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Journal

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.

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Snapdragon social

It is my birthday today and I intend to spend most of the day in the garden. 
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There are a couple of orders to send out and some seedlings to drop off, but then it will just be me and this little menace pottering around the vegetable patch and putting seedlings in the ground (and hopefully not digging them up).
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Then I will be away from the main Instagram feed for a couple of weeks. 
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I will still pop up from time to time in the Studio Club stories feed, but otherwise I'll be on a social media break.

📷 @katgoldin 

#momentslikethese
#the_gentle_manifesto
#daysofsmallthings
#natureandnourish
#aseasonalway
#daysofsimpleandslow
#ournaturedays
#aquietmoment
#pocketsofslow
#thesweetlifeunscripted
#folkandstory
#slowliving #mindfulgardening
My elder daughter Zoë asked for a stripy jumper knitted with wool dyed from the garden.
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These are the finished skeins - currently curing in the studio - dyed with sweet cicely, dock, bay, birch and nettle.
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In a month they will be ready to knit with.
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The slowest of slow fashion.

#slowstitching #slowfashion #naturaldyeing #foragedcolour #foragedcolor #naturaldyersofinstagram #sustainablemaking #sustainablecraft #plantdyedyarn #plantdyes
I find that, unless I have a particular time set aside for doing something I often simply don’t get around to it.

Even when that thing takes half an hour, even when I really want to do it. 

So this weekend, in the Studio Club, we set aside some time to start making a balm from daisies. 
I videoed myself as I went along and was there to answer questions. 

It made me realise that it’s actually quite difficult to see from the outside all the things that go on in the Club week to week. 

So I’ve decided to send an extra email every month , just to the people on the waiting list, giving a access to something that is usually members only. 

If you’ve been wondering whether the Studio Club is for you, you can join the waiting list via my profile. 

The next opening is in August. 

#sustainablemaking #slowliving #seasonalhome #daisybalm #herbalife #startwhereyouare #
Kat Goldin came round for a cup of tea and a natter last week - and took this photo of me for the next edition of A Seasonal Way.
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I'm posting it today because it shows off the dress that I am inordinately proud of having knitted! 

The bodice is the Deren cardigan by @jacquelinecieslak and the skirt just flares out from that into a mid calf twirl. 
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My pride is in the keeping going with the knitting . . . and in eventually using up some of the cones of wool silk yarn that I bought from a mill closure in 1984.

📷 @katgoldin 

#derensweater #derenpullover #jacquelineceislak #embodycapsulecollection #memademay2022 #memademay #memademayplus #memade2022 #sustainablefashion #seasonalhome
A week in dyes - recycled cotton threads from the dye pots, sorted, labelled and curing in the Studio.
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From left to right
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Sweet Cicely and iron
Bloody dock
Bay and bloody dock
Bay and iron
Sweet Cicely and bloody dock,
Sweet Cicely

This year I’m exploring layering up colours and creating depth and also trying to work out how the base effects colour. 

#botanicaldye #alchemy #growyourowncolour #gameoftones #plantdyed #naturallydyedwool #plantdyersofinstagram #craftwithconscience
#shadesofnature #extractedfromnature #inspiredbynaturesbeauty
#slowstitching #sustainablemaking #foragedcolour
I picked this Black hero tulip when it fell down in the wind and put it so the evening light could shine through the petals - for unlit it looks a little undefined, a little absent, as many dark flowers do.
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Then as I took this photo it reminded me of the art nouveau drawings of Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh - the willowy bend, the swoop of the curved base, the full head.
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Now I find myself speaking to it as I pass.

#howihueit #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #tulipblackhero #windowsillwednesday #ihaveathingwithwindows #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #floralstories #allthingsbotanical #underthefloralspell #slowfloralstyle #petalsandprops #nestandflourish #livethelittlethings #thehappynow #ihavethisthingwithflowers #moodforfloral #cornersofmyhome #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife #aflowerfilledlife
It is warm enough to have the doors to the dye deck open again - this week there are dock, sweet cicely, bay and nettle in the dye pots, a shuffling around as they steep and simmer.
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Today I shall be writing up my initial results for dyeing with bloody dock (rumex sanguineus) for a Studio Club blog. 

I love having that space to put up progress reports - and the report is  very much in progress as the colours on wool and cotton were radically different - so members can follow along with my experiments.
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Doors close to the Studio Club tomorrow - and the next intake of new members will be in August. If you fancy a summer of seasonal inspiration and slow living then you can find out more and join at www.snapdragonlife.com

📷 @katgoldin 

#mystudio #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #allthingsbotanical #mindfulsewing #foragedcolour #nestandflourish #livethelittlethings #thehappynow  #plantdyersofinstagram #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife
I wrote a letter to the new Studio Club members yesterday. 

It was all about Euan’s Granny, and what she said to me when I was a stressed thirty year old. 

It was about what I thought she meant at the time and what I realise she meant now. (The letter actually goes out tomorrow morning so don’t worry if you haven’t got it 😂)

Then I took this photo of tulips at the ends of the vegetable beds and I remembered that at the time I was receiving the grandmotherly advice was also the year that I grew striped tulips for the first time. It was in my back garden in Old Kilpatrick and I took a bunch through for her. 

When we look back there is often such rhythm to our lives. 

#growyourownflowers #slowliving #cornersofmygarden #slowflowers #aseasonalway
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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.

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