A Y E A R I N R E V I E W
Going through the On Serpentine Shores blog archives it struck me I’d gotten out of the practice of doing a “year in review” blog post; summarising the year by the seasons.Looking back I like those posts: seeing those years neatly drawn in a nutshell. It helps me to remember; to feel joyful and grateful when I tend to feel my shortcomings more keenly.
Yet sitting here now I’m hesitant to create another. I’m hesitant to only remember the positive things; wary of putting my spin on the year and painting a pretty picture of it all. I’m hesitant that in balance the year has not been “enough”; that I did not do all I could have done, with what I have, where I am. I’m hesitant I have too little say; that there’s little I remember with real accuracy or clarity….
Yet here we are. I’m doing this. So let’s be real. At the start of this year, I started working for myself. This didn’t emerge from a place of security. From an overflowing well of work already sourced and secured, that simply required me to leave my current job. No, in September last year my job ended, I got married and I returned from my honeymoon to no job at all. It was October but it felt like Spring. Like I had emerged from a winter of blindly marching through a blizzard of workplaces; face down, coat pulled tight around me, always onwards and onwards.
I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic. Really I don’t. But those days were dark for me. I am quiet and conscientious and doing a good job matters to me. And those jobs – sworn and shouted at, harassed and hiding in my lunchbreaks – had me clutching onto any dignity and self-confidence I thought I might possess.
But then those jobs came to their natural ends and I emerged into a shy clearing of pale light that felt like respite. Like a slow, gentle thawing and a gathering of myself back together. Face in the sun for the first time in a long time – crying silent happy sobs – I emerged from those employers and wished with all my being I would not need to return. Not to that.
To cut a long story short a few events occurred and I began to believe I might possibly possess the ability to make a living from my own work. So – clutching to that idea – I pulled a website together and pushed it out into the world. And my goodness I found work! Not a lot. But enough. Enough to have got me through 2017 and to have transformed the year for me.
In terms of the details of my work, I provide a number of creative services that largely centre around styling, design and art direction – although sometimes it also involves writing and photography – it completely depends on the client and the project. But I style weddings and feast nights, photoshoots and editorials. I work with brands helping them with lookbooks and marketing materials, as well as with their branding and understanding how best to visually communicate who they are and what they’re about. In this coming year, I am (somewhat timidly) thinking of doing more gatherings; expanding from feast nights into workshops and exhibitions. But we’ll see!
Still for me, on a practical day-to-day level, working for myself has meant a year of vastly improved well-being and mental health. Of feeling safe and secure; respected and at peace in my work. Growing in self-confidence and building on my skill set, I’ve been able to invest a lot more time in developing and growing. And it’s meant a first year of marriage that’s been astonishingly blissful. A year that’s taught me that whilst your wedding day is uniquely special and amazing, the best days are genuinely yet to come.
J A N F E B M A R
Once my website was up and running and out in the world I found it wasn’t long before people got in contact; both wedding clients and local businesses. Often those I’d befriended and got to work with on my own wedding, wanted to work on joint collaborations. And it was so lovely to meet up and join forces again on those projects. It was also in these months that I saw my own wedding featured on Green Wedding Shoes and in Cornwall’s Wed Magazine – features that renewed my drive, motivation and belief in my own abilities.
It was also in these early months that I was contacted by a London based brand, who were interested in working together on some lifestyle lookbook style imagery for their website and social media. As a part of this Matt and I spent the weekend in Mousehole’s Oyster Catcher, with the couple who’d started the business. Alongside the photography and filming, we kicked back and got to know each other, both over the breakfast table and on walks round the harbour walls. This beautifully, sweet, chilled creative long weekend stands out as one of my favourites from the year.
A P R I L M A Y J U N E
As Spring turned into Summer the creative work continued. I collaborated with Jo from Enchanted Brides (the very same Jo who photographed my wedding) on a shoot at Coombeshead Farm. As well as travelling out of county to Wimborne, Dorset and Lewes, Sussex for photoshoots, site visits and meetings with clients. Living in Cornwall has gotten me so used to travelling for a solid 4-5 hours at a time, that days with up to 8-10 hours of travelling really don’t feel like any trouble at all. In fact the hours in the car to simply think and be, made me think I wouldn’t half mind travelling more for work!
In May we celebrated Matt’s birthday with a day at Heligan and I returned to the fabled gardens a few months later to shoot some imagery for SeaSalt and A Girl Outdoors. Very excitingly her book (also called The Girl Outdoors) is now available and a number of my images are published within it! So I am now a published poet and a published photographer – although somehow I don’t really feel like it counts 😉
May also saw us clearing a rather overgrown corner of the field, to create and plant up our own veg patch. Admittedly we were battling with plenty of weeds and rather a lot of rabbits, so whilst sowing I was pretty dubious as to what would grow!
J U L A U G S E P T
Over the summer the travelling continued. To Bath, Ireland, Kent and London, helping Salty Sea Photography with a little bit a second-shooting. For around 4 weeks I was away, occasionally back for weekends or odd days. But Matt was equally busy with his work coasteering, kayaking and paddle-boarding.
Still despite the busy work schedules, Matt and I managed to fit in a camping trip at Tremayne (something we’d been planning on doing for over five years now!) as well as a day of rowing races at Cadgwith Regatta. All the while doing our best to keep on top of our veg plot, which was now pumping out more carrots, red onions, mange tout and rainbow beetroot than we could easily consume.
By September I was home for good, returning just in time for our first wedding anniversary. As we’d both had a pretty intense summer, we simply spent the day walking on the Roseland and enjoying a meal at Porthcurnick’s Hidden Hut. A few week’s later – after having a breather and catching up on some much needed sleep – we nipped around the coast for a long weekend away at Penzance’s Chapel House. These days (again away for the weekend, just 30 minutes from our home) were among my absolute favourites of the year. This hotel-come-B&B is just stunningly serene and sublime in design; somewhere I’d certainly recommend staying.
O C T N O V D E C
In October I turned 25 and we visited Trelissick Gardens for the day. The age undoubtedly felt older, more weighty, more significant. A quarter of a century. I recognised this year that if granted one wish or superpower, I would ask for the ability to stop time.
Throughout the year I’d also been attending EU funded workshops for startup businesses. As a part of this, I was provided with a business mentor and it was during these autumnal months that we first began meeting. These coffee shop catch ups – turned counselling sessions – over time transformed the way I saw my “purpose” and life’s work.
So as the year slowed to close I slowed too; reassessing my sense of self, the services I provided and style of work I was doing. It perhaps sounds like menial faff but I began unravelling the ideas behind the work I was doing and getting to the heart of who I am and what my life is about… but maybe more on that another day!
Finally, Matt and I headed back to Birmingham this Christmas. We’ve begun the one-year-in-Birmingham, one-year-in-Cornwall Christmas tradition and this year it was the turn of my folks. And I am so happy it was, because in all my 25 years we’ve never had snow at Christmas! But this year all that changed on Boxing Day. The following morning I had the most fun with Matt (who’d seen relatively little snow growing up) traipsing through several city parks, throwing snowballs, taking snaps and building a small snowman. All before rushing home as family would be arriving at any moment!
We’re now safely home in Cornwall. Calling in the new year quietly together. Reflecting and writing letters, records on in the background, working our way through a bottle of wine. Starting the year as I mean to go on.
p.s. I’ve pulled together a little ‘End of Year Feedback Survey‘ as I’m so curious to know what you think about this space – what do you find interesting, what do you like/not like, etc. So if you could fill that out, I would be very very very grateful. I am all ears.