{Guest Post} The Earth Without Art is… Impossible

Today I have a guest post by Carolyn Schofield who generously donated to my daughter’s crowdfunder (see my post ‘Can I Tell You a Story?‘) in return for the opportunity to become a guest blogger here at Top Floor Treasures. This is her first post in a series of six. Carolyn intends to use her blog posts to talk about using art therapeutically and about encouraging people of all ages to use arts and crafts to express themselves. Over to you Carolyn…


There is a well-known and unattributed quote that goes, “The Earth without art is just Eh”. Without art and creativity our world is bland and grey. The process of creating something, whether it is handicrafts or visual arts, or writing, enriches us as individuals. Even if you are ‘no good’ or ‘know nothing about’ art you can still enjoy it and be creative.

I grew up in the sixties. Art was something children did on the table at home on top of plenty of newspaper, or it was what you did in art lessons at school. Otherwise it was done by special people called ‘artists’ whose work hung in galleries, or in reproduction on living room walls. Grown-ups didn’t do art where I came from. Some might go to evening classes to be taught how to do it properly, but most grown-ups did practical things like knitting or DIY. If you were creative you might do photography, but that was also quite practical as you used it to document friends and family.

earth without art is just eh zoe ford topfloortreasures

Giclee art print by TopFloorTreasures
Click here to buy

I loved art at high school, however I dropped it when I chose my qualifications because what I had gathered from my formative years was that art was not important. It was ‘messing around’ rather than being creative. So when the time came to decide what to study, I chose what I considered serious, academic subjects.

Once I had children I encouraged them to create art, and it was as a result of this continuing interest in creativity that when they were in their teens I got a job leading arts based workshops for children. It happened because the person who interviewed me wanted people to lead workshops rather than just assist with them and on the spur of the moment I came up with an idea of teaching children to do sugarcraft and sweet-making.


As a result I was asked to help out at other workshops: my favourite (though it was quite stressful at the time) was when I was part of a team making banners to decorate the town I lived in at the time, Whitby. The banner I made with the children of East Whitby school turned out so well it was given a prominent place near the harbour. Sadly our project funding ran out after three years, and in a small town during an economic downturn there was nowhere to source the money to keep going.

whitby banners

I structured the sugarcraft workshops to allow for as much personal creativity as possible: I remember watching one group of girls who were fascinated with experimenting how food colouring worked through fondant icing. Too much education is about tests, and the arts and creativity gets squeezed out. For some children making something (or even just ‘messing around’) is a welcome respite from a goal-oriented school culture; after even a few weeks learning basic sugarcraft they got the idea that cookery can be enjoyable and creative and I hasten to add this was several years before the advent of ‘The Great British Bake Off’!

“Art is much less important than life, but what a poor life without it.”
– Robert Motherwell
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Despite everything I thought I knew as a child I discovered that art is valuable; it is also serious and worth spending time on. I became so enthusiastic about art I did a degree in the History of Art. Over the years I have met many people who have made art a massive part of their lives and who love to create. In these guest posts I want to share the stories of some people I know well who, in a variety of different ways have found a way to acknowledge their creativity.

I cannot imagine living a life without art: it would be impossible.

carolyn 2

Carolyn Schofield has an enduring love of craft activities of all sorts, including art journaling which she discovered this summer. She never quite gives up on any crafts, as her spare room and cupboards – packed with needlecraft and papercraft equipment, and half-finished projects – can testify. 
Find Carolyn on Pinterest and Instagram.

100 Ways I Know I Have Asperger’s Syndrome

100 ways i know i have aspergers syndrome

A light-hearted look at the things that make up my Asperger’s brain.

{This is List #3 in my ‘52 Lists‘ series}

These are things that apply to me personally, but may not apply to you or other aspie females you know. I’m by no means an expert on autism spectrum disorders but I have lived with it all my life and I’m an expert in how it affects me. I don’t yet have a ‘formal’ diagnosis but I’ve had pre-assessment tests (see #1) and I’ve been on the waiting list for 21 months (and counting) at the time I wrote this list.

  1. An expert told me it’s highly likely I have Asperger’s
  2. I love making lists
  3. Love my routines
  4. Don’t like change
  5. I’d rather stay home
  6. Perfectly happy with my own company
  7. Cats
  8. Hate small talk but do it when I have to
  9. Wear earplugs when there’s too many different noises at once
  10. Easily upset
  11. The seams in my socks irritate me
  12. Light touch makes me itch
  13. I don’t understand forgiveness
  14. Struggle with interpreting facial expressions correctly
  15. Can’t always tell when others are being serious or sarcastic
  16. There are 342 tiles in my bathroom
  17. I think other people think I’m weird
  18. I think I’m weird
  19. I’m much louder than I think I am when I whisper
  20. Don’t know when it’s my turn to speak on the phone
  21. I can look you in the eyes while we talk and hold that gaze a long time. With some people I find it’s not so easy.
  22. Thank goodness for Google because I do love finding things out
  23. Taught myself how to build websites
  24. Spent 2 weeks building this website and did nothing else until it was done (inc. much sleeping)
  25. I get in a muddle. A lot.
  26. Getting mentally ‘stuck’ when my routines are interrupted
  27. The round dinner plates need to be stacked separately from the square dinner plates and god forbid you make me a sandwich and do it wrong.
  28. Cats
  29. Eat with fork in ‘wrong’ hand. It works for me, who cares?
  30. I interrupt frequently. I’ll forget what I wanted to say if I don’t
  31. Co-morbid conditions: serious depression, anxiety, possible ADHD and PTSD
  32. Clumsy. Always hurting myself, burning myself, stubbing my toes and walking into table corners.
  33. Difficulty managing time, live in my own personal time-zone
  34. Collector of things
  35. Book devourer
  36. Need to know everything that happened in WW1 and WW2. Everything. But won’t remember much of what I learn.
  37. Realising I’m smiling when I shouldn’t be
  38. No, YOU go in first! I’ll follow.
  39. Fashion? Style? I has none
  40. Nice new hairstyles last about a week before reverting to the ponytail
  41. Mild hoarding tendencies
  42. Like big words, don’t know what half of them mean
  43. Oh look, she used to be in that other TV show!
  44. Oh look, it’s whatshisname who used to be married to that other actor!
  45. Massive celebrity / music trivia bank in my brain. I don’t even know why because I’m really not that interested…
  46. …and yet, I have a crap memory
  47. Difficulty recognising people out of context = if I always see you in a uniform and you’re not wearing it today then I might not realise who you are
  48. Sunglasses always on head outside in case it’s too bright
  49. Bright sunlight causes pain in my eyes
  50. Flickering lights can also be a problem
  51. Remembering all the words from all the songs
  52. Too much noise + bottled up stress = tears + a dark, quiet room
  53. Sensory memory triggered by smells and songs
  54. Details, details, details
  55. Why use ten words when you can use 200?
  56. Visual learning because too many verbal instructions = confusion
  57. I can listen to one song on repeat and not get bored
  58. Gifted at over-sharing
  59. Queen of procrastination
  60. What’s today’s ailment?
  61. Cats
  62. Constantly very busy brain
  63. Overwhelm can make me ‘zone out’
  64. Most comfortable dressing like a male (jeans, hoodie, trainers) but rarely do these days because I’m supposed to be a 38 year old woman
  65. Music is a way for me to escape
  66. Reading is another way for me to escape
  67. The sound of my ‘thinking’ voice has many different accents
  68. Rarely bored
  69. I like counting things (see #16)
  70. Socialising is much easier with alcohol and cigarettes. Alcohol gave me confidence. Cigarettes gave me something to do with my hands. I no longer drink or smoke so socialising has pretty much stopped
  71. Either my hands or feet are always moving. Tapping, twisting, flicking, clenching, wiggling.
  72. I have disordered eating habits
  73. Not knowing if I’ve acted or spoken in a socially acceptable way
  74. Needing quiet time to decompress after a day out
  75. Dreading going places because home is the only place I can be ‘me’
  76. Very sensitive to animals suffering
  77. Struggles with leaving my cat alone (stupid, I know) because I know what abandonment feels like and he’s been abandoned before.
  78. Desperately wanting to fit in, always feeling like an outsider
  79. I can’t let go of things that make me angry or hurt
  80. Everything’s black or white, there is no grey
  81. I believe I have a really fantastic sense of direction until I get us lost
  82. I have huge empathy for animals and people in distressing situations, though I tend to keep it hidden
  83. I’m not like Rainman because I don’t have savant syndrome. Many of us don’t.
  84. I’m not like Sheldon Cooper. Apart from “you’re in my spot
  85. A deep thinker, constantly analysing everything
  86. A vivid, full-colour dreamer, always have been
  87. Need a written script before making important phonecalls
  88. Very immature sense of humour
  89. Have a very strong intuition & judge of character
  90. Wanting to fit in, but wanting to be myself. Knowing it’s not possible.
  91. Highly visual memory
  92. Socially awkward
  93. I get my words jumbled up a lot because my brain works faster than I can talk
  94. Always asking questions: How does this work? What does that mean? Why?
  95. The types of food I like are quite limited
  96. I like each day to look basically the same
  97. Difficulty understanding or interpreting other peoples’ motives or intentions
  98. Some minor difficulties with tiny tasks like plugging in my phone charger
  99. Did I mention how much I love cats?? I feel like I’m very similar to my cat. He’s on my wavelength. Yeah, I know that’s weird 😉
  100. The fact I wrote this massive list.

Zoe Sig

My Life in Art Journals: February & March 2015

Here are my journal spreads from February and March. Next time I post my pages I’ll show the ones from April and May and eventually we’ll get all caught up to the present day!

The first page documents how I felt getting my Hypothyroidism diagnosis confirmed. It was sort of a relief to finally know what was wrong with my body but scary at the same time. I did a few Gelli prints on this page using stencils, stamps and cutting stars out by hand. I like how the word ‘February’ curves around the title.

art journal page zoe ford - top floor treasures 28jan-6feb

Next up is Friday 13th!! But I’m not superstitious about it 😀 In fact, apart from the fact that my new medication hadn’t yet kicked in, it was a great week. Me and Mr F had a night out (this is virtually unheard of!) to go and see a couple of comedians, one of whom is on TV a lot. I stapled in my ticket because I really like to look back at things like that. We also had an evening where the 3 of us were watching something funny on TV which had us laughing so much that tears were rolling down our faces! Those are the best kind of nights in this family and they happen quite often!

2 redacted art journal pages zoe ford - top floor treasures 1314feb

Then there was Valentine’s Day and I cut out the yellow circle from a flyer that was advertising a book because it’s how I feel about Mr F. If I could give him the sun, I would, because he’s changed my life, so much for the better.

Now here’s an interesting page…
I wrote about how I hadn’t blogged for a while because all my time was being spent zendoodling, after having not zendoodled for a really long time. I was in this unusual (for me) state where I had this uncontrollable need to zendoodle every bit of spare time I had. It was motivation like I had never experienced before. Eight months on and I still don’t know where that mad zendoodling episode came from. Might it have been my thyroid starting to work properly for the first time in years? I’ll never know.

3 redacted art journal page zoe ford - top floor treasures 1822feb

There’s a quote next to the butterfly that I really like:

“Sadness flies away on the wings of time”
– Jean de La Fontaine

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4 redacted art journal page zoe ford - top floor treasures 27feb-6mar

Not much art in the page above, but a lot of journaling! I was writing about how weak, tired and in pain I felt because my thyroid medication didn’t seem to be making a difference yet.

The next page is probably one of my favourites ever. It was inspired by something I saw on Pinterest – I can’t remember what it was now – but I love how the shapes down the middle could be leaves or feathers or raindrops…they were made from just cutting shapes out of Gelli prints. I am absolutely in love with the black Stabilo All pencil which I used to give the shapes their shadows and definition. I also really like the decision I made to cut my coloured zendala in half and glue each half to opposite edges of the page. The border around the page is really thinly cut strips of text from a vintage manual of some kind.
The photo of Mr F and The Teen was taken on a day she was invited to a very small room at Twitter HQ in London for a Q&A with the stars of the ‘Insurgent’ movie. I wasn’t well enough to go. You can read her event report here.

5 redacted art journal spread zoe ford - top floor treasures 711mar

And that’s all for now!

Zoe Sig

Can I tell you a story?

can i tell you a story

A few of my regular readers may already know this story, but most people don’t.

Three years ago, my daughter had to stop going to school at the age of 14. She was diagnosed with Chronic Anxiety with Panic Disorder and Emetophobia. She was also severely Agoraphobic for a while and still has that to a lesser degree. Luckily, we found an independent online school called InterHigh. It suited The Teen perfectly – she could get back to her studies in live classes conducted entirely online, where the students and teachers were all in their own homes using their laptops and a headset. It cost money we didn’t have, but her regular school here in our town agreed to pay the fees until the date she would normally leave school (June 2015).


We really didn’t know what she would do after that. Usually here in the UK, you would leave high school at 16, go to college until 18 or 19, then get a job or go to university. Only The Teen didn’t feel she was able to go to college. Some days she is OK. But if she knows she has to go somewhere, she’s not OK. So regular college wasn’t really going to work. (And yes, we have had the comments from people who don’t know the full story saying we are making it worse by allowing her to stay home. That’s not the case. It’s called ‘home education’, NOT ‘let’s keep her locked up and make it worse’. It’s actually making it better, imagine that!)

Eventually, she decided she wanted to stay on at InterHigh’s online college, only how were we going to afford the fees? We just don’t have much spare money and certainly couldn’t fund 2 more years at InterHigh by ourselves. The Teen was considered ineligible for welfare payments and didn’t meet the eligibility criteria for charitable grants or government loans. We were stuck.

I had heard about crowdfunding and thought it might be worth a go as a last resort, so we set it up. (Crowdfunding involves lots of people – the crowd – to come together and donate what they can in order to help the funder reach their funding target. They can choose from various rewards for doing so). The Teen has a large online following, so I expected a few of them to help her, but I did not expect what else happened!

You can see her successful crowdfunder here.

A journalist asked if she could run the story in national newspaper The Independent and online at ‘i100’.



Click here to read that article.

Then Sky News got in touch and asked if she could be interviewed on live TV using Skype by Eammon Holmes.

AMBER KIRK-FORD ON SKY NEWSIf you missed my interview on Sky News this morning, you can watch it here! It’s not the best quality but it’s the best I could do. Thank you to Eamonn Holmes, Isabel Webster and Jacquie Beltrao for being so lovely!

Posted by The Mile Long Bookshelf on Monday, 17 August 2015

Then she was contacted by the Daily Mail (or as I like to call it, the Daily Fail), who wanted to run her story on their website The Mail Online. I’m not linking that one, it’s out there if you really want to read it. The article, although it was positive overall, was littered with errors and the headline called her ‘housebound’ – which she isn’t – prompting a lot of ignorant and upsetting comments which a lot of other Daily Fail readers agreed with, without having all of the facts. Only then did the journalist remove the word ‘housebound’ and correct some of the errors as I had requested. Mail Online commenters really are a breed of their own!

She was also contacted by ITV’s ‘Lorraine’ show and BBC Radio 5 Live, but turned them down because, well, it was all getting a bit crazy!

DID YOU KNOW: In the UK, kids are entitled to a FREE education up until the age of 19. But those with mental health issues are not well catered for, which is why we had to turn to paid-for education.

This fundraising thing just snowballed. We reached and went over the target within days. My daughter is part of a lively and supportive community online made up of book-bloggers, authors, publishing houses and PR agencies. They came out in force for my girl and raised the majority of the money – absolute superstars, all of them. Lovely authors donated signed books as rewards, and we even had a young actor from the last Harry Potter movie donate and send a really supportive email!

The Teen and I offered some rewards too. One of mine was just a small advert here on my sidebar for one, six or twelve months depending on the donation and you can see their adverts in a slideshow. I’m proud to support their small businesses as they have kindly supported us. I hope you’ll be kind enough to click on their ads and pay them a visit!

We’re now just over a month into online college at InterHigh and The Teen is very happy to be back there. She’s studying English Literature and Media Studies and is getting top grades. I couldn’t be more grateful to those who have helped her get there and I couldn’t be more proud of her and all she continues to achieve. She is very driven and I know her illness is just a temporary ‘blip’.

I know this has been a long post already but if you have an extra ten minutes, The Teen made this video yesterday which makes me even more proud.

She inspires me. I hope she inspires you too.

Zoe Sig

A Change in Blogging Direction

new direction graphic

For a while now, I’ve wanted to blog about more than just art journaling and painting. I’ve wanted to blog more about me: how Aspergers Syndrome affects me, and for me and my little family to ‘come out’ as secret gardeners (we’re a bit crap at it, but determined!) But I worried that my readership would drop off and I’d lose subscribers who are only here for art and art journaling.

I had almost made the decision to start up a new blog for the 2 new subjects when my daughter pointed out that keeping it all here in one place would help my existing readers know more about me and encourage new readers interested in the additional topics. It would mix things up a bit. And if it does cause a drop-off in subscribers? What will be, will be.

I’m going to do this and hopefully my regular readers will all stick around but I understand if it’s not your thing. I will absolutely still be blogging about art journaling, painting and zendoodling!

Back soon with something a bit different!

Zoe Sig