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!)