The Joy Journal for Magical Everyday Play

Laura Brand interviewed by AMLY Botanicals

Laura Brand is an illustrator, author and mother of two. Her hugely successful project ‘The Joy Journal’ has flourished in all directions; from selling bespoke, hand decorated dungarees, to running creative workshops for adults and children at Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place Festival and Port Elliot, and sharing simple, joyful, natural techniques for crafting with kids online.

Her new book The Joy Journal For Magical Everyday Play is an absolute treasure trove of conscious craft and mindful play, and a must for anyone searching for down-to-earth, elegant and sustainable ways to make and do with kids.

Question 1 – In your book and online, your approach to following the creative flow with children is such a beautiful combination of simplicity, beauty, surrender and humour- how do you find that balance?

Thank you for saying so. Through a trial and error while writing my book (The Joy Journal for Magical Everyday Play), I discovered that with my own young children, keeping options minimal (like tools to use, or even colours of paint) and allowing them the space to explore and create without me imposing my own ideas on them, was the key to a harmonious bonding experience and finding flow. That did take some practice (still does!), as it’s easy for us to get caught up in how things are “meant” to look, or rather how we want them to look… staying present will show you that the most joy can be found in the process and that helps with letting go of expectations.

When I post on my Instagram and I am thinking about how to describe an activity, I always want be honest and include the stuff that you sometimes don’t see online because if someone sees it and they can relate to one thing that i’ve written, perhaps that one of my children has eaten the play dough – or that my dog has walked across the paint pallet, then my hope is that they will feel less alone in it all!

Question 2 – How did you discover the creative potential in pregnancy and parenting?

I have always been a creative person. At school i was always in the art room, at home I was always making bracelets or a den, or mud pies… later in my life I always returned to creative endeavours like painting, decorating, illustrating as past times or for money on the side (of other 9-5 type jobs) but I never gave myself permission to fully embrace the creative part of myself. In pregnancy, I was very sick and towards the final couple of months needed something to busy my hands and my mind… so I started to customise painters overalls and then that became a business venture and I loved it, even in the first few months of my daughters life, I was squeezing in time to dye and stitch and send off to customers, it did give me great joy – which is when I started my Instagram page @thejoyjournal. Re-connecting to a craft stirred something within me and when my daughter Mabel was approaching 2 years (and by now also had a newborn baby, Peggy) – I was keen to take her to messy art classes because it felt like something I could really embrace too and at home, we started to experiment with creative play, not only for her joy but for mine and for the way it helped us to connect with each other. Homemade play dough was a real breakthrough.

Question 3 – So much of your inspiration emerges from a deep connection to and conversation with nature, what does the natural world look like through your eyes when you’re out walking?

When I hear people talking about their “higher power” – in whatever form that takes for them, I can’t help but think, for me that is Nature. I could really go into this, so to keep to your question… when I am walking or in the garden, for me it feels magic, freeing, nourishing. I love times of seasonal change, noticing new flowers, or different shades and tones in the landscape and I adore wildlife and feel blessed to spot something like a woodpecker or hare, or deer (which for me are the most mystical of creatures). I like to look for signs and sometimes feel that messages can be brought to us by being in tune with the natural world around us.

Question 4 – What effect does everyday immersion in nature have on your kids and your own system?

There is no question, getting outside is vital for us as a family. I, like any parent can fall into the habit of too much TV or stagnant indoor time if i’m feeling tired or unmotivated but going outside gives an instant infusion of energy. We feel lucky to live in the countryside, near the River Thames, farmland and forests so it is easily accessible and we do not take it for granted but even when in cities we like to find the green places and hidden gardens!

Question 5 – You have such a unique way of weaving every-day parenting with the profound nature of being. How do you stay in the present moment amidst the rhythm of family life?

Thank you! We recently went on an off-grid holiday and put our phones away at the beginning of the trip (only using them briefly for sat nav on an excursion or to take pictures, but I didn’t reply to emails, or check social media) and the relief of that felt very rejuvenating. I realised after the trip, which had a lot of ups and downs (camping with young kids and a massive dog comes with its own challenges), that it had been a time of intense and incredible “feeling”… every day being totally in the present without the distraction of tech or normal routine, meant we were riding the waves of our individual moods as well as the families collective state and when we got home, I realised that is what being in the present is and we have to be okay with all that brings, including the tantrums. We have tried to implement ways to maintain this in our home life, like minimising our tech time and I have tried to do simple preparations the night before the girls go to their Forest School, like getting bags and clothes ready or thinking about activities we can do together when they come home, so i’m not fumbling around and then falling back on the TV to support me, instead a movie once in PJ’s or an episode of their favourite show while I make dinner seems much more balanced.

Question 6 – What keeps you opening to joy?

In order for me to be open to joy, I truly believe I have to look after myself and make sure my needs are being met. Like most people, there are times when I feel lost, or down and with the help of an incredibly supportive partner, my husband Russell, we can very quickly together isolate the issue being that I have not done anything healthy for myself (exercise, speaking to friends, meditation, creative time) – it’s often harder to see for yourself what you need, so communication is also key be that with family or friends.

Question 7 – You often talk about the treasure that emerge from slowing down. Are there ways you find helpful to ease into that slower, more mindful space of being?

Slowing down is one of the few great things to come from 2020 i’d say. We have all had to er-asses the way we’ve been living and the pace of it. The Autumn is actually the perfect, cosy time to think about how to slow down and a few of my favourite ways to get into this mind set right now, is picking up a book instead of my phone in the evening (I am currently re-reading Watership Down), batch cooking for some mindful time in the kitchen and to take the pressure off, lighting my favourite candle in the darker mornings and a mindful family walk (I talk about this in my book and give some helpful tips on it) – a walk with no destination in mind and no looking at the clock, is  a great way to slow down together and enjoy nature, all following your curiosity.  Ive been interested in slow living for a while now (and in fact there is a really wonderful podcast called The Slow Home Podcast which i’d recommend for anyone else who would like to learn more).

Question 8 – How do you balance self-care with caring for young children?

As mentioned, I have a hands-on and supportive partner (and he works from home) which helps, so we both make sure that we’ve given one another time for our self-care routines. When I can, I wake up early because I always feel better when I am up and about before anyone else having a cup of tea. I do sometimes let things get on top of me and find I am overwhelmed so I am getting better at asking for help.

Question 9 – What is alive in you in this moment?

At the start of each new season, I think my awareness to the subtle changes in nature, is the thing that comes alive.

Question 10 – What’s in your teapot?

Yorkshire Gold

Question 11 – How do you incorporate your favourite AMLY products into your daily beauty ritual?

I can honestly say, that your Sleep Tight Face Balm revolutionised my self-care routine. I find the smell nostalgic, it conjures some delicious memories of my childhood and with the feeling of comfort and quenching on the skin it is a true luxurious, treat of an evening. In the morning, Radiance Boost face mist, always!

The Joy Journal for Magical Everyday Play by Laura Brand is available to buy now (Bluebird, £12.99).

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