No, We Don't Need to Quit Social Media

A lot of energy is spent by people on social media, complaining about social media. Have you noticed this? We fight algorithms that don’t help us grow a business. We shout at one another for not living to an unwritten standard that only we define the parameters for. We read meaning into tweets simply not directed at us. We feel bruised by perfection but don’t want to feel miserable at all the reality being shared either. We detox, delete apps, take time out, make rules and lists and goodness me, don’t we all like a group message safe from prying eyes?

And yet, I adore being online.

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Life Through a Lens

There's been a few posts that I've shared lately on Instagram that really caught people's attention and the comments and double clicks flowed in. 

I can see why. I really can. 

A beautiful life right? And we all know the camera never lies. 

Or does it? I now live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth and I'm truly honoured to live here. There honestly isn't a day that goes by where I don't feel grateful as we shoo pheasants out the way of the car and collect little pieces of wool trapped on fences, left behind by a flock we've watched grow and thrive. It's all so idyllic in many ways. 

And yet...

I can't sell a lie. This isn't an easy life. What my camera didn't show this week was the moments that nearly brought me to my knees. Moments like the gulp that I choked back when my daughter gathered her soft toys and played "real families". I had to actually take a second and refocus at that one. A Brother and a Mummy and Daddy. "Just look Mummy! They're altogether and they don't have to drive to see each other!"

Mummy hit Florence and the Machine quite hard that night and took on four more projects she really can't stretch to right now let me tell you. 

These beautiful moments we share online? These are the moments when we share are our victories. I am sharing these moment time and time again as I try to assemble our life. The story of how I got here is quite a tale and one I've not found the words to share here yet. For the moment we can say that a friend saw we longed to be in the place that made my heart thud with the sound of home for the first time, and she offered me the chance to take it. I grabbed hold of that sense of home and I can assure you, I'm not letting go for all the exhaustion and power cuts you want to throw at me. I'm sharing images of sheer wonder as much for me as for a community that it inspires to chase new moments of inspiration. If I'm running to catch that dream, you can bet that I'm whooping at you all to come with me. 

blossom

I work hard to make ends meet. I get up before the sun and I work through my inbox. Tucked in there are press requests to come view our family home. I smile at the rented accommodation decor and suggest we reconvene when my life is a little more expected. This is not a life expected. That image of my daughter drinking in the landscape shows only a part of the story. It doesn't tell of her anguish as we drive away from the train station on Sundays, taking her away from her Father. It doesn't tell of the moment that he and I finally made eye contact over my right as a Mother and agreed that maybe, I needed some overdue support. We keep that one tucked close and we don't allow cameras and phones in there because that's the part we don't wish to celebrate publicly. As a family though, I can assure you we sit in those moments and we document them in our own way. 

When I see the reactions like the ones to those Instagram images shared above I feel a need to touch base to make sure people understand our situation: I am here; she is here beside me. Together, she and I are creating something beautiful together. By sharing these snapshots I hope to bring others that moment of "there's more" that fuels me as I drive us away from train stations and sit up far too late meeting deadlines. I call this blog A Playful Day because I want each person who visits here to dig into their day and find the moment that makes their hearts swell. That's why I think it is so important to touch base and say "Guys? It's just me and I'm on my knees half the time". I need you to know that I need these images sometimes too. The images are mesmerising but they're just a slice of an entire day or week. 

When we tell women their life online looks "too perfect" we are silencing their right to craft the life they wish to live and for some of us, that's the biggest threat we can bear. Yes, I do feel a sense of responsibility at contributing to the big picture of what a 'good life' should look like but can I hold all that in my hands right now? No. I can only add honesty into that mix and explain that I am celebrating victories. We're all just trying to find our way, right?

Sometimes, we need this outlet to fuel our week. I've been having a few of those sometimes lately and so I've been picking up the shiny pieces and offering them for others who need something a little more extraordinary to get them out the door and out there in life. I understand the need to be inspired and this is what I have to offer you. I give it gladly. My perfect moment was staggering to the top of that hill and drinking it all in and having her say "Mummy, these adventures are my best". You bet I'm going to share that fist pump moment and you know what? I sincerely hope mine fuels yours too because heaven knows we need that from time to time.

#makegoodfeelgood

This week I had the opportunity to write about an event for a charity I've supported for over a decade. Mind are a charity that provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. Mind campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding and I have used their services many times in my professional and personal life. (You can read the article I wrote for Mollie Makes here). 

In a year in which I said goodbye to another beautiful friend battling depression I found my thoughts once again returned to supporting Mind. This time of year can all too often leave me with the 'snowball-gathering-momentum' feeling and I know I am not alone in that. This year, Mind have created a fundraising event based on bringing people together, to craft with their Crafternoons. When interviewing Rachel Boyd, Information Manager at Mind, I was struck by the power of the online craft community. 

“Relationships with others help you to feel supported, positive and connected to the world around you, and are one of the most important things in staying mentally healthy. When it isn’t possible to see family and friends at Christmas you can stay in contact over the phone, by email, text or Skype, which can help to keep the relationships going.”

With the relocation and working out life as a single parent, a real life gathering kind of got away from me this year so I'd like to throw something out into the Internet to give a little support for those who perhaps aren't having a good time right now. 

Comforting crafting

Let's focus on a Cyber hug rather than a Cyber Sale for the Holidays. 

On Monday 7th December I would love it if you would join me and lots of others to share a positive message about our crafting. Using the hashtag #makegoodfeelgood, share an image of anything you are either currently making or something you’ve already made and love. You can share any craft from baking a cake to repairing a pair of much loved socks. When you post, it would be great if you could explain why it makes you feel good to have made it. I hope that we can remind everyone to take a little space in their busy lives to gather with friends, craft and feel good at a time that can be particularly challenging for those who suffer from mental health problems.  

yarn flat lay

If you want to link back to me @aplayfulday that would be lovely but is not essential. If you want to shout out support for Mind’s Crafternoons, that would be even better.  Any sharing and spreading of the plan beforehand is always helpful to make the ripple go a little further. Just remember to include the hashtag #makegoodfeelgood so all of us can join together online in one big crafty hug. 

If you or any of your loved ones are feeling in need of help, you can find Mind online @Mindcharity, call 0300 123 3393 or text 86463. 

15 Mins With.... The Creators of #SlowLiving_

In the last 2 podcasts, I've been exploring the theme 'Capture' and gathering stories from creatives who record and share their creativity using a rich variety of media. In exploring this word, I've thought a lot about Instagram and the many makers I've discovered thanks to community hashtags. It made sense to invite Melanie and Danielle onto the blog today to share their Slow Living Project. You can find Melanie as @geoffreyandgrace and Danielle as @hippieindisguise

My own Slow Living inspiration

My own Slow Living inspiration

Please introduce yourselves and your online spaces

Hello, I am Melanie, the mother behind the lifestyle blog Geoffrey & Grace. I wanted to create an online space that would be a home for wholehearted and creative living, as they are two things that are fundamental to how I live my life. I am a writer and maker and have a big love for photography. Along with three other makers I co-created Margot, the beach hut makery.

D: And, hello, I’m Danielle. I am a mother of two, working full-time as a government advisor, pursuing my artistic interests on the side through photography, blogging and creative collaborations. My website is Hippie in Disguise, where I focus on art and adventure with my children, with a slow, eco and minimalist focus. I like to share stories, interviews with inspiring parents, minimalists, creatives, small brands and shops. The space is also home to my nature-based creative projects, like my Mother Nature leaf dress. In addition, I’m currently on the editorial team at Enfants Terribles Magazine, a European children’s fashion magazine focused on play, creativity and imagination. Basically, I don’t sleep.

Image via @hippieindisguise

Image via @hippieindisguise

How did you both meet?

We found each other on Instagram. When I had the beginnings of the idea for a slow living project, I knew I wanted to collaborate with someone, and Danielle was the first person I thought of. I thought the project would be just her sort of thing, and I had a feeling I would enjoy working with her. 

D: Like so many friendships, we met online, through Instagram, as Melanie said. Social networks have been an amazing source of inspiration for me, but also a new way to connect with people who share my interests. I love that social networks enable us to connect with people regardless of geographic location.

Image courtesy of @geoffreyandgrace

Image courtesy of @geoffreyandgrace

For those who have not discovered it, what is your Slow Living hashtag?

It’s a year long project with the aim of helping others (and us) think about how they can have a piece of ‘slow living’ every day. Each month we choose a different theme to focus on, for example the first month looked at exploring the world around you (#slowliving_explore), and this month we are celebrating the change of the seasons with the hashtag #slowliving_bloomandharvest. We want the hashtag to help people think about those precious moments of stillness that are there every day, but we are sometimes in too much of a rush to see. 

D: Melanie said it well, the Slow Living Project, as I like to call it, is about bringing people together and inspiring each other around the notion of slow living. For me, slow living is really about presence, about living in the moment, fully, wholeheartedly, without that time travel forward and back that our minds are want to do. There are monthly themes, for example, in September we focused on ‘create’. Over the course of the year we want to look at all the different ways we can bring a slow living approach to our lives, through the seasons and holidays, in the home and outdoors, with family and friends.

Image courtesy of @hippieindisguise

Image courtesy of @hippieindisguise

Why did you choose to collaborate in this way? 

To me Instagram is all about those special little moments that are captured and shared. Plus, photography is one of the things that helps me slow down and find some stillness. It therefore seemed obvious to use Instagram as a way to create a community (through the hashtag) and disseminate some slow living. This seems kind of obvious to write, but when we slow things down, there is the opportunity to be more wholehearted and present with the moments we have. I think it’s those wholehearted, connected moments, that keep us all going.

D: Both Melanie and I are very visual people, we love to capture moments visually and to view others’ images for inspiration. We thought sharing slow living moments visually would work really well and would attract people, it also sets aside any language barrier that might come with capturing and sharing moments through the written word alone. Even though not everyone can read our blog posts, as the hashtag travels through the Instagram network others can pick up on it through context and by viewing the images under the hashtag gallery, and then join in.

Image courtesy of @geoffreyandgrace

Image courtesy of @geoffreyandgrace

What have you enjoyed the most about people's contributions to the hashtags?

It’s so lovely to have a glimpse into other people’s lives through the photos they share and the captions they choose to write. I am continuously inspired by the community that is growing as a result of the hashtag. I also love that the slow living hashtags are continuing to develop and be used even when we have moved on to another theme.  

D: Well, obviously, there is the visual and intellectual inspiration the images provide. But, what I’ve loved most is seeing the many ways people interpret the same word. Each theme has captured people’s imaginations in different ways, and this has translated into a beautiful range of captured moments. I underestimated the variety we would see, it has been a lovely surprise.

Image courtesy of @hippieindisguise

Image courtesy of @hippieindisguise

Finally, how do you like to capture the month's theme and bring everything together before moving on to another month's focus?

We have a list of words that we are hoping to use throughout the year. Each month though, we think about what the following month means for us, and what it might mean to others. We then talk about a suitable word that will capture people’s imaginations and inspire them to want to get involved.

Danielle and I got to meet last month through FaceTime and it was great to be able to talk face to face. Otherwise, lots of emails are exchanged as we both have been struggling to select the photos that are our favourites for the month. There are so many beautiful images shared in the gallery, and we always have a very long shortlist. We do a monthly ‘blog round up’ about the project on our blogs, and between us we aim to convey the spirit of the community over on Instagram as well as the wonderful creativity that is present in the gallery.

D: We each take our own approach and individually choose our favourites from the contributions and then compare notes to see which we have in common. These common favourites are shared through Instagram in a grid of 4. Then we each post our individual favourites to our blogs -- which usually requires a lot of further trimming down, as we usually have 30 favourites each! So, it’s always a nice surprise to see what Melanie posts and how she strings the selections together. I like that we take our own approach to selecting and curating the images. For me, I tend to choose images that reflect a diversity of interpretations of the theme, I’m also a little biased toward images that had a particularly insightful caption or images that capture children through the theme. We like each month to have a fresh focus, so based on how the month develops and what we see in the gallery we choose a new theme from our brainstormed list of ideas that will allow people to expand their thinking around slow living and capture something new.


Wips & Blooms: October

Oh Autumn!

Autumn making

This is the month that makes my heart soar every year. The minute I feel September getting into its stride, I'm daydreaming about the leaves turning, the snuggly feel of wool and planning all the baking I possibly can. By the time we trundle into October, I'm bursting with excitement at all the best of the season. 

Wips and Blooms October

In my own making, I've been on something of a swatching journey. I spent a lot of the last month working on article commissions and material for the podcast, exploring local-to-me yarns. The journey has been soothing and fascinating. It has also been the perfect preparation for what I refer to as Knitting Season (yes, capitalised). 

To celebrate a little, Katie and I decide that this month's #wipsandblooms entries on Instagram should have the chance to win a seasonal treat. We would love to see the best of what October has to offer both in terms of sharing your process of making and the 'blooms' you've foraged and found. It's becoming sparse out there in the Northern Hemisphere; Winter is creeping in. However, there's still much to be found from rosehips to rosemary. We can't wait to see. 

All entries tagged with #wipsandblooms between now and October 31st will have the chance to win a special package kindly donated by Mimosa Street. I first discovered this independent store a few months ago and created a virtual wishlist for the new home when we eventually move. Most of Mimosa Street's products are handmade and they work closely with designer-makers to create beautiful items that can only be found in their store. 

When I asked for something to reflect October's foraged and found emphasis, I received the perfect items:

A Floella Vase: A fairtrade hanging vase made from recycled glass that would be perfect for little sprigs and blooms to brighten up indoors and outdoors. (I would love a little string of them on an outdoor snug!)

A poppy Seedball tin: Autumn is the perfect time to scatter poppy seedballs which were created by conservation scientist to offer a new twist on seed propagation. The wildflower seeds are rolled into little balls with clay, compost and chilli powder (to deter predators) and are a perfect way to grow native wildflowers that encourage bees and butterflies. 

Retro floral pocket notebook: Designed and printed in England and made from recycled paper, this pretty notebook is just the right size for musings on the move. 

wips and blooms October

So what will you be making this Autumn? You might even be preparing for warmer weather if you're in the Southern hemisphere of course! I'd love to see your making and crafting progress and hope to see your #wipsandblooms on Instagram soon!

 

 

Wips and Blooms.... & a New Co-Host!

#wipsandblooms

August wips&blooms- Cornflowers, 'The Concise British Flora in Colour' & 'Lapsang' by Clare Devine using GingerTwistStudios. 

August wips&blooms- Cornflowers, 'The Concise British Flora in Colour' & 'Lapsang' by Clare Devine using GingerTwistStudios. 

A moment to pause. To reflect. To acknowledge the details of what we are making and crafting. To notice time is passing and enjoy process. 

Image by Katie Robbins

Image by Katie Robbins


For many of us who make, craft and create on a daily basis, we can often be tempted to only share what has worked or the great reveal of our finished piece. Making is a process that can be short or long and along the way we can change direction or abandon an idea entirely in favour of choosing a new path. We make decisions and life happens around us as we work stitches, sketch ideas and prepare our materials. All of those decisions, all of those moments, go into our work as we work steadily each season, working towards completion. 

Wips and Blooms is a celebration of process and creativity and I am thrilled to have the very talented Katie Robbins joining with me to host this hashtag. Katie is a ceramic lover and maker who has already shared so many beautiful glimpses behind the scenes as she crafts her pieces that I knew this was growing a momentum I wanted to capture when I saw her wipsandblooms shared above.

When we make, we nourish a creative need and in this meditative activity, we can easily lose track of time. We hope you too will note the seasonal changes and share some on the many steps you worked through in your own crafting each month. 

wips&blooms collage

Joining us is simple. Take a snap of your work in progress (wip) and your seasonal bloom. Tag us both (@aplayfulday & @ceramicmagpie) and use the hashtag #wipsandblooms so we can easily find one another. it isn't about perfection. It's about focusing on the steps we've taken in our collective quests for creativity. A flash of new colour in the garden or in a vase can often remind us how much time has passed. We want to capture that, together. 

Each month, both Katie and I will be sharing a selection of our favourites on our blogs as well as instagram. We can't wait to see what you're making!