22 August 2012

Guest Post - Helen - A5 Ochre Malden ‘Studio planner’

This week Helen shows us her A5 Malden 'Studio planner, this follows on from her guest post last week about her Personal Aston

This is my A5 Ochre Malden ‘Studio planner’.

I am a lawyer by day but I also am an emerging textile artist. (That is what creativity life coaches tell you to call yourself when you are not yet as good as you hope to be but you want people to take you seriously nonetheless!) . This is the Studio where it lives although it makes frequent trips out to one of the downstairs lounges or to coffee shops to keep me company in thinking times.

I am making good use of the 30mm rings (love them!) so prepare for a long post! Throughout I have made it African themed. I had bought a very cheap and battered copy of Passages by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher on Amazon marketplace which was an edited version of the two volume book African Ceremonies which I then also bought. So I desecrated the cheap book and cut it up in service of giving me daily filo inspiration. I have just ‘glue-sticked’ (glue-stuck?!) the photos onto the official Filofax dividers. The black card sticking out of the pockets are two pieces of L shaped card I sometimes use as a viewfinder to isolate a design. As you can see I clip a green pen behind the rings. All pens are Pilot Hi-Techpoint.

The Filofax has the following sections:

Time recording (not behind a divider) and Quilts ( second divider) sections

These two sections work in tandem and I flip back and forth.

First the time recording session. Amongst textile artists I am considered a little freakish unusual (albeit not unique) I think for being so right brained about left brained creative work. But it works for me. I like to know what time I spend for two reasons. First so that I can cost the value of a work for sale purposes. But as my main focus is participation and exhibition, rather than sales at the moment I also need to know how long it is realistically going to take to do a particular type of project so I can plan to take on only what is reasonable for the limited time I have over my day job.

The time recording goes on in several ways.

First let me show you a few pages in. As the week goes on I note down what activities I do in the studio. I aim for 10 – 15 hours a week. I note what type of activity I do. Then every week I summarise that on a monthly page.

I found this template elsewhere on the internet but I forget where now [Steve:Philofaxy!!], which is a pain as I need it for next year as this works very well for me. [Steve: Don't panic we have created one!] I started this first and the information it gave me informed my other planner pages in this section. Then I have a four-page section for each piece of art I am currently working on. This stemmed from a course I did about working in a series.

The main bit of it is a project planner where I set out the next actions and the time I want them done by and then also keep a track of what I do and who much it takes. That means that I can costs a quilt but also compare the reality with my estimate to be more accurate next time. I really enjoy using my filo at the end of every studio session like this. I use a free stopwatch on my iPad to record the time.

Then, my newest page is this: I am working mentally in two semesters a year. This is a planner for mid August to Easter. I had a lot of options open to me about what projects to take on in terms of competitions, calls for entry to juried show and group activities I was committed to. So I picked the ones I wanted to do, using my previous planner estimated how much time it would take for each one and added a safety margin of a good few hours. Then I worked on the number of weeks times just 10 hours a week average for safety and established that much to my surprise I had time to attempt them all. But then they all have different deadlines and so I have to do them in a certain order whilst at the same time allowing myself the fun of working on what inspires me on a given date. The result is this planner for how I should allocate my 40 hours per week. It is intended that it will alter a little as I go along as some projects will be quicker, some longer than anticipated. Or I might have a lazy week!!


In between these two sections I have a finance section where I note what I have spent on art and the budget I allowed. There is no logic to the finance being in between the other two sections save that it evolved that way!

Calls for entry

The rules for each show or competition I may decide to participate in can be several pages long. I do a quick summary sheet and print out the details on A4 with the entry forms.


With so much going on a simple clear overview is often a good head clearing things to have. A simple table on A4 with some text boxes for the months does the trick. Here I can add in potential projects with deadlines falling in the next ‘semester’.

Website, Patterns and Articles

There is not much here at the moment as I have completed projects and have not yet started new ones. I will soon fill it with note son revamping my website and with notes of measurements and instructions I take as a develop patterns either for the African Fabric Shop ( www.africanfabricshop.co.uk) or magazines. I keep a list of possible magazine articles. I have always done a bit of freelance journalism on and off since I was 16.

Personal learning plans

There is so much I want to learn! I am constantly tempted by degree programmes (Because they are there….!) but that is (a) a bad use of money and (b) not even tailored to my needs. So I am auto-didacting. This section has various syllabuses I have set myself – skills I know I need to do the work I envisage in my head. I set out my goals and the steps I need to get there. Syllabuses on yellow, notes on blue.


List of what I need to buy at the next trade show.


Empty!! Its not that I am not inspired rather that everything there was in here has been refilled elsewhere in another Filofax (yes, it will become another post!!) no doubt this will fill up again. It is just a temporary holding section really


Entry forms and stocks of my own pro-forma sheets


Currently holding the four page records but for completed quilts

Plastic envelopes

One for receipts, one for quilt related travel things. Currently it has my tickets for lectures and entry at the Festival of The Quits a four-day jamboree at the NEC, Birmingham in August. Can’t wait.

I use the swing pad at the back a lot too

This is the Filofax I love the most because it is the most full of self made templates and purpose. I am working on my others to get them like this. It takes time but I think that is the real hobby of filofaxing in a way. Buying is the short-term buzz but the constant customisation is the long-term pleasure.


  1. Another beautiful filo, Helen, and a lovely post. I'm sure you must have more than 24 hours in your day to fit everything in!!

  2. There's only 24 hours in a day???? Huh, I should buy some of those inserts with times on each day to remind me.

  3. Helen, what a wonderful post. I just fell in love with your photographs of Africa too and a glimpse into your light and airy quilting room as well as your Filofax, was a positive treat- I can imagine you spending many happy and relaxing hours up there.I am awed at how much you manage to fit into your day to day life and how much energy and verve you have Helen. You have certainly inspired me today. xx

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  5. Great post Helen, I don't know how you find time to fit in all your hobbies!!

  6. The secret is advance planning, prioritaisation, a husband who cooks, a cleaner who cleans and no children!

  7. A husband who cooks?! Where would I find one of these models?? ;-)

    1. You don't. You marry him, buy him a copy of Delia Cooks and refuse to feed him until he learns.

    2. Well, mine cooks but his repertoire seems to be limited to chips, sausages, etc. He can cook a mean roast in the BBQ but I have to do the veggies and roasties! You must have got a good one there Helen!!

  8. Self made templates are the best to have and are the most useful. Love your Filofax. x

  9. Fabulous post Helen - and one I've been looking forward to. I have to say that I have been lucky enough to see this FF in the flesh and it is really impressive! It is such an inspiration to see how others actually use their FF.

    I too am amazed at how much you pack into your day/week. It really is a great advert for planning. I have wasted far too much of my life in aimless activities. I am in the process of setting up 'my ideal week' (see Helen's previous guest post) but I have to say I find it really hard! It's far too tempting to say 'I'll do it tomorrow' and we all know tomorrow never arrives!

  10. Great post! I absolutely love your last line - it will be added to my list of favorite Philofaxy quotes!

  11. Wow, wow, wow!!! What fabulous templates and planning - it's amazing how you fit in the time. I love your studio. Can I just say again... wow!!!

  12. Many thanks for this excellent post Helen. It just goes to show how much can be packed into life outside work, with a little planning. I now have some thoughts on how to put my retired A5 back into use as my creative planner. Thanks for the inspiration!

  13. Thank you all for the kind comments. Nothing makes me happier than when people say I have inspired them.

  14. Helen - lovely studio, very resourceful filofax I love how you have tailored it to suit your business - some good ideas there. I have just bought an A5 Malden grey for my Mum for Christmas, and if she likes it I am looking forward to helping her organise it for her business :)