bird’s eye view of Bronte Pool in Sydney, Australia
Do you have a favourite camera?
I love my old Leica’s, the M6 and M7. They are so small and unobtrusive and people almost don’t notice that you are taking pictures. I would like to go back to having a smaller digital camera that I can take everywhere with me like the new Fuji’s. I hear so many photographers – particularly women – who find the bigger cameras too heavy and cumbersome to take out on a daily basis and this is a problem with you like to shoot street photography and life.
Are you a fan of film or digital?
I love both and I think there is a place for both. The thing I love about film is that once you have stopped shooting your job is finished. With digital, we spend way too much time at a computer.
Parasol paradise at La Scogliera, Italy
What, or who, do you love photographing the most?
The beach and flowers. For me, there is nothing other than joy in shooting these two series. I adore selecting the flowers, picking them up and then trying to create magic… The beaches are my natural home – I shooting love the Amalfi Coast, including Atrani – I would be going anyway. I also recently shot Heidi Middleton formerly of Sass and Bide in a mini-castle in France. A spectacular person in a spectacular place.
Is your house filled with gorgeous photos? Paint a picture for us…
Yes, I have a lot of photos and art around. Not only mine, but those by friends and artists I admire. I love to be surrounded by images and have a wall behind where I sit with racks filled with images and art. (To purchase Carla Coulson’s fine art prints, visit carlacoulsonprints.com)
Positano from the water – one of the Amalfi coast’s prettiest cliffside villages
What advice would you give any aspiring photographers out there?
Follow your heart and don’t try and make money out of it too soon. There is an enormous value in letting your eye and style develop without the pressure of a job. It’s wonderful to let your heart lead you and see where it takes you. If you give yourself enough time in the beginning and develop a style and an opinion, it will ultimately make your journey to wherever you want to go shorter.
P.S. There is one place available on Heartland, a People and Spaces Photography Workshop this October, set in the beautiful Puglia, Italy. You can join the workshop HERE.
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