Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Interview with Annika Victoria

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Although she's currently en route to Hong Kong, welcome normally Sydney, Australia residing Annika Victoria, the 3+ years blogger behind The Pineneedle Collective. One of the sweetest bloggers I've talked to, her main focus is on science, ethical fashion, and how to sew your own clothes. She's joined us here to chat about it all: thoughts on her YouTube channel, her favorite bloggers, insight into her life-changing diagnosis, tips on how she achieved a successful blog platform, and more exclusively on here, straight from the source. Read away! :)

Aiman (me) 1: Hello to you Australian doll! Some people dont eat meat. Some donate to the poor regularly. And your method of doing good in the world, as readers of The Pineneedle Collective will know, is being an ethical shopper. When did you begin that path? 
Annika: Hi Aiman! I began to become an ethical shopper in mid-2013 when I actually started wanting to get hair extensions. Looking into the ethics of hair extensions, I realised that most weren't obtained by ethical methods. And this led me to question the ethics behind, well, everything else that I own and take for granted. If I objected to women being exploited to "donate" their hair (there's a good documentary about it if you want to know more about that), then what about people working in factories (who are also mostly women), being exploited to make cheap clothes?
(You can read the post in which I announced my decision to give up fast fashion here)

2: We love your unique, I-dress-for-myself-and-not-you style. How would you best describe it?
Thank you so much! I would describe my style as eclectic. Some days I feel like dressing like a rockabilly pin-up model. Other days I want to dress more like a goth. Most of my outfits feature some kinds of ridiculous novelty item and I would also say that most of my outfits have a "vintage" feel to them.

3: You mentioned (in my favorite blog post about your 3 year blogiversary) that a few years past you were diagnosed with a life threatening illness. Can you give us some details on that and how it affected you as a person?
I was hospitalised in 2011 when I kept having dizzy spells and blacking out, and there it was found that I had no pulse in my left arm. A few days and many, many tests later I found out that I had an extremely rare illness called Takayasu's Arteritis. While there is no cure and it is a difficult illness to live with day-to-day, I would say that it's made me much tougher and more driven. As anyone who has come face-to-face with their own mortality has probably experienced, an event like this makes you realise how short life can be, how precious the people you love are. For me, that's driven me to create - to make some kind of mark on the world - and also to be really kind and compassionate to the people that I love and spend as much time with them as possible.

4: Why has blogging, more than anything else, been a way to release some of the mixed emotions you must have been feeling when you were diagnosed?
The main reason is that I get to create something that will have an impact on other peoples lives, in however a small way that is. It's also this other world that I have total control over (unlike the real world), which makes it a very comforting place for me to be in, as I often feel very out-of-control in the "real world" because of the constant uncertainty and anxiety that comes with having a chronic illness like mine. As well as being a place to escape to, blogging is also so much fun. It's allowed me to interact with and meet so many people I otherwise would never have known. And I get to feel good about myself almost everyday when people leave me lovely comments such as "I love your dress!" or "You look gorgeous!", which is a pretty nice thing to have to pick me up when I'm feeling down.
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5: Go-to shopping destinations?
My local buy-by-the-kilo thrift shop and my local markets are almost exclusively the places that I shop at. I also love perusing Etsy for handmade and vintage items.

6: You also have a YouTube channel. (Congrats on 20k+ subbies!) Do you ever feel pressured or competitive in a marketspace/online community with so many big, popular YouTubers?
I love having so many people interacting with my channel, and am constantly amazed by the existence of Youtube and how it can let people like me, with a video camera and amateur editing skills, reach an audience of thousands of people! I don't really feel pressured to "grow" my channel or try to become mega-popular on youtube, because I really just love where I am now with it - making and editing videos for my own pleasure, having interactions with a small but dedicated fanbase, and teaching people how to make clothes! Working with big companies or Youtube networks and being under pressure to create content is definitely not a side of Youtube that I want to take part in just now - although I wouldn't rule it out for the future!

7: When you aren't blogging, what are you doing?
Sewing, reading bad science fiction novels and hanging out with my friends - we love exploring new caf├ęs and restaurants around Sydney, visiting beaches or just hanging out at eachother's houses and enjoying eachother's company! I also study science part-time, and work in laboratories when I can, which I really love and enjoy.

8: Do you/did you ever worry that your homemade clothes will/would tear or let you down? Care to share any embarrassing stories? 
Not anymore, now that I'm much better at sewing - but they have in the past. However, I am someone who prepares extensively for any possible situation, so when I wasn't very good at sewing I would often carry safety pins around with me whenever I wanted to wear something that was handmade, so that I could quickly fix it up.
However, I guess I'm a little bit embarrassed by some of the handmade clothes that I wore out in public (which, in hindsight, were not very good at all) - such as when I was obsessed with bird-prints and put bird-prints on everything, like this slightly weird, ill-fitting bird-print dress. But hey, it was all part of the learning experience, and has helped me get to where I am today!

9: How do you feel about having to dress nice for those unexpected "Hey, you're that blogger!" moments?
I still don't bother dressing up nice whenever I leave the house... haha. It is now something that's always in the back of my mind, especially when I venture into the middle of the city wearing what I call my "schlump clothes" (no make up, hair up in a messy bun and just wearing a simple t-shirt and shorts), because I only ever seem to get recognized by people on the street when I'm dressed like this! I NEVER get recognised when I'm dressed up all nice!! It's totally unfair!
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10: Contrary to popular belief, I'd say that it actually isn't necessary to have famous fashion inspo. Some of the best inspiration can be found right in your own backyard! Do you have any famous inspos? If so, and if not so alike, who are yours? 
I totally agree! I don't follow any runway fashion shows or have any super famous fashion idols. My most "famous" fashion idols are ones most people have never heard of, such as Ayumi Seto. My other fashion idols are from the blogging community, such as Kailey from Mermaidens, Jenny from She Loves Dresses and Katie and Amanda from Junebugs and Georgia Peaches. Other people that I find inspiring are simply people I see in the street who have made a lot of effort with their outfit!

11: Birds singing, sun shining, a new beginning awaits you. How's your morning routine sound like?
I always wake up much earlier than the people in my household because I literally can't sleep when the birds start singing/sun starts shining haha - which at the moment, happens around 5AM! I get all my most important work done in the morning because it's when I have the most energy. Sometimes I try to go for a swim, but I won't pretend that that is a common feature of my morning routine, haha! When I wake up, I spend about 20 minutes in bed, reading my emails and instagram notifications (such a bad habit that I need to get out of), then I eat breakfast because I need to take my (what feels like) 1 billion medications with food, then I'll have a shower while brainstorming on creative projects or thinking about my plans for the day!

12: We know nowadays most bloggers do almost everything with their smartphones. What camera do you use and how has it been like using it? 
I use a Canon Eos 60D! It is an amazing camera because it takes gorgeous, professional-looking photos and I can also use it for making videos. Couldn't recommend it more!

13: You're also a crafter! Having recently realized that grandma hobbies are the best hobbies myself, is there a reason you share my opinion that they make the world at least a million percent better?
It's pretty much the best thing in the world to help you relax. I love having something to do with my hands while watching TV or movies, and I find nothing in the world more relaxing than listening to one of my favourite podcasts while sewing for hours on end and watching a project come to life.
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14: Your blog seems pretty established. Has anyone helped you through getting it all set up, or is that something you self learned through trial and error?
I have learned all I know by googling it. Seriously. Everything you could want to know is found on google ;)

15: Following Q23, any tips for new bloggers on how to get their layout to appear more professional or enhance their blog to gain some monetary value?
My best tips are:

  •  Make your photos all the same width!
  •  Make a simple header and have a couple of links to the most important features on your page.
  • Add something to your blog that makes it "you". For example, those sections of my blog that I think makes it stand out from others are the DIY, ethical shopping and science sections.
  • Don't stress about making money from blogging. Even if you become a fairly well-known blogger, you won't make very much money from it (not enough to quit your day job). Don't jump on any and all sponsorship opportunities that come your way. Be selective.
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16: I've loved having you here. Any final words, thoughts, wisdoms or creativity you'd like to share for the readers of Life is Spontaneously Splendid?
I've loved answering these questions! My final piece of "wisdom"(? I don't think I'm very wise but here goes anyway!) is to always do things for yourself, never for other people. Create because you want to create. Blog because you want to blog. Wear what you wear because you want to wear it, regardless of what other people say or think.

Well, that's all from us. It was a joy to chat with Annika and I hope our mixed readers enjoyed this post. Look out for some more posts from me this week; I've got tons to share with you. I finished rereading my magical favorite, Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, yesterday and would love to hear book recommendations/opinions! Have you ever read it? What'd you think of it? I was also watching Food Network because I'm in one of my mesmerized/dreaming states of I-want-to-be-a-professional-chef-one-day. Anyone else get moods like that? I was just watching the movie snacks episode of Southern at Heart (which, before today, I never knew existed??) and frantically copying down the steps when the lady cooking goes, "Oh, and click onto the Food Network website for my recipe." Well, shoot. *insert grumpy pout*
Be sure to follow via bloglovin' and/or google friend connect to never miss a post, and don't waste the gift of today. No matter how tough times may be, stay happy because
Life is spontaneously splendid :)
Aiman xx

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