Embracing Slow Living with Emma Lavelle
09 Nov 2023
Emma Lavelle, photographer, writer and chronicler of the British countryside in its power and fragility, can pinpoint the moment she consciously chose to decelerate the pace of her life. Having just turned 30, she quit the job she loathed at a fashion house, went freelance and moved from a rattling Victorian terrace in Manchester to a smaller home surrounded by woodland amid the ravishing west Yorkshire countryside.
‘The move cemented in me that I wanted to be immersed in nature and spend as much time as possible outdoors, tending to my garden, swimming in cold lakes, and walking in the woods,’ recalls Emma. ‘I started to notice the subtle changes in the seasons. I kept a diary throughout the first lockdown, mainly noting down what leaves were unfurling, what flowers I had spotted, and the tiny changes I spotted on my daily walks.’
Although she rejoices in the summer and annually mourns its passing, staying perennially connected to nature means that Emma’s appreciation for the days as they pass into weeks, and the weeks as they pass into seasons never wavers as she consciously engages with each transition. ‘At the beginning of each season, I make a list of what I love about that time of year,’ she explains. ‘I make sure I embrace the parts of autumn and winter that I enjoy: lighting a fire, reading in the glow of a candle, wearing my favourite knitwear. In autumn, I always try to book a trip where I can surround myself by fiery trees and dramatic landscapes – last year, it was the Ullswater area of the Lake District, which is particularly beautiful in autumn. At the beginning of the season, I will swim in lakes or sit outside in the evening with a book, pulling on layers of woollen jumpers, hats, socks and blankets to warm up.’
Handwoven Willow Log basket featured above.
Whilst her inspiration is undoubtedly found in the great outdoors, solace resides within the cossetting four walls of home. ‘We’ve lived in Todmorden for over five years now, and I’ve never looked back to city life,’ she says. ‘Our house is nestled beside a small woodland, and we have views of the hills or the trees from every window in the house. I feel cocooned within all the beautiful green landscapes that surround us. I dislike both fast fashion and fast furniture, and prefer to make investment purchases from ethical, sustainable and slow brands that make items that are made to be treasured and last a lifetime. My home is very much a work in progress, but I am slowly introducing more colour and pattern, filling my spaces with beloved items that I have often tracked down in antique shops or purchased from small makers.’
‘My most treasured possessions are my books. I've been collecting them for over ten years, predominantly my beloved novels but I also love to pick up interesting books about travel, nature and architecture. Our box room is filled with fiction, while my non-fiction, which is a mixture of new and second-hand finds, are placed prominently on shelves in our dining and living rooms.’
And, standing watch over her while she hungrily devours her library is a small piece she holds particularly dear. ‘I am very attached to a little wooden tree ornament that my partner made, which sits in pride of place on a shelving unit in our living room. He hand-turns wooden objects such as bowls and vases, but this small cherry wood tree is my favourite piece of his in the house.’
After all, like the seasons that she so scrupulously embraces, the fleeting moments in nature are never gone forever but rather timeless, replenished, constant and comforting.
Interview by Nancy Alsop.