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On progress

noun movement forwards or towards achieving something verb to become better; to develop (well) *** It has been two years since I (soft) launched my business.  In 2020, having finally paid off my loan and facing what seemed to be a changing, precarious work culture, I found myself thinking about progress. I knew I wanted to move on from my job at some point to something that fit me better, and where I could keep growing. But I wasn't optimistic about opportunities. At that time, I'd also been avidly listening to podcasts , and I seemed to attract those about living a different way of life – slower, more fulfilling, and not necessarily adhering to conventional work milestones.  It was then that I started – very hesitantly, but increasingly more and more – thinking about working for myself. This was distinct from freelancing, which I'd tried before; rather than pitching articles to publications, or being on a regular contract, I'd offer services and packages with rates and

Enter Arcadia with Jake Peterson

In 2022, I had the pleasure of working with Jake on the text of his book, Arcadia: Peterson Family History and the Secrets of a Swedish Nobleman . It was a transformative project; I realised that I enjoy family history and storytelling just as much even if it isn't my own ancestors that I'm researching, and it inspired me to offer this as one of my core services . Jake was the ideal client – from the first messages we exchanged to brainstorming ideas over Zoom and collaborating on drafts on Google Docs. It was easy to see that he was organised, responsive, encouraging and driven, with a clear vision about what he had set out to do, yet always inviting ideas. Arcadia was published in December 2022, and I caught up with Jake recently to find out more about his process while bringing this book to life. Those of us who are interested in genealogy and family history have probably, at some point, dreamed of writing a book about our research. You made it happen! How and when did you

On care

Care is such an interesting word. In our fast world of clicks and likes and 26-hour work days, I'm not sure whether that word actually has a significant place in our vocabulary. It feels too delicate, too intense. It implies time, a depth of feeling. In the last couple of years, we've talked about "care-givers", as most of us learned to nurse our loved ones. We've said "take care" at the end of every conversation, to the extent that it has lost all meaning and become just one of those platitudes that seem appropriate for the times without having to think too much about it. We send "care packages", and we advocate "self-care".  But handling something with care implies fragility. Most of us probably feel that way, especially now. But as we chase the "new" (or is it really just the old?) normal again, and thank goodness for it, have we left any space for fragility? For healing from an experience that left marks that won't g

A journey into fragrances with Dina Tsiknia

I interviewed Athens-based solopreneur Dina Tsiknia about her brand, Bloomey Handmade, which encompasses skin and body care products as well as home fragrances crafted with natural, fresh and unconventional ingredients. Read the excerpt below for an olfactory experience – I'm getting a whiff of that Lemon Pie body butter all the way here! Hi Dina! Tell our readers what first inspired the idea of a business built around fragrances. How did you acquire the skills to start your own line of products?  The idea behind my brand of home-made products stems from my desire to always know what the beauty products I use contain and how safe they are. The inspiration came during a period when I had tried many products in the market but felt that none of them really met my needs in terms of the texture, the hydration they provided, and the quality and intensity of their scent.  Around the same time, I came across an ad online for workshops on making skincare products with pure ingredients. Tha

3 ways to get started with your family history research

When I tell people about my genealogy project and my interest in family history, the most common question I'm asked is "Where do I begin?" Despite a strong interest – or at least curiosity – in ancestry and family lore, it often seems like unfamiliar territory. There's good news, though; researching family history isn't all about travelling to faraway towns or chasing missing documents (although that's part of it).  I wrote about three ways you can start your research at home in a time when travel can be challenging and online research can only get you so far. The chances are that you already have access to a lot more information than you thought you did. Below is an excerpt. 1. Start a tree   You know the drill – make a family tree by adding your name, your siblings, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and so on. You'll be able to fill in many names, especially in your immediate family to begin with, and as you move upward and outward, you'll know

Sounds from a May morning walk

Birds talking  Dogs barking  Water spraying Trains rumbling   Footsteps falling  Husband coughing  Airplanes whooshing  Conversations floating This poem was (mostly) written on 1 May 2022.

Past lives – and an interview

I've been living in the past a lot lately. It started, perhaps, with looking back to find out what had always mattered to me, and reorient myself a bit. Moving onwards is inevitable, but sometimes the past provides answers about the future. Perhaps it was also a little bit about the reality we now live with. We're more careful with our future planning; there's a lot of "let's see" and "fingers crossed" than there was pre-pandemic. For a while, it was too hard to envision anything about the future, even the near future. No wonder then that the past became a refuge. ( And  I've also been working on two personal projects that deal with history.) Sometimes I can't believe that I'm the same person who travelled, had adventures of a sort, that feel like a lifetime ago. Yet I recognise that somehow, I'm living many of the lives I'd hoped for. Not all of them, but that's mostly okay. I do lament the others at times, but I don't th

Orchids (and women) in art history

Heads turn as I scroll across to the garden. Only a couple of the faces I pass, somewhat hurriedly, are familiar. I wander over to the flowerbeds. How surreal it is to be viewing an exhibition halfway across the world a few days after it has ended. There are activities, videos of what went on behind the scenes, additional resources — far more material than I will actually look at, but I feel strangely reassured that it's there. I'm drawn to botanical art, I've written about it before , and there's something so wholesome about creating an exhibition and events around the contents of a garden. I'm slightly envious of those who get to see it in person. Maybe someday.  Leaves dance, as though lulled by a gentle breeze that I can almost feel, in Angela Mirro's contemporary piece The Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve . Below, Sarah Drake's accurate botanical rendition of Galeandra baueri reminds me of a glorious peacock, a cascade of pink petals flowing downward.

Motions, emotions: Q&A with Chiara Della Santina

For a new series of interviews with artists and creatives entrepreneurs, I reached out to my friend Chiara Della Santina, owner of ClaireLune Ceramics , whose work never ceases to amaze me. Chiara Della Santina makes small batch, handmade ceramics centred on mindfulness and slow living. At her home studio in Capalbio, Tuscany, she creates unique cups, mugs and plates, decorative items including vases, planters and incense burners, as well as customised, one-of-a-kind pieces for her clients. Here is an excerpt. Image courtesy of Chiara Della Santina What first drew you to the medium of pottery and ceramics, as well as the minimalistic aesthetic of your pieces?  Since I was a child I was always very creative and curious. I was naturally drawn to anything that pertained to the world of arts, such as drawing, dancing, playing music and any type of craft I may have been exposed to. My hometown was originally an Etruscan settlement, and as part of our primary school curriculum, we had a fe

The pleasures of reading "Object Lesson" by Teju Cole, or some characteristics of meaningful criticism

A title that intrigues, that doesn't quite prepare me for what is to come, yet feels just right  Nuance, not ambiguity, in the handling of a serious subject  Elegant turns of phrase, deliberately poetic to make the next point: Is it news? Is it art? Is it someone’s pain?  — “Organized disorder", "backdrops of smoke, fog or falling snow"  Finds a way to reach out through familiarity before presenting the new and unfamiliar  Situates works within history, contemporaneity, criticism, collective consciousness  Asks questions that evoke engagement and wonder  — "Who bought those tomatoes?" "Whose blood is that?"  Holds images, editors, curators accountable, not just the artist  Walks the line between sharing an opinion and leaving room for interpretation  Describes artworks through a perspective, rather than objectively  — "It is a still life, but it is in utter disarray"  Offers space for learning, sources, artworks, contexts  Explores large