Posts in Creative
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.

CreativeContributor
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 friends...to 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.

CreativeContributor
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.

CreativeContributor
A Forest Adventure
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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
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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.

Events

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
Behind-the-Scenes: Honest Reflections on 2018
Image: Annie Spratt

Image: Annie Spratt

January

January feels so long ago. The first few days were spent preparing for the first Creative Countryside gathering in Edale, and I had no idea what to expect. Memories of the weekend include stargazing and watching shooting stars in the biting cold; frosty morning walks and diversions through farmyards; losing a sponge down the sink and flooding the kitchen(!); being pleasantly surprised that the cashew cheese I’d made was a hit; and most of all, meeting and chatting with the most incredible women and men, forging friendships that have lasted all year.

February

February was spent putting together the spring magazine (issue 3), and it was the month Monty started nursery, which meant I gained two whole mornings a week to work on the business. It made such a difference, and even though I was still working evenings – especially when one of my Masters assignments was due – it felt more manageable. Dan and I also managed to escape for a weekend away to The Welsh House, and we worked together on a piece for issue 3 that explored slow, simple living. It felt much needed after a busy start to the year.

March

March marked Monty’s first birthday and his Christening, so it was a busy month family-wise! Issue 3 – spring – was published, and it didn’t sell as well as I had hoped. This was made worse because I had ordered more copies based on sales of issue 2 and how I had expected the magazine to grow; I began to realise that changes were needed for issue 4. I also met Maddy from A Slow Adventure for the first time, and we immediately connected over a plate of pancakes and maple syrup!

 

Reflections: Hosting my first event was exhilarating because everything was new. I was nervous, but knew I had to do this. It broke even, which was my goal, and the magazine was selling slowly but steadily at this point. Really, my only hope during these first few months, was to make it through without sustaining a loss.

Image: Sarah Porteus

Image: Sarah Porteus

Image: Sarah Porteus

Image: Sarah Porteus

Image: Sarah Porteus

Image: Sarah Porteus

April 

April was spent preparing for the summer gathering, and it was lovely to work with those who had attended the winter gathering to plan the workshops. We managed to escape to Northumberland for a few days for a family holiday, and the weather was glorious. This month flew by and it felt like we were on the cusp of summer.

May

In May we welcomed Rhiannon and Rebecca to the team, as Poetry Editor and Book Editor respectively. Getting to know and work with incredible creative folk such as these two has been the highlight of my year, without a doubt. I was also working on the next gathering, and preparing issue 4, complete with re-design, for print.

June

Our second gathering of the year took place in June, and it was hot. It was wonderful to spend an evening with Chelsea (Loving Life in Wellies) and Rik prior to everyone else arriving, and things felt much more relaxed than the winter gathering. Memories of the weekend include learning so much about wild plants and flowers from Heather; Elizabeth attempting to go barefoot at all times, even making it across the service station carpark on the way home!; all the sunflowers; battling with clouds of midges by the bonfire; and hugging trees in a shaded circle of earth. Issue 4 – summer – was also released, with a whole new design, and 40 more pages. I felt so much happier with how the magazine looked when this issue was released.

 

Reflections: Hosting an event in the summer means everything costs more.  Despite selling almost all the tickets (two were left), the event lost money, and financially was a failure. However, I was so pleased with the re-design for the magazine, and the feedback was also really positive.


Image: Annie Spratt

Image: Annie Spratt

Image: Annie Spratt

Image: Annie Spratt

Image: Annie Spratt

Image: Annie Spratt

July

In July I went to Timber Festival with a friend, and it was the first festival I’d been to where everyone sought the shade! It was lovely to have a couple of days to myself though, and the weekend itself was full of enlightening talks, nature-themed workshops, and relaxed music that we dipped in and out of during the day. This was the month where I felt creatively like I wanted to move forward, and in the final few days, I booked the venue for the autumn gathering and decided to launch the Creative Countryside Community. It was the first ‘oh let’s just go for it!’ decision I made of the year, and thankfully, it was the right one.

August

August was the month of community and connection. Supporters of the magazine right from the start and those who I’d never met before joined together to create the membership community that I’d been thinking about for a long time. It was a really exciting time, and I remember feeling so lucky that I was in a position to be able to bring people together in this way. I also began to write my final (15,000 word!) assignment for my Masters, though I didn’t get much done…

September

In September the first community e-book was sent out, and I spent a long time cultivating the Facebook group and thinking ahead to future resources. I finished my Masters (just in time!) and also ran my first workshop at Maddy’s harvest-themed gathering in the South Downs. It felt quite strange being on the other side of things, and sleeping in a tent reminded me so much of the year we lived in one at home. Issue 5 – autumn – was also released, and it was definitely my favourite one so far. We received the copies just before leaving for The Good Life Experience Festival with a stall, where Dan was my number two. It was busy and stressful, but we met some lovely people and I got some incredible feedback about the magazine. We sold just enough to make it worthwhile, and for our first stall I was pleased.

 

Reflections: Sometimes choosing to do something really quickly that you’ve been planning in your head for a while, is worth it.  The community launch was a success and is something I’ll be focusing much more on in 2019. However, choosing to take on so much in September meant I finished this part of the year burnt out and creatively exhausted.

 

Image: Eleanor McAlister-Dilks

Image: Eleanor McAlister-Dilks

October

After a hectic September, we spent a few days in the New Forest at Warborne Farm at the start of October. I was still a bit overwhelmed by everything going on over the previous couple of months, and I think it was only as we drove home that I felt like things had started to re-set themselves. I spent a lot of the month preparing for the autumn gathering, and towards the end we had the first community meet-up at Attenborough Nature Reserve. We crafted twig stars, drank cinnamon tea, walked and talked and basked in the autumn sunshine; it was my favourite part of the working month.

November

November was consumed with producing the winter issue of the magazine (issue 6) and preparing for the gathering. We travelled to Shropshire for a weekend in a rustic farmhouse, hung leaves from the beams and lit candles to guide us into the darkest part of the year. Feasts, leaf art, branch calendars and lots of laughter featured throughout the weekend, and I felt like this was our best event yet.

December

December arrived with all its festive cheer, but I spent the first week finalising orders for issue 6 and preparing for our solstice celebration in Hereford. The venue was beautiful, and the small group size was perfect for a quiet, reflective start to what can be a busy season. It was lovely to connect with everyone, and I caught up with Jenny, who began a sabbatical for Creative Countryside at the start of the month. Dan and Monty came with me as the venue was booked for a few days, and we were able to enjoy some much-needed time as a family. I also included a few ‘bundles’ in the shop for Christmas, and hand-picked a few products from makers who I really love.

 

Reflections: The autumn event was by far the most popular, and sold out in twelve hours. Marketing really does pay off. But deciding to book in two other events in close succession wasn’t a brilliant idea. The solstice celebration lost money and the first event for 2019 didn’t sell as many tickets as I had hoped. Selling bundles in the shop was also time-consuming and didn’t make me any money.

 

Image: Annie Spratt

Image: Annie Spratt

Image: Annie Spratt

Image: Annie Spratt

 

2018 in review

Now for some honesty and straightforward facts.

From January to December this year, Creative Countryside made £4,238. The autumn gathering was by far the most successful, making a profit which all three of the other events did not. Issue 2 continued to sell well throughout the year, and issue 5 was the most successful issue after the re-design. The community accounts for around half that profit, and we ended the year with around 50 paying members.

I’m sharing this number to give you some idea of what the first full year of running a part-time business alongside a toddler and a Masters degree can look like. Segmenting the profit equally evens out to just over £350 per month, not enough to sustain a business, but it covered Monty’s nursery bill, and helped a little towards household costs. But the magazine makes very little per issue, and for some issues make nothing at all. Money is not the reason I do this, but it has to play a part, and as such I’ve been thinking very carefully about how to move forward with the various elements of CC as we move into a new year. But more on that next week!

The biggest part of looking back over 2018 is an immense feeling of gratitude. That I’m in such a privileged position to be able to experiment with what works and what doesn’t. That I have such a wonderful support network around me. And most of all, that you’ve all stuck around.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You make all of this possible.

Join me next week as I look ahead to what’s in store for 2019!

CreativeEleanor Cheetham
Lady Farmer Slow Living Retreat 2018
All images by Meaghan Clare Photography

All images by Meaghan Clare Photography

Lady Farmer is a sustainable apparel and lifestyle brand, striving to cultivate a community for those seeking independence from existing food and fashion systems that are harmful to the planet and its people. They offer functional, fashionable, sustainable clothing and products for the intentional lifestyle and a resource for the modern woman of all ages who yearns for a simpler way of life. 

The first Lady Farmer Slow Living Retreat was held in November at the beautifully restored Zigbone Farm in Sabillasville, MD, located just over an hour outside of  Washington D.C. and Baltimore, MD.  This gathering was a weekend exploration of a sustainable living, celebrating community, connection and self-care, designed for the modern woman seeking an inspired and healthful life through changes in energy management, consumer behaviour and daily rituals. A full weekend immersion in workshops, speakers and a supportive community, all taking place in a beautiful natural setting with exquisitely prepared farm-to-table meals,  this experience was intended to provide participants with the tools to create more slow and intentional living for themselves and their families. 

The retreat began on Friday evening with a reception welcoming approximately forty-five women arriving from locations far and wide, from local to international.  Many came from Washington, DC or nearby locations in Maryland and Virginia, but others came from distant states or from as far as Canada and France. A heavy rain meant that the planned bonfire was moved indoors to the living room of the cozy old farmhouse, where strangers soon became fast friends over wine and snacks around the woodstove. 

The weekend programming was launched on Saturday morning with opening remarks by Mother-Daughter team and Lady Farmer co-founders Mary and Emma Kingsley, followed by a presentation by keynote speaker Amy Dufault, a sustainable fashion and lifestyle writer.  Amy is the Director of Digital Content & Communications for the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator and a co-creator of the Food & Fibers Project,  a project that looks at the connections between what we eat and what we wear. Speaking on the problems in the fast fashion industry and conscious consumerism, she was the perfect spokesperson for the intersection of sustainability in food, clothing, and lifestyle.

The rest of the day unfolded as participants were given a selection of workshops to attend. Topics included slow gardening, affirmation journaling, exploring personal cycles and rhythms and gathering energy and power from nature.  Though there were numerous talks and workshops offered, scheduling allowed for attendees to take time to reflect, explore and get to know the rest of the Lady Farmer community gathered. 

The day culminated in a special meal on Saturday evening, a beautifully prepared farm-to-table dinner featuring delicious, locally sourced fare, including organic, biodynamic wine and a signature dessert. It was a highlight of a weekend celebrating the best of slow living-- community, sharing, learning, and nurturing. 

The retreat continued on Sunday with a full day of programming lead by environmental educator Shayn Gangidine, exploring the healing benefits of being outdoors. In an engaging talk,  Shayne discussed our historic connection to the land around us, as well as modern research in the effects of nature on brain patterning.  Workshop participants went outside to observe their surroundings, gather objects or meditate, mixing relaxation, mindfulness, and whimsy. These and other guided activities, such as nature art and prompted journaling, gave them the knowledge and tools for enhancing their lives and those of others through meaningful interaction with the natural world. 

Mary and Emma closed out the retreat that afternoon with a Q and A conversation wrapping up the weekend and a sneak peek at what’s next for Lady Farmer.  In addition to an abundance of learning opportunities, the weekend was a wonderful experience of friends old and new coming together to be nourished, restored and inspired by all things slow living.


So, you might ask,  who are these Lady Farmers who gathered for a weekend retreat in the country? What drew all of these women together? 

Whether she owns and cultivates country acreage, tends to a home garden or dwells in the city with a desire to create space in her life for more sustainable living, the Lady Farmer sows the seeds of slow living all around her.  She is any women who cares deeply about personal connection, cultivating meaningful relationships with the people in her life and the land under her feet. She chooses, uses and purchases thoughtfully, understanding her individual impact on the world and the future. She has a motherly instinct, whether for her own children or all children, embracing the idea of the world as a village and tending to the growth of her community. She brings an open heart and a conscious mind to living on the earth. These are the women who came together for the  Lady Farmer Slow Living Retreat 2018. 


Visit the Lady Farmer website to sign up for their newsletter and get more information on their sustainable apparel line, lifestyle products, blog and upcoming events.

Lifestyle, CreativeContributor
Gatherers - A Handmade Cornish Book

‘Gatherers’ is a handmade photographic and recipe book which celebrates and shares the stories of the modern hunter-gatherer. Photographed in Cornwall, it captures different subjects throughout the diverse ecosystems the county has to offer, using a combination of film photography, typewritten and handwritten text.

As a result of the fast growth of our society around material growth, we can too easily become detached from our connection to the resources we consume in our day by day. Even while living in the big city and being distracted by the hectic pace of the metropolis, this book leads us back to those playful moments of outdoor exploration and connection with nature we lived throughout our childhood. 

In addition to re-connecting us with the natural world by engaging with the gatherers, it also emphasises the importance of sustainability and challenges what it means to be sustainable. For the gatherers in the book, to be sustainable is to be aware of how the natural resources we use have been extracted and where they come from. For most of us, this knowledge is limited by what we are told on a label, even in local produce. Instead, the gatherers in the book show how the concept of sustainability goes beyond a piece of paper, by making an effort to knowingly search and forage these resources for themselves. Always being conscious of how much and how to extract them without breaking the fragile balance of their local environment.


Jaime Molina is a Colombian photographer based in the UK. Find out more about his book and how to get your copy here, where he is currently selling through a Kickstarter campaign that ends December 9th. You can also follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

CreativeContributor
Creative in the Countryside: Kate Luck Ceramics

On the journal today, we talk to Kate a ceramic artist. Watch our for her increbible conker masterpieces - a perfect seasonal orement.

CC: Tell us about Kate Luck Ceramics and the journey you took to starting your own business?

MEDIUM PINK CONKER 3.JPG

K: I studied Ceramic Design at Central St Martins and decided to specialise in mould making and slip casting. I graduated without a product I wanted to sell but certain that I was made to make. Graduating in 2009, I walked straight in to a recession. The arts had been severely cut back and there were no jobs.

I went on to do an amazing apprenticeship with a master mould maker. After my year as an apprentice and a further two years working as an assistant to a couple of ceramicists, I learned of an incubator ceramics studio in North London, near where I lived. With no plan I joined the studio in September 2011, within three years I became the studio manager for twenty five ceramicists.

I started up a Facebook page and blog advertising my mould making and batch production casting service and the commissions came rolling in. For six years I worked on a wide variety of amazing commissions from replicas for Hampton Court Palace to chandeliers and sculptures.

After getting married and moving to rural Bedfordshire, I knew that the time was right to leave production work behind and start making my own work. I have been working on my own collection of porcelain wall sculptures for the last year. My seasonal designs seek to capture childhood memories and family stories in nature, gently reminding us to celebrate the simple pleasures in life.

CC: I know your work is inspired by family stories, magic and nature. Can you tell us why nature is so important to you, and how it influences the way you live and work?

K:My maternal family comes from Anglesey, a small island off the north coast of Wales. Most of our school holidays would involve a trip to Anglesey. Our holidays there were centred on time outdoors no matter what the weather, whether that was beachcombing and skimming stones or climbing trees in woodland covered in lush wild garlic.

En route to Anglesey we would drive through Snowdonia National Park and I grew up in awe of those mountains. Even now every drive through the mountains replenishes my soul. There is something special about the magnitude of nature that heals, grounds and balances me. I turn to nature to remind me that I am just passing through and unlike the mountains I’m not permanent. Nature has a way of giving me perspective.

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In 2012 I lost my paternal Grandmother and father to cancer in one week. When it was close to the end, the simple little pleasures we could find from each day became very important. I would bring my father blackberries picked from the garden and he would savour each one. One of my last memories is wheeling my father outside to breathe in the smell of summer rain on hot earth.

The power of these little simple pleasures has stayed with me ever since. When the world seems tough and problems seem to mount up around me, nature reminds me to take time to reflect and refocus on what it is that I truly need. There’s a quote that says it is impossible to walk in the woods and be in a bad mood at the same time, I find this to be true. Nature is my councilor.

CC:I’d love to know what has been the biggest challenge, and the best surprise in running your own business?

K:In the last year the biggest challenge has been switching from a service-based business to a product-based business. I’m still learning and navigating how to approach and gain new stockists and how to sell my work online.

I find that running a creative business is somewhat of an organic process; things do take time and evolve naturally. Despite the new challenges I am facing, it was certainly the right decision for my creativity and I am enjoying the transition.

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I think the biggest surprise is probably how much resilience running your own business requires. You need to have so much inner strength to pursue your dreams, pushing onwards even when it seems impossible just because you know that is the route to your true happiness.

CC:Can you tell us about your home, your workspace, and what a typical day for you looks like?

K: I moved to Bedfordshire almost a year ago and it was one of the best decisions my husband and I have ever made. We love the country life and it’s been a real joy discovering our local area over the seasons. I’m very lucky that I have a studio in my garden, but that doesn’t mean I don’t walk to work!

A typical day starts with taking my fox red Labrador Rupert for a good walk over the fields and around the lakes near us. I find it’s a great way to set me up for the day, plan what I need to achieve as well as being a great source of inspiration. I usually always snap a picture of something that catches my eye. Once home it’s kettle on and time to head to the studio to start the working day.

In the studio it’s usually classical music on the radio that fuels my mornings as I get all my emails and social media done and then I flip to an audio book ready to crack on with making undisturbed for the rest of the day. Making days have their own natural rhythm and pattern that add up resulting in a finished piece, it’s a very fluid process of both planning and responding to what needs to be done.

The vast majority of success when working with clay, unlike many other organic materials, is timing. Certain things must be done at certain times, too wet and the shape could collapse, too dry and it can crack. It’s the most instinctual part of my job, working according to what feels right.


CC:When you aren’t working on your business, how do you enjoy spending your time?

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K: Having adventures with my husband and our dog Rupert takes up a lot of my free time and takes us to some fantastic places. Some of the best times we share as a little family are weekend walks, no phones, just holding hands walking the dog, talking about everything and nothing, letting the surroundings wash over us. After a really muddy or crisply cold Autumn walk there’s nothing I like more than an afternoon snuggled up on the sofa watching films with a roaring fire going.  


Together, my husband and I are avid travellers and really enjoy exploring new and obscure places whenever we can. Instead of giving each other gifts we usually take each other away, as we feel memoires last longer than possessions. We usually choose somewhere near mountains where we can just hike and explore, the wonder of our beautiful planet never ceases to amaze me.

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

In a world connected by social media, the pursuit of perfection, branding and creating an image, comparison is a toxic inevitability.  So my advice would be to believe in the validity of your dreams. Your dream is valid because of you, and that validity is not based on or determined by how many likes or shares you get.

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Something I do to combat the toxic effects of comparing myself to others is to write down goals I want to achieve in my business at the start of each year. It helps give a focus to your work and a sense of achievement when you have fulfilled them.

The other exercise that I think is especially important is to define what success looks like for you, success doesn’t always need a financial focus. So define your success and go for it, reach for it and believe in it.


You can find Kate over on Instagram and Facebook


CreativeChelsea Louise Haden