Hello to all my dear readers, friends and followers. I very much hope that you are well.

It’s been a while.  I haven’t posted regularly over the last twelve months, and not at all since January.  Today I wanted to explain to you why.  I never normally write about deeply personal matters, but these are not normal times so I hope you will bear with me just this once.  (It’s a long read – you may want to buckle up).

On World Environment Day, this is as good a place to start as any.  Few would dispute that 2019 was the year the world experienced a tipping point in climate emergency awareness.  As a result, over the course of last year I felt increasingly “stuck”.  How would I continue the blog in a way that felt authentic whilst also acknowledging the urgent need for us all to consume less, consume differently and consume more responsibly?

Alongside that, my 82-year old Mum’s health issues and increasing social care needs took up more and more of my (and my family’s)  time.  Just before last Christmas she became ill and was in hospital for a short spell.  She was recovering fairly well, and we had finally found her somewhere suitable new to live, but then along came Covid-19.

In late March, on lockdown day to be precise, my Mum died – although not from the virus.  The pandemic meant that I was not with her at the end (although my brother was) and I have been apart from my family since then except for the (socially distanced) funeral.  Difficult as this has been, I consider myself fortunate.  I know that countless others have experienced significantly more distressing and traumatic bereavements.  My heart goes out to each and every one of you, along with my sincerest condolences.

Although nobody can escape its impact, this pandemic affects each of us in completely different ways.   For me, this quote sums it up perfectly – “We are all in the same storm, but we are weathering it in very different boats”.

For some, whilst the pandemic has undeniably changed their lives they are fortunate enough to be insulated from its worst effects.  For many others, the virus has been – and still is – the cause of enormous suffering, anxiety and grief not just on an individual and personal level but also collectively in their communities.  The fears and losses vary from basic needs like food and shelter, through simple everyday activities crucial to health and wellbeing, to the most savage of personal bereavements.  The pandemic has also served to shine a light on existing inequalities and injustices in our society.

And now, over more recent days, we have witnessed – and many of us shared in – the global convulsion of grief, rage, bewilderment and pain over the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.  His killing and its aftermath have shone another spotlight clearly on the issues of racial inequality, oppression and injustice.  Just as with the climate emergency last year, I believe that the world has now also reached a tipping point in our awareness of these issues. We have seen, and we cannot unsee.  Now that we know, we cannot claim not to know. 

But it is not just these issues themselves – the pandemic, social inequality, the climate emergency, systemic racism – that we are facing. It is also how these issues are being dealt with. The response by some of our leaders and others in power, and their handling of these events and issues only serves to heap misery upon misery, anger upon anger, injustice upon injustice.  Some days I confess to feeling utterly beside myself with fury, sadness and despair.

A message from Sarah Douglas, Editor-in-Chief of design magazine Wallpaper* struck a very powerful chord with me yesterday.  Here are some extracts, and you can read the whole message here.  (The red highlighting is mine):

[…] We are united with the peaceful protestors around the world, who are standing up for justice within a system that has for too long supported unequal rights. We will continue to educate ourselves and strive to action change in our industry.

I accept this could be seen as empty rhetoric, but we are listening, and as a media channel, to remain silent would be an implicit endorsement of the status quo. […]

When I wrote my editor’s letter for the Summer 2020 issue, it was conceived as an uplifting review of the best new design and a testament to the design community’s enduring creativity through worldwide lockdowns. While genuine, one week on, those words feel hollow in the face of the devastating events that have unfolded in the US and worldwide, highlighting this global and generational issue, which also reveals some uncomfortable truths we all need to acknowledge and respond to.

[…]

For many of us with a platform, however small or niche, silence on certain issues no longer feels like an option.

For most of the past year I have struggled to write about my usual subjects in a way that felt appropriate and authentic.  In part it was not knowing what to say, or how to say it, about subjects that just seemed too big, too complex, or too sensitive to address.  On a purely personal level, much time and energy was spent on trying to resolve my Mum’s situation, and more recently I had need to grieve her passing.  And in the face of world events, particularly those of recent days, to simply ignore them and continue with “business as usual” felt utterly inappropriate, tone-deaf and insensitive in the extreme.

For those of you still reading this, thank you for staying with me – I’m nearly done.  The way forward for colourful beautiful things is now becoming clearer to me, and I can feel the energy and passion to start writing again returning.

I still fiercely believe that beauty, colour and good design contribute immeasurably to a happy and rich life.  Beauty, even of the simplest and most humble sort, can bring us joy, comfort, inspiration and hope.  It helps create environments that contribute to our well-being, and homes where we can relax, feel safe and be at peace with ourselves and others.

The design, interiors and other creative industries here in the UK and around the world provide a livelihood for substantial numbers of talented, committed people.  They, and the work they produce that so enriches our lives, desperately need support right now, just like every other sector of the economy.  I also believe that our creative and design industries have a vital role to play in finding solutions to the climate crisis.

Writing about these things is part of what I do for a living.   I’m slowly working out how to do this in a way that reflects our new present and future, and the person I now am.  This post, written from the heart, is the first step.  Of course, you don’t come here to read about my personal life or views on politics and current affairs, nor do I intend to make a habit of sharing them on this platform.

That said, my choice of content from now on will be defined by recalibrated values. In our changed and changing world some acknowledgement of the wider context now feels inevitable.  I will continue to seek out the most unusual, and most inspiring, colourful beautiful things that I hope will uplift you and make your home and life more joyful.  But I will also approach some stories from new angles as well as joining in and amplifying conversations where previously I stood silently on the sidelines. I know that this will not always be comfortable and that I will make mistakes, but I commit myself to listening, learning and actively contributing to positive change.

I appreciate that some readers and subscribers may wish to leave as a result. I fully understand that decision, and thank you for your valued support thus far.  On this point, I was delighted to see the following in my inbox just the other day.  It chimed perfectly with my own sentiments and is from the utterly inspirational Janine Vangool, publisher and editor of independent print magazine UPPERCASE:

Thank you for your replies and suggestions to my message on Monday. The vast majority of replies were positive and constructive, though there were a couple of unhappy people who took offence.

Now IS the time to be political and I will use this newsletter and my publishing business to reflect my values of inclusivity, positivity and community. If this offends you and you believe that I, and other creatives, should “stick to the art and leave politics out of it,” kindly unsubscribe from this list now because I will be expressing my opinion and values here when I deem it appropriate. ♥ ♥ ♥ 

Well said Janine, I couldn’t agree more.

So with all that (finally) said, I promise I will be back very soon.

In the meantime, please stay safe and well.  And if you have any suggestions about content you would find inspiring, uplifting or just plain helpful right now then please do let me know in the comments below.

Helen x

 

6 Comments

  1. Gill Scott

    Thank you so much for being so open, vulnerable and authentic. I’m struggling to find some balance between loving beautiful things and loving our beautiful world – your post helped
    Please keep going
    Gill

  2. I feel really moved to read how you have been personally and professionally impacted – thank you for sharing this. I am also struck by your willingness to find new ways to express your fabulous creative take on the world – look forward to seeing more.

  3. That’s probably the most truly thoughtful and measured post I’ve read from the design world, in which I live and work. It is, ever increasingly, a challenge to write and produce in a field which some consider borderline frivolous in these exceptional times.

    Dealing with climate emergency, pandemic, systemic racism and social inequality – and our governments struggling to respond – is indeed overwhelming. But I believe, as you say, that ” Beauty, even of the simplest and most humble sort, can bring us joy, comfort, inspiration and hope. It helps create environments that contribute to our well-being, and homes where we can relax, feel safe and be at peace with ourselves and others. ”

    So I support you and your endeavours. We are just going to, as my old nanny used to say ,”keep the faith, ANY faith and TRY HARDER. x

  4. Helen

    Thank you Gill, I have to admit I hesitated many times before pressing “Publish”. But I’m glad I did. And what a fantastic way of expressing the dilema, would it be OK for me to use your words for a future post? Of course, I will attribute them to a reader/subscriber and not claim them as my own.

  5. Helen

    Thanks Jo, it’s going to be interesting, that’s for sure! x

  6. Helen

    Many thanks for your kind words Cid, and also for taking the time to comment. Your nanny sounds very wise …

Write A Comment