In the last 2 podcasts, I've been exploring the theme 'Capture' and gathering stories from creatives who record and share their creativity using a rich variety of media. In exploring this word, I've thought a lot about Instagram and the many makers I've discovered thanks to community hashtags. It made sense to invite Melanie and Danielle onto the blog today to share their Slow Living Project. You can find Melanie as @geoffreyandgrace and Danielle as @hippieindisguise.
Please introduce yourselves and your online spaces
Hello, I am Melanie, the mother behind the lifestyle blog Geoffrey & Grace. I wanted to create an online space that would be a home for wholehearted and creative living, as they are two things that are fundamental to how I live my life. I am a writer and maker and have a big love for photography. Along with three other makers I co-created Margot, the beach hut makery.
D: And, hello, I’m Danielle. I am a mother of two, working full-time as a government advisor, pursuing my artistic interests on the side through photography, blogging and creative collaborations. My website is Hippie in Disguise, where I focus on art and adventure with my children, with a slow, eco and minimalist focus. I like to share stories, interviews with inspiring parents, minimalists, creatives, small brands and shops. The space is also home to my nature-based creative projects, like my Mother Nature leaf dress. In addition, I’m currently on the editorial team at Enfants Terribles Magazine, a European children’s fashion magazine focused on play, creativity and imagination. Basically, I don’t sleep.
How did you both meet?
We found each other on Instagram. When I had the beginnings of the idea for a slow living project, I knew I wanted to collaborate with someone, and Danielle was the first person I thought of. I thought the project would be just her sort of thing, and I had a feeling I would enjoy working with her.
D: Like so many friendships, we met online, through Instagram, as Melanie said. Social networks have been an amazing source of inspiration for me, but also a new way to connect with people who share my interests. I love that social networks enable us to connect with people regardless of geographic location.
For those who have not discovered it, what is your Slow Living hashtag?
It’s a year long project with the aim of helping others (and us) think about how they can have a piece of ‘slow living’ every day. Each month we choose a different theme to focus on, for example the first month looked at exploring the world around you (#slowliving_explore), and this month we are celebrating the change of the seasons with the hashtag #slowliving_bloomandharvest. We want the hashtag to help people think about those precious moments of stillness that are there every day, but we are sometimes in too much of a rush to see.
D: Melanie said it well, the Slow Living Project, as I like to call it, is about bringing people together and inspiring each other around the notion of slow living. For me, slow living is really about presence, about living in the moment, fully, wholeheartedly, without that time travel forward and back that our minds are want to do. There are monthly themes, for example, in September we focused on ‘create’. Over the course of the year we want to look at all the different ways we can bring a slow living approach to our lives, through the seasons and holidays, in the home and outdoors, with family and friends.
Why did you choose to collaborate in this way?
To me Instagram is all about those special little moments that are captured and shared. Plus, photography is one of the things that helps me slow down and find some stillness. It therefore seemed obvious to use Instagram as a way to create a community (through the hashtag) and disseminate some slow living. This seems kind of obvious to write, but when we slow things down, there is the opportunity to be more wholehearted and present with the moments we have. I think it’s those wholehearted, connected moments, that keep us all going.
D: Both Melanie and I are very visual people, we love to capture moments visually and to view others’ images for inspiration. We thought sharing slow living moments visually would work really well and would attract people, it also sets aside any language barrier that might come with capturing and sharing moments through the written word alone. Even though not everyone can read our blog posts, as the hashtag travels through the Instagram network others can pick up on it through context and by viewing the images under the hashtag gallery, and then join in.
What have you enjoyed the most about people's contributions to the hashtags?
It’s so lovely to have a glimpse into other people’s lives through the photos they share and the captions they choose to write. I am continuously inspired by the community that is growing as a result of the hashtag. I also love that the slow living hashtags are continuing to develop and be used even when we have moved on to another theme.
D: Well, obviously, there is the visual and intellectual inspiration the images provide. But, what I’ve loved most is seeing the many ways people interpret the same word. Each theme has captured people’s imaginations in different ways, and this has translated into a beautiful range of captured moments. I underestimated the variety we would see, it has been a lovely surprise.
Finally, how do you like to capture the month's theme and bring everything together before moving on to another month's focus?
We have a list of words that we are hoping to use throughout the year. Each month though, we think about what the following month means for us, and what it might mean to others. We then talk about a suitable word that will capture people’s imaginations and inspire them to want to get involved.
Danielle and I got to meet last month through FaceTime and it was great to be able to talk face to face. Otherwise, lots of emails are exchanged as we both have been struggling to select the photos that are our favourites for the month. There are so many beautiful images shared in the gallery, and we always have a very long shortlist. We do a monthly ‘blog round up’ about the project on our blogs, and between us we aim to convey the spirit of the community over on Instagram as well as the wonderful creativity that is present in the gallery.
D: We each take our own approach and individually choose our favourites from the contributions and then compare notes to see which we have in common. These common favourites are shared through Instagram in a grid of 4. Then we each post our individual favourites to our blogs -- which usually requires a lot of further trimming down, as we usually have 30 favourites each! So, it’s always a nice surprise to see what Melanie posts and how she strings the selections together. I like that we take our own approach to selecting and curating the images. For me, I tend to choose images that reflect a diversity of interpretations of the theme, I’m also a little biased toward images that had a particularly insightful caption or images that capture children through the theme. We like each month to have a fresh focus, so based on how the month develops and what we see in the gallery we choose a new theme from our brainstormed list of ideas that will allow people to expand their thinking around slow living and capture something new.