Posts in Creative
Magic in the Handmade
All images by  Sophie Carefull .

All images by Sophie Carefull.

The warm sultry days of August see wheat fields in harvest, apples ripe for picking and the youthfulness of summer begin to mature as the days feel ever so noticeably shorter. While sycamore seeds prepare to spiral softly through the wind and tiny acorns are growing steadily, we notice the subtle signs of Autumn gradually appearing. This gentle shift in the seasons can be a particularly inspirational one and the perfect time to rekindle a craft or explore a new skill.

It can be easy to forget the magic in the handmade, in a world where we are surrounded by the mass produced. Joy can be found in all things made by hand, whether it’s the pleasure that comes with successfully knitting your own scarf, or the delight in thrifting the perfect character filled and lovingly handcrafted chair, with a life that began much before your own.

Each crafted piece is about a person; the maker pouring their artistry into creating it, the individual it was attentively made for, and the people it goes on to create stories with throughout its life. The beauty of these items comes from the imagination and skill each craftsman brings to them through a great attention to the smallest of details.

Celebrating all things handcrafted is a rebellion against today’s throwaway society. Collecting beautifully made items that go on to enrich our lives can not only bring us so much happiness, but by doing so can create a world where traditional craft skills will flourish rather than being lost, helping keep us in touch with what is unique about our heritage.


Handmade pieces are forever cherished for being just as individual as each of us. What is more magical than imagining the stories they will go on to gather with generations to come?

Alice designs and makes consciously crafted jewellery inspired by the beauty of nature at Alice Stewart Jewellery she can also be found over on Facebook and Instagram.

Creative in the Countryside: Julie Herbert Adams

Julie Herbert Adams is a Fine Art Portrait and Floral Photographer, creative Brand Director and trainee florist. Today, she tells us a little about her work and how she finds her inspiration.

Jessica: I’d love for you to start by telling us more about you and your story, who you are and what it is you do?

Julie: I was born in London and was always known as ‘Dolly Daydream’ mainly because my head was always so full of fantasy, creative ideas for makeup and fashion as well as music!  I remember when Bohemian Rhapsody came out in the 1970’s when we lived in a high-rise flat overlooking a park, and I used to listen to it looking at the park pretending that my eyes were cameras and I was the one making the video for the song! However, living in my dream-world suited my calm and very laid-back nature and I wrote lots of fantasy stories often involving magic, fairies and haunted woods.  I really didn’t feel connected or aligned to the bright neon lights, the buzz and the brashness of living in London and remember taking my little brothers on a bus to the nearest woods and fields in Farnborough, Kent where I felt at home and believed that magic was everywhere.  I escaped to the countryside as soon as I could and saw the world at once through open eyes, ears and heart.

My creativity has always been such an integral part of who I am and I have always found writing to be incredibly therapeutic in good and bad times.  My life has been quite colourful in the opportunities that I have received and the decisions that I have made so after working in the healing and care-sector, I moved to the Middle East in 2008 with my husband and children.  Here, I worked as a brand and marketing director creating a variety of brands for the healthcare sector along with founding organisations such as Nourish and the Pink Brigade who help women and families affected by breast cancer through education about early detection and healthy lifestyle choices.  I returned to the UK in 2017 burnt out, exhausted and in need of healing myself.

After a year of reflection, I decided to stop working like a demon for other people and with the never-ending support of my husband, chose to focus entirely on the things that I truly loved to do.  My art, my photography, my writing, my music and my garden were almost lost to me and these were the things that I instinctively knew would help to bring me back to life again.  Life went from constant frantic, high level stress to peace and tranquillity almost overnight and it took me a while to adjust, learning how to breathe and how to embrace change without feelings of fear or guilt or failure.

As a natural storyteller, being close to nature once again and able to follow the seasonal rhythms or wheel of the year I re-discovered the magic again and began to fall in love with capturing these special moments of tranquillity and beauty with my camera.

My fine art portraiture mainly of children focuses on the essence of the child and I endeavour to capture a timeless image that not only tells a story, but that could be set in any period of time. 


Jessica: Can you tell me about where you find your inspiration? 

Julie: I am incredibly fortunate to live in a very old secluded house built in 1543 that is full of history and situated next to a river overlooking a wood.  It really is like Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood and I’m forever telling my daughter that the Magic Faraway Tree is in there somewhere! 

Inspiration is all around me.  I watch the sun rise over the wood and see it setting over the sheep field.  I hear the birdsong and the river, the heron, eagle and fox.  With the night, comes the owl song and other strange sounds I don’t recognise but that ignite my imagination.  And then there is the Moon.  Possibly the most constant celestial being of wonder and inspiration throughout my whole life and the thing that I love the most.

I read somewhere long, long ago that there was a thin veil between the world of men and the ‘other’ world of fairies, where animals and trees talk and enchantment is everywhere so I’ve always told my children that this is true and that all they need to do is look and listen very carefully.  The recent wonderful book ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wholleben is testament to my theory and now I tell the kids I was right all along…

Music of course, is a total inspirational and I draw energy from my musical heroine, Kate Bush as well as giants from the world of classical music such as Rachmaninov, Chopin and Elgar.  Then again, ancient choral music, Celtic and folk, The Doors, soul, jazz, Bowie and Fleetwood Mac… the list goes on and on.


Jessica: I am also interested in knowing more about how you view creativity; is it something you can rely on every day?

Julie: For me, creativity is everywhere.  It is an energy with its own allure and is always present. One just has to look and listen hard enough.  Some of my best creative work has come to me in dreams.

Mindfulness is a great way to tap into internal creative reserves and artistic expression can be accessed in so many ways such as digital art, sound, singing, writing or storytelling.   It’s also worth noting that creativity can also spring from tragedy and disaster.  The horrifying destruction of our natural environment can inspire great creativity in thinking how to find solutions for preservation and restoration.  I am ever hopeful.


Jessica: How do you balance your interests?

Julie: I am usually up in the morning between 5am – 6am so that I can get a couple of hours quiet time in and plan the day ahead plus catch up on any admin that I’m behind with.  During the day and between the school run and dog walks, I’ll be busy shooting and then in the evenings, when the kids have gone to bed, I will focus on editing, more planning and research usually going to bed to read at around 9.30 – 10pm.

I am in the final stages of my OCN floristry course which I did at college to give me the practical knowledge and techniques needed to create amazing floral masterpieces to compliment my photography.  I also grow my own flowers at home to photograph and to style photoshoots.  Balancing my love of flowers and photography is a little tricky but I do believe that there is a marriage to be had between them. 


Jessica: Where do you work? What’s important about this environment?

Julie: I work from home mainly as I have my garden, photography and flower studio here plus it’s such a gorgeous spot I really couldn’t think of being anywhere else.  I have an elderly one-eyed pug, a rather eccentric sausage dog and the most handsome year-old black Labrador to care for too so it’s easy to walk over the river to the woods for some exercise.  It’s just amazing to see the wood and the garden evolve through the seasons as well as how the light changes them visually throughout the day.  The sounds and the smells fascinate me.


Jessica: What impact would you like to create with your work?

Julie: I would be privileged if my work inspired others to see the beauty and magic that I see in the simple things in life that are all around us but that sometimes, we are just too busy to notice.  The little intricate details that in themselves are so wonderful once you actually slow down and look, are inspiring in themselves.  I would hope it would inspire people to take more care with themselves and the natural world around us and to savour every day with gratitude.


 Jessica: And lastly, if someone reading your story were inspired to follow their own creative dream, what advice would you give them? 

Julie: It’s often the fear of change that prevents people from following their own heart and living an authentic, creative life.  We are all burdened with financial worries and are constantly bombarded with advertisements that encourage more and more consumerism with sinister algorithms tracking our every move on the internet and social media putting unbelievable pressure on the young to be perfect and live perfect lives.  However, changes can be made without destabilising and turning your world upside down! 

Instead of guillotining situations as I have done in the past to make instant changes, my advice would be to set aside some time in the day or night that you can claim as yours alone without distraction to think about the life you would choose to live and how you would choose to express your creative dream.  Then set a clear intention to make the change that you are seeking and truly believe that it will happen. See it crystal clear in your mind’s eye.  Map your intention out to a timeline and set realistic goals starting with simple, small changes first. Soon, you will find that when you stop to take stock periodically, you will notice the shift beginning to take place.  The smaller changes will empower and encourage you to move forwards with more confidence and a stronger belief that you really are the master of your own destiny.

Find Julie’s website here, or check out her work on Facebook, Instagram or with Herbert Flowers.

Off Grid

“We work with people who aren’t scared to look at things differently, that want to make a difference and who are willing to go (a little) off grid.”

Find out more about Kim and Sally’s nomadic approach to design within their digital agency by watching the beautifully made video below…

Check out the website here or find Off Grid on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Rewind/Rewild Exhibition
All images by Thomas Broadhead

All images by Thomas Broadhead

Last month Anna Souter wrote a piece for the blog about the act of rewilding in anticipation of an exhibition she co-curated this month. Happily, she has decided to share some images from this exhibition with us so that although the exhibition only lasted a week, we can still enjoy exploring it here.

Anna Souter is a writer and a curator. Together with artist Beatrice Searle, she co-curated the Rewind/Rewild exhibition and Rewilding Forum at OmVed Gardens, Highgate, North London.

Creative Rewilding
Images by  Annie Spratt

Images by Annie Spratt

‘Rewilding’ is a word that’s become increasingly popular among those interested in discovering a more seasonal, wilder way of living. But what does it really mean?

Rewilding is a radical mode of conservation, which requires human beings to rescind control, step back and allow an ecosystem to restore its own balance. It means stopping practices such as burning heathland (known as ‘swaling’ in the west country), damming rivers, or allowing unnatural numbers of sheep, deer or ponies to graze. All these practices, while sometimes traditional, are intended not to help ecosystems thrive, but to give farmers more opportunities to feed their animals or till the soil.

Unfortunately, in Britain, many of our well-known landscapes have been over-grazed and ‘managed’ to within an inch of their lives, resulting in upland zones that lack any significant diversity of wildlife and are dominated by monocultures of bracken, heather and poor-quality grass. In most European nations with similar topography to Britain, however, these uplands are only lightly farmed and therefore mostly forested, which is the best environment for biodiversity.

Rewilding is, in essence, about bringing this diversity back to our landscapes. Life, we find, is not simply a linear chain of events, but networked, complex and – undeniably – beautiful. When nature is given a vote of confidence and allowed to pursue its own ends, the results can be spectacular. Rewilded places have the potential to captivate us. Fascinating lichens, fungi, butterflies, birds, rodents, reptiles and amphibians all have a chance to find a home again. Rewilded places offer something new with every visit, every change in season. In the biggest projects, we might have the chance to encounter a wild boar or a beaver, maybe even one day to spot a wolf on a distant ridge.

Not only would all this be thrilling, it would help us to live more wildly. Nowhere shows the changing seasons better than a wood. Seeing those tiny interactions between tree creeper and insect, frog and leaf-shade, weasel and burrow, would make us more mindful of our own connections to the living, breathing world around us. It would be ours for the looking, as well as its own to do as it liked.

I think rewilding would benefit both people and the planet – and I think we both need defending. A more reciprocal, sensitive form of conservation is only going to come out of conversation. We need to kick-start the debate. There are already a number of fantastic projects happening on a big scale – Summit to Sea in West Wales, for example, and the Alladale Wilderness Reserve in Scotland. Some of the big conservation charities have also got on board, albeit often quite cautiously. But there is still a long way to go – especially as rewilding can and should only happen with the full, informed consent of local communities.

There are misconceptions to overcome too. The idea of reintroducing wolves, for example, delights some people and terrifies others. But while species introduction is an element of rewilding, wolves would not be appropriate for most landscapes and would only ever be introduced to very sparsely populated environments. Mostly we’re talking about pine-martens and missing birds.

Moreover, many people who live in towns, or even in agricultural parts of the countryside, think rewilding isn’t relevant to them because it could only happen somewhere far off. But I hope that the distinction between urban and rural can be collapsed here, and that we can reintroduce wilder ways of living for all. Urban biodiversity is fascinating in its own right, and even the smallest plots in ‘rural’ areas can be seeded with wildflowers, or incorporate wildlife corridors.

As a curator and writer, I hope to bring people together to debate these issues and to work across the boundaries of disciplines and locations to find new solutions to the rewilding question.

There is a way of living more wildly, co-existing peacefully both with the natural world and with other people. But we need to collaborate to find it.

Anna Souter is a writer and a curator. Together with artist Beatrice Searle, she is co-curating Rewind/Rewild, an upcoming exhibition and Rewilding Forum at OmVed Gardens, Highgate, North London.

Exhibition 1-7 May 2019. Rewilding Forum 4 May 2019.

Creative Spotlight : Edge and Company

Jessica : I’d love for you to start by telling us more about you and your business, how Edge and Company started, and what it is you do?

Milly : Edge and Company was founded by myself (Amelia Edge) and my partner Steve Coley. Our main aim was to create a forward thinking wellbeing and lifestyle brand, which gives back to people in need through every purchase.

Our products are handmade in the UK and worldwide by people living with disabilities, mental health conditions, homelessness and addiction, who find it very challenging to access and maintain employment.

Every product sold will help to support organisations that are striving to break perceptions and social stigma, by building acceptance and employment opportunities for people living with life challenges. This is what we call ‘Radical Giving’.

Jessica : Can you tell me about where you found your inspiration to start your company?

Milly : I spontaneously came across The Soap Co (a social enterprise that provides employment opportunities for people who are visually impaired, living with disabilities or are otherwise disadvantaged.)

I purchased one of their innovative exfoliating soap pebbles and It felt amazing that I had somehow helped to contribute and support this inspirational company.

I found this idea really exciting - a great product and the money I’d spent going to a great cause.

Soon after, we visited the homewares trade show ‘Top Drawer’ but really struggled to find any suppliers that shared the same ethos as The Soap Co. After hours of searching we managed to find two more suppliers which lead us to the idea of creating a new shopping platform experience where every purchase would give back in some way and so began our hunt for similar charities and social enterprises.

Jessica : What do you love most about what you do?

Milly : Some of our suppliers are local to us and we have been given the opportunity to visit their workshops and meet the people who are involved in the making of our products.

This has been an invaluable and extremely rewarding experience and one that was lacking in our previous work.

To be able to see the production process of our products from start to finish and personally thank everyone involved has been very heart warming.

We look forward to meeting and working with lots of new suppliers in the future.

Jessica : Can you tell us about your work-space, and what a typical day at Edge and Company is like?

Milly : We are lucky enough to have an office space at home where we can get inspired by our surroundings. We like to personally test our products and make sure that we are selling amazing, innovative items that we love.

Right now we are working hard to find new suppliers and build on our product range.

If it’s a Sunday, you’ll find us at Spitalfields market, selling all of our beautiful products in person.

Jessica : What impact would you like to create with your work?

Milly : Ultimately we want to spread awareness and help build acceptance and employment opportunities for people living with life challenges, whilst continuing to show people that there is an alternative to mass produced products found on the high street.

Jessica : And lastly, if someone reading your story were inspired to follow their own creative dream, what advice would you give them?

Milly : For anyone that has a good idea, I would recommend persisting with it.

I’ve found that if you stick with an idea for long enough it will naturally become refined and come to fruition when it the time is right.

Find out more here or follow Milly + Steve on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

Creative in the Countryside: The Cozy Club

Jessica : I’d love for you to start by telling us more about you and your business, how The Cozy Club started, and what it is you do?

Chris : The Cozy Club started really by a lightbulb moment. I had been hosting Christmas and summer fairs in my home for about five years where entrance proceeds went to a charity called William's Fund. The stallholders were situated throughout my house so people came in and noticed various decorative things that I had done. I was asked on several occasions how I made the items and had the thought that perhaps this might be fun to teach. Being a teacher by profession, I felt I had the tools already to proceed with conducting workshops. The name came simply because for as long as I can remember I needed to feel comfort :like being snuggled deep into a worn quilt, my hands wrapped around a mug of hot tea reading a wonderful book or enjoying the company of good me that is cozy and I try to always try to incorporate that into my life. I think I feel I have a mission to try to make as many people as cozy as I can! To me, being cozy and creative are two very important aspects of life.I sat down one afternoon, looked at my fabrics and started imagining projects and that was ten years ago. Now, with the help from my husband, some of the projects are also  done  working with wood. The Mouse House has been a big hit to name one! 

Jessica : What do you love most about what you do?

Chris : I love my Cozy Club days from designing the project to welcoming old and new friends to watching the process of their creations take shape. I would have to say that what I love most about what I do is to watch those who think they are not very creative see their projects  emerge from their own two hands and see the pride in their eyes as they come to the realisation that they are indeed creative. I liken my club to an old -fashioned quilting bee where like-minded women gather to find interesting conversation, friendship , share a meal and a love of creating. 

Jessica : Can you tell us about your work-space, and what a typical day at The Cozy Club is like?

Chris : A day at The Cozy Club begins with everyone enjoying refreshments and meeting each other. Once settled in the workroom on old farm tables  covered with antique linen cloths, the project is explained and all materials are provided. Help is given, but all are encouraged to make their project unique. There is a break for lunch where all join together in my kitchen to sit down for something seasonal. As many come from far, I always cook something filling and from scratch. Candles are glowing and the table is set to celebrate the time of year. . At each place, a small present sits waiting to be opened by each participant ,again, something that goes together with what we are making. Once lunch is finished, everyone heads to The General Store where a collection of farmhouse finds, fresh flowers, ribbons, fabric bundles, candles, antique quits etc. wait for them to explore. The work on the project continues until about 4 pm when tea and cake will be served. A day at The Cozy Club is a relaxing but very creative event. 

Jessica : What inspires your work?

Chris : I am inspired by two main things. The season and what I have collected to be repurposed. I try to use things that have had a previous life . Nothing gives me more pleasure than finding something someone else has rendered as useless and using my imagination to develop a project and give it a new life. 

Jessica : What impact would you like to create with your work?

Chris : I think I would be thrilled if I knew that everyone who comes here leaves with fresh inspiration and a renewed zest for a slower paced life.  Throughout the day I tell stories or present anecdotes of experiences that I hope will encourage all to take a fresh look at the ordinary and realise that it is actually extraordinary. 

Jessica : And lastly, if someone reading your story were inspired to follow their own creative dream, what advice would you give them?

Chris : Advice for anything that one wants to do is simple. If you love what you do you will be good at it. Running courses that includes lunch, all materials etc. is a lot of work but the actual work element is small ( washing up etc.) because the day is a complete joy from start to finish. I especially love the time in the evening when everything has been cleared away and I go over the day. I remember the conversations, the laughter, the excitement of creating and I think to myself, it does not get better than this! 

Find out more about The Cozy Club here or follow Chris in her work on Instagram.

Creative Spotlight : Deb Brandon

Deb Brandon is the author of “But My Brain Had Other Ideas: A Memoir of Recovery from Brain Injury” and “Threads Around the World: From Arabian Weaving to Batik in Zimbabwe.” Here, she talks to us about her work and what inspires her.

Jessica : I’d love for you to start by telling us more about you and your story, who you are and what it is you do?

Deb : I was born in England and grew up in Israel. I came to the U.S. to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics. I have been a professor in the Mathematical Sciences Department at Carnegie Mellon University since 1991.

I learned to knit from my mother when I was seven. Knitting was followed by needlepoint, crocheting, felting, and spinning, all fun and interesting. Learning to weave when I was 35 was different. It felt as if I'd come home, as if I'd been a weaver in a previous life. At the loom, I felt connected to weavers everywhere, through space and time. (I still do!)

With weaving, my love for textile arts soared. I wanted to see (and feel) it all: scrumptious raw cashmere, hand-spun silk, gorgeous hand-wovens, an amazing range of ethnic textiles—silk scarves from Laos, felted slippers from Turkey.

I am a member of WARP (Weave A Real Peace), a networking organisation whose mission is to foster a global network of enthusiasts who value the importance of textiles to grassroots economies.

More than a decade ago, I suffered a severe brain injury. In its wake, feeling lost, I started to write about my recovery to help me through it. As I wrote, I realised that I wanted to reach a broader audience. I am now the proud author of two books: an award-winning memoir, “But My Brain Had Other Ideas,” and the recently released, “Threads Around the World: From Arabian Weaving to Batik in Zimbabwe,” about textile techniques from around the world.

Jessica : Can you tell me about where you find your inspiration?

Deb : Writing about textiles is a natural extension of my lifelong interest in handmade textiles and, especially, ethnic textiles, enriched by the changes that resulted from my brain injury.

My brain injury damaged some of my filters. In particular, all outside data flows into my brain with equal value, causing traffic jams in my neural pathways. On the flip side, I now notice more details in the world around me, details that I was unaware of prior to the injury. For example, I can now enjoy the gradual changes in the colours of sunset and the many shades of blue in the water.

My newfound ability to note such details influenced my work as a textile artist. Shortly after I returned home from hospital, I wove a piece of yardage I entitled “The Reflection of Sunset on the Water.” I painted warp in varying shades of blue and orange. I also painted the weft to produce the effect of waves rolling down the yardage. The yarn I used was a shimmering silk to give the effect of reflections of light on the ripples. I chose to weave in a variety of twills to give the fabric drape. I also supplemented the warp with sewing thread to add a wavy texture. I could not have produced such a piece prior to the injury.

Other influences stem from traditional textiles. I’ve used patterns reminiscent of motifs from batik from Zimbabwe, I’ve woven in colours similar to those prevalent in Palestinian embroidery, and I’ve embellished textiles with a variation of Japanese fish printing.

Jessica : I am also interested in knowing more about how you view creativity; is it something you can now rely on every day? How do you balance your varied interests?

Deb : I have become much more creative since the brain injury. I attribute that partly to my increased awareness of and attention to detail, but I also believe that it has something to do with the rewiring of my brain as it healed.

Pre-injury, I was primarily a linear thinker, and my thought process usually took me directly from point A to point B. My brain injury damaged my ability to think sequentially, in this linear fashion. As my brain learned to work around the damage, I found myself thinking more visually and using more intuition, so I now have access to a broader range of thinking styles.

Between the different thinking styles I now employ, my brain injury-induced short attention span, and my need to live at a slower pace, I often find myself straying off the path, leading me in interesting directions, guiding me towards new ideas.

Whenever I sit down to create, whether it is to write, knit, spin, or weave, I frequently find myself changing directions, changing the story line, manipulating colours, playing with patterns.

My full time job as a mathematician takes up a lot of my time. In the past it was one of my top priorities. After a day of teaching, I’d come home to work on other aspects of mathematics. Now, prone to fatigue, I spend less time at the office and play catch-up at home. However, I spend much of my time at home on creating. Writing is very much a priority, and textile arts are next on the list. I try to write every day, in the morning before I go to work and in the afternoon after I come home. When it comes to the textile arts, I go in phases, spending more time on them when I have met math- and writing-related deadlines.

Jessica : Where do you work? What’s important about your work space?

Deb : When my son left home, I transformed his room into an office, which is where I write. The first piece of furniture I lugged there (with my son’s help) was a wooden desk I bought more than two decades ago. Much cherished, it has accompanied me through four moves. Until it found a home in my office, I had to share it with my now ex-husband and my kids. Finally, it is all mine, everything on it arranged the way I like.

The entire space is arranged to be aesthetically pleasing and to serve my needs as a writer: my laptop perched on a pile of books so the screen is at eye level, a separate keyboard positioned such that I can type with elbows bent at a good angle, a bookcase filled with books that aid me in my writing (sources of information about ethnic textiles and about writing techniques), a printer to the right of my desk, and a bed for my dog to lie on beside me when I write. 

The floor loom I weave on most frequently sits in a living room corner, angled to give me the feeling of space around me. To the right of it I have a bookcase filled with books about practicing fiber arts, knitting, crochet, spinning yarn, felting, and surface design. To the left of the loom, I have a comfortable seat I can sink into when I knit or spin yarn. It faces the interior of room so I can be part of the activities around me, watching TV or chatting with family and friends—I can knit and spin by feel, so I can divide my attention.

Jessica : What impact would you like to create with your work?

Deb : I give most of the textile pieces I create as gifts, to family and friends. To me, the most important part of fibre arts is the process. I also enjoy the design side of the projects, but I love the rhythm and meditative nature of the making. The end result often plays a more peripheral role—I take pride in my work, but once the project is completed, I’m already thinking about the next.

In addition to getting a lot of satisfaction from giving textile pieces as gifts, I hope that by doing so, I am helping to educate the public about the value of handmade products, and to appreciate the effort, beauty, and stories so inherent to them. When I write about ethnic textiles, I hope to pass on that same appreciation. I believe that by doing so, I am sending an important message: Textiles help us create ties with each other. We are a part of a whole; there is no us and them, there is only us. Textiles prevent us from losing our humanity.

On the other hand, my original intention when I started writing my memoir was personal. I hoped it would help me understand my new world as a brain injury survivor, and to cope with the enormity of it all. I also wanted my loved ones to understand the effect of this invisible disability.

Shortly after I started writing about my recovery, I realised that other brain injury survivors might benefit from my experience. In time, as I began to reclaim my place in the world, I realised that I wanted to raise awareness among the general public about the struggles I and other brain injury survivors face every day. In order to reach such a broad audience, I knew I needed to improve my writing skills, so I hired a writing coach, who transformed me from a mediocre (at best) writer to an award winning author.

In the process, I became passionate about my writing—writing daily became the norm. Not only was I now writing to convey a universal message, but also for the love of writing itself.


Jessica : And lastly, if someone reading your story were inspired to follow their own creative dream, what advice would you give them?

Deb : I would tell them to make time to follow their dream. Life is too short not to. At the very least it’ll bring them joy and a sense of fulfilment, something we all need to help us through the rough stuff in life.

They should try to ignore that inner voice that tells them to stay within their comfort zone. It’ll play on fears of change, coming up with excuses—“You don’t have time,” “The wash can’t wait,” “It’s not productive,” “I’m too tired,”  “I’m not good enough.” Everyone needs to take time for themselves, and that goes double for creative endeavours.

The end result shouldn't be the primary goal. Take the time to enjoy the process, even if that glass paperweight is wonky, you can’t afford a top-of-the-line bicycle, your embroidery stitches aren’t even, or your first (or fiftieth) draft doesn't work the way you want it to. Slow down and enjoy the scenery—the process of creating.

If possible, find kindred spirits who share your dream—it’ll open up your world in wonderful ways.

Find out more about Deb and her work here or follow her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

CreativeEleanor Holmes
Creative in the Countryside: Raahat Kaduji

Today we’re talking to Raahat about her beautiful illustrations and what inspires her work…

Jessica: I’d love for you to start by telling us more about you and your illustrations, how they started, and what it is you do?

 Raahat: I currently live and illustrate in a town near Oxford, England. It’s where I’ve been for most of my life and this creative journey is deeply rooted in my beginnings here. Art has always had a significant presence throughout my childhood. My dad worked in the creative industry - first in game development and then as a visual effects artist - so I grew up with his paintings on my bedroom walls, his sketchbooks on my bookshelf, and a treasure trove of his old painting materials. This certainly nourished my early desire to create. I’ve also had an affinity with the natural world for as long as I can remember. I spent a lot of time in nature with both my family and childhood friends. There was an abundance of tree climbing, den building, and frog catching. Rainy days were for dreaming up stories, painting landscapes, and drawing animals.

My desire for a career in the arts really emerged when I went to university. I was 18, studying English and Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London, and I wanted art to be more than just a hobby. Around that time, I started to share my work online and suddenly discovered that the internet was a wonderful place to connect with an audience, other creatives, and my future clients. I’m truly grateful to say that I’m now navigating this world of art and selling my work internationally. Something amazing also happened at the start of this year. In January, I signed with the wonderful Thao Le of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, and I couldn’t be more excited for this new chapter and the future adventures that await.

Jessica: What do you love most about what you do?

 Raahat: The list is endless, though I’ll share the things that immediately come to mind.

 When I illustrate, I begin to recall places and stories from my childhood. I draw a lot of forests, meadows, woodland animals, and the sense of nostalgia that arises is quite special really. I often feel as though I am reacquainting myself with the magic, curiosity and childlike wonder that seems so hard to come by in adulthood.

 Although this career in illustration has been such a vibrant experience, self-doubt has almost always crept into the equation. Thankfully, however, through social media I’ve encountered an incredible community of individuals, who share the same passion for creativity and nature, from across the globe. These kindred folk have been some of my greatest supporters and motivators, each with creative journeys that constantly inspire me to grow, learn, and create.

 Jessica: Can you tell us about your work-space, and the methods you use to create your designs?

 Raahat: I illustrate from home and have my desk space set up by a window. Natural light is really important, not just so I can see but because it lifts my spirit. There’s a beautiful copse of trees beyond the window (the same trees that I used to climb with my siblings and friends from our childhood). My space is cluttered with things that bring me joy: books, candles, potted plants, treasures that I’ve collected on walks. There’s also the tools of the trade: my graphics tablet, sketchbooks, pencils, pens, and a little packing station for my Etsy shop orders. When I illustrate, I often listen to music or audiobooks, but when it’s warm enough, I open the window and let birdsong fill the room.  As creatives, it is incredibly easy to get distracted - the to-do lists and looming deadlines can be particularly overwhelming - so I’ve tried to create a space where I am both comfortable and reminded to embrace the slow, mindful moments of peace. Having a view where I can watch the wildlife, the changing of the seasons, and peer at the moon after the sun has set is an extra bonus that I’m very thankful for.

 My method consists of a lot of experimentation. I think that’s one of the joys that comes with creative work. The realm of art is constantly shifting and mistakes are a welcome part of the process. Generally however, most of my projects begin as rough pencil sketches. After that, I determine a colour palette (usually inspired by earthy tones) before refining the final artwork.

 Jessica: I know your work reflects your love of nature, but what inspires the specific content of each piece?

 Raahat: Nature is everything. Much of what I create is dedicated to the wonder that the universe instils within me and I feel very lucky to live so close to the countryside.  I keep a small sketchbook in my bag and take it with me when I’m off travelling or exploring the wilderness. You can never be sure when inspiration will strike! When you sit in an environment, observing the shapes, textures, colours, you suddenly attain this deep sense of awareness and alignment with the earth in that present moment. It’s these experiences that stay with me, moments in nature that I feel the desire to recreate when I’m back at my desk.

 Jessica: What impact would you like to create with your illustrations?

 Raahat: I went vegan five years ago after learning about the impact of animal agriculture on our planet and the exploitation of the peaceful beings we share this world with. Whilst my work doesn’t explicitly handle topics like veganism and environmentalism, I hope that the content inspires gratitude for the Earth and a desire to take care of it and our fellow earthlings. Beyond that, I want my illustrations to be a reminder to accept our inner child, because we are never too old to appreciate the light and magic that this world has to offer.

 Jessica: And lastly, if someone reading your story were inspired to follow their own creative dream, what advice would you give them?

 Rahaat: If you have a creative dream, then tear after it! Nurture your ideas and bring them to life. It helps to visualise and research, but don’t worry if you haven’t formulated a long term plan to begin with. Trust your instincts and go for it.

 Community has also been such an important part of my journey, for guidance, support and friendship, so don’t be afraid to reach out to fellow creatives.

 Embrace the fear and the mistakes, and enjoy the process.

Follow Raahat on instagram, or check out her work here. If you love her work and would like to buy a piece head to her shop.

A Forest Adventure

I wonder where our heavy boots, caked with sticky mud, will take us, as we set out on the winding, forest trail in search of a shy snow drop?

The sun will surely warm our icy cheeks through the branches, as we head deeper into the woodland.

Hand in hand, we stumble through puddles and clamber over fallen tree trunks. We climb logs and gather feathers. We spy moss-strewn faerie doors in burrows and run excitedly on, as our dear forest guardian, Robin, hops ahead from branch to branch, leading the way.

Breathing in the cold winter air, we feel it energise our core and carry us deeper into nature, to seek adventure. 

Looking back to our muddy boot prints pressed into the trail behind us, we see that we have  come a long way. Each step tells a new story...where we are heading and where we will end up. 

It's time to pause a moment. We find a welcoming tree stump, sit down and bring out the steaming flask to warm our bodies. As we sip, we giggle and tell tales of the woodland folk who may be watching us from around the forest. We prick our ears and listen for their sound; but all is quiet, except for the sweet chorus of birdsong. 

Time to rise and adventure on some more. Robin appears, nodding, as if certain he's found what we're seeking. We follow his lead, enchanted by his dedication to our little expedition. Getting nearer to a grassy clearing, we run on, butterflies rising up within us, as we await our surprise destination. Eyes sparkle with anticipation. Then, just like that, we see them. Our shy, snowdrops; their heads bowed with grace and dignity.  A soft, glimmer of hope that Spring is growing near. January's gift, amongst the cold, dark days.

We stand together; one small hand holding mine, as we take in this magical sight. When you've got a child's hand in yours, Winter in the forest is filled with the greatest surprises. No matter the weather, being amidst nature is the most special place to play.

Pull on your boots, and have your own woodland adventure. You may just unearth some beautiful surprises of your own this Winter.

By Amelia Goodall

Creative, WinterContributor
Community Meet-ups
All images thanks to    Eleanor McAlister-Dilks

All images thanks to Eleanor McAlister-Dilks

Nature, the seasons, living simply, and making time for creativity - all were up for discussion at our two community meet-ups these past few months. In day-to-day life we may not all have the opportunity to converse with others about these topics. With the love and passion we have for them, meeting like-minded souls who feel the same is so empowering!

Conversations and connections that enrich our lives were continued or begun during those few short hours.

First, in October, we headed to the Attenborough Nature Reserve in Nottingham. New faces were welcomed as we sat in some late summer sun, before heading out on one of the circular walks. Eleanor led a few mindful activities along the way, such as “grounding”, where we connect with the earth beneath our feet. Unfortunately the earth beneath mine was a patch of nettles but I enjoyed the concept all the same!

We stopped a while as the waters lapped by our feet to enjoy a warming tea, an apple from our orchard, and a little crafting from foraged twigs to create a star. Mine still hangs from the shed and lightens my day as I reach for my wellies each morning.

Our second meet-up in Edale was hampered by train strikes, but those who made it through met in the tiny National Trust cafe and talk began of the new year that had only just begun.

Soon we braved the weather, and as the harsh winds bit our cheeks we walked on and were prompted to write some seasonal reflections on what surrounded us that blustery day. A hard-earned rest beneath a bridge was accompanied by mulled apple juice and a brief wassail to fortify us to complete our walk.

Our connections and feelings of community were also fortified, and plans were devised for more meet-ups around the country. Larger ones planned by Eleanor for those that can travel, but smaller gatherings too, arranged and attended by those in closer proximity to each other. The relative ease of these for other to attend will mean our community continues to grow, to flourish, and to nourish.

Jessica Townsend creates slow and sustainable fashion at House of Flint. Follow her behind-the-scenes on Instagram here.

Lifestyle, CreativeContributor
Behind-the-Scenes: Looking Ahead to 2019

This post has been sat in my drafts for a week now, and it’s only after a mammoth inbox clear-out and organisation session today that I finally feel ready to sit and write, and look to what’s in store for the year ahead.

A lot of the thoughts I’ve had about the future of Creative Countryside have been to do with boundaries. With reduced working hours, I’m going to have to get much better at prioritisation, and - although I always have so many ideas and new projects - I need to be realistic about what I will be able to achieve. So here’s what you can expect for 2019.

The Magazine

The biggest change is in the publishing structure of the magazine; we’re moving from a quarterly to a bi-annual. Printing 500 copies four times a year means that even if I sold every last one, I still wouldn’t make enough to cover all the (increasing) costs of the business. But printing 500 copies twice a year, with an issue that will be twice the size (240 pages rather than 120), and an increased cover price, might be able to. I’m under no illusions that the magazine will suddenly start making lots of money, but it just needs to be self sustainable so I don’t have to worry about losing money.

It also means I can be far more focused and prepared in terms of content. And, of course, I won’t have to put on my marketing hat (which I’m not a big fan of) quite so often. Issue 7 - ‘emerge’ (spring/summer) will be released in April, and issue 8 - ‘ember’ (autumn/winter) will be released in September.

Inevitably there will be a much bigger upfront cost to printing such a large publication, and so I’ve decided to run another crowdfunding campaign (as I did with issue 1). I’ll be offering the magazine at a special pre-order price, plus the opportunity to purchase digital back issues, which will not be available to buy on the website in the future. You can also expect handwritten seasonal postcards, back issue bundles, and more TBC. Sign up to the newsletter to be the first to hear.

The Community

No major changes here, but I’m opening one of our informal meet-ups to all (non-members included) - join us on Saturday 23rd March at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for an afternoon to chat, appreciate the artwork, and embrace the season.

I’ll be opening community doors again in May, when you’ll have the chance to join our group of like-minded souls. To receive updates about the meet-up in March, and the community re-opening in May, sign up to the newsletter.


Other than the community meet-ups (and the winter gathering this weekend!) I will only be running one event this year. Taking place Friday 10th - Sunday 12th October (location TBC), the weekend is themed around ‘embracing the darkness’, and will include 2 nights’ accommodation, nature inspired creative workshops, all meals and drinks, plus the chance to connect with other nature-loving folk. Members of the community have first dibs plus a 10% discount on tickets, which will be released over the summer.

Other Projects

That all sounds enough really! But I have got another couple of very exciting creative projects on the go. I’m working on a collaboration with Maddy (A Slow Adventure) which we’ll announce more details on soon, and I’ve got a few other ideas up my sleeve. As always, newsletter subscribers will hear first - sign up if you don’t want to miss out.

As February, and Imbolc, approach, I finally feel like I’m ready to act rather than just think and plan. This year I gave myself permission to take January more slowly, and it’s a good job too, as it’s taken me all this time to finalise plans! Thank you for sticking with CC through this lull - here’s to a slow and seasonal year ahead.

CreativeEleanor Cheetham