furoshiki cloth wrapping

Gift wrapping with fabric –using the Japanese Furoshiki technique

There is so much joy in gift giving. When I have the time to really think about what a friend will love, I so enjoy choosing them a thoughtful gift and lovingly wrapping it. Giving a beautifully wrapped present to someone and watching them delight in opening it is often more exciting than getting a gift myself.

The whole process is a joy. I find it therapeutic to lay out a sheet of paper, fold it gently around a shape, creasing the paper as I go and wrapping it with twine to finish. I think it’s a natural progression from my obsession with stationery, paper and washi tape. I’ve a whole Pinterest board dedicated to gift wrapping ideas! I used to print my own gift-wrap with stamps on brown paper, but it was disheartening to know that the lovely paper is used only once and then thrown away after the present is opened.  Have you had that feeling on Christmas morning when the living room is piled with scrunched up balls of paper after the frenzy of opening presents is over? It’s feels so wasteful. I’ve discovered a much more sustainable way to wrap and it’s now my go-to way of wrapping objects. It’s the traditional Japanese art of cloth wrapping, called furoshiki.

Furoshiki cloth wrapping in Kyoto

I experienced the art of furoshiki when visiting Kyoto this year. I had a hands on class in a quiet, ancient wooden townhouse. I learned to wrap all kinds of objects in particular ways from wine bottles to apples to chocolate boxes. There’s a preferred method to suit the type of object you’re wrapping. Coming home I find I use the simple method of tying two bows across the box. Watch the video below for a quick tutorial on a simple cloth wrapping technique.

For wrapping my Winterwares pieces I use calico, I love the simplicity of it. For your Christmas gifts you can find beautiful patterned scarves in op-shops. One of my favorite places to find fabric for furoshiki is at Lush Cosmetics, they often have a box of beautiful vintage scarves behind the counter they sell for the purpose of wrapping. I find that oversized square pieces of fabric are the easiest to use. The most commonly-used in Japan are squares measuring 70cm or 90cm wide.

The fabric becomes a gorgeous part of the gift that can be used for lots of things. I bought myself one piece of furoshiki fabric in the mountains, in the south of Japan and I carry it with me everywhere I go. When I forget to take a bag to the shops I can use it to carry my groceries. If I’m at the park it’s big enough to lay out a little picnic on. I use it as a scarf and to tie my hair back. There are so many fabulous uses for it. Next time you give a gift, try furoshiki, I’m sure you’ll see the delight in your friends who get to unwrap them.

furoshiki cloth wrapping

Photographs by Stevie Elle & Rae Fallon

10 ways to break your phone addiction

10 ways to break your phone addiction

Using our phones make us miss the things that really matter, that are right in front of us.

Our phones are amazing tools. We have access to a world of information in our pockets. Used well, they make our lives easier, more fun, more inspired and connected. Which is great if we are using them for those things, but how often do we pick up our phone just because we have an urge to check it? When we use our phones without thinking about why, it drains our time and energy and can make us stressed, anxious and depleted.

“Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the phone.”
~ Steven Spielberg

Since I had a breakdown a few years ago, I’ve been rebuilding my life and it’s taken me on a journey to live more mindfully. I’m trying to be fully present in the life that I’m living, to experience it wholeheartedly. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced to living a more mindful life is my phone. I created an addiction to it, and it was a constant and very persistent distraction. When I first started using a smartphone I loved taking photos of every moment that I wanted to remember and checking social media to see what my friends were up to. I downloaded dozens of apps to inspire me, connect with my friends and family, to have the convenience of working anywhere, at anytime. Though more and more I found that my phone wasn’t making me feel more inspired, connected and content, it was making me feel empty. Having dozens of reasons to pick up and use my phone was draining me of precious time with my children. I found that I was missing out on the things that made me truly happy because I was idly wasting time in an endless rabbit-hole of links and hashtags.

“We’re living an era where capturing moments using our phones is more important than actually living these moments with whoever is beside us.”

We can’t give them up completely, but we need to find balance.

Our phones are designed to be addictive. It’s really, really hard to break the habit of checking our phones incessantly. When we check the phone we get a little hit of dopamine. It’s a nice feeling, so when the phone pings again, we reach for it to get another hit. Each time we get a notification and pick up the phone we’re creating neural pathways in the brain that are wiring us to listen out for the pings and check them. When we’re away from our phones we can develop anxiety about what we might be missing out on.

Using willpower alone, I tried frequently to give up my phone. I can’t count how many times I deleted Facebook just to reinstall it a few days later. In these moments I imagined my only solution would be moving to a log cabin in the forest. Somewhere with no wi-fi, no phones, no distractions, no temptation to post a photo of the organic tomatoes I’d harvested from my garden that morning. Moving to the forest isn’t an option just now, so I need to learn to live with my phone. To restore the balance so that it makes my life better, not worse.

I don’t want to give it up completely. I think about the ways that technology does add value to my life. Through social media I’ve found a tribe of people that I met online who’ve become real life friends, beautiful, generous, inspirational humans that I cherish. In Podcasts I find thoughtful conversations about what it means to be a human doing good things in the world. Things that bring me feelings of hope in an online landscape saturated with negativity. There are so many upsides to the technology I have at my fingertips and I’m grateful for those resources. I’m well aware that it’s so easy for the balance to tip too far the other way, where the phone becomes a time vacuum. Sucking away hours and hours on things that don’t make my life better, and can actually make me feel more anxious and depressed. Over time, I’ve worked out how to break my addiction and gain back control over my phone. Now when I use my phone it’s mindful and purposeful, not just because it’s there.

Here are my ten tips on how to break your phone addiction:

1. Know why you want to make a change

For any real change to occur you have to think about why you want to make the change. Otherwise when you’re in a moment of weakness, you’ll go back to old habits. Remember, you’re rewiring neural pathways, it’s going to take some time for that to happen. The catalyst for me to ditch my phone addiction was the realisation that I was missing out on meaningful things right in front of me because I was distracted by something totally forgettable on my screen. I imagined being older, in my twilight years and looking back on my life. Thinking how sad I’d feel reflecting on my years and knowing I’d wasted them looking at a little screen instead of looking at my children.

2. Turn off your notifications

I’ve turned off almost all notifications on my phone (and my computer). I don’t want instagram to tell me to ‘look here! Right now!’ I want to block out time and look at instagram intentionally, not just because it’s there. The only time my phone pings now is when I have a text message.

3. Use airplane mode to block out time to be uninterrupted

When I’m in my studio I have a short window where I feel most creative. For the first couple of hours when I arrive I don’t want to be interrupted with messages or calls. If my phone’s on and I hear the ping of a message, I can’t help but look at it. So I put my phone into airplane mode and it sets the intention that for the next two hours I’m going to focus on my work. Research has shown that just the sound of a receiving a message is enough to distract you, even if you don’t read the message. Psychologists at the Temple University in Philadelphia conducted experiments to see how phone use affects our ability to function well at work. “When the notifications broke their concentration, the subjects had more incorrect answers and were more likely to make rapid guesses. Subjects who received notification of a call — even if they didn’t pick it up — were three times likelier to make mistakes.” When notifications break our concentration and interrupt our thoughts all day we lose the ability to think clearly, and deeply.

When I first started blocking out time, I used the Forest app to help me stay focused and stop me from unlocking my phone. With Forest, when you leave your phone alone for an allocated period you grow virtual trees, which earns currency to grow real trees. The Forest team partners with a real-tree-planting organisation, Trees for the Future, to plant them.

4. Declutter your phone screen

Oscar Wilde once said, “I can resist everything except temptation.” I’ve all my apps inside one folder on my phone, and that folder sits on the second screen so I need to swipe across to see it. To access any of my apps I use the search bar to find them. On my iPhone its a quick swipe down on the screen to type in what I’m looking for. Having all my apps hidden away helps to remove temptation to click on one just because it’s there. It makes me pause long enough to think, why am I looking at this, do I really want to check facebook again? Having an empty home screen helps keep my mental state clear because I’m not looking at all the digital clutter on my phone each time I unlock it.

5. Use your home screen to remind you of what’s most important

Having a home screen clear of apps means I have a blank canvas to use for something more meaningful. I have some quotes, prompts and reminders that I’ve saved to my photos folder and I use them for my phone wallpaper. Prompts like Is this the most meaningful thing I can do right now? or Look up and look around, what do you see that’s worth taking in? or simply a reminder to Pause, breathe in, breathe out. I’ve given you a couple of my favourites here if you’d like to download them and use them on your own phone. In this way my phone becomes a reminder to be mindful and think about if I’m on the right track with my goals to live an intentional life. Jordan Travers writes “We need to constantly assess whether our actions are bringing us closer to or further away from our goals, because it is not possible to remain stationary”.

6. Don’t have your phone on the table when you’re with a friend

I know it’s an obvious one, but it’s a big one. If you want to be really present, you need to put away your phone. French Philosopher Simone Weil said that “attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity”. How often do we miss the opportunity to connect with someone because we’re distracted by the ping of our notifications. When you sit down to have a conversation with a friend give them your complete attention. Get in the habit of putting your phone out of sight when you’re talking to someone face to face. Just having your phone on the table while you’re with a friend at a café disrupts the flow of your conversation. Even if you’re not checking it, having the phone in sight is distracting for both of you. Subconsciously the other person can feel like you’re waiting for someone to interrupt, or give you a better offer for your company.

7.  Don’t sleep with your phone next to you

Remove the temptation to look at your phone last thing at night or first thing in the morning by moving it to another room. Have a phone free period where you put your phone in a drawer or plug it in to charge overnight. Switch it to airplane mode or turn it off from 8pm to when you wake. If you need an alarm to wake you up, buy an alarm clock.

8. Delete the apps that don’t add value to you life

It’s a double edge sword to have the convenience of your email, your calendar and your facebook business manager on your phone. At first I thought it would make life easier, it turned out it just made it more painful. I did an audit of which tasks I really wanted to be able to do from anywhere. Do I need to check my work email at anytime of the day, anywhere? No. Do I need to see my PayPal balance on the go? No. Do I want to shop on eBay while sitting in my car? No. Do I want to spend my time waiting in a queue playing candy crush? Not really. I still haven’t closed my facebook account entirely but I decided I didn’t need to have 24/7 access to it through my phone. I’ve deleted the app and now I only check it occasionally from my computer.

9. Don’t take your phone with you every time you leave the room

Are you in the habit of picking up your phone and taking it with you everywhere, from the kitchen to the dining room, from your bedroom to the bathroom? Create device free areas in your home, where everyone agrees that phones are not invited. At my house phones aren’t allowed at the dinner table or in the bedroom. It means when we’re eating together we’re able to be present and when we’re going to bed we aren’t tempted to stay awake for hours looking at funny cat videos on youtube.

10.  Decide what you’d rather be doing with your time

It’s much easier to avoid sitting on your phone when you’ve got something else you’d rather be doing. Make a list of things that bring you joy. It could be anything you love to do; reading, walking the dog, playing a board game, gardening, cooking, swimming. yoga, painting, running. Start with something easy that you know will make you happy. Instead of checking social media the moment you wake up, spend half an hour doing the thing that makes you really happy.

By removing all of the temptation, I’ve broken the habit of feeling the urge to check my phone. I don’t have the anxious feeling of needing to look at it every few minutes. My phone is actually pretty boring now, and because I’m aware of so many other things I’d rather do with my time I’m not idly wasting hours looking at the screen. When I use my phone now it’s with intention and it’s become the tool it was designed to be, something that adds value to my life, not takes away.

Click on the wallpaper below, it will open in a new window for you to download it. 

Winterwares hygge

Lessons on living well, inspired by the Danish concept of hygge.

Chances are you’ve heard of hygge (pronounced hue-gah) – the Danish art of living well. Woven into the fabric of daily life in Denmark, hygge is a way of being that gives you a feeling of comfort and connection. Even if you haven’t heard of it, you’ve certainly experienced it. Sitting on the sofa, snuggled in layers of blankets reading your favorite book. Picking up a conversation with a dear friend you haven’t seen for months and chatting like no time has passed. The flickering glow of a candle in your dining room. A bowl of deliciously sweet strawberries. Sitting in the kitchen, the benches covered in flour, eating leftover cookie dough with your children. Savoring the delicious aroma of a spicy, hot cup of chai in the evening. These are all examples of hygge. Hygge moments are unique to all of us, if something makes you pause long enough to think, “I can’t think of anywhere else I want to be right now”, that is hygge.

Essential elements of hygge

To create a feeling of hygge in your home think about what feels warm and cosy, an environment where you feel safe, comfortable and content. A well loved armchair and layered, natural textures like knitted blankets and jumpers where you’d happily spend hours curled up with a hot chocolate. A hygge home should feel comfortable, without clutter or fussiness. When choosing items for your home, choose objects that are beautifully made, from natural materials. Textures like wood, handmade ceramic, linen and wool will make your ordinary objects feel extraordinary when you use them. We have a connection to things handmade that can’t be replicated by similar items mass produced. You can’t have hygge without the right lighting, overhead fluro bulbs are a no-no, candlelight is perfect to create a cosy atmosphere as does a string of lightbulbs in the garden.

To create your own feelings of hygge at home, start by slowing down enough to be present.

To have a feeling of hygge we need to be able to be still. Having the thought that there’s so much to do will ruin the joy to be found in the present. If you’re too distracted to be in the moment, no amount of woollen throws and tea light candles will bring you a lasting feeling of contentedness. Carve space into the day to do things well, one at a time. Too many demands will cause you to feel scattered and distracted. Slow down and guard your time well. Turn off your phone at dinner and make it a rule to not check your work emails outside of work.

“It must be emphasised that hygge entails commitment to the present moment and a readiness to set distractions aside” ~ Judith Freidman Hanson

If you’re time poor and your to-do list is the first thing on your mind when you wake up, you’re probably thinking, ‘I don’t have time to slow down!’ Start small by creating one new habit to be in the moment each day. Think of one daily ritual that you can create for yourself that will slow you down. It only has to be ten minutes. Try turning your phone to airplane mode, and put it out of reach. Make a cup of tea (or coffee, or chai) and don’t do anything else while it’s brewing. Bring your awareness to the enticing smell and close your eyes when you take your first sip. Something else you could try is before reaching for your phone in the morning, read a few pages of a book you’re enjoying before you get out of bed. It prolongs that feeling of being cosy and warm under the blankets.

Invite your friends over.

While it’s perfectly lovely to hygge alone, when it’s raining and cold outside it’s tempting to retreat indoors and sit on the couch bingeing on netflix with a bowl of popcorn, a key element of the concept of hygge is to be in the company of others. To delight in gathering around the table to share hot soup and break fresh bread together. It can be as simple as a plate of fruit and cheese and an afternoon of playing cards. It doesn’t have to be complicated and take hours to prepare and set up for. Hygge is about appreciating simple, honest moments and not letting the beauty of our ordinary days pass us by. 

Our winter workshops are inspired by the Hygge philosophy. We’ll be enjoying a cosy day of playing with clay at the Winterwares studio in Fremantle. You’ll create a few hand-crafted ceramics that will bring a feeling of warmth and comfort to your home, including a handmade mug. To find out more and book your place visit our workshops page.

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Five ideas to practice gratitude every day

Feeling fulfilled comes first with gratitude. Having everything would feel like sweet nothing without it. Winterwares is a place that we try to practice gratitude every day and it fills the space and the people in it with more calm, peace and joy. From deepening relationships, our sense of self and even our sleep — practicing gratitude also has endless benefits backed by science.

Studies have discovered the gratification we receive from soothing behaviours, like eating sugary foods, are less sustaining than practicing gratitude. “Gratitude is something that leads to much more sustainable forms of happiness, because it’s not based on that immediate gratification; it’s a frame of mind,” says Emma Emma Seppälä, Happiness researcher at Stanford and Yale and author of The Happiness Track. Other studies have shown that gratitude leads to a significant improvement in happiness in people suffering from depression.

“If there were a drug that did that, whoever patented that drug would be rich. Gratitude is very powerful.”— cognitive scientist, Susan Peirce Thompson

Here are five simple and actionable ideas, to experience the benefits of gratitude first-hand;

Keep a gratitude journal

There’s nothing more uplifting when you’re feeling down then flicking back through the pages of a gratitude journal. One study at the University of Minnesota discovered that the stress levels of their participants greatly reduced after writing down all the good things that happened during the day before bed. Keep a journal by your bedside and simply write three things you’re grateful for morning and night.

Thank one person every day

Whether it’s the guy who served your morning coffee, or your friend for simply being your friend. This practice is even more potent when we make an effort to really feel our sentiment as we say it. Making a habit of thanking the people around us is said to develop more new friendships, enhance existing relationships and our feelings towards the people in our lives. The more we practice, the easier it is to feel gratitude well up inside each time we say thank you, instead of simply saying the words.

Give thanks before each meal

If we contemplate long enough on how the food we eat grows, along with all the processes that bought it from farm to plate, it leaves a lot to be grateful for. From the flavours and healing properties of the food we eat, to the people that worked hard to make sure we can easily access anything we need from the grocery store. Taking a moment to be grateful for these things before each meal is an effective reminder to make sure we continually practice gratitude throughout the day.

Winterwares handmade Breakfast Bowl
Oat and chia porridge with berry chia jam, coconut yoghurt & strawberries with a little maple syrup, made by Jess Ettridge of @mindful_moose served in our speckled eggshell everyday bowl.

Write down your moments of joy throughout the day

Maintaining a grateful attitude is habitual, so it can be easy to forget in the early stages of forming the habit. During days or weeks when the world seems grey, it can feel harder to recall all the good things. Keeping a journal to record these moments can help us remember the blissful times, particularly on those days where we need a bit of help. Intentionally being grateful also has a compound affect, leading to more positive experiences and more things to feel grateful for.

Wear a reminder

They say it takes 30 days for a new neural pathway to form in our minds and fire long enough that it becomes second nature. During that time, it takes special effort to solidify. Wearing a symbolic piece of jewellery, or doing something novel like painting one fingernail blue can act as a reminder while we’re in the process of making the habit.

10 tips for creating a calm space

People often describe Winterwares as a tranquil place; one they want to linger in and stay for a cup of tea. Creating a relaxing and beautiful space is easy; it only takes a few intentional adjustments to completely transform how you feel, work, and live. Here are 10 ideas we use for creating a calm space to recharge in:

Greenery

Indoor plants have been found to benefit our emotional and physical life. They lower blood pressure, removing toxins from the air and improve our general feeling of wellbeing. Succulents are a low maintenance option and look beautiful in any space from the bathroom, bedroom, courtyard, or studio.

Winterwares handmade pot

Fiddle Leaf Fig at WInterwares

Natural light

Introducing natural light into the room improves our mood and reduces energy consumption. It looks beautiful, as the sun pours in from the skylight at Winterwares. If you don’t have a skylight, swapping heavy fabrics for sheer white curtains lets the perfect amount of light in.

The five elements

In Fung Shui philosophy, the universe is made up of five elements: fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. Incorporating organic materials into a space has a calming effect, especially when compared to clinical and man-made interiors. Candles, wooden furniture, a vase of flowers, pot plants, and metal ornaments, are all examples of this concept that help to balance and improve any space. 

Aromatherapy

Diffusers with a gentle mist or a candle scented with oils, do more than simply smell good. Lavender and rose geranium are two scents that are proven to calm the nervous system. The smell of eucalyptus from our Woodland Candle nearly always burns in the studio. It helps to clear the air and add to the calming atmosphere.

Minimalism

While there’s a place for collecting cherished items — too much hoarding can create a feeling of chaos. Keeping a space minimal, helps to keep the atmosphere easy-going. Minimalism can be achieved in a space with clean lines and a consistent colour palette, but be careful to incorporate warm light, warm neutrals and cosy textures to avoid it looking too clinical.

Neutral colours

In the same vein as above, the Winterwares studio was designed intentionally with neutral tones, to give the space a relaxed feeling. We intentionally leave out colours that are over stimulating like bright reds or yellows. Sometimes, it’s what we leave out that has the greatest impact. The colours at Winterwares mostly white and grey, with the exception of some pastels and greenery. Light blue, white, and cream are examples of colours that are proven to calm the mind.

A clean space

It’s that age-old cliché that stands true; a clean space equals a clear mind. The popular book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ is a great manifesto for this.

Create hygge

The Danish word ‘hygge’ describes the quality of cosiness and wellbeing that can be intentionally created in a space, or occur spontaneously. There’s many ways to create hygge. Our favourite is with cups of hot tea throughout the day and a candle burning. For our workshop, we create hygge with beautiful textures; like linen napkins during lunch. We also find it spontaneously with the feeling of clay between our hands. This wonderful book by Meik Wiking describes the word beautifully and includes endless suggestions for creating more ‘hygge’ moments in everyday life.

Relaxing music

Music is a powerful tool and it can create chaos or calm. Choosing music deliberately is a wonderful way to set the pace and mood in the studio. If we’re lagging a little energy, upbeat instrumental music from classical to contemporary is a great mood booster. The long-standing staple though has got to be old-world jazz like Ella Fitzgerald and a little bit of blues.

Slow down

No matter how calm a space is, it’s useless unless we’re peaceful on the inside too. During workshops or workdays, we encourage the practice of slowing down and bringing mindful awareness to the moment. On days where thoughts won’t stop racing, a few deep breaths, some music and a conversation are usually enough to come back to the moment.

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