Getting to know Eleanor Churchill: fibre artist

Most business owners will tell you that the first year in business is the hardest. Creating a product is just the start; being able to align your own values and capture an audience in the depths of social media is no mean feat. Where ordinarily support and sales may spring from in-person networking and browsing customers, for the businesses starting in lockdown, their entire base has been enclosed within the four walls of home.

Eleanor Churchill, a fibre artist based in Manchester, is now the owner and designer at Ellamé Designs. What started as a way to keep her plants away from her cats and to decorate a newly purchased home, has led to an influx of macrame orders from eager shoppers. But, Eleanor’s business seems to have popped up at the right time – not only are her customers making a space for themselves that’s practical for working and comfortable for living, Eleanor’s seen a huge shift in her own wellbeing through its creation.

Could you tell me a bit about your background first of all?

Eleanor Churchill, Owner of Ellamé Designs

Yes! I’m Eleanor (Ellie) – I’m a fibre artist, drummer and cat enthusiast from Manchester.

Of course, we have to hear more about your feline friends…

Sure! I have one very fluffy ragdoll called Avalon, he loves eating peppers. He’s also the size of a small dog. My other cat is a European shorthair called Jefferson Bootsie Collins (Boots), he’s an absolute terrorist to be honest, but incredibly affectionate and cute. It’s lovely having them as work companions.

How did you go from a genius hack to setting up your business?

I’ve worked in Digital Content Production in various places including the BBC and Hull City of Culture 2017 and I fancied a change. I worked a couple of very different roles whilst at the BBC and the one left me feeling a bit deflated as it was in Production Management and to be honest, it was draining and a bit boring. I preferred my time working on CBeebies and in my previous Digital Content roles. Because of this, I ended up being even more creative than I was and I tried out making a plant hanger for the first time; it went well, so I made more.

I eventually moved on to wall hangings, and everyday accessories which led me to setting up my Etsy shop. I worked a full time job and came home to work on my macrame every night, most lunches were spent in the post office! I found the response to my work overwhelming and by October last year I left my Content Producer job at the British Council as I felt ready to take the plunge.

How did it feel to receive your first commission or sell your first piece?

The first time I sold something was actually on Facebook marketplace, I couldn’t believe somebody wanted to actually buy it! The first time I was asked to do a commission I actually felt really confident because I’d been knotting away for so long I felt comfortable doing it. It felt great though.

How have you found the physical act of crafting and making during the pandemic? Has it contributed to your wellbeing?

Yes, so much. I can be a very anxious person at times even when I don’t necessarily show it. Macrame helped me relax when I felt stressed in my last BBC role, it gave me more of a sense of purpose a little like my drumming does and it helped keep my mind from overthinking about everything. I’ve certainly had my dose of anxiety over lockdown, but if I didn’t have my business keeping my brain occupied I’m not sure what I would be like right now.

How do your products make a difference to people’s spaces now we’re spending so much time living and working in the same area?

It gives me a lot of satisfaction knowing that people are buying my products during lockdown especially. Their home is their personal space that I’m helping to make a brighter one for them. Whether it’s a guitar hanger, wall hanging or even a small plant hanger, I like the thought that someone will be looking up at it everyday and it could make them smile.

What challenges and successes have you faced developing a new business during the pandemic?

It’s been a year since I first started selling my products and I’ve already gone full-time with it, which to be honest I didn’t think would happen this early. So I would say that’s a success.

The challenge I had was working a full-time job to support what I was doing in the early stages as I was literally working all the time, day and night, I was very tired but I just persisted with it and knew I could succeed in it if I kept trying. I did a lot of research into Etsy as well, I don’t think a lot of people realise that it’s pretty much a big search engine so it operates differently to how they might think it does. In order to sell on there it isn’t enough to have great products, you have to understand its thinking and how to get your products seen. I find stuff like that really fun though, thankfully!

If you had free reign to create one mega bespoke design for a northern business which would you choose and why?

There’s a really lovely bar I like to drink at in Manchester called Wolf at the Door, it’s a pretty boho kind of place with heaps of plants and I love the interior, it’s really cosy. Upstairs they have a large piece of art that covers the whole wall and I remember thinking I would love to create something that huge for that space when I was last there. Perhaps something geometric and modern with some of my metallic rope.

You can find Eleanor @ellamedesigns on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram.

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Grief and Loss: the unexpected corner of social media that is a source of collective comfort

After losing her dad suddenly in 2017, Hannah set up the supper club, Grief Eats, as a way to meet other young people who were grieving whilst honouring her Dad’s love of cooking. Here she explores grief in the digital age, the online platforms offering support networks and the Northern women helping others understand and talk about loss.

It is a well-known fact that what you see on social media is often a veneer; a curated selection of life’s best moments that contribute to an aesthetically pleasing grid. For many, social media – and Instagram especially – offers a slice of escapism; a place where you can go to dream up brand new wardrobes and future sunny getaways, or lust after interiors you cannot afford. While it can be extremely easy to whittle away time getting lost in perfection, sometimes what we actually crave is something much rawer, more un-filtered and fraying at the edges. Something that represents our everyday lives. 

Grief and loss are topics you might think do not have a rightful place on Instagram but in reality, it is quite the opposite. Grief – in whatever form it may take – is something that will affect us all at some point in our lives and, unfathomably, the pandemic has meant many more young people are experiencing it too soon. To read or write about grief in the presence of strangers on the internet may seem strange or daunting, but for many it is a much-needed cathartic outlet, serving as a platform that provides a safe, supportive space when traditional bereavement support is limited. During a lockdown where so many of us do not have a shoulder to lean on when we need it most, it seems like the perfect place. 

The area of Instagram dedicated to grief is the one I find to be most authentic. There are no guises, no attempts for perfection. People talk openly about their losses and experiences of grief in a way that is entirely refreshing. For the majority of us who have sadly lost someone too soon, we feel angry, upset and isolated – even more so during this past year. The platform allows us to come together and to share our day-to-day experiences, although not just the sad ones. We may be grieving, but we also find ourselves inspired by each other’s resilience and discover a collective comfort in sharing past memories. We can laugh together at the terrible, misjudged comments we’ve received over the years. 

Back in December 2019, I came up with an idea to start up a supper club series in Leeds, for people navigating loss in their 20s and 30s, calling it ‘Grief Eats’. After losing my own dad at the age of 24, I felt like this sort of thing was missing – and especially in the North. Both eager and nervous in equal measure, I held my first sold-out supper club in my own home in February 2020 (albeit a bit rustic and makeshift – it was my first go), and I was so excited for it to turn into something bigger, and for young people to realise they weren’t alone in what they were going through. But as the pandemic took hold and thus no way of hosting supper clubs, I quickly realised that I would need another avenue. Instagram seemed like a suitable place to continue with Grief Eats in the interim, and perhaps even open up an opportunity to write about my own journey with grief.

In all honesty, I never envisaged nor felt a personal need to create a space on Instagram to talk about my experiences and felt convinced that face-to-face interaction would be more meaningful than online. But as I began to share my thoughts and musings on the topics of grief, food and anything else that came to mind, I found myself taken aback by the reception. In turn, I have discovered an entire online community and area of Instagram that represented something I didn’t know I needed. 

While I don’t intend to post on social media forever and feel excited to get back to the original plan for Grief Eats, the ‘grief’ space on Instagram really has been a lifeline at times, and I hope my posts have helped others in their journey too. I would also like to mention a number of other inspiring women in the North who are similarly opening up the conversation around grief and loss, and who I am lucky enough to share this online space with. When I lost my dad at the age of 24, I didn’t know anyone my age who had been through something similar. These women, having experienced their own losses, are bravely ensuring this doesn’t have to be the case: 

Jo Ritchie and Faye Dawson: Projecting Grief

Projecting Grief is a portraiture and interview project which explores the use of creativity to help heal from loss. Jo started this project after losing her own brother in 2017, and photographs those who are using creative skill as a distraction, a relief or an expression of their grief. The beautiful portraits are accompanied by the person’s story, written by Faye. Jo and Faye are based in Leeds.

Gwennaëlle Cook

After taking a break from her art practice, Gwen has now returned and has found that it has provided her with a space to process her thoughts around grief. Gwen lost her dad in 2004 and her mum in 2017. Her collages are thoughtful and expressive, and often capture feelings of grief you find difficult to put into words. Gwen in based in Leeds. 

The Everyday Fertility

Kate, based in Manchester, started an Instagram page during lockdown seeking to normalise the conversation around infertility and baby loss. Kate has been extremely brave to share her own journey and is supporting others going through the same by opening up the conversation on fertility issues. 


Words: Hannah Borkin
Feature image: Courtesy of Projecting Grief

Mindful tips for managing work and life during the pandemic

Words: Heather Howard-Thompson

Heather Howard-Thompson is a Cognitive Behaviorioural Pyschotherapist and Director of Yorkshire Psychotherapy Limited, living in sunny Yorkshire.

What a year this has been! We’re all trying to juggle the normal life struggles with the added pressures of working from home, financial pressures, isolation,  home schooling and continuing uncertainty. These all add up to overthinking,  anxiety, stress, overwhelm and ultimately can make us pretty miserable. While there’s some light at the end of the tunnel, it can help to learn techniques to manage how you’re feeling until life can start to get back to some sense of normality. That’s where mindfulness can help. You might have heard of it; it’s been a bit of a buzzword for the last few years. 

So, what is mindfulness? 

Mindfulness is awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally (Kabot-Zinn, 2012). It is a trainable skill of being more present and aware of our thoughts and feelings so that we are better able to manage them. Mindfulness is often taught to children and adults as part of treatment for common mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. Mindfulness can dramatically reduce pain and the emotional reaction to it. Clinical trials show that mindfulness improves mood and quality of life in chronic pain conditions.

Research in Neuroscience has discovered that the brain can change its structure and activity. It is called Neuroplasticity. Kabot-Zinn* found that people who regularly practiced mindfulness showed more left-sided brain activity than right in important areas concerning emotional regulation. This suggests an increased ability to deal with situations in a more positive and balanced way. You might be thinking, sounds great, but I haven’t got time for it. The great thing about mindfulness is that you can integrate into your day-to-day activities! 

5 Top tips for Informal Mindfulness Practices

1. Mindfulness in your normal routine

Pick an activity that constitutes part of your daily routine, such as brushing your teeth, shaving, making the bed, or taking a shower. When you do it, totally focus attention on what you’re doing: how your body feels, what you can taste, touch, smell, what you can see, hear, and so on, use your senses. Notice what’s happening with an attitude of curiosity. 

For example, when you’re in the shower, notice the sounds of the water, notice the temperature of the water, and the feel of it in your hair, and on your body. Notice the smell of the soap and shampoo, and the feel of them against your skin. Notice the sight of the water on the walls or shower curtain, the water dripping down your body and the steam rising upward. Notice the movements of your arms as you wash. When thoughts arise, acknowledge them, and let them come and go like clouds passing in the sky. As soon as you realise that your mind has wandered, gently acknowledge it, note what the thought was that distracted you, and bring your attention back to the shower. 

2. Mindfulness of domestic chores 

Pick an activity such as ironing clothes, washing up, dusting—something mundane that you have to do (what I call boring jobs!) – and do it mindfully. For example, when ironing clothes, notice the colour and shape of the clothes, the sound of the steam, the creak of the ironing board, the faint sound of the iron moving over the material. Notice the grip of your hand on the iron, and the movement of your arm and your shoulder. 

If boredom or frustration arises, simply acknowledge it, and bring your attention back to the task at hand. When thoughts arise, acknowledge them, let them be, and bring your attention back to what you’re doing.

3. Mindfulness of pleasant activities 

Pick an activity you enjoy such as cuddling with a loved one, stroking the cat, playing with the dog, walking in the park, listening to music, gardening, taking a bath, and so on. 

Do this activity mindfully: engage in it fully, using all five of your senses, and savour every moment. If and when your attention wanders, as soon as you realise it, note what distracted you, and re-engage in whatever you’re doing. 

4. Mindful walking

When you’re out on a walk, take time to pay attention to the feeling of your feet on the floor, the sensation of your arms as they swing back and forwards. Notice the temperature, what you can see, hear, how your body feels. Again, if your mind wanders (which it will!) try and bring it back to noticing while you walk, without judging yourself. 

5. Mindful eating (my favourite!)

We often eat mindlessly, without paying much attention. Try eating a meal mindfully. Eat slowly, savouring every mouthful. Notice the smells, the sensation of your mouth watering at the thought of food, your stomach rumbling. Chew each mouthful slowly and purposefully and you’ll see how much more flavourful your food tastes! 

I hope you find the exercises helpful, remember to keep practicing, they get easier the more you try. 


You can follow me on Facebook where I have quite a few mindfulness exercise videos and on Instagram @yorkshirepsychotherapy. On our website we have some helpful blog posts about managing through the current pandemic and more information about the services we offer.

We have a great team of experienced mental health professionals who offer a range of evidence-based therapies for mental health issues. All our therapies can be accessed via online platforms (Zoom, Facetime, Skype, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp) and you don’t have to live in Yorkshire to access us!

*Kabut-Zinn J (2013) Full Catastrophe Living: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation. Piatkus