September Cake and Dare, with a touch of TV stardom (nearly!)

Lockdown is still with us. I prefer not to focus on what we can’t do, but what we can do right now. With that in mind, and as September is my birthday month (I like to celebrate all month), I challenged myself to do as many new and different things as I could. It took me further than I ever dreamed.

China Wrap Dresshttps://kirsteenstewart.co.uk/product/china-wrap-dress/

A visit from a TV crew

BBC’s ‘Home of the Year’ show features a top architect, interior designer and lifestyle blogger team scouring the country for the most amazing homes in Scotland. And they called me! This was certainly a new experience!  

First I had to send a lot of photos to their research team, the with just two days notice, their team came up to Orkney to look at two houses: mine being one! 

Unlike most of the houses on the show, I live in a rented property so there are limits to what I can do. However I am deliberate about using my own pieces, and others from makers and artists from Orkney, to create a cohesive and comfortable aesthetic. I will give you a tour in a future blog!

Applying for the show marked a big change in my design journey. I have shifted from fashion and things we carry and wear, to interiors and things we live with.

Having the TV crew in my home for a day was an incredible learning experience. Listening to their discussion about light, colour, space, and noting what they responded to, has given me so insight into how to take my interior design journey forward. 

Life, like my house, is a work in progress. I did not make it to the televised stage of the show, but I was left with many lessons learned, new contacts, and a lovely space to live in.

Artwork by Stuart Sim.
Mirror by Leo Kerr Carpentry

An invitation that led to a meeting of design minds

Having only two days to get my house TV ready was crazy, but if forced me to complete so many tasks and ideas that had been waiting in the forever. It was too good a chance to miss. 

I invited a select group of makers, customers and designers to visit and tour my studio home (within Covid rules). The response was overwhelming. I had appointment slots between 10.30am – 6pm (I forgot about needing to eat!) and could easily have filled two days.

Every piece in my studio/home was priced and labelled and ready for sale. It felt really good to create something positive from my disappointment about the show. 

Among all the conversations that day, I was really fired up by meeting Jay who keeps an sensational Instagram called ‘Too Many Cushions’. I walked by her house in Kirkwall for years with no idea of what she was creating inside. It was such a meeting of minds to talk with her and I’m looking forward to further colour conversations one day soon. 

@Too_many_cushions instagram

Diving for inspiration

Despite growing up on these islands, the thought of getting in the sea used to leave me green at the gills. It wasn’t until 1 December 2019 that I finally went in for my first sea swim. Who knew any of what 2020 would bring! And certainly for me, I never imagined I would now be surfing, swimming and diving in an unchartered garden of inspiration!

Orkney is an archipelago of islands around the enormous natural harbour of Scapa Flow. The Flow as we know it here, was the wartime base of the Royal Navy Grand Fleet. Today it has absolutely world class diving thanks to the deliberate scuttling of a 52 German warships in 1919.

During WW2 the channels between the 5 islands on the eastern side of The Flow were initially defended by blockade ships – vessels that were deliberately sunk and shipwrecked. Remnants of these are still visible from the shore today. However on 14 October 1939, U-boat 47 found a route through, and torpedoed HMS Royal Oak, killing 833 of its crew.  

Within a month of the tragedy, Winston Churchill visited the site and ordered 4 permanent barriers be built. They were built by Italian Prisoner of War who left an incredible and beautiful legacy of their own: a hand crafted chapel.

The Churchill Barriers are simply known as first, second, third and fourth. It was incredibly stormy when I went for my trial dive with Kraken Dive Company at the third. Nestled against the causeway, 4m down, I was felt a million miles from the storm overhead. It was the quietest and most peaceful underwater experience.  

I am hooked and have made a mental note to book my open water dive certificate early next year.  

The steps from the pier just outside my house as taken by Alison Moore and available at http://www.whereselkiesswim.com

Cake & Wild Horses

Cakes by Cafe Lolz

No birthday should be without cake. Not only did I get to eat an awful lot of cake for work, I also met up with a bunch of my closest girlfriends for a fabulous takeaway high tea from Café Lolz in Kirkwall (responsible for many a pound gained and smile raised!). 

Sadly, Scotland has had to return to tighter restrictions, so I feel even more grateful for the time spent talking face to face. Friends are everything. 

My best friends include my dog and two horses. Orkney is small in one sense, but incredible deep. Deep history, complex coastline, many islands. I am forever rediscovering it. And if there is a best way to see Orkney, oh horseback is it!

I took my horse Barney (full title and show name Babylon Buccaneer) the incredibly handsome and charming Welsh section D gelding of dreams, and we travelled to the far north of the Mainland. With my friend Donna as a guide, and I discovered roads and tracks I didn’t know existed. 

We finished our outing by galloping on the beach below the extraordinary 5000 year old Neolithic village of SkaraBrae, at Bay of Skaill. This site has been such a source of creative inspiration, it was a such a thrill to be let loose on it with a happy horse.

This good, kind, inspiring world

I set out to find what I could do in September. I learned I can do far more than I imagined or dreamed. I also learned that sometimes we have to meet our vulnerabilities head on to break through to a better place.

I hope I continue to dive (metaphorically) into these special islands, connect more deeply with the talent and history that lives here, and find moments of insight even as we are being kept separated. 

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