I spent a wonderful weekend at Hill View Farm at a creativity festival organised by Natasha Seidel @takingamomentintime this weekend. 30+ likeminded creatives gathered to learn new crafts, knitting techniques and to get together and share Natasha's delicious home grown and home cooked food, and talk about Instagram! I often feel like the odd one out with an unusual lifestyle, not to mention my big love of Instagram and I felt so at home with so many other creatives and photography lovers who are similar to me.
My first workshop was making ceramic feathers and leaves with Ceramicist Katie Robbins aka @ceramicmagpie. Katie is an inspiring lady with a beautiful Instagram account and very involved in the creative community, particularly on Instagram. Of course we experimented with other ideas like little pots and dishes, and painted them to finish.
After an evening of delicious food grown at Hill View Farm and cooked on site, chats around tables in the tent and the campfire, and a cosy night in our spacious yurts, we joined together again for our next workshops. I had chosen the popular indigo dying with Kristina at @writtenincloth. As you can see we were prolific and under her guidance made bags and scarves and experimented with some beautiful designs. That's the dye pot and our sample pieces drying in the wind.
There were many workshops taking place simultaneously with various crafts, though that afternoon I was very happy to meet Olga @olgaprinku who taught some of us to make her beautiful floral wreaths. Katie and Sarah are shown here chatting away while making their wreaths. Olga happens to have one of the most beautiful Instagram accounts there are so take a look! Scroll down to see the website for the full list of workshops. If you're a knitter or a crochet queen you would have found the weekend particularly heavenly.
I found the easygoing atmosphere and company refreshing and therapeutic, working with other crafts really enhances my creativity. The Yurts were cosy and the campfire still crackles in my soul. Thanks to Natasha and all the workshop leaders, I had a wonderful, nourishing time and hope to return again. If you're interested you can find out more at the hillviewmoments website and Instagram.
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I remember hydrangeas being everywhere when I was growing up during the 1970s. Now they are back in vogue and you can't walk down the street without seeing their audacious pom-pom flowers billowing over walls and paths, I suspect many may have been there all that time, though the last few years have commanded my attention. One of the loveliest things about making nature jewellery is constantly noticing natural entities to make into pieces and those little hydrangea petals are no exception.
There is an ancient Japanese legend whereby an Emperor who was in love gave hydrangea to the family of the girl he loved to make up for neglecting her and putting his business first. The hydrangea, native to Japan and Asia (and Americas) more generally, has become associated with heartfelt emotion, gratitude for understanding and perhaps, and at least in Japan because of this myth, apology. They have also been used by ancient healers to break curses, if you've been unlucky enough to experience a curse you know which flowers to reach for. The Victorians thought they've symbolised boastfulness though I think they might have felt that about anything as flamboyant as a hydrangea!
These unapologetic blooms have been in the UK since the 18th Century. They are robust, they can be grown in pots and many of the 70 varieties in shady spots. Even when the flowers die and dry out their beauty remains, as a brief look through the Instagram hashtag #lovelydeadcrap will reveal, or the shelf of any forager you know! Some varieties even change colour depending on the pH of the soil they are planted in. If you're thinking of getting one plant in the autumn or spring for it to be happiest. Hydrangeas needs a lot of water and well-drained soil (hydrangea comes from the Greek word for water vessel). You can find out more at the RHS: www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=122.
I would love to hear your hydrangea stories, do you remember them growing up? Do you have any tips for this care?
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This post is about how I use Instagram images to nurture my creativity, and where this has lead me. I went through a period in my life, a long one, where I did not nurture my creativity at all (despite being a creative person) and during that time I felt a stagnation creeping into my soul, though I was unaware of this happening. This became untenable, and a bit like a dam breaking the need to create bubbled over and I started making and making, this was the start of Grace and Flora, and later, discovering photography and Instagram.
When creating a moodboard or a flatlay, I'm playing with the objects, paying attention to space, closeness and distance, colour and form, how the objects make me feel, their symbolism and meaning which is personal to or related to something I am working on. Creating images for Instagram makes me see things in a new way, I engage more both out walking and with the objects I've gathered over time. My wish to post good images makes me pay more attention to my surroundings near and further afield. It even gets me out seeking and exploring more than I might otherwise.
When arranging in this way I am working that creative muscle, as I am with painting, or making, so when I need it the creative flow comes more readily. This feels a little like developing a physical muscle you might strengthen and stretch with intention at the gym or practicing yoga and you notice a difference. If you neglect it it will shrink. This is even true of meditation - one of my meditation teachers likened the practice to developing that 'muscle' in the mind to focus your attention on the present moment rather than getting lost in thought - and there's the reason it's called a meditation 'practice', or mindfulness 'practice' - because it can take work to develop. So I'm nurturing a creative 'practice' in myself when creating images for Instagram.
We lovingly call it 'faffing' though I think the experience, usually, can have a deeper impact on our wellbeing than the word implies, even with creating simple images. This takes on a different quality with similarly minded folk, its been lovely to meet others who enjoy this process which makes it fun.
There's a great book called "The Women who Run with the Wolves" by Clarissa Pinkola Estes which I recommend to any woman who feels creatively disconnected or lost, or just for inspiration. It's a deep and rich book with reflections on archetypal stories of women for us to learn from. It is deep rather than light but worth packing in your holiday bag!
I have never ever been a big social media person, usually a 'late adopter', pretty shy too, but to have found a wonderful community on instagram, despite algorithms and distance, has been very supportive to me as a maker. The advice from our influencers if we want to be seen and grow is to engage more to build a community around ourselves, and this works, and surely, this engagement is the most wonderful thing in its own right. The other aspect we are recommended to enhance this is to post the best content we can. I can only do this by honouring that creative energy in as many ways as possible, and supporting others to do the same.
I wonder what you could do today to nurture that creative life force? Simple suggestions is to take a great photo, pick a pretty posy and arrange it just as you like it, cook something new, take a moment to sketch something that catches your eye in your home or garden. Let me know how you get on!
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I spent a lovely weekend with likeminded creatives brought together by Emily and Stef at Makelight.
The first full day started with breakfast of gorgeous pastries, this is Emily Quinton and Sarah Haycock tucking in (with a bit of faffing first of course!)
We walked and talked together to explore what the most important thing was for us to take away and actually do to get us moving in the direction we wanted. The pigs and the chickens helped us think!
The environment at Talton Lodge was such a beautiful place to reflect and connect.
We spent the afternoon making lotus flower mobiles with Sarah Haycock @sarahnotes), I'm used to close work so made good progress though the point was to create something together, and practice mindful making. Sarah's own mobile is pictured here. Her kits are beautiful - she even included some very instagramable scissors!
Afternoon tea on a mixed weather day, beautifully styled by Emily, eaten by the rest of us!
On Sunday we had a leisurely breakfast followed by a mindful walk (in a mis-timed rain shower!) lead by Gabrielle Treanor, who teaches us how to worry less and enjoy life more (she has a free e-course if you're interested, and why wouldn't you be! - not to mention a wonderful blog and more wellbeing courses). Afterwards we had more discussions on various aspects of our creative lives and businesses, this took us to lunch and goodbyes. I came away realizing that this year is a year for experimenting for me, with selling wholesale (so far so good!) and exhibiting at larger fairs, and sustaining my business in a meaningful way. I have also committed to blogging more often here! Thank you Emily and Stef!
I would love to hear what spurs your creativity and reflection time, what keeps you creative and inspired? If you would like to subscribe to my monthly newsletter you'll find a quick sign up on my homepage, for blog updates, news and inspiration.
I am so honoured and excited to be invited to be a guest judge for Ceramic Magpie, aka Katie Robbins for her #wipsandblooms challenge for the month of June.
Thi idea is to share your work in progress makes with an added bloom, and of course, because this month we are focusing on tools - a tool or two - tagging #wipsandblooms_tools so we can find you. I'm looking forward to a month full of lovely and interesting images, the winner will receive the pretty rose leaf necklace (below) as a prize at the end of the month. It's not just for professional makers - anyone can join in, so get tagging.
To find out more about it, as well as Katie's interview with me, and more about Katie too click here: http://www.ktrobbinsceramics.com/blog/wipsandblooms-may-2017
This is the rose leaf necklace is the prize I'm giving to the winner at the end of the month - cast from a rose leaf into sterling silver. You can see some of the stages it's been through below as it's being finished.
Here's a selection of my tools, I have a lot more than this, it's interesting to get them all out and line them up like this, it's easy to take things for granted. Did you know that arranging items in vertical and horizontal arrangement like this is called "knolling"? Katie is a font of knowledge!
You can find us on Instagram as @graceandflora and @ceramicmagpie - come and say hello!
It's possible to create a lifestyle and living that is sustainable and balanced with family life, good mental health (its mental health week right now) which fulfils our potential as human beings to reach our best self. - It does require work and commitment, which is why I have chosen to deliver this as a course rather than just another thing to read and forget. Perhaps it's not possible for everyone to give up their day job to follow their dreams but it's certainly worth a try, and even to have your creative business on the side is a wonderful thing for the joy and satisfaction this brings.
I recommend Deepak Chopra's book the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success for an inspirational way of living your life for greater abundance.
If your serious about solidifying your business idea or need a refresh and inspiration , you can find out more about the course here. I would love this to be part of what supports you on your incredible journey! I'd love to hear your thoughts including anything you'd like me to add in to the course!
We are already some way into March, the daffodils blooming all over are a sure sign of the start of the spring season, I eagerly awaited their appearance in my garden and the splash of joyful colour they bring. Whenever I see them they certainly lift my spirits. Presumably because of their flowering time they are known as Easter Bells in German and sometimes known as the Lent Lily in the U.K - traditionally they would open on Ash Wednesday and finish at Easter time, though most of the daffodils I've seen are on their own schedule! Grown here in Britain since the sixteenth century, mentioned in Shakespeare more than once, painted by Van Gogh and celebrated in a William Morris design, not to mention Wordsworth famous poem - daffodils have inspired us since forever.
Even in Ancient Rome - they are mentioned in Pliny's poems, seen on a fresco excavated in Pompeii; in Egypt - depicted on an ancient Egyptian headstone; and in the Homeric Hymns to Demeter from 700BC; and versed in Solomons Song of Songs, they have been observed and celebrated, it seems through all human history (they were the flowers in the Greek underworld too).
When daffodils begin to peer
With hey the dozy over the dale
Why then comes in the sweet O'the year
And the red blood reigns in winter's pale.
Daffodils, that come before the swallow dares,
And take the winds of March with beauty.
As February begins after a long and cold January I'm so conscious of the new season lying dormant in the winter and signs of spring emerging slowly from their slumber.
February, says Edith Holden, derives from the word Februa, the Roman festival of expiation which took place at this time of year. I confess I had to look expiation up - the act of making amends, atonement, or ritual purification. Essentially this is spring cleaning for the person and their household, for themselves and to appease the gods, which they ritualised at this time. I do feel a natural draw to take stock and clear at this time of year, perhaps it is embedded in our bones, clearing out so that new things emerge, in synchrony with nature. (It was at this time last year I took Marie Kondos advice to keep only things that 'spark joy' - I'm naturally a little chaotic so love this simple advice which had a big impact on me and my home).
Linked to this idea is the concept of hope. If we purify, surely it is in the hope that it will make a difference for our unknown futures, that it is worth our effort and attention. In her beautiful book 'The Language of Flowers' Mandy Kirkby says the Snowdrop represents hope. 'I am come to calm your fears; to console you in the a sense of bright days and to reassure you of their return'. How comforting are these words right now in our uncertain world?
I know that I'm not alone in adoring the snowdrop (Galanthus), the pioneer flower of the year:
...And though the distant hills are bleak and dun
The virgin snowdrop, like a lambent fire,
pierces the cold earth with its green-streaked spire...
Originally from Turkey and Greece, Kirkby writes, we have grown snowdrops in the U.K. since the Elizabethan times; the Victorians were obsessed by them, going on snowdrop walks, planting huge woodlands with them, and soldiers returning from war having collected new varieties (I love the idea of a soldier in his army gear with a pocket stuffed full of snowdrops - an excellent sense of balance and priority in my opinion!). A brooch with a snowdrop was given if someone had suffered a loss, or a posy to lift the spirit and remind that happier times will return. I've suffered many losses, as have many of us, so perhaps that's why I feel compelled to capture one in jewellery too, of course, also for the beauty and general sense of hope this little drop represents.
Many, many welcomes
February fair maid
Ever as of old time
Coming in the cold time
Prophet of the gay time
Prophet of the May time
Prophet of the roses
Many, many welcomes
February fair maid!
Alfred Lord Tennyson
I've been making snowdrop models to be cast in silver which will be ready soon - I'll add the link when they are finished. I also shared some beautiful snowdrop images from #inspiredbynature_ participants over on Instagram so do take a look. And please leave comments, I would love to hear from you! You can find more nature inspired Jewellery here in the shop section, in my Etsy shop or on Folksy. More beautiful snowdrop images available on Pinterest too!