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Serendipity: hard work, (seemingly) random decisions and the faith of others. Part 1

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

I’ve been thinking a lot about serendipity in the last few weeks … I’ve no idea why, but I’ve been pondering the part it has played in my career in craft. Serendipity has been my benefactor.

Good fortune, of course, doesn’t occur by accident. It is the accumulation of many (seemingly) unconnected interests, activities and decisions, leading ineluctably to an outcome. When the disparate strands finally converge then serendipity steps in.

For years I had been interested in craft, exposed to history, art and the beauty of the handmade by my parents who took me and my siblings to visit museums, stately homes and gardens. I was being schooled without knowing it. Every visit to a new place instilling, bit by bit, a greater appreciation of art and of making: the wallpaper of William Morris, the carving of Grinling Gibbons, a painting by a master, a vase by a Chinese genius, a piece of glass designed by Burne-Jones.

And then I went into theatre. Which seems perhaps an odd decision, but it too is a profession built on self-expression, on creating something physical from a raw material (in this case a script) and requiring an audience. I studied to be a craftsperson at drama school – three years at RADA – and then continued my study as a professional. It is a craft I continue to this day.

In the early 2000s however my life in theatre hit a stumbling block – something for which I thank the fates now – when the realisation hit that I was acting in plays, but I was also acting in life. The strain of not being authentic, of hiding my truth, was taking its toll and curtailing my progression. I had to step back for a time and locate my own voice to continue being creative: the chasm between me and my own truth risked stretching too far to span. Believe it or not this too was serendipitous, although it certainly didn’t feel so at the time, and my personal struggle instilled in me an abiding passion to help others with theirs.

Leaving theatre though, it was a terribly big step. It presented a massive quandary, what was I to do …?

It was here – serendipity again! – that another strand of what was to be my future threaded itself into my story. I was offered a freelance job in BBC Books under the brilliant Head of Books, Tracey Smith. Here I could still work with words, exploring my creativity in a different way. I simultaneously studied ceramics through City & Guilds (this latter decision, although I didn’t know it then, proving pivotal).

My life was moving in mysterious ways, so it seemed to me at the time, but serendipity still had cards up its sleeve. I just had to cultivate patience and trust what the future had in store.

I didn’t have long to wait.


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