The Quiet Network

Do you have a Quiet Network?

Do you have a quiet network?

This a network that exists in texts, quick smiles on a busy school run and 'likes' on those status updates that revealed more than we realised when we hit post. The Network is one that closes ranks when a comment strikes too close to the bone. It has a habit of checking in when you've not been able to say much for a little while now. This is a Network that helps you hold together pieces that you can't quite figure out how to piece together yet. It has a way of raising you up by saying "I know" with very little contact. It's just there when it matters. 

If, like me, you have a pretty solitary kind of job and lifestyle, it can be easy to think that there's no one who knows what your week has meant to you. Sometimes, it can feel like you're very alone. Life moves fast for many of us and there just doesn't seem to be the time we need to really connect. 

However, I can assure you that those small moments online can be the most nourishing of quick connections when life is too much to bear. For me, these are the reminders needed in order to reassure me that there is love and we all struggle to find the time that we'd ideally invest in one another if we could. Our busy lives often just don't afford that time and rather than resent it, I try to gather those little notifications on my phone around me like armour against some pretty tough moments in any given day. I know that when I've found myself quietly crumbling and feeling like I have more than I can bear, those clicks have sustained me enough to keep the forward momentum that I needed to move me past the dark. 

I've grown tired of reading and hearing the constant denouncement of online life; how it is fake, cold or without depth. Without this Quiet Network that exists in my phone and devices, I know I would be a much sadder and less confident person. So many online connections have blossomed into friendships that have felt right for this stage of my life. By laying the foundations digitally, I felt like I could have the room that I needed to breathe, to be an individual and yet also the gentle feeling of being observed, acknowledged and enjoyed. It can be as simple as a friend clicking a like on a picture. I know they make the connection to what it meant for me to share that moment. I know they are letting me see that someone in that Network is rooting for me just as I am for them. 

The Quiet Network of women
Clare

This post is dedicated to the women who knew, who saw and who always raised me up these past few years. The power of that love is enormous and I wish I had more photos of every single one to share today so they are celebrated right back. In our back to school, new season weeks, we've all tangled and untangled, no matter how fleeting and I am so grateful. I know there's others out there who are nourished by the warmth and joy you bring and I want to say openly and with sincere heart, I love how women use The Quiet Network to keep one another afloat. 

Sarah in the network
Carina

Here's to women and The Quiet Network we create online. We do what we do. We love. xx

New for September!

Busy, busy, busy, busy! Anyone else look up and realise that it was Friday? I forgot just how fast time moves once childcare hours start and work is back in full force. Pass the coffee?

I thought I'd pop in to give a quick update because things are happening. Here's the deal:

Telling Your Story online

Workshops- 

I have TWO confirmed dates for 'Telling Your Story Online', a workshop I run for creatives, bloggers, makers and businesses. This workshop talks you through finding your voice, your people and making your story really shine on social media, blogs and websites. This is about taking the time to reflect on what you want to say and how. Then to do it all in a way that feels authentic but gets the results you need, whether that's traffic or sales. 

Want to join me and plenty of other inspiring people to network with? You can do it here:

The Forge, Bristol- 7th October 2016

A Yarn Story, Bath- 22nd October 2016

Sad you can't make one? I'll come to you. Drop me a line if you have a venue and let's make the internet a more inspiring place to run our businesses on!

APD podcast

Podcast-

Season 3 is almost ready to launch and it's a beast let me tell you. I seem to have collected far more interviews than usual and am bursting with stories to inspire you. Make sure you're subscribed to itunes or your favourite podcast catcher as the first episode goes live 15th September 2016. 

Alex Collins Designs

Maker of the Month- 

Let's say hi to Alex and her incredible work. I first met Alex over a year ago and will confess to giving her project bag some envious side eye. I was utterly delighted to learn she made it by hand and is now selling them for us to enjoy! Alex is all about making handprinted bags for makers who need beautiful bags to keep projects and tools protected and organised. What's more, her commitment to the environment means that they're made with cotton organic and solvent free inks. Caring about people and making the world a cleaner place is kind of the way I think all things should be. 

 

Of course you could have got all this news delivered to your inbox along with some lovely inspiration that I've found to share with you via the monthly newsletter. I'm guessing you're already signed up to that though. Right? Right....?

More soon lovelies! x

Summer Report, Part B

There it is, our first Summer holiday, done. Little One is tucked up for the night claiming she will never enjoy preschool, has no friends whatsoever and wants to stay at home with me forever. By the end of the week, I know she'll run in without so much as a backwards glance for those slow mornings that have become a habit these past 6 weeks. Another year turns and she's getting bigger all the time. I'm learning to accept it but it's not easy that's for sure. 

We had our first big camp kind of week: a full week of ballet culminating in a performance. As you can imagine I survived this well and did not blub the whole way through. 

ballet

I'm lying, I cried like a child who had their lolly swiped by the mean kid in the playground. 

 

We also attended a fair few village fetes. My favourite by far included a a little parade of trestle tables groaning under the weight of preserves, homemade cakes and a sort of 'pop up' greengrocers created by pulling together everyone's produce. Of course I refrained from exposing my newly transplanted status and didn't call it a pop up. Had I revealed that I was in fact a softy South Londoner infiltrating the rustic idyll, they'd never have told me where the good sloes are to be picked come Autumn. Instead, I did my part and exclaimed in delight at the scales and bunting. There is a code. We observe it and are rewarded in jam ingredients. I'm ok with this. 

produce
scales

Also, when did we stop including good but simple competitive games at fun fairs? The coconut shy was possibly the best fun we'd had in ages and the 3 legged races only resulted in a few broken limbs. What's a broken limb between village rivals? I'm in favour of bringing back hand cranked carousels and tombolas where all you really want is the questionable bottle of wine. 

coconut shy

Somewhere in between eating too much jam I did a lot of knitting. I even finished a hat AND scarf ready for the chillier morning dashes to preschool that I can see coming right round the corner. I had the pleasure of shooting for Purl Alpaca at a recent workshop they hosted and was kindly sent back to the coast with a kit to make the gorgeous set pictured below. Purl Alpaca is a pure field to fashion story: from the alpacas they breed to the designs they work in their exquisitely soft yarns. The fact they leave the wool undyed and let the natural beauty of the fibre do the talking is possibly my favourite thing but it might also be that I got to skritch an alpaca and thank it personally for the yarn. That's always going to be a winner, right?

Pattern: Charlie & Adie, Yarn: 'Dew'

Pattern: Charlie & Adie, Yarn: 'Dew'

Also can we talk about the fact that dress fit just before Summer?? 

 

So I return to work eager to create again after a break to recharge and reflect. It doesn't mean my heart  doesn't pull at the thought of tomorrow morning at the door of the preschool as her little hand tightens around mine nervously. I'll be doing my best to shoo her in and then it all starts again, another year's cycle. 

 

Are you ready? If you are, can you tell me your secret please?

 

Summer Report, Part A

It's surprising how hard it is to let go. I mean on the one hand, I can just move on from some things without so much as a wince. For example, I can tear through this house with a charity bag in hand like a pro. Dithering over belongings has never been my thing. I can almost deal with never making the baby book that I planned for Little One. That pair of curtains that I was going to knock up last weekend? Yeah..... I can let go of some ideas. 

Getting to know the colours of home

Getting to know the colours of home

However, when it comes to just easing into life and going with the flow? It's not easy. I guess I'm just one of life's busy people and in order to make room for my creativity to return and to regain some control in my life after burn out, I deliberately underbooked childcare this summer. I've even taken to calling it 'The Season of Us' in an attempt to make it seem like a project I can achieve. See? I just can't give in without a little sense of purpose. I don't need a reason to spend time with my daughter of course, I love that. However, time with myself right now? Hmmmm. I've been finding that hard which is confusing to me as one of life's natural solo artists. 

Still, despite this awkwardness, my creativity is finally flowing and so is my making. Craft has found it's way back into my every day and some evenings have even found me tucked up with some knitting or reading a recipe book (or three). I've wandered with my camera, a lot. It's a habit I've missed the most I think and am the most encouraged by seeing it return. I even managed to score an old mirror I plan to paint and hang in the bathroom. It's a healing kind of busy and one I am very grateful for. 

I finished about 4 knit projects so far and with the intense fog we've been enjoying some days here by the sea, I'm going to be glad of them this Autumn. I've written a little about this over at Crafts From The Cwtch if you fancy a read (Yes! I'm writing! Check it out!). My favourite finished project is definitely this cute little hat with some scrap yarn for the pompom. 

Did I mention how much I've been enjoying just practicing photography? I've been working on portraits for a change and I'll be sharing some of those on here soon. It feels good to be stepping forward into new territory with my much loved Nikon. I even had a little creative play at movie making thanks to the Make Films course I've been taking with Xanthe. I did Xanthe's Mini Time Capsules over a year ago and this course is helping me kick it up a notch. I've created two movies so far and I'm eager to work on the next project already. It's fun to be a beginner at something and make my first, quite shaky, steps into film making with more than my iphone. I've started popping a little selection of film work I've done so far both for my own personal creativity but also for professional commissions over on my Youtube channel. I've been a bit shy about it but I think it's nice to have a place to document how my work is evolving. 

I've been adding a few of the movies I've made over on my Youtube Channel. You can subscribe here

Predictably, there's been a lot of just taking the camera out for a walk to document the best of the season. Harvest is upon us and I'm delighted. 

Harvest

With all this abundance and a little more time on my hands at last, I dived into some new recipes books. Never let it be said I'm a recipe book fiend. I can stop anytime I want. I swear.

All the cookbooks!

It's meant a wave of new things to try and if there is one area of my culinary skills that has taken an enormous leap forward, it has to be preserving. Jam has featured heavily with Little One declaring Rhubarb and Ginger her new favourite. Mine is the Strawberry and Pimms from The Modern Preserver. I interviewed Kylee, the author, last season of the podcast and she is to blame entirely for the Craft Beer Pickles, Samphire and Compotes currently pouring from my kitchen. I'm entirely ok with this situation too.  

Strawberry and Pimms jam

So what about your making? Do you need a creative purge every now and then to recharge? How do you make time for your crafts?

Botanical Style & WipsandBlooms

If you caught the last Season's podcast, you'll know making a home has been a pretty big theme for me. Having just moved, I've now got a blank canvas to explore and decorate. I have a new garden and am surrounded by beautiful scenery that I'm delighting in getting to know each season. 

I wanted to be able to reflect the Nature Baby in me that rejoices with the changing weather, no matter what the season. I seek out new flora and fauna and I'm almost always called out on saying "those are my absolute favourite" to each new bloom. I love the way Magnolia heralds the entrance of Spring and thick blossom promises Summer just round the corner. It wasn't until I discovered Selina Lake's book, 'Botanical Style', that I realised I could bring all this joy into my home. 

Botanical Style by Selina Lake

Botanical Style by Selina Lake

'Botanical Style' is a celebration of nature, plants and florals in the home. The book explores Selina's love for botanicals and includes styling and decorating tips for your home. I love how rich in photography the book is, meaning I could leaf through, deciding options that felt more like "me" and my home when the world of interior design felt new and unfamiliar. The book is also helpfully divided into different style sections such as 'Boho Botanicals' or 'Vintage Botanicals'. 

It's meant that once the furniture started going into place, the next thing I turned my mind to was fabrics, plants and little details that brought that happy feeling I get outside, into my home. Things started creeping in...

And then some more things crept in....

Botanicals in my home

It seemed perfect then that this month, Katie and I will be hosting a giveaway for our #wipsandblooms monthly join in on Instagram, giving away a copy of the book. To date, this is my largest Work In Progress: an entire home, decorated to make me feel a sense of joy and security. I'm using a lot of Selina's tips and styling ideas as I turn my attention to places I can put a little texture and tone that reminds me of times spent outside, enjoying the best of the season. 

Find wipsandblooms on Instagram

Find wipsandblooms on Instagram

For your chance to win a copy of the book, all you have to do is post an image on Instagram that shows your current making and include a favourite bloom (or plant- keep it truly botanical style!). It can be big or small, styled or natural. It really is all about the process. Add the hashtags #wipsandblooms and if you like, tag Katie (@Ceramicmagpie) and myself (@aplayfulday). You can even let people know it's for a giveaway because that's just a nice thing to do, right? At the end of the month we will pick a lucky winner!

Happy Making x

My copy of Botanical Style was kindly provided by Ryland Peters, Selina's publishers. Views expressed here are my own. To find out more please visit the following link:

Holding Still

I don't really remember the point at which I started to lose my voice. It came on gradually, a sort of sinking sensation that built in momentum till I felt like I was dragging round a concrete block all the time. The effort of carrying this metaphorical breeze block took over my ability to communicate and for months I struggled to step away from this desperate need for silence. I didn't want to share pictures, words or thoughts. I put off meeting people or going online for anything more than a 30 second update drop and out. 

holding still

In the face of too many deadlines, a double house move and evolving family dynamics, I'd crumpled and I simply didn't want to play anymore. Old feelings of inadequacy began to creep in and I felt numb about everything. I realise now that I had entirely burnt out and spent months wanting to be entirely swallowed whole by the deadening weight of it. 

Somewhere in this void though someone said something that cut right through it all and spoke directly to me. Sat in an auditorium, comforted by the dark invisibility of being part of an audience, I sat up sharp.

"I realised that most of my fear was based on my own shame, not actually how others see me".

The speaker was Lisa Congdon and she was describing her path back from burn out. In doing so, she unwittingly begun to map out mine too. Lisa talked about the vulnerability that comes with sharing your creative life, about not feeling like enough and about how losing your own curiosity at the world begins to make your creativity shrink. It was at this point I nearly stood up and asked "Can you see me?" Yes, I wanted to speak and what's more, I wanted out of No Man's land. 

Selfcare and I don't enjoy a particularly healthy a relationship. In fact I like to think of us as bickering siblings that enjoy gentle moments of harmony in between the mini battles and scuffles to be free of one another. Most of the time, I'm trying to be a half decent Mother (and Father) while juggling a freelance career. When I looked up from burn out I saw gaping holes in my personal and professional life. I saw my own health, both physical and mental, was in dire need of some tlc. I no longer wanted to bury every bad emotion I felt along with the good ones. I wanted to heal. 

cooking

I started slow. Really slow. I finished up deadlines and didn't rush to replace them. I hung out with a few friends. I started cooking again. I bought some new cookbooks. Then I bought some more cookbooks. (If I'm honest, I'm a little out of control on the cookbook front). I made a list of life admin that can no longer be ignored and I felt ok about addressing it all at last.  I let in things that scared me only once I'd stopped feeling scared. I even called my Mum. 

getting to know the garden

So my plans for this Summer are now simple: make friends with my garden, do a little DIY. I plan to watch my daughter throw herself on a Bodyboard for an entire afternoon and not be making a single list in my head while she does it. I'm going to read a book. Maybe two. If I'm feeling extra crazy, I'll draft some articles I've been longing to pitch.

It means the podcast will be quiet for the whole of Summer while I focus on time with my daughter and myself. I'm sharing the season finale this week and I'm really excited about signing off and dreaming up the final details of the next bunch of episodes. Giving myself the space to dig in to those thoughts and ideas while off a publishing cycle feels pretty good now I've made the decision.

It's time to hold still. 

Holding still doesn't have to mean lack of progress. I've come to realise that sometimes the greatest gift we can bestow on ourselves is time. I'm looking forward to giving us some. 

With thanks to the supremely talented Laura Williams whose post, My Home, reassured me that this slow is a good healing slow. Thank you for your beautiful words Laura. 

 

// End note:

If you've been feeling the kind of overwhelm or numbness that impact your ability to work or create, I would like to once again highlight Mind whose resources and support are vital to those of us battling every day demons xx