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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.

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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.

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