Ep. 110 Feeding Our Imaginations with Yarrow Magdalena
This week I’m talking with the most amazing maker with the most soothing voice ever, Yarrow Magdalena. Yarrow is an incredible artist with a deep devotion to helping others find creative and personal wellbeing through art, reflection, community, and love of our own bodies and souls. We traverse many stories and topics, from personal creative practice, grief, the impact social media and technology has on our lives, and feeding our imaginations.
This month Yarrow is hosting a beautiful creative winter retreat. Join them and others for a five day creative retreat you can do from home, like an artist residency but without the travel and time away from your favorite mug, bed & art supplies. Meet from December 29th to January 2nd every day to close out the year, create together and set meaningful intentions for 2023.
Come to as many sessions as you like, work on whatever project speaks to you and start the year in a magical & creative way that will stay with you throughout 2023.
Expect journaling prompts, tarot spreads, guided meditations and other resources to sweeten your time together. You can come in your pajamas, have kids or pets in the background and stay off video if you like. For more information and to register, visit themakingapp.com or download the Making app and find “Creative Winter Retreat” under classes. We hope to see you there!
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Ashley [00:00:06] Welcome to Making Conversation, a podcast where we celebrate making in all its forms from amazing stories of inspiring makers and people to behind the scene peeks of building Bright Collective, our monthly membership for all things craft and the making App, the first social marketplace for makers. We believe that the simple act of making can transform your life and in turn change our world. This is why making exists.
Ashley [00:00:31] I'm your host, Ashley Yousling, and this week I'm talking with the most amazing maker with the sweetest voice ever, Yarrow Magdalena. Yarrow is an incredible artist with a deep devotion to helping others find creative and personal well-being through art, reflection, community, and the love of our own bodies and souls. We traverse many stories and topics from personal, creative practice, grief, the impact social media and technology has on our lives, and, most important, feeding our imaginations. This month, Yarrow is hosting a beautiful, creative winter retreat. Join them and others for a five day creative retreat you can do from your home like an artist's residency, but without the travel and time away from your favorite mug, bed and art supplies meet from December 29th to January 2nd every day to close out the year, create together and set meaningful intentions for 2023. Expect journaling prompts, tarot spreads, guided meditations and other resources to sweeten your time together. You can come in your pajamas, have kids or pets in the background, and stay off video if you'd like. For more information and to register, visit themakingapp.com or download the Making app and find Creative Winter Retreat under classes. You can connect with Yarrow on the Making app @yarrowmagdalena on their website yarrowmagdalena.com and their podcast Creative Devotion can be found wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. And with that, here's Yarrow.
Yarrow [00:01:55] My earliest creative memory is being four years old and living in this really small German village. So it would be 1989 and my parents are just about to get divorced and I'm making a lot of sense by kind of putting things in order, and it's something I really love doing as a kid. So I would collect rocks and make these little altars in my bedroom. And I also like Swarovski crystals and purple and pink. And I just felt such a sense of kind of connection and grounding and just sitting down with my works and looking at them. And I think that was like really the first time I felt like my practice, you know, is something I can turn to even though I was so little and I had no idea what I was doing. But I was also allowed to paint naked as a kid. So I had this little tattoo bedroom with the white walls and I had the lot of finger paints and I was really given a lot of freedom as a kid. I remember that my parents would get the pens out and kind of like impulsively I would also get naked. That was kind of my thing. So it was hot, naked painting and I loved it. And that's really like what I kept enjoying through school. But I think there was always a desire to make that a bigger part of my life, but also not really a tangible kind of role model or the confidence to actually see myself doing it. I have quite a working class background and so I didn't know or see anyone in my environment that really had creative ambitions. I thought that was possible and I remember as a teenager I really wanted to go to art school, but I instead dated someone who went to art school. And I think that's that's probably quite common for for people. I hear that a lot. It's called like the shadow artist thing and kind of drawing people in the area that you feel are doing what you secretly want to do but aren't quite ready to own yet. I want to admit also as a teenager I watched Sex and the City and my justification is that I really wanted to learn English. And so I think that made me for the first time see that, oh, you can have a creative job, you can be paid to write. So that was kind of my first introduction to creativity in the adult world. And when, when it was time to graduate from high school, I kind of did the most sensible thing I could think of, even though it really wasn't aligned with who I was or what I wanted from life. But I did a two year bank training and then Germany, that was kind of its pay. So instead of getting into student debt, you would have this container of going to business college, working for a bank and having this really small salary that they pay you and crushing my soul. And it was kind of like really a way to rebel against my parents because. They were so like, oh, you can do anything, you know, to see what you want. And I was like, No, no, no. I'm really going to do the same thing and do the same training and. After that, after I graduated, I was offered a job and started working in e-commerce. I know something you've done as well, and that's kind of how I spent the first, I think seven or eight years of being an adult. I was working in Berlin and London and these really fast paced environments. I was doing management assistance and then age management, and there's a lot around it that I really loved. I loved being so young and being given all this responsibility and really seeing like the fast growth that was possible at that time. But I think looking back, I knew so little about myself. I didn't know that I'm really not suited to work in like a big open plan office to work on 20 different tasks a day and to never really have the chance to really deeply sink into something. So while I was doing that work, I started studying for a distance degree with the Open University, took courses in creative writing and social science psychology like lots of different things that really interested me. I also took food photography classes and kind of got my wealth in community work. And yeah, I think that was kind of like a slowing down and that didn't come overnight. It was like a process. And eventually I came to my final year of that distance degree and I was kind of working full time, but also studying full time and really hitting a wall against how unsustainable that was. So I quit my job and I moved to a farm near Brighton in the UK to be in a path for a family of five kids and to write my dissertation and to kind of figure out what I want to do next. And that was a really beautiful, kind of like expensive and slow time. I think I recognized that I was. Approaching my mid-twenties. I really had no idea what I was doing and I really needed more time and I just didn't want to tie myself down. Kind of getting used to a salary. Building a household, a mate. Mind you, I was like in London. I was living in a in a tiny, super overpriced room that was so small you could only open either the wardrobe or the door. And so it wasn't like I was, you know, building this big life for myself. But I was hoping for those things. And the other time on the farm was really connecting to nature. I adopted my dog Orlando, and took more creative classes, and when I left two and a half years later, I decided to do a master's in Creative Medium. And as part of that, I researched collaborative photography and I wrote my dissertation on community media for Social Change, which was, Oh God, I just wish I could do that master's again, to be honest, that, yeah, it passed so quickly. You're kind of in and, you know, soaked all of this up and then it was almost time to write my dissertation. But yeah, that was kind of yeah, that was a big milestone for me. That was in my late twenties, and after that I founded my web design studio, which I have been running for the past almost eight years. And that brings us to present day.
Ashley [00:08:46] Kind of taking a step back and looking at the different phases of your life. You know, being a young child and growing up going through the different phases of schooling, could you reflect back on what your creative practice was in kind of each of those phases? Obviously painting make it was your early childhood experience, but what was your creative practice kind of through then and how did it shift and when did new mediums come into play?
Yarrow [00:09:22] Mm hmm. Yeah, sure. I think for me, in any practice, the Explorer, there's always been this yearning of expression where maybe language wasn't the most intuitive or natural thing for me. And I'd say that, yeah, like definitely naked painting was my first big love. In some ways it still is. And as a teenager, writing and photography became really big for me. I had a MySpace account, I loved Tumblr in my early twenties and just this way of really immediately sharing, like making something, uploading it and sending it out then to the world. I really loved that and it was a really beautiful way to build community. And this really niche area is, you know, like finding these super specific hashtags that people were using and diving really deeply into them, comparing notes and being in a dialog with people that I would have otherwise never met. And yeah, in my twenties I still carried that thread of photography and poetry and essay writing, but I also really got into printmaking and I loved the slowness, the being off screen and using my hands in that way. I think having my business head on and being someone who wasn't always able to spend lots of money on art. I also loved about printmaking and still do that. You can make so many copies of one thing basically, but you're still making something handmade that's been touched by you. That's very intentional, but you can go ahead and make quite a few copies, and sometimes I'm feeling a little bit sad that I'm so pragmatic about these things. But then I think there's actually also something really beautiful about that. You can share it with more people. It can make one big quilt or it can make 100 prints, basically. But I would say that in my late twenties, textiles really came in and that gateway for me was embroidery. I really loved simplifying images and symbolism that was meaningful to me and just sitting down and stitching, you know, really to my heart's content. They were he is where I almost always had. Something in my hand when I wasn't working, stitching on linen. I'm a really sensory interested person and so just means a lot to me to feel and to feel velvet and linen and beautifully boiled wool is something I really love working with as well. I and the last few years also really came to love quilting and within that really love and improve quilting and thinking a lot about improv as a way of life. And just like how much I sometimes can be a control freak who always wants to think three steps ahead and really map out the process and and know exactly how I get from A to Z. And so for me, improv has been this huge invitation to trust my intuition to play, to kind of be open to things, not going the way I expected them to go and. Yeah. I think that's yeah, it's really important to me and I learned so much from improv commenting really for every area of my life. I think it's really changed my relationships, the way I work, the way I see my home environment, the way I think about materials. I love the practice of recycling and making beauty with things I already have. I kind of stepping out of that consumption. Psycho and focus. That feels good to me. Yeah. And I still love doing and still writing a lot. And I'm still taking pictures. Kind of having a phase of really getting back into that. And I also like to paint with watercolors. I love my practice to be quite like easy and portable. So when it comes to painting, I get watercolors out and have really big sheets and and often work with water that I have either from the sea or from a river to kind of bring some of that magic in. Yeah.
Ashley [00:14:01] We believe that the simple act of making can transform your life and in turn change our world. This is why making exists. It all starts with inspiration. We are inspired by people, by places, by experiences. A beautiful photo, a soft wall, a kind heart. These are the things that motivate us to make. Making us here to disrupt systems. Systems of oppression. Systems that only benefit certain groups of people. And systems that extract. We are here to challenge the narrative of profit over people. We believe a company can be found in for the purpose of good and change the world for better, while also creating opportunity at scale. Makers are tired of the monolith. The few companies that comprise our only choices of how we connect, how we transact, and how we learn. Makers are ready for a better alternative, and that is what we are building. Becoming a Bright Collective member helps us accomplish this. Visit makingzine.com. To learn more, we have a special 10% discount on Bright Collective yearly memberships for podcast listeners. Use discount code makingconvo10 during checkout.
Yarrow [00:15:20] As he left Instagram in 2020 after taking a big break of six months in 2019. And to contextualize that, first, I started my business in 2015 and obviously that was a totally different landscape. There was a chronological feed that was not necessarily like a super coherent esthetic. I wasn't initially having the feeling so much, so I was invited into producing the same kind of image over and over again the way that had in the end. And I think initially it was inspiring and was exciting to connect with people to see, like you said, things that maybe I wouldn't have otherwise seen. I am a very visual person, so it did feel exciting to be part of that new visual culture in a way. And I first, I think, started questioning things in kind of 1718. I just began to notice like how much pressure there was to post every day to stay relevant and kind of top of the feed and to share so much of my life as well. I think there are really important questions around intimacy and boundaries. I love that oversharing has become a thing in so many ways. I've learned a lot about myself, I unashamed a lot, seeing other people having similar struggles, and that's really important and meaningful to me. But I'm also aware that there is a you know, there's a lot of pressure on small businesses and brands and their quotes to really share everything about their lives. And I never wanted that quite either. And I think in those years, kind of 17 to 19, I also often had this sense that there were definitely things I wanted to do in my business, but there was also this feeling like, Oh my God, there's so much on my plate already. I can't possibly take X-Y-Z Z on, even though I really actually want to, or I want to be able to be more present with people. I want to have more interviews and that I'm giving and receiving. But there was just no space. And then at the same time, I was clearly, you know, spending so much time on Instagram, I got an app that tracked my usage and that was absolutely mind blowing. So in the summer of 2019, I found out that on average I was spending 10 hours per week on the app, and that number now feels truly shocking to me. And at the same time, I know that's really normal for a lot of people. And I will also say that maybe not you know, not all of those 10 hours were really big quality time. Some of that will be just waiting in a queue somewhere, being on public transport. It wasn't necessarily time that I could redirect into like writing or something, but definitely it was a huge chunk of my time. I was also thinking about like, how is a kid before the Internet? I was exposed to maybe like 20 to 30 pictures a day, like maybe the packaging of my, you know, like morning cereals. Then something that I would see at the bus tab and then maybe like some images and like a picture book I had. But at that point I was flooded with like hundreds, if not thousands of images every day. And it was really affecting and. How I visually experience the world. What I saw as. Beautiful or acceptable and. Also how I saw myself in my work and you know what I paid attention to. And so, yeah, those 10 hours were really an eye opener. And I sat down and I looked at what? Where am I spending my time and my business at the moment? What is the actual work, flip design, teaching, being with people, mentoring, whatever, and what is admin, what is podcasting, and what is actually bringing Instagram into my business? You know, does it really justify those 10 hours or 40 hours per month? And I think conversion rates are a tricky thing. I talk about that in my podcast. I'll just say really quickly that I think they can become really heady. It can feel a little bit transactional to think about them too much, but they are actually a very important metric when we're thinking about what is effective in the work that we're trying to do. And that can be really meaningful because our time is sacred and our energy and our attention is sacred too. So I was seeing that I was for those 40 hours per month I was spending on that. I was getting about 100 clicks on my profile every month. And I just felt like this, you know, there's no way you can justify a hundred clicks with 40 hours of work. And I was then thinking about other things I got from Instagram. Obviously it's not just about clicks is also stories and connection and inspiration, but I really made this sheet and sat down and said, okay, you know, if I wanna let this go, where can I find these things from other sources that might be offering me that kind of inspiration and connection. And I really found ways and initially took, like I said, a six month break. I was so happy to see that like nothing collapsed. I was still having a business. People still reached out to me. I wasn't forgotten. And I came back at the beginning of 2020 for obvious reasons. I think I really wanted to shout into the void with my friends. I needed to see what snacks everyone was having and I needed to see people's pads and just talk. But at the end of the of that year, I just felt really I had come to the end of that journey. I was having enough. I felt really burnt out and I felt saturated with that shouting into the void together so and deleted my profile completely, which was a big deal. I had built an app to thousands of followers I had posted every day for years and I just, you know, again, work my Excel sheet and just held on to a lot of contacts that were meaningful to me. And then it was over and it was a really great relief. I've never looked back as you know, I love the making app. When I talked earlier about being so oversaturated with images, I felt self-conscious for a moment because I think that's not all that I really love an intentional or grounded, inspiring use of media. And I think that's what I found in the making app and and in podcasting as well. But I'm really trying to consume much, much less so that have more left for my own work and my own thoughts and my own inner world, basically. Yeah.
Ashley [00:22:12] We have a somewhat similar kind of experience story in that 2020, I think it was 2020 to 2020. I also deleted my Instagram that I had built for. Ten years, you know, and had amassed a very large following and. You know, we had them making Instagram as well. And I was managing both and. I remember reaching this point. It might have actually been the end of 2019. I had just had my third child and I remember feeling like. Number one, it's just too much to manage. Like, I can't do both. And that's kind of the breaking point. There is two things. Was the boundaries issue? I found that because I was so accessible to people that people had no sense of boundaries with me. And so they would think, I mean, I don't really know what they thought, but my assumption is that they would think that they knew me or that they you know, you kind of put yourself out there where you're accessible. And I remember getting to this point and feeling like. I can't manage all of these. Thousands and thousands of people's expectations. I just can't. And whether they're good or hard or expectations or whatever it is, especially on two accounts. And the other part of it, too, was that I had documented my story. And part of my story is the fact that I have three little boys and.
Ashley [00:24:04] My motherhood journey is. So much of who I am and I feel like. When I started realizing that those boundaries were. Kind of being trespass in maybe an unconscious way from others having to do with my children. I really. It just kind of shook me. And I remember being. So surprised that I. That why it was so difficult for me to make that decision to shut it down because I wasn't even really posting that much and it didn't feel I wasn't like an influencer, like in a typical way. Like even though I had a really big following, it really had to do with the fact that I had the podcast and all that and. But my career is working in tech and like, I know exactly how these apps are designed and I know the teams that the scientists that develop these algorithms and just how the UI is designed and these addictive parts of technology. And it's so intentional. There's a really interesting podcast. I think I shared about it in another episode. It's on the Rich Roll podcast and. It's Max something. I can't remember his name now. I'll have to share it with you. I'll put a link in the show notes, but. He really goes in to actually. Why these addictive components of tech are so important and how it all leads back to being venture funded and having to meet these metrics and conversion rates and meet expectations of x, y, z. And you can only do that by having users spend more time on the app. And a lot of people know this, but a lot of people don't realize this. And it's something that we've been really very conscious about as we build making. But, you know, that was, what, two years ago? And I permanently deleted mine. I remember. Sitting there on my couch if I and I had a newborn and I was like, if I don't delete this permanently right now, it's going to come back. Like, I just know it. And so I deleted it. And I remember telling a few people and they were like, Will you just like temporarily paused it, right? Like you didn't actually delete it? I was like, no, I actually deleted it. There was almost I wouldn't say regret. There was almost like a mourning or like a grief that I had to go through. And I realize this thing's been ten years part of my life, my stories on here, all these people. I didn't save any contacts I probably should have, but. Anyways, I share all that because I think I'm going to guess there's probably a lot of people that have done something like this, but there's like deeper meaning, deeper parts of this. And I very much struggle. With. Especially after building making up, which were just in the process of doing. I really, really, really struggle with how people just do not. Quite grasp. The severity of opting in to programs like that and and how much it affects, you know I think the documentary. What's that documentary that came out like a couple of years ago? It's on.
Yarrow [00:28:05] On Netflix.
Ashley [00:28:05] It's basically all about Facebook and Instagram.
Yarrow [00:28:08] The social dilemma.
Ashley [00:28:11] Yes, yes, that's it. But anyways, it's something that I like have to like actually calm down about because I can feel myself starting to get a little fired up.
Yarrow [00:28:23] Yeah, I totally agree. And I think, yeah, you're right. It takes so much away from us, not just the time, but also self-esteem, often mental well-being, a sense of connection. And I don't want to sound really judgmental. I really understand why people stay. And I understand why some people feel they have no choice at this point because their livelihood depends on being there. But and you know, and I'm not saying, you know, people need to leave overnight, but I think these kinds of conversations that we're having now are so important. And like you, I'm really excited about building other spaces for people to connect and share their work and do it in a sustainable and kind and honest way. And I think we have so much to regain that. And I'm thinking a lot about that process of even healing. You know, having been like that for me has been seven or eight years. For you, it's been ten and I felt the same. I think there was a sense of grief and this continuously picking up my phone, wanting that hit and initially that just being nothing. And I don't do that anymore now, but it really took me a while and I think deep down is this feeling of like. If I am not seen in that way, do I even exist? You know, does it matter what I make? And does it have a context or a belonging in the world? And that's wired because the Internet really is still a baby. You know, it's such a young part of human culture and. Yeah. We're going too fast. I think we need to slow down and think about how this is affecting us and how it can be done, right? Yeah.
Ashley [00:30:14] There's this. This expectation that everything should be at your fingertips, which I kind of thought of this when you first brought up, like, how you were only exposed to like, you know, how many images in a day. Because of the Internet, which is such a beautiful thing. Like, I'm I love technology. I live in technology. But we have just become accustomed to not having to, like, search for anything like we do on the Internet. Right. But like on platforms, these monoliths that exist, we they're building them so we don't even have to like. Go down a path of discovery. And there's delight in researching. There's delight and discovery. And I think. When we talk about. You know, so many times I have conversations and they're like, Oh, they're so they're blah blah blah on insta or blah blah blah. And so it's like that is, you know, Google and stuff like that is the just. Automatic belief that everyone exists and everything exists there. And I. It's not really the world that I want to live in. I don't want to live in a world where every single thing. That I. Should be paying attention to exist on one platform. I want to live in a world where there's maybe several different, you know, places where, depending on what I'm looking for, I can go to those places and, like, go down a path of discovery bookstores and physical things. Markets, art galleries, museums, exhibitions like those things still matter. And. You know, I'm not trying to come off as archaic or that, you know, we need to be Luddites by any means. But I think. Our human nature is we get excited about discovering things and. I have found so many things on Instagram, but I also come to question what is it that I'm not seeing? Because I'm only seeing the things that are on there. Like, what else am I? What are all those things that I'm missing? And I feel like we don't have this figured out and making. But we're just a year in, like. But that is one of my hopes of the making app, is that it's a very conscious mix of like helping you find the things that you're looking for easier. So you're not having to wade through.
Yarrow [00:33:04] All.
Ashley [00:33:04] The things that aren't even relevant, but also. That delight of like seeing things that you've never seen before and discovering people and it not being influenced by a dollar for a popularity contest. There's no better alternative that exists. And I mean that is why we're building making in the hopes that. Not that everyone will come to making, but that given a choice, you do have a one. You don't have to choose the one and only.
Yarrow [00:33:46] Yeah. Thank you. I'm really excited for that. And yeah, just love the spirit. I really resonate with what you're sharing and I think just adding on to what you said about visual culture and how that's changing what we're seeing and not seeing, I think it also for me is a big part of identity construction. When I did my M.A. for the dissertation, I think that was 2014. And in academia, which is like always obviously a few years behind, that was a time where the selfie was really big and people became interested in that and were like, you know, like what's happening with the use that everyone is taking reaches of themselves. And when you see that it has so much complexity and in some ways, yes, it's like an obsession. It can feel like a waste of time. There's so much pressure to you know, it has changed so much since then as well. Right. I think there were much kind of like scruffy in the beginning. It just took a picture of yourself. But there was also this other side where in Tumblr people were exploring queer identities and their gender and all kinds of aspects of their identity that maybe they haven't been able to connect with so deeply. And that was really meaningful. And so I was curious about that and looking at that now of like how there's the expectation, for example, to have these really beautiful professional headshots as a maker. Otherwise, you know, like you're not seen as someone who's really doing the thing. And I think, yeah, we can absolutely step out of that and we can slow down and become more intentional about what we consume. One of my favorite photographers is Francesca Woodman, who has mainly worked with Self-portrait as well. Her work is incredible. I discovered her in an actual library in a paper book and she sadly died in the early eighties. So her work was mainly, I think in like the seventies and early eighties. And I just look at her work now, which essentially it's those Allyssa selfies, right? And they just have so much meaning to me and they really move me and make such a difference to my life. And I'm yeah, I'm just thinking a lot about, you know, what does it take to protect your practice and your spirit and your creativity in such a way that you can make something that has such deep meaning for you and that doesn't have to be as meaningful for everyone else. You know, like that's normal, but there's some kind of sacredness. And maybe I'm romanticizing also that she was around before the Internet and made this beautiful body of work before she was, you know, influenced by all these other images. But anyway, to to bring it this back to the present day, I think sometimes connecting with those kinds of other life times can be really illuminating and makes me feel much more intentional in how I use technology now. Yeah.
Ashley [00:36:55] It's hard to know where there's separateness from, where or what we're influenced by. Versus what kind of comes from within us, which I think. Even if you had no phone, no Internet, you would still be influenced by nature, by all these things around us. But. There's this. Kind of thought that there's no original idea like that exists anymore. Basically, you hear that in one way or another, and you see this by like. Someone will come out with something or someone will do something. And then this other person does the same thing at the same time and you're like, Did they copy? Or like, did we just both have this idea at the same time? When I see stuff like that, when I experience things like that, I go, Oh my God. Like we're all plugged into the same thing right now. And maybe it's not just Instagram, maybe it's Pinterest or whatever it is, but there is an echo chamber, if you will, of these ideas. And when you were talking earlier about tracking, like how much time? And just being like cognizant and realizing like how much time you were spending on different apps. I started looking at my creative practice. Really? Holding loosely to expectations. And I'm bringing this up because I took one of your early classes on the app and forgive me, I can't remember exactly what it was called, but it was something about creative ritual. It's hard for me not to look at my life and judge it pretty harshly. I think we're all in that right now. Like, no matter what your ages, we're figuring out who we are at every phase of our life. Right? And because we go through all these different evolutions, you know, especially if you have a business or you have a significant shift in your life, there's a lot that impacts your creative your creative space. And when I took that workshop from you, I remember. Feeling like. One of the things that I have struggled with my whole life is setting expectations around my creativity. That. I'm projecting based on what I see other people doing because like like I think that that's what I'm supposed to do. And my journey this year has been actually ash. Like, there's so much you're doing right now that it's so unique to you. Just like everyone else's journey and. There's going to be a give and take, but you also need to be nice to yourself and go much easier on yourself and decide at the end of the day what's working and what's not. But. But not constantly overanalyzing. If. How you're doing. It is okay. Or should I be doing it better? Like we're always micromanaging ourselves, and, like, sometimes we just need to stop it.
Yarrow [00:40:18] Yes. I was nodding so hard with my whole body as you were speaking. I really relate to that. I remember the workshop. It was the first I taught on the making up. I'd love to do that again. And yeah, I think you touched on so many things that are really important to me as well, really staying grounded in what feels right and possible for our own practice in our lives at any given point in time. And I feel the same. There's always yeah, always the question of like, am I doing enough? Is this looking good enough? If I'm picking up a new thing, why isn't it perfect right away? Like, that's still seems to be confusing to my brain sometimes, even though there's no reason whatsoever why I should pick up a new thing and immediately master it. That's just not how it works, but the feeling is definitely them. I had an accident a year and a half ago. That sounds more dramatic. I fell down the stairs and the first few months it was very uncertain if I could walk again. And if so, how? And I'm still using a walking frame most of the time. But that stillness like this suddenly kind of really being frozen in time and not even being able to sit or stand very long. It meant that I couldn't do any carving. I couldn't sit at my desk and carve. I couldn't even really get up, get up and walk around my house very much to gather material. So suddenly things became so small and so simple, I would like sit in bed and crochet and it would be like propped up. And I was teaching a lot of classes from that in that first year after the accident, and it was so incredibly humbling and in many ways really was what I needed. I'm not saying that in like a self deprecating, it's all meant to be kind of way, but more like I can see the gift because I was still that was at the end of 2020 and through 2020 I was talking a good tog about slowing down and really having self-compassion, understanding that we're in a pandemic, dropping expectations, lowering the bar all the way into the ground. I wrote my first book in three months in spring of 2020. I mean, that's just wild to me. Now that I stood up, going up every day and wrote 2000 words before breakfast, basically that was my expectation of myself. And so anyways, so clearly like, you know, I had still so much to learn about actually slowing down and being realistic with my expectations. And I think. My world is still really small. Like the radius I can navigate in my external world is really not big. I can occasionally go and see friends in the city, but I live in a small town and there's a lot of grief definitely in that level of isolation that maybe I haven't shifted out of the way. I hope post-lockdown because I physically can't. But I think what's what it's given me is like this really deep sense of intimacy with myself and my most immediate environment and my tiny garden. And I think now that I just, you know, there's just no question that I can do or produce at the rate that I used to. And that means that I can I can just drop it. You know, there's just no point. I can't I can't do that anymore. So I'm measuring kind of whether I'm doing enough or whether I'm happy with my creative practice more by, you know, do I feel that I'm living in creative devotion, which sounds really cheesy, but I think to me that's about openness and enchantment and being resourced enough to really see beauty in the world. Like going to the river in the morning with my dog and just appreciating how the woodland changed in the last few weeks as autumn came around or discovering that from my kitchen window, the moon now moves in such a way that I can see it, even though there's also this big staircase in front of my kitchen window. So kind of really small things. But I think. That feels really true for me and I just can't find words for it, the less cheesy, but it is kind of like a sense of creative devotion and enchantment and feeling that ideas can still move through me because I'm relaxed enough, I have enough capacity, and then it doesn't matter so much anymore whether I finish that piece I started weeks ago or whether I started a new piece that, you know, I can actually justify because I have three other projects and to go that unfinished. But that's just what I feel like doing and. That's all there is for me at the moment. Yeah.
Ashley [00:45:20] When you reflect back on kind of this period of isolation the last few years through the pandemic and through your injury. How did you come to love yourself in a new way through that? Like, I'm sure there was definitely a lot of shadow work that happened, but I want to go deep here for a second if you're open to it.
Yarrow [00:45:46] Yeah, yeah. No shit. That's a big question. And I think. I think grief has been a very big catalyst in. Going deeper into my practice and questioning in a more meaningful way, kind of what it means rather than what it looks like or what it produces. And I think I was forced to start loving myself more because there was no other way to go. You know, there's just no there's just no distraction. If you're in bed and you can't physically walk around you, you can be on your phone. But there's there's a limit to how much that will give you. And I think I became just really comfortable with my own shadows and my own darkness. I know that in 2020, it's been true for many people that we had dreams or nightmares that were kind of like going quite deep back into the past. I know that if that's true for you, but I was just dreaming my whole life again and knockdowns. And I think that's that was even more so true in 2021 when I didn't leave the house very much for the first half, especially. And so I think I really needed to confront some shame and think about whether I really regret any choices that I made, how I feel about them now, how I would feel about someone close to me. I really love making those choices. And so slowly over time, really untangling that and just building self-acceptance and self-compassion, maybe before the love came in. And I think tying that back to our earlier conversation, I think that does actually also have a lot to do with being intentional, with what was coming in, both in terms of images and stories and ideas around identity and what a good life is. Because if I if my photo was this wide open and I would really take in what the cultural consensus is at the moment of what a good life is about. You really should about myself, because it just doesn't look like that. So I need to constantly kind of come back to myself, to my own body, to what gives me pleasure and really small ways and be realistic. Like I remember when I first came back from hospital, my daily challenge to my was to get up and open the window once a day so we could have some fresh air. And yeah, you know, I really celebrated. Time was great. I was reaching over my desk, opening the window, just being there for a moment, and then going back to bed and trying to trust that ability will come back and energy will come back in its own way. AM What else is giving me self-love? I think something that I really appreciate about the pandemic is how much it has normalize conversations about mental health. And I think that in turn has really allowed me to build more meaningful friendships and intimacy with people because there's just no I mean, or much less reason to to wear a mask or to pretend that you're better than you actually are doing right now. And I think that is just really that means the world to me. I think the conversations I've had through lockdowns with people, the things I've shared of myself, have just been much more authentic, for lack of a better word. I lost a friend to suicide ten months ago, and that was truly the saddest thing that's ever happened to me. And I think, again, that was I'm not trying to romanticize that in any way. It's not something that I wish on anyone or that I would ever want to experience again. But that, too, has really questioned, you know, have me question my relationship to myself and other people the way I show up, the way I am honest about where I'm at. And I think that's been true for our whole friendship circle, that experience. And, and. Yeah. I've been in a in a workshop last week with someone called Melissa. Word is called three threads. We made tiny clothes together for meaningful fabrics and talked about our grief. And I was like, Wow. Like, that's that, too, is something we do on the Internet now. We meet up with a bunch of strangers. We look away from the screen and we look at what's around us, what fabrics we have. And then we make something with our hands and we share stories that I think my grandparents would be horrified to know that I'm sharing them with strangers. You know, and and that's that's that's one beautiful way in which that culture has changed. And that makes me feel excited. Yeah.
Ashley [00:50:54] Seeing this transformation. Both personally but surely affecting not only your creative practice, but your business. Tell me a bit about your business now and what it looks like and what your mission is.
Yarrow [00:51:14] I think the first few months of 2021 after the accident were quite anxious. Obviously, I was really uncertain about how in what capacity I could come back to my work. I had a lot of projects booked for web design and I answered them the best way I could. And then a few months later, I took a whole month of clean work, which felt like a really big luxury at the time for me, because web design really was my bread and butter, and I felt it was quite outrageous to step away from that in a way. But I took some time off to rerecord all the online system I had and then really kind of shifted the big part of my attention to, you know, producing them and you really updating them. I have six now covering things like how to build a newsletter, questioning social media, web design, branding, that kind of thing. And I then kind of made a map off with drawing a little bit from the one on one web design work and running these programs with small groups of people, leading them through those prerecorded courses so that always there. But then each of them I run life once per year for people who want that group accountability. And I mean that's been a really big game changer for me because firstly it feels really rewarding to work in small groups and meet people through that process because I know it can make a difference for them to not feel they have to figure it out themselves. It can drain a lot of energy from people who are just not interested in tech, which is super fan enough. But also financially it meant that I just didn't need to worry so much about the the next big web design project. I could experiment a little bit more. I'm also facilitating a business community, so I was really giving more love and attention to that. And I think. With Penguin Studio. My vision really is to continue to help other small business owners work in ways that feel sustainable and regenerative to them. And I say regenerative and make a really kind and expensive way. Like, you know, this is something I feel in my body and I know it can become this hashtag, but I see the difference it can make for someone to look at their own practice and really build the confidence and believing that this is something that can do for a living, that they're good enough that they are, you know, sharing something that's meaningful and that they don't have to overstretch themselves. And violate their own boundaries to make it happen. That's really important to me. And then in my other business, which is kind of more the creative side where I teach creative classes and run a podcast, what I want is just for myself to be in a bit of a cocoon. I've been running that podcast for over six years and I love it and I've been teaching a ton of classes this past year. But I'm also back at uni now just for myself for like no particular strategic reason. I'm studying culture, heritage and literature, and I'm learning about folklore and tradition and ritual and mythology and all these beautiful things. And I honestly don't know. And I think that feels like really special to me to not have to know right now. I updated my website and totally stripped it back. It's super minimal and it just says. I want to deepen my practice. I would like to do more printmaking, more quilting. I want to weave and I'm trusting the process. But I don't know where this is going. But yeah, maybe I'll know more next year. And I just this last thing I was saying that I think I really trust that this is a good investment of my time and energy. I think it can feel really scary for a creative person to draw, to pull back and be like, I don't know right now. And I give myself that privacy and that space. I know that this is emotionally meaningful to me, but with my business head on, I actually also know that that makes strategic sense because the next step just cannot be forced. And whenever I've slowed down in my work and allow myself to not know, I've come out on the other side with so much more clarity that I could have never forced.
Ashley [00:55:46] If you had a message for the world, what would it be?
Yarrow [00:55:51] I think what feels most important to me to say in this moment is that. Feeding your imagination is really the most important thing you can do right now, I think because everything else that we might be doing from climate activism to our livelihoods to the way that we relate to each other, hinges on us imagining another way of being together. And I think that's very counterculture of cuisine that we're, you know, invited to be productive and taking time to dream and reimagine is different. But it's everything at the same time.
Ashley [00:56:42] The biggest of thanks to everyone involved in this week's episode. I hope you'll join me each week as we talk and learn from more fascinating makers. For podcast notes and transcriptions. Visit our blog at makingzine.com. Have a wonderful week.