Seasonally inspired things to Learn, Make and Do

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Interview: The Bright Blooms

They say that if you want something done you should find the busiest person you can and ask them to do it. So when I wanted to talk to somebody about fitting creativity into a busy life I thought that there could be nobody better to ask the question to than Atia at The Bright Blooms.

Atia works as a GP in a busy London practice, she has primary school age children, she has an active social life, a frequently updated blog, a house that she is busy decorating, and she creates beautiful knitted and sewn clothes for herself and her daughter, documenting them as works in progress on Instagram.

We met for dinner and a chat and somehow, instead of the productivity hacks that I had expected, we diverted into the much more fascinating topic of truth and reality. We spoke about human perception, and how we see things from the outside, how we make assumptions and how our use of social media affects this. It turned out to be a conversation about how our brains fill in the gaps. For Atia’s view is that she doesn’t do more of any of these things than anyone else; she just

shares them on Instagram a few times a week and then people assume that the rest of her life behind the scenes follows the same pattern. They fill in the gaps.

And in the filling in, they forget the time given over to chores and boring things, to the banal and unphotogenic, to sleep. Her friends think she must never be at home because she is “always” at a cafe or a bookshop or a flower show, simply because they are drawn to photos of her looking happy, out and about.

People like me think that she must be “always” making things as we remember the works in progress, the sumptuous colours, the gorgeous finished shots. And this is absolutely true – if I had guessed at her knitting rate I would have had her making something every single month. Yet that is far from the reality. In 2019 Atia made 4 jumpers. That is a good number of jumpers, an impressive collection, but it is a third of my estimate. I double checked her Instagram feed and, yes, there are 4 jumpers. The jumper she wore the night we met, a slightly fluffy pale lilac lace stitch, appears in her Instagram posts several times; as yarn bought at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, as a started project, as the background to some flowers, as a work in progress, as an ‘I must finish this by my holiday’ post and as a finished garment proudly worn. The photos cover March-September, but in my brain they didn’t register as the same jumper or, if they did, I condensed the timeline to a few weeks.

It made me realise that most of the distorting nature of social media – and particularly Instagram - is in the head of the viewer not the content of the person posting. You might wonder why this is important - you might question whether it is in fact important – but I feel that in a world where so many of us spend time absorbing other people’s lives through social media it is really important to know the bias of our brains - the way we fill in, assume, make everything brighter, faster, more. Because “Brighter, Faster, More” is not sustainable in our society.

A lot of our conversation was about the throwaway and about how, even when you are making things yourself, there is a balance that needs to be made that is sustainable. This is how the topic of the four jumpers came up - “Who needs more than four jumpers a year?”. Like many people, myself included, Atia was busy trying to rationalise her store of fabrics and yarns before buying any more, to curb that instinct of buying for buying’s sake, to resist constantly storing up against imagined scarcity.

If our brains encourage us falsely to see everyone else as more productive, more talented, more ‘well jumpered’ than us, it creates an aspiration, a striving which fools us into buying into the idea of ‘more’ being better. If, on the other hand, we can recognise the warping, deliberately slow down, appreciate the truth we can see things in real time and connect instead.

We did, in the end, speak about creativity and the importance of making time for it. Atia told me how she had learned to knit from YouTube videos in the run up to her medical school finals. To me that speaks of an instinctive grasping of the way ‘hand work’ can act as a vital balance to the ‘head work’ of exams, perhaps something that has allowed her to continue to make it a priority over the years when work and family commitments have increased.

She spoke about the need to just begin things – even if there was never as much time as you would ideally need. She cuts out sewing patterns while her children do their homework – but accepts that the actual sewing will be most likely be done another day, probably when they are asleep in bed.

Tips for fitting creativity into a busy life

  1. Break up your project into lots of small steps and fit them into pockets of time in your life.

  2. Properly schedule it into your life; it may feel odd putting 'cut out dress pattern' into your diary, but things that get scheduled get done.

  3. Make sure you have all your supplies to hand – it is so easy to waste all your creative time looking for scissors or a pencil.

  4. Pack up projects into easily carried bags – have one in your bag so that you can spend waiting time being creative rather than just scrolling on your phone.

Find Atia on Instagram at @thebrightblooms and @thebrightbloomshome. She also co-hosts the un:CUT podcast.

Tags: life

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Snapdragon social

This weekend the valleys were full of mist - great screeds of it swelling up as the afternoon lengthened and the air cooled.⁠⠀
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This is a rescue horse who now lives a couple of fields down - if I happen to be passing his gate around 4, he is up  stretching his over it, looking for friendly scratches and food. ⁠⠀
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A perfect time keeper.
It doesn't take much . . . . ⁠⠀
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These stems were picked in the five minute walk from the house to the Studio.⁠⠀
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A teasel head, some rusty dock seeds, a bleached shell of columbine, bright rose hips.⁠⠀
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None looked very promising outside but indoors, tucked into test tubes, they look wonderful.⁠⠀
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As they would in bottles . . . .⁠⠀
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The rose hips are the last of the berries to go from the hedges - the birds strip everything else as soon as it gets cold, the elders and rowans first, then the haws.⁠⠀
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Inspired by their bright longevity I have ordered a small clutch of rosa moyesii 'Geranium' - with their spectacular bottle shaped hips - to make an informal hedge down by the airstream.⁠⠀
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My plan is to plant them amongst crab apples to keep back the dull green march of the Scots broom. ⁠⠀
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I have honeysuckle in mind too.⁠⠀
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This is the Studio - nestled into the dip of the valley, surrounded by wild meadow and trees.⁠⠀
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At this time of year it is a cosy den, the stove lit, the fabrics piled up around me.⁠⠀
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Today I am finishing off some large embroidered wool cushions and sending out lots of craft kits in the post.
This was taken last week when we had snow. You can see Dixie’s dachshund toy abandoned in a drift.
A winding path, a bare tree reaching up, blue sky above ribbons of mist, patches of scruffy frost in the rough grass.⁠⠀
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I have walked this road more days than not this year.⁠⠀
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It never gets old.
I said I wasn't going to make a wreath this year.⁠⠀
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But then I saw one @talenamaria made on behalf of @jamjarflowers for the @papier Instagram feed and I was smitten.  The glorious mess of the hedgerow encapsulated in a twiggy ring.⁠⠀
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The birch twigs from further down the grid were still in the hall  and I had some dried hydrangeas left over . . . .⁠⠀
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(I also say I never watch video tutorials as I get distracted too easily and find that they are often too long - but Talena's is good and short and easy to watch and follow.)
A snowy gate, photographed last week, snow piled up on rungs and branches.⁠ ⠀
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I loved how the field on the other side was completely untouched. ⠀
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A fresh sheet of paper. ⠀
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A new week. ⠀
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If you want to make a little wool tree like this one the step by step instructions are now on my website - www.snapdragonlife.com.⁠⠀
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If you want it to look exactly like this one, you can also buy a kit with all the bits to make three trees ⁠⠀
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I first made these trees for a Country Living Fair in Glasgow back in the mid 2000s - raiding my button box for the decoration and dyeing old blankets for the wool. ⁠⠀
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Sometimes I still see the trees from that generation appear on people's Christmas windowsills and it makes me very happy.
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life 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.

 

Learn more about why here

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