Remember when you thought reaching 20 was ‘old’?
(if you’re under 20 you may have wandered on to this page inadvertently. *waves at rapidly retreating figure*
As the eldest amongst most of my friends I was pregnant first, bought a house first, ended a long relationship (not first, to be fair and some of my friends are in wonderfully loving long-standing partnerships). I’ve definitely started Natures gift that keeps on giving, Menopause, first! So I tend to be looked upon as the oracle of all things aging, parenting and general adult-ing. As someone who, for most of my life, has radiated outer confidence whilst being simultaneously consumed with an inner ‘Help me! I don’t know how I got here!’ panic, this situation is bewildering and bemusing. I still don’t really know what I’m doing, but I’m more vocal and less worried about being found out in some areas (I’m working on the rest). Growing older does that to you.
Anyway its my birthday month. Despite feeling no older than 35 (and acting no older than 15) , for the most part, I’ve approached FIFTY five faster than I could say ‘Where did I put my cod liver oil?’
So here’s a list I found on the inter webs. Apparently its a list of habits that ‘normal’ people who’ve aged ‘well’ follow. I couldn’t resist some teensy amendments…
- Maintain a positive attitude: Hmmm it’s a bit difficult these days isn’t it? It certainly involves avoiding or filtering The News and ignoring any inner demons. Re those pesky I.Ds – Most of us have those. Please don’t think that you’re on your own. Take social media breaks that can allow you to shut out some of the ‘noise’ and to live in the present. Do that.
- Watch what you eat: …when you’ve consumed a large packet of kettle crisps, a bar of salted caramel chocolate and 2/3 bottle of wine for dinner on a Friday night. (not me, of course. My ‘friend’) Yes, eat healthily and get your 52 portions of veg in a day or whatever the government figure is now. But that guilt that comes with eating junk food every once in a while? Stop that.
- …And how much you eat: I read somewhere that in order to stay healthy you shouldn’t eat carbs after 6pm. Does anyone actually do this? I tried it ONCE a long time ago. I couldn’t sleep! Am I the only person who gets the munchies *just* as I decide to go to bed?
- Exercise regularly: Some people like to run marathons and gym daily and cross train. Some like to do housework to music and mow the lawn. Some like brisk walks and long stretches. Your body isn’t the same as anyone else’s. Just move with a purpose. And try to do it every day.
- Stay social: Log off, go outside and speak to actual people. Arrange to visit a friend. Join a group of like minded souls. Seek the company of others.
- Protect your skin from the sun: Actually this is a good one. I would add never underestimate sunlight. Even in the UK. It’s beautiful, clever, dangerous stuff at times and Skin Cancer doesn’t play. SPF it up.
- Get plenty of sleep: All the intention is there. It’s a great idea in theory. But that ‘go to bed now’ reminder gets ignored more times than not. Every time. I’ll try again tomorrow. I mean, tonight. Soon.
Of course I haven’t figured everything out, because no one can. But experience (age) means that I have an opinion on many topics. I’m finding that the more I learn, the more there is to learn. Self awareness is exhausting but its never boring.
On aging ‘well’? Thats debatable. My physical parts sag and creak whilst my mindful parts strengthen and bloom. Perception changes everything. Most days I’m more than happy with that. And on the days I’m not, I know that ‘this to shall pass’. It hasn’t always been this way. Taking responsibility for my own happiness is a big step. And making sure I wear something that makes me happy – usually colourful – on a daily basis. That works too! (try it).
Therefore I would also put (and these are neither groundbreaking or new but still…):
Read books. Encourage curiosity. Listen to others. Breathe deeply. Stretch daily. Empathise. Laugh out loud. Hug long and hard. Cry when you feel like it. Observe others. Write it out. Keep negativity at bay. Sit in silence. Keep learning. Look up. Wear your ‘happy’. Dance to music. Marvel at nature. Express love often. Be present. Talk. Appreciate. Give. Shed. Live.
Thats everything, right? My completely non-complete list. What would YOU add?
P.S. Still doing the business over here. But decided to share on here when the mood takes me. I may end up shouting into a chasm. We shall see.
But don’t worry! It’ll all be ok! You can STILL keep in touch with news, updates, sewing classes and special offers over at Reddskin.
It’s been a blast! Don’t go changing.
This post is about Fashion, Photography and Mental Health. If any or all of these topics make you a little squeamish I suggest you LOOK AWAY NOW.
Still here? Good.
I was hoping that the old adage ‘third time lucky’ would prove itself to be true when I found myself making plans for a Reddskin photoshoot last month. It had been a long time coming. I had saved up my hard-earned pennies. I had gathered my favourite, talented and (most important) fun loving models, Layia Johnson and Jordon Bolessa. I had nabbed the wonderfully warm MUA I had been busting a gut to work with since Forest Hill Fashion Week in 2014, Muna Hassan. And, finally, I was thrilled that my favourite photographer – for her work and her open spirit – Sara Atteby, was available and actually excited to work with me. Everything was in place. All we needed was some amenable weather. Cue praying to Gods and putting a LOT of positivity into The Universe.
Please note: No animals were sacrificed during the planning of this event.
Why ‘third time’? Weeellll…hmmm…ummm. Honestly?
Attempt 1: March 2015.
Thwarted by being off sick from my actual (ex) job. The threat of Gross Misconduct did not appeal to me (‘working’ whilst off ill). Plus I had lost the will to sew therefore I didn’t have any new stock to photograph.
Whilst we’re on the subject. There aren’t powerful enough words to accurately describe what it feels like to lose the will to do something you have always loved. Something that has always given you life. Uplifted you. Completed you. But Depression (yep. Big ‘D’. That’s what we’re talking about here) does that. For me it was like watching the world continue without me through a pair of Vaseline-smeared sunglasses…under water. Something like that. Frankly, it was shit.
Attempt 2: June 2015.
In theory this would have a been a better time to steam ahead. I was feeling a LOT better**. We had fairly predictable fine-ish (this IS Britain after all) weather and my willing, talented team were almost assembled. I was conveniently overlooking the fact that I had recently left behind a 28 year teaching career and suffered a bereavement in the family. I was trying to execute a Will, had organised a funeral (My first one. Not recommended) and was trying to ‘manage’ my grief. (Seriously? Who does that? Lesson learned), amongst other things that I won’t go into here (who said ‘Phew’?). Plus I *still* hadn’t produced many more creations. But, I was worrying frantically, I had postponed the first planned photoshoot and I couldn’t let anyone down (I know, I KNOW!).
It would HAVE to go ahead, wouldn’t it?
Well actually it wouldn’t. The Universe was clearly listening HARD. One of my lovely models had a car accident (!) on the morning of the shoot and ended up in hospital, unhurt mostly, but in shock. She called to say she was late but on her way (Dedicated? Yes. Bonkers? Definitely!) and I told her to go home and rest. My understanding co-collaborators were gracious and everything went ‘on hold’.
Third and final attempt. September 2015.
I was ready. WE were ready. All systems go! Transport For London tried to hold us back with their all too usual weekend engineering works but we were having NONE OF IT! The skies held up and the sun even made an appearance. George, the wonderful owner of a local cafe Kente, fed and watered us when we had finished. The team were on top form, we got some great shots and, most importantly, we had FUN!
The results are dotted throughout this website. I hope you like them as much as we do!
I considered filing this post under TMI (too much information) but I figured ‘Why not?’. I am acutely aware of the awkward shuffles and embarrassing silences that STILL surround the topic of Mental health. I’ve been on the receiving end and, to be honest, it just makes you feel worse.
I am a human being who happens to be a Fashion designer. I, like all of us, am a Work in Progress. Many things have occurred throughout these 12 months. They’ve brought me to now… as I write these words. Some factors I felt able to control and some simply happened. I am eternally thankful to some amazing friends and family who supported and continue to check in with me. Yes I feel (much) better. I am also fully aware that whatever this is isn’t over (is it ever?). How I approach my own mental health, and that of others, is VERY different now. I am kinder to myself and I am open to change.
So to anyone reading this who is having a tough time and feels that life is being an absolute bugger (understatement Klaxon), you’re going to have to trust me on this one, things can and do improve. You never stay still. All those old cliches and adages, especially the one that goes ‘This too shall pass’ (the jury’s out on who said this first) Well its true. Living proof right here y’all!
If you made it to the end of this post, thank you for staying.
Feel free to comment on any or all of the above. Don’t be shy…I would love to hear your views.
Sydenham Visual Artists Trail runs as part of Sydenham Arts Festival – a two week celebration of the Arts in and around Londons fabulous SE26 that runs every July. This year there are over 150 Artists taking part in Open houses across the Sydenham, Penge, Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park area. I’m only one of them!
You can meander through Sydenham using our handy Map of Artists available in shops around Sydenham but especially at our wonderful Kirkdale Bookshop.
The Visual Artists Trail runs this weekend 11am – 5pm on Saturday 4th July and Sunday 5th July and the following weekend 11th and 12th July where I will join forces with Twisted Vintage Jewellery. We promise to create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere for you to browse, chat or purchase at your leisure with a refreshing glass of Pimms should you desire. What a lovely way to spend your weekend!
Did I mention Pimms?
I sat at my kitchen table, wearing stained sweatpants, an old T-shirt and raggedy headscarf and idly watched Georgia, my designated make-up artiste of the evening, prepare the tools of her trade. I pondered the mammoth task she had before her.
Ah! Such optimism in youth.
Georgia produced all manner of pretty confection (including a bag of cutesy baby pink cotton wool pads I coveted) then set about my face. No mean feat as I was so excited I couldn’t keep my mouth shut! No change there then.
Various Reddskin creations and different ‘looks’ were experimented with. I even managed to rope/con my youngest diva into taking behind-the-scenes photos with my own groovy new camera. It all went rather smoothly and photographer Kim was graciously patient with me as I posed and tried not to giggle.
I should probably explain…
Nubian Nights Out are a ” group of young professionals working in various creative industries including, fashion, photography, music, film and PR”. In December 2014 they founded their collective “looking to connect with like-minded people interested in learning more about Black history and identity”. They are a dynamic bunch of people who have already put on several events through their meet up group
Kim and Georgia have been spending most, if not all, of their spare time (they both work in demanding jobs) running around London photographing many women from a range of backgrounds. Images highlighting the diversity of Women of Colour not seen enough in mainstream media. It’s SUCH an exciting project so I felt honoured when founder member, Relle, who I had the pleasure of working with at Forest Hill Fashion Week, approached me to participate.
Then I thought “Free Make-over? Where do I sign?”
This photoshoot is part of a series that will form the basis for their launch exhibition celebrating Women of Colour. The exhibition will launch on 23.07.15 and run for two days for public viewing at a boutique gallery in South London.
NNO are currently also fundraising to produce a book of the event. You can read more about these exciting plans and donate here. Every little helps I promise you!
Support us by sharing:
Facebook Nubian Nights Out
Remember…you heard it here first.
Photo credits: Maheni Short.
I remember sitting in my local Craft Emporium, Stag and Bow, during one of their legendary Friday Evening Socials having forgotten my sewing project (but remembered the wine…go figure). I was watching Big Daddy Cyrus juggle feeding their baby daughter Bertie whilst simultaneously hand sewing teensy hexagon shaped pieces of fabric around card. It looked fascinating (the sewing not the feeding…) I wanted to have a go. So Cyrus instructed me in the basics, whilst Bertie covered herself in hummus. Then he left me to it. I purchased a pack of small Quilting templates the next day and began in earnest. This was April 2014.
I cleaned out an empty icecream tub – an excuse to buy some more – and filled it with fabric, templates, scissors, thread and a needle. Sewing Warrior ready, I took my Crafty Quilting container almost everywhere. I quilted on the Tube and on the Overground. I quilted in cafes, in parks and on the beach. I quilted whilst watching House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Masterchef (two series) and The Great British Sewing Bee to name a few. I quilted in Banbury, Nottingham, Helsinki and Barbados.
My growing quilt never failed to spark a conversation. Others became fascinated by the colours, patterns and skill. They marveled at the tiny hand stitches and my patience. Complete strangers wanted to know what I was making. Many shared treasured memories of family or loved ones who had quilted or other types of sewing. Some said they wanted to go home and finish (or start) a crafting project. I loved those journeys.I quilted from heavily stressful times into hopeful ones. My quilt allowed me to move slowly but steadily through uncertainty and ill health to strength and encouragement. It grew and it spread and gathered momentum just as I was forced to make some major decisions about my own life. Every scrap of cotton reminds me of something I made, or a memory of the person I created an item for, or where I was when I bought it. The abundant variety and stunning colours never fail to lift my spirits. Each piece has significance, however small. I often wonder why I chose, for my first EVER quilting project, to attempt something so vast and potentially so daunting. Why didn’t I just make a very simple cushion cover…or a placemat? It didn’t actually occur to me. I just thought ‘patchwork’ and then ‘quilt’. That was that really. I focused on the process, not the end product. I really loved watching my quilt grow, create its own space, until it almost developed a personality of its own.
It’s now May 2015 and my Quilt of Wonder is complete. It took fifty-six weeks. Had I know this when I started I would probably never have done it. Over a year to sew something together? Bonkers! But I’m SO glad that I started. Not only has it been my therapy, its an absolute, all-encompassing beauty. And I made it. ME. *grins*
Credit: Cushion and lamp (just seen) by Arhinarmah
Last Wednesday I was privileged enough to attend Nottingham Trent University Fashion Knitwear Final Degree Show where my eldest diva, Kareem, has been studying.
It’s been a looooong haul and a steep learning curve for my woman-child , for many different reasons. A false start on a course that wasn’t right for her meant that graduation year arrived eons after most of her peers. A testing time that we all remember. However it was when she discovered and switched to a Fashion Knitwear BA that her clear passion and talent for design and making in this field truly emerged.
Self doubt chucked a few stumbling blocks in her way but the daughter I witnessed on Wednesday evening had grown into a focused and determined Designer. Yes of COURSE I cried. BLUBBED.
I am deeply, immensely, proud of you, Kareem.
I was lucky enough to see both Catwalk shows and, by some quirk of fashionable fate, ended up on front row seats for the second one. *high fives The Universe*.
Below is a selection of images I managed to capture. I have yet to work out what all the knobs and buttons do on my new Canon so the photos may not be amazing …but they give you a flavour of the immense talent of the Fashion Knitwear student Class of 2015*.
You saw them here first!
Kareem Short created contemporary jewellery by knitting cashmere and merino wool using a distinct and complementary colour palette with gold silk accents. These were then draped, twisted and knotted to make individual and strikingly designed pieces of art. Metal rods and fastenings enabled sections to become interchangeable. Stunning.
Well done ALL who were involved behind the scenes and in the spotlight and GOOD LUCK to all Final Year Graduates! I, for one will be looking out for you!
*Unfortunately I didn’t get a piece from every NTU Fashion Knitwear student that night. My sincere apologies to those I missed.
*blinks in the sunlight*
Well HELLO there! It HAS been a while!
I’d really like to report back that I’ve been super busy making and selling and being uber-productive. But the truth is that I’ve been stepping down, having a ponder, making things for me and learning to simply ‘be’.
More on that later.
Fair warning as Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close this post WILL actually touch on mental health. Mine. So if that makes you a little uncomfortable then now’s the time to go and make a cuppa.
Still here? Oh. Good!
A few months ago a respected friend, Momtaz aka @TheCraftcafe , asked me to guest on her, then new, weekly show on One Harmony Radio who are a community internet radio station based in Brockley, SE London. At the time I was in, shall we say, a ‘difficult place’. I had been off work for months and the doctors had been chucking scary words like ‘Anxiety’ and ‘Depression’ in my direction. Frankly I was in a bit of a state about it all. Talking sense? To an actual person? Over the airwaves? Not uppermost in my thoughts.
But I had HOPE (wonderful stuff. I highly recommend). So we made a flexible plan and, several weeks later, I found myself sitting in front of a microphone at an unheard of hour on a Saturday morning.
Momtaz introduced me as her ‘Best Dressed guest ever!’ thereby cleverly ensuring that I would be putty in her hands for the duration of her show. Good one, Momtaz. Although it was nerve-racking, (watching Momtaz in action was like an masterclass in Radio to me. So effortless!), the topic is so close to my heart that I found it easy to chat and open up. The hardest part was shutting up when the little coloured lights were on/off/whatever they do. Flash?
I learned to sew in my teens thanks to the patience and expertise of my mum. Newly single and working to a tight budget she would turn her creative hand to most things out of necessity. I liked it. Loved it, in fact. Now my mum ‘persuades’ me to sew everything for her. Fair enough.
Throughout my life the Arts, in a variety of forms, have always been my place of solace. My natural home. I became a kick-ass (not literally. Illegal apparently) dance teacher and always marveled at my students ability to create and express themselves regardless of ability, age or gender. When, after a pesky injury, I began to focus more on my sewing skillset it never occurred to me that the same wouldn’t apply. People are often surprised that I taught boys to sew. ‘SACRE BLEU!!’ they exclaim. (French-speaking of course….with a flair for melodrama). Craft knows no gender. Fact. It’s SO much more than the activity. It’s that feeling of pride, of making something from practically nothing. Learning a new skill or perfecting a new one. That feeling of worth and achievement. It can’t be beaten! One of my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE things is to show others how and then watch them run away with it. (not literally because that’s dangerous) To those of you who say ‘Oh I’m no good at *insert suitably creative activity here*” I say ‘Pah’! And ‘Try!’. And other (clean) one syllable expressions.
The advice for the millions (yep. Worth keeping in mind next time you feel like you’re on your own) of people out there experiencing Anxiety or Depression is well documented. And a great deal of it involves getting out and ‘doing’ things. In the spirit of ‘doing’ you can’t go far wrong with trying a new skill. Can you see where I’m going here? My experience has always been that when the going got tough (seriously resisting the urge to embed THAT Billy Ocean tune into this post) if I could get to my sewing machine, or pick up a crochet hook or teach myself to knit half a sock *glances feebly at half knitted sock* then I’d be moving in the right direction. UP (in case you hadn’t figured it out).
It might work for you.
Back to Radioland. So Momtaz and I chatted and I made a bit of sense (allegedly) and we how we laughed and Momtaz played some FAB-ulous music (what happened to PM Dawn? Anyone?) and before we knew it the show was over! *sniff*
At time of writing I am still a Work in Progress. But aren’t we all? I’ve made some positive and life-shifting changes (to put it mildly). But I know I won’t be giving up sewing (or teaching others to sew) anytime soon.
Of course now I also want to be a DJ….
I can’t put it off any longer. It’s happening. It’s HERE!
Tomorrow, 1st June 2014 7am my BRAND NEW SHINY WEBSITE will be born.
I guess it has felt a little bit like giving birth to a precious bundle (metaphysical pain, less fluids). I finally get to show the world – you actually – what I do and what I CAN do. There are handbags, clothes, accessories, home type items (wares?), workshops, classes, parties and events – all in one delectably BEAUTIFUL PLACE! I’m so excited I can barely keep still! Bear with me whilst I find my feet (they must be around somewhere *chuckles at hideously awful joke*).
Thank you for indulging me thus far – I do hope you’ll stay along for this next chapter.
I’ll also be running a competition soon to celebrate all this lovely new-ness so stay tuned!
So have a look, get up early if the mood so takes you, browse, bookmark, read, peruse and SHARE! Please do feedback and let me know what you think.
Reddskinbags you have been SO good to me *sniff* We’ve had some tremendous times *gulp*. But it’s time we parted company.
It’s not you, it’s ME!