Creative Islanders: Miceal Murray

Miceal Murray Creative Islanders

The Creative Islanders is a blog series showcasing creative and social entrepreneurs and practitioners in Ireland who are stepping into their dreams, purpose and passions and choosing to do ‘business as unusual’ while being based in Ireland. The series aims to be a ‘behind the scenes’ look into their creative practices, process, motivations and mindsets, shining light of what makes people tick, and how, collectively Ireland is alive with creative possibility.

Next up in the series is Miceal Murray, a forager and cook who has recently founded ‘Taking A Leaf’, a new business running creative food events with a focus on wild and local foods. Inspired by the celtic cycles, Miceal has created a series of seasonal dining experiences and coupling them with music and art. With over 25 years in the cafe and restaurant business it was time for him to step onto his own path, combining his passion for sustainable enterprise with his love of nature and the wild. Miceal is also a Thrive School participant. And so with great pleasure I hand over to his lovely and kind self…

What keeps you in Ireland?

What keeps me in Ireland is the sense of home I get from here. It’s in my bones. Being from the country the connection is strongest felt from the landscape and the wild. And it is specifically the Irish landscape and whatever magic emanates from it. It seems to hold a mystery and a richness that I can’t find elsewhere. Obviously there is beauty all over the world but I find something else here; something hard to put into words. It is a distillation of many things, history, stories, art, music and memory. And of course my husband, family and friends.

What makes you tick? What motivates you?

A deep and heartfelt desire to live more in tune with the natural rhythms of nature and self, and to express these in a creative and meaningful way.  It is also the desire to live in a way that is more connected to nature in an urban setting.

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Why do you do what you do?

I think that part of me might shrivel up and die if I didn’t. It keeps me vital.

What do you do just for the love of it?

Discovering new things, be it music, food, books, magazines or places. Plus, jumping over a wall or crawling under a hedge to get to a new patch of land.

What does the creative process teach you?

Be open to change. I can visualise an idea or concept but to actualise it I must be open to change. Ideas can change or they can grow into something completely new, or they can be shelved and returned to at a more appropriate time.

What were some of the key moments along your own journey that helped you to get where you are today?

I learned so much from a wonderful lady called Judith Hoad. She is a teacher, healer and author and she introduced me to so many plants and explained their medicinal and edible properties. She inspired me to think differently.

DSCF4056Where do you find inspiration? Any hidden gems?

Inspiration comes from all sorts of places. I recently watched a film called “Juliette of the Herbs” it stayed with me for days, as did “Embrace of the Serpent”. Although the content doesn’t directly inspire me the magic of the characters involved does. But you can’t beat a good walk to get you out and get the juices flowing.

How do you get through tough times? What sustains you?

It is pretty simple really: get outside and walk the dogs.

What key lessons have your learned about doing business or being a creative practitioner along the way?

It is strengthening to know that everything changes and nothing is constant. Whatever you are going through, whether good or bad, it will come to an end and change into something else.

Do you have a morning routine? 

Ideally I like to do an early Astanga class. It really sets my day up and I am more determined to get on and get stuff done. I have an on/ off relationship with meditation but this too helps. But most of all walking the dogs first thing through the very wild Liffey Valley park gets me going.

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What books have inspired you?

The Global Forest by Diana Beresford Kroger

What advice do you wish you had received as you were stepping onto your own creative path?

Make lists. And then make more lists.

Be kind to yourself if mistakes are made. I am learning all the time and am very new at this game so I have a long way to go and many mistakes to make.

And what advice would you give to your future self?

Work less, garden more.

What is coming up next for you?

On the 13th of August I am completing a cycle of dinners inspired by and connecting with the ancient celtic festivals. So this time it will be Lughnasa and the beginning of harvest. Simple local food with foraged elements. After that I will be collaborating with the composer Hilary Mullaney to create an immersive dining experience. Also a series of walks to get people out and introduce them to some plants.

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All photos by Vivienne O’Brien.

Find out more anout Taking A Leaf over here on the website and also over on Facebook here.


Thrive School is here!

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From the age of about 12 I’ve had notions to set up an alternative kind of school. It would be a place of learning, but not traditionally. It would be a place where we could bring our whole selves- our head, hearts and hopes. It would be a place of skill building, and a place of strong community. That dream has taken several iterations over the years and now is emerging in real time, big time. It is a dream which is born from experience and born with the deep desire to serve others on their own creative and entrepreneurial paths.

And so, with this message I welcome Thrive School into the world. (I am launching this on my birthday too- a day I have always cherished as I shared it with my father’s birthday also- so it feels extra special!)

Thrive school is a different kind of school- one for dreamers, creatives, entrepreneurs, start-up-ers or people who really want to make a difference. It is about doing business, and life as unusual and giving us the support we need along our undulating journey.

I have been a freelancer/ soletrader for over 8 years now. It has been a journey full of learning, adventure, failure, progress and challenge. I have had huge highs and huge lows through it all and there have been so many times when I have wanted to give up because it felt too lonely or too difficult.  One thing I know for sure is that I would not be doing what I am doing without the support of friends and a network of other creative and entrepreneurs globally who lend support and advice. Their input has been invaluable.

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The kind of learning which we need to create a life we thrive through I know can be accelerated with the right structure, people, resources and community around us. Thrive School is that- a place to connect and learn from others on their entrepreneurial journey, and hone valuable personal and professional skills along the way.

Before Christmas I reached out to my network and asked what they were seeking.  Above all, people wanted a place to gather, connect, learn and find in-person support, which I know is so necessary and vital when working alone. And so I realised it was time for Thrive School to emerge.

We start on 17th May! 

Thrive School Dublin will take place from May- Oct (with a summer break built in).  It combines an in-person gathering once a month with an online learning component packed full of resources and tools. There will be an internal accountability support as part of the programme and it includes a private one to one coaching package for each individual who unrolls.

This is going to be very very special…
Thrive School Dublin EventsI am delighted to be teaming up with Emmet Condon from Homebeat and Cafe Thirty Four, who has offered his beautiful cafe space to be our Dublin HQ, and also very excited to welcome to the team Claire Faithorn, a fellow coach and current programme manager for the Suas Volunteer and Leadership programme- she is a bright star and brings such fresh energy and insight to the process.

Want to join? Read more over here, come along to our open evening on May 3rd or drop me a message.

Know you are ready you apply? Application form is here and applications are now open. Application deadline is Tues 10th May.

It’s time to Thrive! 

 

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Let go to let come

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Expectations aren’t always met. What we think we need can be rattled into what we actually need, and this weekend I was rattled.

There were five of us. A small but potent elixir, gathered around a fire, to convene with our business ideas, unravel a problem or challenge and see if our collective mind can shed some light on the issues.

The cottage was the essence of quaint, buried in the Cotswolds, complete with adjacent stream and interior design straight out of a country living magazine.  Outside horses trotted by and a flurry of springer spaniels had the look of pheasant in their eyes. This was hunting territory and I too had entered with my hunter mantle on. I was in search of direction, focus and answers- clear, direct and fast ones.

We were all women, each with our own businesses who wants the best for ourselves and those around us. There was a very healthy dose of entrepreneurialism in the mix, but what surprised me, a raw, rich and at times a radically cutting honesty also. It is so easy to hide our true selves from each other but somehow that was not available this weekend. Good thing though that giggles helped to ease the edges.

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We called it #ladybossretreat but in so many ways we weren’t retreating from anything. When we take some time out and when the questions are right and the conditions are safe, what we need to see gets amplified.

For all of us, our choice to run our own businesses is a choice too to plot our own path, but being the boss of ‘moi’ is not without its challenges. When working alone we don’t always see what we need to see and we need need others to help us look around the corners.

Over the weekend, Sas was driving one of those hybrid cars with a fancy rear camera which beebs when you are about to hit something or are close to a corner. The closer you are, the louder the beep. The metaphor strikes me as apt. Without the rear view, you can do the manoeuvring but it is tricker and the risk is higher. It can take more time and be more frustrating. But while the beep can be annoying at times, it can speed up the process. The things around you tend to say intact too. Which in a way is what coaching is like- someone who has ‘got your back’, offers an appropriate beep and guides you to a safe and faster path.

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We sat around the fire and visioned. We called in the future and questioned how were are in alignment now with that vision. Then the was the literal, ritualistic burning of some limiting beliefs and then the calling in of the things we need to take us there. Over the course of the weekend my own buttons were pressed on several occasions. I did not want to hear the beeps, especially the warning ones. But I know they were offered with love.

As I returned home, the hunter in me lies dormant. I did not hunt down anything in fact, because in the way the realisations were in me all along, my body knows and it just took some space and beeping to get me to listen. I come away like a spaniel though, with a different wag in my tail, a slighted altered course and an insight into myself which I had not expected just a few days ago. As for strategic plans and financial maps? Well.. they will have to evolve, but now on a slightly different track. And as for my dawning it was a deep sense that I need to let go in order to let come. We exhale to inhale. We ebb to flow again. It is all part of the cycle and the unfolding. It is all part of the real hunt.

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(Thank you to Sas, Tamsyn, Dee and Shauna who were my #ladyboss companions, fellow beepers and retreaters. Onwards, to us all… )

 


Creative Islanders: Fiadh Durham

Fiadh Durham Lead Image

 

The Creative Islanders is a new interview series showcasing some of Ireland’s brightest creative talent and enterprise. It is about people who are stepping into their dreams, purpose and possibilities and embracing their one wild life. 

The interviews give a rare ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse into creative practice, motivations and mindsets- shining a light on what makes people tick, and how, collectively, Ireland is alive with creative possibility.

There is such an allure in textile design and weaving for me. Seeing a manual loom in action seems like I am travelling back in time to something ancient and wise, and hearing the loom heave back and forth has a meditative lull for me. I’ve never studied weaving but have much admiration for those who can spin myriad treads into such wondrous patterns while making sense of the what looks like a complex piece of equipment.

It was with such lure I was drawn into Fiadh Durham’s shop in Dingle last summer. Fiadh had been mentioned to me by another friend but little did I realise that she had her looms on view and makes her beautiful textiles there also. Greeted with warmth, I was immediately impressed with Fiadh gentle touch and her passion for both business and weaving.

So it is with great pleasure that we head to West Kerry for this next instalment of the Creative Islanders series with weaver, maker, and creative entrepreneur, Fiadh Durham….

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What keeps you in Ireland? 

So much!  The people, the craic, the scenery, the towns, the clean air and of course it is home. I have always loved to travel. The list of places I want to see gets longer rather than shorter with each trip. When I was younger I had this idea that I would pursue my dreams as a designer abroad, somewhere much more exotic and different to Ireland but the more places I explore the more I appreciate living in Ireland. There are so many opportunities here, it is up to the individual to make it happen!

What makes you tick? What motivates you? 

It depends on what what element of my life or work I’m thinking about but in general I love a challenge, having something exciting to work towards. I love the idea of kind of custom designing ones own life, doing it your way, its not always easy but a major driving force for me is the thrill of the unknown. It keeps life interesting!

What do you do just for the love of it? 

One is listening to good tunes and another is being outdoors, whether it is running, surfing or just going for a creative ramble with my camera and headphones… soaking up ideas fresh air! I suppose we all have that thing we need to to get head space and these are mine. Growing up, I think we spent 90% outside and I think that has stayed with me.

What does the creative process teach you? 

Sometimes I might question the amount of time the creative process takes and I forget how important it really is in relation to my designs. For me, following a creative process teaches me patience, discipline and it allows for design development to happen naturally. I think good designers are problem solvers and you need time for that.

Why do you do what you do?

I love what I do. I don’t think it would be possible if I didn’t. I love designing and making (textiles especially) and I think in the back of my mind I always wanted to run my own business. Its only been in recent years that I have built up the confidence to realise that I can actually do it. The rewards of your worked being loved and appreciated outweigh the many headaches of running your own business.

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What were some of the key moments along your own journey that helped you to get where you are today?

Making the decision that I was in it 100%. Full time. It had to be done. Another thing for me was realising that I was in Dingle because I chose to be and not because I ended up here. It’s a dream place to live if you can do what you love.

I have been so inspired by successful creative artists and craftspeople over the years but funnily enough I’ve also been inspired by others who have not managed to make it work and if forces me to ask why and how will I do it differently.

How do you get unstuck? Any secret tools? 

A bit cliché but I’d say believe in yourself and what you love.

Where do you find inspiration? Any hidden gems? 

I am constantly being charmed by stunning colours and patterns around the Dingle peninsula especially but if you look hard enough I think you can find beautiful combinations in the most surprising places. I remember a speaker in art college once say that when you work as a designer that you see design in everything, everywhere you go, that doesn’t switch off. I wanted that to happen me and I think it has, so trick is catch the bug.

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How do you get through tough times? What sustains you? 

I try take a step back, get a bit of space from it all and then look at the bigger picture, it may be one bad day or week but things have a way of working out. Especially if you want it to, you just have to stay positive and keep going but be realistic about what is achievable too.

What key lessons have your learned about doing business or being a creative practitioner along the way? What have you learned from your ‘failures’? 

First thing for me is timekeeping; you need to be disciplined. Make out a plan and give yourself deadlines if someone else doesn’t. I’m not naturally organised so I have to really put the work in to these areas, it good to have what need to happen in the next day, week, month and so on.

I had to write a detailed business plan when applying for funding and I would advise anyone setting up a business to do this.

Do you have a morning routine? Or other creative habits or rituals? 

My routines always change but I do find it really helpful to have them, it keeps me grounded and healthier.

What books have inspired you?  Or what websites do you turn to? 

I do like to read books, especially when I’m on holidays but the things that really inspire me are more visual. My favourite weaving book is ‘Mastering Weave Structures: Transforming Ideas Into Great Cloth’  by Sharon D. Alderman

Designers and websites I am into at the moment:  margoselby.com, habutextiles.com, giveirishcraft.com, irishdesignshop.com, makersandbrothers.com

 

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What advice do you wish you had received as you were stepping onto your own creative path? 

I would have liked to have more mentors in the beginning, so many things that would have been easier if I networked a bit more. You have to put yourself out there. In saying that, you have to have the confidence in your instinct. Take some advice but also know when its not right for you.

And what advice would you give to your future self? 

Find a way to have a good work/life balance. I am a hard worker but I feel that surely its only all worth if if you have a healthy personal and professional life.

What is coming up next for you? 

I feel that my business is at the brink of being properly launched so the next year will be all about getting Fiadh products to a much wider reach. I have big plans for online trading but the thing I’m most excited about is the new designs to come. I am investing in a multi-shaft computer aided hand loom and I will use this to create limited editions of more complex, dynamic designs. I’m so looking forward to getting stuck into that in the new year.

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Thank you so much Fiadh! I look forward to following the growth of your business and talent. Clare x

Fiadh’s website is over here. 

And her Etsy shop is over here. 

 

 

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Learning to Ringmaster.

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Being a creative or social entrepreneur is akin to circus performance. You are learning to balance on tightropes as you juggle all your plates. Sometimes you feel like a bit of a clown as you put ideas out into the world not knowing if people will laugh or cry. Then there is the jumping through loops and hoops as you preform miraculous acts holding on by the skin of your teeth. Not to mention battling all the lions and tigers which enter the arena and the acrobatics you have to do with limited resources. And there you find yourself as ringmaster learning to co-ordinate it all with flair while selling tickets at the same time. Yes, a circus.

Am I mad, I ask myself? There are frequent moments when I wonder why I ran away with the circus. Shouldn’t I just get a proper job and when did lion taming become part of my remit? But once in the arena there is a charm and a huge sense of gratification which keeps you showing up again and again.

Brene Brown speaks about the power of being in the arena in her recent book, Daring Greatly and hinges inspiration on this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man*who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

(*or woman, obviously)

The arena, I have learned, while a place of daring and rich learning, can also be a lonely and a hard place too. There are so many times I have wanted to leave but only with the support of friends, mentors, coaches and leadership training have I been able to stick it out. And I am glad I am here.  It is through the strength of support and having people to bounce ideas around and who offer insights into my blind spots that I have been able evolve and keep learning. Which is how my own coaching offerings have grown and why I am doing the work I am doing. I believe in the arena and I believe it doesn’t have to be such a lonely place. 

Creative coaching is a whole array of tools and processes I have developed and use for working in the circus (metaphorically of course). From visioning exercises, to branding and communications strategy I offer one to one support to keep you thriving in the arena. It is like having an accountability buddy to keep you on track and a fellow ringmaster to help co-ordinate a masterful performance. 

I’ve been working with a wonderful woman recently called Sharon Green, who runs a company called Queens of Neon. Sharon shared some words recently which captures some of the creative coaching process:

I have been feeling my way along for a very long time, taking creative projects that come to me through word of mouth and throwing myself into them whole heartedly.

But I always wonder how I can get more of the projects that I love, how do I word my website properly to reach out to clients that have the projects that really make me tick. I was recommended Clare by a friend and she all at once made sense of my confusion. She made me see that it is a waste of my energy always trying to change the copy on my website until I understand what my dream and my vision is. To start back at the beginning feels very freeing and exciting.

She asks the right questions and listens intently picking out the words and phrases that make sense and always paying attention on an energy level so notices when things excite you. She helps you see your dream scenario and gives you structure and homework to help manifest it. In my case she is also bringing me out from the shadows to feature prominently on my website, honing in to what it is that makes my business unique and that is me. Its true therapy for the creative business person. I would highly recommend Clare to anyone, who like me, feels like they are close to filling their true potential but for reasons just can’t seem to just get there.

Pow! Thank you Sharon.

So if, like Sharon, you have big visions, creative goals, dreams of possibility but you would like some support to help clarify your direction, perhaps some creative coaching is for you. I offer a number of tailored packages. You can find out more over here. If this sparks interest, I offer a free 20 minute Skype call where we can figure if we are a fit for each other and what areas of the arena to focus on so that 2016 will bring you closer to it all.

May the games commence… (*insert circus theme tune!)

END of circus analogy now, I promise!

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The above photo was taken in Cambodia at a circus I went to. I had totally forgotten about this image until I used the new ‘Camera Roll’ feature on flickr. AMAZING. Any flickr users still out there? This tool is amazing…


Creative Islander: Naomi Fein

Naomi Fein Creative Islanders lead image

Photo: Clare Mulvany

The Creative Islanders is a new interview series showcasing some of Ireland’s brightest creative talent and enterprise. It is about people who are stepping into their dreams, purpose and possibilities and embracing their one wild life. 

The interviews give a rare ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse into creative practice, motivations and mindsets- shining a light on what makes people tick, and how, collectively, Ireland is alive with creative possibility.

I first met Naomi about five years ago at a dinner in Cork. I remember her telling me about her move to Ireland from Israel and her love for animation. At the time she was teaching animations skills to kids. Next time I met her, she spoke to me about an idea for a business, and boom, before I knew it Think Visual was born and booming. Naomi Fein is certainly one to run with an idea, but as she will say herself, it has taken passion, perseverance and a whole lot of trial and error.

Think Visual, based in Cork, is a visual design consultancy offering graphic recording, harvesting, and visual tools for making knowledge actionable, shareable and memorable. In a world of so much data and stimuli, Naomi is always seeking ways to make information more accessible and meaningful. How can complex problems be solved when the information about those issues is presented in complex ways?. It is questions like this which drive her business.

One of the many things I admire about Naomi is her willingness to try things out and learn by doing.  So while she has this natural instinct for creative entrepreneurship, she also knows that the skills can be developed and all the more when you surround yourself with excellent mentors and colleagues.

A couple of weeks ago Naomi and I met in The National Gallery of Ireland. She talked, I took notes, and together this interview was born….

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What keeps you in Ireland? 

Space. It is the outside space; the fact that I can lift my head and see green and sky. I did not have this in Israel. And it is the personal space which people give you. In Israel people do not give each other so much internal space- so people enter into each other’s mental space/ emotional space all the time, and I think in Ireland we give more room to each other.

And the friendliness here. Simply put, the people are nice, and it is a pleasant experience to interact.

 

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Graphic by Naomi Fein

What makes you tick? What motivates you? 

Seeing my colleagues grow- I get so much energy from that. So when you see someone take a confident step and own their learning is inspiring and motivating. Like Gracie, who came to Think Visual as an admin, and is now designing and delivering programmes, and is proud of her work. It is mindblowing, and something I am proud of too.

Think Visual is where I am focusing me creative energy at the moment, and it is building connections, real connection, with people. That motivates me too. I love supporting people to find their potential and clarity. When people have clarity of vision, you can see results in their outlook and actions- I love that. I just want to use all my skills and gifts and try to have a positive impact on the world. I suppose that it the true motivation.

What do you do just for the love of it? 

I draw. I actually can’t stop. Like right now, I am on the iPad. I draw a lot! I listen to stories too- podcasts. And I talk business. I absolutely love it- chatting to people about what they really want. I want to hear their dreams.

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Image: Naomi Fein on Paper App from Studi0 53

What does the creative process teach you? 

Slowing down is really important, and if you build a good base it comes. So for example, asking a lot of questions in the beginning and not jumping into the making too fast is so important. There is always the urge to jump into an idea, but the creative process has taught me to ask the right questions, poke around in the corners and then let things fall into place naturally and effortlessly.

Listening to yourself and the feedback which is coming back to you is also really important. There are many signs which are very subtle but if you know how to listen to them you get a feeling of when you are off or when it needs refining. So it is working with your whole experience- a body sensation, or feeling, or a word which keeps coming back to you. It can even be the breathing of the person next to you. So constantly listening to the feedback which is coming can teach you so much.

How does taking a creative approach to running your own business influence you? 

I am a fan of the collaborative approach. Creativity is not exclusive. There is magic when you celebrate that creativity to come from all people- whether they are labelled ‘creative’ or not. So, the engineer in a meeting, or the accountant, may come up with the best solution- but you need to be willing to listen for that. So it is a partnership approach. People are intrinsically creative.

I always wanted to play in a band, and now this is how work feels for me. We are all the instruments and the music or magic is in the interaction between all the diverse elements.

Why do you do what you do?

I want to have global influence. It is a feeling I have had since childhood. I live in the big picture, and have a global perspective. I really want to play my part and have a good time on the way. I love connecting with like minded people and people who want to use their power and passion and gifts.  Connecting to people who feel powerful and working together- it just feels so right.

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What were some of the key moments along your own journey that helped you to get where you are today?

The things which come to my mind are the darkest moments. Feeling totally isolated, being in a severe depressed and anxious place but finding that I could find my way out of it. So there are not specific moments, but  I have had this mental shift to know that I can survive. I found a way to get out of that dark place.

I did have one moment which really informed this though. I was 21. I was in India and suddenly I felt that everything is OK and I don’t need to do anything. I realised that I did not have to fix the problem, instead I was able to just feel that there is a bigger picture, bigger than my personal story. That is a base or foundational moment that I go back to. Interestingly I was not practicing meditation at the time- it was quite spontaneous and I was not looking for it. In fact I felt that I had been working really hard up that moment, but in that moment it was effortless. It was not passive but I knew that if I let the reins go, I can be part of whatever is happening without stressing about it. I had a sense of flow and the kind of energy it takes to sustain it. It does not mean I can’t work hard- I am working very hard- but it not in a forceful way. If I feel I have to push something, I know it is just not the way it should be.

So, in essence, if you are not enjoying it- find another way to do it!

How do you get unstuck? Any secret tools? 

I talk! I am extroverted thinker and I need to hear myself talk about the issues or the stuckness. So I look for people I can learn from. Who has done it before? Who has connected to this? If the problem is a visual thing, I look at other people’s work. I look for something that has inspired me. Pinterest boards, google searches, Paper App. I assume that someone has tried to solve that problem before and then I ask for help.

I start with ‘What am I really looking to do?’. If I am stuck, there is something lacking clarity. I use this approach with my clients or colleagues too, asking, ‘What part of the process are you stuck on? Are you jumping steps?’ So it helps to reflect on the process and ask if you are missing information or starting at the right point.

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Photo: Clare Mulvany

Where do you find inspiration? Any hidden gems?

Pinterest. 

Ira Glass! (Oh my god!)

I really love Anna Sale from Death, Sex and Money podcast. 

Visual wise- paper app of Studio 53

I have really good colleagues. Eleanor, Gracie, Alfreod, the Georges (we have two!) and Carol are an endless source of inspiration, each one in their unique way.

My brother and my sister.

I also love a Mexican artist Ado Crusher I found recently online.

Carol Dwek (Mindset)

Dan & Chip Heath – they write about business books, they talk about what makes stories stick and how you make sustainable change with people and decision making.

The 5th Discipline with Peter Senge. 

And my grandma – she is remarkable. She is an artist and creative person. She is 95 – she can’t really see or hear well but she just redesigned the guest room. She re-painted the door to suit the new design, the mattress was too big for the room for bed, so she cut it. There was a hole in the wall so she got cement and fixed it. She is an innovator – and even though she is house bound, she always finds a way. She has such a positive outlooks.

There’s inspiration all around us! Having a positive outlook is a thread linking all these…

What key lessons have your learned about doing business or being a creative practitioner along the way ? What have you learned from your ‘failures’? 

So many! That is a whole new blog.

I just gave a talk on it!

The biggest learning in the business is managing people. I have had to let go of so many people because it just wasn’t working out. But I have been learning to take small successful steps. Small successful steps- they are key.

As a creative person I can see an idea, and people invest their emotions and energy into that idea.  But I have learned that you need to test the ground, and do it in a safe way so that you take calculated risks together… so small and successful steps. Then you build on each small successful step and evaluate as you go. Is it working for you? What are you learning? How can we do better? Are we each taking responsibility for our actions? I believe in supporting people in the right place so that they can set goals which are attainable and build upon that.

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Do you have a morning routine? Or other creative habits or rituals? 

I am bad in routine! I think it is because I live a lot in my head. But when I am more in my body I am more inclined to keep a routine. But I do walk with my dog every morning in nature. Most of the time I will listen to a podcast and get my dose of stories for the day.

What advice do you wish you had received as you were stepping onto your own creative path? 

Be kind to yourself. It means slowing down. It doesn’t have to be painful. If it started with ‘I have to scratch my wounds, I have to bleed, you have to be a starving artist’. That is bullshit! It is not true… we can enjoy the process and it does not have to be all pain.

What is coming up next for you? 

This year has been about finding the team- finding my colleagues.

What’s coming us is taking us as a group to the next stage. It is interesting place because I don’t have a strong vision for the company but it feels so full of opportunity but we are going on a journey together. We are planning our first big party! I am really looking forward to seeing what will come for us.

There is something that became more quite for me personally too, and I am meeting people at a deeper place. I am settling. I don’t have itchy feet. I don’t know exactly what is emerging, but I am looking forward to  finding out. It feels good quality so I am not worried. I know I am attracting the right people around me, and what they bring is good.. and everything else will be OK.

Although recently winning the Business Woman of The Year award was great! We are getting good feedback… and people have been so kind and heartwarming and supportive. It is empowering! Very empowering…

 

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Who would you like to see interviewed here on Creative Islanders? 

Got suggestions? Please leave a comment below. 

Clare. x


Living Seasonally Winter Session

Living Seasonally Winter 2015 poster

The months swing around. The seasons come, and go again. As the days here in Dublin get shorter and the nights longer, I am preparing for the winter.

There are practical things, like buying a new blanket for my bed and stocking up on woolies; and then there is the mental shift, understanding that the darkness has something to serve, for in the dark the light is born.

It is only really in latter years that I have started to understand the darkness more; an understanding which has been augmented by appreciation of the ancient rhythm of the celtic calendar, itself underscored with the truth of constant change. Tuning into this seasonal pull and pace is a way, I find, to steady myself and connect me deeper to the natural cycles of life. I find it a beautiful thing, for nature knows when it is time to bud, then bloom, and it knows so instinctually when it is time to rest.

We resist so much of that, with our electric cities and the constant murmur to ‘do’ and push at pace.

I have come to think of the seasons as powerful metaphors, offering us questions from which to explore our own currents, visions and purpose. The turning inwards of nature offers the questions of, ‘what is wintering in your own life?’, and then, ‘what wants to be seeded?’.

But winter is a time too for a slower germination.

I remember the first bulb I planted. I was about 6 or 7 years old and was given a hyacinth in school. But in order for it to germinate I had to keep it in the dark, for what seemed like an eternity. I hid the pot under a bookshelf in my classroom but every so often would peak a glance, staring into the darkness for signs of life. I was doubtful, very doubtful. ‘How could something grow in there?’, I wondered.

But the conditions for growth have a mystery to them, and little did I know back there that darkness was growth’s aid.

Then one day, kneeling down of the cold classroom floor, and scooting further under the bookshelf to get a glimpse of the plant pot, I spotted it. A green tuft popping out of the clay, edging towards the light. I’ll never forget that hyacinth. It turned out to be purple and had the most magnificent evocative fragrance. All born in darkness.

The winter is a time to turn inwards, to let our own hyacinths come to their gradually life. It is time for us to honour our own wintering, as we honour our own growth. It is time too to warm our hearts.

All of this; this wintering, this honouring, has led me to develop  this coming session of ‘Living Seasonally’. Over the course of 8 days, there will be a chance to gather online, prepare for the season ahead, turn inwards and trust our own rhythms. There will be time too to warm the heart- with poems and the sharing of stories. And time to find a sense of rest and renewal through meditations, journal practices and creative prompts. I’ll be sharing some seasonal recipes as we all learn to nurture ourselves, and others, from a place of connection and wisdom.

This is living seasonally for me.

We will be live from 4th- 11th November. I would love for you to join me.

Registration is now open. Head on here to find out more and if you have any questions please get in touch.

Until soon…


The Danger of Until…

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So often we put our plans on hold. Our dreams on hold. Our creative impulses on hold. Our lives on hold. ‘Until I practice more’, ‘Until I loose a few more pounds’, ‘Until it is perfect’, ‘Until I am ready’, ‘Until they say I am ready’.

Until is a dangerous word.

Most of the time I don’t feel ready. I usually wish I had more time to practice. Most of the time it doesn’t feel quite good enough. I always want to loose those few pounds. I don’t actually know who ‘they’ are. But I am tired of waiting until.

I have found that ‘until’ actually stifles creative energy and clogs us up until something in us needs to burst, and sometimes it bursts in destructive ways. To even hold the energy of ‘until’ takes energy. It takes energy not to create and dream. It takes energy wishing those pounds away. And it takes so much time waiting for the right time.

I learned a very big lesson about ‘until’ last week. For several years I have been thinking of teaching online. I looked a LOTS of different courses. I did some. I thought about structure and format. I over thought about structure and format. I looked at more courses. I got overwhelmed with it all. ‘Until I have more subscribers, until my new site is ready, until I feel I am ready’ Until, until, until. A few years passed (yes, years).

This year however I knew it was time to take a leap. When designing my new website, a space was incorporated for online learning. I had courses in mind and a rough sense of how to get them out into the world. But I did not feel quite ready. Additionally, with all the comings and goings this year, by the end of July I had a deep sense of needing to step away from a screen in order to recalibrate. A holiday was being called out. The break was needed and wonderful but when I got back home it left me with little time to launch and promote the course. It was just a week to go before the date I had originally announced. Was I mad? All the advice had said I needed six weeks…

‘Ah maybe I will wait until December’

‘Maybe I will wait until more people have signed up to my newsletter’

‘Perhaps I will just hold off until I feel there is more time to prepare’

Until was back, dangling what could be easily seen as procrastination or laziness right in front of my face. I was so close to not continuing. The night before I was launching it, I was so so so nearly pulling it. Until was teasing me with ugly excuses.

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Luckily something within begged me to knock on the door of until, asking was it was trying to tell me. I knew I had been thinking about this for a long time, and I knew that teaching is a big part of my business plan moving forwards. When I questioned ‘until’ two things popped. Firstly, I realised I was afraid that the technology for the online teaching wouldn’t work for me, but mostly I was afraid that nobody would sign up. Fear. That was it. Big, juicy, daunting fear. ‘Until’ had simply masked itself.

When I saw ‘until’ for what it was, I knew I had to leap and pull off its mask. It was indeed time to put the course out there and show up to the work. If no one signed up to the course, at least I had tried.

The leap is leverage.

And guess what, people did sign up. Not in droves but enough that it felt like a healthy contingent and a brilliant start. There were people living in Ireland, USA, The Netherlands, UK, and even as far away as Tazmania. How amazing is that! Plus I loved the experience. I loved creating the videos and audio recordings. I loved reading responses and connecting with participants and seeing them connect with each other. Here was a space, carved on the internet, for people to connect to themselves, their visions, build new skills and engage with others. What a privilege for me to get to do this work.

‘Until’ would have extinguished all of that.

The leap has fueled me with added determination and a relief that I knocked on that door. Now I just need to keep knocking, keep listening and keep showing up to the work. For the work wants life, and life needs life to live through.

So what are you waiting for? Where is until in your life? And what is it really saying?

Knock on its door… I suspect you will get an interesting, leveraging, response.


Creative Islanders: Aoife Mc Elwain

Aoife McElwain Headshot by Julia Dunin Creative IslandersPhoto: Julia Dunin

The Creative Islanders is a new interview series showcasing some of Ireland’s brightest creative talent and enterprise. It is about people who are stepping into their dreams, purpose and possibilities and embracing their one wild life. 

The interviews give a rare ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse into creative practice, motivations and mindsets- shining a light on what makes people tick, and how, collectively, Ireland is alive with creative possibility.

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A bundle of life and talent, Aoife McElwain, food stylist, recipe writer, and a creative force behind Forkful is next up in the Creative Islanders series. Her food writing brings an elegance and charm to even the simplest of dishes, offering unusual twists on classic dishes. Teamed up with photographer and videographer Mark Duggan, Aoife has a knack of peeling back a recipe to its basic structure and revealing, step by step, the sheer delight of cooking it. That it will be tasty is unquestionable.

Beyond food writing, one of the things I admire about Aoife is her honesty about the creative process and what it really means to be a creative practitioner, speaking candidly about the highs, the lows and the dogged determination it can take to keep our internal critics at bay. We spoke together last weekend at the Creative Islanders event at Another Love Story but for those not able to attend, I hand you now over to the lovely Aoife McElwain…

All imagery below: Recipes and food styling: Aoife McElwain / Photography: Mark Duggan

What keeps you in Ireland?

My community keeps me in Ireland. That includes my close community of family and friends, as well as the wider community of taxi drivers who talk about metaphysics on a Monday, old ladies who love a chat at bus stops, event enthusiasts who strive to create happenings that increase the happiness of people around them… I think the size of Ireland and our openness for craic and banter lend itself well to making connections which can help make good things happen.

What makes you tick? What motivates you?

Cold, hard cash. Hah! Just kidding. I’m motivated by creating things for people to enjoy. Making yummy food for people is one of the ways I say “I love you and think you are wonderful.” Though I have no problems saying those types of things without cake, too. I go to extra effort when setting a table for dinner so that it feels like a special occasion that my guests will remember. I spend days planning and organising treasure hunts so people have fun discovering a new place. I’m also motivated by newness and connections. I like learning new things and meeting new people.

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What do you do just for the love of it?

It’s interesting because I love a lot of what I do. I’ve been really lucky in the last few years to have put myself in a position where I’m doing things I love all the time. This doesn’t mean that I don’t get stressed or I don’t procrastinate… but even when I’m wrecked after writing, cooking and styling ten recipes in one day for a photoshoot, I feel very grateful for the opportunity to get to work at doing stuff that makes me proud of what I’ve achieved, and the funny little diverse career I’m starting to carve out for myself.

What does the creative process teach you?

To me, the creative process goes like this: “Aaarrrrgghhhhhh oh CRAP I can’t do this, there’s no way I’m ever going to be able to do this arrrrgghhhhhh…. Oh! Wait. I think I have it. Oh, yeah, that’s actually pretty good.” The more I go through this process the more I trust myself at the outset, and the better able I am to deal with fear of failure and the anxiety that surrounds putting yourself out there creatively.

Why do you do what you do?

My aim is to lead a life where I keep learning. I really do believe that every person you meet has something to teach you, even if it’s something mundane like the name of their local football hero or something profound like their thoughts on the meaning of life. I like to push myself to try new things, whether it’s horse-riding or a recipe for shortcrust pastry, even though change and newness can a bit scary sometimes. It can be hard to keep up the momentum of discovery however, and, as I get older, I’m better at allowing myself breaks from activity to make room for rest and renewal. Chilling out is so important.

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What were some of the key moments along your own journey that helped you to get where you are today?

When I met Niall (my husband) ten years ago, I didn’t really know what a blog was. He helped me get set up with my first food blog (I Can Has Cook? www.icanhascook.com) which led to my columns in Totally Dublin, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times. At that time, I had been trying for a few years to break into radio (I had a show for five years on Dublin City FM interviewing Irish bands) and I was feeling pretty rubbish at how little success I was having. So when I started the blog for the fun of it, it was an amazing thing to have it turn into a career of sorts. When I met Mark Duggan in 2012 and we started working on forkful (www.forkful.tv) together, it also brought opportunities to work more full-time in food, which I’m really grateful for. It’s allowed me to develop my skills as a food stylist, which is a fun and challenging job wherein I have to use my creative wits to make challenging vegetables like celeraic look gorgeous.

How do you get unstuck? Any secret tools?

I very often suffer from procrastination paralysis when it comes to writing features. I’m grand with recipe writing but when I have to articulate my own opinion about something, I start to hear the voices of the world’s best writers in my head saying “Oh… so you call that writing? Wow. Scarleh for yer ma.” Sometimes the voices get so loud I have to take to bed with bowls of cocoa pops for company. This is not a nice place. If this happens in the late afternoon or early evening, I’ve learned to indulge it. I let myself take the time off and then I wake up very, very early the next day. I’m talking 5am early, when the foxes still own the streets and twitter hasn’t woken up yet. My inner critic only seems to wake up at around noon (she’s lazy as well as mean) so if I can get a good few hours in before that, then I’ve already had a productive day. Productivity really spurns me on too, so once I get one job done, the rest can often follow.

Where do you find inspiration? Any hidden gems?

For recipes and food styling ideas, I look to my peers like Imen McDonnell, Cliodhna Prendergast and Jette Virdi. I also follow a load of great people on Instagram for inspiration from folks like Beth Kirby (@local_milk) and publications like Root + Bone (@rootandbone), Lucky Peach (@luckypeach) and Fool Magazine (@foolmagazine) who are doing something a little different in their approach to food journalism. For personal inspiration, I often find myself looking to comedy for answers. I adore Amy Schumer, Louis CK, Amy Poehler and Lena Dunham. I read their books and tweets, and watch their TV shows. They make me laugh and help me understand the world.

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How do you get through tough times? What sustains you?

I do try to go easy on myself. Though I have found it really hard to learn this, it’s ok that life isn’t all ice-cream sundaes and sunshine. I’m getting better at listening to myself. If I’m feeling overwhelmed, I take a break (if deadlines allow it – and usually, they do). Hanging out with my dog Daffodil can be a great release. Apart from the times she bullies other dogs in the park – she can be quite the terrier. But she thinks I’m absolutely brilliant, in every way, and is completely blind to my flaws. When I’m feeling low, hers is a good energy to have around. She mirrors my mood and will snuggle up to me quietly when I’m taking time out of the world, just so I know she’s there, if I need her. Apart from my canine companion, my husband Niall always has my back, as I do his. We’re a good team. He makes amazing sandwiches which is a crucial skill to call on in a crisis.

What key lessons have your learned about doing business or being a creative practitioner along the way? What have you learned from your ‘failures’?

That you don’t have to get things right straight away. That you can will your life to be slow and conscious, rather than too fast and stressy; you just have to work quite hard on your own self to achieve that. Taking time to slowly evaluate problems rather than emotionally reacting to things is a good pattern to try to live to. I’m only beginning to wake up to this and to see it as a possibility of a way to work and live. Some slow, gradual early success living and working to a more mindful beat makes me hopeful for the future.

Do you have a morning routine? Or other creative habits or rituals?

My favourite morning habit is to take my dog Daffodil to the park first thing in the morning. Then I like to come home and have a proper breakfast (the best is boiled eggs sprinkled with ground cumin and sea salt, with sourdough for dunking) and a coffee, brewed by my husband Niall. But I’m not going to pretend that routine happens every morning. Mostly I wake up later than I’d like and spend the rest of the morning catching up. I try not to get too angry at myself when this happens because that adds insult to injury. When I do get my ideal morning though, it sets me up for a happy and productive day.

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What books have inspired you? Or what websites do you turn to?

The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit is the most thumbed and food splattered book in my kitchen. It’s an absolute must for cooks who are ready to start finding their own creativity in the kitchen. I really enjoy reading memoirs by chefs, including the classic Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (a lovable rogue) and Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton. I’ve also been inspired by the work of Michael Pollan, an American food journalist and writer whose work has taught me a lot about the basics and history of food.

What advice do you wish you had received as you were stepping onto your own creative path?

You don’t have to be good at everything and you certainly don’t have to be perfect at doing something straight away. And you don’t have to tell everyone you don’t know what you’re doing. Most of the time, this actually isn’t as endearing as you think.

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And what advice would you give to your future self?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and think about the other times you thought you were going to make a total mess of things and then actually did a pretty good job. You’re not a total dumdum, McElwain. And stop comparing your productivity levels to those of Michelle Obama! She has a team of, like, ten people. Of course she’s super productive!

What is coming up next for you?

Myself and Mark Duggan are releasing some new forkful videos this autumn, which I’m really excited about. We have been focusing on refining our still photography skills, as well as working with brands on video and photography content for their websites. I’m also working as a copywriter helping small brands develop their messages and identity. I’ll continue to work on my recipe columns and restaurant reviews for The Irish Times, The Irish Independent and Totally Dublin, and I’d like to flex my non-food writing muscles too. My current passion project is to develop a treasure hunt design agency. I recently organised an island-wide treasure hunt on Inishturk island which 35 visitors and islanders took part in. I designed it so they would not only bond with their team members but also discover the island, in a historical and physical way. I think there’s great potential to design place-specific treasure hunts around the country to enable people to embark on adventures of discovery. And I’m ready to start doing it.

 

Video credits: 

Recipes and food styling: Aoife McElwain / Photography and Direction: Mark Duggan / Editing: Killian Broderick / Music Supervision: Niall Byrne


Gone Fishing

gone fishing

Well, not actually fishing, but you get the idea.

I am excited to be heading off to the beautiful South West coast of Ireland for a couple of weeks- myself, yoga mat, camera, tent, art supplies, a zillions books and, importantly, doggie Finn are off on an adventure to see where the wind (and hopefully not the rain) will take us.

So, I am pressing pause on the blog and my business while I am away (because being my own boss means I get to do things like that!) It is an energetic thing. Over the last few months I have built two new websites, launched a new business, developed lots of new content, worked on a art exhibition and got through the challenge of learning to drive and then passing my driving test! It has been a big time in my life which took lots of energy, and a particular kind of creative energy. Now I need to refill the creative fuel tank.

The creative process works in cycles. Ebb and flow is as natural as a river running its course or the seasons turning. And so it is time to power off for a little while to allow the ebb to give rise to a fuller flow to take me through the Autumn. It is time to turn off social media and all the electronic chatter, and tune inwards to my own voice to really listen to where it is calling me next.

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So there won’t be any Creative Islanders interviews for a few weeks (much as I am loving them), but I am very glad to report that it will be popping up in real time at Another Love Story, where I will be bringing together four amazing creative entrepreneurs and artists in a live session of ‘Creative Islanders’. We will be exploring our practices, sharing our processes and I have no doubt enjoying some great conversation together. We will be in the library of the amazing Killyon Manor on the afternoon of Saturday 22nd August.

Until soon my friends, happy creative adventuring, through your ebb and your flow.

Clare x