Unless you’ve been avoiding all forms of social media and refuse to set foot into quirky gift shops with snazzy quotes in frames you will have heard this saying: Do one thing every day that scares you. It is a quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady of the U.S. president (1933 – 1945), a humanitarian who fought for the rights of workers, children, women, the oppressed and poor and helped to found the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and establish the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Phew. Busy lady. Clearly that quote served Eleanor very well. And yet… Every day?? I struggle to do my laundry every day and remember to put on deodorant. Something that scares you?? Eek. But surely you shouldn’t completely ignore your instincts?
Um, can a quote have footnotes? How about disclaimers?
A few weeks ago a new friend, Bonnie Machell, from ARKADE furniture hire, contacted me and asked if I would be interested in doing some food styling. I’ll admit I was a bit confused. I had only just recently worked out that food styling was *a thing*, could be done poorly or really, really well and that food styling could actually be a job. This dawned on me after realising that most of the Instagram accounts I pore over are by food stylists. So I gently explained to Bonnie that I certainly wasn’t a food stylist; I wasn’t even a chef. I most often referred to myself as a “food enthusiast” – almost always accompanied by guffaws of laughter (my own). But Bonnie persisted. “I’ll be there too. And I think you could do it.” she urged (this, from the woman who had known me for five minutes).
Entranced by Bonnie’s confidence I agreed to give it a go. Despite the nerves. Despite feeling a combination of a fool and a fraud. Bonnie sent me information about the photo shoot and links to two Pinterest boards she had created for two separate looks. I agreed to bake some cakes and sent her a list of food items I could buy and bring which should suit budget and aesthetic. We discussed crockery and cutlery, what was in season and what wasn’t, the props and furniture Bonnie would be bringing with her. The day before I got shopping. Armed with a list and a budget I had to adapt both once I was in-store eyeballing availability and cost. Who knew large, delicious, cured salami cost so much?! (Ah, everyone?) And while on my search I discovered gorgeous things I hadn’t even thought of – fresh, new season tamarillos, vibrantly green sicilian olives and netted bags of hazelnuts still in their shells. Sure did beat the usual grocery shop.
The day of the shoot was rainy and overcast. Parking close to the studio was a bit of a juggle so there were several dashes made through the rain, carrying plastic boxes of food and props. Bonnie looked as fresh as a daisy while bouncing her only-months-old son; still, it seemed, confident in my abilities despite my distinct lack of experience, natural impracticality and a tendency to get distracted. Considering all of that, and those nerves still prickling at me, I can honestly say the day was an absolute blast. I was buzzing. I learned so much from Bonnie – about pairing soft, organic forms with blockish, cut-glass tumblers, dark vs. light, the use of colour, the importance of negative space, matching white, popcorn-puff flowers with spiky reindeer antlers, style trends in forms and textures, balance, composition and the ever necessary practicalities (like whipping cream the night before!). Bonnie’s ARKADE partners, photographers Bayly & Moore (Si and Soph) and everyone else involved was so gracious, generous and kind while I bumbled about learning the ropes.
Bonnie, Si and Soph continued styling, arranging and shooting long into the afternoon and early evening. ‘Till the light left and told them to head home. I was long gone by then and the part I played was tiny compared to all their efforts (and talents). But when I look at the photos I spy some of my handiwork and I feel so good about getting involved and giving it a go in spite of my worries. I loved the collaboration and I loved the learning. Plus, the photos are beautiful, they create a scene you want to crawl into. It feels as though we created a little bit of magic. A make-believe feast, in a make-believe dining room, with make-believe guests. As though we were versions of the shoe-makers elves, just for a day.
So, while it’s absolutely no business of mine mucking around with a great quote I feel the need to make some amendments for my personal use. How about this: “Regularly, do something that makes your heart race, that feels like a stretch, that you know you should try, but which lack of self-belief discourages you from doing so.” I think the real key, as I am always harping on about, is curiosity. Is there a seed of curiosity beneath the roiling, distracting fear? If so, I say… do it! I understand that my longer, clumsier quote is much less likely to make it into gift store frames. But at least I (sometimes) manage to take the advice. That’s the main thing, right? And when I do, it definitely makes life richer.
“I will not pretend I wasn’t petrified. I was. But mixed in with the awful fear was a glorious feeling of excitement. Most of the really exciting things we do in our lives scare us to death. They wouldn’t be exciting if they didn’t.” – Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl.
All photographs were taken by the incredible photography duo, Bayly & Moore and all furniture featured is by ARKADE and available to hire. The studio space is owned by Alex & Corban and those beautiful hand-made plates are by the gorgeous Holly of Houston Design Co.
Thanks guys, for letting me hang out and play. x #fattamarillos