The Muse Series: With Marina South of Then & Now Studio
Marina South is the founder of Then & Now Studio – a multi-disciplinary creative studio rooted in eco-conscious, soul-aligning brand development and sustainability consultancy.
Marina’s work focuses on connecting us, with slower living and mindful action – something that can be increasingly difficult in the modern world. As an extension of this, Then & Now have developed a Creative Soul Deck - a set of beautiful, minimal and thoughtful cards to further develop your intuition and to help tune into your own internal guidance.
Tell us a little more about Then & Now Studio. How did the idea come about?
I’d worked in the fashion industry for over a decade and it became clear that I wasn’t able to align with the natural rhythms of life. I felt a strong calling to share the knowledge I had accumulated around sustainability with other creatives and brands on a journey to cultivate ethically responsible offerings. What initially began as a space to communicate this knowledge has organically evolved into its own entity. Then & Now Studio has grown to become a space that explores the intersection of art, nature and soul. Offering tools and inspiration that encourage one to return to the natural self by tuning into cyclical living and sensory activation. The objects we create are not only conscious in their conception and production, they also open up a conversation [about the relationship] between ourselves as organic human beings and cyclical living. I feel in many ways I have come full-circle in life – nature, alchemy and art have always been innate. It feels good to now create from this place and share the experience with our community.
Your work marries creativity, mindfulness and ritual. What do you see as the connection between these three practices?
For me the connection between these practices is the conscious act of creating. When we connect creativity, mindful action and ritual, we have the power to cultivate the world we want to live in. Even though our everyday actions can feel small, when we act from a mindful space – whether it’s a conversation or creating a piece of art – we choose what this looks like and how it shapes the world. I believe creativity is born from necessity, growing up in rural Wales with very little money, creativity was the only way to experience what we wanted. Imagining, making and mending was the sustenance we needed to cultivate the environment we wanted to live in. Our kitchen was the hub of our home and where so much of the magic happened; making herbal potions, oil blends and patchworking clothes with my mum and sisters whilst Pink Floyd played from my Dad’s garage, these were all acts of creativity, mindfulness and ritual. In modern times the term mindfulness can be easily used to bypass the root of what it really means to be mindful or conscious. I always return to the idea of creating a world that works for everyone and when we give intention to even our smallest everyday rituals we begin to act from a place of awareness and purpose, we take these energies and we distil them into something real and tangible.
What are your daily self-care rituals? What nurtures you?
For many years I tried to force myself into structured societal ways of living and had so many imbalances and stressors arise from this which resulted in feeling misaligned. When I took the step to create my own path that felt more natural it was a process of complete deconditioning, almost a death and rebirth into a new way of living. My research and work in natural health and sustainability have led me to deep studies of ecology and cyclical living. Whether that’s thinking about the balance of my endocrine system or my everyday rituals for self care, it is about looking to nature and mirroring the cycles there. We have separated ourselves from nature, we often talk about reconnecting with nature when what we really need to do is remember we are nature. It's easy for us to accept that during autumn the tree's leaves change colour and fall to the ground, that in winter the tree stands bare until spring arrives and blossom appears. We are interconnected and experience the same patterns as the tree, accepting this relieves so much pressure, it allows for dialogue with ourselves and our needs.
Cyclical living is where I always start – as we move into Spring I am dry body brushing everyday to drain my lymphatic system, releasing stagnant energy and blockages. Sound is an innate part of my self care – I make playlists to evoke certain energies then dance, stretch and move my body intuitively. I love to make my own oil blends, even the simplicity of rubbing my body, hair and skin in olive oil feels so nourishing. Self-care rituals are not just about the physical body but the mind and soul as well. For me. it’s always about returning to the simplicity of nature, art and expression to nourish the soul.
What nurtures me the most is complete simplicity; home cooking, growing herbs, being with my cats…Cats are always my mentors. Just witnessing them, they’re completely present in the moment, whether they’re in the deepest nap or experiencing pure joy through play they always bring me back to the present moment and what is real. I love good food too, and I’m forever over my cauldron creating herbal blends and tonics – it feels like an alchemical process to me and it’s something I’ve done for as long as I can remember.
Do you have any words that you live by?
The words I forever come back to, especially in modern times when there is so much uncertainty and global trauma is “In chaos, there is fertility”, by Anaïs Nin. It always brings me back to a place of creativity as an act of necessity, of expression as a form of problem solving and to look at what is around me to create something beautiful and nourishing from it.
When thinking of how to live, create and work consciously I always return to the words, ‘that instead of finding solutions to help us continue the way we currently live, we ultimately need to change the way we are living.’ I return to these words often whilst growing a space and a brand that advocates for a more connected, authentic life. We must return to a more natural, cyclical way of living – less is always more.
What have you been inspired by in the small business and wellness space?
For me, I think that independent business is a way to rebalance the landscape and ensure we’re not all only focused on working for, and consuming from, a few global conglomerate companies. Through independent creativity we can cultivate local economies which serve communities directly in a more connected and transparent way.
I’ve worked in the fashion industry for 15 years in high street, mid-level and luxury labels, and have experienced first-hand the challenges when larger established brands try to transition to more sustainable models – it really is complex. Larger businesses are rooted in systems that are well established and vast, making it challenging for them to create anything authentically sustainable. As an independent business you get to build your foundations from the ground up. I can see this happening and even though certain elements will always be a work in progress, by default, small businesses are always more sustainable and create a lower impact.
For me wellness has always been part of my life through my connection to nature. It has always been something innate so I often don’t really see myself as part of the wellness industry. By tuning into the environment that surrounds me, and listening to my mind, body and soul, I integrate practices, rituals and recipes that serve me in a holistic and cyclical way.
Sustainability is a huge part of your philosophy. How do you ensure you’re being a conscious consumer?
One of the biggest shifts for me was changing the structure of my life to have a deeper sense of autonomy over my actions and, as a result, gaining more control over my time. Sustainability doesn’t work when you are time-poor and now the cost of living is so high leaving us all more time-poor than ever. When I grew up it was normal to buy local, take care of what you have, repurpose and pass items on. With the heightened cost of living, and the obsession with upgrading one's physical life we all stepped into a world of convenience. It’s now apparent to witness the effects of these choices and quite clear to see that in our quest to cut corners the planet and collective is suffering. We can have our heart and soul in the right place, but without enough time our intentions can often fall away and we rely on convenience solutions instead.
For me, it’s about looking at everything from a holistic perspective, giving myself the time to do the research, finding the places and people I want to buy from – that’s been a huge part of becoming more conscious in what I consume. I grew up working-class and sustainability was a normal part of life. We would use everything to its maximum capacity; hand-me-downs would be shared between us and then used for art projects after that. Neighbours shared car trips and home-grown goods. That was just the way we lived, as a community supporting each other. Being in the fashion industry for so long, I know product inside out so I’m very critical and can see through the ‘sustainable’ marketing strategies immediately. I tend to buy locally whenever I can. I research all the produce I consume, wear army surplus, vintage and old clothes on repeat. My indulgences are jewellery and scent – they’re a life-long love affair.