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A revolt against capitalism

regrowth in business

If you meet me in real life you will know that I am engaged in a small but meaningful revolt against the capitalist structure we find ourselves in. I rail against the way we are pushed to buy more and more and more to the point of excess. I hate the way we are encouraged to see ourselves as primarily consumers, our main job to fuel consumer growth.

We all know that this constant consumer growth isn’t sustainable, that it isn’t fulfilling, that we are destroying ourselves and the world.

And yet . . . that is the normal way of business, to scale and grow . . . . and we live in the real world where things cost money and bills need to be paid.

But I do not want a world where we know the cost of everything and the value of very little. I do not want to take part in a system where spending money on stuff is seen as valuable, and measured in GDP, but swapping seeds or repairing clothes or walking in woods is not.

For the past five months or so I have been working with the amazing Fiona Barrows on a ‘Five year refresh’ of the Studio Club. When you work on your own it is incredibly difficult to put aside what you know and see your business from the outside.
Fiona is that outside eye for me, an outside eye with gentle and steely intelligence and a great ability to cut through my prevarications.

A couple of weeks ago Fiona asked me why I don’t talk about this kind of thing more in emails and social media. And I said ‘but I do . . .’ and then I looked and I really don’t . . . not that much . . . not enough.

So I thought that I should begin now . . . .

Over the past six or seven years I have deliberately dismantled and rebuilt Snapdragon Life in a series of steps. The aim has been to align it more with the values I believe in. I have spent a lot of time digging out the roots of capitalism in my business.
None of this would have been possible without coming up with the idea for The Studio Club, without the wonders of the internet, without being lucky enough to persuade enough people to join me and pay a monthly fee.
Even then it has been a tricky process - the tension with the assumptions of the real world have meant that not everything has worked.


The roots of my business were deep in hustle filled consumerism where only constant growth stopped us failing, I was on the hamster wheel of retail, planning for Christmas in April, using scarcity marketing, pushing for sales.
That is the world I know, it is the world I have skills in, so when I decided to move away from that, I had to put in rules for myself to stop me from unconsciously scaling up selling again.
The result is that nothing I sell has profit built in to the price - the prices in the Studio Club shop are wholesale plus a packing charge, a covering of wages in case I need to get someone in to help.


It is clear that we live in an unequal world, we all know that. One of my key beliefs is that things should be affordable to all, especially things designed to improve mental wellbeing, like the Studio Club.
It is vitally important to me that membership of The Studio Club is affordable to everyone.
So I installed a robust “Pay what you can” tier - alterable month to month according to circumstances, managed by the individual members rather than me.
This was actually a really tough one to get to work - we are so entrenched in the social status of money and in business norms that it was difficult to get people to take up the idea.
It was still a little like that if I’m honest until we hit Brexit, COVID, and the cost of living crisis - but now over a fifth of the members of the Studio Club choose their own monthly rate.


I’ve never been someone who buys all the kit - I come from a very made do and mend background - but sometimes that is difficult to bring into business. I find that crafting and gardening are weirdly consumerist in their supplies and that can be excluding in a way that we can't even see.
So over the past six months I’ve been deliberately ensuring that the majority of activities and tutorials within the Studio Club can be done with very basic supplies.
For example, when I was working with Rachel of The Travelling Bookbinder to come up with a tutorial that forms part of the Autumn A Seasonal Way course it was very important to me that we had something that could be initially made with a piece of A4 paper.
You can see from the photos that she created something very beautiful.
All you need for the majority of activities that we do in the Studio Club is a kitchen table and access to some sort of green space such as a park.
For the same reasons I don’t allow shopping links in the main forum and I never try and sell stuff, or set things up as aspirational.
I truly believe that a slower life isn't something you can buy - I try and honour that within the Club.


When a snail mail project started up independently I was whooping round the kitchen, when people started swapping seeds and tickets and book recommendations I was punching the air.
The hard won, old school forum that I had created within the website had become properly social, community minded, a place of belonging. Without all the noise or judgement of Facebook.

This is all still in progress - every week I learn a little more - it is in many ways a co-creation with Studio Club members. But I believe that here we have the opportunity to create a completely new kind of business, something wonderful, something both nourishing and transformational.

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Sharon Stanley

I love this and am giddy to make something with you and Rachel…her book is enchanting. Use what you have is a wonderful way to live.

Snapdragon social

Stillness is such a difficult skill to acquire.  I suspect that so much of the rushing about that we do is simply an attempt to avoid being still.
For if we stopped, paid attention to ourselves, to the world around us, let everything sink in - well that might be very scary.
But I do think it is the most important skill - a five minute pause, a checking in.  I'm not talking about meditation here - nothing as formal as that - just a stilling and listening and paying attention. Appreciation, recognition, renewal.
It is something that I am very bad at by nature - but I have been taking lessons from Dixie. 

For if a spaniel can relax into stillness, nosing into a shaft of sunshine, then I'm sure I can.
Teasel isn't quite there yet.

#aseasonalway #springerspaniel #springerspanielsofinstagram #slowlivingforlife #lessonsfromdogs #bringyourdogtowork #storiesoftheeveryday
One thing that gardening teaches you year on year is that so much is beyond your control. Some things will thrive, others won’t, and mostly it will be nothing to do with anything you’ve done. 
Some years will be great for one crop, terrible for another. This is a great year for garlic here, awful for beans. 

It’s the same with business - a lot of things happen that are due to the ‘weather’ of the world. We can pivot and turn, change our tactics, Google ‘how to make reels’ and so on - but we can also choose to embrace and lean into what is working well. 

My Friday letter today is about social media and all the ways I’ve used to connect with people over the past 21 years - if you fancy a read you can sign up in my profile. 

And in the meantime I’d love to know what’s growing well for you. Or indeed, what has been a disaster! 

#theartofslowliving #livethelittlethings #nothingisordinary #natureandnourish #embracingaslowerlife #aseasonalway #seekthesimplicity #scotlandsgardens #growyourownfood #cornersofmyworld #greenthumb #rusticgamesttong #cornersofmyworld #simpleandstill #vintagegreenhouse
Each year I have a personal project running.  Something just for me. Something that allows me to experiment and play. 
The first year that I became obsessed with using the plants here to dye textiles - back in 2019 - it was twelve skeins of a raw slubby silk yarn that I  had been hoarding for decades. They became a patchwork cable blanket that now sits on the back of the sofa.
In 2020 it was double knitting yarns, in dozens of colours, knitted into a stripy jumper to keep me cosy in the Studio.
Last year I dyed linens and am gradually making them into patchworks and appliqués - many I am squirrelling away for a project that I may or may not ever begin.
This year I am using mini skeins - in an attempt to keep it more manageable - and exploring the differences in colour caused by the pH of the original extraction. 
There are four skeins for each plant, two for neutral extraction, two for alkali - with one of each pair being dipped in iron to 'sadden' the colour.
If science had been like this at school I might have paid more attention . . . .

#botanicaldye #alchemy #growyourowncolour #gameoftones #plantdyed #naturallydyedwool #plantdyersofinstagram #craftwithconscience
#shadesofnature #extractedfromnature #inspiredbynaturesbeauty #plantdyedyarn #naturaldyedyarn #foragedcolour
This is a tomato salad that was inspired by one I ate a few years ago in a cafe in Mingun, Myanmar,
There it was mainly made with green tomatoes, sharp against the shrimp powder.
In Myanmar the military junta have begun to execute activists arrested after the coup in February 2021. The brutality and violence continue, the quashing of democracy, the corruption. 

11,759 people, arrested after the coup, remain in detention, 78 people, including two children, have been sentenced to death.
You won't usually find much out about Myanmar in the 'fed to you' media, but this week there has been reporting and a Dispatches programme about mass killings  was on Channel 4 on Monday.  The Guardian has consistently been the newspaper reporting most on the aftermath of the coup and you can also follow hashtags like #whatishappeninginmyamar here. 
There may seem little we can actively do about the horrors in the world, but people involved always say that what matters is knowing that people care, bear witness and don’t simply forget when the news cycle moves on.
We always have a slight breeze here - a blessing as it stops the midges flying.
It often gets up at night after a warm day, seeming to breathe its way round corners. 
If you walk through the garden in the evening at the moment, the scent of Lilium regale drifts about you in eddies of spice.

#simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #floralstories #allthingsbotanical #underthefloralspell #livethelittlethings #thehappynow #ihavethisthingwithflowers #moodforfloral #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife #aflowerfilledlife
The more I travel down this road the more I realise that deciding how you live, which values you honour, what you will prioritise all have to be deliberately chosen. 
You can’t just drift into a slower, more intentional life. 
You can’t buy it. 
You have to make a commitment to actually live it. 
And that’s not always easy. 
It is why I go to events like last weekend’s summer camp @thegoodlifesoc . 
It is also why I surround myself with a supportive community where my choices don’t seem weird.

It is why my to do list today has sitting with a coffee taking in the swoony scent of the sweet peas on it. 

#howihueit #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #floralstories #allthingsbotanical #livethelittlethings #thehappynow #ihavethisthingwithflowers #moodforfloral #cornersofmyhome #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife #aflowerfilledlife
This is the actual physical Studio.
It is a little cabin between meadow and wood - a space for creativity and connection a space that I deliberately and intentionally worked towards for a number of years.  There is a sunny deck looking onto trees for the summer, a wood burning stove for the winter.
The Studio is also another thing - it is a club of amazing people who are intentionally prioritising their creativity and connection to the natural world. 
It is a community of great humour, support and inspiration - the best thing that I have ever had a hand in.
The Studio Club is closed to new members at the moment and the doors will open to new members again on the Autumn Equinox. 

I'm currently working with @fbarrows, who is providing a gentle and encouraging outside eye, as I decide on what we will be doing in the club over the next six months.
I've been surveying all the members to find out exactly what it is they enjoy most, what they feel I could do better. 

In this week’s Friday letter I've included a link to a short survey, because I  think it would also be useful to know what people who follow me, but are not members, feel about these things. 
If you get it, it would help me so much if you could take a minute to fill it out - there are only five questions and there is also a bribe . . . .

#slowlivingforlife #simplelife #whereiwork #simpleandslow #creativelifehappylife
The more we actively take time to pause, to sit still and watch, the more we see. 
My Friday Letter this week is all about taking advantage of some unwanted early wakening and starting to use the binoculars which have been hanging on the coat rail for eighteen months.
Twenty minutes with a cup of tea, the binoculars and a lawn full of early birds and their worms.


About Snapdragon Life

In the Studio Club I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

Find out more about The Studio Club