With a name like Jade and a daughter called Olivine, you could say that a gem-focused jewellery brand was written in the stars for Jade Howard-Smith.
As the founder of and designer behind Two Green Stones, Jade has not only created a beautiful range of pieces, but also a legacy for her daughter.
So often we hear about mothers putting their dreams to the side when their children enter the world, but for Jade, it sparked something new. "When I thought about Olivine (who was growing into her own person at a rapid rate), her vibrant spirit really triggered something in me. She was such a happy little individual and has this inner strength that I admired so much," said Jade. "I thought, why should I hold back on my life long dream/passion? If I gave it a go, would it have a positive effect on her?"
And thus, Two Green Stones was born. "This is why Two Green Stones is named after Olivine and myself (Olivine is also a green semi-precious stone)," she said. "It's a celebration of the connection we have already and the connection I want for our future. I want to be a good role model for her and teach her to live out her dreams, no matter what the circumstances are or the doubts you may harbor inside yourself."
We spoke to Jade about following those dreams you hold inside yourself, building a business from the ground up, and why she'll always choose a lifelong piece over a fleeting trend.
What did your career entail prior to Two Green Stones?
I have always worked in fashion actually, apart from my very first job which was working for the company my mother was CEO of. I managed a boutique when I was nineteen then I worked casually for Cue Design, before placing myself in David Jones in the Brisbane CBD store. This was a strategic move as I realised quite early I wanted to get involved in fashion. The exposure to the vast array of beautiful polished brands David Jones stocked was a solid foundation to learn about the industry. While I worked there, I studied Fashion Design full time for 3 years. This was 3 of the best years of my life! I really wanted to get behind the scenes and use my creative skills to map a pathway into product design. I was very hands-on, I loved the whole process and still sew to this day.
As I was finishing my course, I applied for work in Brisbane, where at the time there were limited positions available or fashion brands to work for. I worked for a children's clothing brand (Bright Bots), and started at the bottom as production assistant. Fortunately I was able to not only to do the production side of things, I quickly moved into quality control, graphic and product design and development (specifications and reports etc). I then chose to travel and when I returned I worked for another children's fashion start-up brand (Eeni Meeni Miini Moh) for a few years which went onto become quite successful. I handled all the graphic design, and development of the products and some assistance in design. I conversed with our suppliers and also travelled to China on many occasions to oversea our productions.
Unfortunately I had to leave that wonderful job when my husband proposed to me and stated we were 'moving north for a lifestyle/sea change'. My designing skills were diverted (happily) to landscape, house and interior design as we built our house on top of an uninhabited hill that had absolutely no services. Amazingly due to my landscape designs, the company we had helping us offered me some contract work as a landscape designer. I designed several jobs including some entry gardens to new housing development projects and also a refurbishment of the central garden and recreational area of one of the local private boy's High Schools.
Then I finally fell pregnant (after years of trying) and we decided that it was a great opportunity to spend the first few years of our daughter's life, raising her… And hopefully another sibling (this did not happen unfortunately). Once Olivine my daughter started Kindergarten I began to get itchy feet and wanted to feel useful again in other areas of my life. And I felt that creative urge.
What prompted you to launch your own business?
Olivine was really the inspiration. Once I realised we could not have more children, and that she was now leading her own busy little interactive and educational life – it was time to work out what I was going to do.
Being in a regional area like Central Queensland, fashion was not at the forefront of the job listings. I was experiencing some self doubt prior to this and possibly depression, as I felt quite secluded in some ways. I really knew hardly anyone at the time, as I am not really an outgoing person and it was only via activities that I took Olivine too that I started to build friendships and connections.
How was a housewife who has been out of the business for years going to get herself a fashion career again? I looked deep within and the only thing that has ever sparked excitement in my being is art and design (apart from my family). Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to design fashion for a living. And I knew that this would bring fulfilment.
I remembered sitting on the carpet of my bedroom glued to my blackboard on my bedroom wall. I would literally sit there drawing picture after picture, dress after dress, flower after flower, garden after garden and it wasn't until I was 19 until I realised the significance of this. I have this affinity, not only with fashion but also nature. I love what the earth has created, in all its forms. I love the organic feel of touching something that's natural, tactile and I've always expressed myself through some form of art.
After much reflection, I decided to take the plunge.
We love the story behind the name - can you share the meaning of Two Green Stones?
When I thought about Olivine (who was growing into her own person at a rapid rate), her vibrant spirit really triggered something in me. She was such a happy little individual and has this inner strength that I admired so much.
I thought, why should I hold back on my life long dream/passion or something that I feel I could offer the world? And now, with the way technology is, it doesn't really matter where you are situated.
If I gave it a go, would it have a positive effect on her? I decided to pitch the idea to my family and to my surprise – they said go for it! So this is why Two Green Stones is named after Olivine and myself (Olivine is also a green semi-precious stone). It's a celebration of the connection we have already and the connection I want for our future. I want to be a good role model for her and teach her to live out her dreams, no matter what the circumstances are or the doubts you may harbor inside yourself.
In a market that is seemingly flooded with accessories, you’re setting out to stand out from the pack. How do you see yourself differentiated in the market?
Thank you that is such a nice compliment!
I guess my reasoning is that if I am going to do this, it has to be my show, on my own terms, and authentically me. I love natural fibres and elements of nature. I really value them. It is a conflict I know to be using such elements, but that is why I want to go down the slow fashion route. It's not about quantity and accessibility, more so it is about quality and craftsmanship that lasts.
I love detail, and l don't want Two Green Stones to be dominated by trends (although it is nice to feature certain elements of them). And the customers I hope to attract are those who buy what they love, ethically-made pieces that speak to them and they feel represents their individuality. It's about treasuring each piece and steering away from the cheap overproduced products that dominate our stores and retreat after one season to our landfill (not to mention the environmental issues that are caused by this). We make limited edition pieces, and don't ever plan to overproduce. If we sell out, then that's great. We can create something new. Besides that, we don't want to dictate to our suppliers that we need mass quantities of stones etc. We'd prefer to work with what's already out there, so the demands don't cause irrational over production and increase customer spending behaviours.
Putting on one item that makes a statement, can make your day into a good one… So much so, you might want to wear it over and over! We don't expect our customer to buy from us every week or even every month, and we won't be hassling them to do so.
My design ethic is derived from my love of fashion overall, so I guess what makes us stand out from other jewellery brands is our tactile approach. Our customers are genuinely surprised at how lightweight most of our jewellery is, especially the larger pieces and they always comment on how nice they are to touch. So it's more than visual, due to sensory stimulation from the softness of the leathers and to the cool organic feel of the semi-precious stones. I think the combination of that and using good quality natural components, means we can produce unique pieces that will last. Craftsmanship is very important also, we never rush a piece and we don't need to meet massive production deadlines so our quality is never compromised. It is our hands that make them, and we strive for perfection in every piece.
What have been some of the biggest challenges in starting and running your own business?
Hmmm wow this is a hard one to sum up! Time as they say, is always a challenge to manage. To keep the balance in all aspects of your life, I feel is a really big challenge.
Most days I feel like I am only half filling each of my 'buckets', other days I might get one or two to the top! Trying to start a business on your own means making sacrifices, and you can feel like you are climbing a huge mountain that never ends. But you just have to keep trying, keep tacking away at that goal. Finding key contacts and individuals that want to help you grow your business is a challenge also, but I think the momentum picks up once you get out there and involved and also offer your help and ideas.
For me one of the greatest blessings I've had, is to find the Smart Hub (co-working start-up business community organisation funded by the government). The resources I have had access to as a result, have been invaluable to me as founder and a designer. But I would still like to connect with other communities of likeminded individuals in my particular industry, which can be a challenge when you live in a regional area.
The other challenge is obviously funding… But that's everyones challenge I'm sure?
What about some of the greatest highlights so far?
Some of the greatest highlights are that I have had some celebrities (Erika Heynatz, Kate Ritchie and english actress Joanne Froggatt from 'The Commons') wear and like my earrings, so much so that they requested I send them more pieces. That's a huge compliment. And none of them were paid, it was purely good luck and having a super star stylist friend (aka Penny Hunt)… And hopefully something that brought them joy.
I also did a Business Accelerator course at the Smart Hub, which was a huge achievement for me. My self doubt was heavily weighted down by fear of the 'running a business' side of things. Not only did I get taught business and marketing strategy, I met some fantastic mentors who are at the top of their fields and were able to give me hands on support. I learnt so much in such a short intense period of time, I am still working through my detailed list of smart goals!
How do you currently balance the juggle of career/business and family?
That's honestly a work in progress… As I said, there are many days where my buckets are not full. But I try, and that's the main thing. I think having lots of energy helps, however I am not the most energetic person around. It's just lucky I have stamina, stability and a will to make it all work.
Do you delegate or outsource? If so, what are the areas of your life/business that you do?
I am just starting to do this, however most of what we do is done in-house. For the purpose of good time management, I am trying to be more efficient by outsourcing certain tasks. This can be costly though, so sometimes I end up doing it myself if I know I can, to save money.
Do you make time for self-care? What does this look like for you?
When possible yes I do. I love to eat well and overall I feel I am in good health. We have a fantastic local farmer's market, which I go to every Saturday morning for fresh produce. I also like to exercise, I never dread it. Since the demands on my time has increased significantly, I really do appreciate it when I get the chance to exercise. My husband and I usually exercise together on the weekends and if I can I try to get on the bike through the week then that is a bonus.
Where do you look to for inspiration?
I love everywhere! My daughter asks me all the time, what's your favourite…? And because I am inspired by art, colour, pattern, texture, textiles, fashion, travel, architecture, the earth and all that's visually pleasing… I can never ever decide! I just have to open my eyes and there's usually always something that I find inspiring. I daydream about designs all the time, especially after something catches my eye.
What’s your relationship like with social media? And what do you hope to teach your daughter in this space?
I have a love/dislike (hate is to strong a word) relationship with it to be honest. The lines are always blurred for me, but I am learning to use it and work with it more and more. Like anything there's the good and the bad side of it. I love it for creative expression and spiritual reasons more than anything, there can be some very inspiring people out there.
Olivine is far more outgoing than me, so she is starting to really fall in love with the fact we can all communicate with the world and on so many levels. I guess being an only child too, this makes up for the absences in her life. But we are very open with her, and I think this brings cyber maturity. She will often show us something and say how inappropriate it is, before switching it off to something else. Her internal instincts is to look for the positives, which I am very proud of. She has also learnt so much by watching tutorials etc, but that is not so social as she does not interact with them. She doesn't have FB or Instagram yet, and we won't encourage it. We will let it all evolve naturally, with supervision. She does have a YouTube channel now though – although that's a project for the future.
You’ve had many influential women wearing your earrings - including Kate Ritchie. Who would be your ultimate customer and why?
Any woman with style and a good purpose is honestly my ultimate customer. I love those influential women such as Kate Ritchie and Erika Heynatz who put themselves out there, and do it so well. They are an inspiration, because you think if they are willing to put forward their thoughts, their individual points of interest, talents and appearance at the risk of judgement, then why shouldn't we? We are all completely unique and we should cherish that.
What hopes and dreams do you have for Two Green Stones?
I would love Two Green Stones to keep evolving into something we can truly feel proud of. I have so many creative ideas bound up inside that I can't wait to share them, but realistically you just have to take tiny steps at a time. Ideally I'd like to make it a more global friendly on-line brand. And I am really in love with the idea of keeping most of what we do, local, and help build our community structure within. This does mean our pricing cannot match some other off-shore produced brands, however I feel passionate about helping our communities and the value of that to me is worth it.
What’s ahead for you and your business?
We just released our new wristlet and bracelet pieces, so probably to build upon what we have and evolve into other jewellery pieces and accessories then perhaps clothing in the future. I'd also like to offer 'vegan' friendly options to our customers who want to take that next step from ethical to sustainable.
By the time you finish this story on Auguste founder Ebony Eagle, you'll want to move to Byron Bay, own a couple of horses and dress exclusively in Auguste. At least, I did. She's the type of woman who spreads positive energy and this energy trickles down to the clothes she designs. Ebony has created a fashion brand for women and children that's driven by sustainability and giving back.
Take us back to your childhood. What was it like and what are some of your most vivid memories?<p>There are so many magical memories, particularly of summers spent at our beach house in Rosebud, Victoria – days that seemed to go on forever in a world that felt so big spent with my brothers and sisters, aunties, grandparents. Lots of sand, sun and banana paddle pops on the beach. We still own this beach house and boat shed and I now take my children there to do the exact same thing. It's so unbelievably nostalgic for all of us. It's the most at ease any of us ever feel. My childhood also wasn't without adversity, but children are incredibly resilient and you learn to deal with the situation you are in as best you can. These things shape who you are. I'm from a big family of four children and we moved around a fair bit so, affectionately, home was always where the chaos was! </p>
What was your career path like prior to starting Auguste?<p>I've worked since the day I turned 13, starting with an after school job at the fruit shop, into weekend jobs at cafes and then when I finished school at 17 I was a nanny for a travelling family and spent two years hopping all over Europe… This was where the fire in my belly grew for travelling and I believe it's where my perspective on more of an entrepreneurial career took shape. When I landed back in Australia at 19 I waitressed for a few years until I got poached for a styling/production job at a studio in Richmond. This is where I learned all about shoot productions, etc, and it was whilst working here that I decided to take the leap and start my own fashion brand at 22. I managed to secure a small loan to start my business while I was working full-time and then resigned to waitress again by night and work on my label by day. I had that brand 'ebonyeve' for ten years before I started Auguste five years ago.<br></p>
Was it always a dream to have your own label, or did that come about organically?<p>Well, my Grandma taught me to sew when I was eight-years-old and I continued sewing my whole life. I've always been a massive vintage and op shop trawler and I'm creative, so the whole design part came quite naturally. The business part I learned on the job!</p>
Did you have your girls prior to starting Auguste, and if so, what was that transition like?<p>I had Coco when I was 28 and then Frankie when I'd just turned 30 so at that time, I was still running my previous label 'ebonyeve', so yes I had a business. I never stop working and throughout pregnancy and when the girls were young this didn't change… I was living in Bali at the time that the girls were young though so I just worked wearing a few less items of clothing! Work-life balance will be my lesson in this life – it's something I'm still trying to master.</p>
What's been the biggest challenge of motherhood? And the biggest blessing?<p>The thing I find most challenging is the work-life balance juggle and the fact that I have missed out on so many precious moments due to my work commitments. The biggest blessing is all of it! The whole apple, even the seeds. </p>
You've lived in Melbourne, Byron, Bali and Sydney. Do you feel that you're settled now that you've moved back to Byron, or do you crave change? What were some of the challenges and joys of living overseas?<p>Yes, I've moved around a lot in my life. Auguste HQ has always been based in Byron so moving home to here made sense for us and we always wanted to bring our children up here. I'm very settled now. I've travelled enough for ten lives! Honestly, we didn't find living overseas challenging, we adore different cultures and the perspective that they give you. We are so grateful that our girls started their life like that. All four of us loved living abroad right up until the very end but you just know in your core when it's time to come home.</p>
Is there something about Byron that called you back? Has moving to Byron influenced your designs or your process?<p>Auguste HQ has always been based in Byron so coming back here was the natural decision. Growing up here as a teen I was super eager to get out and experience the world but after I had my children, I definitely felt a strong pull to bring them up here, but more so to the hinterland where we now call home. I just love being in nature, surrounded by my children and as many animals as I can fit in! My designs have always naturally thrown together bohemian and vintage inspiration so I suppose, yes, growing up here could have been the beginning of that attraction.</p>
What are your time management tips?<p>Oh god, finish emails in your evening bath? Between the kids, the horses, the business and my embarrassing attempt of a social life, there is very little time to stop and try to time manage anything, so I pretty much fail constantly, no tips here!<br></p>
How would you describe the Auguste aesthetic?<p>Classic, bohemian, feminine, timeless.</p>
Who is your ultimate Auguste muse?<p>That's a tricky one. Stylistically, the ever-influential Jane Birkin has always been a huge creative inspiration and a measuring stick for my designs. Would Jane wear it? Yes? Good, let's do it. Her sense of fashion was just so easy going and feminine, it's everything we make Auguste to be. I've also always felt inspired by Brigitte Bardot and her femininity, she just made it so approachable. My main inspiration though is Jane Gooddall. Her connection to nature, work with animals and bravery in her field, particularly as a young woman, have given me so much courage to create, stay true to myself and use my platform to give back to the planet. </p>
Auguste is such an ethical label, from your fabrics and factories to your ongoing charitable initiatives. Is that something that has always been important to you?<p>Absolutely, I always wanted to get to a point in business where I was able to give back. To have a platform and a voice is a gift and one that I believe should be used wisely and for greater good.</p>
Do you think the fashion industry is becoming more conscious?<p>Absolutely and largely that's being driven by consumer demand, which is just awesome. It won't all happen at once, but the fact that more and more consumers are seeking out eco-friendly fashion alternatives means that more brands will follow suit. They're starting to realise that if you're not thinking about your impact on the planet, you're not being competitive, or responsible really, and that's the only real future for fashion. </p>
You regularly design collections in aid of a charitable cause. Tell us about your latest 'Hero' campaign...<p>As a mum and as a member of the global community, I wanted to unite people in recognising the dangers of bullying and how important it is to use your position to stand up for others. We designed a range of Hero slogan tees as a call to action and donated 100% of the sales to the National Centre Against Bullying and the Cybersmile Foundation to continue their work preventing abuse and giving support to sufferers. I'm incredibly proud that our message of solidarity was shared by thousands around the world and we raised more than $85,000 for our partner charities. </p>
Why is charity work so important to you?<p>It's just part of who I am and what I've always believed in, but when I had children it became a larger priority in my life. If we're not working to leave the planet a better place for our little ones, then what are we doing? How can you see what's happening in the world and not respond? I've worked hard and now I'm fortunate enough to have this platform, so I use it. To me that's just good sense, simple as that! </p>
Little August is your childrenswear line. Tell us about the inspiration behind it?<p>My daughters were my inspiration here. I created little Auguste when my girls were little and loved spinning around in full skirts, it was made for princesses – and even though those two princesses now will only wear ripped denim shorts and Auguste tees I'm so happy that there are so many other little angels out there still spinning in our creations.</p>
What's your parenting philosophy?<p>Shower them with so much love and kindness that they don't realise you often forget to do story time. Also I believe in teaching my girls independence – if they are able to do it themselves then they do. Also have fun with them and keep phones down.</p>
One of your most popular charity campaigns was your 'future woman' tee range. What sort of example do you want to set for your daughters?<p>The 'future women' tees were part of our charity campaign raising money for UN Women and promoting female empowerment, and as a mother of two daughters this meant so much to me. A big lesson I hope my daughters learn from me is to not be passive. Make opportunities, don't wait for them. Offer to help, don't wait for someone else to. Use what's at your fingertips, and then reach for more. </p>
How has COVID-19 changed the way you think about your business?<p>Covid brought a lot of perspective for me. It showed us all that everything can literally stop overnight, so for me it was a reminder to make sure that what I was doing was right for me personally and was to the standard that I wanted. We are doing a lot of work on our ethics and sustainability and really our whole brand identity. It's a time to contract and refocus on not necessarily being big but being great… and I am LOVING that.</p>
What changes will you be making?<p>We made the decision around the beginning of Covid to exit from wholesale entirely and focus on our own vertical channels, making Auguste exclusive to our online store <a href="http://augustethelabel.com/" target="_blank">augustethelabel.com</a> and our Brisbane and Byron Bay boutiques. The exit was a huge decision for me, however I know it was the right one. Being a purely vertical business means we can retract and refocus. There were many factors in this decision however the most important was the ability to continue on our journey to being a more ethical and sustainable business, because that is what it is, a journey – it is not about any one decision, it's every decision you make. Being a vertical business means we have the flexibility to make the decisions we feel are right.</p>
The tiny habits that we do everyday have the power to change our lives. Whether it's getting up early, so you have a moment to yourself before the kids wake up or making time to exercise or meditate or something as simple as a cup of tea in silence, these habits have a profound impact on our wellbeing and also our mental health. Yet, with small humans to care for, so many of us find it hard to start a new habit and stick to it. And we find ourselves in a rut which we can't get out of. In his book 'Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything', world-renowned behaviour scientist FJ Fogg looks at how we're approaching habits the wrong way.
'Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything',<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://thegracetales.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNTYyMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjE0MjgwMn0.8TI2UMx2pnQoTAFVlp9HkCdBEWJoKZspHAXLU4_i7aY/image.jpg?width=980" id="74866" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="39d6cf7788a4ec7837ad26212ee4ba20" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The story we are told of motherhood is one of lightness that leans into the beautiful, the incredible and the magical. However, for all the lightness there is shade, and in the shadows lies a rollercoaster which pushes you to your limits and at times breaks you. Both sides are important for open, real dialogue around motherhood. As a health professional I entered motherhood confident. I had all the resources at my fingers tips as a women's health physiotherapist. Despite this, my journey was far from smooth. Even though I was well informed, it didn't make me immune to the real emotional and physical challenges of motherhood that are still so rarely discussed.
My Motherhood Journey<p>When I first fell pregnant, I was blissfully happy. I felt I had realistic expectations of what motherhood was going to be like. I was also very aware of the high rates of mental health conditions that come up during the perinatal period and knew what to look out for. I was primed and ready to be the earth mumma I was destined to be.<br></p><p>Then my pregnancy had a slight curve ball, I had placenta previa which meant many unsettling vaginal bleeds, no exercise, and the very real threat of complete bed rest. Thankfully, my placenta lifted around 35 weeks, and I was able to have a vaginal delivery. I was induced, the birth was fast and intense, and I needed a ventouse and an episiotomy. Despite this, I felt very positive about my birth mainly because I was informed, supported and respected through the journey. We had a healthy little girl, and I was in absolute awe. Pure. Magic.</p><p>And then the post-natal period began. I had feeding issues, my baby wasn't gaining weight, she had blood in her stool, and chronic vomiting. Paediatricians prescribed various medications and prescription formula, but the constant crying from my bub and the sleep deprivation for all of us continued. For many years. </p><p>Bit by bit my confidence began to crumble. I was anxious that she wasn't getting enough nourishment, I felt guilt that this was all my fault and I started to doubt myself and believe I was a bad mother. This was not the motherhood I had pictured. But as all 'good' mothers do, I put on a brave face and pushed on. I continued to run my business, treated patients, and carried on with life. Under the surface, I was utterly depleted and hanging on by a thread. </p><p>And then we fell pregnant with our second baby. During this pregnancy my level of exhaustion hit a new low. I was still getting up through the night, working and studying, and I became highly anxious about how I was going to care for another baby.</p>
Le Reve is a promise I made to myself, to take our audience into a dream world where everything is calm, warm and amusing
If you've been following us for a while, you'll know that in our dreams, our entire house is filled with the scent of Maison Balzac candles burning, our cupboards are filled with gorgeous glass goblets and carafes in shades of azure, green, mint, pink and blue and our tables are decorated with elegant vases covered in chic spots. Sound dreamy? That's because it is.
Tell us about your lockdown experience - how did your family adjust? What have you taken away from this period of time? Are there any rituals you put in place that helped you?<p>Surprisingly, my husband started a new 'essential' job on the first day of lock down. He had to go to his new office everyday so Loulou and I were home and had a wonderful time together. I didn't take time off when she was a newborn, so it felt like a great opportunity for me to catch up and experience "maternity leave". My favourite things in life are my interior, good food, living slow, not going anywhere and being with my family. So, I was really happy during the entire period, but I knew I was part of the lucky ones (not badly impacted by COVID-19).</p>
As a business, how did you adapt to this time? <p>At first, everything was quiet, unknown, unpredictable and ominous. After a couple of weeks, the demand for our products was unprecedented. We received thousands of requests from around the world, people wanting to bring a touch of happiness or comfort into their homes. We had to adapt to this new, increased flow and we did! My team was incredibly dedicated and solid during the whole process.</p>
Can you tell us about your new collection Un Reve? What are some new pieces you have added? What about the colours?<p>Le Reve is a promise I made to myself, to take our audience into a dream world where everything is calm, warm and amusing. As a reaction to the world's uncertainty, we really wanted to provide an escape! We have added a new, exciting category: tapered and shaped candles. We love exploring different ways to add colours into everyday life... and we love blurring the senses, so we have purposely chosen the same colours for our glassware AND tapered candles. We find it playful to associate a volute candle holder in pink glass with a volute candle in pink...</p>
You've collaborated with Messina on a candle - how did this come about? What did you enjoy most about the collaboration process?<p>We were first drawn together through our like-minded ethos: addiction to quality, playful nostalgia and intuitive design. Honey was the obvious theme of our collaboration, being one of Messina's Creative Department's most cherished natural ingredients and supplied by their local apiary: Rosebery Honey. Also my grandfather was a beekeeper and it's my dad's passion. I grew up with hives in our garden, collecting honey with my dad and dipping my fingers into the frames. I am fascinated by synaesthesia (stimulation of several senses at once) and this collaboration was a chance to translate our new candle fragrances into an edible delight. To celebrate the launch of our collaborative candles, Messina has created a custom gelato flavor: MIEL. It is the first time one of our scents can be eaten!</p>
How do you structure your day - how do you balance work with motherhood?<p>My day echoes the rhythm of primary school: I drop Loulou off at 8.45am, head to our office to start work at 9am. My husband picks her up in the afternoon and we all meet at home at 5pm-ish. I cook dinner every night (sadly I am the only one who knows how to make an edible meal in the household!!!) and I never bring work to our home. So, our evenings are all about relaxing, dining, watching movies or going for a swim near home. Work/life hasn't always been so balanced, so I am very grateful to have reached this stage, eight years into the life of my business.</p>
Running your own business is all-consuming - do you have any non-negotiable self-care rituals you can share?<p>I have zero non-negotiable self-care rituals! I would do anything required to make sure my family and the business are ok. I always come next. This is something I am working on though. I would love to try and prioritise myself sometimes. There is definitely room for improvement!<br></p>
Running your own business, what have been your biggest learning's around developing products, marketing and running a team?<p>Some of the lessons I have learnt are:<br>- There are always people around you who will say NO to your ideas. Ignore the NO and pursue your vision.<br>- Allow 12 months between an idea and a finished product (I used to think that 3 months was enough! No way!).<br>- Surround yourself with people who are better than you in pretty much every field!</p>
The Grace Tales is a global lifestyle platform for mothers searching for style, substance, and solidarity. Driven by creating content, community and connection, we celebrate the paradox of modern motherhood; the struggle and the beauty, the joy and the relentlessness.
Sophie Harris-Taylor captures something we often try so hard to hide: our vulnerability. As mothers, we're supposed to be strong and powerful, yet what is often overlooked is that our transition into becoming a mother is the most vulnerable period of our lives...
"I think we're often afraid to show our vulnerabilities," agrees London-based Harris-Taylor. "Perhaps we think by showing this side people are going to judge and only see weakness. Where actually I think there's something incredibly powerful and strong about being openly vulnerable. I'm in awe of the people I photograph, its often about striking the balance between confidence and vulnerability. I've found my work to be a very therapeutic experience, it took me a while to open up myself, but by doing this it has allowed my subjects to open up and engage in an honest conversation."
You’ve said: “I think most importantly that looks don’t define who you are, and in the end don’t really matter.” Why do some of us take so long to come to this realisation? And tell me your thoughts on beauty and how it led you to create Epidermis?<p>I think when we're younger we get so caught up on our looks, perhaps before we know where we're headed in life, it can seem like the be-all and end-all. And sometimes it comes from a place where you just want to fit in. And perhaps it just comes from life experience that you start to realise other things matter more.<br> <br>It sounds cliché but beauty is of course so subjective yet in the mainstream media we are often not exposed to this kind of diversity. Epidermis for me was a way of showcasing beautiful women in skins less often seen. Most of my personal projects seem to come from my own life experiences and throughout there is always some element of my own vulnerability – I began to reflect on my own past and feelings towards my skin, I'd suffered from severe acne. Back then, there were no idols, role models and people to look up to who had anything but flawless skin. Which obviously meant I struggled with my own self-image. We've come a long way since then, what with body positivity and generally people speaking out about beauty standards and promoting diversity. However, I still felt that there was a lack in representing skin in an honest and open way. </p>
Your work captures a character’s vulnerabilities – why do you think we sometimes hide our vulnerabilities and what have you learnt about being vulnerable through your work?<p>I think we're often afraid to show our vulnerabilities. Perhaps we think by showing this side people are going to judge and only see weakness. Where actually I think there's something incredibly powerful and strong about being openly vulnerable. I'm in awe of the people I photograph, its often about striking the balance between confidence and vulnerability. I've found my work to be a very therapeutic experience, it took me a while to open up myself, but by doing this it has allowed my subjects to open up and engage in an honest conversation.</p>
For your series Sisters, you photographed and interviewed over 70 sets of sisters, of all ages and backgrounds – and have said that it was a way of reflecting on the difficulties of her own relationship with her sister. Can you describe this relationship?<p>At the time I created the work, there wasn't much of a relationship there if I'm honest, we'd not really been able to see past our teenage years and sisterly disputes. Since then we've started to rebuild our relationship as adults. I think I tried to understand a bit more about the complexities of sisterhood and the journeys of this kind of lifelong relationship.</p>
You’ve described mastitis as more painful than childbirth – tell us about your experience with breastfeeding?<p>Yes looking back I really did! It was very much a love/hate relationship. In some ways I was lucky, my son latched on quickly in the hospital and fed well. But getting mastitis early on meant it became very difficult and painful to feed him at times. I seemed to always be overproducing which led to the ducts becoming completely blocked and then getting infected. The pain combined with sleep deprivation was pretty exhausting. My son used the breast as a comfort a lot so for months I felt like he was completely attached to me, but never that full. I started mixed feeding after about 4 or 5 months.. this helped him sleep through the night. Once he started weening there wasn't much milk left and in one breast my supply had pretty much dried up all together. As soon as I stopped, I missed it.</p>
How would you describe the intimacy or closeness of breastfeeding and how did it make you feel?<p>It's pretty magical. I loved the intimacy, the comfort it gave him which in turn it gave me.</p>
There’s sometimes a longing for personal space, as mothers feel they have a baby constantly attached to them. Did you ever feel this?<p>Absolutely I felt constantly clinged too. Being pulled and tugged whilst covered in milk really did make me long for personal space. Then again, I felt this huge guilt, because I'd met so many mums that couldn't for various reasons breastfeed and there I was complaining about it.</p>
You’ve always had a complicated relationship with your body. Can you tell me about this relationship – and how did breastfeeding change the way you felt about your body?<p>Having had an eating disorder since my early teens, it's been an ongoing battle really. I don't know if breastfeeding really changed the way I felt towards by body but certainly postpartum I was desperate to get back to my old body. And having never had large breasts before, this made me feel pretty uncomfortable, physically and mentally, and it was weirdly unfamiliar.</p>
You felt lost after you gave birth – can you take us back to this period of your life and how you felt?<p>I did, I think because you've got this new identity suddenly as a 'new mum' and your life as what you knew it has completely changed overnight. But you know deep down, you're still you and your identity hasn't really changed at all. Don't get me wrong, I actually loved becoming a mum, but I found the day to day, the monotony of it all at the very beginning pretty boring. My friends were working, and I felt in some ways a bit bored and not that stimulated. When I started to make work again felt like I got a bit more of myself back.</p>
What were some of the most vivid memories you have of shooting MILK?<p>Zenon my son, was there for most of my shoots. This was in some ways really fun and a real bonding experiences between me and the Mum. But looking back a complete nightmare. Logistically. At the beginning when I started shooting, he couldn't even sit up by himself so he'd often be just out of shot, lying on the bed next to the other Mum feeding. Then towards the end, he was running all over the place, pretty much destroying the house..</p>
What messages do you hope women will take away from MILK?<p>It'd be nice for other women, to feel they can relate to the images and experiences of the other mums a bit more, than the typical nursing Madonna-like images we are used to seeing. For a lot of people and not just men, they find it kind of gross. Even though we've all seen a cow being milked, I guess women's breasts have become so sexualised, that actually what they are originally for has almost been forgotten. I think the more we talk about these things and make them more publicly seen, the less taboo they become. At least, that's the hope.</p>
"I know that abandoned is a word that has been used in telling that story, but I actually don't want to use that word anymore," Zoe Hendrix tells me, when we go back to the beginning of her life, when she was born amidst the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war...
When she was five years old, she went to live at an Ethiopian orphanage with her twin brother. In her own words, "It sounds like you abandon an old tire on the road or something, and to me, it's more that she surrendered us because she was very unwell. I only learned this recently as well, so that's why I want to correct the wording I have used previously." Hendrix and her brother were later adopted by a Tasmanian couple and moved to Australia. Fast forward to 2015, and the country watched Zoe marry Alex Garner on the very first season of Married at First Sight. The couple went onto have a beautiful daughter Harper-Rose, but have since separated.