"Wild Swimming" is written by contemporary stained glass artist Flora Jamieson and illustrated by Gemma Koonen. Flora's designs are inspired by graphic design, the natural world, organic forms and geometric patterns. Gemma Koomen is a freelance illustrator and artist based in wild Northumberland, inspired by nature, nostalgia and simplicity. Flora recently invited Gemma to collaborate on creating this book to accompany a talk on wild swimming which Flora was due to give at Sisterhood Camp Retreats.
Flora Jamieson in her studio
Flora's motivation behind producing the book was to share the joy and magic that she feels when swimming outdoors and Gemma's work is driven "by the desire to capture little moments of calm and joy". I can't think of a better combination.
"Wild Swimming" is clearly a meeting of minds and shows that collaborations can lead to great things. As with many things which are done from the heart, the response to this book has been fantastically positive, with lots of people buying a copy for themselves and one for a friend. It is no surprise that it has sold out twice already - keep your eyes peeled for a potential reprint and you can buy a giclee print of Gemma's front cover illustration
Beautifully presented in a square format,"Wild Swimming" is printed on 100% recycled paper and full of practical guidance, resources, and advice on how to stay not only safe but warm. Flapjacks are a must and important advice is given on being mindful that conditions can change from minute to minute and that you should always swim with others.
Illustrated throughout with a sensitive selection of inspirational quotes and delicate illustrations by Gemma, Flora's description of her first outdoor swim of the year, with her daughters, is an insight into her love of the experience which is joyful to read.
"It is like the most beautiful madness. So cold that it is impossible not to squeal as we submerge our waists, shoulders, heads....afterwards we are back on the beach, wrapped in towels, not feeling cold at all, but every inch of us alive and tingling and wishing we had stayed in just a little longer. I look at my girls and see how they are shining with the accomplishment, their hair salty and tangled, their eyes bright and wild".
For me personally, Flora & Gemma's book has encouraged me to take better care of myself and has changed my swimming routine for good. I try to swim in the sea more often and "brave" the waters of the outdoor pool at the local gym every time that I swim, and am determined to see this through during the winter months, for as long as I can at least! As Flora writes "regular exposure to cold water can increase the white blood cell count which leads to a more efficient immune system. It also improves your circulation, is mood enhancing, and increases your metabolism".
2017 was a summer where we mostly stayed at home, in Brighton, but the over-arching best memory was when visiting Norfolk for a few days, my partner and two children all braved the waters of the North Sea at Holkham Gap on a windy day. I can still hear the laughter and picture the smiles as we all bobbed about in the freezing waters, "every inch of us alive and tingling" and afterwards "wishing we had stayed in just a little longer".
Dip your toe in and enter the world of wild swimming...can you hear the flow of current enticing you?
"Climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot oftener, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along" Robert J Hastings
Part 2 coming soon! Jehane interviews Flora Jamieson about Wild Swimming