Tuesday, March 14, 2017

creative chat: Siobhan Watts of Bless the Weather

This morning I'm very excited to kick off the third (!) year of my creative chat interview series! Today I'm chatting with Siobhan Watts of Bless the Weather. Siobhan is a UK based writer, photographer and knitting instructor whose words and images evoke such a strong sense of wildness and creativity. When I first discovered her blog, I quickly fell down a rabbit hole and read through all the archives. Today we're chatting a little more about her creative journey and the story and inspiration behind what she does. Grab a cuppa and join us! 

You can connect with Siobhan over on Instagram or via her lovely blog.  

1. If we were having this conversation in person in a cafe what would you be drinking? are you a coffee or tea person? (or both..?)

If it didn’t mess with my sleep, I’d drink coffee all day and night. I’ve actually gone cold turkey on the caffeine right now because I was drinking too much. Like mamas everywhere, when my baby has sleepless nights I turn to coffee to get me through the day. I just went a bit too far and I was having real trouble with headaches, anxiety and insomnia, which is not like me at all. So now, I’d be drinking a cup of Rooibos with soya or almond milk, maybe a peppermint tea.

2. Tell us a little bit about what you make/do. How did you get started on this particular creative journey?

Im primarily a photographer, shooting documentary style with families, creatives, small businesses and brands. I’m also a knitting teacher and I dabble in the occasional bit of freelance writing. This particular journey of mine started with my blog, Bless the Weather, back in 2009. I’d been interested in photography since I was a kid, I studied it at A-level and loved shooting and developing my own film. The darkroom was my hide out at school and university. I got lost in the transition from film to digital, I’m not really sure what happened but I pretty much stopped taking photos for a good few years. Then my parents got me a digital camera for my 24th birthday, a Canon 450D, and I just started clicking the shutter again. I started my blog to share the (very bad) photos I was taking, and I hoped that by sharing my words and pictures I’d get better and keep doing it. I guess it worked, because eight years later I’m still going! About four years ago, I started to take photography a bit more seriously and tried out shooting portraits, weddings and anything anyone wanted me to do. I’ve honed my skills and style over the years, and am now very happily working as a freelance photographer. It’s been a long old journey, but I’m finally on a road that feels good for me. 

3. I was so inspired when I stumbled across your blog- your words and images blend together so nicely and seem to really compliment each other. Is this balance between photography and writing something you intentionally set out to create? 

Well, this makes me SO happy that youve said this, thank you. It is most definitely something I work hard at. I have been writing my blog for almost eight years, and in the beginning there was a real disconnect between my words and images. It's something I’ve got better with over time, it comes easier now but I’m still conscious of everything looking cohesive. I’m at the point now where my images and writing influence each other. Sometimes I’m inspired to write something because of the pictures I’ve taken, and other times the words come first (or at least the idea for a post) and I try and shoot something that fits. Have you seen ‘The Gap’ by Ira Glass? It really wonderfully illustrates this, how for the first few years when you make stuff there’s a gap between what you’re doing and what you really want to be doing. But you have to push past that until the gap starts to close. I cry every time I watch it because it’s so true. For me, the gap is starting to close and that’s a great feeling.

4. Obviously, being a knitter myself I'd love to know how knitting and fiber arts fit into all this. How did you get involved in teaching knitting workshops/classes? What's been your experience around this? 

My mum taught me to knit about twelve or so years ago, and Ive been fascinated with the whole process ever since. I used to manage the events for a charity in East London, and I started a community knitting group and would teach people who showed up and wanted to learn. I realised I had the patience and a knack for teaching, and I so loved being able to share my skills with others. About four years ago I decided to offer beginner’s classes from my home, to make a bit of extra cash alongside my day job. I taught them every few months for a couple of years, but then when I got pregnant in 2015 they fell by the wayside. Then when my daughter was six months old, I connected with a venue in North London and began teaching all their classes - beginner’s, cables, pattern reading, socks, hats and fair isle. I also teach at a venue in South London too, and am really hoping to get my own back up and running again this year. I love, love, love teaching. It’s so wonderful and just fills my heart with joy to host classes.

5. I'd love to chat a little more about how place affects your creative process. Can you tell us a little bit about where you live and how this influences your work?

I live in South East London, between Brixton and Camberwell. Im lucky enough to have a flat tucked away on some quiet streets next to Ruskin Park, so even in a really busy part of the city where I live is very peaceful. I find living in London quite stifling these days, and I do yearn for space and nature and a slower way of life. My favourite places to go in the city are the parks, gardens and wild spaces, and I’d always prefer to shoot in those surroundings too. I probably don’t take enough advantage of what the city has to offer. I’m always trying to convince my partner that we should run away to the mountains in the South of France, but he’s not so keen! I need nature to feel creative, so I go for a lot of walks in the parks around me. South London is very green, and there are some really special places to be found in the city if you know where to look.

6. How did The Wildness Tonic (#thewildnesstonic) come about? 

The tag itself is inspired by the Henry David Thoreau quote that begins “we all need the tonic of wildness”. I’ve used it a few times over the years on Instagram alongside pictures of woodlands or the seaside, when I’ve retreated to nature to get respite from the overwhelm that finds me every now and again. It only just occurred to me on a recent trip to Northumberland to start #thewildnesstonic and encourage others to share their images and words around the same theme. It’s something that resonates with so many people, retreating to nature to calm their souls and put things into perspective. I love browsing the pictures everyone has been sharing. It really inspires me to get outdoors, even if that’s just to my local park. Trees, flowers, grass, fresh air…it’s all a wildness tonic. 

7. What are you currently up to? Any exciting plans (that you wish to share about) for 2017? 

In all honesty, starting a freelance business while caring for a toddler full time is so hard. There’s so many plans I’d like to be working on, but my main aim for 2017 is just to get through the year in one piece! That said, I am hoping to start up my own knitting workshops again, and I have some vaguely sketched out ideas for photography workshops. Aside from that, I just want to spend time with my daughter and go outside as much as possible. A year for my soul, I think.

Thank you so very much Siobhan for taking the time to chat and for sharing more about your work with us. If you'd like to see more of Siobhan's work or connect with her make sure you do so via the links above. 

Note: all photos courtesy of Siobhan Watts.

This interview is part of my Creative Chat series, where I sit down for a virtual coffee or tea date with makers and creatives to talk about their creative processes, journeys and the inspiration behind their work. You can read other posts in the series here.

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