New Year, New Rocks January 2015

New Year – New Rocks!! Originally Posted 5.1.’15

 
 
Hello Rock Buddies 🙂
 
I can hardly believe it’s been so long since I last wrote a blog, especially after my good intentions to do one every week. I guess painting, painting, oh and a little bit more painting got in the way! Now here we are in 2015 and after a slow start, I have a head full of plans for the coming year.
 
I painted my last two rocks on the morning of Christmas Eve – a ringing gold bell and a christmas tree pebble, before downing tools and heaving a huge sigh of relief that we could finally take a break. Then I double checked the order book and noticed we had one left. It made my heart sink. Luckily Rocky stepped into the breach and painted it for me, before loading up the car and whizzing off around Truro to deliver our last three packages. And it was during that car journey that I realised this was the first time since WGAR began that I had not wanted to complete an order. It was definitely time to take some time off.
 
Initially we planned to spend Chrstmas and Boxing Day with the family, then do some painting in the evenings ready to start pebble drops again on New Year’s Eve. But our hearts weren’t in it, especially with the novelty of being able to sit down in the evenings with a glass of wine instead of a brush and being able to actually watch a TV program instead of just listening in the background. So we decided to give it another day or two.
 
Then the low-level coldy bugs that had been hanging around for weeks hit us full force and everybody apart from Rocky was feeling rubbish. So once again the pebbles took a back seat.  The relief of not being up against any deadlines and having free time without thinking we should be delivering or painting or planning our next batch really did make me think long and hard about the future of WGAR and whether or not I wanted to start it all up again.
 
Then we went somewhere and saw some stunning crochet work attached to a bus stop, the work of the Graffiti Grannys, (sic) but whether old or new I couldn’t tell, and it made me smile. It put a warm feeling in my belly and reminded me of all of the good bits of WGAR. Then I started to miss you all, your lovely messages, sometimes to tell us about people you love going through a hard time, sometimes just to say hello. I thought about the photos of our rocks that you have sent in and the excitement generated whenever we post a picture of a pebble drop.
 
So here we are, back again! We have no plans to close down ‘Who Gives A Rock,’ but it has been trememndously hard work, especially in the run up to Christmas where we sent out over four hundred pebbles and it felt like it was taking over our lives a bit too much. We are therefore making a few little modifications, starting off with setting defined working hours.
 
From now on Tuesdays and Thursdays will be dedicated rock days with the potential for an extra delivery on the weekends if we are heading out anyway, but this will remain flexible.
 
We will still be running ‘You Have Been Rocked’ campaigns, but due to their popularity, I’m going to have to become a bit more strict with myself and actually stick to the agreed amount, rather than trying to fulfill every request that comes in.
 
We still want to do pebble drops as they are one of the nicest parts of the job, and are still open to requests from all of you for places we haven’t ‘rocked’ yet.
 
And we will still be running auctions for a small amount of pebbles, to raise the money to keep the project going. However, to stop repetitive posts about auctions from clogging up your news feed, I will be starting a ‘Who Gives A RockAuctions,’ group where all of the posts about auctions will take place, so those that are interested in bidding can join and those who are not don’t have to. The group will be closed, so if you are interested in bidding, you will need to join, just to keep the spammers and trolls out 😉
*Note from PP this is out of date information! Please follow us on Facebook to see recent news.
 
Happy New Year everyone – many thanks for your continued support and lots of love to all of you.
Long Live WGAR!!!

PP xxx

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Highs and Lows. November 2014

Highs and Lows. Originally Posted 1.11.’14

 
I must admit, I’m feeling a little disheartened with everything in these last twenty four hours. The big push for Halloween was a mammoth task. I churned out fifty rocks for the children’s parks, plus another fifteen extras on top, and it was heavy going. There is more work that goes into these rocks than most people realise and a friend of WGAR has suggested that I explain the process so people can understand why they sometimes take a little time.
 
Each rock is selected from our source (permission has been granted to take them as they are a nuisance in their current location) quite carefully as we need specific shapes and sizes for specific jobs. We try to get the smoothest ones possible as they are easier to paint but this is not always possible. Quite often Poppa Painter goes out on our behalf and collects for us because he is a bit of a star.
Each rock then has to be scrubbed so the paint has the best surface to stick to and left to dry thoroughly.
 
Then comes the base colour painting. We do three coats, sometimes four, leaving each one to dry thoroughly in between and taking time to cut in neatly at the edges. Rocky often helps with this part so I can crack on with other jobs.
 
Once they are completely dry, I then decide what contrasting colour and design we are doing for that batch, or if it is a big rock, what the message and picture will be, before starting the process. This is the bit that takes time because we want each pebble to look as good as possible before sending it out, so it has to be done properly.
 
Once this has dried I go over it again and correct any mistakes then leave it to properly dry out. Then comes the message for the top, followed by a coat of varnish. This has to dry out completely before we give it another coat of varnish and leave it overnight to completely set.
 
The next day I write a code on each pebble and then enter it into the rock registry, with details about each rock such as colour, design, message and date it was made.
 
Finally we have to stick Facebook and Email labels on the back and cover them with tape which keeps the information safe for about a month outside.
 
So as you can see, it is definitely not a quick five minute job! I actually really enjoy most of the process (apart from labelling which Rocky does!) which is why I keep doing it, but it is a labour of love and this is why when we received our latest criticisms, I felt a bit saddened by it as so much effort goes in to making people happy.
 
 Back in the beginning when we started, I expected a certain amount of negativity would be levelled at us, but none came. The response was overwhelmingly positive and so recent events have caught me slightly off guard. I know that what we are doing will not appeal to everybody, but our values at Pebble HQ tend towards the live and let live end of the scale, so it was quite a surprise when a couple of people let it be known that they were pretty opposed to what we are doing. Normally I would have taken it on the chin but it came on the same day as several people were disappointed when looking in the parks and finding no pebbles, and sending cross messages to tell me so!
Obviously I don’t want to let anybody down, especially children, but I can only paint a certain amount of pebbles, as hopefully will be understood now I have explained the process in detail. A few people (and I must stress it was a very small minority) had a go at us and it was upsetting. It felt to me like there was suddenly an expectation placed upon us, and something that was supposed to be a pleasant surprise or gift was now being demanded, as if people felt that we owed them… I guess that along with the truly heart warming and wonderful bits of human nature this project has exposed us to, we also must learn how to deal with the slightly less pleasant parts. And also always remember that no matter how you conduct yourself in life, there will always be those who want to ‘p*ss on your firework’ as Poppa Painter said to me this morning!
 
So yes, there have been a few lows lately, but these come hand in hand with some wonderful highs and beautiful moments, so I would like to end this latest entry on a positive note by listing (in no particular order) our top ten most positive moments so far…
 
1. Having some stunning pieces of glass art made for us by the extremely talented ‘Tan Glassy Grey,’ in Hayle. As if receiving a present weren’t enough, the lovely lady also hid the parcel for us and sent clues on where to find it so we would know what it was like to be on the receiving end of a treasure hunt. And as I said at the time – you guys are right, it IS exciting 🙂
 
2. Being contacted by a lovely ‘liker’ who wishes to remain anonymous to be told a tank of diesel had been donated to help keep us on the road.
 
3. After becoming aware that a pebble had been taken from somebody’s garden in St Agnes, I put an update that I would paint a replacement for whoever put it back, under terms of secrecy, so nobody would know who was responsible. As if by magic, the pebble was returned overnight to its happy owner. I never head from the person who did the good deed, but stand by my promise that if he or she contacts us anonymously through email they will be rewarded.
 
4. Being contacted out of the blue by Radio Cornwall.
 
5. Declaring’ Random Act of Kindness Day,’ and hearing all of your lovely stories about the kind things you had done for other people.
 
6. Being mentioned by our buddy Chaplin Seventy Three, founder of Free Art Friday Truro, during his interview on the Cosmic Art’s Show for Source FM.
 
7. Stumbling across a little girl playing on the beach with her Daddy and secretly  leaving them a rock, only to be contacted by them later in the day.
 
8. The Griffin family taking their rock to various different locations and sending us photographs.
 
9. Your wonderful responses to my update last night when I was feeling low and a bit disheartened.
 
10. Finding out we had forty eight thousand views on our  In Loving Memory rock (even if it was in the wrong place) and receiving a lovely email to say thank you from a family member of one of the people tragically lost at sea.
 

So, as you can see, the good always outweighs the bad and gives us the motivation and encouragement we need to keep calm and rock on. 

As Rocky says, ‘Haters Gonna Hate.’ Personally I prefer one of Poppa Painter’s oft used phrases which is rather apt in these circumstances:

‘It is a mistake to deprive people of their grievances.’
 
Hugest love to you all
PP xxx

 

The First Few Weeks of Who Gives A Rock. November 2014

Originally Posted 1.11.’14

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As I write, ‘Who Gives A Rock,’ has been up and running for almost three months and what a whirlwind it has been!

We have covered upwards of eight hundred miles in the Rock-Mobile delivering pebbles all over the county and beyond, sent rocks out around the UK and as far as California via Royal Mail and are now receiving an average of seventy requests a week.

The Big 500th

A couple of weeks ago, I painted our five hundredth rock which we made into a rainbow with the song lyrics from ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’. The response to this was phenomenal, many of you declared it our best rock yet, and so we painted up a whole family of smaller rainbows with various lyrics from the song. Four of these have gone out as special requests, but the rest of them are being saved for next week when we are planning our Big Hospital Pebble Drop, as I commemorate a year of having been in a remission that nobody really expected me to achieve.

Honoured

 One of the things I love the most about this project is the interaction I get with our ‘likers’ and rock-finders through your messages and comments. I almost feel like I know some of you which is quite odd when I come across you in Tesco or out in town and have to remember not to smile at you too broadly as you don’t actually know who I am.

It is an honour and a privilege to read the lovely stories you send us along with the requests and each day my faith in the best bits of humanity is reinforced as I hear about some truly courageous, selfless and inspirational people. We are raising our Rocklets to look for the best in other people and if ever any evidence of this were required, we need look no further than some of the amazing individuals we have encountered since WGAR began. What a fascinating and humbling glimpse into the human spirit.

Laughter

 Along with the requests we also get lots of questions about WGAR, the odd complaint, sometimes a nice picture or someone wanting to say hello and some messages that have us in fits of laughter. I’ve learned to try not to take anything personally and retain my sense of humour wherever possible when crafting a response.
I’ve also learned not to get too attached to any of the rocks we send out as often we hear nothing back for whatever reason. I recently devoted an entire Saturday to painting sixteen large, individual pebbles for a local business and didn’t hear a word from them – in circumstances like these our policy is to bless it to them and move on.
Of the five hundred plus items we have distributed, we have probably heard back from less than half of them, but if we thought too much about this it would be a bit of a downer for the project, so we just hope they have made somebody somewhere happy and carry on painting.

Latest News

This week I am mostly finishing rocks for our Big Hospital Drop. More info on the Facebook. 
PP xx

How Who Gives A Rock Began September 2014

How Who Gives A Rock Got Started, Originally Posted 20.10.’14

So, where did it all begin?
 
As some of you know though our message chats, I spent the vast majority of the last three years seriously ill and in and out of RCH Treliske. At the very worst point, the doctors had given me a ten percent chance of survival which is pretty rubbish odds for even the most positive amongst us. But happily, I managed to stay in that ten percent and am now over a year in remission.
 
Momma and Poppa Painter celebrated a big wedding anniversary in the summer and I nearly missed it. It made me realise how self obsessed long term illness can make a person. Obviously with such a low chance of coming through it you have to focus everything you have on recovery, especially with two young rocklets to get well for, but despite our best efforts, life became mostly an endless round of Chemo and Radiotherapy, consultants appointments, blood tests, scans, medication schedules and secondary illnesses and infections… it was pretty pants to be honest and I ended up in a horrible cancer-bubble with little thought for much else. Coming out the other side was like stepping back out, blinking into the real world, looking around and realising how much I had missed and how insular I had become.
I wanted to do something for other people for a change, to give back to the local community that had been so kind to me and my family during my illness and focus on something completely different.
 
The pebble painting came about because Rocky and I wanted to tart up the garden a bit. And so I collected a few stones and started putting pictures on Facebook of the finished results. The response was great. I had done a few with positive words like ‘Inspire’ and ‘Adore’ written on them, when a very dear friend of mine who has me in fits of laughter on a regular basis told me she would like some rocks with swear words across the front. I duly obliged with double sided rocks that could either offend or amuse, dependent on the company and as other people commented saying how much they would like pebbles with messages on them, the nugget of an idea was born…
 
We spent a lot of the summer on the beach as the weather was so glorious, and when hunting around for some more smooth pebbles to paint, Rocky and I chuckled to each other about the idea of wandering along minding your own business, then stumbling across a swear rock in the sand… the idea started to take shape…
At the time some people we knew were into Geocaching and also quite caught up in the Lego Lost At Sea Facebook group where people scour the beaches for old bits of lego still washing up from a container ship wrecked off Cornwall some years ago and match their findings against an online database. The idea grew legs…
 
And so the combination of the above percolated through our brains for a bit and we talked about how we could combine it all into a project that benefitted others. At first we thought we might try and sell rocks for charity, but I wanted to do something a little closer to home, a little more personal, a little unusual. I googled ‘dropped art’ in relation to the leaving of a painted pebble on a beach idea and came across a whole Art Abandonment movement I had been previously unaware of. By this point the idea was taking proper shape inside our heads and we spent several hours talking it through and debating the ins and outs of it.
 
From reading up on the lovely folks in America that were participating in the Art Abandonment malarkey (it didn’t occur to me to look closer to home for some reason!) I saw that it seemed to be causing great excitement and making a lot of people happy. Again we were back at the sheer joy of stumbling across something beautiful, an unexpected gift and having it brighten your whole day. Almost as if Santa had been.
 
I knew this was the route I wanted to take things down, but was slightly put off by one participant who was really quite chuffed with herself… The whole reason for starting this project was to take attention off myself and focus on other people, I didn’t want anything in return. I was taken back to my seventeen year old self sitting in a brand new Truro College being lectured about Altruism by my Psychology teacher, and being asked, ‘Is it possible to ever do a truly selfless thing for somebody else?’ Perhaps, if like Santa, you remained anonymous. And so the idea was born.
 
But how to start this up anonymously when all of my Facebook friends had seen the pebbles I had painted and would know it was me? I had to rely on the fact that they would either think it was a massive coincidence or that they would enter into the spirit of it all and play along. We decided to rely on the ‘Saving Grace’ mentality (for anyone not familiar with the film, the whole community know that she is up to something, but turn a blind eye because it is for the greater good). To keep it as anonymous as possible we both picked pseudonyms to work under.
 
Our biggest issue now was where to get the rocks from. I knew if we were planning on distributing more than a handful we had a moral obligation to not be stealing them from the beaches. How could we give people something to keep as a gift that wasn’t ours to take in the first place? This was where we got the idea for the Rock Return. Anyone who wasn’t comfortable with the idea of keeping it was actively encouraged to return it to the beach. And then Poppa Painter came to the rescue with a brilliant idea of a place he knew that was overrun with pebbles widely considered to be a nuisance. He set me up a meeting with the head man in question, under terms of secrecy and permission was gladly granted for us to help ourselves.
 
We wanted to keep track of everything going out to see how far they spread, and thought anyone who found a pebble might enjoy knowing a little bit about it, like the lost lego pieces, so we set up the ‘Rock Registry,’ and put a code on the back of each rock, with an email address so the finder could get in touch to let us know it had been found.
 
And so the day came for the first drop. We ventured out into town and left two brightly coloured ‘Pop’ and ‘Kiss’ rocks in the bus shelter opposite the Museum, then a handful of blue and yellow ones around Truro. It was at this point that I realised Rocky’s long arms and unflappable demeanour were going to come in super handy as he calmly and effortlessly dropped pebbles about the place with nobody any the wiser, as opposed to my nervous, red-faced fumblings!
 
We left it four hours, then, after the school run, swung excitedly by the Museum only to see our rocks sitting exactly where we had left them, being ignored by a queue full of commuters. It was a little disappointing, but we both thought it might take some time to catch on and decided it was likely to be a ‘slow burner’ of an idea. Perhaps a website might be a good idea as a way of communicating with people without them having to make the first move. We both knew about the power of social media and thought a Facebook page might be a good start, to get the ball rolling and to work alongside the Email, for those who didn’t have an account.
 
I spent the evening setting it up, photographing what we had painted so far and trying to generate a bit of hype. We went to bed tired but hopeful. And then, at half past midnight came a ping from the phone I’d forgotten to put on silent. It was our first message, less than twelve hours after our first drop, from the first pebble to be discovered.
 
‘Who Gives A Rock,’ was up and running.
PP xx

WGAR’s First Blog, 20.10.14

Who Gives A Rock’s First Blog, Originally Posted 20.10.’14

When we first started ‘Who Gives A Rock,’ back at the end of the summer, I had grand plans that I would keep a diary each day as a record of everything that went on. This lasted for around three weeks (which is pretty good for me) and then as things really started to take off I found I had less and less time to put pen to paper, especially when my hands seemed permanently occupied with a paintbrush. Also, since we are no longer in the Bridget Jones Era, a blog seems more appropriate and an excellent way of answering the many questions that come in to the page on a daily basis from the lovely friends, likers and well-wishers we are accruing on Facebook at quite an exciting rate.

Hellfire this project has taken off! So much more quickly than Rocky or I ever dreamed it would. It has become a full time job just answering requests, questions and the odd complaint let alone designing and painting the rocks, organising what is going where and scrabbling around in the undergrowth hiding things. It has all gone a bit crazy but we are both absolutely loving it and wouldn’t have it any other way.

This week, as many of you know, the Rock-Mobile is out of action. At first I thought this was a major disaster for ‘Who Gives A Rock,’ but it has actually bought me a tiny bit of breathing space to get the website up and running which is something I’ve wanted to do for a couple of weeks, and also to arrange a donation process. The donations are actually something I don’t feel especially comfortable with, but as Rocky and many of you have pointed out, we can’t continue operating at a loss forever.

‘Who Gives A Rock,’ was never intended to make any money. I will talk more about how it all came about in the next blog, but the basic idea was to give back to the community and take nothing in return. This was certainly more do-able when we thought it would just be dropping pebbles wherever we happened to be at the time and making five or so deliveries a week around Truro.
In six short weeks we have made friends as far as California and Australia, dispatched rocks all over the UK by Royal Mail and clocked up easily six hundred miles in the Rock-Mobile driving around the county in response to the requests and nominations that have come flooding in. Sadly all of this costs money and with the entire project being funded by our household budget which is modest to say the least, something has had to change.

We have had people ask if we are going to sell our pebbles, but I’ve never been especially keen on this idea.  We wondered for a while about selling some now and again as a cash injection but I was concerned it would go against the whole ethos of the project and that people would not want to pay when they knew others were getting them for free. So I took to Facebook and asked general opinions on the matter to test the waters. What a supportive, positive response we received! You all completely understood that we needed to cover our costs and were not averse to paying a nominal amount towards it. So we toyed with the idea of a raffle but got caught up in alot of red tape surrounding gambling laws and licences.

Just when we were running out of ideas, we were given a donation for the fuel tank by one of our lovely well-wishers. And when I took to facebook to thank them, we had many requests from people wanting to help us out. So the idea of the donation was born. PayPal asks you to specify an amount, and we thought three pounds seemed a fair amount. The price of a Costa and a copy of the West Briton, or thereabouts. Unfortunately PayPal have decided to take their share also, so we have today upped it by thirty pence. But it doesn’t seem to have put any of you off, and for that we thank you, profusely.

I am still not interested in making a profit from what we do. I’m not even bothered about recovering the historic costs involved  with setting up the project, but it was clear we could not  continue without something to keep us afloat, so this is our happy medium. I am still thinking about selling the occasional rock, maybe through eBay, but haven’t yet ironed out the details. What do you all think?

Well, there is tons I want to say all about ‘Who Gives A Rock,’ but I don’t want to witter and also, I’m keen to post our first blog to catch you lovely lot on your way home for the evening, so going to sign off for now and hunt throuh the diary for interesting snippets for the next entry.

Sending Pebble Love to you all
PP

xxx