Meditation app: Sway

Relying on slow, continuous motion, Sway is an interactive meditation app that lets you find your own, most effective way to practice mindfulness in any given situation.

The app consists of six unique levels, with each level teaching you more about the technique that helps you to be more mindful – and these techniques are based on the ancient learnings of Tai Chi and mindfulness. This way of meditating is most effective in active and noisy environments.

Whether you’re lying in bed, sitting at work, waiting for the train or taking a walk, simply moving your phone in your hand or gently swaying your body while using Sway helps you find focus in your everyday life.

  • Find out more about the app on their website.
  • Curious about mindfulness and meditation? We explain more in this and this blogpost.

Environmental art

Artist Virginia Casey creates works of art using trash she finds on the beach. That way she creates beautiful things while also taking care of the environment.

“I love finding the beauty in everything, especially in things that people don’t normally see as attractive,” Virginia says. The project started out as a hobby in 2017, when Virginia started collecting pieces of trash that were left behind on her local beach in Perth, Australia. A lot of Virginia’s artworks are made from plastic, such as the many sunglasses that she finds, and she also creates pieces she calls ‘ropeys’, which are made from different pieces of rope she has collected off the beaches. If there’s still some seaweed or shells attached, she leaves them like that. “I don’t cut or color the plastic, and I love the ocean’s patina that shows the journey the materials have been through.”

Virginia says the most beautiful thing about her art is that she recycles the rope and plastic in a creative way, and that it serves as a great reminder of how much ocean rubbish is found even on so-called ‘clean’ beaches like those in Perth. Nowadays, Virginia mostly uses the art pieces to educate children in schools about the pollution on beaches and in the ocean. “I haven’t been selling the art as it was important for me to have enough to take to schools, but I will be in the future as I’m now running out of wall space in my home and office.”

Going forward, Virginia hopes to expand on the project and take it to the next level. “I would like to assist countries that have an ocean pollution problem, to help them make an industry for their plastic to be sent to Australia so we can create more art.”

 

  • Curious about Virginia and her work? Visit her Instagram page for more information.

Environmental art

 

Book tip: Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton whisks you away on a mind-boggling journey to over 700 of the strangest, most curious places in the world. Celebrating the weird, the unexpected, the overlooked, the hidden and the mysterious, the book’s pages are filled with fascinating portrayals, imagery and more, making it just as appealing to the armchair tourist as to the die-hard traveler looking for their next adventure. (Workman)

  • More tips and insights about books can be found here.

Text Julia Gorodecky Photography Unsplash.com/Harry Brewer

Atlas Obscura

How to be less distracted

We can teach ourselves to be less distracted by the things that don’t really matter. Professor of Neuropsychology Margriet Sitskoorn talks about how.

You have written that attention is one of the most important skills we need in this time…
“It is often said that what you give attention to grows in importance. And that is so true. Attention is very important for what you perceive and therefore what you feel, think and develop. That’s because it directs the plasticity of your brain: attention gives, as it were, a signal to your brain that says, ‘This is important, I need to do something with this’. As a result, the brain commits itself to doing something with what you have focused on.

Being able to direct your attention where you want it is a tremendously important skill in this age, where you encounter hundreds of thousands of things every day that you could theoretically respond to. If you can consciously focus your attention on something and then hold, divide or let go of that attention at will, you will be distracted by the stimuli from your environment or from yourself less often. You will also have less trouble completing tasks, and won’t spend much time on things or thoughts that aren’t useful anymore.”

You have become a great supporter of attention training.
“I must admit, I was a non-believer at first. But scientific research has shown how beneficial attention training, such as meditation or mindfulness, is for the brain. It’s logical: If you can’t regulate your own attention you can’t regulate your life. You go into town without needing anything, and suddenly you’re hungry for chicken because of that nice smell wafting out of the restaurant kitchen, and you want new shoes because you see them in the shop window. You end up wanting all kinds of things. By training your attention, you are empowering yourself to not react to everything—not to each and every shiny thing in the outside world, and sometimes also not to your own thoughts and emotions. So that you can determine for yourself what is important and what isn’t.”

 

Book tip: Forgotten Women

Through her illustrated Forgotten Women book series, Zing Tsjeng reveals and celebrates the amazing ‘herstories’ of influential women throughout history who have been overlooked or forgotten. From leaders and scientists to artists and writers, these women refused to accept the hand they were dealt and, as a result, shaped and changed the course of our futures, without acknowledgement. Until now that is. . . .

  • More information about the books can be found here.
  • Look here for other tips and insights about books.

Text Julia Gorodecky

Forgotten women

Housesitting with Bente (1)

Spending time in a different city or country, living in a different homefor free: housesitting sounds like a lot of fun. But what is it really like? And what is it like when you do it completely on your own? Flow’s Bente finds out for herself when she house-sits in England.

Where is the house for heaven’s sake? Am I walking in the right direction? And, come to think of it, where on Earth is everyone? It’s a Saturday afternoon after all—around 3 p.m. —and there’s nobody on the streets of this quiet English village. I must look a charming picture what with the 10-kilos of luggage I’m hauling around on my back and front.

As I search for the house, I wonder what I was thinking when I signed up for this, and if I can actually do it. Which of course is completely pointless, as there’s no going back now. And so I walk on, looking for my very first house-sitting ‘assignment’, here in the English countryside.

It wasn’t exactly my intention to walk along these English streets under two rucksacks. I didn’t even know it was possible to house-sit in a country that was unfamiliar to me. Until, that is, I came across trustedhousesitters.com, a website that brings together homeowners and sitters from all around the world. The homeowners get someone who will look after their home while they go away; the sitter gets a free stay.

Without giving it a second thought, I created an account and paid the registration fee. But there was more: I needed to provide references from family and friends, had to describe my experience with pets—and whether I also wanted to indicate there and then which countries I would like to go to.

The prints of Justyna Medoń

In every Flow, three creative people tell about their work and what inspires them. In Issue 27, surface pattern designer and printmaker Justyna Medoń talks a bit more about how she makes her patterns and prints.

Can you tell us about your work? 


“I studied Surface Design at University of the Arts London in the UK, and found my passion for printmaking, wallpapers and textiles. After graduating, I moved to 
my native Poland for a few years and 
co-founded Red Poppy studio in Warsaw. In 2015, my wife Monika and I moved to Bristol, UK, and we founded Addicted to Patterns. I design one collection each year, which includes new patterns and color variations for existing designs. I’m currently preparing our new wall hangings collection and am getting ready for 
some exhibitions.”

What inspires you?

“I’m inspired by nature, art history, geometry and science. And also the accidental marks created in the printmaking process.”

What is your specialty?

“The combination of organic and geometric motifs. Whenever I think about patterns, 
I try to merge them together. I love printing on a large scale, which is why wall hangings are one of my favorite surfaces to cover. They give you space to work with a repeating pattern or allow you to drift and create large-scale illustrative murals.”

  • Read more about Justina and the other interviewees in Issue 27.
  • Want to know more about Justina’s work? Visit her website.

Text Jeannette Jonker Photography Justyna Medoń

 

 

How to start a bookblog?

Reading about books: it’s almost as wonderful as reading books themselves. Flow’s Quirine explains why she loves book blogs so much—and even writes one herself.

There are only a few people in my life who love to read, so I’m rarely able to talk about the books I’m currently reading. Which is why I really like book blogs so much: it’s like you’re chatting to a friend about everything you want to read or have read. Because the good thing about books is that everyone interprets the stories differently: what I might think is great, someone else might not—and vice versa.

That’s why I always like to read some reviews after I have finished a book. Do others share my opinion or do they have a completely different view? Have they perhaps seen things in the story that I myself have overlooked or missed? What’s more, book blogs are very useful when it comes to discovering new favorites: other readers often come across books that you might not cross paths with. And, even better, they have also already ‘inspected’ the book for you, so you can easily judge if it is something for you.

An online reading diary

After reading book blogs for years, I decided to start one myself. By having my own book blog, I could combine my two biggest hobbies: reading and writing (the latter of which I wanted to improve a bit more). I also found it a shame that there weren’t that many Dutch-speaking bloggers who wrote about my favorite genre: literary fiction.

After finishing a book, I like to write down what I thought of it. It’s a nice way to organize my opinions and to look back at later: kind of like a reading diary. But I do find it difficult to stick to: after I have finished reading a book, I want to move on to the next. And with work and my studies also in the mix, writing a book review tends to get pushed down the list and after a while, they add up. But I suppose that, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter: I’m writing these reviews on my book blog mainly for myself and the fact that someone else will read it and hopefully benefit from it is an added bonus.

Bookblogs

Tips & ideas

If you’d like to start writing a book blog, here are a few tips I found useful:

  • Before you start, think carefully about which genres you find most interesting and state them on your blog. It provides clarity for visitors, and enables other enthusiasts of your chosen genre(s) to find your blog easier.
  • Do not start a blog in the hope of receiving all kinds of free books, especially in your first week. I recommend posting regular reviews for half a year before contacting a publisher. And even then, do so in moderation: only request review copies of books that really interest you.
  • Have a page with an overview of all the reviews that you have written. Put this list in alphabetical order of author or title. This means that visitors who are looking for a specific book can find the right review quickly and easily.
  • Take your own photos to accompany your reviews (although that is more difficult with an e-book of course). A photo you took yourself is always more personal than a picture of the cover you found on Google.
  • Link your blog to social media: this makes it easier for people to follow you and stay up-to-date with all your latest reviews.
  • And finally: carefully check everything you post. Naturally, this applies to every type of blog, but a review full of spelling and grammatical errors is really unpleasant to read.

    *In another blog, Quirine talks about Bookstagram, and gives a number of tips on how to get the most beautiful picture of your books.

Text and photography Quirine Brouwer (@shadowsonthewall)

Bookblogs

Jamie Oliver about his childhood

He’s a star chef, restaurant owner and bestselling author, but Jamie Oliver has faced his share of setbacks. He tells us more about his childhood.

“I grew up a real country boy in Clavering, in the county of Essex, about 18 miles from Cambridge. By age five, I was already helping out in my parents’ pub The Cricketers, washing glasses and chopping veg for £1 an hour. I was really good with the knife even back then, and to be honest, I cooked up some really good grub, even as a kid. But my parents taught me something else really important: a great work ethic and 
how to treat others with respect and friendliness, and how to stay polite even when you’re stressed and your feet are killing you. I sometimes wish my own kids could help their grandparents out now and again, and learn all that. Back then I soon understood: if you want to get anywhere, you have to roll up your sleeves and get on with it.

My parents were working class; I have no idea why all these people 
I met later with my food show The Naked Chef on TV thought I was some privileged rich kid who went 
to a private school. Actually I was a chubby, thick kid who was so bad at school I needed extra lessons for the simplest things.

 

New guest pinner: Karolina Zolubak

Crafter and designer Jodi Levine showed us on Pinterest what inspires her for the month of November. Thank you, Jodi! This month illustrator Karolina Zolubak takes over.

Karolina uses Pinterest mostly as a digital moodboard. “I’ve always made moodboards, either to visualize my life goals or to visualize the direction I want my art to go. Finding the right inspiring pictures to put on my moodboard in books and magazines before the time of Pinterest was hard, so I absolutely love this platform.”

She collects a variety of pins: “For my work I have brand moodboards, containing color palettes or fonts I love but also interior design and travel pictures that emanate the vibe and mood I want my personal brand to show.”

Karolina also has a clear vision for what she wants to show as a guest pinner for the Flow Pinterest. “On my board for Friends of Flow you’ll find a wild mix of art, illustrations, design, photography, interior design and travel inspiration – all in my style and vibe though. I love to play with colors and color palettes in a modern and rather minimalistic chic style. You’ll definitely see many kinds of turquoise, which is my absolute favorite color.”

  • See all the favorite images of Karolina on Pinterest here.
  • You can still admire Jodi’s pins and those of our previous guest pinners on our Pinterest-page.
  • Want to see more of Karolina Zolubak and her work? Go to her website or Instagram.

The colorful creations of Jodi Levine

Jodi Levine (47) has been making things as long as she can remember, and eventually managed to turn crafting into her profession. On her blog Supermakeit.com, she gives tips on how to use accessible supermarket materials to make things.

Have you always been a crafter?

Yes, for as long as I can remember I was making things and collecting all sorts of materials. I was totally obsessed with my mom’s vintage Betty Crocker cookbooks with all the food-shaped-like-things. My parents encouraged my interests, sending me to art classes and taking me to lots of museums. I studied painting at Rhode Island School of Design and loved trying everything I could while there, like metalsmithing, woodworking and printmaking.

How did crafting became your profession?

After my studies, I became a craft editor for Martha Stewart Living magazine. It was such an amazing adventure and I learned so much. I eventually became the editorial director of Martha Stewart Kids and Martha Stewart Baby. After having my two boys and going part-time, I published my first craft book Candy Aisle Crafts, with my friend and photographer Amy Gropp Forbes, and then Paper Goods Projects. And my blog is all about projects using accessible supermarket materials.

  • Read more about Jodi and her work in Issue 27.
  • Jodi was also our guest pinner for the month of November. You can see what inspires her on our Pinterest page.

 

Text Jeannette Jonker

All about colors

In studying the story behind colors, journalist Caroline Buijs discovered that knowing more about color can enrich your world and encourage you to pay more attention to everything around you.

What is color, actually? Apart from being a natural phenomenon (see box below), colors are also connected to culture. You can, for example, divide color into two categories: warm and cool. We classify red and yellow as warm, and green and blue are cool. This classification hasn’t even been around that long, and only dates back to the 18th century. There are actually signs that blue was viewed as being the warmest of all colors during the Middle Ages.

 

The world of Bookstagram

Bookstagrammers go beyond just reading books; they also take beautiful photos of them and share them on Instagram. Flow’s Quirine is one such Bookstagrammer, and here she tells us more about it…

If you like reading, revel in beautiful book covers and like to make things, you’ll soon come across Bookstagram. I started my own Bookstagram account last year and really enjoy it: it feels a bit like your own online bookcase. But even more beautiful.

As the saying goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover, but on Bookstagram, everyone secretly does exactly that. It’s a whole world in which thousands of people take, and share, the most beautiful photos of their books. And sometimes there are short reviews or recommendations and tips in among all the pretty pictures, so your ‘to read’ wish list will probably double as you scroll through.

Bookstagram

Getting started

Fancy the thought of taking photos of your books? Fortunately, you don’t have to be a professional photographer to do so: a beautiful book cover and a bit of creativity are pretty much all you need. Here are a few tips:

  • Alternate in composition. It is, of course, easiest to lay the book down flat and take a photo from above. But if you do this with every book, it quickly becomes a bit boring. Experiment with the way you photograph.
  • Use a plain background. If there is too much underneath and behind the book, the cover itself will become overshadowed. With an uncluttered, clean background the book jumps out at you even more.
  • Use nice extras in the photo (the so-called props). A cup of tea or coffee is very popular with Bookstagram, but you can also place food, flowers, candles and other nice objects next to your book to make the image a bit more interesting.
  • Choose your own style. There are so many Bookstagrammers, so it’s nice to develop your own style and stand out from the crowd a bit. And choose something that suits you: is it a minimalist white style? Or cheerful photos full of colors? Or perhaps you prefer to go darker for a more vintage feel?
  • You can inject your chosen style into the photo even more in the editing process. A few apps that I always like to use:
    • Facetune allows you to whiten the background of your photo with the ‘whiten’ tool. Photos taken in artificial light have a yellowish glow and you can solve this issue in this way.
    • With the Huji Cam app, photos taken with your smartphone look as if they were taken using an old-fashioned Polaroid camera.
    • Aviary and Snapseed (in the App Store and Google Play) are good apps for general editing: lighting, contrast, warmth and so on. What’s more—and super handy—Snapseed has a brush that you can use if you want to only edit specific parts of your photo.
    • Lastly, I (like many others) use VSCO for the filters. Even in the free version, there’s a lot to choose from and you can add nice effects, such as the old-fashioned ‘grainy’ one that I like to use on my photos.
  • One final tip: bookcase pictures! I always love these.

Bookstagram

Get inspired

Want to see more Bookstagrammers? These are some of my favorites.

  1. @herpickings

Not only does Hayanna Kim take beautiful photos, she also talks about lesser-known books. Her Insta Stories, in which she shares extracts, pages and quotes from the books she reads, are also super nice.

  1. @coffeeandbooks

An ode to the classic combination: a cup of coffee and a good book. A real treat for the eyes.

  1. @alicelippart

Alice always knows the most beautiful books to find, ones that you (and your bookcase) would happily have just for the covers themselves.

  1. @polly.florence

And finally, Polly. Her account always leaves me with a warm glow; it makes me feel like going home, lighting candles and spending the rest of the day under a blanket on the couch with a book.

Text and photography Quirine Brouwer (@shadowsonthewall)

Music to work to

Looking for tunes to play while working – something calm that takes you away from the hustle and bustle without being a distraction itself? Here are some of our top tips:

  • Ludovico Einaudi (e.g. Islands – Essential Einaudi album)
  • Philip Glass (e.g. Piano Works and The Hours)
  • Yann Tiersen (e.g. Amélie soundtrack)
  • Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook
  • ‘Requieum’ by Gabriel Fauré
  • Joep Beving (piano music)
  • Wim Mertens (piano music)
  • Erik Satie
  • Vitamin String Quartet

Text Ellen Nij Bijvank Photography Unsplash.com/Kevin McCutcheon

Draw Tip Tuesday #5: share your work

At Flow we love to draw. It helps to clear your mind, especially if you’re not too focused on the end result. But sometimes it’s hard to just get started. Which is why we’ve got together with Sketchbook Skool to share a few videos that we hope will inspire you. In the fifth video of this Draw Tip Tuesday mini series: share your work.

Drawing is a great activity to do alone, because you can completely focus on what you’re doing. But it’s just as fun to do it together with others, to inspire and help each other. That’s why it’s so great we can share everything online. If you’ve made a few drawings yourself, you might also be thinking of sharing them. In the video below illustrator Koosje Koene of Sketchbook Skool explains how you can photograph your creations in the best way when you’re ready to show them to the world.

  • Draw Tip Tuesday is a free weekly online video series by Sketchbook Skool co-founder, Koosje Koene. Subscribe to see new tips and tricks each week here.
  • Download Sketchbook Skool’s e-book, The 10-Minute Artist: How to Start Making Art Now?, for free via this link.

Why accepting help makes us happier

Many of us find offering help far easier than accepting it from others, but the latter can yield so many benefits, as journalist Catelijne Elzes discovered.

When my washing machine broke, 
I first considered going out to find a laundromat, but decided to call my neighbor instead. This was hard for me because I don’t really like asking for favors. But in this case I was in a hurry, and needed my workout clothes fast, so I decided to risk it. “Of course! You’re welcome to use my machine,” she said.

I went to her house and we had a nice chat about where those little holes in our T-shirts come from and 
90 minutes later, she was at my door with my red laundry basket, filled with clean clothes. In the course of the following week, I also did a wash at my downstairs neighbor’s place. I forgot what a funny guy he is and it turns out he works at home just as often as I do—good to know. And I did the last load of laundry at my brother-in-law’s who lives two blocks away from me. We drank tea while we waited for the wash to finish. We talked about his battle against the insurmountable pile of laundry he’s had since he became a single father. We had a nice time.

 

The comeback of lemonades

Neither achingly sweet nor alarmingly green, the lemonades of today have exciting new flavors and are made from pure, natural ingredients.

When we were children and went to visit our Grandma, two glasses were always standing ready on the granite kitchen counter for my brother and me. Usually it was the classic Dutch lemonade known as Ranja: vividly orange in color and with a sickly-sweet flavor. Sometimes she bought grenadine. And when she bought the green stuff, we were really happy. The flavor didn’t matter—it was that crazy green hue that we just totally loved.  We never could have dreamed back then that syrup drinks would be making a big comeback 40 years 
later. Or that cool tattooed hipsters would be the ones putting this old-fashioned children’s drink back on 
the map.

Its resurgence is strong. First the syrups, lemonades and alternative soft drinks started appearing on food trucks and at music festivals, and now dozens of syrups and ready-made lemonades are available 
in local supermarkets. Known by many different names—lemonade, syrup, cordial or squash—they are being sold in small or big bottles, in pretty shapes and with beautiful labels. And now that just about every department store and supermarket has a house-brand syrup or lemonade (complete with swingtop bottle and retro label) in its range, it’s pretty clear that the trend has transcended the hipster hype.

Three illustrators on drawing plants

There are so many things to notice when you are drawing plants—not only the colors and the shapes, but also the textures, the pot holding the plant and so on. We asked three illustrators to draw their favorite plant and give one tip on how to best draw your own.

1. Jennifer Orkin Lewis: Ficus lyrata

“Look carefully at the shape of the leaves and the way they overlap.”

@augustwren
Augustwren.com

2. Anne Bentley: Yucca

“I pay special attention 
to the negative space 
when drawing plants, and sometimes exaggerate it 
to make the composition more interesting.”

@annembentley
Annembentley.com

3. Kate Pugsley: 
Ficus elastica

“I like to paint plants without any planning beforehand. Painting several quick watercolor or gouache sketches on a page usually results in at least one or two that look fresh, interesting and spontaneous.”

@katepugsley
Katepugsley.com

*Six more illustrators share their favorite plant and drawing tip in Issue 27.

drawing plants

 

Anticipatory nostalgia

‘Anticipatory nostalgia’—that sense of sadness we feel about having to leave a beautiful place while we’re still there or stop doing something wonderful before it actually ends. Journalist Hedwig Wiebes learns more about it.

There I was, at a deserted beach so vast that it seems endless, surrounded by rocky cliffs. As I descended 
the wooden stairs and looked around, I realized I was the only one there. Me and my two dogs, that is. Undoubtedly, this beach is jam-packed with colorful parasols and beach towels in the summer, and you’d have to squint to see the ocean through crowds of people slathered in suntan oil. But it was winter, and 
we had this Portuguese kingdom all to ourselves.

The dogs ran ahead in leaps and bounds as dogs 
do on beaches, and I looked at the happily meandering trail of paw prints that they left behind. ‘I am such a lucky person,’ I thought. I am currently leading a traveling life, living in a camper van, which I can combine well with my work as a writer. Thanks to this way of living, I end up in the most fabulous places at the most unexpected moments.

And then I thought: ‘I have to really enjoy this a little bit more than usual as we leave tomorrow’. I’d almost forgotten about that. In fact, we were leaving this area, with its gorgeous rugged beaches, altogether. Boom, my happy feeling evaporated, and gave way to a premature sense of loss for this place that I love so much. Feeling kind of sad, I walked on—preoccupied with the imminent departure.