Sweet Cavanagh: Making jewellery to combat eating disorders

making jewellery

Over 725,000 men and women in the UK are affected by eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Although serious, eating disorders are treatable conditions and full recovery is possible once the sufferer gets help. I don’t think eating disorders are spoken about enough and for a sufferer, one of the hardest steps to recovery is admitting that something is wrong. Even then the cost of inpatient care is staggering and the strain on the NHS means that many people do not get the help they desperately need or leave treatment early.

Free Me is a charity working to bridge the gap between the recovery services offered by the NHS and getting back to everyday life. Based in London, Free Me owns the jewellery brand and social enterprise Sweet Cavanagh. Free Me open their doors to women recovering from eating disorders and additions. Through Sweet Cavanagh they teach the women how to make and design jewellery and then sell it on their website. Not only is the process of making jewellery therapeutic in itself, but the members are given the chance to learn about the business side of the enterprise, boosting their skills and confidence. If an eating disorder has dominated your life for quite some time, perhaps causing you to drop out of school or postpone exams, the creativity and purpose generated by being part of a productive group can be a lifeline at a time of feeling lost and alone.

The therapeutic benefits of jewellery making are enhanced by the weekly support groups and nutrition counseling. All of these services are free of charge. Research has proven that jewellery making can augment one’s wellbeing by increasing self esteem and reducing stress and anxiety; all of which can decrease risk of relapse. Sweet Cavanagh also gives women an opportunity to become self-employed as jewellery designers and creators by paying each woman a living wage for each piece of theirs that sells.

So, what do they create?

Necklaces, bracelets, beads and upcycled vintage pieces. Browse online by type or individual designer.

I love this necklace made with a vintage scarf clip, £34.99
. . . this bracelet, £25. What a beautiful shade of green.
. . . and all of the Mala beads (prayer beads) which have been used in meditation for centuries.

See more at http://sweetcavanagh.com/

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Tips for a Westerner traveling to Beijing

Firstly, don’t be afraid!

This summer I went to China for the first time, spending a few days in Qingdao and Nanjing and three weeks in Beijing. I was there for work (see this post) so I hadn’t chosen to go there for a holiday (mainly because I couldn’t afford it), but I still had plenty of time to be a tourist. More and more people will be travelling there for work of course; I have friends who’ve been flown over for less than 72 hours to ‘do business’, so whether you’re visiting for sightseeing or networking, I hope these tips will help a first-timer in China.

Getting around

I flew into Beijing and got trains between Beijing, Qingdao and Nanjing. Their city train stations are bigger than our local airports. You need your passport to buy a train ticket. In fact, you need your passport for a lot of things. Check your train time online before you head to the station to make it easier to spot on the board and arrive at least 45 minutes before it leaves. You will queue to buy a ticket and queue to get through security – yes there is security.

The Beijing Subway is incredibly easy to use and works much like the UK tube. You can buy a top-up ‘smart’ card for CYN20 deposit from one of the ticket desks and top it up at a machine at any station (although the machines don’t always work). You have to go through security at every subway station but this never held me up, rush hour might be different. Journeys usually cost CYN4-7 depending on how far you’re travelling, so measured in pence rather than pounds. There are Subway maps at the stations and all announcements on the train are in English as well as Mandarin. You’ll find toilets at the end of every platform. Don’t expect people to wait for you to get off the train before they barge on.

Finding your way around when you get off the subway is a different matter. There are basic ‘you are here’ maps at the exit of every subway station but sometimes I found these entirely wrong! There are few signs to help you around the city, even for the main tourist attractions, so do take your own map. It can be difficult to find a taxi when you need one, but they’ll always be rickshaws outside the tourist spots.

Expect some attention

My little sister went to China years ago with school and describes how she was bombarded with folk wanting to take her picture. She was blonde (her hair now changes from pink to blue to purple, they’d probably think she’s from a different planet). I didn’t get this at all when I was with Chinese people, but it was a different story when I was on my own or with other Westerners. Generally I got teenage boys telling me I was beautiful and wanting to pose for a photo alongside me. It probably happened once at every main sight I visited and usually I didn’t mind apart from the day I had an awful cold and felt very unbeautiful. I had a cold because I got run down by not sleeping, which brings me to a brief point that I can’t help with because I failed to manage it – Don’t underestimate jet-lag.


Eating out is cheap and you will find something for all tastes but there isn’t quite as much diversity as other big cities. If you go to a local Chinese restaurant you can eat for £1 but you shouldn’t expect an English menu. I’m veggie and although it made it more difficult it wasn’t impossible. It helped that I’m not too fussy in that I was happy to pick meat out of noodle dishes. They have Starbucks, KFC etc, and they do have some good vegetarian restaurants if you search for them, many are in the University enclave of Haidian.

Using the facilities

On the plus side, you’ll find public toilets everywhere in Beijing. Unfortunately they vary greatly in what you get. More often than not they are squat toilets. You do get used to them, but you can also look out for disabled toilets if you want a seat. The public toilets in the Hutong are very basic – no cubicle doors, nowhere to wash your hands. Always carry tissue in with you because they rarely have any, and take hand sanitizer.

Finally, do take a good travel guide. I used Lonely Planet Beijing (there is a smaller pocket version too), and . . .

if you visit one major sight . . . it has to be the Forbidden City. There is so much to see and it is beautiful.

It was raining as we entered the Forbidden City

It was raining as we entered the Forbidden City

if you visit one park . . . go to Beihai Park and hire a boat to take to the lake circling Jade Islet. With 1000 years of history there are temples dotted around and places to grab a drink. You will pay a small amount to get in, as with most of the parks.

Jade Islet from our boat on Beihai Lake

Jade Islet from our boat on Beihai Lake

If you visit one museum . . . go to the Capital Museum. I didn’t visit many museums but the Capital and the National Museum of China are the big ones. They have very similar artefacts but the Capital is more modern and includes interesting installations such as a floor depicting Chinese festivals and folk traditions. The National is centrally situated, right near Tiananmen Square, so I’m sure that’s why I queued for half an hour to get it. There was no queue for the Capital at all.

Celebrating festivals at the Capital Museum

Celebrating festivals at the Capital Museum

If you visit one temple . . . you could visit the Lama Temple as all the guidebooks tell you to, it is the administrative centre of Buddhism. I really enjoyed visiting the White Cloud Temple though, once the Taoist centre of Northern China. The architecture is much the same, but the White Cloud temple was quieter, less shiny and more peaceful.

Incense ceremony at the White Cloud Temple

Incense ceremony at the White Cloud Temple

I’m lucky that I was able to spread out my time in the city because the summer heat was tiring. Some days I walked 12 miles. I’d definitely go back to China – Shanghai, some of the national parks, and Hong Kong are on my list.

If you’re traveling to Asia or beyond, Lonely Planet are offering 3 for 2 on all their guides.

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Top tips for completing your PhD

hat Phd graduation pixabay

I started my PhD in June 2011, went nominal in June 2014, submitted in November 2014, passed my viva in January 2015 and had my corrections approved in June 2015. There are many end points when you’re working on a PhD, but I think I can truly now say I’ve ‘finished’. Last month my Facebook was filled with pictures of friends graduating, some started before me, some after. And next year I will go through the ceremony with other peers who made it to ‘finish’.

In all honesty, it does feel like a massive accomplishment. At the moment I feel like if I do nothing much more with my life, I’ll be content to have got my PhD. Of course, for a career in academia a PhD is just the start, but right now, I’m happy to cruise for a bit. Because it was hard. And in some ways it’s only now looking back that I can see how hard it was, because at the time I was grateful to be doing something I thought worthwhile, to be learning (and getting paid for it), and to manage my own time and schedule. Now I’m relatively ‘free’ and can see friends going through the angst of writing up I can see how all-encompassing the process is and how, at times, it made me a little bit crazy. My thesis was the centre of my universe, and now I’ve set it free I’m able to think about other areas of my life.

That said, I wouldn’t change anything about my PhD experience and I certainly don’t regret doing it. I think others often saw me as hardworking, in control and not easily flustered. A lecturer once asked me to cover a lecture for him because he knew I’d ‘stay calm’. That’s all very nice but I had the same insecurities as everyone else. Should I be working this weekend? Why haven’t I heard of that theorist? Is that even a WORD?

I think there are two key traits that have got me through my entire education though and they are a consistent work ethic and organisation skills (note not immense intelligence!). Before I share some of my tips however, I think it’s essential to highlight the importance of a positive attitude and general wellbeing. I learnt to accept when to cut my losses and call it a day. On those days it is more productive in the long run to leave your desk and go to bed, or go read outside. Oh and do yoga and/or exercise – you DO have the time.

Consistent work ethic

As soon as I moved back to my University town three months in, I was in the office five days a week working. Some people can only work under pressure. They cruise along for a few weeks not doing much and then stay up three days straight to meet a deadline. Not me, not if I can help it.

• Do take holidays, but not for too long. Even when I went on holiday I usually took a bit of reading to do. I know some people who took weeks off over the summer which might be ok but do that every year and you’re unlikely to finish in three. Holidays or some kind of break are really important though, and much more productive than not taking one (says she who panics about taking more than a week off work).

• Stick to deadlines. Again, deadlines seem to mean absolute zilch to some people. The world can’t function like that and nor should you, for one thing it’s disrespectful to your supervisors or whomever you owe work to. It’s likely they’ve blocked out time to read your work and handing it over late means they won’t give it the attention they would have done. This links to the next point.

• Ask if you need help. This is so important and there are so many places to get information: your peers, supervisors, library staff and the wider community (Twitter for instance is great for reading recommendations or to join weekly chat groups like PhDchat). Don’t be the annoying person in the office who has to ask someone else how to use the copier every time you need it, but do ask for help about the big things. I asked to join undergrad lectures in my first year because I’d moved to a different subject area and felt I lacked some of the basics. I asked the library staff when I wanted access to a particular report and they directed me to a better one. You can also learn a huge amount from your peers.

• Make Uni your second home (but do go home!)*. It’s clear to me that PhDers working remotely miss out. Because they aren’t there for the informal chats, the impromptu staff tutorials over coffee and the post-viva celebrations of others they miss out on key information, like what actually happens in a viva. Again, because I was working in a subject area different to my previous degrees this probably benefited me most because I needed to soak up the discipline – the terminology, the big names. Yes there are distractions in the office, but I genuinely think my thesis and overall experience is better because I was there participating and listening. Also, even in academia, ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’ holds some weight. Honing social networks can lead to opportunities for teaching and part-time work, and people are more likely to help you out when you need it. This is how I justified my coffee break chats, but you don’t need to be a social scientist to know it’s true!

books phd pixabay

Organisation: It’s obvious, but organisation is essential to completing a PhD.

• Make productive lists. I love lists. I have annual lists (a timetable really, or work plan), monthly lists, weekly lists and daily lists. Even out here in China away from the pressures of a regular workday I have a list (write blog – tick). A PhD friend once said to me that when he wakes up in the morning he doesn’t know what he’s going to do that day. I find that astonishing. My problem is over-ambition. I write long lists and can’t do everything, which then makes me feel bad. So I make a real effort to focus on the positives; at the end of the day I run through what I have achieved rather than what I haven’t. You will never reach the end of your to-do list; just accept it and keep ploughing on.

• Keep your files organised. Save file names with the date and back them up. Organise your folders. Keep track of all bibliographical references! I wasn’t great at this, but it really saves time in the long run. Use software to keep track of your references. I had a love-hate relationship with Endnote (it froze my PC just before I was about to print and submit) but I’d still recommend it.

• Don’t put things off. It’s easy to say don’t procrastinate but we all do it. However, I do feel like I’ve had a break through of late. Every time I feel a twinge about not wanting to do something, I do it. Before I have a chance to think about it, before it becomes a big deal. This works for the small stuff, like when you’re anxious about making a phone call. For the big things, break them down into manageable sections and treat each section like the small stuff. To borrow from a well-known sports brand; just do it.

So consistency, organisation and attitude are vital. You don’t need to work 24/7 to get your PhD, in fact that’s counterproductive. In my first year particularly I was often in the office at weekends but I wasn’t working on my thesis, I was blogging. To earn extra cash I was writing about boot and bodices rather than Bourdieu. I spent a lot of time working on stuff that wasn’t my thesis, so I’m sure I could have finished quicker had I wanted to but that’s another nice thing about doing a PhD, you do have relative time and freedom. These other interests provided balance, variety and stopped me feeling suffocated by the PhD, because sometimes distance can do wonders.

I know this all sounds very virtuous but good habits can save so much pain in the long run. Don’t compare yourself to others. Every PhD project is different and every person is different. Life doesn’t stop because you’re studying either; both happy things and tragic things will justly cause you to take time out at some point. That’s ok. You will still make it to finish; if you want to.

* I understand this isn’t possible for all. For a start some Uni’s don’t give doctoral students their own office space. For others family commitments mean they can’t move close to uni but that doesn’t stop you making the most of it when you do go in. You have to go to supervision meetings right? I’d also really recommend the supportive and abundant academic community Twitter (try #PhdChat).

Other resources:

10 steps to PhD failure (Article)
The Thesis Whisperer (Website/blog)
How to get a PhD (Book)
Guardian PhD network (Online)
Planning your PhD (Book)

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Bigging up Braintree Clothing the Sustainable Clothing Brand

Emma Waight Bthoughtful ethical fashion blog

A couple of months ago I was featured on Braintree Clothing’s Bthoughtful blog, not just once, but twice! First of all they asked me to share some of my sustainable living tips in conjunction with World Environment Day 2015. You can read my tips here, which include buying second-hand, collaborative consumption and shopping locally.

Then they asked me for my top 5 picks from their SS15 ethical fashion collection, not a laborious task I must say! I went to visit their headquarters and studio last year for an interview later published in their SS15 magazine. Although born in Syndey, Braintree are now based in London where they design and sell beautiful ethical clothing using bamboo, hemp and organic cotton.

Visiting the Braintree Studio last summer

Visiting the Braintree Studio last summer

Braintree's ethical fashion range

Braintree’s ethical fashion range

Many of the pieces I selected as my top picks are now on sale so I thought I’d share with you my top sale picks available now (see below for the pics).

Dharma organic cotton wrap dress, £35 from £69. One to twirl around in!
Marley stripe batwing knitwear top, £24.90 from £49.90. One of my original picks and I still love the colours.
Hip zip throw cardigan, £28 from £49.90. One to totally see you through autumn, winter and back round to spring again.
Dashka hart bamboo leggings, £11 from £22. Braintree are my go-to brand for soft, bamboo leggings and these ones are on sale.
Inkkas high top trainers, £37.50 from £75. So cool, but not many sizes left so be quick!
Men’s Floyd stripe grandpa top, £15.95 from £29.90. One for the boys, Braintree have a good range of ethical menswear basics too.

Braintree are also famous for their natural bamboo socks so be sure to check them out and more ethical fashion at www.braintreeclothing.com

Braintree ethical fashion sale picks

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Survey on Vegan Friendly Fashion

An MSc student has been in touch to ask that I publicise her dissertation questionnaire. She is conducting research on consumers’ purchase intentions and the marketing of vegan and animal friendly fashion.

If you are female and over the age of 16 she’d love to hear from you! It takes around 10 minutes to complete and all participants have the chance to win a faux leather Ipad case by vegan fashion label Denise Robool.

Here is the link: http://goo.gl/forms/ro3zOMJKdR

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Fieldwork in China on Grocery Shopping for Over 65s

Arriving at Tsinghua University campus, Beijing

Arriving at Tsinghua University campus, Beijing

I am currently in China! Beijing specifically, but before that I spent a week doing fieldwork in Qingdao and Nanjing (in the Mid/South East). It was always part of the plan that I would come to China during my 18-month research contract at Winchester School of Art. The project I joined, ‘Silver Shoppers’, looks at the grocery shopping experiences of consumers over the age of 65 in both the UK and China.

Findings aim to improve our understanding of the consumer behaviour, values and capabilities of this increasingly heterogeneous population with implications for future research, retail business strategy and social policy on ageing and wellbeing. Having completed the UK fieldwork (which you can read about here), I set off for China at the beginning of July.

Why the UK and China?

The retail markets in the UK and China are very different but are united in the need to develop solutions to service the ageing population. Equally, within the globalized retail industry, China is regarded as the biggest and most profitable overseas market by major international firms such as Tesco (UK), Wal-Mart (US), Carrefour (France) and Metor AG (Germany). Chinese consumer needs are different however to the needs of consumers in Europe and the US, particularly amongst the older generation who have to adapt to broader societal changes and the impact of new globalised technologies. This research seeks to understand older consumer behaviour both within the context of the newer supermarket environments and more traditional grocery stores and markets. There is also a gap in the literature looking at older shoppers experiences at open markets in China.

What we did

Data collection in China follows much the same methods as the UK. With three regions selected across the country, we aim to follow the everyday routines and shopping habits of 30 participants using a diary and inspection card pack for six weeks. We also conduct filmed observation of their normal grocery shopping routine and a post-shop interview. In the UK this focused solely on supermarkets but here in China, half have been to supermarkets and half to open markets.

How I got on

I’m sure it’s little surprise to know I don’t speak Chinese so we have a Chinese team based at Tsinghua University partnered on the project. A group of Masters students are managing the fieldwork, using the materials we developed in the UK which were then translated into Mandarin. By the time I came over the participants had been recruited, a plan was made and I joined the group as they started data collection in the first two cities. All of the interviews were conducted in Chinese but I was at least able to observe the shopping process. The students themselves were able to communicate with me in English (to a mixed degree) and looked after me very well! It was a great introduction to China and although it was an intense week of travel and long days, I really enjoyed it.

At the end of the week I ran a training session on data analysis so they will manage the rest of the process. My manager (the project lead) is Chinese so there’s no problem there when it comes to going through the findings. I’m now back at Tsinghua University in Beijing where I will stay for 3 weeks in total. This gives me a chance to explore the culture some more and do some informal observations, visiting the main supermarkets and watching people on the street.

Vegetable market in Qingdao, China

Vegetable market in Qingdao, China

Shellfish and seafood at the market in Qingdao

Shellfish and seafood at the market in Qingdao

More from the open market, Qingdao. What are they??

More from the open market, Qingdao. What are they??

What I’ve found

The thing that strikes me most about China, in general, is the contrast between rich and poor, new and old, shiny and dirty etc. In Nanjing we stayed next to a huge, shiny shopping mall with Starbucks and a cinema and Western clothes shops. But outside, people were selling fruit on the streets just placed on the pavement and a worker from a small restaurant was peeling his veg outside on the street. The train from Nanjing to Beijing went nearly 300km per hour but still had a dirty, squat toilet. Queuing to enter the National Museum of China a security guard grabbed my arm and moved me an inch sideways to get us exactly in line, but everyone pushes onto the subway train before you have a chance to get off. Everything is a contradiction. But maybe that’s good. They have the technology to make life easier, but can still ‘rough it’ better than us in the UK. We’re probably too precious. Too preoccupied with health and safety.

The same could be said for the supermarkets vs open markets. To me, the open markets were not hygienic at all. But as all proper food comes from the ground or sea to start with, it’s probably right that we should have to prepare things to eat ourselves. Qingdao is on the coast, so the market there was packed full of fish and seafood, a lot of it alive. The vegetables at the market too just seemed huge! A lot of people travel by bike, and watching them strap their shopping to the back is quite interesting.

Supermarkets have a lot more staff than in the UK, with assistants hovering around each main section. Fruit and veg is weighed before going to the till, sometimes you pay there and then separately. They have lots of pick and mix sweets and brightly coloured packets creating a rainbow effect. In Beijing so far I’ve visited Carrefour, but got distracted by the ‘imported foods’ section. I bought Babybel! They had a map to show the store layout at the entrance, something suggested by a number of our UK participants. Obviously Carrefour is French rather than Chinese, but I hadn’t seen this in the UK.

In terms of shopping with the older people, there are far fewer mobility scooters and wheelchairs here. They just don’t have the space to get around in them. I spotted this in the Hutong in Beijing though. Similarly, I’m sure a lot of people don’t bother with pushchairs. I haven’t seen many. Some of our Chinese participants can’t read and write either so they have family members helping with the diary tasks, but clearly, this has to affect their shopping, especially in a supermarket as opposed to the open market.

Motorised bike/wheelchair with parasol

Motorised bike/wheelchair with parasol

Useful map in Carrefour, Beijing

Useful map in Carrefour, Beijing

There’s not a huge amount more I can say until I see the results (translated back into English for me!). We will be publishing a comparison study of the UK and China, as well as on the two contexts individually. I’ve had some time to be a tourist too, so I’ll post another blog about that later!

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