Five years ago I lived in an up and coming part of south London close to the River Thames in a spacious and airy warehouse conversion complete with original victorian windows, exposed brickwork, two bathrooms and successful, bohemian, surprisingly friendly (this is London we're talking about) neighbours. On balmy summer evenings we would all watch films together projected onto a big screen in the railway arches behind our building, and discuss music and politics over glasses of fairly traded wine and independent ales. It was a serendipitous throwing together of a bunch of people with good hearts and open minds, and they made the city seem less big and scary.
I had spent more than a decade building a flourishing career, and had been rewarded with an impressive job title, an eye-watering budget, a team of staff the size of a modest hamlet, and a salary to match. The other fish in my small professional pond respected me and trusted my judgement. The people who worked for me were loyal and (mostly) content. We worked hard together to deliver excellence to our clients, and to support one another to feel valued and challenged. It wasn't a perfect place to work, but it was pretty darn good.
And when I wasn't at work (which was, if I'm honest, far less frequently than I would have liked), I spent my hard earned cash building a life that reflected the sort of person I was. Local produce and Artisan food from Borough Market; a crisp, contemporary wardrobe complemented by unusual handmade accessories (it's important to support those independent designer makers, right?), eco-friendly everything-I-could-lay-my-hands-on; thoughtfully designed, beautifully crafted furniture and homewares.
It all felt hard won, and I was (and still am) proud of what I had achieved.
I was pretty happy, focussed on work, always tired, short on time, a little impatient... but if that's all you've got to complain about, right? You can't have everything. You make your choices.
Thing is, despite being brought up to be ambitious, to achieve, to strive for more and better and bigger, in my head it's always looked like this (only with fewer hipster Instagram-style filters):
The last five years are a convoluted, largely tedious and very personal story of tiny triumphs, monumental cock ups, self consciousness, uncertainty, doubt, disruption, wonder, peace, chutzpah and knitting (a lot of knitting). I don't know what the standard measure of a good life is, so I can't tell you for definite if I have one now, or if I ever will. But I like how things are transforming, and how different I have become in a million little ways that I could probably never articulate clearly if I tried.
At the moment I live on a modest houseboat on a little marina outside of a village, outside of a town, outside of the city I used to call home. I work freelance (and relatively rarely. A revelation!). I knit. I read. I make jewellery. I learn new things (last year was basic Economics and bobbin lacemaking; this year is quilting and the piano). I walk the dog. I cook proper meals. I look at things, and I think about them. I change my mind.
And I change the way I do things. You're probably reading this because you're interested in the jewellery I make (I tried to keep the words above this sentence to a minimum so you wouldn't get bored getting to here... I hope you're still with me... ).
That whole backstory was really just so I could tell you that I've decided to try a different way of making - less production (that feels like a throwback to a former life), and more art (which feels more fitting for what life is like now). It's taken me a while to think through whether that's the right thing to do, and whether it means anything important (will everybody laugh at me? Will they understand? Am I a failure?). And then I got to thinking that it doesn't really matter. I'm going to try it out, just to see. I hope you dear people who are kind to me and support me in my making of things continue to do so, because it's lovely to have someone to show, and it's lovely to see your smile when I've made something you enjoy.
I want to make less, but better - both in the quality and development of ideas, and in the execution.
Less but better. I think that's what I've been learning.