Having spent 10 days at home in isolation without going out anywhere or making jewellery l I have had time to get creative. My last trip was to the Post Office last week sending my last batch of orders before developing a cough and mild flu symptoms. Current circumstances have given me the gift of time at least, especially spending it experimenting in the kitchen, looking through the treasures at the back of my cupboards.
I wanted to share this simple recipe with you because it is tasty and adaptable and we all have a random tin of beans in the fridge. I have made hummus with chickpeas a few times, with and without tahini which is totally optional - I know its not something everyone has in the cupboard so inhibits making an otherwise easy store cupboard treat. This is an adaptation, it takes about 10 minutes, possibly including washing up, and I presume can be used with any bean at all. This would still be tasty with some of the ingredients omitted too - we have to be a little more adaptable than usual at the moment. For example if I didn’t have lemon or lemon juice a half teaspoon of vinegar might add an alternative kick. If you use dried beans you will need to soak, cook and cool.
Butter Bean Hummus Recipe
1 400g tin of butterbeans
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Freshly milled salt and pepper
1/4 or 1/2 of cayenne pepper or paprika - depending on taste
1-2 tablespoons of the juice from the tin
Add all ingredients to the blender and blitz until smooth with a few lumps. If you don’t have a blender you can mash and beat the mixture with a fork or masher. Once blended adjust to taste. The skin of the beans adds texture and fibre. Of course you can replace mine with your favourite herbs and spices instead. Decant the dip into a pretty bowl and top with an extra sprinkling of the spice, salt and pepper and a drizzle of oil. Serve on whatever you have, toast, crackers or pitta bread, or as a dip with crudités or crisps.
As you might know I love to take a photo or two for social media. So of course at the end of each of my silversmithing workshops where we make stacking rings I ask if I can take pictures of people wearing their gorgeous new rings. The response? ‘But my hands look so old…’ ‘Oh, I have massive knuckles…’ ‘My fingernails are awful…’ ‘Look at all the wrinkles…’. ‘They are too fat…’ ; ‘They are too thin..’
Fortunately the near-universal hand-dissatisifaction was not enough to prevent allowing me to take photos of these universally beautiful hands (see below) and thank goodness for that! I think of all the things my hands and yours have been through and done for us - writing, washing up, holding other hands, making things, washing, placed on hips for powerful moments, holding gods on them during yoga, stroking pets, tickling babies, knitting, cooking, drinking from streams, picking noses (thanks for your contribution to hand uses Grace!) and of course creating beautiful jewellery! I hope you will take a moment to give your hands a break, celebrate and thank them, and perhaps even give them the treat of a beautiful set of new rings made especially for them!!
Here they are - some beautiful too old, too wrinkled, too narrow, too fat, large-knuckled, terrible-nailed, and completely and utterly wonderful hands from my workshop ladies! and look at what they made too!! If you would like to join in the fun (and cure your hand-dysmorphia) visit the workshops page here. You can also read my blog about the workshops here.
You Will Need:
A Plucky Spirit
I always wanted to paint a leafy mural, possibly all my life. When I was a child my aunt painted a cloudy sky ceiling in their dining room, and when Grace was a baby I painted her walls with rolling hills and a soft pink sky with simple fluffy clouds. For a couple of years I attended an art class with Anna Saunders in Twickenham which have me the confidence to feel free with a brush - and to not worry about the messy strokes and imperfect edges. Pluck was essential for this job.
Earlier this year I put two new windows into my workshop to bring some light into the back. Before that it was rather dingy and ‘Meh’. I added some built in cupboards so I’m able to keep it much tidier but didn’t you think they looked a bit bland....? Me too, and I want my workshop attendees to feel creative and inspired while they are here, and me too - something was missing and it had leafy mural written all over it. If you share the space you are thinking of painting leaves on with someone please check with them first, or maybe wait for them to go out for a while.
A leafy vine is just right - my theme is nature and I love having a small but leafy garden, and many years dog walking I must have seen trillions of pretty leaves blowing in the wind. Because I also use my space for practicing psychotherapy I didn’t want to go too over the top so my leaves are quite subtle rather than the tempting idea of a full blown forest.
Paint: Sample Pots of Emulsion
If you have acrylics or want more specific colours for a mural you can go for this. Because mine were earthy tones there were great green colours for me in the Craig and Rose range at Homebase. The paint went on easier on the emultioned wall than on the eggshell but it was adhesive enough. I chose three greens and a brown, which I lightened for the trunk. I used medium green for the main leaf shape, then imagined where the light was falling - most of the leaves have a light streak along the top and a darker streak along the bottom.
If you have good ones then use them - though luckily the cheap set from Homebase (Oh do I spend too much time there - there is one very local to me!) seem to have done the job. I think better quality brushes might have given a better finish but as you know I like that my leaves are messy and impressionistic, its just more my style - a touch of the feral but generally 'alright'. I will go over it again (and myself!) to neaten it up though I don't think there is any need for perfectionism for an overall leafy look.
Stencil - Optional
I bought a stencil online which I used at first (it does make progress faster) although I quickly realised that painting a leaf is pretty easy, fun and going freestyle allows you more freedom to go in other directions and the stencil was too rigid after the first use. It also left some of my leaves blobby because it gaped. If you are painting leaves you could draw in pencil first if you're not confident, or get a large piece of paper to practice on - I did to get the general leaf shape right, though they are all a bit different.
I listened to the ‘Classic Acoustic’ Spotify playlist - perfect, including Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel and the Beatles - folky ballads lend themselves very well to this kind of activity! Of course you can listen to whatever you like but I did like the seventies hippy vibe while I brushed.
So there you have it. A simple, messy but I hope effective leaf mural. I will add a few more leaves but as someone told me 'done is better than perfect'. P.S. for a more polished version visit @Createaholic who reminded me that we have to fulfil our own home-dreams and did an amazing lemon tree mural on her bedroom wall last year. Genius!
Have you ever painted a mural or done something creative that you felt so happy with? Fancy giving it a go yourself?
Jewellery Making and Silversmithing Workshops in Twickenham
At the start of this year I took the plunge to teach jewellery making and silversmithing workshops in my little Twickenham garden studio. Since then, more than 50 people have come here to try something new, get creative and many took their new skills away and started new hobbies - how satisfying is that! My investment in having new windows put into my formally dingy workshop space, and cupboards to hide away the large amount of materials and tools I need for my work was energising for me personally as a space to work but also allowed me to open up the space to others. I thought I would share with you a little of what the workshops have been like, including some feedback from my guests, photos, and give you the feel of which one you might like if you are considering coming along to join me here in Twickenham for a workshop yourself (which I hope you will!). Whether you prefer Mindful Creativity or Energy and Alchemy learning something new and getting creative Can be hugely stimulating and therapeutic.
Beaded Jewellery Making Workshop - Mindful Creativity
The calmer of the two workshops, a group of creative (or soon to be) women came to learn the basics of beaded jewellery making here in my Twickenham garden studio. Relaxed, chatty, chilled and creative, the women sat around my table with my huge stash of colourful gemstone bead to hand, I added a few flowers to inspire, wraps and brownies for fuel. After a few demonstrations and more as the jewellery workshop and skills progressed the ladies all had the skills they need to make the most gorgeous necklaces, earrings and bracelets and we’re away in their own creative directions. This workshop is for you if you need some calm and mindful creativity and if you enjoy it, a hobby you can shove in a box and keep under the sofa - there is a kit included and list of places to buy materials for attendees so you can get going right away making jewellery for you and your friends - and perhaps beyond. For those of you who like a little energy and alchemy, read on....
Silversmithing Workshop - Making Stacking Rings - Energy and Alchemy
Silversmithing is a wonderful hobby, the alchemy of using heat to melt and form metal, creating one thing into another using physics with a dash of creative inspiration and magic - a mini big-bang right before your eyes. And the silver itself, so beautiful and versatile in how it can be finished, shiny, matte, textured, with shapes and symbols. There are a large number of stages to go through to create one piece which I show step by step, though this workshop really is suitable for anyone. Once you do things in the right order with the right tools, some perseverance, patience, good timing and sometimes a dash of bravery - you will create something unique and wonderful that will last forever. Instead of the gentle calm of the beaded jewellery making my workshop space was filled with the noise of hammers, files, blow torches breathing fire, and people walking about looking for the next tool they need. After what is usually a relatively long time making the first ring, my students got the hang of it, it all fell into place and they got going with the next and the next - its a case of its easy when you know how. Some people kept their designs simple and elegant, others were more adventurous using wider bands, adding impressions of stars, leaves, flowers, deeper textures and even adding silver balls. Some of the pieces made were symbolic, an ivy leaf garland to go next to a grandmothers ivy ring (the ivy long since worn off); simple textures to adorn rings already owned; reminders of loved ones, new rings to replace lost ones. It felt a bit like being a midwife, seeing a students design go though all the stages of making (there are many!) with some parts flowing with ease, some taking more patience or trial and error, supporting and giving tips until their beautiful piece of their conception was born in silver-ring form.
Some Words from Students:
This beginner's jewellery-making workshop was held in Kate's lovely oasis of a studio. Kate is an excellent teacher, imparting so much expertise about different techniques to make earrings, necklaces and bracelets with beads and wires, in a lovely welcoming, supportive atmosphere. And it was so heartening to create things which looked pretty good for first pieces and were definitely eminently wearable! Coupled with a super box of tools - and our creations - to take away, it was also excellent value for money. A lovely day out! Elizabeth
"Thank you so much for today, I was completely mesmerised with making the jewellery and learning the technique. It was such a good day and I keep looking at the beautiful jewellery I have made, so thank you!" Ruth
"I absolutely loved your workshop yesterday. To be able to sit with like minded people, learn a new skill and create amazing jewellery was, for me, the highlight of my year so far! I can’t wait to place an order for some silver wire so I can get creative with my collection of assorted beads and bits at home." Lucy
There is more feedback and information on the workshops page here
Student Pictures and Creations:
I also taught some silver earrings workshops and will arrange some more with pendants, and a more ‘intermediate’ workshop for those who have already learned the basics and want to go on to more complex designs. A group of friends came and made earrings with me, you can read more on Becks blog here.
Are there any other workshops you recommend? How did you find it?
To book a workshop more dates will be added shortly but in the meantime you can sign up to be kept informed of new dates via the newsletter. I hope to see you soon!
Today is World Mental Health Day and I thought I would mark it with some ideas for taking care of your mental health. On the side of working as a jewellery designer-maker I work as a counsellor and psychotherapist too. At the moment this is one day per week, just the right amount to keep me providing a good service without it being too much, while my business continues to grow.
I started my jewellery business after I was working as a counsellor, faced with humans with stories from the shocking to the mundane, all of which were causing significant distress and inhibition in their lives in one way or another. My work was/is rewarding - being someone charged to help people face undealt with issues either past or present, raising awareness of themselves and their own particular world for easier choice making, and helping them explore new ways of thinking, behaving and feeling breaking old and unhelpful patterns which cause harm and pain. Not to mention a few tips and techniques. I also saw so many times that simple awareness or choices earlier in their lives could have made such a huge difference and prevented so much damage or heading in the wrong direction, and I want to share some of these simple, common sense ideas with you so you can stay out of a counsellors room.
7 Tips for good Mental Health
I don't just mean food, but we are what we put into ourselves. Whether its healthy food (with the odd treat), we also consume from what we watch, read, who we spend time with, our environment. It is worth reflecting on what you want to be going into yourself to continue to grow and nurture your (one and only precious) life to make it what you want. Walking in nature is one of my daily nourishing activities.
I, like most therapists and philosophers, believe that life has no meaning. Yup, thats scary stuff. But the most wonderful thing about this is that we can make our own meaning. Both in big and small ways. If it is meaningful for you to be an attentive parent, to create something beautiful for the world, to do you work diligently, to march for causes you believe in, to help others, to build things. Because life is meaningless we have to make our own and we each bring something to the world. This can seem scary, it can be easier to just follow the crowd or what others are doing. but this is so much better and deepens our purpose and experience of life. Its always useful to review what is meaningful to you and what isn't so you can let go of spending time and energy on meaningless things.
Support from others
When I'm working with clients I notice problems can arise, particularly in areas like motivation, getting going, letting fear dominate, letting something someone once said stop you living fully - because of a lack of support. We need internal support, support in our minds to be able to reach for what we need (this can be built through experience/therapy if it isn't there), and also someone there to witness our reach, support and encourage the reach, so we can get our needs met. We have these in our lives and we must utilise each other. I often think this is what instagram has supported so many of us in doing, we reach with our squares and caption and we feel our message and intent received at the other side. ideally of course we need people right there beside us in our lives to support us in all aspects, and the less we have, the more we have to take a risk and ask for help, work at establishing relationships that are mutually supportive to enable us to flourish. We also need to talk to others about stuff. The good stuff, the bad stuff. tell someone you trust what is going on for you. P.S. most people absolutely love this so you have nothing to loose.
Self Compassion and Care
Everyone is talking about this and its because its true! No-one is going to do this for you. be kind to yourself, notice negative words you use towards yourself and replace them with compassionate and kind ones. Being alive is hard so the last thing you need is to undermine yourself with negative talk or actions. If you haven't experienced much compassion and find this hard look for support groups, a counsellor or reach for friends so you can start learning how to do it.
The unexamined life isn't worth living. Jung I think. All of the above require reflection. your anxiety or depression, anger or low self esteem are natural calls to action for something to change. They are manifestations that something needs to be different and only you can make a change, or ask for help. Equally reflect on the good stuff, your amazing qualities and talents, big or small. Again, if you can't think of your qualities or feel your achievements then help from friends and family or professional help is needed.
In our modern and crazy world with so many demands on our time we need time out. It isn't indulgent to take time off, to relax on the sofa at night, to sleep in on Saturdays. If your body wants it, you have to let it have it! Neuroscience tells us that we need recuperation time to process and integrate our daily experiences into our psyche so it is fresh and ready for more when your energy returns.
Freud said that the healthy person needs to love and to work. I love this benchmark, but I love even more that Gestalt therapists added Play to this short list. It is so important to have fun! Laughing, smiling, creating, enjoying, appreciating is essential to helping us take a break, let go, bond with others and ourselves and for new things to emerge. Make sure you get a bit of play time every day! If you're suffering from depression or are grieving this one can be so tough. If so, notice, relax, seek support, and you'll get there.
What are your strategies to keep yourself mentally healthy? Do any of these resonate? I'd love to hear your thoughts, here or on instagram. Which one thing can you do differently today? If you like this article please like and share with friends so they can benefit too.
If you would like professional help to explore any blocks and problems in making these things happen there is a lot of help out there: I would say the most common thing I have heard clients say is 'I wish I did this before..."
BACP - British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy
I have always been notoriously bad at planning, much preferring to take each day or week as it comes, a more spontaneous approach, feeling my way forward organically. Conforming to office life in London during my twenties was really hard, and it turned out, impossible for me, so here I am. I thought there was something wrong with me but I now cherish and embrace my ability to be flexible as well as my sense of autonomy that has helped me grow my own creative business into something I truly love.
Running your own business does require some planning though. I have found it easier over the last 5 years or so, to structure the seasons of my business by learning through experience, from mistakes I made along the way (another blog post in the writing). The small business I have created organically, from my heart fits the particular shape of my life. I like to learn by doing and find it better to make my own plan rather than follow someone else's methods that don't ever seem to fit.
In this post I am sharing three things that has helped me balance growing my business through, lets face it, 'winging it' but with purpose and direction, and a tiny bit of thinking ahead and looking back to take away the stress.
1. Acknowledge your Seasons
In the UK we are heading straight into Autumn from one of our hottest ever summers so its hard not to notice and feel the seasonal shift (even though its very sunny and warm as I write!). I always feel a change at this time as the pace of my business steps up, as of course I sell a good deal more at Christmas time than at any other. I am ready-ish so I'm not in the craziest Tiz of my life in the 4 weeks before Christmas (this time), because I am working more seasonally and preparing ahead, and the temptations of summer are gone. It is cooler so I feel good snuggled up in either my workshop beavering away with the radio on, making stock for more time than through the rest of the year, or at my desk with a cup of coffee working away on my website and listening to a podcast or two.
So although I make and send pieces out to my nature loving customers almost daily, autumn and early winter is my busy, most productive season. Now is my harvest time as my thoughts, ideas, experiments and some making come to fruition after cooking through the year. I feel like a buzzing bee or when the flowers are in bloom (note to self, finish the new bee design!). I loved listening to Jen Carrington's podcast where she talks about working seasonally. In January I hibernate, spring I wake up and start to blossom and reach out, summer kind of disappears in a haze and I rest and play, and now I make, harvest and distribute the fruit in all the directions I created the rest of the year.
Your year might run through a different seasonal rhythm than mine. Spare yourself unnecessary guilt of trying to bear fruit when you are at the sowing stage, or you should be hibernating, or hibernating when the conditions are better suited to reaping because your energy is higher. If you know what's important in each of your seasons, and what they are, it will make life a whole lot simpler. Leaving more space for tea and cake/gin and tonic.
2. Have Faith
Its taken me a while to realise the seasonal nature of my business, that I do different tasks at different times, and even sell different pieces at different times of year (daffodils more in spring, acorns more in autumn, holly in December) - so I respond to this. By 'having faith' I mean that I have needed to look back at what I've achieved so far, which helps me plan a little for the future. I need to have confidence that my customers will come back, that new ones will arrive, and that my business will steadily grow as it has done for the past 5 years, there's not any good reason why it wouldn't and I can use the past as my template. Being a few years in is useful as there is more to look back on for sure. The number of pieces I sold last year gives me an indicator of how many I need to make and sell this year (hopefully a few more each year, and I set a goal to grow every year). Counting. I combat the self doubt that this will actually continue to happen, which can be such an inhibitor, by absorbing the concrete facts, statistics, and feedback. Then I can actually take a risk to prepare pieces, trusting rather than doubting they will be wanted, not waiting and responding more haphazardly and in a stress as orders came in thick and fast when I wasn't prepared or expecting. If you have any self doubt (of course you have some, you're human!) but if it is really getting in the way you can listen to Sas Petherick who is a self-doubt coach with lots of great advice. I recommend looking back, seeing what your output is (order numbers, writing, contracts, or even through financial takings) and having confident expectations of the same again, hopefully plus a little bit more.
I can easily get overwhelmed with all the different things I need to do. Like many I know I am a Mum, I have my business, and I also work a day a week as a therapist (it was 2 days until recently and I made the change because of shifting priorities). I have a blind dog, a home and mortgage to pay, I did a Masters I didn't need (big mistake!) and I have been doing it all alone for 8 years. I live in a city I didnt grow up in which has taken a long time for me to get used to. When I speak to other therapists they say its a hell of a lot, but I know that in this world at this time it is quite normal for women in particular to be expected to/expect themselves to juggle enormous amounts. And the result is a big head full of jumble, juggle, switching and, on occasion overwhelm and burn out. I do not recommend this - instead, prioritise - and let go of the things that don't matter, in particular ideas of how you think things 'should' be. My daughter comes first, my health, paying the bills. Our home environment is 'okay' - a lovely enough place (naturally full of inspiration from nature!) but I leave non urgent jobs that need doing for the down seasons when I have less work. I wish my blog didn't get pushed down the list sometimes but in truth it has to. And guess what, no one dies! I get my orders out, I don't like to disappoint my customers and want to be a speedy, high quality service. You get the picture. And yes, I do find time to curl up on the sofa with a book and respond to my body when it tells me this is what I need to restore.
Speaking of which I am currently reading a book called 'Finding your Element' by Ken Robinson. Although I have found my element (I'm not giving up silver smithing any time soon) he really helps you focus in on what matters and what you are good at - and leaving everything else out. I like reading anything that supports my chosen lifestyle as a creative business owner. Thank you Georgie Sinclair for your recommendation.
How do you deal with your seasons? Do you have faith in the future of your project or business, do you acknowledge your achievements and use them as a template, both short and long term? Are you good at prioritising according to your needs at that time, or the time of year, to achieve the life or goals you want to maintain? I'd love to hear your stories, tips, suggestions, experiences and comments below, or come and find me on instagram. Enjoy your season whichever you are in, and have faith! Xx
I have had a week or two to recover from exhibiting at the Handmade Fair this September, don't underestimate the energy it takes to exhibit at a big show! I really don't know how people do this over and over again each weekend during the busier seasons. It is a lot of fun but still! I thought I would share a few more pictures here as I know its of interest to other makers and creative folk alike.
So here is my stand, I didn't paint or wallpaper it here because it seemed fine to go with white in the marquee. I'm still drawn to the rustic and natural style of presenting as it seems to be the best way to fit my nature theme and from feedback appeals to most of my customers. And here are my neighbours for the long weekend, Squiggle and Dot who sell craft packs for kids, and Kathryn Croxson - getting to know the other business owners is definitely one of the perks.
It was great too that Kirsty Allsop stopped by to take a look. She is friendly and has great presence though I don't think we would last very long as friends if we talked about politics but thats another story....!
Some of the Makers I've met this time and previously include Jane Kent who makes pretty inspiration fabric messages; Kathryn Croxson whose beautiful patterns are made into home furnishings and fabulous kimonos, Pippi and Me Ceramics makes sleek, minimal ceramics. Squiggle, Dot and Squeeze with lovely craft packs and the sweetest Fairies from Knapwell Wood. I believe!
If you are a potential visitor, there are lots of creative workshops and talks to attend, and materials and kits to buy for your crafting exploits. There is phenomenal, interesting food, both street and tasty things you wouldn't know about otherwise (unicorn sherbet, toffee vodka, coal cheddar, mandarin and thyme chocolate, raspberry gin...) There are two huge market places (where I was) where you can buy products from makers and meet and talk to them. This is my favourite part of this fair, meeting people who have bought from me in the past, people who follow me on instagram, people who just like to say hi! It really makes it the most joyful experience so thanks to all of you who made it over. It does get busy though, so much so that I missed visiting some of my other maker friends stands (at least when they were there!) who exhibit such as the lovely Nicola Hanrahan who is a brilliant illustrator and Edie Rose Ashley who is delightful and paints beautiful floral paintings.
If you're a potential exhibitor, here is the lowdown.
Yes, it is expensive. and yes, many people I spoke to were really disappointed with their sales and won't be returning. You have to sell so much to be able to cover the cost of the stand, even a tiny one like mine. You have to pay a helluva lot for wifi, electricity and lighting if you want it too (you don't need the lighting though, its very light in the marquees). Many people also have to hire help, a van and stay in a hotel or b&b. I did alright in the end in terms of sales, but it was fabulous as I say for meeting my customers and followers, meeting and sharing tips and ideas with other makers, getting new subscribers for my mailing list - running a giveaway is a great idea for creating a buzz - and just the social aspect in general as some friends came too (thanks for the free tickets Handmade Fair!). So it is not just about sales but marketing and PR. I did find the time of year a little awkward, right after my daughter went back to school so no time to prepare for my own life re-starting after summer, but I have to say it is also a good way for me to re-energise and kick start the season with a bang! Just one week later might have made all the difference though.
So I hope that was useful. Did you visit the fair and did you like it? Do you think you would like to? Did you exhibit? Let me know your thoughts.
After attending the Hill View Farm Creativity festival from Natasha @takingamomentintime in 2017 I was delighted to be asked back again this year, this time to teach a jewellery making workshop. I was also happy to be seeing some old friends and make new ones, taste Natasha's beautiful home grown and home cooked food, under the light of the stars and the moon.
There is nothing like a big throng of creative people gathered in one place (I think around 50 people). One woman remarked 'I thought I was weird until I came here!' We all laughed as it was so easy to relate to being the person often making things while the rest of our friends and family are giving us strange looks. It almost felt like a support group in that sense!
After a pleasant evening of chatting and mindful activity with Gabrielle Treanor, a night in a luxurious tent (with beds and rugs etc so there was no scrimping), we had breakfast and I prepared for my first ever jewellery making workshop. There was something about the calm, fun, and creative atmosphere and fresh air that meant I didn't feel nervous, just so happy to be able to share some of the knowledge I've gained over the last few years with a captive audience. There were 12 in my group who all made some exquisite pieces of jewellery, a necklace, bracelet and earrings each (you can see some more on my instagram highlights). They worked really hard for 3 hours - I was so pleased with how much they enjoyed it especially - it was one of the most rewarding mornings I've ever spent!
After a tasty lunch with Natashas' magical cabbage and noodle salad (which is now almost famous for its unbelievable tastiness!) I headed over with friends to what must be one of the farm stores to learn macrame with Sam @prettylittleknots. I was surprised that it didn't come so naturally to me as I'm used to making things but it definitely worked a different muscle in my brain to jewellery making or painting. I did it though and you can see the results here. its hanging proudly in my hallway and I'm looking forward to making the plant pot hanger from the kit I bought from Sam in the Festival Market.
After a fun evening chatting, eating and looking for shooting stars by the bonfire I headed for bed at around midnight, groups of people still up making things while they chatted. My friend Marisa attached a light to her deckchair so she could keep crocheting long after dark! There was a market where all the tutors could sell their work which was a wonderful bonus, such a lot of beautiful things. It brings me so much joy to buy direct from other makers.
The next morning I learned how to make pinch pots and spoons out of porcelain with my friend Katie @ceramicmagpie. Again, I think I need more practice, my spoons were kind of wobbly, as were the pots though I'm pretending its deliberate.
Thanks so much for reading, what do you think, does it sound appealing to you too? I am planning to go again next summer as a tutor. If you would like to find out more about the retreats and the farm you can visit Hill View Farm for more information. If you're interested in workshops with me I am planning to start some in the London/Surrey area soon - it was just so much fun! Find out more by signing up for my newsletter on the homepage, coming to visit me at The Handmade Fair soon or checking out my workshops page. You probably know you can find me on Instagram most days too. Happy making!
I felt so happy to have won a place at this inspiring creative summer workshop in idyllic Farnham in Surrey. It was a warm, balmy day and an opportunity to meet Instagram friends Bex from Botanical Tales and Becca from Cherry Rebecca. The location was perfect, wildflowers surrounding a colourful hut just big enough for us to learn our new skills - modern calligraphy and flower crown making. We arrived to a glass of elderflower cordial and I met some other inspiring ladies some of whom I have come across on Instagram and some I met for the first time (I tagged them on yesterdays post if you want to take a look at who they are).
We began after a few obligatory snaps with a workshop with Becca, who taught us the fine art of modern calligraphy. This is my unfinished final piece, I just wrote the summer bit and it isn't so amazing but it looks alright I guess! I found the pen quite scratchy at first and then realized it was because I was holding it wrong....!
After a break for tea and gooseberry cake, make with gooseberries from Bex's allotment, and delicious biscuits decorated with flower petals (naturally...!) we wandered around the grounds, the place was practically magical. Bex and Becca made it feel so relaxed and easy.
Most of the flowers came from Bex's allotment and Kim @pigpenflowers flower patch provided those stunning blue cornflowers. After refreshments we settled on rugs outside to begin our flower crown making, a Swedish midsummer tradition. Bex showed us the technique and we got to work. It was warm and hazy with a light breeze, we chatted and laughed, relaxing in the hidden idyll - such an easy place to be.
We look ready for anything don't you think? I love that each of our crowns came out so differently. Multi-talented Bex then put on a lovely midsummers eve supper for us - she used to be a chef so of course it was delicious.
For me it has become important to make the effort to see the people behind the squares where possible and take opportunities for magical days like this. Thank you ladies for such a wonderful time - Happy midsummer everyone!
I took this recipe directly from Sara Taskers blog here, I trust most things she says so this one was no different. You could use any kind of gin, I chose Hortus as it’s award winning and they sell it in Lidl (yes, Lidl!) nearby, not to mention the lovely label. I halved the recipe so I could save the rest for other experiments! If you’d like to see my other post with an elderflower cordial recipe click here.
By Me & Orla
Sara suggests serving with mint, I’m going to try it with classic tonic. While you’re enjoying your drink visit this page to learn more about the folklore associated with the elder.
Let me know how you get on!
Watching the plants and trees burst into life in May and June is one of the great pleasures of the whole year. I saw the first elderflowers starting to bloom only a week ago and some are already turning brown so I thought I had better get these simple recipes up straight away. I walk past around fifty elderflower trees on my daily dog walk, which sounds like a lot but they are everywhere in this part of the UK as they are native here. You can find out more about elder folklore here.
Last year was my first time making elderflower cordial and I made too much and had to throw some away as we got sick of it and it started to look a bit dodgy! Sarah Becvar recommended freezing elderflower cordial in ice cube trays which is a genius idea, then add to water, still or sparkling, or to a glass of prosecco for those balmy summer evenings. I took this recipe (different to last years recipe) from the Country Living Magazine and used lemon juice instead of citric acid, and I used a Kilner jar which I sterilised with boiling water. Look out for the separate elderflower gin recipe for added punch!
I had to remove three bugs and a snail, I didn’t think they would add much flavour. I hope you’ll give it a try, or if you know another way of making this let us know in the comments, thanks for reading! See the separate blog post about elderflower gin.
And come and say hello at Instagram!
P.S. that’s the new rose gold dragonfly wing ring, perfect for summer!
Of the many thousands of acorns produced by the mother tree, very few if any will survive to become a sapling, let alone a tree. It takes seventy years for an oak tree to reach full maturity too - these are slow and steady beasts. I am going to draw on the obvious analogy which I don't think can be iterated enough. To acknowledge how well we are all doing: merely existing seems to be a highly improbable outcome for an oak tree but also for a human, and all the eggs that get away, our ones made it! Not to mention that such a small and satisfyingly smooth nut contains within it the blueprint and capacity to grow into something so large and majestic and live for a thousand years. We have the blueprint for our best self too, right there inside! All the acorn needs are the right conditions and perhaps a touch of luck and faith. Don't worry if you've been nibbled a bit, trodden on a little, and if you're on stony ground, roll off it, or let the wind take you. We must give ourselves the best chance against all odds so we can live for a thousand years! Well not actually that but you know what I mean ;) . So let's please give ourselves everything needed to support our inner oak trees, and get rid of all that we don't need.
Feel free to share your oaky / acorn / growth stories and facts below.
For daily reminders or to share the symbolism you can find several acorn and oak pieces in my shop (a shameless plug? Hell yes - I'm growing too!)
A friend introduced me to this healthy natural truffle recipe, which I subsequently lost. A quick explore of google and here is my adapted version. I'm sure you could edit according to what's in your cupboard though this combination works well. These make a good alternative to chocolates if like me, you've over done it before Christmas has even arrived and want a treat! They also happen to be extremely delicious, and make a sweet little gift too.
I am so happy to have been interviewed by Anne at My Giant Strawberry - a Chicago based artist with a fabulous blog. The intro is here though pop over to read the full interview -link at the bottom.
Interview with Kate Harvey
Kate Harvey is the designer behind the jewelry shop Grace and Flora. Her pieces are nature-inspired and feature natural objects cast in metal. As someone who is always attracted to and inspired by nature, her work speaks to me and I'm delighted to have Kate here sharing her story with us today.
ab: Hi, Kate, thanks for being here. I was first attracted to your beautiful, nature-inspired jewelry and your lovely photography on Instagram, but when I read a bit about you, I became even more inspired. Although you made jewelry as a teenager, you studied zoology at University and then later went back to train as a counselor and psychotherapist. What drew you to zoology? And then how did you come to counseling as a profession? Being a therapist is just one aspect of your life today. Having different aspects to your life -- jewelry design, counseling, motherhood -- makes you feel whole. Can you expand on this?
kh: It's interesting looking back to that time - I loved biology at school, I was fascinated by the complexity of the life forms we looked at, evolution and the whole phenomenon of life itself, which still amazes me every day. I was eventually drawn more to animal biology because they had consciousness, interesting behaviour and I found it all so beautiful....
...READ FULL INTERVIEW
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. If you are in Cornwall you can visit Trebah for a whole valley of hydrangeas.
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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