Coming is a slightly lighter, much more self indulgent blog (which is saying something since I only ever write exactly what I want to write). Late in 2021, I was inspired by my friend Aine’s bullet journal to start my own. After a year of doing it myself, I wanted to share some of my favourite designs and a little about why I have enjoyed it so much. Read Aine’s blog if you want to hear more about the benefits of bullet journaling and also get some bujo envy!
I actually started my bullet journal on New Year’s Eve. Seeing as I had been confined to France over the Christmas holidays, having had covid right before I was supposed to go back to Scotland, and most of my friends in Mulhouse were out of town, I spent the evening drinking G&Ts, watching Marvel movies and starting my bullet journal. I decided on a 1920s, Great Gatsby inspired theme for the opening pages that included things like a calendar of the year, goals and a bucket list for 2022 as well as a place to keep track of the books I had read during the year and other things.
For January, I decided to do a theme based around fireworks – we were welcoming in the new year after all! Looking back on it, it’s not my favourite which is why there aren’t that many photos included. It took me a while to figure out the kinds of layouts that worked for me and that I like but you might start to spot some repeating arrangements in the months to follow. Even if the fireworks theme wasn’t my favourite, it was a simple enough one to start with. As I got more comfortable and built up some habits and instincts for what would work and what wouldn’t, my themes and spreads became a little more complicated as I became more confident.
Now February rolls around and I’m not quite sure how I managed it so early on but this might be one of my favourite themes all year! After the unexpected spanner in the works at Christmas, I was heading back to Scotland during the week I had off work in the middle of February so I decided to do something a little related to that. I can’t remember exactly what inspired the choice other than thinking it would be quite effective but I based my theme on Rennie roses. For anyone that doesn’t know, Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a Scottish architect and artist who was born in Glasgow and was a very influential figure in the British Art Nouveau movement. As an architect, he is most known for the Glasgow School of Art building but his creations can be found all around the city. In terms of designs, his most famous motif is the ‘Rennie rose’, which reflects his architectural style closely – a combination of sharp angles with floral designs and more subtle curves. Charles Rennie Mackintosh is someone that I remember learning about in school, I think his roses were a go to for art teachers across Scotland! For this bullet journal theme, I love how the shades of pinks and purples came together and some of the finer details in the line work as well.
In March I was again inspired by something that I had planned that month. Towards the end of the month, I had a trip to Paris planned with my longtime friend Nina who lives in London. It’s funny when you think that Paris is the halfway point for us to meet, if anything it’s actually closer to her! It was mostly using the street signs which were nice and easy to draw and worked well with the boxes in lots of the layouts. I enjoyed the little bits of sketching as well! I wouldn’t say that I can draw that well but I’m pretty good at copying things!
April was a bit hit and miss for me. I love the opening page, the retro colours and wavy design but I don’t think I was able to carry that through as successfully into the other spreads. Each month I start with a monthly calendar, a habit and mood tracker and a few other things. The mood tracker for this month is particularly effective I think and one of the weekly spreads, while not my favourite, I’m pretty proud of because of how much time I put into it (I’m sure you can guess which one it is!). I also found this lettering really satisfying to do. I have always loved drawing out different fonts like this, I used to sit in front of the TV when I was younger with a big book of fonts or an alphabet that I had found online and printed out and then would copy them.
I had a bit of fun with May. This was the month that I left Mulhouse for the summer and started off by travelling to Munich, Innsbruck and Vienna so I wanted something along that theme. I think this is the point in the year where it became a conscious choice to base my choice of theme for the month off something that was happening in that time. For example, I already had fireworks for the start of the year in January, Rennie roses for my trip to Scotland in February, Paris street signs in March ahead of going there and in May I had a similar idea in mind. From this point on, I would think about what I had coming up in the month and try to choose a theme based on that. Because I was doing a bit of travelling, I thought doing an idea based on the iconic Airmail envelopes would be interesting. The blue, red and white stripes worked really well around the boxes and I added in some doodles of airplanes and stamps based on my destinations during the month.
Here I have to admit that I dropped the ball a little over the summer with my bullet journal. I spent all of June and part of July volunteering in a hostel in Tenerife and the rest of July hopping between Dunblane, the Isle of Lewis, London and Croatia! In all of this, there weren’t many things that I needed to keep track of, the usual tasks that I rely on my bullet journal to keep organised, and the down time that I would usually use to draw out the spreads was taken up by socialising with people. I still got some bits and pieces done and I actually really like the themes that I chose! June obviously had to be a turtle theme in honour of La Tortuga hostel but then I’m not really sure what I wanted for July. In the end I chose something simple (at least so I thought) in that it was just black and white so I could do it with the limited colours that I had available. One of the (few) weekly spreads that I did for July is one of my top designs of the year. It took ages and I spent probably longer than I should have doing it but the repetitiveness of the positions of the flowers and the care I had to take with the fine lines was actually really relaxing for me when I was doing it.
August saw a return to more regularly scheduled programming. I was still on holiday but I was settled in Scotland for the whole month and was starting to think about returning to work so had a few more things to keep track of. My chosen event and therefore theme of the month only happened in the last few days but did a great job of getting me excited for it. At the end of August, I attended the Rock en Seine music festival in Paris which was incredible. I took the design of the posters, tickets and general promotional resources and used that for my theme and I was so pleased with how it turned out! I don’t have any particularly fancy pens that I use for my bullet journal, maybe the fine liners I use for outlining are a bit (Fineliner Pigma Micron pens from Sakura) but the felt tips I use are the humble Crayola Supertips. I also used pencil for the first time in the August designs to create the sunset background. Something I remember about this cover page was that I was finishing the lettering while watching TV with my dog lying on the sofa with me. Òran decided he wanted to help and that’s where the little line coming off the first ‘U’ is from!
After four months away, September was the month that I finally made my way back to Mulhouse and Alsace and that felt worthy of being the theme of the month. Alsace is known for having lots of half timber houses which made up the majority of this month’s design features with some nice flower highlights but I also used the local favourite snack, a pretzel, as an added feature. This one actually took a long time to do because the little houses had a lot of detail in them!
Now this. This one. This is the month that makes me question whether February actually is my favourite theme. I based October on a trip I was taking at the end of the month that turned out to be my favourite week of the whole year I think. If you’ve been paying attention to my blogs at all recently you’ll have seen how much I enjoyed writing about my time in Morocco, visiting Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakesh and the Sahara and even before I went, I knew that I would love it. I only left for this trip in the last few days of October but I already had an idea for the theme in November and I wanted to use a Moroccan inspired theme to get me in the mood for the trip! I am OBSESSED with the tiles that are the main feature of this design and just like the repeating floral design that I spoke about before, I found drawing them out really relaxing.
I mentioned before that I already had a theme in mind for November already and that Día de los Muertos inspired. The Day of the Dead is celebrated on the 1st or 2nd November and is a joyful celebration of the dead. This is a celebration that happens across countries and cultures in Latin America and is actually something that I celebrated while I was living in Honduras. The Honduras celebration is a little more relaxed than what most people might think of (such as the Mexican celebrations that you might have seen in the Disney film Coco) but I went for the more iconic images of the sugar skulls (or calaveras in Spanish) and marigolds. In general I love the contrast in this holiday of the bright, joyful colours and the celebration of something that is often very sombre.
Last but not least, can we get a bit of commotion for December! This was one of the easiest decisions in terms of theme because it was so obvious. Every year Mulhouse (home to a fabric printing museum) designs a new textile to use as decorations throughout the Christmas market. Last year’s design wasn’t my favourite but I loved this year, it immediately made me feel really festive! It was the perfect design to finish the year on! This year the pattern was called ‘scintillance‘ and is meant to represent the light at the end of the tunnel after two years of restrictions on the markets and our lives because of the pandemic.
Looking back on 2022, it’s nice to feel that some of my favourite parts of the year have been immortalised in the pages of my bullet journal. It’s not just the designs, looking back at the tasks and events from week to week, the books, TV and music that I watched, the habits I sustained (and the ones I didn’t) and I how I felt along the way provides a lovely snapshot into this year in my life. Even though this is significantly more work than what I was doing before (just very quickly splitting up pages in a lined notebook with a biro pen – simple but it got the job done), I think I feel the benefits more. I like using my bullet journal as a creative outlet as much as an organisation tool. There’s a reason why adult colouring books or paint by numbers are so popular. There’s something relaxing about those kinds of activities that let us have a break from our high-tech, ultra connected world and this is just my version of that.
I hope you enjoyed this peek into my brain, this is a pretty accurate representation of what it looks like in there! I’m already loving what I’m doing in my bullet journal this year but you might have to wait a while to see it! Maybe now it’s your turn – would you or do you use a bullet journal? What was your favourite theme of mine from 2022?