I’m Cara Fitzmaurice of Sparrows Nest Ceramics. I live in West Cornwall and work from my home studio. My work inspired by the natural world around me, it encompasses my passion of the local landscape and seascape; to share this joy with you brings me much happiness. My work is all hand formed, it’s free forming and open, I believe there is nothing more authentic than hand formed ceramics where imperfections connect the product to the makers, creating an organic and unique look. Many of my pieces are made using primitive techniques such as raku techniques of smoke firing, surface marking with natural materials and saggar.
January 2020 saw me leave my career in nursing after 22 years. In this time I have worked in areas from accident and emergency, public health, health visiting, practice nursing and leadership and management and safeguarding children. I now work full time as a ceramist in Cornwall, making bespoke one off’s, small batch and teaching workshops and I truly couldn’t be more content and fulfilled. I wanted to share my journey and my top tips for those of you seeking to live an authentic, freer and creative life.
About 5 years ago I became very poorly, I had to slow and focus on my wellbeing. Following a conversation with another ex nurse, l reflected on my time in my first job in A&E, I certainly learnt many lessons there that’s for sure, but surely the most important lesson was how valuable and precious life is; at any given moment it can be taken away from us; no warning; no chance to make amends; to change direction or to do something you have always wanted too. I always reflected on a patients death and wondered if they had a good life, whether they were loved and whether they had regrets and were their happy with the life they had had. Obviously, I will never know, but this triggered me recalling a piece of research by Bronnie Ware a palliative care nurse and author from Australia. The focus was learning from the dying of their regrets in life.
Her top 5 findings were:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I’d not worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
In that moment I knew something had to change, I realised my career and continuing education was my identity, that I was trapped in a world I didn’t belong in, I lived for the weekends; annual leave would frequently be spent poorly as I decompressed from the stress and mental and physical exhaustion that came with the job.
I wanted a change in career, but doing what? I knew another public service jobs would have similar issues, I was then heading for 40 and after pretty much my whole career also spent studying at university I really didn’t want to train anymore. I wanted a job that didn’t feel like a job, that felt gentle and nourishing to my body, mind and soul, that felt authentic to me, that allowed me flexibility in life. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do…but I knew where I would start.
I painted, something I hadn’t done since school. I painted women with long necks holding birds, I like to reflect now that these ladies represented me, the long necks with trying to keep my neck above water, to stand tall and to catch sight of the horizon and of new beginnings. The birds as a sign of freedom, of taking flight and singing my hearts desires.
I enrolled on endless workshops and courses in the hope I would find ‘my thing’ until one wet and windy evening on 18th January 2017 I walked into a pottery class, picked up some clay and it was love at first sight. At this time I was still working full time as a nurse and still poorly. I still couldn’t see a way out, my mind was bombarded with endless practical questions such as how I would be able to manage a career change financially as I was in a well paid role.
I didn’t have the how’s but I did have the wants, so I wrote a list, which I still keep to this day:
1) Start a pottery business
2) To make a studio for my crafts
3) Work less hours for an employer
4) To earn money from being creative
5) To continue to be able to financially support myself
6) To be less anxious and stressed
7) To be with nature more
January, I spent sorting out my studio, and getting my website up and running. February I designed and created. March brought with it a pandemic (errr I hadn’t planned for that…), I wasn’t sure what I should do, was it wrong to keep creating and being positive in this time? I decided to keep going and bring others joy through my making and my work. My community on social media grew, we found strength in supporting each other through positivity and my business blossomed.
As we near the end of 2020, I reflect on those 5 regrets of the dying and on my list to the universe and you know what? I think I’m doing pretty well!
My top tips for those wishing to be living a life of freedom and creativity are:
1) Write down want you want, don’t hold back, jot it all down and don’t worry about any detail of the how’s.
2) Trust and believe that this will all happen
3) Meditate get to know you again. I also found revisiting my teenage self a useful exercise. What would they make of your life? What would they be surprised at or sad about? What would they say to you? Teenagers don’t often hold back, so be prepared for some home truths!
4) Core values. A quick google of ‘core values’ will provide you with a list if you can’t reel any off straight away. Think of 3-5 that are really important to you as a person and in life. Think about how you can live in better alignment with them.
5) Practice gratitude, seriously, really do this. The more we are truly thankful for what have the less we need and want.
6) Conscious simple living. Mindful thinking about what we buy and its impact. I use to treat myself with purchases to reward myself for my hard work. So technically I was burning myself out so I could buy myself a bag to reward myself for working hard in a job I didn’t want to do and for a bag I didn’t really want.
7) Connect with other creatives, find your tribe, spend time with people who will lift you up and cheerlead you.
8) Be open for opportunities
9) Recognise areas where you are time poor. For example, I worked long hours so would spend more on shopping as I didn’t have the time to meal plan, this would also then mean we had several extra little trips to the supermarket in the week to get things. We worked out we almost doubled our current shopping bill due to lack of planning. We also shamefully threw lots of food (money) away at the end of the week. Also consider things you buy to throw away, toilet rolls, sanitary products, bin bags are there cheaper versions or eco versions that will ultimately save you money and your impact on the Earth? As you find these areas in your life, you will see opportunities for saving on spending which ultimately means less hours needing to work for an employer and more time being free to live the life you wish.
10) Work out the minimum amount of money you need to pay your bills and food.
“Life is wild and glorious and hard and beautiful. We Freedom Seekers must keep choosing freedom with every decision, every detail, every dollar, every day. Because its the experience of it all that adds up to a beautiful life.” – Beth Kempton.