Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fake It, Don't Bake It

For those of us in Australia, those warm summer days are getting further and further away, and so to may be many of our sun-kissed tans. But thanks to the miracle that is fake tan, we can keep that summer glow all year round. Actually, I advocate for using it all year round, because being out in the sun that much to get a tan certainly isn't doing your skin any favours. So today I thought I would share some of the fake tanning products I use and would recommend.

If you can't tell I'm a HUGE fan of the Bondi Sands range. One of the first products I picked up was their classic self-tanning lotion, and I have only good things to say about it. I tend to put this on in the afternoon/at night and then sleep in it overnight before washing it off in the morning. I've found with some tans in the past that heaps of the product will wash off, leaving little colour behind, but not this one. You can also build up the colour by applying another layer if you want it a bit darker. I found this one doesn't come off to patchy, especially if I make sure to exfoliate before applying, and it generally lasts a bit over a week; the more care you take to moisturise each night the longer and better it will last.

This is my favourite for when I'm feeling lazy but I need to be tanned within a few hours. Applying this just like a normal fake tan, the oil has a bit of a colour to it to help you remember where you've applied. This stuff is great because you can put some on, wait a few minutes for it to dry and sink in, and then get dressed and go. Within a few hours the colour will have developed and you'll be looking fleek. Being such a quick fix, the tan itself doesn't last as long or as well as their normal fake tan products. If you do get it wet, especially within those first few hours, patches will develop, and it also patches off after a few days, though again keeping yourself moisturised and using a gradual tanning moisturiser will help prolong it.

I most recently got my hands on this product at the Priceline event I attended a few months ago. This seems quite similar to the drying oil product above, but it has some differences. Being a gradual tanning oil, it's not going to give you a beautiful bronze glow within a few hours. As the name suggests, it's a product you need to continually use to develop a tan. It's similar to a gradual tan moisturiser in that sense but I find this much easier and quicker to apply. Being just a gradual tanner, it's staying power isn't anything like a normal fake tan product and it can be hard to make this super dark if that's the look you're after, but I find it does wear off quite well and is less likely to get patchy. I think the benefit of these types of products is you're getting to moisturise your skin while also slowly adding some colour, which helps keep me motivated to do the right thing and give my skin some hydration after a shower.

I was so intrigued by this product when I saw it had an ash base. Most tans have a green base to them, which sometimes I can struggle with when it comes to leaving a green tinge on my hands. I'd used Le Tan's gradual moisturiser previously and I loved that stuff, so I was hopeful for this product as well. I loved this stuff! It's not quite as dark as the Bondi Sands dark gradual tanner that I tend to pick up, but it gives you a lovely bronze colour, and lasts for just about as long. I actually loved the more purple base colour too. It didn't seem to affect the colour of the tan and it didn't leave any sort of colour residue on my hands.

I picked this up a little while ago at the Bloggers United event I attended and had never seen or heard of this brand before then, but I was intrigued. This tanning product is unlike any I've used before and I'm yet to come across anything else like it, but it's definitely a winner for me. The product itself is a thick, white cream, and when you apply it, it doesn't leave any colour behind, so it can be a bit tricky making sure you've not missed a spot. Being thick, it does take a bit of working into the skin to get it to sink in, but once you've put it on and let it sink in, you can get dressed and go. Within a few hours you'll be glowing and the colour lasts almost as long as a regular self-tanner. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fake It, Don't Bake It

For those of us in Australia, those warm summer days are getting further and further away, and so to may be many of our sun-kissed tans. ...
Read article
Saturday, April 22, 2017

Instagram's Shadow Ban; What? Where? How?

Slowly the news has been circulating about Instagram's latest addition that is making bloggers and Instagrammers everywhere go into meltdown as another spanner is thrown in the works for those trying to improve their engagement, and leaving them asking why the world is so damn hard? After already implementing plenty of other changes to their algorithms lately which has seen people already notice massive drops in their engagement, Instagram has decided to keep the ball rolling on this one and pop something else in there. It's called a Shadow Ban; the name itself even sounds shady and uncertain. Wondering what the hell this Shadow Ban is all about, if it may be affecting you and what you can do about, read on my friend.

W h a t   T h e   H e l l   I s   T h i s ?
The most important and puzzling question circulating at the moment is, what the hell does a Shadow Ban mean. Is it serious or not? Basically if you have a shadow ban imposed on you, your hashtags won't be discoverable. Don't really know what that means either? If, for example, you post a photo and include in the caption #fashion, but you've had a shadow ban put on you for this hashtag, your photo won't show up in the endless scrolling feed of photos that appear to people when they search that hashtag, unless they are already following you, meaning it becomes very hard for you to reach new people and new potential audiences. You don't receive any sort of notification if this has happened to you, hence the word 'shadow' in the name. The idea is to filter out trolls, bots and other nonsense accounts, but the problem is it's also attacking legit accounts.

B u t   H o w   D o   I   K n o w ?
If you've started to notice a bit of a drop in your engagement, the comments and likes on your photos seem to be decreased from what they usually are, if your follower count is no longer going up like it once was, or the only people who seem to be liking your pictures these days are those who already follow you, it's possible a shadow ban has been thrown your way. The most effective way to check whether you've been hit with a shadow ban is to get some friends on board to help. Get friends following you to first check that your images are appearing with a certain hashtag. Get them to then unfollow you and check again. To make this easy, try posting an image or finding an old image with a hashtag that isn't used to regularly by people so your friends are stuck scrolling through millions of images trying to find you. If absolutely nothing shows up for multiple people once they've unfollowed you, it's very possible you're under a shadow ban. If some people are seeing your image and others aren't, then it's more likely you're dealing with a hashtag glitch (see below).

W h y   M e ? !
There a couple of possible reasons why your account has been hit with a shadow ban, some of which may be intentional and others which you may not be aware you're doing.

Buying Followers, Using Bots, etc
The way these various services work is quite spammy. They can be following and unfollowing people regularly or liking an excessive amount of posts. These types of services actually go against Instagram's Terms of Service, and are quite noticeable because one minute your IP address will say you're located where you live, next it might seem to be on the other side of the world as the service takes over your account.

Going Over Instagram's Limits
There are actually limits on how many likes, follows and unfollows you can do in an hour on Instagram. When you hit the limit you will receive a notification about this, but doing it continually could cause a shadow ban to be thrown on you. For future reference, you can only unfollow/follow 60 people, like 150 pictures or comment 60 times in an hour before you hit the limit.

Using the Same Hashtag to Much
If you're always using the same hashtags on many of your photos, Instagram might have viewed this as spam activity and therefore put a shadow ban over on you. This can be annoying, especially if you're a blogger in a certain niche and you're trying to reach others interested in that area.

You're Using Broken Hashtags
Broken hashtags are basically Instagram's way of trying to restrict the amount go R18 content that is floating around on the platform. If a certain hashtag has been overrun with this type of content it becomes 'broken', and if you're posting regularly with this hashtag, the platform may think you're trying to add to this pile of R18 content and shadow ban you. To check if any hashtags you're using have become broken, search the hashtag and if there isn't any 'top posts' section, you can't scroll past the first page of pictures and/or there is actually a note about that hashtag being abused, then it's very likely a broken hashtag which you should avoid using in the future.

H o w   D o   I  F i x   T h i s ?
So at this point you're pretty certain your account has a shadow ban on it, what do you do?

  • Slow down your activity; take a little break on the liking, following and commenting. You might need to do this for a couple of hours or days depending on your situation.
  • If you're using any sort of bots or automated service; you don't need to admit it to me but cut that out
  • If you've realised you've got some broken hashtags on your photos, just edit the captions and remove them, and this may help with the issue. If that broken hashtag also doesn't have any sort of message about it being abused when you search it, report it yourself.
  • If you think you've been unfairly given a ban, try reporting the problem to Instagram yourself. Instagram is notorious for being hard to get into contact with for matters such as this, but trying to do something is better than nothing at all.

S o m e t h i n g   t o   N o t e . .
Quite expectedly, there has been an uproar over this ban, and Instagram hasn't completely sat in the corner in silence while people make a fuss. They did release a very short statement saying "We understand some users have experienced issues with our hashtag search that has caused posts not to be surfaced. We are continuously working on improvements to our system with the resources available". What the entirety of this statement indicated was that in some instances you may simply be facing a hashtag glitch rather than an actual Shadow Ban (see difference above).
Saturday, April 22, 2017

Instagram's Shadow Ban; What? Where? How?

Slowly the news has been circulating about Instagram's latest addition that is making bloggers and Instagrammers everywhere go in...
Read article
Thursday, April 20, 2017

NEW IN: L'unico, Medik8 & KEUNE

Hands up who likes trying new products (unashamedly slams hand up in the air). I've had a bunch of new things come in the mail recently, so I thought I'd share my first impressions of them.

My old hairdresser use to exclusively use KEUNE products, so not only did I know this stuff was going to be great before I even used it, but the smell instantly takes me back to being there. As I said, I knew this stuff was going to be good, and it certainly still is. Not only does it leave your hair smelling like you've had it professionally done, it also leaves it looking nice and healthy. I also noticed that it did have an effect on my blonde coloured hair; leaving it looker a bit brighter and whiter. Another big bonus is you don't actually need to use half the bottle of conditioner to get your hair smooth. If you use just as much as you would shampoo, and brush it through in the shower, I find my hair comes out knot-free. It's a big thumbs up from me. 

L ' u n i c o  L a b o r a t o r y  P h o t o  F r u i t  A H A  M i r c o  P e e l
Peel products are meant to be great for exfoliating and helping with anti-aging (remember it's all about prevention), so I was keen to give this a whirl. I use them after I've jumped out of the shower and freshly cleansed my face. I run a little bit of my regular toner over my face to make sure all the dirt and makeup is off, then I go in with these bad boys. The pads are stocked up with product, and I just wipe it over my face in small circular motions, taking care to avoid my eye and lip areas. After I've wiped it over my entire face, I wash off the excess product with a warm cloth and then just apply my normal moisturiser of choice. I notice my skin feels SUPER smooth when I use these. I'm interested to see how my skin goes using these for the long run. There is also three different levels of the product based on what type of skin type you have. I personally use level one which is for fair skin.

L ' u n i c o  H i g h  P o t e n c y  3 0 %  V i t a m i n  C  S e r u m
A little of this stuff goes a long way, which is perfect when something is in the higher end of the price range bracket. In saying that, I would say this stuff is worth the money. In the last six months I've become a serum convert; I don't know how my face was surviving without them before, and I've noticed such an improvement in the overall colour and tone of my skin since incorporating them into my skincare routine. It has also opened up a whole new door of products for me to try. Because my skin is in pretty good shape currently, apart from a blemish here and there, when I'm using new products, I'm mainly looking to see if they help maintain my current skin's state; and this stuff certainly has. It's a bit of an oiler formula compared to some serums I've used, but because I'm not completely lathering my skin in it, it doesn't seem to break me out.

M e d i k 8  B l e m i s h  C o n t r o l  P a d s
Speaking of not having many breakouts these days, these little pads from Medik8 have also been helping to keep that in check. I like to use these in place of my regular toner every other day or so. I've tried a few products from the Medik8 range now, and I've always been impressed, and I have to say that streak continues with this latest product from them. There are heaps of the little pads in the container, so you're definitely getting value for money. I do find the pads are absolutely stuffed with product, and if you rub to much it can start to create a white foam on your face, so I like to just do a gentle wipe all over my face with the pad, and then let any reside sink into my skin before going in with a moisturiser. As I mentioned, these days when I'm testing products I'm mainly looking to see if they can maintain my skin's current state, and I've certainly noticed my skin has still been doing well while using these, and my breakouts are still at a minimum.

Have you tried any new products lately?
Thursday, April 20, 2017

NEW IN: L'unico, Medik8 & KEUNE

Hands up who likes trying new products (unashamedly slams hand up in the air). I've had a bunch of new things come in the mail rece...
Read article
Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Creative Corners - Hell Wench

Have you ever noticed the conspcious blue building sitting on Gorden Ave in Hamiltion? It's called Pachamama House and there happens to be numerous things inside, including, most recently, the studio of Hell Wench. A ceramics and natural products brand owned by the lovely Martha Casey-Knight, you can find her vegan-friendly and unique products both online and at all the local markets around Newcastle. I was lucky enough to spend some time chatting to Martha about her wonderous creations and inspirations.

For those who might not know,  tell us what your brand Hell Wench is all about?

Hell Wench, "A Little Wild" is my little business that started and lives in Newcastle on the coast of NSW, Australia. My tag is "Tested on my husband not animals." All my products are vegan friendly and have a focus on 100% natural ingredients, and are hand-made in small batches by me using traditional artisanal methods. The cold pressed soaps are made from either a pure olive oil or my three-oil mix (olive oil, rice-bran and coconut oil) base, the candles are composed of 100% natural sustainable soy wax which I have fragranced with pure essential oils concocted and blended by me to soothe, not overpower, the senses. A lot of my products you could actually end up cooking with, except the soap (laughs).

I have a teenage daughter, I didn’t want her putting different sorts of chemicals and stuff through her body. You know makeup is one thing, but what we wash our body with is another. 

With the ceramic side of it, it’s very wabi-sabi. Each piece is uniquely different, no two are identical, they might be similar but they’re not identical. I hand carve each piece. It’s a creative journey on a number of different levels.

Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you come to get into ceramics and come up with the idea to create your brand?

I was 17 and living in Melbourne, I’d just finished high school and there was this exhibit. It was a yearly exhibit in the gardens in Melbourne, and the first piece of artwork I ever brought was a ceramic piece, it was a sculpture piece. I’ve always liked clay; whether it’s gardening and mud, or whether it’s making shapes and sculpting, I’ve always had a connection with it, but I never really followed it up until my adult life.

What made you decide to eventually start following this passion?

I come from a varied background but trained as a drama/media teacher. I then had a variety of careers and while in Canada I worked as a project coordinator untill returning to Newcastle four years ago when the oppourtunity rose and l decided it might be time to indulge my creative spirit.

When we moved over here my daughter went into a school that she really liked and my husband had started a new job, and I was kind of floating in the wind, which was great at the time. Then I started doing a couple of workshops with Kara Wood, and then it was just that the opportunity was there. I was doing gift boxes for people and people were wanting to have my salts and the soaps, so it all accumulated and I went ‘right, I’m going to start Hell Wench’. That was about a year ago.

What inspires you when creating?
My gut tells me what to do, the clay tells me what to do, you can’t tell the clay what to do. If you sit down at a wheel and you’re in a crappy mood, forget it. So that’s why I started hand building sometimes too, because you have a little more control over it, but still. The things that inspire me are life, my quirky sense of the unusual; I don’t like normal, I don’t want all my dishes to look the same. I like things that have a story, so all my pots have their own story, they create their own story. Music inspires me, life generally inspires me and just being true to myself. Nature inspires me, birds really intrigue me, that sort of thing. And my own warped imagination I guess (laughs).

How would you describe the style of ceramics you make?

I would say my style, if anything, is very wabi-sabi. So it’s perfection, imperfection, and each piece is uniquely different, and when people come to my table they all know now. They pick them up, they hold them, and one piece will speak to them more than another. Some people are drawn to the look of them, but then they hold them and they say ‘oh I only wanted one, but these three speak to me’ and I say ‘well you’ll have to have all three’. The shapes, they take on their own form and I let them. I don’t try and control it, I just let it be, because I know each piece will go where it’s meant to go.

Tell us about the space where you do most of your work? Is there anything in this space which gives you inspiration or motivation?
I love fresh air; I love a window, at a bare minimum I needed that. I don’t get claustrophobic, but I just can’t breathe if I don’t have a flow of some description. I like semblance of order.  

Up until recently I was in my backyard or on my big kitchen table and the inspiration was the tranquility of mother nature, the hustle and bustle of life outside, birds and being left alone with my imagination. The reason I love this new space is because I can be as messy as I want, I can leave stuff out, whereas before at home I’d have to tidy stuff away. So I like having my own space where I can throw crap on the floor if I want. I can leave stuff out, everything is here. I’m not an organised person but I do need to know where my stuff is. The only negative about having a studio away from your home is if you suddenly have the urge to create, you can’t just pick it up, though I do have a little supply at home. Basically I make and dry everything here, and then I fire it and glaze it at home.

How would you define creativity?
I think it means different things for different people. How would I define it? It’s a visual or a sound or an image that you’ve put down. Using your imagination or an idea to create something which is translated into a visual image (painting), physical (theatre) or sound (music) or sometimes a combination of all three. If you’re musically inclined, if you’re feeling a particular way, happy, sad, angry, it doesn’t matter, you play it out through a tune that represents that. So to me, creativity is something you feel inside, it’s an emotional, visual response. Creativity fills such a spectrum of things, but for me it’s having the ability to express yourself, whether it’s through music, art, dance or drama. But you know, someone preparing food can be creative, someone designing a home can be creative, so I think it’s just an emotional journey.

Do you think creativity is something all of us are born with or is it something we learn?
I think we all have aspects of creativity within us. I think some of it gets squished out and especially as you’re becoming a teenager. What was a wonderful expression when you were two or three when you don’t really care what anyone else thinks, as a teenager you think ‘oh no I can’t draw’, or I can’t do this or I can’t do that. I think everyone does have an element, we just have different ways of expressing it. Some I think are born with a natural talent, and others struggle. But I think we all have aspects, and I think it’s interpretation and personal preference.

What puts you in a creative mood? 
It's not really something l have control over, it is always bubbling away.  Ideally it's a beautiful day, I am listening to a little jazz (Miles Davis), and have all my supplies and can create. I can do this for hours; I lose all sense of time!

If you had to start over, do you think you would have chosen a different career path or gone about Hell Wench differently? 
I have had a number of different career paths and would not really change too much. I think Hell Wench needed that time to develop and for me to have the attitude I have. I think I needed to age and mellow.

What’s been an opposition you’ve faced, how do you overcome it and what did it help teach you?
My personal challenges, if you like, is myself.  think for most creatives it is self-doubt/criticisim or at least for me I am my own worst enemy. I tend to be hypercritical of myself and my work. So it’s been really rewarding being so well received.  I’m very independent, but here in Newcastle I’ve been getting so much support from fellow creatives and in particular my mentor, Kara Wood, even down to the point that she’s helped me be independent. My first market I did was her tent, her table and all my bits and pieces inside. She also introduced me to the practicality of stoneware, the beauty of porcelain, helped me buy my first kiln and potter’s wheel. But without that support, it’s hard work going on your own, it’s expensive, so having that community support is great. At the moment I’m with a group called Creative Village Newcastle and being a part of that collective group is so lovely because there are about 26 different creative people in one space, and it’s a really nice feeling. And of course I wouldn’t be here without my family’s support, they just said go for it. It’s a lot of hard work, you have to trust yourself, and you just have to go for it. If it was easy everyone would do it.

What’s your biggest accomplishment to date?
I’ve only been doing this for a short period of time. The first market I did, selling my first piece was an amazing feeling. But the big step for me was getting my own studio, it was huge. Just to have that space and the freedom to throw things around and make as much mess as you want. Getting my own creative space, well I’ve not ‘made it’ but I’ve gotten a step up the ladder. Also, getting my business name and creating that backend and protecting it, because as an artist you don’t tend to protect yourself. I’ve trademarked the name, so it’s become a business asset. Buying your first kiln, buying your first potters wheel, those sorts of things are big steps. 

Social media is so big now, and on Instagram I posted a picture of my crows and a lady in Montreal has commissioned ten big cups, so that was an accomplishment. If you’d asked me eight months ago when I’d first started selling I'd have said, ‘no that won’t happen’, but it does. The gift boxes I’ve sent to England, Canada and across Australia. I’m not talking huge, I’ve very small, but it’s a big step in the first eight months of running a business.

Any future plans for Hell Wench?
I’d like to do more bespoke things and customer orders and work with corporations that need stuff done. But the bird range is where I’m going, so cups and artwork that can hang on the wall, and things like that is what I want to do. As well as the soaps and the salts and everything else in the background. But on a creative, ceramic level, I’d like to be doing more artwork. Hell Wench is only beginning and l have a few plans in the pipeline but l would like to further develop my “gritty but pretty” range.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Creative Corners - Hell Wench

Have you ever noticed the conspcious blue building sitting on Gorden Ave in Hamiltion? It's called Pachamama House and there happ...
Read article