A conversation with muse Isobel Williams-Ellis


On the rugged south Cornish coast, we met up with Isobel Williams-Ellis, talented seamstress and co-founder of sustainable underwear and essentials brand Pico. She spoke with us about her creative passions and shared her own thoughtful grounding rituals for skin and self.

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Do you know your skin type? Has it changed in your adult life? If so how? 

I have relatively balanced skin on my face but have always had quite oily skin on my chest and back.  Despite knowing for a long time that milk and dairy are not good for my skin, I have only recently cut it out of my diet.  This is partly because I am not particularly disciplined and also because we had a milkman that has been delivering local organic milk in glass bottles to my door and it is such a lovely thing that I was really reluctant to stop!

Do you have a creative discipline or passion which you dedicate your time to? How does it impact your health/ wellbeing? 

I have always loved making things.  I feel fulfilled when I give myself the time and mental space to be able to be creative without putting pressure on myself to produce any specific outcome. 

When I find myself at a loose end, I rummage through my old leather suitcases packed full of an assortment of fabrics.  The contents of the suitcases are constantly evolving, but currently, there is antique hemp and linen I have found at fairs, lengths of raw silk I hand dyed last summer with madder and turmeric, and naturally dyed organic cotton khadi bought during our time in India. 

I choose the fabric that I fancy making something with and go from there.  There is often a sense of frustration at not being able to make what I want to immediately, or having too many ideas and not starting any of them!  But, when I do manage to create something, I feel really happy.   Recently, I have enjoyed making rompers for friends' babies - they are fun to make as they are so quick and easy.

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When do you feel your most radiant self? 

After sunshine and a swim in the sea!  Or, a good run in the park.   A long walk in the rain.  A supper and stimulating conversations with a group of friends, old and new.  Spontaneous dancing!  Or a big abrazo from Alberto, my partner!   

Do you have any self-care rituals that ground/nourish/energise you? 

Muesli, coffee & Radio 4 is a very reliable start to the weekday!  At the weekend, I love having breakfast together with Alberto, he makes spelt chapattis and we have fruit, yoghurt and strong coffee.  

We also go to the farmers market every Saturday to get our organic fruit and veg.  We try to eat food that is organic and is sourced locally whenever possible.  We are also trying to avoid plastic as much as we can. As a result, I find the process of going to the market a thoughtful ritual in itself and an important part to the week. I find exercise really helps my mental well-being and it always amazes me how much more energised I feel after going for a run, or a swim. It feels like a real luxury to have a bath instead of a shower, but a long hot soak followed by clean, crisp sheets, can be the most delicious way to end the day.  

What is beauty to you? 

I think beauty really radiates when someone is comfortable within themselves and is able to fully express themselves through words, performance, creativity, or simply through their own serenity.

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How do you reconnect when you're feeling out of touch with yourself? 

I find living in London stimulating, but I often find the intensity of city life quite overwhelming.  I am fortunate that I have family and friends in the countryside and the opportunity to get out of the city when I want to.   Last week, we spent some time in Dorset.   Swimming in the sea and walking along the coast in the lashing rain felt like a much-needed tonic to the hot, sticky days that have recently passed in the city.

How do you embrace your own sense of womanhood? 

Working with Phoebe, and creating Pico together, has really strengthened my sense of womanhood these last few years. I am totally inspired by Phoebe's zest for life and ability to bring people together with so much love and warmth.There is a huge amount of trust and intuition between the two of us and a real sense of power in the knowledge we are creating something together, that is honest and true to who we are as individuals

Is there an inspiring/empowering poem or quote that you could share with us? 

We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails

-  Thomas Monson

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You can learn more about Project Pico here.