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


Creative Islanders: Martin Dyar

Martin Dyar by Fran Marshall High Res Creative Islanders

Photo: Frances Marshall

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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I think it is fair to say that Martin Dyar has a way with words. His poems pack powerfully gentle punches,  turning you to cadences and verbal connections which you may never have experienced before. They become particularly alive when read aloud; his own renditions doing them the best justice. For a while I hosted a poetry evening in my home (soon to be reactivated!). On the occasions when Martin would come, he made the whole experience into treasure- his knowledge of poetry, and beyond it, his passion for poetry, would fill any room with light.

Martin’s debut collection of poems Maiden Names (Arleen House, 2013) was a book of the year selection in both the Guardian and The Irish Times, and was shortlisted for both the Pigott Poetry Prize and the Shine/ Strong Awards. He has also written a play, Tom Loves a Lord, about the Irish poet Thomas Moore. He won the Patrick Kavanagh Award in 2009, and the Strokestown International Award in 2001. He is currently working on his first novel.

I am delighted to bring you Creative Islander… Martin Dyar:

What keeps you in Ireland?

A strong sense of home, a sense of possibility, and maybe from time to time the special historical sense of this being a writer’s island. Ireland is an endless, beautifully eccentric subject.

What makes you tick? 

I am motivated by the curious optimism of the instinct to pursue a writing life. It kicked in early, with its own meaning, and I am following and responding as best I can.

What do you do just for the love of it?

I sometimes get up from my desk and dance. It mortifies my dog. Recent songs that have got me to my feet are ‘The Way Young Lovers Do’ by Van Morrison, and even mellower things, like ‘Caught a Long Wind’ by Feist. The American novelist Johnathan Franzen made a very memorable remark about creative commitment, along the lines of: ‘In order to be relentless, first you must love the thing.’ It is hard to be in love with the whole experience of writing. But the good days are full of amazement, and they can be magically restorative.

M Dyar Strokestown Poetry Fest 2012 by Clare Mulvany

Photos: Clare Mulvany

What does the creative process teach you?

My learned process has taught me the skill of expressing before thinking. A central concern is to parry the shadows of perfectionism and self-criticism. I don’t believe in writer’s block. There is some truth in the idea that if you can speak you can write. I prefer to generate looser improvised material and then accept a longer process of finalisation than to sit there invoking inspiration and begging the page to reveal a single path. I’m debunking the muse a bit perhaps, but there is also the sense of the artist as a channel, and there are certain experiences which are best explained by that term. Neil Young once said, ‘When the songs are coming, it’s my job to get out of the way.’ That’s a massively idealistic remark, but then Neil Young may well have been born with a cosmic tap inside his head.

Why do you do what you do?

I don’t know why I started. But I keep going to honour the special echoes that still reach me from the beginning. Also, I believe in poetry and fiction as essential forms of communication. A good poem can stop time. The poem ‘Reuben Bright’ by Edwin Arlington Robinson can stop time when read aloud. The novel ‘The Member of the Wedding’ by Carson McCullers stopped time for me recently.

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

I played Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady in secondary school in Swinford in County Mayo. I was thirteen, and my mother and I somehow made easy work of memorising the lines. I recall being asked to write a poem in an English class around the same time, and lifting my head after about twenty minutes in a crazed peace and satisfaction. In 2000 I spent a year in the creative writing program at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. I was hungry to learn and to get my writing dream off the ground. It seemed that all of the faculty and graduate students in Carbondale were going around saying vatic and pithy things about what stories and poems were and where they came from. ‘Go back to your story,’ the fiction writer Beth Lordan, a powerful mentor, used to say, ‘Your story will tell you what she needs.’

I won the Stokestown International Poetry Award in 2001, and that depth-charge of encouragement, and the localised thrill of the Strokestown festival, and the people I met through that experience, helped me to get serious and perhaps through the lastingness of those happy memories, to stay serious about my work. I was quite young, but terribly hungry to proceed. I would also say that the process of doing a PhD in Trinity was a great help, both in terms of the people I met, and the discipline that had to be mustered. I was an Assistant Warden in Trinity Hall, the university’s off-campus accommodation facility on Dartry road, during that time. A formative, and very happy period. I was subsequently a lecturer in the School of Medicine in Trinity, teaching ethics and literature. That exposure to the language of medical education, the privilege of teaching medical students, and the experience of hunting for the poetry of science with them, has branded my writing mind entirely. More recently, a year spent at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa was like following the pied piper into the mountain and then discovering a tumult of generosity and inspiration.

Martin Dyar in his one man show Tom Loves a Lord 2011

Photo: Performing in Tom Loves a Lord

How do you get unstuck? Any secret tools?

I swim every day, I walk the dog three times a day. These are tools and ways to retreat, and maybe amulets of a kind. But the only way unfortunately to get unstuck is to write. Maybe allowing oneself to write badly is the best way to get unstuck.

Where do you find inspiration? Any hidden gems?

I can find inspiration in stories, poems and plays. When something really grabs me, really excites me, I will sometimes begin to hatch new dreams of writing. Recently, I was spellbound and boosted by Edna O’Brien’s story Baby Blue. I’ll always remember seeing Declan Conlon play John Proctor in The Crucible at the Abbey. And I feel I’m still recovering from the glory of Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer, also in the Abbey. John McGahern’s story ‘The Country Funeral’, whenever I go it, draws me right in, and then makes me want to roll up my sleeves.

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

I’m a talker, a social person, and yet my work has always been solitary. Tough times I’ve learned require buckets of language, delivered face to face. But writing is a healing activity too, and a way to say something about the inevitability of darkness.

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

I’m thinking of Johnathan Franzen’s ‘First you must love the thing’ line again. Failure educates of course, but the springs of perseverance abide in a simple, private commitment to the act that is the centre of your art form. A new inscription: ‘First you must love the early night.’ My writing experience has also taught me that doubt is a dynamic force.

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

I like to set up my desk before going to bed. And I like to write early in the morning. It’s the most productive time, or maybe the best time to trap a bit of timelessness.

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

Timebends, Arthur Miller’s autobiography.

The plays of Conor McPherson.

The novel Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates.

The short stories of Edna O’Brien and John Cheever.

John McGahern’s novels, especially The Pornographer, and That They May Face the Rising Sun.

The poems of Bernard O’Donoghue, Paul Durcan, Michael Hartnett, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Wallace Stevens, and Richard Wilbur.

The novel The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers.

Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby, and Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

The story ‘What Kind of Day Did You Have?’ by Saul Bellow.

W.B. Yeats’s poems ‘Her Praise’ and ‘Ego Dominus Tuus.’

The novel Wiseblood by Flannery O’Connor

The Lifelong Season by Keith Duggan

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

I feel I had a very good start. But nothing can reduce the difficulty or the fearfulness of choosing a creative path. I recall feeling a sense of trepidation when I told my father that I wanted to be a writer. I felt I was confessing that I wasn’t going to be able to knuckle down with a real career. I also understood it as a promise of trouble. “I want to be a writer, Dad,” I said. “And nothing else.” My father thought for a moment, and then replied, “Well, you have plenty of paper.”

And what advice would you give to your future self?

I’d have to say something like ‘Don’t look back.’ There’s a wonderful moment in Rilke’s poem ‘Orpheus, Eurydice, Hermes.’ Orpheus has chanted his way into the underworld and bargained for his love Eurydice’s release. Now he has the task of hiking back up to the surface, with the messenger god Hermes leading Eurydice along behind him in the darkness. It has been agreed that they will have another life together if Orpheus manages not to look back during the ascent. He succeeds in the challenge for a time, but then, tormented by the fear that she is no longer following him, he turns around. Here Rilke adds a magnificently poignant touch to the original myth. The poem portrays Eurydice as too deep in her death for revival, suggesting that if Orpheus had fulfilled the task their reunion might still have been doomed. When Hermes sees that Orpheus has looked back, he officiously raises his cloak and turns to lead Eurydice away from the light. By way of instructing her to return to the belly of the earth with him, he tells her simply: ‘He has turned around.’ Rilke puts one word in drowzy Eurydice’s mouth. She asks, “Who?”

I’m thinking that I am powerless to reach my future self, and that he might not remember me. I’m writing for him maybe. But I hope he won’t be living in the past. My favourite closing lines of any book are in John Banville’s novel Athena. The lines are: “‘Write to me,’ she said. ‘Write to me.’ I have written.”

Listen to a few readings here:

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Delighted to announce that Martin will be joining the live session of Creative Islanders at Another Love Story this coming weekend (Saturday 3-4pm) , and also giving his own reading (Sunday 12-1pm) as part of the ‘That’s Another Story’ session.

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Thank you so much Martin for your time and your eloquent insights-  So very much appreciated, and I have no doubt that readers will appreciate them too.- Clare. 

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PS:

Have you spotted my new online course? Living Seasonally is a 5 day journey to dive into your dreams and visions, and create plans of action in tune with your energy. It start this coming Monday 24th August.  There is still time to sign up. Head on over here to find out more.

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Gone Fishing

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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


Creative Islanders: Mari Kennedy

Mari lead image 2

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.

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Transformational leadership coach, yoga and mindfulness teacher, and facilitator, Mari Kennedy has been a pivotal friend and colleague in my own life, and in the lives of many. Her creativity spans many ventures including The Ireland Iceland Project, The Yoga Salon, and my own collaborations with her through Be Retreats.

Mari has a special knack of sparking fresh conversations and insights, and creating learning spaces for rich and lasting change. She is always real, ever honest and just through her being inspires creative responses to life. She is great craic too and has been the brightest treasure of a friend anyone could wish for. It is such an honour to be able to include my creative collaborators in this interview series. So, go make yourself a cup of tea and dive into these rich words from the radiant, Mari Kennedy….

(All photos by myself, apart from Cliff of Moher Retreat Centre, by Mari)

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What keeps you in Ireland?

I ask myself this question all the time. Certainly for the first 30 years of my life it was a combination of being very close to my family and fear of the unknown. I was a funny mix of someone who dreamt of travelling and new experiences and a total home-bird, safety junky. The latter always won out. Deep down I was afraid of change and loss. Life threw me a few curve balls over the last 10 years, reminding me there is no such thing as safe, and ensuring that I understand that change and loss are the very essence of living- rather than fearing them they are to be danced with. Now I choose to stay here with a willingness at any moment to leave. I am in Ireland today because I am excited by what I see around me – friends, colleagues and clients who are asking bigger questions, choosing to live in a more courageous conscious way, desiring a different future for this particular corner of the earth and its inhabitants.

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 (Mari speaking at Body & Soul Festival, Trailblaze event)

What makes you tick? What motivates you?

The mystery of life and attempting to show up to the adventure and the crazy complexity of being human. That excites me and terrifies me. I have learned to love the fact that everything is always changing, transforming and evolving. Everything! Think about it – in the utter bliss of kissing someone for the first time is the loss and ending of that relationship, whether it happens a day later or at the end of a lifetime of kisses. Isn’t that amazing and painful and beautiful all rolled up together? That’s what we have to deal with as humans.

I love working with others developing and designing transformational experiences, events, programmes, retreats. Collaboration brings me alive. And yet it’s the most challenging thing I do because it always brings up shadow (the parts of me I prefer not to see or more significantly don’t want anyone else to see!).  It also demands that I stop trying to control people and situations. When we collaborate we are invited to stop relying solely on our own intelligence and trust in the bigger collective intelligence. Its pure magic but it is guaranteed to unearth the small self. My first attempt at collaboration was with Kathy Scott in the ireland:iceland project in 2011 and we’ve been playing with collaboration and learning ever since. More recently we created The Yoga Salon which allows us to bring other great creatives and yogis together.

Inquiry and questioning is also something that makes me tick. Both self-inquiry and asking questions of how we are living as a society are essential to our evolution. I became a coach because coaching provides a place to safely question and open up new possibilities. The world I grew up in did not encourage questioning and it’s taken me a long time to relearn the questioning that was so natural as a 2 year old.

The change I see happening in the world motivates me. It’s really exciting. One thing that really struck me in the last 12 months in my work in Leadership and Mindfulness is how mindfulness and wisdom practices are been taken on by organisations. I have been amazed at how deep people are going in the practice of meditation and how committed they are even in the middle of a busy office and hectic work load.

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Photo: Cliffs of Moher Retreat Centre, Mari Kennedy

What does the creative process teach you?

Perfection is overvalued, impossible to sustain, and ultimately cold and clinical. Imperfection and brokenness are rich with potential and full of beauty.

Play, curiosity and kindness are some of the forgotten portals into creativity.

Mistakes are part of the process and to be celebrated as opportunities to encounter my small limited self (who hates them!). It teaches me to respect and revel in cycles, make friends with the unknown, listen and celebrate.

That loss, confusion, discomfort when given space give rise to hitherto unimaginable possibilities.

There’s a time to listen and there’s a time to act – and that is the process.

How do you get unstuck? Any secret tools?

Sit in the stuckness, stay close into the stuckness and inevitably it will open up. As our Celtic ancestors knew, everything begins from darkness.

 

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What do you do just for the love of it?

Jump off rocks into the sea. For the pure joy freedom and craic of it!

My morning meditation- it connects me to larger belonging every day, keeps me close to my heart and to what really matters.

I love words and I find myself collecting them like beads with the hope that some day I will string them together into a couple beautiful pieces.

Making food–put me in a kitchen with music to sing along to, a fridge full of fresh beautiful food and I’m happy out.

Reading poetry -Rilke, David Whyte, Hafiz, Rumi. I just got introduced to Marie Howe when someone recited “Annunciation” to me, standing in a field during Body and Soul and it blew my heart open.

 

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Where do you find inspiration? Any hidden gems?

Amazing women and men in my life who are stepping up, dealing with their shit, taking personal responsibility for their lives and speaking their truth. Having them accompany me at the edge of my own comfort zone as my friends is a daily inspiration. (You know who you are!)

My Dad’s legacy of gratitude and seeing the good in all situations.

Clients who sit opposite me and say “I’m lost” or “something needs to change in my life and I don’t know where to start”. I celebrate those moments of honesty as doorways to potential.

Integral Theory makes sense of this complex world for me, and Theory U and the work of Otto Scharmer at MIT inspires me to live in the unknown.

The research and work on mindfulness, empathy, compassion, neuroscience and the heart by people like Tanya Singer, Kristin Neiff, Richie Davison, Dan Segal, and The Institute of Heart Math inspire me to believe that we humans are evolving our capacity for compassion and empathy which potentially could enable us to create a caring society.

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

I recently read a quote “When somethings goes wrong in your life just yell “plot twist and move on”. I found myself smiling and wanting to yell. I recently lost my home and that was really tough. I had to face fear, vulnerability, grief and shame. I was so grateful to have a practice that allowed me to meet and face all those feelings and allowed me to catch my tendency to fall into, ‘poor me, nothing ever goes right…’ You know the script!

My practice of sitting with myself in meditation and inquiry got me through – it helped me to ultimately see that I have a choice to be the victim of this ‘plot twist’ or turn it into a jumping off point to a new and different life, one that is more real I suspect. One thing I know there is always gold to be mined in the challenge of plot twists. The steadfastness of my family, the extraordinary generosity, support and love of friends, and uncovering some shocking limiting beliefs are some of the gold I continue to mine.

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

Pausing is one of the most creative (and courageous) acts you can perform. We are so conditioned to be busy and always in our strategic mind. Pausing summons our creative mind.

Right now I am experimenting with just that. I’ve been testing my capacity to press pause – and failing often – since I first realised, eleven years ago, that I was perpetually over-functioning and never ever stopped. When I first tried to stop back then I saw that I actually didn’t know how to even slow down. So here I am now, down in the West of Ireland, without a schedule, without a plan, with the intention of not filling up time with busyness. Sounds quite idealistic and dreamy but it’s actually excruciating at times not to reach for some distraction but to be in the nothingness of nothing to do. In that nothingness I see the panic that drives the busyness. The more I have learned to stop the more creative my life has become.

Over-achieving and trying to be perfect or create perfection is exhausting. The more you allow yourself to be human and stop worrying about being right or “the expert”, the more innovative and creative you become.

Through my failures I have learned how hard I am on myself and how that unconscious self-rejection has hijacked my life. Self-compassion and friends with a sense of humour REALLY helps.

I have learned that curiosity keeps mind and heart open and that the capacity to take multiple perspectives creates connection and invites possibilities that otherwise would have been missed.

Collaboration is immensely difficult for us humans at this stage in our evolution but hugely rewarding and essential for the future of humanity.

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

Yes – I try to spend 60-90 minutes practicing. I pour (but don’t always drink!) a litre of hot water with some cider vinegar, and I always sit. Then I do one or two of the following depending on time and what’s going on – yoga, dance, running hills, journaling, inquiring.

Silence, setting intentions and checking in are some creative practices I also use. Silence connects us to something bigger, attention as a rule follows intention, and checking-in inspires empathy and connection.

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

These days I listen and watch as much as read. I think Ken Wilber’s Kosmic Consciousness changed my life and my perspectives and I loved his dairy One Taste.

Rilke’s Love Poems to God.

Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights

Roger Housden’s Ten poems to Change your Life

Pema Codron’s When Things Fall Apart

David Whyte’s The House of Belonging

I love the writing of John Moriarty but I have yet to finish a book of his.

Integral Life for all things Integral and the work of Ken Wilber.

Tara Brach Darma Talks

Sounds True Insights at the Edge – some of the great leading edge thinkers in evolution.

Yoga Glo –  great for home practice.

The Love Revolution – Matt Kahn

Mystic Mamma for bite sized pieces of wisdom and great images.

 

What advice would you give to your future self?

I suspect my future self would have more interesting and useful advice to give my present self than other way around. So if I can turn it around my future self would ask me four questions:

What’s asking for your attention?

What really matters to you?

What do you want to create?

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

….

Thank you so much Mari! xx

Mari’s links:

The Yoga Salon

Cliffs of Moher Retreat Centre (Regular Guest Teacher)

 

 

 


‘Mindless’ Photography

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I’ve fallen in love, and out of love, many times. With my camera that is. (The other love is another story- or many!)

Last weekend it took a lake and a quiet moment to turn the love back on. At the best of times my camera and I feel as one – showing up to each other to capture something special, if just for a moment. And last weekend it felt like the best of times again.

The weekend took me to the shores of Lough Derg where my friends Kieron & Sue were hosting a party. They live on the lake shore. It being a full house, I opted for camping, excited that the lake would be the first thing I would see in the morning and the last thing at night. I had spent some chunks of my childhood on that lake, boating with parents and hopping in for swims. The memories were back as reminders of the best of times too.

Early morning, the light was rising. The party goers were still snoozing but the birds had me up with their cheer and dawn insistence. So me and camera went to the lake for a while, first to swim and then just to be.

Then came the click, physically and metaphorically.

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There are moments as a photographer where meditation and that very moment merge. The image is all absorbing and the camera merely becomes a vessel through which that moment is amplified and, by virtue of grace, you happen to be there to capture it.

It can take you elsewhere in an instant.

First you are separate and in a click you are one- you, the object, the light, nature, the breath, the presence and the mystery of it all. In a way, the image captured is irrelevant- you aim for beauty but if the moment is beautiful then that is art in itself. The image is icing.

Which is where the love comes back. Some call it mindful photography. But it could equally be called heartful and mindless photography, for when you can allow the moment to arrive and swell the heart with love, the mind is elsewhere, absorbed into the expanse and otherness, the nothingness; that meditative place which can sometimes seem so illusive when trying to get there sitting on a cushion or stretching in a yoga pose.

Click.

Just that moment is enough to give a taste of what art opens. My camera forever changes me, for the heart remains swelled, expanded and more capable of capturing it again, experiencing that sense of openness, and timelessness, and love.

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My camera teaches me many things: to sit, to be, to listen, to wait, to observe, to sense, to intuit, to investigate, to be open, if only for that moment, to the magic of it all. But perhaps most importantly it teaches me to love, breaking the heart open again, and again, and again, for an expanded sense of presence and expanded sense of being, mindlessly. Click. Click. Click.

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Creative Islanders: Aoibheann McNamara

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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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Next up in the series we have some short, snappy and sweet responses from Aoibheann Mc Namera- mother, restauranteur, entrepreneur, art lover, and one of Ireland’s treasures.

No visit to Galway City is complete for me without a visit to Ard Bia Restaurant, founded by Aoibheann. Set on the harbour shore overlooking The Claddagh, Ard Bia is a hub of great food, friendship, art, connections and always a warm and vibrant welcome. 

More recently Aoibheann has also teamed up with Triona Lillis to bring The Tweed Project to life. Inspired the native fabrics of tweed and linen in Ireland, Aoibheann and Triona set about trying to revitalise the craft, creating contemporary handmade weaves and wears, while honouring the tradition and land from which they come.

Beyond that Aoibheann has recently renovated an old warehouse in Galway city as her and her son Oni’s home, and has opened it up to guests and even spoken word events.

With creativity and entrepreneurship coursing through her veins, I hand over to the lovely Aoibheann…

What makes you tick? What motivates you?

Opening my inbox every day and seeing the opportunities I am lucky enough to be offered and exploring them, and then seeing what happens. Travel. Aesthetic life.

What keeps you in Ireland?

My son, my work, my love of the country.

What do you do just for the love of it?

Put people together and help make things happen.

What does the creative process teach you?

I know no other process, so it just the way I live.

Where do you find inspiration? Any hidden gems?

Everything- travel, publications, people- too many things.

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

A good Scary Mary party normally re aligns everything! (- note- Scary Mary is Mary Mc Nally- who is known for her wild and wonderful parties, and is a fine creative entrepreneur too- must be something in that Galway water)

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

Have a core belief and develop that, listen to it and if you are really in tune with it there is no such thing as failure.

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

I jog by the sea, do emails, drink green juice and then see what happens…

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

Its Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want To Be – Paul Asture

Any Saturday edition of the Financial Times.

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

Get a good accountant! Out source this.

And what advice would you give to your future self?

Have a nice sofa and sit on it from time to time!

 

Find out more: 

Ard Bia

The Tweed Project

Aoibheann’s home on Air BnB

 

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Creative Islanders: Emmet Condon

Emmet Condon

The Creative Islanders is an 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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Next up is Emmet Condon– DJ, Founder of Homebeats, Another Love Story and Fading Light festival organiser, avid tea drinker, surfer and dog lover.

Having jumped ship on a career path in physiotherapy, for the last number of years Emmet has been popping up in people’s homes and quirky spaces, bringing beats to unlikely venues. He has also collaborated to bring Another Love Story boutique festival to life, initiated the Fading Light Festival in West Kerry and most recently had a dream come true when he hosted his own stage Tree Haus at Body & Soul Festival.  But beyond the music, it is the way Emmet operates which has been part of the appeal and growth of his ventures- with an open heart, a collaborative spirit and a sense of adventure, bringing community together in meaningful, musical ways. He can certainly get a crowd dancing too.

Now over to Emmet…

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What makes you tick? What motivates you?

In terms of motivation, to be honest, a sense of lost time. It took me a long time to find the courage to go after what was in my heart, so I’m still keenly aware of making up for a lot of time spent not persuing the right thing.

What makes me tick? Attention to detail and commitment to a small but perfect vision. That, and the want to present music and spaces in a way that opens them up to the audience and the artists. Following on from that the incredible buzz of seeing it all come together and people being happy.

Last week’s adventure on our Tree Haus stage at Body & Soul Festival was perhaps the ultimate experience of this so far – Avril Stanley & co’s dedication to making Ballinlough a wonderland sets the bar high for anyone producing something there, especially for the first time. I can honestly say that the Homebeat team that worked on every facet of it put their hearts and souls into it. To see the stage in full flight at the woods at 3am in the morning was something that might never leave me. There are many difficult parts to being involved in the events industry, but the ability to truly create magic with friends in a place like that is just an incredible buzz- and that’s the feeling that you keep looking for and that keeps driving you to do it the right way.

What does the creative process teach you?

I think mostly it has thought me the hard won value of patience. When I was younger I was sure that people created art without any effort; that great artists, no matter the medium, simply exhaled a piece of art in one perfect, concise breath. Learning that everyone has and needs exactly that – a process, was a very profound thing for me.

What keeps you in Ireland?

I’m really glad to say, so many things. First and foremost the incredible bunch of creative people I’m blessed to know here, and especially so in Dublin. It’s a community that seems to be growing closer and denser over the past number of years and the genuine inspirational innovation and support amongst that group is something that would take years to encounter and foster somewhere larger and less connected like London or New York or even the hallowed ground of Berlin.

Secondly, I suppose it’s the feeling of growing something with Homebeat. It took me a long time to find my way in terms of a career, and though I would be hard pressed to legitimise the adventures I’m having at the moment as a “career”, I’m certainly invested in it enough to feel like it’s the vehicle for my dreams here and I suppose a lot of work has gone into even getting it to this lowly level. I would hate to leave that behind right now.

Beyond those two things, obviously friends and family, but also the incredible little island that we live on itself. Dublin town, my adopted home, is nestled twixt mountains and sea, and if one manages to escape the heady attractions of incredible music, art, pubs and clubs of a Friday night, not to mention the incredible burgeoning coffee and food culture every day of the week here, you can be walking next to a giant red lighthouse, or flying down a mountain bike trail in under a half hour from your kitchen. And that only begins to explain the wonder of getting up even a little bit earlier on that Saturday morning, jumping in a van and finding yourself surfing in Sligo, Clare or Kerry by mid-morning, amongst friends in uncrowded waves, and in the most beautiful setting possible.

Festivals, music, Guinness, our natural humility- I could go on and on. I travelled for a long time to find the day that I decided this was undoubtably the place for me on this planet, and I’ve never looked back since.

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Photo: Chequerboard at Fading Light (Ruthless Imagery)

How do you get unstuck? Any secret tools?

I don’t know if I feel I get necessarily stuck, more fatigued from having a few projects on the go all at once. If you are working in the field that you are most interested in, it’s hard not to be inspired. Certainly I’m someone who feels like he’s completely making it up as he goes along so talking to peers helps a lot in terms of advice and reassurance. But if genuinely stuck for want of headspace, it’s time to pack the van, head west and jump in the sea for a few days.

What do you do just for the love of it?

I’d say DJ but there’s definitely an element of ambition in that, so purely for the love of it –  surf, snowboard, read the sports pages, golf, drink tea, make it my business to talk to most dogs I meet on the street.

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Where do you find inspiration? Any hidden gems?

Most certainly in what’s happening here at the moment. I truly believe we are living through a golden age of Irish music and culture, not only this, but my generation has been paradoxically empowered by the recession I think – the drop in commercial rent prices during the recession meant places like The Fumbally Café, and our beloved Mabos sprung up. These spaces are real hubs of incubation and inspiration – at the end of the day it’s all about the realisation that people and their interactions is what make it all happen – and most of all it’s people who are true to their voice and their passion (stand up Donal Dineen & co.) who inspire me continuously.

But outside of people:  good design – be it a pair of runners or a café, nature, and a gazillion websites / instagram accounts / blogs / magazines. I actually find Instagram a really handy source of visual inspiration.

Great music obviously is something that brings me to a different place, though that might be more emotional inspiration rather than a creative one (usually it makes me feel creatively stupid!!)

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

Sitting myself down and breaking things into small bits. Lists. Lots of lists. Once I do that I feel like I’m in control of the situation and the panic tends to subside a little. This and tea. Gallons of tea (this is probably the substance that sustains me also). I’ve learned the hard way that I’m not someone who can leave their troubles behind readily, so I’ve got to face them and break them down or I end up driving around the country trying to run away from them but not being able to escape!

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Photo: Ruthless Imagery at Another Love Story

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

Trust your own artistic vision – it’s the only thing you have that makes you stand out.

Trust if you do it well, more work will follow, if not immediately, then soon after.

Always over deliver and follow through to the very end – the extra attention to detail is what people remember.

Say yes often, say no sometimes.

Always go!

In terms of failures, often (as in most things in life) you already know in your heart if it’s not going to work.

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

Wake, tea, check mails / facebook for anything new that has been announced or popped up. MORE TEA. Generally I need a space to be pretty tidy to think, so there’s a lot of straightening magazine / notebook edges involved.

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

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Crossings – Michel Kew (the best travel book I have ever read)

Grapes of Wrath – John Stienbeck

Vernon God Little – DBC Pierre.

Websites – Monsters Children | Resident Advisor (brilliant podcast series on djs and promoters) | Soundcould

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

As I said earlier, that I had realised very few get it 100% right immediately, and that the confidence you get from the very simple act of just trying is huge.

And what advice would you give to your future self?
Try to stay patient. If you do it right, trust that the work will come. Always be grateful! Trust yourself!

 

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Emmet’s links: 

Homebeats

Another Love Story (in collaboration with Happenings)

Fading Light

Thank you Emmet- see you on a dance floor soon! 


Press Play

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It is mid-summer here in the northern hemisphere. Dublin has been a delight with lingering summer evenings and awash with blooming roses and fresh colour. It is one of my favourite times of the year, as the light invites us out to play.

The Power of Play

Play, I have come to remember, is an integral part of learning and leadership, yet is all to often dismissed as ‘silly’, ‘a waste of time’, ‘unfocused’, ‘misguided’ or ‘unprofessional’. But play is where we make connections, get our brains and bodies moving in new ways, engage our imaginations, nurture the senses, allow our inner child to be given an airing, and invite in fun and laughter. Play is a rich field, ripe for learning.

When times are busy, play is often the thing which we push back on first (or at least I do!). ‘I’m too busy now’, ‘Just a few more hours at the computer…’ But have you ever noticed how much more enriched your thinking and learning is after you take a break, and even more so, after you play?

I say ‘I have come to remember‘ intentionally. No child needs to be convinced about the power of play. I wonder now instead, how did we forget? To ‘re-member’ is to recall the experience back into our bones- to literally reconnect it to our members. Our bodies never really forget. 

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Living with an 11 month old dog has taught me a lot about play. Little Finn insists on it. When I have been sitting for too long and ignoring her, she literally drops toys at my feet. Play is a non-negotiable for how she engages with the world and is an integral part of how she expresses her being. I am not sure what is happening in her doggie brain when she is at play, but I have a sense of what is happening in mine- an enlivening and an enrichment of the intimacy in which I engage with the present moment, which in turn shifts my neurology. When I return to my work after some time playing, I am more focused, re-invigorated and generally more productive.

But play is not just important for the fun or the productivity, but also because of its ability to connect disparate things. 

Over the years I have been fortunate to work with and interview hundreds of creative and social entrepreneurs- people who are stepping up to make a difference in the world- from social activists, to artists, to medics, to designers, to writers, to sustainable farmers – all people who have a vision and are working to actualise their leadership in their own unique ways.

I asked myself, ‘What behaviours do all these people have in common and can these be learned over time?’

In examining their traits I started to see a pattern emerging- a set of learned skills and practices that can be reinforced and augmented. These are what I call the 12 Paradigms of Creative Leadership and together they not only help people launch new ventures and develop creative processes, but vitally help to sustain them. These paradigms include presence, purpose, perameters, pattern recognition, power, perspective and centrally, play**

Play is like the weave through it all; a way to deeply connect us to our imagination, intuition and inner insights. Importantly, it also acts like our very own personal labororatory, giving us permission to experiment, fail, try again, test new ground and alter our moves. Common to all the creative and social entrepreneurs I have met, it is through play that some of their best innovations and ideas happened, often unplanned or previously unassociated. It was when playing that their ‘a-ha moments’ landed.  Play was the prism for insight.

Play as a Gateway…

As a photographer, many of my favourite images have been taken because of play. When I travel I carry a  colourful hand puppet with me. Often when waiting in queues or travelling on buses, and when there are children around, the hand puppet will pop out and together with the kids, we start to play. That hand puppet has led to the most amazing encounters with children, their parents, and their communities- crossing cultural and language barriers and immediately breaking down any tension or fear. Through it I learned to count to ten in Hindi, Bengali, Swahili, Xhosa and Malayalam and taught many children how to count to ten in English, Irish and Mandarin!  I have been invited into people’s homes as a result of that puppet, which in turn led to conversations and many opportunties as a photographer which I would not have had otherwise. Play has been a gateway and a saviour.

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Having play as one of our central paradigms can re-orientate our priorities , quickly shift perspective and lighten the load when we need it the most. Play can revitalise and re-energise, sparking new connections and generating insights. Play can open doorways and opportunities. Play can be just for the fun of it too. But maybe we need to remember to do it more often, insistent dog or no dog at our side.

So, as the summer lingers and the light cheers us on, let these words be that familiar knock on the  front door when you were a child, uttering some welcome words: Are you coming out to play?

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** Come October 5th I will be launching a new online course, See Deeper, Act Bolder, in which I will be faciliating learning through the 12 Paradigms of Creative Leadership. Each week we will cover one or more of the paradigms, engaging creatively with each theme. Our cameras, journals, paint brushes, and blank pages will be used as learning tools, taking us on a journey into our own inner vision and possibilities, so that we can each see deeper and act bolder.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

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Creative Islanders: Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh

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The Creative Islanders is an 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.

………………………..

First up is Caoimhín Ó’Raghallaigh– a masterful musician and I am very happy to say, a very dear friend and someone who I draw consistant inspiration from. Caoimhín makes his music on a 10 string fiddle called the hardanger d’amore, exploring the region where traditional music begins to disintegrate. He is a member of The Gloaming and This is How we Fly, touring internationally to some of the most beautiful stages in the world, including The Sydney Opera House, the Royal Albert Hall and the Lincoln Centre.

Over to the wonderful words and insights from Caoimhín…

What makes you tick? What motivates you?

Creating something new makes my brain light up like the fireworks on New Year’s Eve – every time I make something new, something that didn’t exist before that moment, however humble it might be, I actually feel my brain rewarding me, telling me “Yes! This is it! This is the right stuff! Yes! Yes!”. Making new things makes me insanely happy, like a little kid.

What keeps you in Ireland?

It’s my home, it’s where I’m from, and on account of that it’s where I feel I belong, it’s where I understand people the best, it’s where I find the richest level of communication with others by dint of our shared background, culture and history.

What does the creative process teach you?

That we’re built to evolve, and that any effort to create new information by us, in any field, is hugely appreciated and rewarded by our deep selves, the part that is invested in the million year outlook for humanity. Access to that point at which information comes into existence is possible for anyone. Stepping off a cliff into the unknown darkness is immensely productive and rewarding.

How do you get unstuck? Any secret tools?

Mostly I wait, and trust that there’s no reason to panic. Two secret tools: one, a blank sheet, or two, a deadline! I’ve found that if you force yourself to make a mark on a blank sheet, be it ink on paper or sound on time, that something WILL come out. The hardest thing is actually taking out that blank sheet, making the time for it when it’s the last thing in the world you feel like doing.

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What do you do just for the love of it?

Hurling in the park, walking in the mountains, hanging out with friends and family.

Where do you find inspiration? Any hidden gems?

Visual art often enriches me, and will sink deep into the marrow of my bones and inform some fundamental change in what I want to create. Space and texture are two things that I love to learn about in this way. In creating, I try to embrace a lack of control. The unknown and uncontrolled gives rise to far more interesting results than anything I could come up with myself.

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

I feel pretty fortunate to be able to keep the light at the end of the tunnel in sight, extraordinarily lucky that no matter how dark the day, I retain the knowledge that what goes down must come up. The philosophy, too, that things that happen to us aren’t ‘good’ or ‘bad’: there’s no knowing what a specific happening will lead to in the future, what horror or joy was missed on account of its occurence.

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

Trust yourself and your feelings. Be brave. Focus on the positives and put your energy into those, rather than fretting about the negatives: prune off the rotten branches – you are doing nobody a favour by persevering with something that you know is fundamentally doomed. Find balance. You are the only person who can prioritise other things in life: family, friends, your own wellbeing.

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

I tend to write in big clumps, I’ll go away for a week or a month or longer, and write a whole load of material, rather than a regular daily approach, and then figure out a routine for that particular spell of time. On days where I have a performance, I’ll generally try to keep it as empty as possible, and do my best to ensure my head is clear and worry-free when performance time comes. A little nap right before the concert, or a nice lazy bath in the middle of the day, for instance. I’ll try to find a great place for coffee in the morning, and a wonderful place to eat a few hours before the gig. The aim is to have a totally calm and clear mind when I walk out and begin to play.

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

Believe in yourself and don’t take any shit from anybody, don’t let anyone walk all over you. What you have is worthwhile, special and beautiful, go out there, shine, feed love and passion and enthusiasm into what you do. Trust that such things will be returned a hundred-fold to you, and be glad and happy: you are immensely fortunate and ridiculously lucky. You lead a charmed existence that you are obliged to delight in to the absolute limit of your being.

What books have inspired you?

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, all of Samuel Beckett’s work, Wabi-Sabi by Leonard Koren, Andy Goldsworthy’s books, those by Oliver Sacks.

And what advice would you give to your future self?

Be curious, learn, be open. Be kind. Take a holiday!

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Thank you so much Caoimhín- so grateful for your music, you insights, your humour and your friendship!  xx 

Find our more about Caoimhín on his website here,

Some of his collaborations include: The Gloaming. This is How We Fly. Dan Truman- listen in below for a performance.

Photo Credits: Con Kelleher

 

Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Dan Trueman -:-:- Laghdú from IrishMusic on Vimeo.


And we have lift off…

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Hello hello, and welcome.

With deep gratitude, and with abundant excitement I now officially launch this new website, my new Etsy shop, and the launch of my new venture, Zen Hen.

It has been an evolution.

First off, I start with Thanks– huge, deep and abundant.

 

No creation happens in isolation. To Catherine Pearson who crafted the brand and so beautifully engineered the site. Thank you. Catherine designed my previous website and so she was my first port of call. She brings quirk, style, refinement and patience. Would I recommend her? Always.

To Orlagh O’Brien, who so professionally and carefully designed the Seasonal Planners and resources- thank you. As a designer Orlagh does not just make things look nice but designs with the user in mind – first asking how things will be understood, and then leading with her design flair. Would I recommend her? Absolutely.

To Claire Wilson for her portraiture of me. Claire has a stunning talent that her camera lovingly and skillfully navigates, which I have been admiring for years. I am usually the one taking the photos, so it was a very new experience for me to step to the other side. I knew I would be in safe hands with Claire. Would I recommend her? It goes without saying…

And to my circle of friends, who have been cheerleading and offering unending support- thank you. Friendship really is key. And I include doggie friendship too- a thanks and rub to my little canine companion, Finn.

This all feels like a new home, a new iteration, and a new beginning. I can’t tell you how good it feels, with a healthy hint of nerves in the mix too.

I first started blogging in 2006. That led to a trip around the globe, which I blogged my way through, which led to a book, which led to a photography business and blog, which led to my previous website, One Wild Life, which led to many many doors opening. It has been a wonderful journey. But it was time not only for a fresh coat of paint, but a new house, from which I can build new dreams and cast my net further. So after much contemplation, letting go, letting come, this site has evolved. Here there will be writing, workshops, retreats, learning, creating, friendship, fun, support, adventure and change.

My door is open. Come in, explore, sit a while, read, relax, question. You are most welcome.

Be sure to sign up to my mailing list to get your FREE Vision Guide and Creative Planners, including an audio meditation and creative planners. When you sign up you will also get monthly updates with offerings, happenings and further resources.

Other things to check out:

Come Friday I will be also be launching a new interview series here, called ‘Creative Islanders’, profilling a behind the scenes look into some of the best creative brains and talent on this island. Be sure to tune in.

Zen Hen is now also live- this is my new offering which brings yoga, craft and beautiful celebrations to boutique venues around Ireland. Zen Hen has a website all of its own. Be sure to have a wander.

Yes, it has been an exciting few months as I have been busy preparing all of this behind the scenes. It is even more exciting now that it is out there in the world!

Welcome aboard, happy reading & discovering,

Beannacht, Blessings

Clare xx