WELL BEING & OTHER STORIES

Recipes, rituals and other stories to realign the body and mind

interview

Well Being With Friends ~ Amy Ward of Bug Clothing

Business Stories, Inspiration, Interview, Lifestyle, Essentials, Natural Living, Rituals, Sustainability, Wellbeing, Well Being with Friendsdanielle coppermanComment
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Amy Ward is the mastermind behind sustainable clothing brand, Bug Clothing. She seeks the objective to create garments by hand that reflect the ideology that we should all buy less and admire quality and consideration over quantity. She uses only natural fibres as the foundation of each garment, and each piece will be uniquely different as they are made by hand on a very small scale. The materials used are designer factory deadstock which would otherwise go to waste, meaning they aren't contributing to the reproduction of new materials.

Here, I catch up with Amy on some of her favourite and recently discovered lifestyle tips for living well and behaving ethically and responsibly in a consumerist society.

Favourite or recently discovered Book:

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, and How Should A Person Be by Sheila Heti.

Favourite wellness tip or tips:

I feel like I spend every moment of my day rushing from something, to something, to finish something. So I have decided to make sure I take time to feel and rub each part of my body when I bath. Squeezing and massaging your calves just feels great. We spend so much time stood, walking and using our bodies and I've only just started paying attention to my body and feeling grateful for everything it allows me to do. 

Favourite or recently discovered Podcast:

I'm really bad and listen to the same thing, I just adore The Moth. I love listening to it when i'm on a bus or walking. I really love to listen to stories of people from all different walks of life with a whole different set of experiences and perspectives, it really opens your eyes. I also listen when i'm doing long days/nights in the studio and have spent many'a'hours crying and laughing out loud. I also have really enjoyed 'Violet Sessions' - listening to inspiring people speak about their experiences and businesses is really interesting.

Favourite or recently discovered App:

MyFlo! My lovely friend introduced me to it. It's amazing for Women to keep track of their cycles and to get tips on which foods to eat and what exercises to do to relieve annoying symptoms of our periods. I was going through a phase where I was feeling really rubbish when I was due and said to my friend that I just always wanted to cancel my plans and hide inside, and she just said 'why the hell aren't you just doing that?'. Knowing your schedule and knowing when you might not be feeling great, and not overwhelming yourself with plans and events and taking time to just lay in the bath or just making yourself a lovely dinner that will make you feel good, is very very important.

Favourite or recently discovered Song:

Music, aside from food and cats, is one of my favourite things and is soooo important. My favourite song today is Angel by Fra Lippo Lippi

Sustainable / handmade fashion - tell us more about your contribution and passion for this mission, and give us a few simple tips for effortless changes in this area that anyone can make today:

I read an article a long time ago about how the rate of depression and anxiety is much higher in ours and the previous generation, and how this could be heavily linked to the fact that people spend a lot of their lives at desks on computers, as opposed to doing something physical with an actual physical outcome. The satisfaction I feel when I finish a garment, or a pattern, is just great, and seeing your accomplishments in a physical form is really rewarding. In our Grandparents generation there were far more makers, people mended things, made their own things, they were much more pro-active and nowadays so much of our lives is computer based and I think that can lead to you feeling far less satisfied with your days outcome. 
In the past makers, whether it be seamstresses/builders/carpenters/shoe makers etc weren't especially wealthy or valued, but in recent years people with skills and the ability to make are becoming much more valued. The skill and intelligence it takes to put something together is a wonderful thing and should be rewarded with equal pay. 

I think some people assume it's easy to make something. It's easy to take a garment from a store that you like, take this to a factory and to get it copied and produced, which is what a lot of brands do. And you could say you are getting things made locally, but do they know the conditions in which the people are working, what their rate of pay is, the hours they are working? I make everything within my studio, and currently am able to do this because my demand isn't ridiculously high and because me and my employees have the ability to physically make everything. I think people should delve a little deeper with what they are supporting and buying into. It's very easy with things like Instagram to be enticed by an aesthetic or the look of a lifestyle. But far past 'not currently recyclable', what does it mean to be ethical, anyone can say it, and a lot of people do without really assessing what that means.

Favourite or recently discovered Film / series / documentary:

Greys Anatomy. I don't know why. It just feels good and I love it. There's something nostalgic about it, the soundtrack reminds me of being a teenager and it has the same warming feeling that I get from watching Frasier.

Something you've done recently that felt really, really good:

Me + my partner got a dog! He's called Seabass, and he's very good for my soul. We leave our phones at home and take him for an early morning walk before work. It really helps to set your day up and an excuse to spend time outside whatever the weather is. Also seeing such a lovely innocent little creature running around and having fun is just the best.

Wellness tip to try today:

Look up at the sky! It's lovely and wonderful + we forget to look up at it.

Favourite or recently discovered sustainable fashion brand:

Penny Sage. Kate, the designer, designs everything and gets everything made by one lady who lives locally to her in New Zealand.

Favourite pieces from that brand:

They make a good range of styles and the pieces i've gotten are really well made staples that go with a lot of things. Like a pair of really durable jeans and an a-line denim skirt which I adore. Also, the trousers. Mostly they're the same cut which is super flattering and lovely. They have a button-up fly and are high waisted and just hold everything in place perfectly.

Favourite or recently visited country / city:

I recently went to Pollina in Sicily which was very beautiful, and the local wines were incredible 

A story from your favourite or recent travels:

I really love a lot of places, but my fondest memory that comes to mind was cycling around Southern Turkey collecting fallen Pomegranates. It was the end of their season (October) and they were just rotting on the ground. We rented a scooter and visited the fruit and vegetable market and bought so many wonderful things to eat, and also a bunch of walnuts which I also added to the dye mix. We also visited the local fabric shop and got some lovely Turkish cotton to use, I did some tests and different consistencies which was fun. The initial colour is a lovely pink, as you would imagine, but after rinsing the actual outcome was a really beautiful bright cardamom-y yellow. It was a really therapeutic thing to do. Especially as when you're in London it's quite difficult to find time to do fun, experimental things, there are always a lot of other responsibilities.

Favourite or recently discovered wellness product or tool:

Natural soap + shampoo bars by Funkysoap. They are based in Leyton so very close to me, and don't use plastic containers just lovely natural bars wrapped in paper. I felt really bad looking at my plastic bottles of shampoo and conditioner and how we don't refill them we just throw them, so decided to use bars instead. And I love them. 

Favourite piece of advice, quote or mantra:

Happiness is a how; not a what. A talent, not an object - Hermann Hesse.

Something you live by - a mantra or general morals:

Everything will be better in the morning. Because sleeping on things always seems to be great for perspective.

Favourite remedy for illness:

Rest! Lots of sleep, baths with salts + oils. I have also recently taken to making some of my own natural remedies instead of using regular medical ointments. I sometimes suffer with impetigo when I am run down, and instead of using my usual cream, I instead made a paste of Tumeric mixed with coconut oil, and a lot of hot compresses, it seemed to aleviate the rash very quickly. My next task is that I am going to make a potion with sage to help with ulcers.

Best remedy for sounder sleep:

Hmmm, it's a tricky one because I could quite literally fall asleep in the middle of a motorway. I think fresh air and walking is a really great way to make sure you sleep well.

Favourite form of exercise:

I really love to stretch. Yoga is my favourite and only form of exercise. And when i'm home at waiting for the kettle to boil I like to stretch my body.

Favourite or recently discovered place / person for ultimate chill time:

I went to a Womens' Hamam in Kreuzberg, Berlin in December. The weather was rubbish out and the spa was so lovely and the people so friendly. There was a steam room and the tiled room with the metal pans for pouring warm water over yourself, which when you sit and do it for 20 minutes is super relaxing. After I sat upstairs in a towel reading my book and drinking Turkish tea and it was magical.

Favourite healthy food / drink:

Drinking vinegars! My partner just made a reaaaally great Rhubarb Vinegar that we drink with sparkling water and feel like we're being fabulous.

How do you achieve that work / life balance?

Oh boyyyy. Something I am very much still learning. I think it's just important to not overwhelm yourself (I do this often) and to remind yourself how important it is to do nice things, to appreciate the little things, and to eat a bunch of yummy things everyday. 

How do you remain mindful and conscious whilst successfully growing a business with purpose / promoting a more meaningful lifestyle and consciousness:

I think it depends on how your business came about. I struggle to separate myself from my business because ultimately I am my whole brand. I have to somehow be a business Woman when really I am a maker, so I never started a business with the intention of making money. I just wanted to make nice things and if I could create jobs for lovely and talented people and make clothes that supported other local businesses with buying fabrics and trimmings, then just great. I want to make sure the people I work with are happy, that they're enjoying what we're doing and also at the end of the day it's just clothes. I've never been driven by money and so this makes it really simple for me to produce new styles + clothing. I go by what I think looks great and hope that other people like it too. I think it's good to be transparent and I am working on a series of transparency posts, I want people to know what goes into a product. It's easy to idolise the things you see on Instagram and people are good at creating a mood, this is all well and good but I think it's very important to be real and to be humble. I have previously worked with large high street brands who have the ability to sell dresses for something ridiculous like £8. How is it possible? It's possible because everything is wrong. How is it that something that is better travelled than me and a lot of us, that is made up of material, that's been designed, that's been pattern cut, sewn, packaged and put into a commercial building, being sold for so little? This sets the precedent for how people value what they buy. Why would they buy an item of clothing for £180 if they think the worth of a garment is less than £8? Having a value is very important, things take time to grow, things need to be nurtured and cherished and in our consumerist culture we are all taught that things are very throw-away. I feel very passionately about it. And I myself have been blind in the past, we are raised the way we are and I completely understand that we are not all privileged enough to have the option to consider what goes into everything that we eat and wear, but luckily I do feel like people are becoming more aware. Hopefully big supermarkets will stop using 'not currently recyclable' plastics (idiots), and people will care more about who made their clothes, and the environments in which they are made. And hopefully people will have far fewer belongings, but they'll have really special things. Sorry about my rampage.

Favourite thing to instantly reduce stress:

Go for a walk and listen to a podcast, most likely The Moth, to get a little perspective and be reminded of the kindness of others. Also, I love to read poetry in the bath, things by Rupi Kaur, Key Ballah and Nayyirah Waheed.

First thing you do every morning:

Ask my boyfriend to make me tea

Last thing you do every evening:

I'm not religious but I have a little ritual of asking (in my mind) god/someone/the sky/whoever, to keep all the good people safe and happy and healthy.

Weekend rituals:

I like to have Sundays off, and I like to have a bath in the morning, read some of my book, drink lots of coffee, lay still for as long as I can.

In Interview with Pam Pam London (ft. Arthur Apparel & Cara Guthrie Ceramics)

Interviewdanielle coppermanComment
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Tell us about what you’re making for us today? 
Mmmm, it's one of my favourite drinks to make all year round; a healthy take on the classic hot chocolate. Come rain or shine, I'll make either a hot or chilled version of this energising drink made with powerful, functional, all-natural ingredients. You can make it in several ways, the foundations being a plant-based milk, raw chocolate or raw cacao powder, a little coconut or olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a selection of superfood powders, herbs, spices or tonic herbs (such as maca, ashwagandha, he shou wu, beetroot powder or something more familiar like cinnamon or ginger). Today we had some shop bought vegan chocolate, so we simply melted it down with some coconut milk and added olive oil, he shou wu and a pinch of salt. You could also add tahini or a nut butter to thicken. Today we enjoyed our hot, but you could also pour over or blend with ice for a chilled version.  

Where did this recipe come from and what inspired it? 
I guess it's inspired by the traditional hot chocolate, but it’s also something I’ve been making for myself for years. When I started eating really healthy and changed a lot of areas of my diet, I was super happy to discover cacao powder and raw chocolate as an alternative to one of my favourite sweet treats. I think somewhere along the way whilst experimenting with tonics and drinks that I would pack with all kinds of powders and herbal ingredients, I discovered using cacao resulted in something that tasted just like the hot chocolate or chocolate milkshakes from my childhood. Cacao is incredibly energising and I often turn to it instead of coffee for a more balanced and nutrient dense caffeine hit. I just love how powerful it is, and so I tend to enjoy a cacao-based drink like this once a week. It’s so easy to make, so delicious and has so many health benefits, from enhanced energy levels and cleansed skin, to elevated moods and improved concentration.  

What are you reading right now? 
Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss. It sounds super woo-woo, but it's basically written by an intuitive healer, and discusses all kinds of approaches to spirituality, exploring religions, ancient teachings and traditions from several cultures, and energy. It’s fascinating. I am super into energy work and healing and believe everything here on earth and beyond is made up of the same energy. We communicate on an energetic level and we give off and absorb energy from other people, nature, situations, feelings and thoughts. I'm currently learning about correlations between illness and energy, and how this manifests physically in the body; it's blowing my mind. 

‘Well Being’ is the title of your first book where you talk about connecting the mind, body and soul, through holistic practices, where did this idea come from? 
This was genuinely such a natural progression of my own life experiences, daily rituals and wellbeing routines. I was approached to write a book a few years ago based on recipes from my blog, but I had to put this on pause whilst I set up my business Qnola. During this time, I travelled a lot, wrote a lot, learnt a lot and studying and trained in alternative therapies, which too my focus away from jus food and really expanded my knowledge or the human body and mind, spirituality, energy and overall wellbeing is about much more than just a healthy diet and consistency fitness. I just really wanted to share everything I had learnt and all the things that worked for me. With my business in full swing, I wasn't regularly able to update my blog or event my Instagram and I also think both online and social media are so crowded with information and content. a book felt like a much more special project and I really wanted to create something people could keep for a long time and dip in and out of at different stages of their lives; something that wouldn't get read once or scanned, and then forgotten about. It is more of a manual to support readers to live more positively, openly, calmly and healthy, long-term. 

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What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? 
Lie in bed for a few moments and adjust to being awake. I think about my day ahead and my schedule and just take a moment to breathe and stretch before getting out of bed. If I'm in the habit of it (it comes and goes), I will meditate for 20 minutes, but if I'm out of the flow which happens quite often, I will down 1-2 glasses of water, tongue scrape and cleanse my face, make a hot drink (herbal tea or a tonic) and start getting ready for whatever the day holds. Usually I'll do a morning workout or yoga before settling down to work, going to the office or heading to meetings, castings or shoots.  

How do you like to wind down after a stressful day? 
It depends how stressful the day has been and how affected I feel. I tend to absorb stress and hold onto it which manifests physically in my chest, shoulders, neck and/or stomach. If I'm super stressed, ill do yoga or go to the gym or for a run and listen to my music really loud to block out any thoughts. Using exercise to relax has made such a difference to my life, as I no longer feel like its a chore to keep in shape physically, but also a necessity for mental clarity. Other times, I will make time to see a friend, or speak on FaceTime to my parents or my boyfriend who lives in Sweden. This is always so calming. The power of people and connection is so underrated. Support, understanding and input from another persons point of view always helps to calm me down, ground me and bring me back to a more rational, open and accepting frame of mind. Then, there's always watching a series or an old movie if I really just want to switch off from work and fully surrender. Works like a charm.  

Do you think you will write another book, and what will it be about? 
I would love to write another book, and I already have some ideas. I'd love to share more about the recipes and rituals of other cultures, as I think in the western world our idea of living well and feeling healthy is so short minded. I have also been working on a smaller booklet / zine called Well Being & Other Stories. Its sort of an extension of my website, covering recipes, rituals and interviews from inspiring people from all over the world. I would love to do a few more of those, and also continue to create content for my website.  

You’re entirely self-driven and self-taught from seeing first hand how a poor diet can affect your health. Is there anything you would like to learn more about? 
Ah, there is SO much. I am one of those people who has this weird kind of hunger for life. I love meeting new people and I am so interested in other peoples lives and how people live, and although I never really loved school , I love to be constantly learning; there’s a difference now though in that I am interested in so many things that I genuinely want to explore more, unlike at school when I didn't feel engaged with most of the topics I was more or less forced into studying. I recently trained in holistic massage, and this made me relay want to learn more about aromatherapy and other energy and massage work and alternative therapies. Reiki has always interested me but I'm not quite ready for that yet. I would also love to study herbalism. and I'd love to spend time doing short courses in the future too; I never even did a business course when I started my business, so there are some basic things I think it could be worth knowing! And I'd love to learn something more hands on and creative, like textiles and pattern making or sewing, and screen-printing. I come from a pretty creative family so there is a strong artistic DIY streak in me.  

Could you tell us about a favourite ancient recipe or practice that you’d swear by? 
I love qigong and do-in, some techniques i picked up whilst studying Shiatsu. They are really energising movements and stretches aimed to work the meridians of the body, to release tension and enhance energy and movement within the body.  

You first lived in Stoke Newington when you moved to London, and the Qnola offices are based in Haggerston. Where is your favourite place to visit in East London? 
I love East London, its got such a nice village-y vibe and as a small town girl growing up in the countryside outside Bath, i love anywhere with a small, local feel. It’s hard to choose a favourite place but i love the canal, and i love my local park Clissold. An ideal weekend would be spent browsing the stores along Stoke Newington Church Street, and chilling in the park with friends.  

We recently read in an interview that you love to travel, what is the best place you’ve been to? And what made it so special for you? 
I love to travel, and it seriously soothes the soul. One of my most memorable trips was a few years ago with my best friend. We spent some time in Cuba and then travelled around Central America. I was super stressed before going, and the entire trip was so eye opening and inspiring. One thing I love most about travelling is the people you meet along the way. we met people who lived with so little, but who were amongst the happiest and most content people I’ve ever met. That was really grounding. I love travelling too as it really brings people together. Unless you're staying the best hotels and eating at the best restaurants, its like people are almost equals. No one knows quite where they are or what they're going to discover. No one has many belongings with them. And everyone is exploring and discovering new things usually on a budget. It is just really like getting back to basics and being present and that’s why I’m so addicted to it. There is always so much to see and learn from other cultures and countries; the experiences are literally endless.  

As a business woman, what’s the best advice that you’ve received and what advice would you give? 
I have received so much good advice from fellow female entrepreneurs, and also from my friends and family. I think a support system is the most crucial thing when starting your own thing. You need supportive people who get what you're doing, give you advice and won't be pissed if you can't make time for them as much as usual, but who will always be there for you regardless when the going gets tough. My mum always says 'stay in your own day' which really helps to ground me and to stay present, especially when I’m comparing my business to much bigger businesses, for example. She also said quite early on, when I was super stressed, 'it's just granola. No ones gonna die if they don't get their granola'. It sounds brutal, but this kind of mild tough love was just what I needed. When you have your own business, you get so caught up in your own little hustle, that it seems like the be all and end all. Any little thing that goes wrong seems like the end of the world and its especially hard if you are the only person who can sort it. But, remembering that its really so small insignificant in the wide scheme of things is really important keeping grounded, keeping it real, and not letting things get to you too much.   

We read in an interview that you began packaging Qnola from your kitchen and sending them out via post, How has the expansion of your business developed in the production line? And the structure of your business as a whole. 
Yes, it’s true. I used to spend my evenings and weekends off work baking and packaging Qnola in my kitchen until the early hours. My flatmates and family thought i was crazy. From there, I moved into a commercial kitchen when I started selling to stockists, just for space and storage and also to meet specific regulations. I continued to make it here by hand alone for a year or so before hiring my first employee. Since then, we have expanded and outsourced production to a local factory; where everything is still made by hand in small batches. We have a really great relationship with our manufacturers too, and are always working to improve the products and come up with new recipes. The structure of the business is pretty stream lined now, finally. But it takes a while to get there. I think I definitely learnt the hard way, and in future if I were ever to start something new, I think I would be much more prepared, and would probably seek to work with a manufacturer from the get go. But I wouldn't change any part of the process. The struggles have made all the successes so much more meaningful!  

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