Have you heard about The Maker’s Year? When I came across it, quite by accident through an Instagram hashtag — #themakersyear — I followed the hashtag trail and it led me to the creative and inspiring Kate from A Playful Day, what a lovely surprise, indeed! A few months back Kate interviewed Melanie Barnes and I (read it here) about our Slow Living Project. Since our short conversation with Kate I’ve been totally intrigued by her creativity, both the range of her artistic abilities and her intelligent contemplation of the role creativity plays in (her) life.
Kate is a mother, writer, blogger and podcaster, and as she says “sometimes a photographer.” Kate reminds us to make time for creativity, but most importantly to notice all the small, routine, daily activities in which we create. We are always making and creating to sustain our bodies, minds and souls. The Maker’s Year gives a nod to this making and creating and inspires us to share our creativity with others. In good fashion the Maker’s Year is also focussed on sustainability and seasonal rhythms. The Maker’s Year not only asks us to think about how little creative acts can make a big difference in our life, but also how being creative and in tune with the seasons and sustainability our small acts can have a huge, important impact. (By the way, it is not too late to join in The Maker’s Year, so visit Kate’s site and get involved).
There’s a lot more to Kate than the Maker’s Year, so please read on and hear her story of motherhood and creativity, slowing down and making. Enjoy!
Kate, please tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background?
I fell into the creative online life almost entirely by accident. When A Playful Day began I was living in London and working an incredibly stressful job. My career had been focussed on helping those in need: families in crisis, teenagers with mental health problems, children with extreme social behaviour problems… so many challenges and so little time to help everyone. Blogging was a way to feel like I wasn’t living for the spaces in between all that noise and activity. I rediscovered my love for writing and explored photography a little again having lost them almost entirely. As the blog gathered momentum, so did my need to make positive changes to my life and rescue my health. I went searching for a playful moment in every day and found a completely new path. I’m forever grateful that I took that risk.
What part of the world do you live in?
I recently relocated with my daughter to rural Dorset which is to the south of England. We spend our days gasping at big skies and are lucky enough to witness lambing and birds of prey swooping into the sea. It’s as spectacular as it sounds but not without challenges. It’s currently soaking wet and our routes into preschool each day keep flooding. I wouldn’t change it for the world though.
How do you spend most of your days?
My weekday life is pretty fast paced. As it’s just my daughter and I, I try to wake a little before her to check news and what’s been happening in the world before she calls for me. We breakfast together, talk about our plans and soon are in the car and driving through the countryside to drop her to preschool. While she’s there I work on commissions for writing or photography. Sometimes I meet with creatives for planning and coaching sessions but for the most part I’m at home with tea and a playlist keeping me company. It’s a varied work day which can be fun but a bit overwhelming sometimes. Before long I’m back in the car to collect my daughter and we often bake and make together until bedtime. Then I work into the small hours on admin, emails and my own blogging and podcasting content.
The weekends though…. Now the weekends are where things get truly wonderful. My daughter and I like to do small chores in our pjs and share a slower breakfast which usually involves one quick bowl of cereal to take the edge off then something delicious we made like granola or eggs and fresh bread. I sip coffee and we pack bags and head out to the coast with waterproofs and cameras. We collect shells, laugh at the wind whipping our hair and reconnect with each other and all the things we love. My daughter and I are true nature babies so filling up on these moments sustains us for the busy week ahead.
Do you have a favourite quote or words that inspire you?
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style” – Maya Angelou
I never got over my teenage hero worship when it comes to Maya Angelou. Her beautiful words speak to me as a single mother in my thirties as much as they did an awkward 15 year old girl learning her place in the world. Maya understood the need for sass and the deep desire to tell a story. My understanding of feminism feels more complete for reading her words about the value of women, of colour and class in the world. My days are fast paced because I’m living and I always think of the quote above when I’m tired and wondering if I should just lay low for a little while.
What are some of your favourite books?
Anything by Toni Morrison. I think I’ve read most of her books at least once and each time I am touched deeply by her ability to see the twists and turns of life and love. Toni wrote the most beautiful passage about a love that will bring you to your knees in Jazz and her opening to The Song of Solomon remains my favourite start to any novel I’ve ever read.
What were you passionate about as a child? Has creativity always been a big part of your life?
I come from a family of story tellers and book worms. My grandfather made up stories about a naughty goblin named Jerry and through every season he would appear, spoiling our apple pie or hiding my second mitten. I read 3-4 books a week and wrote stories that I sent to my teachers, grandparents and friends. I can still remember the day my father handed me a camera and told me to look for the thirds and suddenly I had a way to express myself even further. However with little encouragement to pursue my interests, I fell into a traditional academic route and the Arts took a back seat.
At University I studied Theatre and English language at a really radical university where we built sets and performed weird feminist pieces in dumpsters. It was here that I realised I had an ability to make and channelled it into costume design and constructing huge installations. Knitting and food didn’t come till much later in my life when I felt my creativity had dried up.
What inspires your work? Can you tell me a bit about your blog and podcasts on A Playful Day?
I love process and creativity that connects us together as makers. I get into a certain meditative state when taking a photo or baking bread and that’s when ideas and thoughts flow. I try to make both my work and A Playful Day feel that way. Whether I’m writing copy for a maker’s website or styling a beautiful process shot, I want the person who discovers that content to feel a story there that they can connect with.
A Playful Day focuses on storytelling and reflection. I blog and podcast about my knitting, passion for food and commitment to sustainable living. I have an open, honest style and I love the way people react both as readers and listeners but also as guests on the podcast. When I invite people on for an interview, I always share 5 questions that we’ll think about but we move so much deeper than this as our conversation evolves. I come away feeling like my need to discover has been sated and I will often have guests write month’s later to talk about the interview impacting their creativity for months. I guess it is important for all of us to find time to reflect and celebrate our choices and process.
Can you talk about your latest project the Maker’s Year? What inspired this? And how can people join in?
The Maker’s Year came from my need to make every day. I feel overwhelmed by 365 challenges and suspected that if I looked closely enough, I was already making in some form each day. I began to wonder if I could document this for others to draw inspiration from. I wondered if in taking the time to be present and mindful in my making, whether I could cultivate further creative habits that enriched our family life. I’m increasingly concerned with our climate and wanted to develop practices that focused on local produce, sustainable sources and keeping things manageable for me. It all came together as The Maker’s Year and a determination to explore how and what I create on a daily basis. When I shared my thoughts, the response was enormous and one of my favourite wake up activities now is to browse #themakersyear and look at the little changes people are making each day to nourish their need to make and enrich their lives. It doesn’t have to be huge. I finally made some marmalade and felt so accomplished. No more store bought jams!
When you aren’t working, what do you love to do?
Get outside! We live in one of the most beautiful areas in the world and I feel as if my eyes become hungry for the colour and texture it provides. Whether it’s trail running, hiking or playing by the sea with my little girl, my day always feels better for just being outside. I get the worst cabin fever!
Also I love to have time to knit. I have so little free time these days. I love it when I find time to curl up with a project, my needles and a yarn that feels like a story in itself. Breed specific wool is a growing passion of mine. It is endlessly fascinating how wool varies between breeds and the different processing methods that create the materials I end up working with.
Thank you, Kate, for sharing on the blog, you have inspired me in so many ways with what you’ve shared, and I’m sure you’ll inspire many others to live creatively and sustainably.
Readers, you can find Kate on Instagram @aplayfulday and make sure to visit her website, A Playful Day, which is the hub for all her creative activity, including The Maker’s Year. You can also find Kate on Twitter, Pinterest and Steller as @aplayfulday.
This interview is part of my Creative Mother series, find the rest here.
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