I love learning. I think it’s because when you get to a certain age *cough* it starts to become clear to you where your interests really lie and that learning doesn’t always involve textbooks and lectures. After stalking
admiring her Instagram and blog for months now, I decided to be brave and attend one of 5ftInf
‘s workshops. Behind the name of 5ftInf stands a warm and welcoming, brilliant talent with a genuine desire to help others engage with their own creative centres – no matter how deep they may be hidden within. Her name is Phillippa Stanton and she’s just lovely.
I say that I was brave because I’m used to conferences and large scale workshops. I can go, and mingle, and essentially disappear into the background and take anything I believe that I’ve learned home with me, unquestioned. Phillippa was hosting the workshop at her home in Brighton – and I was one of five women who had signed up. There was no escape, no hiding behind anyone.
I rang the bell about half an hour too early as I was so concerned I was going to be late – and was welcomed into her abode. And I truly was welcomed – within minutes you feel as though she’s been in your life forever. Phillippa invites you into her home, her world [and essentially her Instagram too]. I spent the first ten minutes talking to her trying not to make it obvious I was so awestruck, taking it all in. The books, the trinkets and flowers and fresh vegetables in the kitchen – and Cheeks. Oh, Cheeks. If there was ever a cat to adore it’s him. The beautiful, vocal, velvety sleek and affectionate Siamese member of 5ftInf’s exquisite Instagram feed and blog.
Our day was split into two, punctuated by a delicious lunch and ended with a debrief over sugar dusted sponge cake and hot tea. We began learning about wabi sabi at the infamous 5ftinf table, admiring the “magic corner” and watching Phillippa work – and we ended it looking through her talented [and somewhat Instagram-pioneering] granny’s photos, all huddled together and sharing Cheek’s cuddles as he reluctantly let us go, one by one.
After an explanation of what the day held for us, we were going to be creating two compositions for our Instagram and learning in the process how Phillippa essentially works and feels her way through the colours and textures she uses. The morning’s composition was dictated slightly to us with the distribution of a mixture of condiments. Each of us had three that we had to include before we could add other elements to our picture. Mine were loose leaf tea, black onion seeds and corn kernels.
It took quite some time – scattering, swirling, sorting and brushing the contrasting black and yellow before I realised I actually have quite a few preferences that I’d never realised before. I like things to be visible – the tea couldn’t scatter on top of the corn, it had to be picked up and placed on top. I also love to work in landscape, from left to right it seems. Perhaps that’s the Japanese influence peeking through. Phillipa came over and spent quite some time letting me take through my thought processes and realisations about myself – and my fears, also. Saying everything out loud was therapeutic and calming – and although I won’t go into detail of everything I added and took away, as I used my iPhone as a preview tool, I gently came to a place where I was happy and ready to say it was complete.
My husband calls it “Sherlock Holmes trips in the potting shed” which makes me smile at the way we both see things so differently – and how interpretive art truly is.
After giving birth to three boys, my brain-to-mouth connection isn’t what it was years ago and so when I was trying to write down what I meant by seeing things differently, I figured it out as that our own feelings and creative expression can ultimately impact greatly upon and exert a huge influence over our personal vision of pieces bought to life by both ourselves and others.
Which really, what it boils down to is that what I see isn’t what he sees, or what anyone else does, either. Even viewing my own work from a different angle didn’t feel right. There’s a part of us attached to everything we make or do – whether we give that part of us freely or reluctantly.
I’ve never appreciated the art of creating so much as whilst I was at the table with Phillippa. So much of what she had to say struck a chord with me. And not just because she uses her iPhone camera as a kind of viewfinder, as I do with the boys when I’m photographing them. I’m most often found saying to my boys or husband, “Let me see what I can see” or “Let’s see what it looks like” through my camera before I decide on how I want an image to appear. It’s that she truly guides you, strengthening your own self belief. So many times I’ve attended workshops which haven’t had any impact – they were instead stages for the presenter to describe their success in detail. Although we all, I think, actually held our breaths when watching Phillippa working, there was no arrogance and no secrecy in her methods. She talked and questioned us, and hid nothing. It was incredible.
Through her teaching, you come to conclusions and reach realisations by yourself. I discovered my style in a far less scary way than I imagined I would. I thought it would involve hours of soul searching – and yet a few questions and suggestions from Phillippa and I was able to actual vocalise what I liked and didn’t – even though I had no idea about my preferences beforehand. Having revealed the thoughts to myself, it was so much easier to compose my second piece in the afternoon – and even more fulfilling to receive criticism and guidance afterwards. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as enlightened as I did that day.
What made my day even more wonderful were the four other ladies that I spent it with besides Phillippa – Sinead, Anna, Sue and Seona. We chatted so easily as we learned and shared throughout the day, working amongst each other and admiring everyone’s creations as they unfolded.
Sharing a cup of tea [in a gorgeous hand thrown mug – one of which was gifted to me us by Phillippa at the end of the day, along with a gorgeous book, card of one of her fabulous prints AND a little succulent plant she had grown herself] with a slice of delicious buttercream filled cake, it was like saying farewell to family as we all went our separate ways and vowed to take field trips to flower farms together in the future.
I can’t thank Phillippa enough for the amazing day – and anyone who is considering taking one of her workshops and stepping inside the Instagram, you really should. There’s a beautiful, more assured creative part of me that’s come alive after spending the day at that table with Phillippa. Both she and it truly are magical.