Last week, I visited Peckham Craft Show. I first discovered the show the previous year and eagerly followed along, and found a lot of the makers on Instagram. I had arranged to visit one of my best friends, and realised the dates worked, so we went along last Saturday. It represents many of my favourite techniques, crafts and makers, and it was a veritable feast of ceramics, textiles and paper. I was in heaven! I harbour my own secret itch to make tactile work with my hands, and this show really ignited that wish! The space itself is beautiful and light, and I loved the way the exhibits had been curated. There was an emphasis on still life, with satisfyingly styled tableaux’s and collections. There was also a heavy natural influence in the curation too- inspiration from Peckham’s history as an orchard. Here are some of my favourites in the show.Read More
Hannah here: Christmas time is but a short hop, skip and jump around the corner, so despite the fact that it's still technically November *whispers* we're going for it with the Christmas posts. If like me, it feels like its jumped out of nowhere with a bellowing ‘Boo’, you may appreciate some of the ideas we’ve come up with below to simply things a little.
I love Christmas more and more as I get older, in a strange adult/child reversal. But I hate what a god-awful consumer fest it has become. I read somewhere that apparently over 3 million brits are still paying off last Christmas. Whaaaat?! But it's not hard to see why- It’s so easy to be overwhelmed with gift guides and wish lists, adverts telling you to BUY MORE, party dress buying guides, and essential holiday makeup ideas, and, and, and…. and before you know it you’ve spent hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds buying gifts for everyone, new outfits, Christmas films, stocking fillers and food. But it doesn’t have to be this way, I feel so so sure of it!
Davina and I were talking last month and both felt that surely, if we focus on celebrating the season- the solstice, the frost and the cold, the fires that warm us…if we try to decorate simply and give thoughtfully…. if we focus on the giving, rather than the receiving….then maybe those things will help us to reconnect to what Christmas is about- love, grace, giving, family and community. Christmas shouldn’t mean being totally strung out, in dept, and a planet struggling with the huge influx of unwanted presents, wrapping and food waste festering in landfill.
To begin, here are 9 ideas to have a thrifty, low consuming Christmas! Please please join in below in the comments if you have any more ideas!
Christmas is a horrible time for some people for all sorts of reasons. Consider donating money or time to a homelessness charity (or one of your choice) We are currently selling tons of stuff on eBay and have opted to give 10% of everything we sell to a charity that provides a meal for a family struggling to make ends meet in the UK. You could donate to the Big Issue or contact your local food bank and offer tocollect donations or help pack boxes (we're also planning on doing this this year). Time Bank has tons more ideas too.
I am coming to realise that kids don’t need that many toys at all. In fact too much stuff can be damaging, and the planet certainly doesn’t need all the plastic fumes clogging up the ozone layer, so think about alternatives (we have a post coming up to help with that!)
Bypass the stocking.
I know, I know, Not only should you avoid toys, you should deprive your kids of a stocking too! Baaaah humbug. But most of those pound shop stocking fillers end up in landfill anyway. Alternatively, wrap small but useful things, or little parcels of food. We arent doing a stocking but my 2 year is going to be utterly delighted to unwrap mini pats of butter and cream cheese (err, yeah. she loves butter), boxes of raisins, buttons, individual crayons and pencils and individual socks!
Buy fewer presents!
”Have an “I won’t if you won’t” agreement with friends and family and save money and hassle. We have done this with my family this year and I feel light as a feather. No stress! Or set up a secret santa for friends and family, like we have done with Dave’s family this year.
If friends and family are still keen to buy you or your kids presents, choose one big thing and ask for contributions toward it: driving lessons, a bike etc, a spa day. Patchwork Present offer a service to help with just that. We’re using them this year for Frankie’s present.
Make, make make
Make, rather than buy presents, wherever possible, or buy second hand. Chutneys and jams make lovely, thrifty presents. We made tons of Seville orange marmalade in January which we saved for Christmas. (organised or what? eh, eh?) Make your own simple cards printed on to recycled paper. You can use the image at the top of the post to create Christmas cards if you'd like! An early gift from us to you. Or send it as an e-card/ newsletter instead.
They are tax-evading, union-busting bullies; undercutting and consequently bankrupting tons of independent companies. Those next day delivery deals are tempting I know. And I’m not perfect. But I’ve found that eBay has most of what Amazon has.
Focus on the season
Focus on the seasonal delights of Christmas- the winter solstice, evergreens, candle light, log fires, Jack frost. Thats where the real magic is, creating traditions around those things.
Use recycled wrapping
Use fabric wrapping paper from your stash, if you can. Or use old newspaper, tarted up with string or wool or fancy gift tags. Even if you have to buy the fabric, it’s better than wasting paper as the fabric can be re-used year after year.
Buy or rent a living tree
Our tree is waiting for us in the garden as we bought a small potted tree last year that we have managed to keep alive. An essentially free tree! Alternatively there are companies all over the UK that offer the option of renting a living tree, do an internet search for a company near you.
As I have mentioned (/whinged on about) in the last couple of blog posts, I’m in a bit of a busy, stressful time, so one of my key drivers is saving time, as well as money. The emphasis for me is on thriftiness, thoughtfulness and simplicity. We’ll be building on each of these themes in the coming weeks, with help from some lovely friends; simple natural decorating ideas, alternative gift ideas, tutorials and some freebies too, so watch this space.
I hope you'll allow me to wish you a rather early, yet hearty, Happy Christmas! We'll still be posting our normal parenting and adventure posts in the midst of Christmas fest (I still have lots more of our trip to share with you all), so you're catered for if you're not that into Christmas!
We are also thrilled to be working with illustrator Emilie Maguin on a few projects, including the wonderful Christmas poster/ free printable christmas card at the top of the post. This is for personal use only; a little gift from us to you! We love her work so much, check out her portfolio here and shop here and watch out for her in upcoming posts. Thanks so much Emilie.
Following our Anima Rising post this week, I thought it was time to share why we moved house again, because some of it is connected to what Harper and Jesse talk about, which is probably why it resonated so deeply with me. An unholy muddle of crap came howling toward us just before we left for our 5 week camping trip in August which eventually led to us moving all of our belongings into storage. We saved a few months rent by doing this, but added a whole lot of upheaval and unsettledness. We didn't realise it at the time but this eventually ended up leading to some very good things. All clouds, etc.
Why we decided to downsize
Our trip gave us so much, but the best thing was the talking time. When you have night after night round the fire, with no telly, you get some gooood talking done. And boy, we covered everything. Brilliance of current baby, Ponderances regarding future babies. Hopes and dreams for our careers and families. Favourite albums of all time, the merits of barbecued fish vs oven baked fish, the tin foil shiny side in vs shiny side out debate, strategies to survive a Zombie apocalypse, etc etc. Our present homelessness consumed most of our conversation however, and we did a lot of reflecting on what we really wanted. Living happily in a tent for 5 weeks was actually pretty life changing. We realised so so many things during that time: that, as it turns out, you don’t need tons of STUFF around to be happy. That you don’t need that much space. That a fire, simple food and good company are all you need for an exceptional evening.
That maybe living in a more simple way permanently would be really good for us. That living in close community with others is probably really important and meets a deep human need; one that collectively we are doing a really bad job of meeting. That if we are ever ever going to afford to buy a house, and start our dream project of building a self sustaining (zombie apocalypse proof!) home, we need to re-evaluate how we spend our money and start saving some more.
So when the house next door to Dave’s sister came up for rent, we decided to go for it. It is much, much smaller than our last 3 storey 15th century mega beast of a house. It has a lot of elements in a home that I really hate, like having no entrance hall and a downstairs bathroom. And half the space of our last house, But I already love it more. Weird, huh. It has a real fire! That probably has something to do with it. And we are next door to my sister in law. And it’s brilliant, we see each other at least once a day, help with each others washing, cook for each other, share childcare. And my worries about feeling somehow claustrophobic or not having enough privacy, or not being able to argue or have sex loudly without the other hearing, have all become defunct, Because the benefits far outweigh the positives.
The other rather brilliant thing about this house is that the owners are allowing us to do a lot of work to it. They are contributing some money and we are paying the rest, and are more than happy to do so. We get to live in a really cheap house, and make it our own. Win win.
So. The work. We still have tons and tons to do to the house, but so far we have ripped up the carpets and sanded the downstairs floors (a pretty mega job!) then painted them. We have also removed a ton of wood chip and 80’s floral wallpaper, sanded skirting boards and doors. Our main job however has been getting rid of our stuff. We are really attracted to arguments about minimalism, for earth, sanity and good childhood reasons, so we are in the middle of having the most brutal of culls of our stuff. Unless it brings us deep joy or is useful, it's gone.
House progress slowed once we moved in because work has been so busy for both of us, and we aren't going to be able to spend time on house stuff again until Christmas, so in the mean time, I thought I’d share some before and during photo’s.
We ripped up the carpet then took turns hammering in all the nails (TEDIOUS). We hired a sander from a local hire company for 2 days then sanded the floors, skirting boards and some of the doors (we have more doors to do). We were going to use Woca Wood lye , the authentic Scandi floor treatment, but after testing it it didn't look right as our wood was old. It would be perfect if the wood was new however. (we are selling our barely touched Woca stuff cheaply if you want it!) We ended up using 2 coats of Ronseal Satin Ash White floor varnish and 1 coat of Ronseal clear varnish, all bought from Homebase, and we are really really pleased with the effect. It's super hard wearing, and has given us the clean, scandi look we wanted.
Next up: the walls. The house had some 80's floral wallpaper in the lounge, a room that was far too small for it. There was also wood chip in one of the upstairs rooms. We borrowed a steamer from Dave's dad, bought all the basic decorating supplies like floor coverings, brushes, rollers and trays from Homebase, and got to work, all the while with Frankie 'helping us'.
We then painted everything White. Dulux very kindly sent me some of their Satin Diamond White wall emulsion and we couldn't believe how much better it was then the cheap white paint we had used elsewhere. You need much less of it and it rolls on so beautifully. It also has a slight sheen that makes the space feel so much lighter and bigger. We subsequently went to buy some more of this paint for the rest of the house. We also painted the bottom half of the downstairs grey, using Frogtape. We love our grey bottom half! ;)
And that leaves us where we are now, with some pretty area's, but still surrounded by boxes of stuff we're selling and giving away, and most of the work yet to be finished. It is incredibly exciting to do a house up, something I've wanted to for years, and I always enjoy feathering our nest, and displaying little treasures and meaningful trinkets. We cant wait to finish it, but we need to wait until we're both less busy. The following rooms will look very different once they're completely finished; less stuff, more plants, a bit of art on the walls, etc.
These rooms are definitely not the polished, de-cluttered rooms they will be, but this is real life, and many of you have asked to see some photo's. We'll get there eventually! Having a messy, cluttered, unfinished house is really difficult for me as it makes my brain feel messy and cluttered and unfinished, (ugh) so as each box is unpacked, each bin bag taken to the charity shop, (and each work deadline met!) my head feels better too.
So that's us. Decluttering, minimising, healing, nesting, pondering.
P.S I'll have a vintage stall at the Faversham Vintage and Antique Market (it's a really really good market- less than an hour from Kings Cross, and near the sea and the countryside- you Londonders could make a day of it?!) on Sunday 6th December if you want to buy my wares (cheaply!). There'll be some beautiful stuff on the stall, much of which I still love but just no longer have the space to keep it.
This post was in collaboration with Homebase and Dulux.
Ok, here is the next instalment of my posts that are going to make you want to drop everything and re-evaluate your whole life (The Fore a Feast one yesterday about the joys of coastal living and foraging being the first) Last night, I saw an intriguing Facebook update from Amelia (of Amelia’s Magazine), and subsequently stumbled some photo's of these super cool girls travelling around America. “Huh. Cool looking road trip. Great pics” I thought. I then discovered that they were visiting alternative living communities as part of a documentary project, and was further drawn in, and learned that what they found has given them a whole new purpose; to spread the message that another world is possible and try to get people on board. I was fully ignore-the-work-and-washing-up immersed by then. Their message is infectious and hopeful , one of those shake you to the roots sort of messages. Well it is at least for people like me who dream of these sorts of adventures, of living life differently. We got chatting over email and I persuaded them to answer some questions for the blog, which they have done so with incredible grace.
Oh my. I just feel so much love for this project; their focus on feminine energy, living lightly, on kindness. Their take on beauty and fashion, their sense of urgency for change…. It has just blown me away.
Over to them.
Can you introduce yourselves to us?
We are Jessica Eve Watkins & Harper Cowan – best friend sister soul mates for the past seven years, and co-creators of Anima Rising.
What is Anima Rising?
We make and curate art together under the umbrella of Anima Rising. It’s our production company, for lack of a better word, and the name comes from one of our favourite Joni Mitchell songs, Don't Interrupt the Sorrow. Also from the hope that a rise in Anima (feminine energy) will heal the world.
And what does this totally dreamy and amazing looking road trip you’ve been on have to do with it?!
We have been on this totally dreamy road trip since April, visiting and filming at intentional communities, eco-villages, and community-oriented farms on America’s East Coast, making our first documentary, our baby, Ways Of Living.
You mentioned the phrase ‘intentional living’. I like the sound of it. What is it?! Do we really need it? And...what if we quite like our central heating and car and weekly shops at Tesco?
Harper: To me, alternative living mostly has to do with getting back in touch with the values that we all know are more important than the ones our society has been trying to instil in us. Living that is alternative to the mainstream and means practicing awareness – of your actions and their effects & repercussions, and taking responsibility for them. We can’t just turn a blind eye to more stuff, more money, more cars, more competition – we need to strive to meet our potential as enlightened beings, practicing kindness and empathy. And yes, we really need it because the earth’s resources are finite and we are accelerating towards a brick wall. Also because it is the only cure to the loneliness, purposelessness and isolation people are feeling. To me an “alternative” living doesn’t feel too far out, it feels like a contemporary way in which we would all be lucky to get to live – with more connection, kindness, and fulfilment.
Ok, lots of us would love to spend months travelling around alternative living communities but many of us are anchored, or stuck in our jobs and houses- with varying degrees of happiness. What can those of us in our houses and with our jobs and families learn from what you’ve experienced? How can we channel some 'intentional living' into our lives?
Harper: First off I would say, shake off the shackles! Often we’re just making excuses for why we can’t do the things we want to do, because we’re actually comfortable and think we feel safer in our unhappiness than exploring the unknown. You shouldn’t stay in a situation that genuinely makes you unhappy, we have met lots of people on our travels who left safe situations because they were unfulfilling. It’s difficult, but not impossible! That being said – there is plenty that people can do to help from their houses and their jobs. I think most important is building community - get to know your neighbours, organise pot lucks in your neighbourhood, treat everyone the way you would like to be treated, thank people for what they do for you, learn where your food comes from, grow your own if you can, start a community garden, vote with your dollar, support your local farmers at the farmers market. Trade time and energy with people instead of money – if they babysit for you, water their plants for them when they’re away, if they cook you dinner one night, help paint a room for them, etc. Be nicer than you feel. I think the best thing we can do right now is focus on unifying, strengthening & building our local communities. Living in community is very challenging, but so rewarding and important. That’s what I would tell people who want to channel some alternative living into their daily lives, build community.
Jesse: Be kind. You can do that anywhere. It's so simple, but somehow so hard. It's very easy to assume someone's animosity is directly aimed at you - we're all so paranoid and insecure about the reactions of others. We walk around feeling so separate. But the truth is, for the most part, we are all so scared. We are reactionary because of the fearful zone we operate from. When I feel true love in my heart, I have enough awareness on the spot to recognise another is feeling anxious or even terrified, and a loving gesture or inclusive smile can melt solid iron walls between us. We are all connected to the source, we are all a total part of one another, and kindness extended to another is like a beam shone on yourself.
Do you feel more in tune with the seasons after living so closely with nature? In what ways?
Jesse: Yesterday, I helped a bunch of people stack several truck-loads of logs into a wood pile, in preparation for a Blue Ridge Mountain winter. I've been needing to work on my laptop for weeks, and as I hugged some mossy blocks to my chest this smell hit my nostrils that completely awakened my heart. It was the smell of forest, and organic life. A searing happiness punched me in that moment, and I felt a profound purposefulness. I thought, 'Even if nothing else, there is always this.'
Harper: Definitely. We’ve done more sleeping outside & camping this trip than I ever have in my life. Also eating the food that people have grown themselves. Books like Modern Pagan: How to Live a Natural Lifestyle in the 21st Centuryby Brian Day are a great inspiration. Stuff that feels like it should be common sense (but isn’t!) – eating with the seasons. We shouldn’t be eating strawberries in winter, we shouldn’t be eating mangos if mangos don’t grow where we live. I think it comes back to awareness, paying more attention to the world around you, noticing what kind of day it is, what trees are flowering, what the animals around you are doing, how you’re feeling!
Yes! I feel the need to live more simply, more in tune with the passing of the seasons, more respectfully and more lovingly, very deeply. I think about the (currently quite gloomy) fate of this planet all the time. But sometimes it can be really overwhelming to see how sort of unconscious people are (how I am sometimes!) about their/our living and eating habits, our desire to consume. What can we do about it?! Can one persons actions really make that much difference?! (whoa that got a bit deep!)
Harper: I agree that is seems like an uphill climb; it can be very depressing and seem pointless. I also believe that one person can have a great effect, because it ripples out. Maybe you inspire just one other person, and they in turn teach someone else.
We can also try to take things day by day - so ok, maybe I’m not saving the world today, I don’t feel sure of what the sea levels will look like in 2050, or our carbon emissions - but I can be as kind and thoughtful and loving as I can. I can be vulnerable and gentle, and try my best to learn from the inspiring people around me, and to teach the lessons that I’ve learned are important.
Jesse: One reason we are so slow to create change in this world is precisely because we don't believe our humble actions can make a difference. I often forget that I have the power to affect others, but of course I affect them with every single thing I do, because we all do. We are inter-connected, it's our nature. The most empowering thing is to remember it all comes down to your individual action - not that of the government or your neighbour. If you wait for them, you'll be waiting forever. You can take responsibility for your own heart, and make a huge difference. The rest will follow when they're ready.
I am totally digging this talk of feminine energy. You also have an awesome section on your website, and on your Pinterest boards about Wild Women. YES. Can you explain more?
Harper: We are very interested in feminine energy – using traits like creativity, intuition, empathy, nurturing, collaboration. It is our hope that the world can be healed through a rise in feminine energy amongst men and women. On Wild Women we hope to document creative people who are using these feminine qualities in their work. We are also definitely interested in exploring womanhood/femininity – not in being a new kind of woman, because women have always been amazing, but in helping to continue exemplifying different expectations of women than those that are propagated by the mainstream media. Finding our inner powerful goddesses!
Jesse: I am so fucking elated to be a woman. Women are magical, mystical, powerful, intuitive Goddesses. Exploring this unfolding realisation in myself and others is like discovering an unstoppable vitality that has been suppressed and restrained for hundreds of years. I have denied my emotionality and strength for a long time, but these days I am waking her up, and it feels about time.
You both worked at NYLON mag, and clearly have a beautiful, creative sense of style. Whats your take on fashion and dressing nowadays? Have your recent experiences made you question things?
Jesse: Style as expression is one of the most joyful elements of life. We spend hours thrift shopping, pulling shoulder-padded jackets and corduroy overalls out of charity bins. We never wash them either, which is kind of gross. Style for the sake of someone other than yourself is where things get murky - you gotta wear it because you love it and it communicates something about you to the world. Getting dressed is so fun when it's about speaking your mind.
Harper: I do enjoy clothes, we love thrift shopping and exchanging and sharing clothes. I enjoy having hair – that’s for sure! I never got too in to makeup and I’m glad, because now I feel very wary of putting weird chemically substances that I couldn’t make myself on to my delicate face skin.
Where are you now and whats next? How are you going to spread your totally inspiring and infectious message?
Harper: Right now we are doing an artist residency at a hippie commune in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. There’s about twelve of us living together on a beautiful 60 acre piece of land. Our goal is to have the film, Ways of Living, edited by Spring 2015, and ready for release. We want to spread our message through video, through music, through writing, through teaching and talking and all kinds of art.
Jesse: The creating won't stop, because Anima Rising is rooted so deeply within ourselves and our passions. The more we learn about the consciousness evolving out in the world, the more adamant I am to remain stuck in. In personal projects, I have an album to record early next year, and a novel to write after that. If it wasn't so fun, I'd be exhausted. As Anais Nin said, 'Had I not created my whole world, I would certainly have died in other people's.'
If there was one thing, one message you wanted to ‘stick’ in peoples mind about what you’ve seen and learned, what would it be?
Jesse: Believing in nature's magic, and trusting in the earth to provide for us, is the cleverest thing you can do. Every single thing we need is right there for us, right now. An abundance of nourishment, medicine, warmth, and materials - more than we could ever use. We've just forgotten to trust it.
Harper: Do your research, find your role models, and once you’ve decided what you really think is GOOD, do that! Let’s all try to be the best people we can be, if there’s something you think needs to happen to heal the world and it isn’t happening, then make it happen! The commitment to little changes makes a big difference. Even if just you don’t ever use a plastic shopping bag again, or never eat meat again, that’s an important effort. “Love is always the appropriate reaction” – that’s some graffiti Jess & I saw on the Williamsburg Bridge about 5 years ago, it’s true, just love more, bigger, stronger – more love.
Our indiegogo: (there's only 1 DAY left)
Our instagram: /animarisingproductions
THANK YOU SO MUCH GUYS! So so much to think on and be inspired by.
They only have 1 more day to reach their Indigogo target to raise enough money to produce their film of the trip and share their message with the world! Lets help them. Lets also help to spread the world about these amazing women; on social media or otherwise.
So, what do you reckon? Do you, like me, dream of road tripping America one day? Have you been able to incorporate any ways of living intentionally into your daily lives?
Hannah here: Louisiana was many things, but none of them were expected. Firstly it's miles out of the centre of town, in a sleepy town on the cliffs above the sea. Secondly, it is not, as I incorrectly presumed, a huge Tate Modern sort of building, but an old house that has been extended and extended over the years, the result being a delightfully higgeldy piggeldy mish-mash of buildings from the 1800's, the 60's and the 00's. Despite being quite crowded at times, it is a calm, peaceful place, charged with a gentle creative spirit. I didn't want to leave. Our arrival coincided marvellously with the opening day of a show from one of my favourite artists- Olafur Eliasson. I have seen quite a few exhibitions of his work but this was by far my favourite. River bed was both stark and beautiful, empty and alive. Acutely sensory and immersive. The physical process of walking is brought into focus, as you traverse rocky terrain and step over the 'river'. "Model Room" blew our minds however. It is an insight into the artists studio, and is, quite simply, geometric, nerdy heaven. My mister and I were wide eyed with delight.
Louisiana has the most amazing kids section over three floors. Frankie sat for almost an hour painting with watercolours. It also has an enormous hidden slide in the woods. Frankie was a little afraid and my butt wouldn't fit on it (I did try) but, so awesome. The sculpture garden has works from some of my favourite artists, and the permanent collection had me by the heart strings too. I wanted to melt into the Asger Jorn paintings and seeing the Alexander Calder sculpture swaying in the wind was mesmerising. (If you hover over the pictures, the artists name should appear) Lastly, on the way out of the museum, Frankie and I were doing a 'leaving the museum' dance to distract from a toddler meltdown when I noticed someone watching us. It was Maggie Gylenhall and when I realised who she was, I just smiled in a slightly frozen, mad way at her. I mean, come on. Maggie Gylenhall! Apparently Margaret Attwood was there too but I didn't see her. See? The perfect place.