Mindfulness playlist to zen out to

In 2019, we’re taking self care seriously at The Collective. That’s why we’ve started our event series Self Care Sundays, bringing the best of meditation, mindfulness, hand craft and soothing skincare to our Sunday workshops. One of our favourites is Mindful Meditation with Levitate, a drop-in meditation studio in London, a monthly Self Care Sundays sesh at The Collective to help us get centred. Following last Sunday’s workshop, Levitate founder Ryan Nell curated for us a mindfulness playlist of songs to to zen out this week. Grab your meditation mat and let the calming vibes wash over you.

While I tend to meditate in silence, there is a huge place in my heart for music which has the power to transport me to a beautiful mind space. This playlist I’ve assembled is a selection of music that I listen to when I want to chill out, take my foot of the pedal, and enjoy some restorative down time.

Ryan, Levitate

Ryan’s picks:

Silvio Piesco’s “Contemplation” – I fell in love with Silvio’s soundtrack of Michael O’Neill’s gorgeously shot film, On Yoga: The Architecture of Peace. The film itself features some of the world’s finest spiritual teachers talking about what meditation and yoga mean to them. It’s on Netflix, so if you haven’t watched it, I reckon you might want to add it to your list.

Field Works & Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s “Kinematic Wave” – At 9 minutes long, just let this wash over you as you zone out completely. Smith’s vocals and glitchy production merge beautifully with Stuart Hyatt’s (Field Works) field recordings of natural sounds.

Fourtet’s “Two Thousand and Seventeen” – The virtuoso producer’s back catalogue contains many gems, but I’ve picked this from his most recent album, for its ethereal looped instrumentation and the sonic world he creates with it.

Max Cooper’s “Fragments of Self” – A gloriously glitchy piano loop fully capable of transporting the listener somewhere dreamy, with its accompanying bed of natural sound and pared-back production.

Susumu Yokata’s “Tobiume” – It puts me into a zen-like state every time I hear it. Taken from his 2000 album “Sakura” (cherry blossom), I’ve been listening to and admiring the otherworldly beauty of this track for almost two decades. This is the ultimate winding down tune to be played late at night, just before you climb under your duvet.

MC Yogi’s “Shanti (Peace Out)” – The perfect way to end this playlist. Northern Californian native Nicholas Giacomini fuses his love of hip-hop and yoga for a global sound that defies categories and transports me to a totally zen, blissed-out place.

napkin folding

The art of napkin folding


Bringing people together is always at the core of what we do at The Collective, and we’re always discovering new, creative ways to do that. Who knew that napkin folding or ‘napery,’ could be one of those art forms? Kate Colin, an artist by trade, tells us about the deeper joys of folding napkins as a way to liven up a dinner setting and show your guests how special they are, ahead of her workshop with us tonight at The Collective.

How did you get into napkin folding?

Kate: As an artist who works with fold and colour, I’m always on the lookout for ways to apply my skills in new contexts. My interest in napkin folding came about when I found an old book in a charity shop and realised what an exciting art form the tradition of ‘napery’ can be. The infinite number of designs and techniques felt like a natural progression which would utilise and develop my existing skills and allow me to experiment with different types of paper and fabrics.  I really enjoy bringing this traditional craft up to date and am now completely hooked! 

What does it mean to you?

A beautifully folded napkin is simple and effective way of enhancing and bringing joy to a table setting, and also makes a wonderful first impression. People feel special when they sit down with a napkin that someone has taken the time to fold for them.  It is a fantastic hobby, easy to learn, accessible to everyone and has dozens of possibilities. I am passionate about folding and the three dimensional forms which can be created using just a few simple folds.  Working with napkins is an accessible way to pass this interest on to other people, so that they too can discover the joy and sense of accomplishment achieved when folding something for the first time.

People feel special when they sit down with a napkin that someone has taken the time to fold for them. A beautifully folded napkin is simple and effective way of enhancing and bringing joy to a table setting.

Tell us about the skill of napkin folding. Does it have any links to origami and the Japanese art of folding?

Surprisingly, napkin folding isn’t directly connected to origami and it came from Europe rather than China or Japan. Individual napkins were first used in the French royal courts around 1400, having originated in the city of Reims, France which was known for its fine cloth. Dining customs and etiquette were set by the Italian and French courts, but their practices quickly spread to northern Europe and Britain.  By the 1770s, napkins were commonly used at the table and by the late 1800s. With the Victorians’ love of ornate decoration, the art of folding napkins was widely used to enhance the look of place settings has become a fashion that is still highly valued today.

napkin folding

How does it feel to share your interest by teaching others, in workshops like ours?

I love folding as an art form, as well as teaching and sharing folding skills with others. In today’s climate of computer screens and mobile phones, I think it’s really important to introduce people to new skills which enable them to create something with their hands.

A simple folded napkin can be immensely satisfying to make and it’s always so worthwhile to take an hour or so to learn a new skill which you can leave with and continue at home for years to come. It’s great fun to learn in a group setting, meet new people and try something completely different!

What can members of The Collective expect from your workshop?

The workshop will be a fun and contemporary introduction to the art of napkin folding. Members of The Collective will learn some basic folding skills and create several impressive pieces to take away with them at the end of the evening. I will bring along a wide range of folded sample designs and will demonstrate, step by step, how they are created. As a group, we work through the process of folding several piece starting with various classic ‘flat folds’ and moving on to more advanced models such as the ‘Artichoke’. Participants will have the opportunity to practise with an unlimited number of coloured paper napkins before moving on to experiment with high quality fabric napkins.

Participants will leave with 3 folded napkins, equipped with the skills and knowledge to to experiment and create their own variations at home.

katie kirstie the workbench london

Sitting at the Workbench: a chat with founders Katie and Kirstie


Being a maker at its core is about working with your hands, an age-old tradition that these days, is seen as a novelty. The art of handicraft survives in the digital age through artisans who are both passionate, and business savvy. Katie and Kirstie, best friends and founders of The Workbench London, are two of those rare, modern artisans. Their art? Carving bespoke rings and bringing people together. We had a chat to get to know the artist duo before their ring-making workshop this weekend at The Collective Old Oak.

Tell us your story – who are Katie and Kirstie, and how did you get here?

We met on the first day of our jewellery degree and we’ve been best friends ever since. We have partied together, holidayed together and lived together. While trying to set up a craft night with our housemates, we had a lightbulb moment of having our friends make a ring with us and the rest – as they say – is history. The Workbench was created in 2014 and has snowballed into a lot of fun and hard work but we love it!

What’s it like being modern jewellery crafters?

It’s what we’ve always wanted, and now it’s amazing giving people a little taster of a widely-used process within the jewellery industry.

What’s the story behind your name: The Workbench?

Jewellers make at a workbench and we wanted to people to know instantly that this is a making workshop. We though of so many, very cringeworthy names, but kept on coming back to this.

Inside the Workbench workshop. Photograph by Harleymoon Kemp
What does it mean to be a modern artisan?

A modern artisan is a great combination of working with age-old processes and tools. Lost wax casting has been done for centuries and when you look at the tools used, they have barely changed over that time. It’s great to be able to put such a traditional process into a modern workshop. Our events are held in bars and cafes around the UK and we don’t want everyone to follow the same step-by-step rules and all leave with the same ring. We encourage people to have a cocktail or cuppa, and catch up with friends over their carving. We are proud to say that this business model hadn’t ever been offered before The Workbench.

As well as artisans, you are also entrepreneurs. What’s the most challenging part of having your own business?

The main challenge is balance. Balance between running our own jewellery brands when we aren’t running The Workbench – Crux London & Kirstie Maclaren Jewellery. There is also the balance between work and down time. Running your own business means you’re thinking about things 24/7, checking emails before bed and as soon as you wake up. We also get a lot of people Instagram-message us and even though it’s a great way of communication, it means we can never switch off. That’s something we’re trying to get better at dealing with.

And the most rewarding?

The best part of the job is working with each other, bouncing around ideas and sparking new ones from one other. We love what what we do and we get so excited about new ideas. Every day is different and we get so many incredible opportunities. This month, we are hosting an event at the V&A Museum and we just can’t believe it. It’s where we used to go for inspiration and education in our own work – it’s incredible.

Although rings are bespoke and for the individual, your workshops are in group settings. What does it mean to you to bring people together, to make something special for themselves?

Running these events give us so much more than just making a ring – there are unexpected elements to it. We meet so many people and hear about why they are making the rings: celebrating the birth of a child, making wedding bands, creating 30th birthday presents… the list is endless and it fills us with so much happiness that people can create something with such a lot of sentiment and joy. We really want our events to be fun and a big part of the night is ensuring that everyone has a great time. We’re always bouncing about the event and making sure everyone is smiling when they’re ring carving!

It fills us with so much happiness that people can create something with such a lot of sentiment and joy.

Ring-carving with Workbench London. Photograph by Harleymoon Kemp
From all of your workshops, is there a particular ring-making story that stands out? 

We actually get some really lovely stories behind our at-home kits, The Workbench Box. People write us letters when they send their wax carving back to us. Some people have carved because they thought that doing something would help them with their depression. Someone made a ring at home while they were going through chemotherapy and couldn’t make an event. Another girl ordered a kit for her friend, as she had all of her jewellery stolen in a burglary. It really does mean so much to us that we have created something that is about so much more than just making a ring.

The Workbench and The Collective are partnering together. We share similar values of creating more than just a product, but an experience that’s both functional and memorable. What does it mean to you to work with us?

It’s great to work with The Collective, because what we’re both trying to do is very similar. Creating something fun, bringing people together and not the run-of-the-mill situations that both of our industries can so easily slip into. We’re always trying something new and it seems our main objectives are the same. We always want to work in exciting places and this is a perfect match.

What would you say to those budding entrepreneurs out there who are struggling to get their start?

Just do it. Do it and tell people. Socialising is networking and the first ripple of custom comes from your friends – and soon, this ripple reaches further. If it’s your dream, why wait?

broken heart candy

The Collective’s dating horror stories

Check out my blog post for The Collective:

Let’s face it: sometimes, love stinks. Valentine’s Day has rolled around again and we’re commemorating commiserating the holiday by baring it all: the worst, the bad and the ugly. Our members and colleagues share our most tragic dating horror stories. These comic Valentines will make you cringe, cry and collapse. Welcome to our lonely hearts club.

The fearful fugitive

My first ever first date with someone I met on the internet: he turned up with a shoe box full of all his family photos and a gun because he was scared of the Russian mafia. That’s not the worst though. My next first date was so dull that all I could think was how this time last week, I was plotting my escape strategy.

The over-sharer

I dated a guy who lived on his friend’s couch, while I shared a room with a guy I had broken off with. Not ideal in any way.

The cat lover

I slept with someone who had cats. Plural. The cats wouldn’t leave the bed. It was rather awkward. It was like they were watching us… they probably were. I don’t like cats.

The committed creep

He told me the same story three times during dinner. He told me about how he’d gone down to London just to buy this shirt for this date, because he was so sure he was going on a date with his future wife. Several times throughout dinner he took my hand, made me look into his eyes and just whispered: “Magnificent.”

The rude raver

I met up with a girl who, off the bat said, she was gonna go on a date with another dude just before me – but he got too high and couldn’t make it. An amazing start to the date. After a drink with some weird chat, she said: “I’m going to a rave, want to come?” Being one of my first dates I thought, why not?

The rave turned out to be just a regular party at a bar I hated. We met her drunk friends inside who kept grabbing my glasses calling me Harry Potter. The girl ditched me on the dance floor for her friends. When I finally found her in the bar later, she was talking to another dude and said: “Stop following me.” Which I wasn’t. So I just went home.

The (not so) funny Valentine

My ex-boyfriend had forgotten to get me flowers for our first Valentine’s Day together, but tried to play it off as he had remembered. Later that day, he showed up to mine with a bouquet. I found a note in it from his mum that said: “Sorry, these were the last arrangement they had. Remember to take the price tag off and give to her with a smile. Don’t forget next time, I had to skip my lunch break at work.” Lovely.

The drunken night stand

Had a girl call me late at night for a booty call. I was tired, so I told her another time. She called back so I decided not to miss the opportunity. When I opened my door, she fell into my room blind drunk, and started taking her clothes off. She then vomited all over my couch, and ran into my room and vomited all over my bed before passing out naked on my bedroom floor. Covered in her own vomit. It took me all night to clean the horrible mess up. Not what I was hoping for that night.

The stand up guy

I was the horror story. Agreed to go on a date with a hot girl I fancied, since primary school. I forgot the date and when she called I was just like: “Yeah.. I was doing something else.” We never spoke again.

The crush that crashed

It was our first date and it was going really well. After a few drinks, we decided to ride Boris bikes. That would be fun at 11pm at night. Half walking and half riding around Trafalgar Square, one of London’s busiest areas, she casually informs me: “This is only the second time I’ve ever ridden a bike.” After meekly crashing into the side of a taxi (no visible marks, so no big deal), we arrive at a wide, open stretch of path to cycle on. She accidentally veers towards the fence, crashes into a bollard and crashes off the bike. Surprisingly, she seems fine.

She was not fine. We end the night and go our separate ways and I ask her to text me when she gets home. No text until 8am the next morning, when she informs me that she’s just getting home from the hospital. A delirious 2-hour journey home for her ended with her completely debilitated on her stairwell, and unable to use her phone. Concussed, she had to wait for her housemate to come home and call her an ambulance. We went for a second date.

Got a dating horror story? Share your shame with us on Instagram, @thecollective_living.

you are enough

6 mindfulness tips for the busy Londoner

Check out my blog post for The Collective:

The rush of a fast-paced city like London is whirlwind – until it leaves you winded. An important part of keeping the balance between work, socialising, relationships and fitness is mental health – and too often, we let it slip to the wayside. This winter at The Collective, we’re hosting Self-Care Sundays, a weekly reminder to treat ourselves to reflection, attention and love. This weekend, we’re experiencing mental maintenance with Self Space, a contemporary mental health service based in Shoreditch that are on a mission to revolutionise the way we access, think and feel about mental health support. Leading up to our workshop, lead practitioner Chance Marshall shares the importance of mental maintenance, and gives us six mindfulness tips for the busy Londoner.

1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In a world which can sometimes be challenging, frightening, overwhelming, complex and hard to navigate, it’s not surprising that sometimes we don’t feel okay. Everyday mental maintenance is an essential part of surviving.

– Chance Marshall, Self Space

1. Connect with (all of) your emotions

Normal, natural emotions are too often seen as good or bad. And being positive has become a new form of moral correctness. A natural response to painful experiences is to avoid thinking about them, but research tells us that when feelings and emotions are ignored, they amplify. The only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going inside ourselves. Allow yourself to feel without judgement and without rushing to your emotional exits.

2. Connect with your body

As we tend to avoid difficult emotions, they can later manifest as physical problems. Emotions like anger and stress can cause clenching of the jaw, so release your jaw, massage your face muscles and try yawning. Worry or anxiety can cause you to knit your brow without realising, so release your forehead by raising and lowering your eyebrows 2-4 times while inhaling/exhaling deeply. To release tension in the shoulders, inhale and lift your shoulders to your ears. As you exhale, draw your shoulders down and back, guiding the shoulder blades towards each other and downwards. Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing experiences of the past and of the present, while actively steering us in the right direction for self-care.

3. Connect with nature

47% of London is green space. Seek it out and rest in it. It is not about spending hours outdoors or wandering in wilderness. It’s as simple as a walk in the park, or noticing that tree. Virtually any form of connection to the natural world heightens our overall well-being. When we extend ourselves beyond focusing primarily on our own needs, worries, regrets or desires for the future, we become less anxious and more present in the moment.

4. Connect with your breath

Slow, deep, diaphragmatic breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. Try this simple breathing exercise. It will help you relax, feel grounded, reduce tension and alleviate anxiety.
Step 1. Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position.
Step 2. Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
Step 3. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move.
Step 4. Breathe out through your mouth. Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to push all the air out.
Step 5. Repeat this 5-10 times, notice how you feel after.

5. Connect with others

More than 9 million people in the UK – almost 20% of the population – say they are always or often lonely (British Red Cross and Co-Op, 2016). The thing about loneliness is that it makes us feel as if no one else feels like we do, when in reality, millions of other people around us are feeling the same. Almost all of us have felt lonely at one point or another. Reach out to others, reach friends, reach out to family and stay connected. If you can, call or meet up instead of texting, be curious about others, let go of expectations and don’t isolate yourself.

Being able to feel safe with other people is one of the single most important aspects of maintaining good mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.

6. Disconnect from tech

Disconnecting from tech will not only help you to achieve all of the above, but a digital detox goes a long way in allowing us the time to return to ourselves. Setting boundaries around screen time can really help sustain us; try turning of notifications for any work email accounts post-working hours. Researchers have found that unplugging after work can make a huge difference in your quality of life, mental health, and happiness. They found that when people disconnected from work related tasks, such as checking their work email after hours, they reported feeling fresher and better recharged when beginning work the following day. As an added challenge, try committing to not look at your phone for the first hour of the morning or the last hour before sleep. Time away from social media can help disrupt patterns of comparing yourself to others, help you sleep and curb your FOMO.

Chance Marshall and Self Space will deliver their workshop, ‘Self-Care Sundays: Mental Maintenance’, this weekend at 2pm, Sunday 17th February at The Collective Old Oak. Members can head to the app to sign up. 

girl sleeps on pillow

7 tips to improve your sleep

Check out my blog post for The Collective:

Feeling sluggish, restless and just generally blah? Winter is in full swing, and it’s known to have a detrimental effect on your sleep. Due to the cold weather and shorter days with less sunshine that the blustery season always brings, it’s no surprise that your sleep suffers as a consequence. And when you’re not well rested, you’re not at your best. If you’re getting less than seven hours of sleep nightly, you’re at a higher risk for damage to your mental and physical health. This week at The Collective, we’re hearing about the importance of sleep and tools for healthy shuteye from wellbeing support organisation CiC. Here, they share their top 7 tips to improve your sleep.

Start your day with a healthy breakfast. It’s important to eat breakfast within 30-45 minutes of waking, to jumpstart your metabolism with a burst of energy. Eating soon after waking, even something small and nutritious like a banana with low-fat yoghurt, signals to your brain that you’re nourished and it’s time to get the day rolling. Eating early can have a positive impact on your night’s sleep.

Hydrate throughout the day. Not only does it hydrate you, but drinking water also flushes out toxins and waste. Your sleep will become more refreshing and you’ll wake up more energetic and alert – and find yourself relying less on that snooze button. Try drinking 1 litre per day for three weeks to start, and then work your way up to 2 and then 3 litres daily.

Unplug before bed. Come down from the Cloud and shut off all your electronic devices an hour before bedtime. Stimulation from your mobile phone, laptop or tablet, including the blue light from your screens, can disrupt your wind down process, making it difficult to let your brain know it’s time for bed. Light can also prevent your melatonin levels from rising, which you need to fall asleep and reach deep, restorative rest. Switch off your devices so you can switch off your mind too.

Don’t check the time. It’s that annoying moment when you wake suddenly in the middle of the night – you check the time on your phone, which leads to checking your texts, social media, emails and next thing you know, you’re wide awake. Resist the urge to wake up your mind and instead, close your eyes and try deep breathing to ease yourself back to sleep.

Try white noise. Some sensitive sleepers swear by whale sounds, rainforest tracks or other types of white noise. It can drown out smaller sounds that may cause you to stir, and the rhythmic sounds of a fan can be soothing for fussy sleepers. Try the White Noise app, free to use on both Android and iOS.

Avoid stimulants. You’ve heard it before – that cosy evening tea could be keeping you up at night. Stay away from caffeine, nicotine and refined sugars after 5pm to avoid poor sleep and a fatigue cycle, and allow your body to detox before bed for a restful night’s sleep.

Move more. Exercise and movement during the day leads to better sleep. Physical activity causes the body to produce adenosine, which helps curb the adrenaline that could be keeping you awake. Plus, exercise is a great way to work off that buzzing energy keeping you up at night and even boost overall health. Win-win-win.

CiC will give their talk, ‘Sleep your way to wellness’, at 8pm, Thursday 7th February at The Collective Old Oak. Members, head to the app to sign up.

creative huddle future of work

The future of work: 5 ways the world will change in the next century


The world is changing, fast. The future of the professional world will undoubtedly be changed by artificial intelligence, or AI – which pretty much means that robots will be working alongside us. Move over Alexa, because AI is coming into the mainstream in a big way. We spoke to business facilitator James Allen, founder of Creative Huddle, to understand how exactly the world will change, and how to future-proof ourselves so we can thrive in the workplace of the future, where humans will work alongside intelligent machines. Ahead of his talk at The Collective Old Oak next week, we nabbed his five predictions on how the professional world will change in the next 100 years.

A powerful new member of the workforce is coming. The future will see AI work next to humans in their organisations, as a co-worker, collaborator and trusted advisor, carrying out administrative tasks in seconds and checking humans’ work for accuracy.

AI will free up time for more creative thinking and judgment work, a key area in which humans are naturally superior. This, along with other soft skills such as emotional intelligence, will become an increasingly important skill area. This is the “real” work of the future.

There will be an increasing emphasis on team building and networks, as judgment and creative work is best done in teams. These cross-functional teams will be fast-forming and dynamic, and may have their own micro-culture. Individuals may be part of several teams at once.

Pivotal people with high social and creative skills will command high rewards. Competition for these adaptable, collaborative, continually-learning, highly mobile individuals will be fierce. Incentives, rewards and working environments will be key to attracting them.

More people will look to satisfy their desire for authentic, quality products amongst all the technological developments, and a search for meaning and fulfilment from work.