How did this craft teacher and plant lover get more than 100,000 Instagram followers?

“What do you think might be on the average person’s list of favourite things? Avocado toast? A phalanx of likes on the facebook? Their cat? Sounds legit. Well it seems that seeping into the subconscious of a truckload of folk right now are… plants. ‘Pffff’ some might say ‘you can stick your cotoneaster down your cropped trouser leg, botany is well dull’. WELL, read on, cos it ain’t…”

Emma Mitchell is a well-known Instagrammer… Although, she is incredibly modest, despite having a following that get her a free Range Rover (probably..) Emma has been sweet enough to guest blog here on the Mr Plant Geek website, and tells us why plants are big right now..

“A couple of years ago my IG (that’s what us wannabe millenials call Instagram) was mostly pictures of our dog wearing fairy wings and an occasional suggestive parsnip from up the farm shop. I teach people to make things though and I also hoped to write things… things that might be in a bookshop one day! I realised that Instagram might be a good place to find like-minded folk, who may be interested in learning to make things, or perhaps reading what I might write. So I cast about for ‘ways to get good on the ‘gram’. My favourite things include cheese, cabinets of curiosity, making things out of twigs, early 20th century botanical reference books and drawing hedge parsley, so I started to make pictures that reflected these seemingly niche interests (except the cheese).

Autumn leaves flat-lay collage by Emma Mitchell

I thought a few mates, half a botanist and perhaps a couple of gardeners might like my photographs. I considered training our dog to click ‘like’ and awaited the tumbleweeds. Turns out people love a ‘gram that looks like a Victorian herbarium. Who knew? One of my annotated floral images was ‘liked’ by over 20,000 people. You WHAT? It seems that plants are back. Plants are chic. Seriously, you could have knocked me down with a zinnia.

Thinking about it rationally it’s no real surprise that folk are fond of nature-inspired images. There’s a Japanese pastime known as ‘forest bathing’: taking a short trip to a wood or forest and simply being there in order to improve your health. Research has shown that being in a green space boosts mood by increasing levels of the feel good neurotransmitter serotonin and diminishing levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Tests have shown that simply looking at images of nature can induce a similar positive effect.

I’m a craft teacher and show folk how to cast their nature finds in silver and draw their botanical finds. There is increasing evidence that time spent making, drawing or baking can have a similar effect on the brain to that of being in a green space.

Some plant craft by Emma Mitchell

Plants are always there, outside. They’re a reliable source of solace when politicians seems to have eaten some unusual mushrooms they found up the wood and a certain American seems to be morphing into a turmeric-tinted Darth Vader. Making things with stuff you found in a park or hedgerow can have a doubly beneficial effect when everything seems to have fallen down the khazi. Take a short nature walk, bring back some bonny twigs, whip up a wreath, pop it on your wall and bask in the mental benefits of having being outdoors and spending some time making something by hand.

I think that plants are enjoying a moment just now because they can make you feel happier.”

Meadow flowers flat-lay collage by Emma Mitchell

Emma is a designer-maker, Guardian Country Diarist, photographer, illustrator, craft teacher and the author of Making Winter. Her favourite substances are silver, yarn, cake, chlorophyll and cheese and she lives on the edge of the Fens with her husband, two daughters, two guinea pigs and a flatulent lurcher puppy called Annie.
Emma wrote Making Winter because she discovered that craft and contact with nature really helped to ease her SAD. Her hope is that simply nestling with it under a blanket and looking at her photographs might make the grey days of January lovelier. It is filled with nature-inspired craft projects, many if which require a short walk to collect materials from a park or hedgerow. There is also a recipe for a 5 minute chocolate fondant in a mug!
Buy Emma’s brilliant Making Winter book here!

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