April's muse is the wonderful Jess Mills.
Musician, writer, campaigner and founder, her list of talents is a long one, here's what Jess had to say this month.
What do you do to feel motivated creatively or otherwise?
I have two small children and a very demanding work life so I have never been someone who has had the luxury of creating an 'ideal' space to be creative. If I did, it would be a little house in wild and remote nature on the south coast of Cornwall or Ibiza (though would probably wouldn't get so much work done if the latter) in walking distance of blue sea where I could swim first thing each day in all weathers then hideaway and write all day- but that has never ever ever happened! I started writing the book I've just submitted the first draft of in the queues of supermarkets with my tiny children hanging off my legs. The need to write was so urgent that it felt more like I was receiving downloads and the challenge was for my fingers to type quick enough to capture it all whilst it was coming through. But it's definitely not always like that. Sometimes you have to turn up at a blank page not knowing what is coming next and just be with it... that's the bit I find the hardest but it's also absolutely just as much a part of the creative process as the revery of feeling charged with inspiration.
So I guess I would say, for me, creativity is something that has a wild life of its own and also something I need to work hard for. There are times in my life, particularly the more difficult times, that have unleashed a particularly potent stream of creativity for me- almost as if it is in constant flow and I just need to try and find as much space as possible to capture it. As I say that is the easier part, the harder part of creativity is turning up even when the spark isn't clearly there and then you have to just work hard and patiently at bringing something to life.
What’s making you tick right now, is there something new you’ve discovered you can tell us about?
I recently submitted the first draft of a book I've been writing for the last 3 years, which has been one of the most personally challenging but important things I've ever done, not just creatively, but in my life, full stop. It's been a mind, body and spirit experience- it's been a profoundly cathartic, raw, painful, beautiful, healing and life affirming thing to do, which was inspired by the simultaneous experience of becoming a mother and losing my own beloved Mum to Brain Cancer in 2018.
I've also started releasing music and performing again in the last 6 months for the first time in 10 years, which feels pretty amazing. I've got a new music project called Do No Harm, with my husband and a best friend. All of us have had extensive careers in music separately but this has brought us together to collaborate for the first time. It's been really nice seeing it come to life in the last 6 months. The highlight has definitely been the live shows- the last time I performed was on tour with Leftfield 10 years ago, so it was pretty amazing to get back up on stage! Our first gigs were as support for Beth Orton on her UK tour in the Autumn, followed by our first headline show in London which was sold out so we've been spoiled so far. Our next single is called 'Open' which is coming out in May.
How do you start your day, what does your morning routine look like?
There is nothing glamorous to say here I'm afraid! My day starts every day with getting my kids ready for school and nursery, which is often like climbing a mountain by 8.30am! They're at school by 8.45 then my day of work begins. Weekends are a tonic for all of us... slow mornings, croissants and coffees in bed. I love cooking for friends so most weekends we'll have a full house of friends, food, drinks and music, then it all starts again on Monday!
What’s your favourite thing about your job? Who or what inspired you to do what you do?
Whilst writing and music are an integral part of who I am, day to day I'm the founder and CEO of the Tessa Jowell Foundation which I founded after my Mum died to deliver her incredible legacy. We're currently working with every NHS Brain Cancer Hospital in the UK as part of the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission to deliver Mum's legacy, by supporting the NHS to improve their Brain Cancer Treatment and Care. It's hard but really vital work. We now have 17 NHS Tessa Jowell Centres of Excellence spanning the length and width of the UK. The lines between the personal and professional with that work are totally blurred, and I do it to honour my incredible Mum and to change outcomes for families that are going through the horror of a brain cancer diagnosis like mine. But we are really changing things and that feels incredible.
What’s most exciting you about the upcoming year?
Getting my book finished. Releasing more music and playing more shows, and also starting out work to set up a national network of Tessa Jowell Centres of Excellence for Children- brain cancer is the biggest cancer killer of children in the UK, and our TJ centres have the potential to change those devastating outcomes...
Song that never fails to lift your mood?
I find it so hard to answer questions like this because music is integral to every part of my life and different songs are important to me at different times, but I'll go with the first one that came to mind which is 'I Believe In You' by Talk Talk. Mark Hollis is one of my favourite vocalists and this song is one of the most evocative, romantic, perfect recordings ever made in my opinion. It takes me instantly back to the feeling of falling very heavily in love with my husband. He'll cringe that I've just said that but its true so there!
What is your favourite possession and the story behind it?
My engagement ring was made by one of my best friends who is also my favourite jewellery designer, Emma Franklin. It has an antique diamond in it that was given to my Mum by her Granny and then she gave it to me to have it made into a ring. My Mum was really ill when we got married and it was all pulled together at the very last minute, and Emma made this as a surprise for me on the day.
If you could visit anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would it be?
Oooohh... the Caribbean Coast of Colombia please.
And finally...how would you style our navy hand knit cardigan?
I am often on the look out for beautiful classic knitwear, and it is not always easy to find. I love this cardi cos it is classic, gorgeous and beautifully made and can be worn with literally anything and everything. It was a hard choice between the navy and the caramel but when push comes to shove I'll always go with a darker option. I haven't taken it off... thank you! With love, Jess XX