Alice in Farmland

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Alice Roettgen, whilst working at Colin Parker Furniture.
Photography by Ross Fraser Mclean

Our third interview is with Alice Roettgen, one of our technicians at Custom Lane, who is using enforced downtime to connect with her new community in Gorgie, by helping out at the farm.  Alice has been with us since before Christmas, and quickly made a really positive difference with her infectious enthusiasm and willingness to get involved.  As well as member sessions, she has been helping to run the Women’s Woodshop sessions, as well as helping coordinate a build for the Social Bite Village.

Hey Alice, tell us about yourself – what do you make? And what’s your connection to the Tool Library? 

I am freelance furniture maker and yoga teacher based in Edinburgh and am involved as a technician at the tool library – so usually I help run the open workshop sessions and use the workshops to work on my own projects. At the moment I am making rather little – but before lockdown I have done small projects for friends, either building it for them or creating it with them, teaching them basic woodworking processes. 

Do you think of yourself as creative? Do you think everyone is? 

Yes, I’m starting to!  I think of creativity as the unique way of how people express what is going on for them – so that can be done in a myriad of ways, not just through art. I am often paralyzed by the fear of making mistakes, but I am trying to find a lighthearted, playful approach to making and creating, because it really doesn’t matter if it turns out bad, just keep playing and see where you find joy. And I think with practise and joy and commitment, good things will grow and follow. I have finally gotten round to making scrapbooks and photo albums and decorating my room. 

I think real creativity can also come from removing technology, and allowing yourself to get bored!  That’s when real creativity can kick in – allowing yourself to get lost in something.

What are you doing while locked down? Have you come up with any improvised making? I am self-employed, so I am finding it hard to find a routine that suits me. So in the last week, I have given myself the permission to let go of that and see where my interests take me. I teach yoga online through Zoom. I have taken up volunteering at a food bank/farm opposite where I live and I have started an online network for UK-based female woodworkers which people should definitely check out (Women in Woodwork UK).  I’m trying to focus on things I can do from home. I have also started gardening and rearranged my room 4-5 times! I go out running, cycling, skating (mainly on my bum) and walking – got to know Edinburgh quite well. I cook and eat a lot, skype and spend lots of time with friends from Germany and all over. I play table tennis with my housemate, binge watch TV shows. 

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Alice, taking a break from feeding animals, and really embracing the locked up look

The Female woodwork network sounds great.  Can you tell us more?

It’s called Women in Woodwork UK, and is really about supporting women in the trade with information about courses, funding, and showcasing their skills.  It’s about the amazing women makers we have in this country, what is their story, what are they making and what are they about.  To make it as a female woodworker, you’ve got to have so much character.  Lots of things are against you, that I didn’t realise until I started getting serious about it.  For example, the size of the tools, the boots, PPE and overalls – they aren’t made for women.  We are trying to create an online space where women can share their experiences and advice for each other.

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Alice’s latest project, Women in Woodwork, UK

The Tool Library is based on sharing resources, and we have seen some amazing acts of kindness and sharing things during the current health crisis. How do you think society will view sharing after this is all over? 

I hope people will be a bit more savvy in how to keep things safe and clean and see the positives of local trade/exchange, over global (which is great sometimes, but only where it’s suited to the situation). And I hope that people will appreciate close knit communities, neighbourhoods and a sense of taking care of each other more, making do with what they have and what is already available. 

The environment seems to be enjoying fewer cars on the roads and planes in the sky. How have you viewed our relationship with nature since this all started? 

I have read a few books with trees and nature at their core in the recent weeks. I really do hope that more and more people will become more aware of how interwoven we and our behaviours are with nature, but I am skeptical, I also think some people might just revert back to their behaviours from before (freedom of cheap travel etc.).

I also think that we are possibly more absorbed by technology than before, (I definitely am), I think a lot of people are so saturated by it at points throughout the week or day, that they really cherish their walks out and about, turning to physical activies,appreciate the making of things like bread and turning their hands to gardening / growing in an urban setting. 

What should normal life look like once we all get back to day-to-day life? Can we go back to how it was or should we look for something better – and if so, what does ‘better’ look like? 

I hope that there will be a shift of values and increased investment into what were seen as basic, but now viewed as essential jobs, such as health care, food production, logistics and the creation of even stronger communities, so that ideally no one, or fewer people, feel left behind in their struggles. 

Thanks for chatting with us Alice, if people want to follow your adventures or join you for yoga, how can they find you? 

The Women in Woodworking UK network is on Instagram at the moment. Check it out and give us a follow.

I’m also teaching yoga every morning from 8-9am, so if you want to get your day off to a good start, follow @slowflowyogalice on Instagram and join me.