Today's 'Connect & Create' interview guest is Belinda Neame from Hold Cottage. Belinda is hosting Tara for an 'Art of Tea' workshop this July in her beautiful Gunning cottage and we thought it would be great for our community to get to know her better.
Belinda is a fabulous multi-talented creative and business owner. Here she shares, with brave honesty, about the setbacks she has faced in the last 12 months, the wisdom she has gleaned from her experiences and the rituals and self-care practices that nourish her.
Have you always seen yourself as creative or is it something you've discovered in recent years?
I think creativity has always been in my bones. My Grandmother on my Mum’s side was a very creative woman. She could sew, bake, play the piano and pretty much turn her hand at anything. But it’s not something that surfaced for me until I had children. Spending time at home when they were small allowed me to dabble in things like baking, creating themed birthday parties etc and this lead to the start of my creative journey. I never returned to my life in the public service as my creative mind wouldn’t settle! I started selling cupcakes at the local farmers market and after 18 months went onto opening a sweet little cupcake shop, which I ran and operated for nearly 8 years. My children spent their afternoons running around the historical village where the shop was located and they were also educated in what real hard work was and became good at clearing tables and washing dishes! My time at the shop came to an end after I’d ticked all the boxes with where I wanted to take it and that’s when I established a street food event and started in my role at a magazine. The magazine was where I really discovered my true passion - styling and content creating. My husband is my own personal photographer (!) and we spend a lot of our spare time creating content for a range of different brands.
Tell us a bit about your current life and your main passions.
Like a lot of people, I’ve had a big life shift in the past 12 months. I’ve gone from my dream job as production manager of a print magazine and founding and running a large street food event here in Canberra, to being made redundant from my magazine position and having COVID shut down the event. As a workaholic, it’s taken me a long time to come to terms with this loss and some days the grief still knocks me off my feet. Being made redundant in your mid forties is a very challenging and lonely time. BUT lucky for me, we had purchased our sweet little cottage (Hold Cottage) in Gunning 6 months prior to all of this unfolding. The plan for the cottage was to spend a few years building it up and then easing out of full time work and transitioning into a holiday property host. Subconsciously, I knew I needed to slow down. I loved being in the country and I was craving a slower lifestyle for our family. Becoming a holiday property host happened a lot quicker than we had planned but boy am I grateful this is where I am now. Hold Cottage is not only my passion, it’s my sanity and creative place.
What are your favourite daily rituals?
Coffee and mornings on the couch with my woolen blanket and a magazine. I go to bed thinking about my morning coffee! I always end my day with tea.
What is a ritual of self-care that you turn to when you're needing to support yourself?
I never used to be very good at self- care. Since being made redundant, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on how I had been living my life. I was overworked and was always, always rushed. I was constantly trying to please others, putting work and other people before myself and my family. The best thing to come from the redundancy was the shift in lifestyle. A lifestyle completely and utterly dictated to by me and my family. It’s now slower and I am so grateful for this change. Self-care to me now is making time for myself. This hasn’t come easy for me but I’m getting better! Self care might be something as simple as a drive out to Gunning to just walk the beautiful streets and visit the railway, changing over the beds in the cottage and making them look beautiful again with fresh linen or just sitting by the fire with a glass of wine. I also now have more quality time with my young adult children. I love having deep conversations with my 19 year old son about world issues (he’s a clever boy) and I love watching my daughter play basketball (she’s amazing on the court). I’m a completely different person, happy to the core!
What keeps you inspired? Do you have any muses?
The country! I’m constantly in awe of the landscape, architecture and the communities that sit within these little towns. The doers and the workers of country towns and their ability to overcome adversity. They are my constant source of inspiration.
What are you currently working on?
I’m always working on Hold Cottage and how I can keep it growing and evolving. Changes to the interior, collaborations with other creatives, the cottage workshop series and how I can give back to the Gunning community. Creatives don’t sit still for long! I posted a quote on Instagram the other day “even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” I’ll use this quote to remind myself when I get complacent or hit a creative block!
Who are some of your other favourite creatives?
I have many people I look to for creative inspiration but here is a snippet of some that have had an impact on me either through their friendships or the way they have created and curated their businesses/brands:
Belinda from Tomolly in Carcoar
Amanda from Grampians and Goods Co in the Victorian Grampians
Gunning locals - mother and sister duo Ellen and Jess from Bandicute and Vikki from The Style Mill.
Tara from Simpson Cottage in Bundeena
Julie Gibbs from Gumnuts in the Blue Mountains
The team at POP Canberra
“Dreams don’t work unless you do”
How do you fit creativity into your life?
I’m lucky enough now that I have landed in a place that involves creativity every single day. Anything from re-styling the cottage, making something beautiful for our guests or creating and producing product and brand photo shoots for clients. I also love putting together the cottage workshop series, working with other creatives like Nourish and Nest ☺
What is a piece of learned wisdom you can offer our community?
I have learnt a lot in the past 12 months and I feel like I could write a novel on it. But my main lesson is it’s ok to slow down. You aren’t defined by your job title and your success isn’t measured by the amount of ‘stuff’ you fit into your day. Go slow, find the things that really make your heart sing and always, always find time for YOU.
Where can we find you online?