An Instagrammer's guide to: Greater Manchester

We head north for our latest Instagrammer’s guide to discover the most stylish spots to shop, eat and drink on the streets of Manchester and it’s surrounding neighbourhoods. Blogger and Manchester resident Susan Earlam shows us around…


Tea heaven is just off a busy thoroughfare in city centre Manchester. Leaf offers 50 different flavours of loose tea and a delicious menu across the course of a day. The space was previously an art gallery and it has been beautifully converted into a welcoming, warm space which is cleverly divided into different areas. With gorgeous wallpaper, eclectic furniture and the industrial heritage also on show, this place is a combined feast for the senses and a refuge from the busy street outside.

IG: @LEAFonPortlandSt

91 Magazine - Instagrammer's Guide to Manchester Beaumont Organic

Beaumont Organic

Originally selling online and at trade shows Beaumont Organic opened an emerald green fronted shop in Manchester’s Northern Quarter in September 2017. Hannah is at the forefront of the ethical and sustainable clothing movement and the shop regularly holds events to support causes worldwide. The clothing comes with no icky feeling about where or who made it. It’s classic yet contemporary.

IG: @beaumontorganic

Form Lifestyle Store

Tucked away, deep in the Northern Quarter and housed in a blue plaque building dating back to 1787, Form is gorgeous example of how brilliant it is when old buildings are re-used. It has the most instagrammable spiral staircase in Manchester, perhaps even the North West. But aside from that it’s a haven for great, independent, small designers. (Find out more about Form is our August 18 e-zine)

IG: @formlifestylestore

Photo:  Alex Ward

Photo: Alex Ward

The Winter Garden at Refuge

If you've ever wondered what a grown-up version of Narnia would be like, The Winter Garden at Refuge would be a good place to start. The real trees inside this beautiful atrium sparkle day and night. It is opulent and magical. You step inside and feel worlds away from life outside. From afternoon tea to cocktails and mocktails, this is the place to bring your Manchester visiting friends or anyone you'd quite like to impress.

IG: @therefugemcr

91 Magazine - Instagrammer's Guide to Manchester - Moth


Sat on the leafy Burton Road in West Didsbury, Moth is a longstanding haven for stylists and homemakers with an eye for effortless style. It’s minimalist but with life and texture. From lampshades and rugs to handbags and jewellery. Buy something from Moth if you want chic but not showy. A neutral colour palette is easy on the eye and I’d be surprised if you are able to visit this gem without making a purchase.

IG: @mothstyle

91 Magazine - Instagrammer's Guide to Manchester - Idaho


Riding on the crest of Altricham’s recent revival, Idaho is somewhere I go for the perfect gift. It stocks a great range of greetings cards, long live the cards I say, it can be a small designer’s bread and butter. I always find things in here that I’ve not seen elsewhere, except, yep, you guessed it, Instagram. From jewellery and posters to planners and beauty products and even chocolate. This is where to visit for the difficult to buy for, but uber stylish friend.

IG: @idahoaltrincham

91 Magazine - Instagrammer's guide to Manchester - Rose and Grey

Rose & Grey

Before Rose & Grey opened their showroom they were an online shop for many years. Now the thrill of seeing their products and furniture in real life is always exciting. The showroom is set up in such a way that makes you feel at home. It often makes me want to redecorate too! Its an inspiring place that entices you to be bold and individual with your home décor.

IG: @roseandgreyinteriors

Photo:  Alex Ward

Photo: Alex Ward

Rare Mags

Perched midway up the cobbled street of Hillgate in the Old Town part of Stockport sits Rare Mags. Proving the naysayers wrong, those people who believe print is dead; well, here it is alive and kicking. Rare Mags understand that people like to touch what they read. Our brains interact with information on paper in a vastly different way than they do with something on a screen. The magazines sold here are tomes of creativity, including 91 Magazine of course. (I highly recommend stopping for tea and vegan treats at Hillgate Cakery which is directly opposite)

IG: @rare_mags

Object Style

Husband and wife team Rachael and Alex have poured love and devotion into their cosy Chorlton shop, Object Style, and the personal service you get on a visit is so warm and authentic. Selling clothing, textiles, houseplants and vast range of handpicked home accessories, the shop and the stock is always beautifully merchandised, I defy you to come out empty-handed. (see more about Object in our Feb 18 e-zine.)

IG: @object_style

Photo:  Scott Rhodes

The Creameries

A bakery and kitchen that is aiming to be zero waste, caters brilliantly for kids, offers a seasonal menu and looks good? It’s all here at The Creameries and it has the original tiles from its previous guise which was a dairy in Edwardian times. What is it about tiles from that period? I love seeing the layers of history that places like this help keep alive. If freshly baked bread and authentic food from the heart is what you love, then be sure to pay this gem a visit.

IG: @hellocreameries

Head to Susan’s blog for more tips on Manchester as well as interiors and fashion inspiration. Follow her on Instagram too.

Meet the Maker: Liha

Liha Okunniwa and Abi Oyepitan, the duo behind all-natural beauty brand Liha, are on a mission to bring highly-prized West African beauty secrets to the UK. Now in their third year, the business partners and lifelong friends focus on small batch and sustainable production, balancing their burgeoning brand with family life. We talk to Liha Okunniwa about the pair’s work…

Liha Beauty - Meet the Maker / 91 Magazine

Hi Liha! How would you describe your brand?
Relaxing, luxurious, unusual.

What inspired you to set up Liha, and what did you both do before?
We both knew we wanted to do this since our university days in 1998, but life got in the way! I’d studied English with American studies and moved back to Cheltenham from London when my daughter was born, where I ran a successful art publishing business. Abi had studied politics and sociology and had a career as an Olympic athlete, but we had both always had been making natural beauty products on the side. When Abi had retired from athletics, we just knew it was the right time. All along, the little voices in the back of our heads would not go away! We finally gave in to it and took the leap from totally different fields. It was worth it.

Initially, we tried to do a soft launch to test the market, but the demand was so great we just had to keep pushing and it forced us to develop quicker. At the moment we are raising investment, and it is exciting to pause, map and regroup, as we take each step in growing our brand to the next level. 

Liha Beauty - Meet the Maker / 91 Magazine

What is the ethos behind your business?
Minimalism is key - buy less, and choose well. This is why we make all our products multi-purpose and don't inundate people with new product lines, which can be commonplace in the beauty industry. We also take a lot of inspiration from family - we describe Liha as 'natural African roots with a quintessentially British attitude’. My mum is an English aromatherapist, and the unique mix is what makes us stand out. Much of our aesthetic - an extreme minimalism with African touches (what we call ‘Afro-Scandi’) - comes from my dad. He came from Nigeria on an engineering scholarship and ended up hitchhiking around the world in the early 60's, nearly settling in Scandinavia.

There is a West African philosophical concept, Asé-Ase, by which you conceive the power to make things happen and produce change. It’s somewhat similar to the idea of Chi. We want to show people how to take self-care to Goddess levels and keep that Asé up! All our products take a while to become familiar with - you can find your own unique ways of using them, or even make your own creation with them. They also force you to slow down – for example, it takes time for the Idan oil to melt, and you have to really work the shea butter into your skin.

Our values are also influenced by political crops and sustainability – the medicinal plants that grow in West Africa have huge potential in the west, with the correct legislature and scientific testing in place. We are aware that most people don’t associate West Africa with beauty secrets, but introducing people to shea butter is just the beginning. There’s a wealth of ingredients that have yet to be introduced to the western world which are centuries old, and tried-and-tested. A big reason we want to scale up our business is to be a true innovator in our field, by showcasing these new ingredients and wellness secrets. As we grow, we hope to transform what has been a traditionally destructive trade route (oil, gas) with new socio-economic cooperatives for West Africa.

Liha Beauty - Meet the Maker / 91 Magazine

How do the two of you work together, day-to-day?
We’re like Yin and Yang, and we work together really well. Abi is super-practical and I am more ‘head in the clouds’, but we are both very creative. We can talk about a tweak to packaging for literally months, and are both obsessive and perfectionists in different areas, which is a plus! Abi is amazing at visual merchandising and keeping up with the industry news, and I am always hunting for new ingredients and experimenting with mixes. Day-to-day, I live in Cheltenham and Abi is in Hackney, so we are constantly texting back-and-forth, but it really is essential to have face-to-face meetings as well, as that is when the ideas really start flowing.

Describe your workspace…
Our workspace is in Queens Park in a wonderful place called Kindred Studios. It’s a former college that has over 170 artists and makers in studios, spread out over two huge buildings. Every so often there are open studio days for visitors to look around and buy, which is a wonderful way to meet customers. In true 80s movie style, the developers are trying to move in on the building, so the artists, makers and supporters are all coming together to try and raise money to buy it back - hopefully this arts haven will stay safe a little longer.

Liha Beauty - Meet the Maker / 91 Magazine

Do you have a background in health and beauty?
In African Yoruba culture, making your own cosmetics is something natural that you learn at the same time you learn to cook. My mum studied aromatherapy, and my parents had shops that I grew up living above - she would test me from about the age of 8, so I've been learning a long time!

My first job was in the Body Shop in 1996; Anita Roddick came and said ‘hi’ and I nearly fainted! Then I worked for SpaceNK when I went to Uni in London - it was my mecca before online shopping, it was the only place to get cult beauty products. I’ve studied the industry for years, so when I saw there was still a gap for the idea we had been brewing for so long, we had to jump.

Liha Beauty - Meet the Maker / 91 Magazine

Where do you sell your products?
We sell in Being Content in Marylebone, Glow Bar, lots of other lovely independents. We also have a stand on Broadway market every Saturday which works as our shop for now, and we have a huge and very exciting new stockist we will be announcing soon!

Where do you find creative inspiration?
Everywhere! We try to make time to step away from working constantly, to enjoy the smaller things and let the ideas flow. I love the luxury of taking an afternoon to go to the cinema, and Abi is always losing herself in novels. It's an obvious answer, but we both love to travel too, and meditation or just good old daydreaming are essential for any creative person - and we get loads of our ideas from these!

Liha Beauty - Meet the Maker / 91 Magazine

What are the joys, and challenges, of being an independent maker?
The joys are when people say how much they love your products - that never gets old! The challenges are having to ‘make’ on top of everything else, and feeling like you never have enough time! 

Which products do you most love making?
Our Ose Gidi Black soap, because it took so long to perfect the recipe and now it is absolutely spot-on. It smells phenomenal, and always takes me back to being in our kitchens or our first tiny studio in Cheltenham with no windows! It was so hard to make at first, but now it’s second nature to us. It’s so nice when you can see your hard work pay off like that.

Liha Beauty - Meet the Maker / 91 Magazine

Do you hold workshops and events?
We do bespoke workshops for up to 15 in which we teach the absolute basics of making with shea butter, these can be booked through the website. It's great to inspire people to start their own journey and give them a crash course in aromatherapy. It’s amazing how much people bond, relax and open up when they are crafting with their hands.

Where do you source your ingredients?
At the moment we are sourcing from a number of different ethical places. In Ghana we work with the Shea Cooperative, and the Nigerian shea comes from Abi's dad's town, so we know exactly where it’s coming from. As we grow, our goal is to have our own farms and cooperatives in West Africa.  

What have been your highlights for Liha so far?
All of it! We wouldn't change one bit of our journey, even the tough parts. 

Liha Beauty - Meet the Maker / 91 Magazine

How valuable is the online community to your work?
We are not as good at posting as we should be, but we love Instagram. I’m not so keen on the algorithm but it’s a great community for wellness and makers. Our social media followers are all very valuable to us and we believe in quality over quantity.

What does the next six months hold for Liha?
We have some really exciting things coming up and we are growing pretty fast, so keep checking back for social media updates @lihabeauty

Any creative pastimes or hobbies?
I play music in my spare time, and Abi and I both write. Abi loves photography and we are both massive bookworms. Dancing around naked every so often is also a must for me to stay sane!

Liha Beauty - Meet the Maker / 91 Magazine

How do you approach marketing and PR?
We have been lucky in that we have never had to chase, and all opportunities have come to us directly through the website or via Instagram.

Any advice for makers starting out?
Just jump in and crack on! Trust the process and you will find your path. 

Quick Fire questions:

Describe your work in three words? Satisfying, fun, amazing.

What are your making rituals? Loud music (or Radio 4 on peaceful days), old clothes, self-belief, and a little alchemy.

Tea or coffee? Tea, always.

Mountains or sea? Sea.

Night owl or early bird? Abi is a night owl, but I’m an early bird.

I wish someone had told me... It's never too late to change direction. As a kid you are taught to find a path and lock on to it. That just isn't how it works, you can always change.

See more from Liha at:

An Ethical gift guide

Christmas is only a few weeks away, and if you are aiming to shop more ethically this year but are still struggling to find the perfect gifts, then get inspired by our gift guide, collated by Lucy Saunders.

With moral principles behind each product featured, here are my top five ethical presents for him, for her and for kids this Christmas. Whether it’s a gift to pamper, to eat, to entertain or to look stylish we have it covered, saving you internet-trawling time and taking the shopping stress off your hands, leaving you safe in the knowledge your purchases are minimal in their harm to our planet.


91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

1/ Envelop yourself in the nostalgic hues of jasmine, bound with green thyme and warming black pepper. La-Eva products are made in the UK, certified organic and are suitable for vegans.

La-Eva facial oil, £25 - The Future Kept

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

2/ Know a coffee lover? Treat them to a beautiful reusable cup, made from hand-blown glass. These are100% free of plastic and chemicals.

Sol Cup, £19 - Sol

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

3/ Proud to support the UK charity Womankind Worldwide who work to empower women all over the world, Lauren Hunt’s jewellery designs are not just stunning but also support a worthy cause, and wherever possible Lauren uses eco-friendly recycled gold.

Opal & Gold Ring, £152 - Lauren Hunt Jewellery Designs

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

4/ A fun four pack of soft, sustainable bamboo and organic cotton blend socks, which are breathable, naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. We especially love these ones from the Summer Vibe set.

Summer Vibe sock gift set, £24.90, Thought

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

5/ This classic style vegan leather watch is a contemporary yet ethical choice for your wrist that works with any outfit. They come wrapped in an eco-friendly felt pouch and box.

Light Grey & Gold watch, £120 - VOTCH


91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

1/ The George is the ultimate man bag. Handmade in Calcutta, using locally sourced materials and suppliers, this bag is ethically produced, as well as being a classic to last for years.

Messenger bag, from £165 - NV London Calcutta

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

2/ This 65% dark chocolate has underlying coffee aromas which perfectly balances the sweetness of the malt barley. Handmade in East London, this chocolate in also vegan friendly.

Malt dark Chocolate, £6 - The Future Kept

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

3/ Flourish Magazine is printed on FSC approved paper, has a underlying passion of sustainability within its written pages and is packaged using biodegradable tissue paper. An ideal gift for travel lovers.

Flourish Magazine, £10

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

4/ This low-foaming, vegan friendly soap is free of synthetic fragrances and lightly buffs the skin with botanical particles. Made in Margate, UK.

Haeckels Small Exfoliating Seaweed Block, from £4 - Haeckels

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

5/ These boots will add a little bit of sophistication to any outfit. Made from faux suede with a rubber outsole and elastic gore, the boots are vegan-friendly, as are all this brand’s shoes and bags.

Vegan Chelsea boots, £115 - Matt & Nat


91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

1/ Choose from three different designs of these sweet bib and rattle sets. The bibs are made from 100% organic cotton and backed with organic velour. 

Bib and rattle set, £15 - Julia Staite 

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

2/ This very soft PJ set is made from 100% organic interlock cotton fabric to stay comfy all night long. Made ethically in the UK, this classic breton stripe design is suitable for both sexes and for all ages.

Classic Breton PJ set, £32 - Sleepy Doe

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

3/ This organic and vegan chocolate comes with a cute cardboard toy to assemble, which is one of six designs to collect. A perfect stocking filler.

Vegan chocolate & toy, £4.25, Berylune

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

 4/ Tomtect is a new construction toy using multi-length thin wooden blocks or planks, great for children’s fine motor skills and developing imaginations. Made in France with wood from sustainably managed pine forests. 

TomTect construction toy, £28 - Conscious Craft

91 Magazine Ethical Gift Guide

5/ This reimagined rocking horse is equipped with a winged saddle, footrests and an adjustable fabric backrest. Constructed from natural rubber wood and non-toxic water based dyes.

Rocking Pegasus, £99.95 Conscious Craft

Happy ethical shopping! x

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Choosing Keeping

Peek into Choosing Keeping’s stunning new store in London’s Seven Dials, beautifully curated with diaries, pens and dreamy papers and you could be forgiven for thinking that this was just a stylish stationery stockist. However, delve a little deeper, behind the exterior, and you’ll find that Choosing Keeping is an independent stationery lovers’ paradise, with true heart - and a homage to almost-forgotten trades.


Choosing Keeping opened in 2012, in its former home on Columbia Road, with the aim of bringing together charming stationery products, that were “under threat of extinction possibly because they had become under-appreciated, or thought of as old-fashioned, or too expensive in relation to cheaply made in China alternatives”, owner, Julia explains.


Identifying that national culture can be lost when items, like these, stop being produced, and that as consumers, we should do what we can to ensure that these items - and the memories they are attached to - prevent being lost, Choosing Keeping is keeping alive these old traditions.


“The green Pentel R50 which sat in the pen pot by your grandfather’s telephone, the Japanese Nori glue you used to craft in school, all of these iconic objects combined are part of our cultural memory and therefore very important,” Choosing Keeping’s owner says. “The fact that each day such companies cease to manufacture in France, Italy, Germany … is a tragedy.”


Of course, it’s not just the item itself or the history associated with it. Choosing Keeping are also concerned about the people behind the product too - with companies closing down, livelihoods being lost and the impact on the villages whose factories close. A sobering thought as many of us tick off our Christmas gift list.


Since 1st November 2018, Choosing Keeping has closed its doors for the final time at 128 Columbia Road and have begun a new chapter, at 21 Tower Street in Seven Dials. With a new location, the Choosing Keeping team took the opportunity to think about their new space, designing their own made-to-measure furniture, as well as all their gorgeous pen display pots (made by Steve Harrison). Staying loyal to their ethos of enjoying something for as long as possible, their new store includes plenty of wood, bringing warmth and softness to the aesthetics, and perfectly complimenting the sensuality of the opulent stationery on offer.


Given that Choosing Keeping’s focus is on bringing together items that could be forgotten about, the team work hard to source the best paper, art and office goods. This inspiration comes from watching films, travelling, chatting with suppliers and reading catalogues from cover to cover to find those items that should be enjoyed for many more years to come.


Needless to say, there’s not any visits to gift fairs or trade shows for the Choosing Keeping team, instead it’s all about research and connection to find those almost-forgotten gems. One business they’ve built a relationship with over the last six years is German penmaker, Kaweco, who have been manufacturing pens since 1883. Choosing Keeping now have the largest range in a bricks and mortar UK shop.


As well as carefully sourcing stationery products from across the world, the store also create their own items too, such as their four colour ballpoint pens, Italian leatherette notebooks, hardback notebooks and handmade watercolour paper, of which many are among their bestsellers.


Needless to say, Choosing Keeping is a one-of-a-kind kind of stationery store, encouraging us shoppers to give thought when buying (not only about the product itself but about the makers and the community surrounding them) and then to take care, preserve and respect whatever it is we’ve purchased. In a nutshell: choosing to keep the memories, the heritage and people in work from independents, rather than buying mass-produced items. A visit to this beautiful store definitely gives us food for thought…

Find Choosing Keeping at 21 Tower Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9NS.

From the cutting room floor - AW18 issue

Thank you SO much for all the lovely feedback on the AW18 issue - we are so proud that lots of you have said it is your favourite issue yet! :) We recently announced that we are now offering one year subscriptions to the magazine - you can start from the AW18 issue if you haven’t got it yet, or start from the upcoming SS19 issue, out in April.

But if you’ve already devoured the current issue from cover to cover, then here is an additional little bit of eye candy in the form of images from the cutting room floor…

home of Aerende online shop owner Emily Mathieson

Totally in love with the simplicity of Emily of Aerende’s bathroom, in fact her entire home feels effortless yet thoughtful. Her bathroom also features products from skincare brand La-Eva - whose studio we featured in this issue. Shot by Jon Aaron Green.

Pickled radishes on rye bread recipe
Plum Jelly recipe

We ran a gorgeous food feature on preserving in this issue and stylist Sally Meier and photographer Catherine Frawley created these beautiful images - the colours, the textures… so fresh and enticing right?!

Lord Whitney's studio, featured in 91 Magazine AW18 issue

We visited so many stunning spaces in the AW18 issue - from shops and studios to homes and restaurants. Above is the super cool studio of Lord Whitney - there really is colour, fun and joy in every corner of this creative haven. Beautiful images by Kasia Fiszer.

Forest shop, London - featured in 91 Magazine AW18
Forest shop, London - featured in 91 Magazine AW18

The South London plant lover’s paradise that is Forest also had us swooning and wanting to add another 300 or so plants to our homes! Rachel Warne captured it beautifully.

Melissa Avila's apartment in Mexico City

During our trip to Mexico City earlier this year we got the chance to visit the home and studio of Melissa Avila. Her style effortlessly cool, her work immensely humbling. Thanks to Jemma Watts for her company and great photography on this trip.

Silo, Brighton - featured in 91 Magazine

We are in love with this little corner of zero-waste restaurant Silo in Brighton. How dreamy is that slouchy velvet seating?! Another great shoot by Jemma Watts.

Home tour - Daniele Schinke of Wunderblumen
Home tour - Daniele Schinke of Wunderblumen

The home that featured on the cover of this issue is that of Daniela Schinke. She has such a great eye for colour and a wonderful collection of objects around her home. How sweet is that mother and daughter illustration? Images captured by Olinga Ok.

Styling an Ethical home - 91 Magazine

Last but not least, an extra image from our conscious living shoot by Cathy Pyle, styled by Lauren Becker. How much do you want to curl up with a good book in this little spot?!

Grab your AW18 issue now, or why not treat yourself to a subscription?!

A simple winter table

Here at 91 we are approaching Christmas this year with a simpler mindset. Excessive consumerism is being dialled back and many of us are leaning towards living with less, enjoying the moment and not overdoing it; from food and drink to gifts and decor. Stylist Sophie Warren Smith shares her ideal winter table - one that epitomises this lifestyle - scandi-inspired, stylish, simple. Follow her tips to recreate the look…

a simple scandi winter table - 91 Magazine

Set the scene

To stop a simple Scandi table from looking too stark, lots of greenery is a must. You can keep spending to a minimum by foraging for as much as possible. I collected a few of different types of fragrant fir and small pinecones on dog walks - keep your eyes peeled - there’s also plenty of holly and ivy about too. You can then get a bunch of eucalyptus fairly cheaply from the florists, along with a few stems of thistles and roses, which all add texture and interest to your display.

Scatter a few small sprigs along the middle of your table, and then create a focal point with a vase - or a jug like the one I’ve used here. A great styling tip is to work in three’s, so here, I have added two glass candlesticks to flank the jug.

A tablecloth is a super simple way to add elegance to the overall look. If you don’t have one to hand, a length of linen or even a plain bed sheet will do the job! You can even leave the edges frayed for a more rustic, relaxed look.

a simple scandi Christmas table - 91 Magazine

It’s all in the detail

If you use glass bottles as candleholders as I have here, why not pop a small sprig of eucalyptus inside? Add a few vintage style mercury baubles to the centre that have a slight shimmer to catch the warmth and glow of the candlelight. Create a charming place setting by tying a stem of eucalyptus and thistle together, alternatively, you could use a piece of fir/Christmas tree (from the lower end of your tree) or some mistletoe.

simple Christmas table styling ideas - 91 Magazine

Make your table inviting

The key to this look is ‘less is more’, keep it uncluttered, simple yet sophisticated. Try layering your plates, it creates visual depth and makes the setting feel a little special. Place napkins in between the two plates to add texture, and to keep the table surface less busy. I’ve purposely chosen white plates for a more minimal look, but patterned plates on a plain tablecloth will look equally lovely. An optional, but wonderful finishing touch - add some sheepskins to your seating, they are super cosy and create a tactile, welcoming and comfy feel for your guests.

*The wall hanging in these images is part of A Foraged Christmas, a mini online course that goes on sale Monday 3rd December, priced at £18 for four festive easy to follow step by step projects that include a wreath, a mantelpiece garland and a festive bunch. See Sophie’s Instagram for further details.

91 is reading... Live Green

As we all become more and more concerned about the damage humankind is causing to the planet, we are doing what we can to reduce our personal impact, but I think it’s fair to say many people can feel overwhelmed by the changes we need to employ to really make a difference. Jen Chillingsworth’s debut book Live Green: 52 steps for a more sustainable life is here to prove that it is easier than you think to become kinder to our environment, simply by adjusting our habits and becoming more mindful in the choices we make.

Live Green by Jen Chillingsworth - review by 91 Magazine

The book itself is a thing of beauty - small format, printed on responsibly sourced paper and featuring the most beautiful illustrations by Amelia Flower (great name!). It’s perfect for dipping in and out of when you need advice on certain areas of your life.

Live Green by Jen Chillingsworth - book review by 91 Magazine
Live Green by Jen Chillingsworth - book review by 91 Magazine
Live Green by Jen Chillingsworth - book review by 91 Magazine

The book is split into six sections - Green Home & Garden, Eco-Household, Eat Green, Slow Fashion, Natural Beauty and Simple Christmas - covering so much in terms of home life and consumerism. It’s full of great little snippets of advice on things you might not even have considered and includes some practical recipes and DIY ideas for things like natural cleaning products, homemade moth repellent and even how to wrap your Christmas gifts in fabric using the Japanese technique of furoshiki.

Jen describes how she made these changes to her daily life over the course of a year; it doesn’t have to happen overnight, and her approach proves that it is achievable. As Jen states in the book’s introduction: “small steps lead to big changes.” This is one book I know I will return to time and time again, and will recommend to friends who are keen to live more sustainably too.

Live Green by Jen Chillingsworth - book review by 91 Magazine

Live Green is published by Quadrille and will be available from 10th January 2019. Pre-order your copy here. Jen is the author of slow living blog Little Birdie.

How to start an online lifestyle store

If you’ve ever dreamt of being a shopkeeper, opening an online store can certainly seem like the easiest option - no property overheads, open 24/7 and working from home are all enticing benefits - but as Huma Qureshi discovered, it’s not quite so straightforward! This kind of business demands you to become a jack-of-all-trades, and is certainly not an easy path. Huma tells us a little of her tale and then chats to three women who are nailing it at online retail to find out what is really involved in the land of e-commerce….

Last year, I launched an online store. I was excited about the possibilities. I had grown bored by seeing the same brands appear everywhere, even in independent stores, and I started thinking - what if I could make a shop filled with the unusual timeless products I wanted to buy? A picture formed in my head of a store full of mesmerising and beautiful pieces. I created mood boards on Pinterest and played around with website templates. I started browsing on Etsy and Instagram, looking for the sort of pieces I wanted to sell.

But in reality, I had very little idea of what I was doing or how to do it. I am a writer with a blog; I had no retail experience. I didn’t let this stop me. I jumped straight in, emailing crafters and makers whose products I wanted to stock, not really realising just how much work would be involved. I wish I could say I had a methodical checklist by my side but honestly, I did everything more or less at the same time - I bought my web domain and built my website while ordering stock; I picked out my branding colours while writing product descriptions. I didn’t really have a plan.

Somewhere along the line, and possibly because of my lack of planning, I stopped finding it enjoyable. I realised it was no longer the right decision for me and so it was with some relief I closed my store down. Still, I’m always curious to know how other people manage it successfully; it is a huge task, to be all things (shop owner, shop curator, photographer, marketer, administrator) at once. So I decided to find out. I asked three fellow online shop owners to share their more positive experiences.

Jo McCarthy, shop curator and owner of Firain

Jo McCarthy, shop curator and owner of Firain.

Firain, an online lifestyle store, opened in September 2017. Taking its name from an old Welsh word meaning ‘noble, beautiful, fair and fine’, Jo has filled Firain with handmade treats, gifts and beautiful homewares. She runs Firain from home, sourcing products from makers, using her spare room as her office and stock room.

 Jo’s idea: Firain had been at the back of my mind for a long time, but since my husband and I were living overseas I didn't pursue it. When we came back to the UK, the idea of running a little online shop became more of a feasible income stream. I knew that I wanted to work from home and have a flexible schedule and I had hoped that the necessary skills would come along at the right time. I told myself that if it didn’t work, I could turn the experience into something to learn from. I love that I am slowly carving out a little niche for myself.

What came first, products or a website? I emailed makers and small businesses to ask if they would be interested in selling through me, despite me having no website to show them. I was so encouraged when supportive and enthusiastic emails came back and that’s how I started to curate the shop. At the same time, I started to share on Instagram about my new shop opening and used targeted hashtags which seemed to gain a little bit of attention. 

With the website, everything has been very 'DIY' and done within an extremely tight budget - I built it myself on SquareSpace. I am certainly not techy! Don't be put off by your lack of experience. I am never happy with my website and tweak it every day!

Firain - online lifestyle store

And everything else…? I set up my shop with zero budget for branding, marketing materials or photography (a graphic designer friend helped me with my logo). Taking product photos and uploading them is the most time-consuming task and using a professional would be a good solution, but it’s not in my budget right now. I am trying to enjoy this creative process and not think too much about what I can't achieve, right now!

How much work is involved? I try to set time aside each day to work on the shop in some way, around my other jobs. Usually, it's keeping up with baseline tasks - posting on Instagram, updating the website, fulfilling orders, answering emails and keeping on top of invoices. Then there’s writing monthly newsletters and blog posts too.

Running a creative business will never be the easiest, most lucrative path to take and I have struggled to justify some of my decisions. The ebb and flow of running a shop can keep me awake at night! I need to make an income from Firain and I wish I had prepared a little more about the start-up costs and the potential challenges. But I absolutely love packing up orders for my customers. I feel that my creativity is coming back.

Jo’s advice:

1. Do the best with what you have, be self-sufficient and financially responsible but try to enjoy the creative process. Seek out interesting products that speak to you somehow, for some reason. You can't expect your friends and family to be your most loyal customers, so try to find your own tribe beyond your current network.

2. Be modest and acknowledge where you have gone wrong and try to learn from those mistakes.

3. Be selective about working with people who understand your limitations as a small business. Allow yourself time to breathe and pause. You can't make good decisions when you feel frantic and stretched. Most of all, be patient with yourself and with the business. In time, you will be proud that you swam against the tide and created something from scratch.

Tabara N’Diaye, shop owner of La Basketry

Tabara N’Diaye, shop owner of La Basketry

Tabara set up La Basketry, an online boutique selling artisan Senegalese baskets, in 2017. Originally from Senegal, she was born and raised in Paris but has been living in London for over a decade. Tabara grew up in a home filled with traditional Senegalese baskets and loved them not just for storage but as a way to remain connected to the stories of her heritage, and this is what she wants to share through La Basketry. She runs La Basketry from her home and has cleverly transformed her walk-in wardrobe into a storage room which holds all her shop’s products.

Tabara’s story: Being online is ideal as there are no borders; I can reach customers everywhere in the world and spread the love for the beautiful products I sell. I didn’t have any experience of retail before launching La Basketry, although my mother did own a shop. But I don’t think you really need experience - the tools and platforms available make everything very easy. I use Shopify – it’s very straightforward. I do think you need to be tech-savvy though. You can’t expect your online shop to sell products for you! SEO, Google Ads and even social media advertising are great ways to reach new customers so why not maximise the opportunities that are available to you?

I write all our website copy, newsletters and manage all our social media,  but I much prefer to work with professionals for product photos. I’ve also worked with a PR company in the past. I have no problem outsourcing certain tasks to people who can do a better job than me! I think it’s important to realise you cannot be good at everything.

How long did it take between having the idea for La Basketry and turning it into a reality? It took about a year. I worked with the London Small Business Centre to get my business plan into shape. I studied the market, the competition, established my pricing structure, and thought about marketing and so on. My business has evolved since then, but this was a great starting point. It’s free to see an advisor at the London Small Business Centre – they provide with templates and you can book as many appointments as you’d like – you can even sit down with an accountant to run through the numbers!

La Basketry online store

How do you source your products? I work directly with female artisans in Senegal. When I started the business, I had no design experience so I curated products from their existing collections, just changing colours and patterns for example. As our client base has grown, I’ve now started to design some of our products.

What's the biggest day to day challenge you've encountered in running an online store? Packing orders! It was taking a lot of time so I decided to outsource it. I work with a fulfillment company called Weengs when orders get too hectic. It means I don’t have to spend two to three hours packaging or queuing at the post office but can focus on other areas of the business instead.

Tabara’s advice: There are hundreds of online shops launching every day so don’t think that the moment you press the ‘LIVE’ button, customers will flock to your site. Your online shop is part of a much wider marketing strategy and you need to make sure that you’re engaging with potential customers via social media, PR and any other methods that would work for your business.

Emily Mathieson, shop owner of Aerende

Journalist-turned-social-entrepreneur, Emily launched Aerende, an ethical homewares online shop, in 2016. She runs her business from her home in St Albans, using her spare bedroom and office to design, develop and store products and package up orders. Unlike most online stores, Emily doesn’t just curate products from makers - she collaborates with and commissions social and therapeutic craft groups to create beautiful and everlasting products for Aerende.

Emily’s story: I have a lifestyle media background so I was confident in branding, telling stories and coming up with a beautiful edit of products. But it was arrogant of me to assume that that would be enough and I’ve been on a steep learning curve since then to really understand finances, cash flow, costings, marketing and strategy, as well as the underlying technical skills and SEO needed to really make a success of an online shop.

Retail is much more demanding than I naively imagined. You have all the normal requirements of running a business but now have to be great bloggers and social media masters too. I don’t have a background in manufacturing or design so product development (though wildly exciting) can be a tricky process and, of course, many of my makers face so many of their own challenges so that volumes, consistency and deadlines don’t happen in a conventional way.

I do every single thing for Aerende, from sticking labels on candles to sending images out for press requests. I’ve written every page of the website and hand-wrapped every single order. I store our products in my home, which is brilliant for flexibility, but challenging in terms of finding a cut-off between home life and work life. I’m lucky that we do have a spare bedroom and an office, but Aerende is starting to outgrow them and, having limited space means we can’t benefit on economies of scale on things like packing boxes; I simply don’t have enough space to store them. The next step is seeking some social investment to help fund a studio where we can store stock properly, showcase the products and create some distance for me between home and work.

 Why online? Being online has many advantages – not least in being able to reach people from a wider network than a physical shop might do. But I’ll be honest: this was a practical decision born out of lack of finance rather than a strategic one. I needed to be able to work flexibly around my family and going online is a much less risky way of testing a concept than going all in with a physical store. Having said that, a bricks and mortar shop is still a dream for me. We loved our pop-up with Appear Here so much, we’re looking at ways of funding another.

How hard was it to set up your website? Setting it up was the easy bit. My family are amazed at what I’ve built considering my fairly basic technical skills. I’ve learnt a lot in the last three years but the retail platform we use – Shopify – is amazingly user-friendly, even for non-techy people like me. It makes all the back-end payment stuff easy and links in with lots of apps so we can add and adapt features as and when they are requested or when we have funding to do so. SEO is a harder thing to crack and is an ongoing process. There are so many resources out there (and I’ve heard Lucy Lucraft’s SEO course is a good one).

 How do you source your products? It’s a complex process. Unlike almost every other online interiors/gift store, we can’t find items at trade fairs or on social media because our makers aren’t really on or at either. So it’s a process of word of mouth, Google and lots of research. And then, because we want the products to be desirable and to fit with the collection we work out colour schemes and shapes and sizes that would work well, and create each product in collaboration with the makers – so they can explore their skills and we can ensure an ever-changing collection. Now we have a profile makers are starting to find us too.

And how do you design your products? I don’t have a formal background in design so I simply start by creating products that I’d like to own or want to use. I hope that by creating things I love to look at and use, others will feel the same. Some inspirations come from nature, from heritage techniques, from Shaker and Danish design or sometimes start with a colour mood board I’ve spotted on Pinterest. It’s easy to feel there’s a ‘proper’ way to do this stuff but one of the great joys of running your own business is that it’s not always necessary to conform to preconceived notions of what business is. And I often remind myself that being an outsider without an MBA or corporate experience can open up possibilities for doing things differently and more effectively. Design is an organic process and I want to hang on to that feeling rather than over-thinking or over-complicating products that should bring pleasure and beauty to the day-to-day.

Emily’s advice

1. Plan ahead and do the finances but be prepared to ditch the plan and to drop an idea if it isn’t working.

2. Have a story. Tell it confidently and regularly. Make this your point of difference.

3. Have a vision. Knowing where you want to get to really helps to prioritise and focus on the day to day.

Thank you ladies! So insightful! Do check out all three lovely brands - Firain, La Basketry and Aerende, as well as Huma’s excellent blog Our Story Time.

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Hero

This month, 91’s Shopkeeper Spotlight falls on Hero, in Stockbridge, Hampshire. We talk to owner Laura Turner about the ethos behind her fashion and lifestyle business, nurturing a creative community and the importance of enjoying the little things in life...

Hi Laura! How would you describe Hero to someone discovering it for the first time?

Hero is a bricks and mortar, fashion and lifestyle shop with a passion for creativity. The name derives from our mission to stock wardrobe ‘heroes’ - from jeans and cashmere, to velvet jumpsuits and statement jewellery. We work with brands that we feel have meaning and heart behind their story, and strive to ensure everything you see in the shop is something really special.

As well as the retail element of Hero as a store and online, we also have a strong creative community around us, with regular creative workshops and meet-ups to encourage this. Later this year and into 2019 we are also launching a co-working space, so creatives can get together and enjoy the space to connect with each other, or simply get away from their own desk for a change of scene!

LT outside.jpg

What inspired you to set up Hero? 

I always knew I wanted to have my own business, and having grown up in an entrepreneurial family, it felt really natural to me to take risks and be in control of my own destiny. Having a shop or being in retail was never something that I’d set my sights on, but after a corporate career in the city, I knew that such a life was not for me. My curiosity about whether I could run my own business had never left me, so after writing a blog and growing in confidence I took the leap to open Hero. Even then, I knew that it would be more than just a shop on a local high street - I wanted to reach more people, create an impact, and build a brand. 

Since initially setting up Hero, the business has evolved many times and that’s something I have always been comfortable with. It keeps me on my toes, and also means I can adapt to the economic climate and keep things interesting for my audience. Hero is about the whole experience and how walking into the shop, visiting the website, or attending a creative workshop should always be inspiring.


What did you do before setting up Hero?

Hero was set up in 2014 and prior to that, I had been a busy stay-at-home mum with my two daughters. Earlier in my career, I’d worked in marketing within financial services. I’d started writing a blog as my own creative outlet when my daughters were quite tiny – I made many valuable connections through this and it really boosted my confidence to open a shop.


What is the ethos behind your business?

My main focus for Hero is that when purchasing something, it should always be worth it – it should make you feel incredible. This applies whether that’s a pair of jeans that you will wear every day, a candle that you light each night once the children have gone to bed, or a statement necklace that transforms any outfit you wear. I believe in having fewer things, but things that you will love today and treasure forever.

So the idea behind Hero was to curate a collection of everyday items that we all need, and to elevate them into something special to be relished – a way of enjoying the little things. I had been a stay-at-home mum for six years before launching Hero and although I had a fairly standard ‘casual uniform’, I always wanted to make this as nice as possible. And if I had a notebook or box of matches, I wanted them to be really lovely. Enjoying my personal style and image always meant a lot as an expression of myself, so it seemed natural to extend this to my business.

There are so many areas of our lives that are oversaturated - there is so much noise just through everyday living, that to visit somewhere calm and welcoming is a refreshing change, and that’s what I aim to achieve in Hero.


What inspires you?

So many things around me - I find inspiration in the local deli, magazines, a lovely pub or hotel, and in discovering new towns and new experiences. I’m also inspired by the services that other people provide which raise them above and beyond the norm, as I’m always striving to do things better and give people an experience that surpasses expectations.

How would you describe your style? 

Classic, cool + understated. 


How valuable is the online community to your work?

Blogging and social media offer a place where I can connect with a wider community than our local customer-base. I’ve found that being generous with your time and knowledge builds trust and loyalty, which means people come back time-after-time and enthusiastically move with you as the business evolves.


How did you go about designing and styling the store?

I love creating interior spaces, and the Hero shop gives me the perfect backdrop. After experimenting with different colours and schemes, I found that, for me, white is the best for retail - it means that the spotlight is on your stock and it’s not detracted from by crazy interiors!

The interior space affects how people feel, so the way that the shop is laid out is no accident. I’ve chosen strong, yet subtle colours for the front of the shop (the beautiful Calamine Pink by Farrow & Ball) offset with a charcoal wall inside. I like to be brave with style but not overwhelming, so there is no distraction from the retail area.

We’re very lucky as our building is really old and full of character, so I’ve been sympathetic to this with the furniture, but have also created contrast by introducing contemporary pieces, with different textures to add warmth and comfort. It’s designed as a journey of discovery around the shop, leading from one point of interest to the next.


How do you source your products?

I’m always working on discovering new brands and pieces to sell at Hero, and have a strict criteria. I love working with brands that have an authentic story behind them. I’ve travelled to Paris and Copenhagen in the past, and now use social media to find brands. There’s a balance between finding items that you love personally, and pieces that you know are going to be loved by everyone else. I am also conscious of quantities, and don’t buy too many of one piece so that people are buying something more individual. I love the exclusivity of finding a brand that isn’t over-distributed - it means I can keep offering collections that are original.


Do you have a creative background? 

I’m completely self-taught. I had no experience of retail, fashion or design, but I have a strong eye for detail that is instinctive, so can visualise how things will look and work together. Over the past four years, I have honed this to become more confident in my ability to curate Hero’s collections.


How do you find juggling an online business with a physical shop?

My main focus is always primarily on the physical shop - it’s really important to concentrate on what makes the business successful and then bolt-on the other parts which can then act to elevate it.


How do you approach marketing and PR? 

Less is more! My approach is not about gaining more and more followers or lots of coverage. It’s about communicating clearly to the ones I have, on a regular basis. My email marketing list is the most important and powerful resource I have. I connect with customers and build relationships and loyalty, without selling. There are times of course, that I talk about products or workshops, but it’s more about inviting people to read about these and hopefully build excitement or intrigue.


What are Hero’s favourite products or bestsellers?

Our best-sellers are always the classic wardrobe staples – such as denim and cashmere, plus the Connock London Kukui oil beauty collection. 

Any advice for aspiring independent store owners?

Get the foundations of your business secure. Make sure you have systems and clear processes set up, so that the fundamentals of your business can be run with, or without you. This means you can then focus on being creative with your marketing and buying. When you’re buying, go with your gut instinct and don’t be led by fads or quick sellers. And be crystal-clear on your brand values and stick to them - it means that as you evolve, your audience will follow without confusion.


Tell us about the Creative Gatherings held at Hero, they sound great!

The Creative Gatherings are a really informal meet-up once a month for anyone who is in business, or perhaps working on a project that they hope may turn into a business one day. There’s no agenda, it’s simply a supportive get-together, to have a chat and a coffee! I’d like to develop this in the future to extend it to membership, and also invite contacts to use our co-working space that’s launching in 2019.

Creative workshops at Hero have always been right at the heart of the brand, and the foundation of the community around it. Workshops provide the perfect platform for inviting people in and nurturing a relationship. When you bring like-minded people together, they want to share experiences and this is how a community naturally grows. I invite experts in social media, blogging and business to share their knowledge. Groups are kept really small and informal so that it’s easy to ask questions and chat. I think the digital world is brilliant, but I honestly don’t think you can beat sitting round a table with people and learning from them!


Any future developments in the pipeline?

I’m really excited about 2019! It sees the launch of the Hero co-working space. This is a welcoming space at the shop for creatives to enjoy and work for the day, or to hire for their own creative workshops.

Find Hero at Nomads House, High Street, Stockbridge, Hampshire.

Meet The Maker: Jessica Ford

For many of us creatives, the idea of stepping away from our computer screens and connecting to what we’re doing is something high on our wish lists, but is not always practical with looming deadlines and other commitments.

Fine artist Jessica Ford (who also works as a illustrator and has designed everything from children’s books and packaging to advertising campaigns and fiction covers, as well as this year’s Valentine’s box for Godiva Chocolatiers!) has done just that and carved out time in her schedule to focus on her paintings.

This ‘happy hobby’ has become not only a creative outlet, but also become another business - with her work now hanging in homes across the world (including in the home of social media influencer Zoella).

We chatted to Jessica to find out how she creates her abstract work, divides her time and tips for starting a new venture.

Jessie Ford - Dusk.jpg

Hi Jessica! Why and when did you decide to become a professional artist?

I’d been working for ten years as a commercial illustrator (and still do, for half of the time!) but was dying to get away from a screen and get back to physically making art. I love having a varied working life, and still really enjoy the buzz of illustration commissions, but there’s something really exciting about making art for yourself, and not to a brief.

Photography: Joe at Nash Watson

Photography: Joe at Nash Watson

Can you tell me a little about your work? How would you describe your style?

My paintings and colourful, abstract pieces. When I started painting, I was really conscious that I wanted to have a happy experience in the studio, and I wanted the paintings to feel joyous and light - and not depressing. I’m not interested in digging around my soul for melancholy! I want the owner to feel positive when living with my paintings in their home. They’re very easy to live with. 

The whole process for me started out as a happy hobby, that wonderfully evolved into something much bigger. 


That’s so lovely to hear! How do you go about creating your work?

I like to work on quite big canvases. Strangely I find working on smaller canvases much more challenging! I use acrylic paint, gouache, and graphite pencil. I achieve the different textures by using different mixing mediums. I’m a big fan of a palette knife! I’d probably make a great plasterer!


Which paintings have been your most popular? Why do you think that is?

I have three prints that sell extremely well: ‘Brood’, ‘Lark’ and ‘Dusk’. I’d say the number one favourite has been ‘Dusk’. I’ve had so many enquiries about that painting, I could have sold it ten times over. Ironically it was on sale for over 6 months, appeared in different galleries, and then as soon as I sold it, the enquiries came piling in. Always seems to be the way!

Harbour by Jessica Ford

Harbour by Jessica Ford

Doesn’t it just? Hard question, but do you have a favourite?

My favourite is ‘Brood’. It was such a favourite that I decided to keep it and it now hangs in my bedroom at home. Again, I’ve had so many offers from people wanting to buy it, that it’s been quite tough to stay firm and not sell, but I’m glad I haven’t. Some things are worth more than money. I’ve lent it out on photoshoots on various occasions, so it’s travelled around a fair bit, and even appeared on one of the room sets at The Ideal Home Show this year.


That’s exciting! Where do you create? Does your location inspire you?

I have a little, cosy studio in Hove, East Sussex. It’s pretty teeny, but it has a big window, which as all artists know, is the main consideration with taking on a space! I’m very close to the sea, which is always really inspiring! And I love Hove. There’s such beautiful architecture everywhere, and lots of creative people live here. 

Unfortunately I will be leaving this studio soon, as the developers are moving in and turning the workspaces into flats. I do fear for the creative people of Brighton and Hove, as this is increasingly happening, and it means there’s no longer affordable studio space left. A lot of my artist friends have already left the area due to the rising costs, so the future is looking a bit uncertain.


What does a typical day look like for you?

I divide it up doing my illustration work half the time, and then depending on what my deadlines are looking like, I’ll disappear downstairs to do some painting. I’ve been really lucky that my painting studio has been in the same building as my illustration studio all these years. I can pop between the two, often when I’m waiting for a layer of paint to dry!


So handy! You use Instagram for your business - how does this work for you?

Instagram has been amazing for me. It’s the only social media platform I use for my painting, as I only really use Facebook for personal use, and Twitter... I’ve never really loved at all!! I’ve sold lots of paintings directly to customers through Instagram, and then it’s been such a buzz to see the paintings in situ, popping up on my client’s feeds. It’s brilliant to be able to communicate directly with your audience. One of my paintings has ended up in a home in Australia, so I’m thrilled the reach of social media travels so far.

Dusk by Jessica Ford

Dusk by Jessica Ford

With already having a successful career in illustration, what tips would you give to those of us looking to start a new venture?

Just start! I talked about painting for years, tentatively planning, dreaming, wishing. Two years ago, I made the decision to properly carve out time in my schedule to commit to it, starting with Friday being my ‘official painting day’. I really believe that it was that New Years resolution that propelled me forward. Sometimes these things just need proper time to grow and to be able to get off the ground.

6. Jessie Ford - Aurora.jpg

What's been your highlight so far?

It was pretty exciting when Zoella bought one of my paintings. It frequently pops up on her Instagram, or in her videos. 

Last year I had a lovely feature in Breathe magazine, and I’ve had loads of lovely support from fab interiors bloggers, such as Sophie Robinson, Little Big Bell, and Emily Dawe. They’ve been so great at featuring my work and helping to raise my profile, which has been such a gift. 


That’s so fantastic! So, what's next for you?

In my dreams I’d actually love to move into interior design. Perhaps own a shop. Be a stylist. Why are there not more hours in the day! I’m such a career glutton! Haha. I’d love to create a lifestyle brand that brings together my love of painting, colour and interiors.


Describe your work in three words:  

Colourful, abstract, bold.

What are your making rituals? 

Change into my painting clothes, pop on my favourite podcast and make sure I have a cup of tea by my side!

Tea or Coffee? 


Mountains or sea? 


Night owl or early bird? 

Early bird!

I wish someone had told me... 

It will all work out! I remember the deep seated fear of leaving university and heading for London to kick start my creative career, armed only with an art degree and not able to do anything else (I couldn’t even work a computer!), and thinking "NOW WHAT?!!" I'm so happy that my creative career actually panned out and I'm able to create art for a living. I feel really lucky.

See more from Jessica at

London indie events this weekend

As Christmas is now on the horizon lots of fabulous events are starting to pop up to fill our weekends with finding the perfect gifts for our loved ones. My aim this Christmas is to buy most, if not all, my gifts from independent brands, and luckily this is made easier by lots of the indie markets being held in coming weeks. There will be lots going on all over the country, so do check out what is happening local to you, but I just wanted to highlight five events that I am hoping to attend this weekend in London, or over the next few weeks - if I can make it to them all!

And Agency London pop up event November 2018

And Agency Pop up store

The first event is actually one 91 is taking part in. It is a pop up store run by And Agency which will feature a carefully curated selection of independent brands, including Blasta Henriet, Barton Croft and Undercover Living plus a selection of lovely ethical fashion and jewellery brands. It is happening in the heart of Shoreditch and will run from the 16th - 30th November. You can pick up copies of both our AW18 issue as well as the SS18 issue at the event. See more of what you can expect via their Instagram feed.

32 Charlotte Road, London, EC2A 3PB

16th - 30th November 2018

Mon-Sat: 11-6pm, Sunday: 10-5pm.

The Assembly Market, Stoke Newington

The Assembly Market

The Assembly Market is happening in Stoke Newington and is an ‘assembly’ of independent designers in the fashion, accessories, homeware & art sectors. Brands include P.I.C. Style (pictured above), Under the Cloth and Paper Covers Rock. The two day event has focussed on bringing together designers who have a commitment to sustainability as well as beautiful aesthetics - you can view the full list of those taking part here or follow along on their Instagram.

Abney Hall, 73A Stoke Newington Church St, Stoke Newington, London N16 0AS

Saturday 17th November - 11-6pm

Sunday 18th November - 11-5pm

Occasional Home store Christmas event 2018

Occasional Home Store Winter Weekend

The Occasional Home Store is back with their popular event mixing vintage and contemporary brands in one shopping extravaganza. Not only this, they will have a programme of events happening over the two days to keep you busy, so do check out their listings. You will find Pea Style there (whose home is in our AW18 issue!), as well as designers such as Ondine Ash and Meylor Paper Goods.

West Reservoir Centre, Green Lanes, London, N4 2HA

17th & 18th November 2018 - 10am - 4pm

The Mamahood Winter pop up


The Mamahood supports independent businesses run by mothers, the 16th November sees the opening of another one of their popular shopping events in East Dulwich. There will be 80 brands on sale, so it’ll be pretty tricky not to find something you love! Sellers include Little Carousel, Button and Blue (pictured), and Julia Staite. You may just get your Christmas shopping done in one fell swoop!

7 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich, London, SE22 8EW

16th November - until mid-February (when the Spring pop up will immediately follow!)

Mon - Sat: 9.30am - 5.30pm, Sundays: 12-5pm (closed between Christmas and new year)

Creoate pop up, Covent Garden

Last but not least, is a pop up store I stumbled across while wandering the streets of Covent Garden last week. Creoate are an organisation who bring together retail products and experiences for independent brands. I was excited to see a platform for female independent brands right in the heart of Central London which is often dominated by the big corporate names. They’ve also got a plethora of workshops happening too. There’s a wide range of items from homeware and beauty to fashion and art, so do pop in - they are there until the 23rd December. Discover some of the brands they stock on their Instagram.

37 Neal Street, London, WC2H 9PR

now until 23rd December

91 is reading... books about glasshouses

There is a hashtag on Instagram called #ihavethisthingwithglasshouses which has over 4000 images highlighting the beauty of glasshouses, and rightly so. I personally find much serenity and peace when wandering around the paths of these botanical spaces in the shadow of towering tropical specimens or quietly examining an unusual cacti collection. There is something undeniably appealing about their opaque walls and ceilings and the atmosphere created by so much living and breathing beauty.

Glasshouse Greenhouse - Haarkon book & Botanical by Samuel Zeller
Botanical by Samuel Zeller

For those times you strive a calming influence but can’t quite justify a glasshouse visit, then turn to these beautiful new books, both exploring the uniqueness of greenhouses around the world.

Botanical by Samuel Zeller is essentially a photography book, featuring a foreword by journalist Rachel Segal Hamilton followed by a few words from the photographer, before showcasing the body of work Zeller has created on his journey visiting glasshouses across Europe. His focus is on capturing how the plants enclosed within are seen through the panes of glass, resulting in a beautiful collection of images, many which almost look like paintings.

Botanical by Samuel Zeller - Hoxton Mini Press - review by 91 Magazine
Botanical by Samuel Zeller - Hoxton Mini Press - review by 91 Magazine

Samuel has documented moments within these spaces, like when the light is perfectly dappled, when structural plants have cast striking shadows or the moody, misty effect caused by condensation. This book has made me look at glasshouses from a different perspective - observing the beautiful shapes and patterns created by the combination of plants and their environment.

Glasshouse Greenhouse by Haarkon - review by 91 Magazine

Being a fan of the much loved, plant-filled Instagram feed of Haarkon, I was excited to see the launch of their first book - Glasshouse Greenhouse. With over 200 pages of greenery goodness, you will find architectural glasshouses through to cobbled together tiny greenhouses, from Oxford, UK to Adelaide, Australia.

Glasshouse Greenhouse by Haarkon
Glasshouse Greenhouse by Haarkon
Glasshouse Greenhouse by Haarkon

The variety throughout the book keeps you turning; I love the juxtaposition between the monumental spaces found in botanical gardens around the world with the small private collections owned by individuals. In the words of India and Magnus themselves: ‘You may find the odd factual snippet here, but it’s much more about capturing the sentiment of the places that we visited, the essence of the greenhouses and the passion with which they have been created.’ There is a real sense of going on this journey with the couple - almost like a travel book which just happens to discover some of the most beautiful glasshouses around the world.

Buy Botanical on Amazon

Buy Glasshouse Greenhouse on Amazon

DIY: reusable waxed cloth food wraps

We are all trying to do our bit to reduce plastic waste, and the kitchen is one area where you can make plenty of changes. Cling film can easily be eradicated from regular use by replacing it with waxed food wraps. You can buy these now from various retailers, but Juliet Bawden is here to show us how to make our own, allowing you to choose any fabric design you like - and I think you’ll agree, it looks much prettier than cling film ever did!

DIY wax cloth food wrap project

You will need:

  • Closely woven cotton fabric, similar to a bed sheet in feel. We got ours from Cloth and Candy

  • Wax - either grated from a large block or you can buy wax pellets on line.

  • Baking parchment

  • A flat baking tray

  • Pinking shears

  • Flat decorators paint brush

  • Tape measure

  • Paper scissors

make your own reusable wax food wrap
  1. Use the bowl or vessel you wish to cover as a template and draw around leaving an extra two centimetres on each side. Cut out the fabric with pinking shears so you won’t have to hem the fabric.

make your own reusable food wrap

2. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, then place the fabric on top and sprinkle the wax evenly on the fabric.

DIY wax food wrap

3. Place in a low temperature oven, approx. 100°C, and watch the fabric through the oven door until the wax melts into the cloth, this should take between five and ten minutes. Remove carefully and use a paintbrush to spread the wax, covering any parts of the fabric where the wax may not have penetrated.

how to make a waxed cloth food wrap

4. Hang the fabric up to dry. Once the cloth is dry it will still feel slightly sticky and waxy but that is the nature of the beast. You can make cloths for specific containers or larger pieces which can be multi-purpose and could wrap items such as loaves of bread or pieces of fruit.

waxed cloth food wrap - make your own

Wash your wraps after use in cool water with some gentle soap and leave to dry.

Photography: Antonia Attwood

Seek Inspire Create with Team 91 - October

Our ‘Seek Inspire Create’ theme started out as an Instagram hashtag which amazingly now has over 184K posts tagged with it! Do check it out - #seekinspirecreate - you might find some new accounts to follow. Our e-zine is also inspired by these words and - I’ll let you in on a secret - I’m hoping to launch some events next year also taking inspiration from it!

These occasional posts are to share what our team have been up to recently - what we have been seeking, being inspired by and creating… we hope you enjoy this little peek into our lives beyond 91….

Also, I’d like to intro you to our newest member of the 91 team; Sine Fleet has taken over from Kath as our sub editor. Sine has written a number of features for the magazine in the past and has previous experience editing and writing for other interiors magazines. Welcome Sine! :)

Little Natural Co, Lewes

The Little Natural Co. - Olivia Williams, brand manager

A friend and I took time out this month to walk and talk our way around Lewes. It’s such a hub for independent stores, perfect for seeking home inspiration and to purchase goodies. Imagine our joy stepping into the The Little Natural Concept store where design-led, ethical, natural and organic treasures collide. Their instagram grid is dreamy and the online boutique makes shopping super easy from any corner of the country.

Sezincote, house and gardens, North Cotswolds

Sezincote house and gardens, North Cotswolds – Sine Fleet, sub-editor

You perhaps don’t anticipate stumbling upon a 200-year old Mogul-style palace in the Cotswold countryside, but amazingly, this is where you’ll find one. At a loose end one autumn afternoon, I took a trip to Sezincote house, and its magical gardens brimming with exotic plants, grottoes and temples, pools and waterfalls.

The house - an onion-domed architectural folly in the ‘Indian Style’ - was the whim of Colonel John Cockerell, grandson of diarist Samuel Pepys. The building is rumoured to have inspired the design of the Brighton’s Royal Pavilion, after the Prince Regent visited in 1807.

Sezincote house and gardens are a visual feast, it’s certainly an atmospheric place to explore, and one that’s full of surprises.


WILDWOMAN subscription box - Shelley Welti, Marketing Manager

Ah, self-care. It's a word that's popping up here, there and everywhere at the moment. And while I've always loved the idea of taking time out for myself, the practicality of it, alongside juggling work, family and a social life, has just never been something I've been able to actually get to grips with. Sound familiar?! So, when a friend told me about her plans to launch WILDWOMAN - a monthly self-care subscription box, containing a self-development book and me-time goodies from indie businesses, so that women, just like me, can take dedicated time out for themselves each month, I knew I had to sign up! I'm now on box three and while the struggle for self-care is still very much real, I've been enjoying stealing stress-free moments here and there to read my self-development book, journal (using the helpful prompts) and just take time for me - without constantly thinking about the next thing on my seemingly never-ending to-do list! See more about WILDWOMAN here.

Frome Independent Market

Frome Independent Market - Caroline Rowland, editor

At the start of the month, my husband and I took ourselves down to Somerset to celebrate my birthday. We stayed the night in the charming town of Frome, well-known for it’s wealth of independent stores, including Resident, Bramble and Wild and Kobi and Teal. Unsurprisingly, it was right up my (shopping) street! The added bonus was that the weekend we visited coincided with the monthly Frome Independent Market which takes over most of the town. I really was in heaven as we explored the numerous stalls of indie makers and brands, followed by a browse in the flea market section, rounded off with some delicious street food. Birthday treats were acquired, including (another) plant from the lovely Botanica Studio, whose plants weren’t overpriced and came with a handwritten care card, specific to each plant. Next market is 4th November.

Royal Academy

October has always been my favourite month of the year. I love everything about it; from the pumpkin spice decaf lattes, to the falling red leaves and the anticipation of Halloween approaching. There seems to be a whole plethora of events going on around London. I decided to go to the Royal Academy of Arts to see the Psychobarn installation by Cornelia Parker. The piece was incredible and so intricately done. Afterwards, I decided to go to Fortnum and Masons for some of their amazing vanilla and nougat tea. I was amazed by their carefully curated Halloween displays. I couldn’t believe I had never come in October and this will definitely become a new tradition of mine.

Meet the Maker: Wallflower Weavings

A creative year spent abroad as a teenager sparked a love affair with woven art forms for Sophie Cotterill of Wallflower Weavings, igniting a passion for making her own whimsical works using beautiful, sustainable materials, as she tells 91 Magazine’s Sine Fleet.


‘I suppose when I first saw a piece of woven art, my immediate reaction was “Wow, that's so different!”’ says Sophie Cotterill of Wallflower Weavings. ‘Woven wall art is such a unique and creative way to decorate a room, it brings warmth and movement to the space it hangs in, and can't often be found on the high street,’ she says.


Sophie’s business is now situated in her home town of Warrington in Cheshire, but her love of weaving first began in a small corner of the Netherlands, the city of Delft, which she visited in 2014. ‘I was only nineteen at the time, and had moved abroad for a year. I found weaving through Instagram initially, and the moment I tried it, I was hooked!’ she says.


Sophie initially set up an Instagram account, soon followed by her online Etsy shop during her year abroad, which helped to fund her trip. ‘I set up Wallflower Weavings following my sudden hit of inspiration in what I was learning. It developed as it grew in popularity online, which encouraged me to keep going, and it has been a steady and lovely practice in my life alongside my other work, running an Alice in Wonderland-themed tea shop.’

College studies included textiles and photography, but Sophie’s interests and skillset have been honed through independent self-development and the pursuit of her own personal passions. ‘I've loved art since I was very young, and at high school I found it was the textile world that called to me, especially when it came to anything free-form and unusual.’


Over time, Sophie’s unique style evolved – her textural pieces have a playful, whimsical feel. ‘Where many of the weaving world's pieces are classic, neutral and minimal, my work organically took a different direction over time into deeply tactile and colourful work. They're very feminine pieces, quite delicate with intricate details – a real feast for the eyes, like a bouquet of yarn! That's part of the reason for calling them “Wallflowers”,’ she says.


From there, Sophie continued to build her skills, venturing into spinning yarns, experimenting with natural dyes, and processing farm-fresh sheep's wool to use in her work, and sell on to fellow makers. ‘It's always a pleasure to sit at the loom or wheel and make something that is entirely one of a kind,’ she says. ‘As I spin and dye yarn, it’s my responsibility to ensure I'm choosing the best sourced fibre that I can. Instead of aiming for mass-produced materials, at fibre fairs and markets, I discover new businesses and suppliers of unique fibres and yarns. Even though I make my own, I love to buy and support other spinners and dyers - everyone has a different style. On my travels I buy local yarn as a memento, whether from a modern city like Oslo, the bustling streets of a town in Thailand, or the Welsh countryside. A little part of the culture and charm makes its way into my weavings,’ says Sophie.


Discovering weaving answered a cry for inspiration at the perfect time for Sophie, having tried sewing, knitting, crochet, embroidery, and many other crafts. ‘Weaving was the one - it gave me so much confidence in myself, and I could finally identify with the side of me that always felt like a ‘maker’. It was everything I had been looking for as a creative who hadn't found their outlet yet,’ she explains.

Creating in a free and instinctive way is central to Sophie’s work, and inspiration can come from the natural world, design trends, fellow artists, and travel. ‘My weaving method is free-form, so rather than drawing up a design or following a pattern, I let my hands get to work, using my understanding of the fibres involved to build on texture and create a strong, but beautiful piece. My materials are my ultimate inspiration, which is why I taught myself to spin and dye, to get closer to the fibres and understand every part of the weaving process,’ Sophie explains.

Lovebirds Cheshire Photography

Lovebirds Cheshire Photography

Commitment to sustainability, resourcefulness and eco-friendly materials also shapes Sophie’s work, and ‘getting back to the roots’ is intrinsic to her working ethos, stemming from traditional weaving practices through the ages. ‘I love to visit smallholders of sheep and alpacas in the countryside, where I can meet the animals and learn from their owners. This way I'll know exactly how the animals live - simply for the love of them and their wool. I choose 100 per cent personally sourced, organic wool – usually straight from the sheep, goat or alpaca – and also experiment with plant fibres like hemp, organic cotton, bamboo etc. for their wonderful strength and range of textures. I like to work in as eco-friendly a way as possible, limiting any chemical and water use, using mainly wooden equipment such as looms and spinning wheels, and follow the tradition of working with natural dyes.’

Sophie’s wonderfully natural dyes come from the simplest and most resourceful of means, ‘I source ours from our family allotment - some of our favourites have been the roots of rhubarb, which create a glorious golden yellow hue, and beetroot, which of course can lead to a lovely hot pink! Berries, onion and avocado skins, nuts, coffee, flowers, tree bark – there are so many sources for natural dyes, so there is always more to learn. These colours blend together very harmoniously, and my work over the years has taken on a more natural palette,’ she describes.


Like most makers, Sophie works best when her workspace around her is ‘just-so’. ‘I'm quite particular about my workspace, with lots of warm and cosy colours and textures around - a nice tidy desk and a series or album to keep me going! I can sit down at 6pm to work and look at the clock to find it's suddenly midnight, and I barely notice - so being comfortable is a must. I have all of my equipment to hand, which ranges from spinning wheels to looms, bobbins to a drum carder (a tool for combing the wool before spinning), as big and unusual as they are.’ The work of other makers also constantly inspires Sophie, ‘I surround myself with these - the results of art swaps within the online community, and purchases from local artisan fairs. These works are important as they are all inspiring in different ways - I find them really encouraging to work around.’


From day one, the online world has been a linchpin for Wallflower Weavings, providing a community of like-minded makers, and a vital launch-pad to potential customers and commissions. ‘My business wouldn't exist if not for Instagram and online shopping platforms, and both of these aspects have made my life as a maker so much more interesting. There's a big community out there filled with the nicest people I've ever met, and they're all online, happy to share and encourage. Many of my customers and fellow artists I meet are from overseas. We share knowledge, inspiration, advice, and even share materials with each other,’ says Sophie.


With a deep love of nature inherent in her work, when time allows, Sophie loves to retreat to the Scottish highlands to feed her creativity. ‘If I could turn my work into a place, it would be there - up in the depths of Skye. These retreats take me on fleece-hunting escapades, natural dye foraging and a chance to soak up the magic of the mountains! I also love interior design and to thrift, especially furniture - I even thrifted and renovated one of my spinning wheels, from the ‘80s.’

Sophie’s future plans for Wallflower Weavings include a move to a more rural setting, ‘With a big move to my first house on the horizon, I'm excited to see how my new space helps my business come into its own, with a beautiful countryside setting to inspire new pieces and a studio to devote to my work.’ Collaborations lie ahead too, which Sophie hopes might inspire others to try their hand at weaving, ‘A new addition to the shop comes from my project with an independent woodworker in the highlands – we have created our first prototype for one of a kind, all natural lap looms. For those who enjoy the out-of-the-ordinary, these luxury looms have been designed to accentuate the natural wood, and to feel like an organically grown piece of equipment. We will be producing them simply for the love of it. I'm obsessed with mine already,’ she says.

Lovebirds Cheshire Photography

Lovebirds Cheshire Photography

Quick-fire questions: 

Describe your work in three words?
Whimsical, organic, tactile

What are your making rituals?
House to myself, comfy clothes on, a pot of coffee brewing, my two cats, and a tidy workspace to enjoy. 

Tea or coffee?

Mountains or sea?

Night owl or early bird?
Night owl

I wish someone had told me...

Not everything has to be perfect – as it turns out, imperfections are even more beautiful

Find out more about Wallflower Weavings via Instagram, Etsy and Facebook.

Taking the leap to freelance life

Writer and blogger Jessica Rose Williams recently made the long-dreamt-about decision to leave her job and go full-time with her blog. But how easy is it to make that choice, and how do you know the time is right? Jessica shares her journey with us and then chats to three other creative women to hear their tales of taking the freelance leap…

When is the right time to go freelance? Jessica Rose Williams explains.

It’s what most of us dream of when the boss is dishing out those jobs we hate doing, breathing down our necks and telling us we can’t have that morning off we’d asked for. Being my own boss has been a dream of mine for years, but I never thought it was for people like me. I thought you had to be one of those stereotypical creative types, an Insta-ready 6ft blonde in a bikini or have a bullet-proof business plan in your pocket with a ton of money in the bank in case it doesn’t work out.

Mostly, I always thought you had to have a lot more brains, confidence and courage than I thought I had. Fast forward a few years and here I am writing this; being my own boss, and I took that morning off I wanted just yesterday. 

I have a theory that given the choice, most people would jump at the chance of being self-employed over working a traditional 9-5. Making my own leap took a lot of psyching myself up for, like one of those birds you see flapping around in the tree before they actually fly the nest. But I did it. And I’ve no regrets. Knowing when to do it was the toughest part. Is there ever a right time? 

I knew the time was right to start blogging full time 18 months ago, but I chose to ignore it. My husband was the one who said it out loud first and I insisted he was wrong until it got to the point where I couldn’t ignore what had been staring me in the face any longer. So I jumped. I felt lucky to have had the freedom to write my blog alongside my work for our financial advice business but the workload scales eventually tipped and I couldn’t manage both. I had to choose and I chose what fed my soul and gave me the most joy, even though it wasn’t a sure thing financially.  

My biggest struggle was stepping into what felt like an almighty spotlight and saying out loud that I was doing this. I’d already been doing it anyway, but I’d stayed in the safety zone and kept my strings attached - just in case I failed. Reframing failure as a learning opportunity was invaluable in lifting the pressure I’d been suffocating under and giving myself the reassurance I needed. 

It would be unrealistic to glamourise freelance life as a perfect one but with so many of us dreaming of a career on our own terms or even just a creative side hustle that provides some pocket money, I think it can be comforting to hear from those that have gone before us. 

I interviewed three other self-employed creatives to find out more about their stories and the struggles they had to overcome before they flew the nest too. 

Kayte Ferris on going freelance

Kayte’s story 

Kayte Ferris was a marketing manager for a nursery furniture company before she upped sticks to the Welsh mountains to start her creative coaching business. She told me how even though her job was creative on paper, the reality of staff meetings and sales targets weren’t what she wanted to do. Something was missing. 

It took her boyfriend accepting a job offer in rural Wales for Kayte to run out of excuses and take the leap. Knowing her living expenses would be halved felt like the opportunity she’d been aching for. With the decision to quit her job and move to the countryside taken out of her hands, Kayte’s real struggle came with deciding what she was going to do. To overcome this, she signed up for coaching with Jen Carrington, binged on creative podcasts such as Being Boss, Hashtag Authentic and Blogtacular and gave the decision making process the necessary time it deserved.

Siobhan Watts on becoming a freelance photographer

Siobhan’s story

Siobhan Watts was a tour manager for a theatre company before she decided not to return from her maternity leave and develop her photography business instead. She’d been building her creative venture for two years prior to her leap, but it wasn’t until she got pregnant that she knew she wanted to take it full time for freedom. 

Sometimes it’s a case of asking yourself which is worse and this is how it was for Siobhan. It became scarier to see herself at 40 with 2 kids in a job she didn’t like than to go after what she truly wanted. After years of fearing the vision she was terrified of and not knowing who she really was, it felt like it was now or never. Siobhan found believing in herself the hardest thing to do but with the task of raising a little girl on her hands, she felt she wouldn’t be able to tell her to follow her dreams when she’d clearly given up on her own.

Kara Leigh Ford on being a freelance ceramicist

Kara’s story

After finishing her art degree, Kara worked in marketing for 10 years before she decided to take her ceramics business full time. She describes herself during that time as a compass with no north. Kara had learned pottery at evening classes as a creative outlet, but it wasn’t until she was in a room full of potters at auditions for BBC’s The Great Pottery Throwdown that she realised it was possible to make a living from her hobby. Less than six months earlier she’d lost a close friend to a brain tumour and felt this was the kick from the universe telling her to make it when he tragically hadn’t. 

When it comes to choosing the right time, Kara believes in signposts from the universe and ‘if you ignore them, it’ll give you bigger signs’ she told me. She couldn’t ignore the signs any longer when her new home came equipped with a shed perfect for a pottery studio at the bottom of the garden. Less than six months after losing her friend Kara had handed in her notice and was ready to face her greatest fear of not being a success. Leaning into a little vulnerability and telling her family and friends what she was thinking of doing gave her the final push she needed.

Some tips if you’re thinking ‘this is me!’ and you’d love to start your own creative business

‘Start before you’re ready. I wish I hadn’t kept my cards so close to my chest and shared my business developing openly. It’s more important to be talking to those you’re thinking of selling to’ - Kayte Ferris

‘Tell people about what you’re thinking about doing. The self-critic is loudest when you don’t get support’ - Kara Leigh Ford

‘Do it. Do it. Do it. You don’t have to go all in right away, but make a plan and get yourself in a secure position - maybe cut down on some days in your job. If possible save up some money and get a few clients so you can explore what it is you do and don’t want to do. Hire someone like a coach or get some like-minded people together to support one another. Ultimately - just do it’ - Siobhan Watts

And me? I would encourage you to let to your gut guide you. Too often we look for external permission when we’re the ones that know what’s best for us. Forget what your head and heart are telling you and focus on that pull that comes from deep down in your stomach. You’ll know when the time is right. Trust it. 

I came away from each interview feeling more and more inspired to continue my new but exciting freelance journey and chase my own creative dreams. I’m hoping you feel the same way. 

Thank you Jessica (and ladies!) for this inspiring and insightful look at how it’s possible to make the move from full-time employment to living the working life you really want. Follow Jessica’s journey over on her blog and Instagram.

Three 91 creatives to follow - October

One of my favourite things about publishing a magazine is working with so many talented people. Our contributors really are the lifeblood behind our pages, with their fabulous photography, styling, words and illustration. This month we meet three ladies who have all contributed to our AW18 issue which has just published….

Kasia Fiszer - photographer

Kasia shoots regularly for 91 as well as other interior and lifestyle magazines. In the latest issue she photographed Lord Whitney’s studio (first pic below). She shares her work on her feed at @kfiszerfoto

Kasia Fiszer - 91 Magazine photographer - shoot of Lord Whitney studios
Kasia Fiszer - 91 Magazine photographer - home tour shoot
Kasia Fiszer - 91 Magazine photographer - studio tour shoot

If you weren't a photographer what would you be? 

I would be working with horses. My first degree was in Equine Business Management so I think I would go back to that. 

Name 3 of your favourite instagrammers & why? 

  • @clareepiper - her styling work is second to none and I would love to work with her one day

  • @wisniovsky - for photography with a dose of nostalgia and beautiful warm tones

  • @lisacohenphoto - for her stunning photography; especially her interiors photography, it's something I aspire to myself

 Top tip for aspiring interior photographers? 

  • Learn to use daylight to your advantage, it really is the best available light

  • Keep it simple - no funky angles! 

  • Might seem obvious but connect with people! At the start nobody will know who you are so change that and foremost BE NICE AND PROFESSIONAL, you never know who you might meet on the way that might become influential to your career as a photographer!

Favourite shop? 

After my latest visit there, I would have to say CARO Somerset for a dose of beautifully designed products for your home and Magalleria in Bath for the independent magazine lovers! 

Favourite flower? 

Tulips in large quantities! Understated and so beautiful and there are so many varieties and colours to chose from; and they always make me think of Spring.

Favourite plant? 

ZZ plant and mine has finally grown a new shoot! 

Favourite city?

I would say Bristol. For me, it's a perfect city for short day trips. I always come back home full of ideas for new projects. I love all the quirky shops and creativity that flows throughout the city.

Holly Maguire - illustrator

Holly’s illustrations are playful and intricate with a beautiful sense of colour. She illustrated our Creative Enrichment feature in the new issue. You can see more of her work at @hollymaguireuk

Holly Maguire - illustration
Holly Maguire - illustration
Holly Maguire - illustration

If you weren't a illustrator what would you be? 

I would probably be doing something similar! Maybe a prop maker or a cake decorator!

Name 3 of your favourite instagrammers & why? 

  •  @me_and_orla for her business advice, honesty and beautiful photography

  • @phoebewahl for her beautiful and heartfelt illustrations.

  • @wolfgang2242 who are a big family of adorable senior rescue dogs (plus chickens, a rabbit and Bikini the pig!)

Top tip for aspiring illustrators? 

Create the kind of work you want to be hired for.

Favourite shop? 

I love shopping small & handmade so Etsy is my favourite place for that!

Favourite flower? 

Any kind of wildflower.

Favourite plant? 

My Monstera that sits next to my desk!

Favourite city?

New York 

Kay Prestney - stylist / writer

Kay is a stylist who also hosts creative workshops as well as writing regularly for 91. Her most recent piece was our Studio Tour with La-Eva, which you can find in the new issue. See Kay’s home, inspiration & adventures on her feed @kinship_creativedc

Kay Prestney - stylist and writer for 91 Magazine
Kay Prestney - stylist and writer for 91 Magazine
Kay Prestney - stylist and writer for 91 Magazine

If you weren't a stylist/writer what would you be?

When I was younger I always wanted to be a marine biologist and with the worrying plight of our oceans I would love to revisit that dream and try to do something to help.

Name 3 of your favourite instagrammers & why?

Oh goodness, there are so many feeds I love, but three I am finding inspiring at the moment are:

  • @aureliemazurek for her beautiful natural interiors and simple living

  • @hildemork78‘s stunning photography and inspiring Scandi recipe /craft ideas

  • @kathryn_davey who produces beautiful hand-dyed Irish linens using natural dyes. I am hoping to do one of her workshops next year to learn how to do this properly having experimented with blackberries this summer.

Top tip for aspiring stylists?

Find your style then look for like-minded creatives to collaborate with. Offer to help assist on shoots to learn what goes on behind the scenes and to make contacts. Look to the natural world for foraged props to keep your costs down. Always be on the lookout for inspiration- I  find that echoing the changing seasons helps me to produce differing work throughout the year. This time of year I am drawn to textures, dried flowers and grasses and pops of mustard against a natural backdrop.

Favourite shop?

Ooh another really tricky one. I have lots of faves which are all small indie shops, but I particularly love And Hobbs (@_andhobbs) in Shere which is sited in an old forge. Owner Libby is so talented and has curated an absolutely beautiful space full of gorgeous homewares, she also collaborates with local creatives to host workshops.

Favourite flower?

I have always loved the understated chamelaucium (wax flower) for its pretty tiny flowers and it’s longevity. It also dries really well. That said, I confess to being a bit swept up in the tide of dahlia love at the moment thanks to @tamsynmorgans beautiful feed. I planted some white ones this year that pop beautifully at dusk as I look out into the garden through the kitchen window. 

Favourite plant?

Technically a tree, but I will never tire of eucalyptus for its beautiful silvery green hue and incredible scent. I have planted some in my garden and it brings me great pleasure to cut branches to bring indoors or use for styling work. It also grows brilliantly speedily. Top tip: hang a bunch in your shower for an uplifting start to the day.

Favourite city?

Vancouver will always have a special place in my heart. I lived in Canada for a year in my early twenties and adored the laid back healthy lifestyle, the foodie scene, the creative vibe and the fact you could be on the beach one day and in the mountains the next. It was amazing to have the benefit of city life, but to feel so closely connected to breathtaking nature. I also adore Copenhagen, where my husband proposed!

I hope you enjoy a little peek into the creative lives of our contributors, we certainly do! Make sure you go and follow them for more on Instagram. x

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Long Barn

Located in picturesque Alresford close to the historic town of Winchester in Hampshire, Long Barn is far more than just a carefully curated store filled with the wares of craftspeople and the farm’s renowned lavender - it’s a destination waiting to be explored, with a cafe and garden too.

We chatted to owners Richard Norris and Jane Marsden to talk about their love of lavender, growing from a market stall to having a lifestyle store and providing experiences…


Hi Richard and Jane, first thing’s first: when and why did you decide to open Long Barn?

Long Barn started with Richard’s love of lavender and desire to create a range of products that do justice to this wonderful plant. I (Jane), was a former marketing director, and joined Richard in the early days and together we created Long Barn as it is today. Our home, garden store and cafe has been a favoured destination in Alresford since 2009. We wanted to create a shop which put the joy back into shopping and we like to think of our Barn as a beautiful place to come and enjoy a couple of hours relaxing with friends and family - somewhere we’d like to go ourselves in our free time!


What had you both done before? Did any of these skills help?

Richard’s background is in accountancy and teaching but from the age of ten his heart has always been devoted to plants. The knowledge of accountancy is of obvious help; the teaching was part-time and helped greatly in setting up the business and gradually moving to full-time as Long Barn could sustain a salary. My background is in marketing, originally with a drinks brands – both alcoholic and tea, later with olives and baby food. Large corporate employers taught the need for rigour in reporting and margin; smaller employers required a really grounded approach. Both have been useful in the growth stages of Long Barn.


Long Barn is a destination - with a shop, cafe and gardens - did you always want it to be somewhere people could enjoy spending a couple of hours?

Long Barn has grown so much, from a much loved stall at London farmers markets to our first beautiful little store on the high street to now, a 3000+ square foot standalone oak barn surrounded by over 5000 lavender plants. When we first moved to the barn, we wanted to create a convivial atmosphere where people could spend quality time – in a way, the kind of place you take visiting friends after Sunday lunch.

Our vision has always been to grow with our audience and last summer has seen the original barn extended. We gathered a raft of craftspeople – designers, artists, furniture makers, sign writers, builders and carvers, to create a convivial space to tell the Long Barn story. You will find gardening, homewares, gifts, vintage and food all now under one, slightly longer roof!


How would you describe Long Barn’s style?

Our style reflects seasonal trends to some degree, but we tend to take our cues from the splendour of the English countryside in the main. We believe in a simple, honest approach to design, where quality and beauty are intrinsic. For us home is a place to express your tastes and really enjoy your time - be it through dressing a table for an impromptu lunch with family to creating a garden that looks stunning in every season - our barn is the place to discover a carefully curated collection of beautiful home and garden goods. We like to think of Long Barn as a one stop shop for the considered home.


You're passionate about involving local craftspeople - can you tell us a little about the wares of a few you stock?

We love to champion craftsmanship both at home and away and have always been passionate about products with purpose. By sharing handpicked handmade goods with our customers we are linking to our values, which are rooted in provenance and heritage. We are proud to have a assembled a collective of makers to delight our customers with. Highlights this season include Rosie Brewer, who trained at Camberwell and makes exceptional hand turned, sustainable kitchenware.


How do you source your gorgeous stock?

Instagram is a fantastic tool for finding interesting and up and coming brands as well as sustainable makers and talented craftspeople. In addition we go to all the shows and have a few trusted suppliers we always turn to for our core range. We also get approached quite a bit! A lot of our customers are the creative sort and love to share with us their latest finds.

This August, we invited designers, makers and food producers to showcase their wares at our Barn for a chance to be stocked for the Christmas season which proved a wonderful way to find new creative talent.


As well as stocking artisan makers, you also create your own lavender products too. Why do you love lavender so much?

At the root of Long Barn is a true love of lavender. All of this came from Richard’s love of gardening and history. An article in a magazine about the history of English commercial lavender-growing in the 18th and 19th centuries sparked the classic ‘light bulb’ moment in Richard. From that moment he knew that he wanted to farm lavender. Selling lavender products at London farmers’ markets had a curious link to the past which really interested him.

At Long Barn we sell the range of lavender products that Richard created with the help of aromatherapists, soap-makers and perfumers. On the plant sales terrace, alongside old fashioned rose varieties and other classically English garden plants we sell one of the most extensive ranges of lavender plants in the country. Richard loves introducing customers to lesser known varieties such as Folgate, Grosso and Sussex.


What do you enjoy most about running the Barn?

Greeting our lovely customers everyday! It sounds trite but really, they create the warm ambiance at the heart of the barn as much as we do. Even when we’re busy there’s always an opportunity to take a moment to have a nice chat and pass the time with a friendly face.


What has been your Long Barn career highlights (so far!)?

Too many to mention! However, this year we were finalists for Best Store Design at the Drapers Independent Retailers awards. Always a highlight in the industry calendar, this award recognises inspiring and thriving independent retailers from across the country and we’re thrilled to be included in such good company.

How have you balanced running Long Barn - given that it's a cafe, store and gardens? Usually people can only manage just one!

As anyone who has run their own business will say, you wear all sorts of hats during any given day! We have each worked in almost every part of the business at various times, and can both make great coffee, whip up a spreadsheet and tend to the plants with aplomb.

However, at this scale it would be impossible to cover everything just ourselves and we are joined by a fantastic team of shop and café staff; cooks, baristas, merchandisers, designers, gardeners, site and maintenance staff, bookkeepers and stock controllers. We are a sum of our parts, and it’s down to a lot of very dedicated and talented individuals to make Long Barn what it is: a really fantastic place to be.


Do you have any top tips / advice for those thinking of starting their own lifestyle store?

You have to love retail! And the principles of good shopkeeping. We feel that despite an increasingly clicks driven market, physical shops continue to thrive as hubs of enterprise, experience and community, but only if they are really good. What makes a really good shop? It’s a place that people feel something for. It’s a place that serves as a beacon, the go-to destination for a unique and interesting experience.

Shopping is an experience first and foremost, and for most people, a leisure pursuit. So consider what makes somewhere a place people choose to spend precious time, as well as money and come back again. It tends to be shops that offer a distinct point of difference - a sense of discovery through creative display, beautifully edited buying, exceptional service, a convivial atmosphere - make a destination standout from the rest. Oh, and you have to love people, that’s a given!


Autumn's now here and we bet it's especially beautiful at Long Barn - what’s happening over the coming months?

Autumn is a short but sweet season here at Long Barn - we invite our customers to join us in welcoming the most mellow months of the year. Traditionally a celebration of abundance, harvest is the time to share in the spoils of the summer with loved ones. Stop by our relaxing cafe for a good catch up with friends over coffee and homemade cake or stay longer and enjoy a hearty lunch with family - it’s always a joy to be able to come together and delight in the tastes of the season.

Long Barn, The Old Sheep Fair, Bishops Sutton Rd, Alresford, Hampshire, SO24 9EJ

Photography: Laura Brown

Our A/W 2018 issue is here!

Yesterday I had a message from one lovely reader to say how excited she was about the new issue arriving and that it is the highlight of her autumn season. Wow, that honestly makes me beam with pride that 91 can bring so much joy to those who read it. I can’t tell you how much hard work and pure love goes into creating it, but what truly makes it all worth it, is hearing the words of anticipation, enjoyment and encouragement from our readers. I often hear people say that they don’t buy magazines anymore, and that was exactly the reason I started the magazine - as I couldn’t find any I enjoyed anymore - but I hope that 91 has restored your love of magazines too, and will continue to do so for anyone who had previously lost faith in magazines. We only publish twice a year, but our ethos is most definitely quality over quantity.

The AW18 issue of 91 Magazine

So, here it is. Our A/W 2018 issue - our sixth print issue. In this edition, we shine a light on ethical living, visiting venues and talking to brands for which sustainability is at their heart. Our columnists talk about how living ethically can boost creativity, how to have strong ethics when running a small business as well as how to build a brand from scratch.

La-Eva feature in 91 Magazine A/W 2018 issue
Living consciously feature in 91 Magazine A/W 2018 issue

We connect with the makers community via our Instagram Edit, and as always visit beautiful homes of creative people. We always find so much inspiration in shops, studios and restaurants, so we share some truly beautiful spaces with you, as well as recipes, styling ideas, shopping tips and more.

Instagram Edit feature in 91 Magazine A/W 2018 issue
Wunderblumen home tour in 91 Magazine A/W 2018 issue
Lord Whitney studio tour in 91 Magazine A/W 2018 issue
Silo Brighton in 91 Magazine A/W 2018 issue
91 Magazine A/W 2018 issue

If you haven’t yet ordered your copy, then I hope this little peek at what’s inside has convinced you to treat yourself (or a friend!) - get it delivered direct to your door by ordering here, or check out our stockists list for where to find it near you. And don’t forget, we absolutely love to hear your feedback and see your pics, so do share online with our hashtag #my91magazine - we may even share your pics on our Instagram feed or in the next print issue!


Facing adversity with creativity

At 91 we love delving in and hearing the stories of why and how people have launched a creative business. There’s often many different reasons why people have decided to go it alone or try something they’ve always dreamt of. All are inspiring of course, but there are some stories that just stick with you. Grace Harvey chats to two women who found their calling after extremely dark and different times in their lives. Their stories a reminder that life isn’t a dress rehearsal and we should take every experience - good or bad - as a way to move forward with positivity and creativity, making the most of life however it leads us.

Photo by Scott Murray

Photo by Scott Murray

Positive Luxury. Choose Light. Four words born out of darkness and circumstances in which many of us hope to never find ourselves. Siân Esther, a luxury nightwear brand founded by Siân Adkins following the death of her parents, sets out to ensure that women can have a safe night’s sleep, and puts positive luxury at the heart of its mission. ‘Choose Light’ is the foundation of Moments of Sense and Style, or MOSS for short, a lifestyle store founded by Syreeta Challinger and her partner Rob, after Rob suffered a brain haemorrhage in 2014.

Siân Esther

Siân built her brand around the notion that in the nights we can’t sleep or days we can’t get out of bed, that we should still have beauty around us. Siân’s willingness to share her experiences so candidly has established a system of support for women who otherwise would not have this. Grief, as Siân herself notes, is not a topic of conversation that we have on a day-to-day basis. Her work with charity partners and the ethics behind the brand set her apart from other luxe brands, whilst ensuring that luxury remains at the heart of Siân Esther’s philosophy. Here, Sian tells me more….

What in particular inspired you to create something positive out of difficult personal circumstances, and to share your experiences so frankly as well as positively?

Creativity has always provided a great sense of joy for me and when I struggled to find the perfect pair of sophisticated pyjamas that I could give as a gift to my Mum, we challenged ourselves to make samples and look into patterns. During this time my Mum died suddenly and I really felt this was something that I wanted to carry on in her legacy. Mum’s ethos was always about buying fewer, better quality pieces and so this would form part of the brand values.

For me I found the grief of losing both my parents young (my Dad died 5 years before) really affected my sleep hugely and I would often wake in the night with anxiety, or worry about things that I would never have done before. When something tragic happens to you, it also challenges us to look at things differently, I couldn’t change the situation but I did realise I wanted to do something that was purpose-driven. Although grief impacted my sleep, I was so grateful for my fantastic support network of friends and family, as well as a lovely home and I realised that not all women who go through tough situations have this support system. Through the partnerships with our charities, I want to be able to help vulnerable and disadvantaged women to have a safe night’s sleep too. To be able to give them that feeling of comfort and security, like when you put on a pair of pjs.

What work do you do with your charity partners and how do you help vulnerable women through these partnerships?

We support women through three different routes; through our profits, our supply chain and personal support. 20% of our profits go to supporting our three partner charities. Firstly, The Marylebone Project, which is the largest women’s homeless shelter in the UK. They help women who find themselves homeless and in need for many reasons; from domestic violence and mental health issues to financial difficulties. The Luminary Bakery is a social enterprise in East London and provides training, community and employment opportunities in their bakery for disadvantaged women who may have experienced poverty, homelessness, violence or criminal activity. Mercy UK run a 6-month residential programme for women aged between 18 and 30 and who may be struggling with low self-esteem, depression, self-harming, eating and anxiety disorders. The home provides a safe place to equip and empower women in a healing journey.

Our second route is through our supply chain – we work with a social enterprise - Juta Shoes in East London - who employ women who would otherwise find it difficult to get into work to make our espadrille leather slippers and we also partner with Freeset in Kolkata, India who employ women who were previously stuck in the sex-trade industry to make our makeup bags. This is part of their journey to freedom. Lastly, we have also been practically involved with supporting the set-up of a women’s day shelter in a church in London.

Photo by Feia van Dusseldorp

Photo by Feia van Dusseldorp

Photo by Feia van Dusseldorp

Photo by Feia van Dusseldorp

What has been the biggest challenge about developing and communicating the philosophy that underpins Siân Esther?

Brand visibility in general has been hard outside of the regional area, as probably lots of start-ups find. For me personally; the challenge has been around being able to share my story openly and honestly, as I don’t think we talk about grief enough but then also balancing this with the beauty of our products and not just creating a heart-felt story. I want people to fall in love with our products and then also love our mission to support a social cause.

And the best? Which moments or opportunities have especially stood out to you?

I held a launch party at the Coppa Club in Henley where I live and that was a really special moment for me – to be able to celebrate the achievement of creating beautiful nightwear pieces with friends and family and to celebrate the start of a new journey after a difficult and dark time was amazing. We need to remember to celebrate the good things in life! After this, I had such positive feedback and received a letter from our MP, which was just amazing. Siân Esther was then featured on Sheerluxe as the brand to know for ethical pyjamas and that was very exciting.

Alongside this, I have also loved meeting so many new people, who I would otherwise not have met; other start-up founders, the charities which we support and people who have reached out through social media as they love what I am doing and want to help. I have realised not to be shy when asking for help and people are often flattered to be involved.

Photo by Feia van Dusseldorp

Photo by Feia van Dusseldorp

Photo by Feia van Dusseldorp

Photo by Feia van Dusseldorp

How would you encourage others to harness difficult circumstances or situations in their lives to create something positive?

I have realised that sadly we do sometimes face difficult situations that we cannot change but that we shouldn’t let our circumstance shape our future. We can build resilience through these tough times and use this to propel ourselves forward and grow. I think it is also important to mention that resilience isn’t just about being strong, we also have to be willing to be vulnerable and to allow others in to build relationships and to ask for help when needed.

When a traumatic experience happens to us, it often changes the way we see things or the perspective that we approach life. I listened to a talk by a chap called Stephen Foster, who talked about no risk = no reward, which really resonated with me. I found that after losing my parents, I became even more aware of other’s reactions around me but if we focus on these reactions, we can miss out on the opportunity in front of us.

What message do you hope people take away from Siân Esther?

I hope to encourage others to be bold and do something they really enjoy but also to build businesses that are purpose-driven from the core and not just as a bolt on, as a nice-to-have element. Finding something you really enjoy doing - which for me is creating nightwear, arranging flowers and baking - can provide a great sense of relief and joy through the mist of a difficult time.

Hopefully the women buying my pieces will feel empowered wearing them but also that they are playing their part in helping to empower other women.

Moments of Sense and Style

Based in Lincoln, MOSS encapsulates an elegant and thoughtful calm. Their range of candles and room mists, notebooks, luxury matches, and Rob’s art is based on their story and journey- each evokes a place and a feeling, and is a reminder to slow down and cherish small moments. It was clear from Rob’s exhibition at the University of Lincoln earlier this year, and the TEDx talk they did together in June, that both Rob and Syreeta talk and create candidly about their experiences. Rob’s art encourages us to see how love can truly heal, and that he continues to do brilliantly as his tries his utmost to get through. Syreeta filled me in further about the history of the business and how it has helped the couple to embrace what life has thrown at them…

Photo by Natasha Boyes

Photo by Natasha Boyes

Tell me a little more about MOSS.

Moments Of Sense & Style or MOSS for short, is a lifestyle studio and brand. Each product, art print or project we work on is considered and developed with a sensory experience of beauty in mind. The ethos is simplicity, to encourage people to slow down; embrace their senses and do it in style.

The brand was born out of life changing events, it has been a creative saviour. A loving, healing and cathartic project, but also a way to try and get back into the world again. To establish ourselves and earn a living around our life as it is now.

We are socially and ecologically aware, that yes, we wish to create products, but not creations for the sake of it. Each product is deeply considered and aligns with a need or desire from our life as it is now, with respect for the provenance and raw materials. By embracing the path of a studio alongside our wares, we are able to work on projects that compliment our ethos and help spread awareness of not only brain injury, but the importance of wellbeing to our health and inner world too. It’s more of a movement, a fluid label, one that leaves room for us to grow and change; as change is the only constant we have. Life is always changing and shifting and we have created a space in which to evolve.

Photo by Natasha Boyes

Photo by Natasha Boyes

What in particular inspired you to create something positive out of difficult personal circumstances, and to share your experiences so frankly as well as positively?

It’s quite a tale. My boyfriend at the time Rob and I were living and working in Hong Kong, when on the 27th September 2014, Rob suffered a near fatal brain haemorrhage and stroke. To make things more complicated, we were on the second day of a holiday in Sydney. Rob was in a coma and I was told he wouldn’t make it, but here I am almost 4 years later balancing life as full time carer, Rob’s slow rehabilitation, starting life over again and able to share this with you.

After being stuck in Sydney for 3 months, we realised life in HK was over and moved back to the UK to be with family. I had to move countries, start life in a city and home that was not my own, whilst dealing with Rob’s needs and care. Trauma on all levels. I lost my identity and sense of self, my home, my job, all in one go, whilst having to radiate love and support to Rob. I realised that’s all I had. Love. And that’s what has carried me through.

In all this, caring and rehab and grief, I needed an outlet. I could’t find work, was feeling low and needed to do something. It started out initially as a blog - a Tumblr page - inadvertently creating an aesthetic for the brand. It’s slowly evolved and become a creative space for both of us. Sharing the story through the Tumblr was a visceral journey. I pulled words, music, visuals, many of the photos our own and it was essentially a form of therapy for me. It had to get out of me.

The Maya Angelou quote rings true “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”. And as I shared, with friends at first, the response was overwhelmingly encouraging. It spurred me on and I continued to take step by step. And not only was I sharing to get it out of me, I was sharing to feel connected. I was isolated geographically, mentally, physically. In a city without any contacts, I had to start again on every level, yet how does one connect in a new city without work and in our horrendous situation?

Social media was a window to the world and made me feel part of something when so far removed from reality. Not only that, I was incredibly proud of what I was doing and of Rob - his determination and strength, our courage as young couple; staring tragedy fearlessly in the face. I wanted to tell the world how brilliant he was and how my efforts, by investing patience, love and care, had spurred on such wonderful changes.

I had taught Rob to draw again and this was how we communicated for a really long time, and we still do on bad days. He now draws for pleasure and is pursuing a new path as an artist, selling his prints as part of MOSS. Rob suffers with Aphasia which affects his reading and writing as well as speech. He is learning, but essentially it was like having a six-foot baby; he’s had to relearn everything.

And we will continue to share and talk about it. As when something happens to you, society tends to decide your fate. Writes you off. But we feel that everyone has something to offer if only given half the chance. Especially when offered a creative space. We feel passionately that creativity heals.

Don’t get me wrong, it has been horrific at times and still is on occasion. But with time, gentleness and positivity and a whole lot of love, we have got through.

Photo by Natasha Boyes

Photo by Natasha Boyes

Photo by Natasha Boyes

Photo by Natasha Boyes

What has been the biggest challenge about developing and communicating the philosophy that underpins MOSS?

It’s a challenge that’s for sure, but I always describe us as more than just a brand. Its more than just a candle, notebook or art print. For many people, they feel with their heads, not their hearts and don’t quite understand. They wonder why I do what I do. I wonder why they wouldn’t. The challenge is seeking the like minded souls, who feel deeply and perhaps have been through something. Where life has tested them, whether through something big or small, but something has awakened within them. They’ve let their guard down, not fearful. Something has moved them deeply and allowed them to understand the fragility of life and be open to others, with the understanding it comes with both dark and light; the good in the bad and bad in the good.

And as a fast evolving tech first world, I feel we are losing that connection to understanding ourselves, our connection to others. But those that do get it; it’s pure joy to feel connected to them. That they too, hold a place for our recovery and path as much as we encourage positivity and love for those of theirs. Fundamentally, it’s about being; the complex bundle of emotions and feelings, respecting one another for who we truly are, lifting each other up, supporting each other when chips are down.

And the best? Which moments or opportunities have especially stood out to you?

We held an exhibition for Rob in January this year at University Of Lincoln. It was an incredible achievement, at just 3 years after the brain haemorrhage, for Rob to be able to do this and for the uni to welcome us graciously. For me, it was incredibly tough to write and curate it, yet under Rob’s strict instructions, we shared the full story. Images from life before, his coma, the rehab recovery; all out in public. Yet the message was strong; one of hope and positivity. How creativity and love can heal.

And we elevated that message with a Tedx talk in June, sharing our hearts and story, on the world stage! What a moment, to be on stage together. But fundamentally, that we are here. Together. Doing this! I write this as we near the four year anniversary and to be able to share this with you, all that we have done and are doing, is incredible. They told me Rob would never make it, and if he did he would never be the same again and none of this was a possibility. Look at how far we have come. That is the most incredible thing.

Photo by Natasha Boyes

Photo by Natasha Boyes

How would you encourage others to harness difficult circumstances or situations in their lives to create something positive?

By letting everything go, every inch of my life as I knew it came nothing. It was not easy, nor was it comfortable. But from nothing, comes something. The quiet, the slow pace. The emptiness is a place of possibility. And from possibility, comes curiosity. And the space to dream and wonder. As what have you got to lose at this point? Nothing! So take a step. Even if it’s just an inch. Inch by inch, as with Rob’s recovery, it’s the only way to build, to grow, to develop.

Find the energy to do so, as sadly no one else can do it for you. There is no hero or knight on a white stead, other than the one inside of you. It won’t be pretty. But surrendering to the situation, letting it get all messy and mad is one of the most liberating things. Letting go of what once was and opening your heart and mind. Allowing yourself to feel every bit and understand your emotions around the changes and when you try new things.

It’s not always easy, and I still have to remind myself of this notion. But it’s where you really delve deep, finding strength you never knew you had.

What message do you hope people take away from MOSS?

Hopefully, more than one. First and foremost, the message to slow down. To breathe. To carve out time, just for soothing the soul and taking stock of the good in the world. And in that way, I mean carve out time and create a ritual, perhaps lighting a candle to mark the change of pace, or noting or doodling in a notebook, to soothe your soul. To be grateful. To cherish the beauty in the mundane, the precious every day things we all take for granted. They are the true gifts. And most importantly, one of light, of hope. That no matter what is thrown at you, there is always a way through.