ELEMENTAL WOMEN: PART 1
Fashion designer. Filmmaker. Writer. Three inspiring women share what time in the elements means to them – and the smells that invoke powerful memories.
Designing beautiful sequin clothing for festivals, parties and just feeling special, Rosa’s fashion label Rosa Bloom has gained a real cult following – worn by the likes of Taylor Swift, Dawn O'Porter and Katherine Ryan. Driven by ethics and sustainability from the start, they’ve created employment for over 200 women in rural Bali (watch this video to find out more). Despite the glam, Rosa is very grounded and resets by spending time with her young son in the great outdoors.
Above and top: Rosa Bloom / Photography by Lulu Ash
In her previous life, Hannah was a Guardian journalist, before joining the editorial team at Instagram (its first European hire) and then heading up social strategy and storytelling at Vogue and Condé Nast. She’s now a freelance consultant (working with Netflix, Tate, Art Fund and BBC) and writer of fiction, non-fiction and short stories. She lives in Penzance, Cornwall, but regularly travels all over the world. Hannah loves spending time in the wilderness, and is just back from a writing retreat on the island of Eigg in Scotland.
Hannah Ray with her dog, Fossil
Bristol-based writer and filmmaker Fern is drawn to exploring the many ways that being outdoors and in nature benefits our emotional health. She’s also a contributing editor at Ernest Journal, writing a piece for the most recent issue about her "...small adventures to explore the edges of urban areas... How the urban connects with the natural world, and how a pedestrian can venture between them."
Fern Scott in the Lake District
How would you describe your relationship with the elements, and how they make you feel?
ROSA: "Being out in a beautiful natural environment is like taking a big refreshing drink for your senses. It changes how you hold yourself, how you breathe. It’s the expansive beauty of being immersed in nature that I find makes worries and preoccupations melt away."
HANNAH: "I love feeling the salt spray of the sea on my face and looking out towards the ocean horizon. I grew up in Birmingham which must be one of the most land-locked places in the country. So having access to the water, and swimming in the sea was (and still is) completely novel – even since my husband and I moved to Cornwall.
It took me a while to overcome a little fear of the waves. We started surfing after moving here; the feeling of floating on a surfboard, looking back towards the beach, and feeling a sense of the vitality and fragility of life is one of the most beautiful experiences. And I always feel completely invigorated and alive after a cold sea swim – my skin tingles all over and it makes me want to shout 'I am alive!' at the top of my lungs!
"I always feel completely invigorated and alive after a cold sea swim – my skin tingles all over and it makes me want to shout 'I am alive!' at the top of my lungs!"
Being outside and in nature as much as possible is very important to me; for my mental wellbeing, as well as my physical health. I suffer with eczema which, especially in winter, is worse when I stay indoors and don't get enough fresh air, sun or sea. In the summer months, I love walking along the coastal path and finding little coves and rocky outcrops I can lie on and sunbathe, or lagoons to swim in. Last year I struggled with depression and anxiety related to multiple pregnancy loss. Walking daily on the beach looking at the waves was one of the few places I felt clear-headed again, strong and calm. The sea is the most awesome healer."
FERN: "Spending time in nature has always been a part of my life. Both of my parents enjoy outdoor sports – hiking, climbing, canoeing, outdoor swimming – so all of my childhood holidays and most of my weekends involved time outdoors living simply in the elements. I wasn’t even aware how integral nature was to my wellbeing until I moved to London for university. I found living in a big city thrilling but I had an underlying uneasiness, an inability to settle unless I also found ways to reconnect with nature. Either by setting aside a day each month to get out to somewhere that felt a little bit wild, or by creating daily routines that enabled me to spend time by water.
"Water is a place that the natural world establishes itself very easily. Even in the city, it’s fairly common to spot herons or cormorants majestically making the water their own. I find running, walking, or even sitting beside water soothing and meditative."
Water is a place that the natural world establishes itself very easily. Even in the city, it’s fairly common to spot herons or cormorants majestically making the water their own. I find running, walking, or even sitting beside water soothing and meditative. Wherever I’ve lived I’ve always found a way to have a daily run on a canal tow path, or around a reservoir."
How do you carve out time for yourself amid the busy-ness of work and other commitments? What are the little things you do (or try to do!) regularly that help you recalibrate and feel energised for what’s ahead?
HANNAH: "I take my dog Fossil out for a walk every day. I find walking a great way to develop ideas. If I don't have much time in the day I'll at least go somewhere I can see the horizon on the sea — this also clears my head of any work stresses and usually helps solve any problems or challenges I'm facing that day. When I worked in London I would try to walk or cycle to where I was going to avoid being on the tube or bus, and this was also great for thinking and processing various challenges or ideas. But this is quite solitary and I prefer being active with other people… Being outdoors with others has a democratising quality and is a great way to get to know people – so many odd and funny things can happen on a long wet and windy walk and everyone feels amazing afterwards, all red-cheeked and smiling."
FERN: "I’ve recently noticed that there are certain activities that, if I do them daily, have huge benefits on how I feel and also how well I perform with my work and life commitments. I’ve lavishly named them ‘the foundation’ and they bookend my day.
I start the morning with a coffee and my journal, three pages of continuous writing, without judgement, followed by a meditation. I end the day with another meditation, some time moving outdoors (a walk to my favourite views, or a run) and a few minutes reading. I find that after even 10 minutes in doing an activity that absorbs me entirely I come away completely refreshed."
ROSA: "My first child was born almost a year and a half ago, and I have recently managed to squeeze my pre-parenthood morning yoga practice back into my day a few times a week, which feels like a small victory for my wellbeing! It’s the small, regular things that can make such a difference to how I feel.
"It’s the small, regular things that can make such a difference to how I feel."
We combined having our first child with also buying and renovating our first house (not one of our finest ideas!) so things like the bath being installed became incredibly important milestones in terms of our day to day existence. Our bathroom has become such a sanctuary for me – running a hot bath with some essential oils is my go-to after a long day; especially when the weather is grim outside.
But also getting outside as often as possible – especially when the sun is out – is a must for me. Sunshine just seems to transform my mood, whatever time of year it is. My dad has had a daily afternoon nap in the sun for as long as I can remember, even in the middle of winter. He’ll angle his chair towards the sun in a little sheltered spot, wrapped up in a coat, and just bask in the rays for a while. I think I must have inherited that sun-seeking gene!"
Is there a particular smell that transports you to a different place, time or memory?
FERN: "Last spring my partner and I spent a perfect day walking in the Lake District in abnormally warm weather. Golden gorse flowers bordered the mountain path, their scent was in our every breath. It’s a gorgeous deep and fresh, coconutty scent, entirely unexpected. We finished the walk sticky and pleasantly exhausted on the shore of Derwentwater and we dared each other to swim in the icy lake. It was beautifully refreshing. Every time I smell gorse bushes I’m taken back to those moments, that delicious glow of lying on the lake shore in the sun after being in the ice cold water, the warm hug of contented happiness."
ROSA: "I’ve always loved lavender. I know some people think of it as a bit of a granny smell, but my mum used to put a drop on my pillow to help me sleep so it has always felt like such a safe, loving smell. I also adore rose geranium. I just never get bored of it. It reminds me of the geraniums which grew either side of the back door of my childhood home, and the smell in the house when they were brought in for the winter. I’d sometimes go and crush a leaf between my fingers just to breathe in the smell."
HANNAH: "If you've ever had the pleasure of smelling a Californian redwood tree you will know it’s one of the most wonderful and pleasant smells on earth! I was fortunate to spend some time working and living in California in my 20s, and every weekend I would jump in the car and go on a trip somewhere to go hiking or adventuring. If I ever smell redwood scent it takes me back to road-tripping with my husband in Northern California before we were married: we stayed overnight in a few national parks surrounded by these huge big wet smoky redwoods, which smelt so fresh and other-worldly.
Another scent which is probably familiar to others is sandalwood. My grandad used sandalwood bars of soap which my dad now uses too – the smell reminds me of my grandad's fine knit cardigans and my dad's safe hands. The smell is almost too emotional to have around me that often."