20+ Irish Women Reveal Their Lockdown Lifelines

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Short, dark days and cold nights – November can be bleak in normal circumstances, let alone a pandemic. But it is possible to find joy in gloomy times, as these Irish women reveal. Hopefully their tips to relieve seasonal sadness will help you cope with lockdown 2.0 …

Keira Kennedy, co-founder and designer, KDK

Lockdown forced my sister, Dairine, and I to slow down our habit of being busy. Racing from one job to the next had prevented us from reflecting and being creative. I started to go through old photographs from our travels over the years, recovering memories buried in drawers and on memory keys. Framing them and making a gallery wall has been a really satisfying project, and has given us inspiration for our new collection; www.kdk.ie.

Nicola Connolly, founder Nunaïa Natural Skin Care

Running a business like Nunaïa, I’m often in a “doing” mode, so when lockdown was announced I decided to bring more left-brain creativity and fun into the darker evenings. I’ve been researching and learning how to make natural plant dyes with what is growing outside my door here on the banks of Lough Derg. I’m currently experimenting with hawthorn berries, alder seeds and yew. All sacred Irish plants that allow me stay connected to nature and feel a little bit more balanced; www.nunaia.com.

Lou Brennan, fashion designer

The discovery and reading of Lady Mayo’s Garden: The Diary of a Lost 19th Century Landscape by Caroline Clifton-Mogg and Kildare Burke-Borrowes gave me so many ideas. I found the simplicity of how Lady Mayo sketched flowers from her garden and the accompanying hand written notes very touching. I was reminded how lovely it is to see journals, diaries and personal letters with the addition in a corner or at the top of a page of a simple watercolour. Many took out their watercolours this summer and remembered what a lovely pastime it was. It’s something I will continue this winter. All you need is a pad of A4 water colour paper and a tin of watercolours. I recommend starting with a tin of sketching pencils and the Inktense Paint Pan Travel Set by Derwent and a selection of paintbrushes. For me, it’s the perfect time to sketch a winter flower such as a Hellebore, or a Christmas Rose, and make some personalised cards; www.loubrennan.com.

Imen McDonnell, author, cook, photographer and stylist

I’m gleefully working on a great pumpkin scone recipe at the moment. Otherwise, I love the winter local ladies side saddle hunt or just the meets in the countryside, foraging with my son, and making my own Hedgerow cocktails. Other essentials are the Simply Glenstal candles and the diaries handmade by monks in their book bindery. I also recommend the La Bougie Sea Salt hand sanitiser – it is just gorgeous and makes the whole room smell fresh and divine; www.imenmcdonnell.com.

Laura Chambers, cashmere designer

I have embraced hand embroidery. I hadn’t done any embroidery since my college days but over the past month I have started again and now I will gladly sit down after a day’s work and sketch out a design, while listening to music, and then start embroidering. I love the process. As a result of this new-found love of embroidery, we now personalise our cashmere scarves or baby blankets on request. It’s made me realise how much I love using my hands and how I would love to introduce this skill into future collections; www.laura-chambers.com.

Susannagh Grogan, fashion designer

I need a sea fix and have been swimming all year – it shifts any mood and helps me sleep better. I usually (skiff) row with Dalkey Rowing Club – last year I was part of a women’s crew which rowed across the Irish Sea from Arklow to Wales, in aid of St Vincent’s Cancer Care unit. We could row a bit when restrictions lifted, but not anymore. Now I walk by the sea, usually at 7.30am with my mini daschund Messi; it’s a time to listen to podcasts and zone out completely. I’ve also completed a free online course, The Science of Well-Being [on www.coursera.org] which only took a couple of hours a week and really helped lift my mood and keep me on track. As for work, having been awarded a grant, I’ve been prioritising my website, which keeps me busy.; www.susannaghgrogan.com.

Rosita Sweetman, writer

Lockdown 1 saw me spoilt: fab company, delicious food, insanely interesting movies. My film-making son and his gorgeous film-making fiancé locked down with me. With the film business down the pan they set up an Insta page – The Isolation Bakers – cooking and filming food to die for. Nightly feasts, analysing politics until there was nothing left to shred, and watching movies from the greats – for a writer prone to solitary confinement, it was heaven. There was also lots and lots of writing, an entire new book in fact. On weekends my darling pregnant daughter and her man visited. We were ridiculously careful. Chairs outside in the lane, us inside in the cottage. Nothing physically shared, not even apple juice. Nothing shared but whole hearts, whole minds. I needed to hug my daughter so much each time they left I thought I might faint. Oh yes, amidst the jollies there were moments of near madness. This time round Aya, my daughter’s beautiful little daughter, has arrived safely. Watching her grow into consciousness is breath-taking. Watching my daughter being a Mum, her man being a Dad, is the most astonishing miracle. I’m keeping a weather eye on my new book Feminism Backwards and yes I’m off again on a new one. But I keep busy, busy; I think it’s the only way; www.rositasweetman.com.

Alix Mulholland, founder of FieldDay

I live in the countryside, and I love getting out and walking the fields and country roads around me. Call me a weirdo, but being in a field calms me. Nature is a balm for me, especially after a long day staring at a screen or counting stock in the warehouse. Over lockdown, I’ve loved watching the transition from spring to summer and now autumn in all its glory. I often bring a flask of coffee and find a wee spot to sit and admire it all. It does my soul good and helps to burn off some of the lockdown treats and wine too! www.fielddayireland.co.uk

Helen James, fashion designer

I’ve always kept a journal but find during lockdown this ritual is more important than ever – there’s something about offloading your thoughts onto the page which has a calming effect especially when human contact is so greatly reduced. I also get a good walk in every day, within my 5k of course, but getting outside in daylight is crucial for my head. Another therapy for me is baking, it always has been. I’m baking old favourites and thumbing through my extensive cookbook collection (I think it’s an addiction) to try some new recipes; www.dunnesstores.com.

Maura Culbert, interior designer

Pre-lockdown life consisted of appointment-filled days, multiple colour consultations and an endless influx of phone calls. Quarantine presented me with the unimaginable gift of silence. I didn’t plan on returning to painting. I don’t know if it was mainly because of the half-finished piece at the back of my sofa, or possibly the thought knocking around in the back of my mind, but before I knew it, my apartment had become my studio. Since returning to painting (well over a decade after completing my degree in fine art), I’ve finished many personal and commissioned pieces, and have joined The Doorway Gallery on South Frederick Street. This has taught me to see the positive in any difficult situation; www.mauraculbert.com.

Aveline O’ Sullivan, founder of Bloom in a Box

I used to journal every morning but fell off the horse nearly two months ago, and I have really felt the effects. I was everywhere but in the moment – if I wasn’t working non-stop, I was thinking of work. Recently I gave myself permission to sit and watch daytime TV for one full day one Saturday. I felt like a kid and ate all my meals on the couch in my pyjamas. I have promised myself to do this more often. The greatest gift I can give myself in these times is to keep it simple. Every Sunday until the end of the year, I will be putting my phone away and out of reach. I have also committed to finally collating some images on the vision board I bought 18 months ago – my aim is to complete this by the end of Phase 5; www.bloominabox.com.

Lorraine Keane, founder of Fashion Relief events for Oxfam Ireland

I recommend doing a wardrobe clear out. Decluttering feels so good but if you donate your unwanted clothes and accessories to a charity you will feel even better. You will be raising vital funds for people who are struggling to survive in the world’s poorest countries – even before Covid-19, and you will be diverting these unwanted textiles from landfill – saving people and the planet. If this crazy pandemic has taught us anything it is to take care of our little planet and each other. Declutter and donate is my lockdown mantra; www.fashionrelief.ie.

Lucy Doyle, artist

I knew this lockdown was coming so I ordered a massive 6 x 6 foot canvas. My life is painting and something I do everyday. I have been looking to Botticelli’s Primavera for inspiration and my new composition is of the four seasons. Autumn is such a good time to attempt such a challenge, no real frosts to kill off the flowers that are still blooming, especially the dahlias. Also, as the day length is similar to spring, then some flowers like primulas and aubrieta bloom again. I always like to paint as many things as I can from life; it gives the finished painting more content and vitality. I am half way through the composition, sharing my progress on Instagram for anyone who might be interested. This second lockdown also finds me engrossed with all things seasonal, when the world seems upside down the cycles of the moon, tides and day length are strong grounded elements that help me stabilise and enable me to keep faith in the wonderful aspects of being alive; www.lucydoyle.com.

Joanne Hynes, fashion designer

While locked down and questioning everything, I made a very conscious decision to be really instinctual, led by a desire to draw and create. It felt like going right back to my early college days with regard to the design process and sketchbook development but fuelled by a primal desire to leave something meaningful behind. It felt like a hyper-creative, locked down hibernation period, where I literally drew on everything around me. I drew onto white vases, onto lampshades, duvet covers, toilet seats (new ones of course!) and traditional things such as my sketchbooks that were waiting to be picked up. I am so grateful that this period has inspired a lot of new work and that it created some kind of meaningful connection, albeit in a very, very small way; www.dunnestores.com.

Leonie Cornelius, landscape designer

I love this time of the year for dreaming up new colour schemes for the garden. This year I’m really excited about filling some containers with lots of bulbs and now is still a great time to plant them. I love containers exploding with jewel coloured tulips and collections of small windowsill pots filled with bluebells and Iris. I’m planting lots of pots of tulips and I love layering pinks and purples and blacks together – if you plant them in layers in the pot they grow at different heights making for a spectacularly full display; www.leoniecornelius.com.

Nikki Mullin, Group People Director, Primeline Group

I love cooking and each week I’ve picked a theme for the following weekend. I spend the week perusing recipe books and deciding what delights I will cook for the “feast”. I double up recipes so that I can freeze them which saves cooking during the week. As an example, my favourite has been a Lebanese/Syrian week. I made several types of hummus, babaganoush, fattoush salad, and Ottolenghi’s no-meat courgette and chickpea meatballs with spicy tomato sauce. Next weekend I’m tackling Pakistani food! www.primeline.ie

Paula Rowan, glove designer

November has always been an important and positive time for me as it’s the time of year when I complete my new glove collection and so can relax after the final samples are approved. When the clocks go back and the days get shorter, I find myself able to unwind before the hectic Christmas period kicks in – wrapping up in luxurious winter cashmeres and, of course, leather. I am lucky enough to live by the sea, there’s nothing nicer than a walk in the crisp morning air, absorbing the view and the richness of winter. As the nights close in earlier I cook rich dishes and experiment with new recipes, snuggling up by the fire, reading a good book and sipping on the odd Irish whiskey! I’ve found this is a good time to reflect on all of the positive things from the year and to look forward to new projects for the year ahead; www.paularowan.com.

 

Isobel Henihan, artist

This lockdown, I’ve made the conscious habit of doing more portraits of my kids, now they are getting to a stage where they can sit still for longer. It’s a lovely way to focus on them, notice the little changes gradually happening in them and this also creates a chance to have some quiet time together; www.isobelhenihan.com.

Jennifer Walsh, founder of Finished.ie

I’ve been experimenting with colour and during this lockdown I’ve found it to be the perfect time to use all those little paint sample pots gathering dust. I’m loving Farrow & Ball’s Treron right now, and all the great advice we can get from our local hardware and paint shops, such as Stillorgan Decor Centre. I’ve also experimented with fabric from The Curtains and Fabrics Studio. If nothing else, this strange amount of time indoors has helped get our home spaces finished! www.finished.ie

Nicki Hoyne, handbag designer

During the first lockdown I created my new business, Nicki Hoyne Collection, and turned my awful garden into a little oasis. I filled it with weird and wonderful plants: I currently have a pumpkin ripening. For lockdown 2.0, I am working on something big for the 2021 collection. I always said when I retire, I want to become an eccentric, abstract artist. I realised why wait? I have all the gear and it’s been so much fun to just play around with paints. I never made time for hobbies before, so it has definitely been a positive of 2020; www.nickihoyne.com.

Sinead Bailey Kelly co-founder of Home, earth-conscious lifestyle products

Surviving winter lockdown we [fellow co-founders Deirdre Young, Eileen Denham] are focusing all of our energy on self-care practices that nourish and relax. We’re focusing on reducing our screen time and making homemade face masks, herbal bath salts, and nourishing body oils. I’ve found practising gratitude in the morning and evening reinforces positivity – there is still much to be grateful for. Lighting a candle and practising some restorative yoga, with deep breathing exercises also calms the body and mind. These are easy things to incorporate into daily rituals, but so vital for physical, mental and emotional wellbeing this winter; www.athome.style.

Susan Moylett, owner Susan Hunter lingerie

Like most people, I have a new barometer of what makes me cheerful and happy. The urban landscape of my walk to town every day from my home in Rathmines makes me happy as it gives me a sense of freedom, time to think and work through things in my head. Some days I get lost in an audio book – check out borrowbox.com from Dublin City Libraries – or the radio. Other days I leave off my headphones and take in nature and people around me. Being a visual person, the graffiti art along the canal is another win. While I miss socialising, I love being at home too and am glued to Netflix on my iPad. I am definitely a visual learner and I recommend Renovating an Abandoned Tiny House on YouTube. I am on episode 19. Having been an interior designer in another life, I am learning a lot, even if I never renovate an abandoned tiny house myself! www.susanhunter.ie

Rebecca Roe, creative director, Hedgeroe Home

My new winter lockdown obsession is pickling! I had been wondering how to use my saved glass jam and Kilner jars and homegrown vegetables and then discovered an easy Daylesford recipe on its website. The recipe only takes about 20 minutes and can be used with any number of vegetables. I hope to get good enough to include them as gifts for Christmas, though I need more practice; www.hedgeroe.com.

Ann Chapman, goldsmith and owner, Stonechat Jewellers

Creativity has been especially wonderful in recent months – I love seeing sketches of jewellery come to life at our workbenches. Like so many others, I have been busy baking with my little ones, and enjoying the results. We also love sitting down together for an afternoon of arts and crafts – more often than not the kids move on to something else while I get totally engrossed in making painted pasta jewellery! www.stonechatjewellers.ie

Dr Altona Myers, aesthetician and owner, Facial Rejuve

I have been spending my time remodelling our study into a new nursery for baby number two. While interior design is not my strongpoint, my creative mind has been activated and I can certainly say I’m enjoying myself. YouTube and Pinterest have been an amazing source of information for all things DIY. I felt a lot of guilt during my first pregnancy for not having enough time to prepare. Now I am taking time to enjoy the little pleasures that life is giving me right now; www.facialrejuve.ie.

Natasha Rocca Divine, Interior designer

To keep cheerful this winter, I will be maximising the light sources and layering the light in various rooms in my house with candles, lamps and reflective surfaces such as mirrored trays and photo frames. I love burning beautiful, nostalgic scents at this time of year, both scented candles and incense. I make sure rooms are cosy by adding textures and layers with good quality throws and cushions to beds and sofas. I recommend investing in beautiful accent lamps with colourful bases or lampshades to perk up a room and add a sense of calm, using various lightbulb colours or wattages for extra warmth; www.theinteriorsnrd.com.

Evelyn Moynihan, Brand & Commercial Director, Kilkenny Design

One of my favourite pastimes during this lockdown has been making calls to people I haven’t caught up with in a while; it’s a great time to check in, and let others know you are thinking of them. Online shopping has been another addiction, and for the first year ever, I have kicked off my Christmas shopping early. I have made a conscious effort to support local, and have been checking out some amazing local Irish sites; a lot of which I have discovered through the champion green directory.

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