Instagram and I only started a proper relationship about a year ago. Before that we flirted with one another a little - I’d post pictures of our dog wearing fairy wings, pictures of onion bhajis Mr Mitchell had made and the odd posy. I used yellowish filters and had no clue what I was doing.
Then I came across a few UK accounts that were beautifully curated, realised that IG was a fantastic creative platform and that I could use it to let folk know what I was making, finding in hedgerows and blogging about. I met up with Sara Tasker of @meandorla and I swapped a crochet lesson or two for a spot of IG advice. Sara truly knows her instaonions - her tips were invaluable.
[Annie note: See Emma's beautiful IG feed @silverpebble2
On the bustle of life
At times life is frenetic - I have two smallish daughters (7 & 10) and run a small business so when the busy times of family and work coincide it can be crazed. I made a conscious choice to move away from the corporate consultancy career I had until 2006 though - I knew that a smaller, quieter, less financially secure but ultimately satisfying path was best for the whole family. I was able to put my jewellery-making aside when my Eldest was unwell (frequently in her first 3 years) and there was space for me to spend more time with my children - to scamper up to the woods if there was an unexpectedly sunny day in February - to bake a cake if we came across a lovely recipe and were peckish. Sometimes I’m writing or making through the night, other days I can take a break and go and meet fellow makers and creative folk.
I teach people how to make fine silver jewellery out of one of my favourite media - silver clay. We cast tiny precious found objects, fossils and other nature finds in silver and make ‘fossils’ by imprinting seasonal leaves into the clay. The finest details are captured in the pendants and charms and beginners find it thrilling that they can make and finish professional-looking pieces in just a few hours.
On the creative process
I have always felt a sort of giddy high when I’ve made things - I remember this vividly even when I was small and I used to make little floral pictures with paper, scissors and Pritt or my own (very shortlived) flip flops out of card and string. It turns out that this feeling isn’t just excitement about having cosy hands when I’ve finished some wristwarmers. There is a small amount of tantalising evidence that suggests that levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, diminish and serotonin, a feel good neurotransmitter, increase when we make things with our hands.
There’s a good deal more research to be done into this but I believe that this response derives from our ancestry - hunter gatherers needed to make things every day in order to survive - arrow heads, utensils, clothes, vessels to eat from, shelters, fishing nets, needles to sew with, rope and twine, even luxury high status goods such as jewellery. Those who were adept at making will have survived because their shelters, hunting tools and clothes etc will have been more durable. They won’t have succumbed to cold or hunger. It was handmade natural selection. I think it’s those ancient skills and urges that are being awakened when we knit a beanie in 2016.
On making time for yourself
This is essential and yet I don’t do this often enough. I’m crocheting my first cardigan at the moment - the Beatrice by Vicki Brown and I’ve nearly finished the first sleeve, but the times when I sit down to simply make for its own sake are sometimes many days if not weeks apart. I think it would be really beneficial for me to set aside maybe 15 or 20 minutes a day for making - not for a project or for an Etsy order, simply for the meditative, soothing feeling of making loops with a hook and yarn and enjoying the gentle serotonin glow.
As I’m typing this Mercury is passing in front of the sun. Mr Mitchell has set up a tripod, lens and a piece of (my fancy watercolour!) paper on the patio and he called me down to see what he thought was Mercury in front of an image of the sun. I peered at it for ages and then it walked off. It was an aphid.
Favourite food currently
No churn super quick icecream made from whipped cream, condensed milk and raspberries/espresso/salted caramel/lemon curd/delicious flavour ingredient of choice. The original recipe is by Nigella Lawson. It’s homemade gelato joy. The hardest part is waiting 6 hours for it to freeze. My other favourite food just now is boiled new potatoes drenched in butter and dipped in houmous. I could eat this all day long
Last book read
To my shame I haven’t read a book in a good while (I blame the lure of social media), but I have just finished listening to the audiobook H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald in the car and during wakeful moments in the early hours. It’s soothing, thought-provoking and wonderful.
3 recommended Instagrammers
Almost impossible to limit it to three
@gemmakoomen - a gorgeous, inspirational yet unsung account filled with whimsical, quirky illustrations.
@meandorla - a muted, restful feed by my lovely pal Sara Tasker. Beautiful photography, impeccable curation, meditative tones and a delicious sense of humour.
@modernbotanics - illustrations, print and fabric designs made by Mirta Tyrrell, inspired by the nature finds she unearths near where she lives on the banks of Lake Como in Italy
@reblondonfridge - the things Rebecca Maier cooks, bakes and eats every day. An inspiring, beautifully shot feed, often with simple delicious recipes included in the captions.