Today I am delighted to bring you a wonderfully written guest post by expert nature crafter Naomi Evans who teaches nature craft workshops in and around Bristol, and founded the exquisitely stocked nature inspired shop called These Two Hands (she also runs Firebird Studios). I was introduced to Naomi through the lovely Laura at Colourful Minds after telling her about Wild Happy Well during a toddler craft session at the Kiln Workshop, Bristol. Laura hooked us up because of our mutual interests and it’s been lovely getting to know Naomi and even collaborating my first Nature for Wellbeing workshop in summer 2018 – Naomi ran a leaf printing session within my participants. The cover image for this post is from a recent photoshoot with Gem Hicks Photography.
Here Naomi writes candidly and expressively about her relationship with nature and the strong role it has played in shaping her life from childhood. Naomi’s words are very evocative: reading her post transported me to the woodlands, fields, and fireside of her past, the smells and sounds almost tangible… I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have. You can also see the headings that I gave to my guest authors to guide these posts.
My relationship with nature
I grew up in the middle of nowhere and spent most days outside making mud pies and perfumes from flowers, and just being out in nature. It feels like something that is at the heart of me and it’s the only place that I feel really truly myself. I get very excited every time I see butterflies or bees on my wildflowers, or smell a lilac tree as that smell takes me right back to childhood. Nature cheers me up when I’m low and I feel like a caged animal if I can’t get outside and walk for a bit somewhere green and quiet every day.
The role nature plays in my life, what it means to me
Nature plays a huge role in my life and is what makes me feel most calm and connected. I try to spend at least half an hour outside every day just watching the seasons change. It means freedom to just be, without timings and deadlines. It means being a small part of something so much bigger and it reminds me how beautiful the world around us is, despite all the ugliness in the news. Nature is also at the heart of my business, These Two Hands, as all my designs and all the other handmade designs that I stock are nature-inspired and made from natural materials. I want to bring the outdoors inside through art, homewares and wellbeing products… and through their scents, designs and materials.
What I enjoy most about nature, what I find most beautiful
The colours, flavours and the smells and how they evoke such strong memories. I love the smell of woodsmoke from bonfires and our open fire, of wild garlic, pine and lilac blossom. I love eating blackberries off the bush and remembering the joy of blackberry picking as a kid. I love the smell and feel of soil, it reminds me of making mud pies as a child and having my own little corner of garden to plant. I love the sound of birdsong and bees buzzing and the amazing displays of colour in spring as the daffodils, hyacinths and tulips all come out in the garden. I love the colours and crispness of autumn leaves and the crunch of early morning frost. I think the thing I love most are the signs of seasonal changes and that we have such distinct seasons. It’s a wheel that is constantly turning and adapting to the environment and there’s something really comforting in that.
How spending time in nature tends to make me feel
Calm, uplifted, positive, hopeful, grounded and happy!
What natural things (plants, animals, etc.) I care most about and want to protect
Trees!! I can’t bear to see so many trees being cut down to build more housing at a local level and deforestation at a global level. Recently in Bristol, developers cut down a huge area of trees without permission and it made me feel so angry and upset, and also helpless! I only use recycled card for my packaging and I don’t send out despatch notes or any paper with my orders. I’ve switched to Who Gives A Crap for toilet roll as a huge amount of toilet paper is still made from trees. I donate to the Woodland Trust and am a member of a community orchard. These are all very small things but I love trees and leaves and want to do what I can to protect them. And I also want to protect wildflowers and pollinators – the UK has lost 97% of our wildflower meadows since WWII and it makes me so sad to see how few butterflies you see now, when I used to see clouds of them as a child and that there are so few wildflower areas in cities. I volunteered for a few years in London for a brilliant social enterprise called River of Flowers, that encouraged people to plant pollinator corridors in their front gardens. I met the two women who created Seedballs through that too who are incredible women and scientists and I now stock their Seedball tins as part of my collection.
Aspects of life that impacts the most on wellbeing and my current barrier to health and wellbeing
We are way too sedentary as a nation and spending so much time indoors in front of screens and on social media definitely has a negative impact on my mental and physical wellbeing! I had major spinal surgery a few years ago which has made cycling and getting outdoors harder as my fitness levels are at their lowest, but I am hoping to get back out cycling and being more active this year.
How I use nature to overcome these issues, and how I use nature generally to enhance my health and wellbeing
On days when I’m at my most anxious, I know that the only thing that can lift my mood and make me able to cope is to go outside for a long walk or spend time on my allotment, weeding, touching the soil, watching the butterflies and bees, seeing new growth, harvesting veg and fruit. It is my refuge, my way to reconnect with myself and calm my overactive mind. It helps me to escape from screens, to-do lists, responsibilities and negative thoughts.