I am very slowly working towards a hand embroidered calendar for 2021, creating each page month-by-month in real time. Not only will each page be filled with hand embroidered illustrations of the wild flowers in season that month, it will also show information on sunrise and sunset times, the moon phases, and other details of seasonal change. My hope is to photograph each hand embroidered page to eventually produce a printed version of the calendar that can be hung on your wall, your fridge or the back of a door to prompt mindfulness of your surroundings and maybe encourage us all to put our phones down and go outside.
Since this calendar is going to take over a year to create, I thought it would be nice to document the process somewhere - hence, I started a blog! This first post will give a little background to the idea and how it has developed. I will follow this with a subsequent post every month, giving an update on each page of the calendar as I create it.
The basis for the idea was inspired by my daily walks. Since December 2018, I’ve been making the effort to go for a walk most days - not a walk to the shops, or a walk to the post office, but a walk where my sole purpose is walking. I don’t take my phone - I usually just take a house key. What started as a desire to get outside more has ended up benefiting me in more ways than I could have imagined.
"Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented society, and doing nothing is hard to do. It's best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking."
- Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
1. Meditation. I find the process of walking for the sake of walking almost meditative. Whilst I don’t make a conscious effort to practice walking meditation, I usually find my mind clearing and my heart rate lowering. I almost always feel calmer and more focused after a walk which has proved phenomenal for my focus and productivity. Some days I will walk for 10 minutes, some days I will walk for 2 hours. Either way, the effect on my day can be felt.
Muddy winter walks
2. Mental health. I am lucky that we live close to the Taff Trail (a 55 mile long walking and cycle path in South Wales), so when I go for my daily walks I am usually surrounded by running water, trees and wild flowers. As a result, I’ve become more acutely aware of very gradual changes to the flora and fauna as seasons change. By being mindful of these small changes around me, I can calm the sometimes buzzing thoughts in my head in a way that I struggle to do in sitting meditation. In this way, I find that spending time outdoors and in nature can be a powerful tool when tackling mental health.
The first buds of Spring
3. Problem solving. It’s a difficult feeling to put into words, but day-to-day it can often feel as if my mind is full of ideas, niggling thoughts, to do lists and worries - like a big bag of jumbled, unsorted STUFF. A good walk can feel like upending my bag of stuff into a wide, open space and letting all those jumbled thoughts free to run around, make connections and generally sort themselves out. My problem solving powers whilst on a walk are phenomenal! I can set out with a little niggling problem and come back with a fully fledged plan to tackle and solve the issue.
4. Creativity. After about four weeks of walking daily, catching regular sunrises and sunsets (a lot easier during the winter when the days are shorter and the sunrises later), my growing appreciation for nature started to ignite a little creativity fire inside of me. My output of ideas started to gain speed - I was coming up with new projects daily that I was excited to bring to life. The first inkling of the calendar idea occurred to me in January. The idea grew and grew, and as spring sprung and the seasonal shift got quicker and quicker, the idea peaked and it became almost physically impossible to ignore. I found that it was all I could think about when I was outside and I would come home and be ITCHING to get started. So in May, I started.
Initially, the calendar started as a solution to a problem. I was becoming more aware of the sun and the moon in the sky - I had printed the sunrise and sunset times out and blu-tacked them to my wall alongside a moon phases calendar for the year, but I hadn’t been able to find a calendar with all this information in one place. I wanted to create my own. As the idea developed, I decided that each page would be made in real time. Each month, I would illustrate a page with the wild flowers that were in bloom, making an effort to capture the feeling of the season. I would hand embroider the illustrations and then gather flowers to match those on the calendar and create a ‘flat lay’ - placing the real flowers alongside the embroidered ones in order to photograph the page. Once I had all 12 months worth, I could print a full calendar to share with others!
My hope is that the calendar will act as a prompt to be more aware of nature and our surroundings, keeping an eye out for certain flowers each month. I hope that in doing so, and by being more mindful of the season changes and maybe watching a few more sunsets, the user will reap some of the benefits that I have felt: calmness, focus, productivity, and creativity.
As I am write this, I have just completed and photographed the May page of the calendar - this is the first page that I have done. I will embroider each page in real time, so that I can use real wild flowers in the photos each month. I aim to finish these in April 2020. Along with a front cover and a couple of bonus pages, it will hopefully be ready to print in Summer 2020, ready to purchase for 2021! I will keep a blog each month of my progress - the inspiration for each page and the process of embroidering it. You can follow along here.
Obviously, I won’t start taking pre-orders for the calendar until Summer 2020 (I’ll want a copy of it in my hands that I am happy with before I start taking people’s money), but you can join the waiting list here.
P.S. I thought it might be useful to include some book recommendations along with each post, because there is so much information out there on the power of walking and nature. If you have any recommendations for similar books, please let me know!
This is the book that prompted me to start walking daily! I watched an interview with Kate Humble on Sunday Brunch that day before Christmas Eve 2018. I immediately ordered the book - it arrived on Christmas Eve and I started walking daily on Boxing Day. Highly recommended.
Such a beautifully written and illustrated book, detailing Emma's experiences with depression and how she uses nature as a remedy. Another highly recommended read!