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The Studio Club - Roots and Wings

brambles at sunset

Somewhere, as a society, we lost our roots. We became adrift from the natural world.

I don't know when it was - the beginning of agriculture? the enclosures? the industrial revolution?

I don't know what is to blame - the education system? the financial system? consumerism? capitalism?

I've heard all these and more - but actually I don't think it really matters.

What matters is that we feel our way back, step by step, moment by moment, until we feel we belong again. Deeply belong. Until we feel our roots grow back.

This is what the Studio Club is - an attempt to help us all settle back into the seasons, into making things with our hands, watching things grow, eating well, celebrating the world in all its seasons.

It isn't a course to be completed or a programme to follow - there are no musts or homework or things that need to be completed. You will not find any productivity hacks or ambitious plans.

Instead it is a series of gentle resources that can be picked up and put down, all carefully designed to gradually settle you back into being part of the seasons.

  • At the heart of the club is a beautifully illustrated monthly e-magazine. It is based on my life, lived here in the middle of rural Scotland. It covers what I am doing in the garden, what natural dyes I am collecting and using, what seasonal recipes I am loving, what books are on my bedside table. There are articles on natural history (for November I am writing about the amazing, quite mind boggling, world of lichens) and profiles of people who are doing amazing and inspirationally joyful things in the world. It is a fifteen to twenty minute read that sets you up for the month.
  • There is also a series of e-courses is published through the year - natural dyeing, foraging, herbal recipes, growing cut flowers, decorative mending, rewilding your garden. They are all topics that combine learning about things with some actual doing - if you've ever fancied having a go at something and not known where to begin, these are for you. They get stored in the Club Library and are yours to keep forever.
  • Supplies for most things used in the e-courses are sold in the shop and I use my bulk buying ability to supply these at a lower price to Studio Club Members - so a little like a co-op, but I package it all up prettily. There are flower and vegetable seeds that will take you through the year, craft and dye supplies, jars, tins and vintage fabrics.
  • I run a private Facebook group for all Studio Club Members - this allows me to share extra things, links, videos, explanations - it also allows me to answer questions that come up frequently. There is a genuine community building up there, so it allows things like seed swaps to flourish and for people to share their skills and experience and cheer each other on. For people who don't use Facebook, for whatever reason, I can also tag Studio Club Members as my 'close friends' on Instagram and share some of the extras on stories there.

My aim with the Studio Club is to gently guide people into the seasons, to encourage them to step away from the hustle filled world of competition and perfection for a bit, to enter into something more calm, gentle and joyous.

We all know this is a difficult and anxious time to be living through, and I believe that connecting with nature in a deliberate way can help us all, giving us solace, giving us courage, allowing us to become both rooted, and with wings.

There are three ways to become a member of the Studio Club - arranged so that cost is not a barrier - you can find out about what is included and how to join here.


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I am a bit of a womble.  My Studio is a layering of things that have been found, things that have been saved, things that have been given to me - I like to be surrounded by a bit of history. ⁠⠀
I am known as an avid skip diver so people kindly keep me things.  This weekend I am off to pick up 13 sash windows rescued from a skip.⁠⠀
This is my dye cupboard - the mordants and other powders, the piles of fabrics and yarns, my newly started record book and the glue to paste the swatches in.⁠⠀
It has had a hard life - the back is patched with hinges as plates, there are many, many layers of paint and a door has gone missing along the way.  It is perfect.⁠⠀
Back when I grew flowers commercially the area that is now ‘the orchardy bit’ was rows and rows of spring bulbs.⁠ In the years where the deer didn’t eat the tulips they looked magnificent, stripe upon stripe of pure pigment. ⠀
When I turned my back on growing for money, we simply took out the beds and levelled it, turning it back to grass.⁠⠀
The tulips quickly gave up - never brilliantly perennial here anyway, they took the opportunity to fade out fast.⁠ Well if you don’t want us . . . ⠀
The narcissi loved it though and every year appeared back in their serried rows through the grass. ⁠There was something disturbingly grave like about them.
My planting  ever since has all been an attempt to disguise that - feathering the edges, making little islands, trying to make it all look haphazard.⁠⠀
Gradually it is working - this is the edge of what would have been a bed of Narcissi geranium (best vase life, along with best scent) - now happily interspersed with a pheasants eye and a little lemon coloured one I have lost the name of.
And the hedges beginning to vibrate with that gloriously specific spring green.
This week has been about experimenting.⁠⠀
Experimenting with all the ways to dye with daffodils, experimenting with the new e-course part of my website, experimenting with shooting and editing videos on my phone.⁠⠀
My business hero is @sethgodin and his mantra is 'ship it' - a way of saying that the best way to learn is to make things and get them out in front of people before they are polished and 'perfect'.⁠⠀
So I took his advice and combined all three experiments. Today's newsletters will have links to a free e-course all about dyeing wool with daffodils.⁠⠀
I have been absolutely amazed by the colour you get from faded daffodil flowers (see the second photo). It is a bright, yet somehow soft, golden yellow which is now adding an amazing zing to my pile of plant dyed fabrics.⁠⠀
I am prone to obsessions.  My brain hones in on topics and rabbit holes away, a constant background chatter to my life.⁠⠀
It annoys the people I live with as my world shrinks to one topic. ⠀
My camera roll shows me it is three years ago this week that I returned to natural dyeing with plants, concentrating on using only the plants growing within a couple of miles.⁠⠀
Three years of experimenting with plant after plant, three years of googling and reading obscure articles and piling up samples. ⁠three years of conversation about mordants and modifiers. ⠀
Three years is a short time in such a slow craft. A blink of an eye. ⁠⠀
But already I can see a difference in my skill.⁠⠀
This is a corner of the cupboard where I stash my fabrics and yarns building up enough for a project.  These have all been dyed this year - with barks and cones. ⁠⠀
This week I am dyeing with bright deadheaded daffodils and the golden yellows will join these soft terracottas and pinks while I dream up something to make.
I grow very few white flowers. ⁠⠀
White summer flowers tend to mark in the rain - white roses look like discarded tissues, white dahlias spot brown.  Even cosmos purity - which I do grow - goes droopy and grey in a way that the coloured versions don't.⁠⠀
The petals of spring bulbs however seem rain resistant - so I can indulge my love of white flowers and enjoy them backlit by the morning sun on the Studio window shelf.
Bright and light and pretty.
I am spending a lot of time in the greenhouse at the moment - playing an endless game of jenga with my seed trays.⁠⠀
Many of the seedlings are for the community gardens - being planted out gradually under fleece. We are biding time, taking the cautious route so that we minimise the risk of everything being wiped out by a very cold night.⁠⠀
We still have a full month of frosts to go here - little ones of -2 or 3 are manageable, an extra covering of fleece, some bricks to act like a storage heater.  Most hardy seedlings will recover from getting their tips nipped a bit.⁠⠀
Last year though we had a really cold night in mid May, when growth was going well and sappily. It blasted the blossom and killed many of my hardy veg too. Slightly too late to resow.⁠⠀
Speak to the older generation of gardeners and they all sowed and planted out much later than is the fashion today.  They perhaps had a point.
I wrote in my Friday letter this week about the sudden lifting of the uncertainty and inertia that had been dogging me for a few months.⁠⠀
It's always easier to write about these things once they are resolved - do you find that?  Once I am unstuck and lolloping along happily again, I can look at it all and not get sucked down.⁠⠀
Of course all this talk of getting going again, of new plans and exciting things . . . . it all actually means hard work. ⁠⠀
Head down, working through an actual written plan kind of hard work.  Not always my natural strength.⁠⠀
So yesterday I rearranged the studio window shelves and cleared the working table, ready for an uninterrupted start today. ⁠⠀
An attempt to keep momentum.

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