TextileArtist.org

I’ve known about TextileArtist.org for quite some time, but have only recently started having a really thorough look at it. If you don’t know about it, do click on the link as it’s well worth a look. The site is really professional and it looks great. It’s run by Joe and Sam Pitcher who are the sons of textile artist Sue Stone. She must be bursting with pride….

There are lots of interesting interviews with artists. I’ve been looking at it most days over the last month, and I still haven’t read them all. Also, there’s some brilliant technical stuff. I was very interested in the article about how to photograph your textile work and how to avoid the obvious pitfalls. It’s actually a really difficult thing to do and I learned a lot from the article. I still haven’t really bottomed my camera and I need to put in some serious time on it, but the last batch of photos of my work that I took looked better than previously, so the article obviously helped.

Another great feature is a set of articles on how to build a website. I do wish I’d been able to read these before I built mine. I’ve written previously about the process I went through in building this site and I won’t bore you with it again, but I would really have appreciated the kind of specific guidance provided by the chaps Joe and Sam. I’m pleased to see, as well, that they thoroughly recommend having a blog. Blogging is quite a lonely business, as some of you will know, and sometimes it’s tempting just to leave it or to throw in the towel altogether. But I feel encouraged to continue because of their recommendation.

Keeping a blog and a website going, even on a somewhat skeletal basis (like this one!) is quite a lot of work. But the chaps at TextileArtist.org must put in a huge amount of work to achieve what they do. Well done them.

Building my website: part 2

Quite a while ago I wrote a post about how I built my website. It was rather a labour-intensive and complicated process (easy enough if you know about these things, no doubt, but quite tough for the novice), so I decided to split the post in two. Picking up from where I left off last time: once I’d got my theme installed I was then ready to go…. but soon realised that I might have bitten off more than I could chew. There are various tutorials available online for using WordPress, and there is a vast and helpful WordPress.org community out there willing to help with queries. The problem I had, though, was that my ignorance was so immense that I didn’t know where to start in even framing my questions.

Messing about on YouTube one day I found a video made by a bloke called Bob, based in Seattle, who offers WordPress tutorials on-line. There’s the odd free one, but to really get plugged in to the useful stuff, you have to pay for Bob’s tutorials – and fair enough. (Click on the photo below to get to Bob’s website).Bob WP online

So I took the plunge, and started working through the tutorials, which I must say are excellent. Bob has a nice easy-going style and his explanations are comprehensive and thorough. With this help I was able to make sense of the WordPress dashboard (which is where you set up your design, establish a menu system, install plugins, use widgets and write posts). All this took me some time, but I plodded through it all determined to get it to work. The investment in Bob’s tutorials was well worth the comparatively modest outlay.

So where am I at with all this? You can see the fruits of my labours in the website. It’s not perfect, and I will no doubt make some changes to it over time, but I’m reasonably happy with it at the moment. I feel a sense of achievement in having got this far. Nowadays, if there’s something I don’t understand at least I know enough to be able to frame the query so as to stand a reasonable chance of getting an appropriate answer online from the WordPress.org community.

What I can’t do is alter the code that underlies what you see on the website. The Prose theme using the Genesis framework can be used by an ignoramus like me – I’ve proved it – but for some of the smart stuff you need to understand CSS code. At the moment this is beyond me, but I’m thinking that I’d quite like to do a course on it and really get to grips with this techie stuff. All in good time. For the moment I’m just happy with what I’ve got.

Would I recommend making a website this way? Well, I think you do need to be fairly computer-literate to start with, and willing to engage with some technicalities that may seem daunting at first. There is a significant pay-off, though, in doing it this way: I don’t need to rely on anyone else to update my website content. If I want to insert a new page, change the menu, add a gallery or update pages I can do it all myself. For me, this independence is worth the considerable investment in time.

Building my website – part 1

I have to say straight away that I chose quite a difficult way of building my website. About a year ago I bought a book, ‘Blogging for Creatives’ by Robin Houghton which impressed me greatly.Blogging for Creatives - Robin Houghton

It’s a very attractive book and it seemed to a complete novice like me to offer a lot of really useful guidance. The author explains the most popular ways of establishing a blog, some of which sound really easy, like using Blogger or WordPress.com. But another option is to have a self-hosted blog via WordPress.org (which is very different from WordPress.com, it seems). The big advantage of doing it the self-hosted way is that you can create your own website, as well as a blog.

I really wanted to have a website, with a blog embedded into it, rather than just a blog, so I thought that the self-hosting option might work best for me. I read around it on the internet and decided it was something I could just about manage if I put some time and effort into it. I’d describe myself as fairly computer-literate but I’m not an expert computer geek by any means.

First step was to get a webhost and buy a domain name (that’s the catherinegowthorpe.com address). I compared various webhosts, and went for Vidahost which gets good reviews in the UK. This was fairly straightforward but I did need to contact them with a query almost straightaway. The reviews I’d read suggested they would respond quickly. I timed it and the response to my query came in 12 minutes and sorted me out, so well done Vidahost. This is one satisfied customer.

Next step was to install WordPress, which Vidahost organised for me, so no hassle there. Then I had to think about a theme, which provides the basic look of your website – although there are loads of options for creating your own design. There are many free themes but some people recommend going for a paid theme because you get a better product. I remembered reading something about this on the website of a quilter in Australia – Brenda Gael-Smith. Brenda not only produces lovely quilts, but also provides web design services, so she knows a thing or two about this website business. She recommends the Prose Theme by Genesis which has the huge advantage (for me at least) that you don’t have to write any code in order to tailor the theme for your own use. (I’m prepared to put a bit of effort in but I draw the line at writing code ). I read lots of information and reviews on the internet about the various options and eventually bit the bullet and bought a copy of Prose ($84.95 if you’re interested).

I’ll talk about the next steps in another post as I’ve already run on a bit….. If you want to ask me any questions about this, drop me an email or leave a comment, and I’d be glad to let you know more of the detail about the decisions I made