Last week, for the first time in a long time, I had a lovely chat with someone other than a member of my immediate family (via Zoom, obviously!), and it was a little strange but absolutely delightful.
Her name is Faye Hine and she’s an artist/maker and climber from Manchester.
I initially came across Faye in the first issue of Beta magazine (a climbing magazine aimed at women but inclusive of all), in which she wrote an excellent article titled “Let’s Talk About What Makes You a ‘Real’ Climber”, which resonated with some of my own experiences in the climbing community. As a climber who exclusively boulders, only relatively recently started climbing outdoors on actual rock, and has no desire to live in a van, I’ve often questioned my own ‘realness’ in the world of climbing.
Further Instagram based investigation revealed that Faye is a passionate climber, a lover and admirer of nature, and someone with a splendid sense of humour and a creative soul. Oh, and she has a cute cat. When I subsequently discovered she had her own hand-made jewellery brand, Foxgloves and Ferns, I was delighted to have a reasonable excuse to get in touch with her. We soon swapped some earrings for a chalk bucket and arranged a date for a virtual chat.
As our respective Zoom windows popped open, we both admitted we were a bit rusty at this whole conversation malarky. I think we were both concerned about how well our out-of-practice social skills would handle the pressure of a lengthy conversation with someone we’d otherwise only exchanged a few emails and Instagram comments with. But we gradually both relaxed into the swing of things, with a little help from Kat the cat, and found plenty of common ground to cover, specifically our experiences as makers who climb things (or climbers who make things!)
“I’ve always been a very creative person”, Faye told me.
I expected to talk mostly about her skills as a jewellery maker, but it turns out that this is just one string to her very elaborately strung creative bow.
“I went to a very creative high school. I studied textiles, fashion, art, fine art, and photography. I didn’t really enjoy or agree with the structure of art education. But I was in love with creating and expressing myself through my creativity.”
Whether it’s her paintings, photographs, or pieces of jewellery, the common source of inspiration running through Faye’s work is definitely the natural world. Her eyes lit up when telling me about walking in the Peak District with her Mum and various outdoor climbing trips to the Peak District, the Lake District, and Snowdonia. These adventures have provided her with an inexhaustible supply of inspiration and love for the outdoors.
“I’m just a great big hippy really!” she gleefully confessed!
Her Instagram feed is full of glorious photos (and the occasional painting) of rocks, plants, rivers, animals, and landscapes that have me itching to raise my arse off this comfy sofa and go roaming barefoot around the countryside taking in all the great green goodness of the world. The nod to nature is slightly subtler in many of her pieces of jewellery but it’s certainly an important part of her process and brand.
I asked her where the name, Foxgloves and Ferns, came from and even this seemed to be a gift delivered by mother nature. During a difficult day on the rock, Faye found herself feeling frustrated and slumped herself down on the bouldering mat beneath her feet for a rest. As she lay there at the bottom of a boulder, she lost herself in the view from her little crash pad of contemplation.
“I felt like Alice at the bottom of the rabbit hole as these foxgloves and ferns surrounded and towered above me.”
And so, Foxgloves and Ferns was born.
Although she’s been creating things all her life, I was surprised to learn that her jewellery making skills were actually quite a recent addition to her creative toolkit.
“I actually learned how to make jewellery quite recently via YouTube. I’ve just got a small selection of tools and tiny hands that are good for jewellery making and crimping!”
Turns out there aren’t many skills you can’t learn from a well-presented YouTube tutorial.
As a lover of nature, Faye is very conscious of the materials she uses and how they are sourced. She’s even attempted to carve her own beads from wood found in her local area. Although she’s not quite mastered this artform yet and has so far only ended up with piles of small split pieces of wood. Maybe she just hasn’t found the right YouTube video for it yet.
“I’d had the idea for the business for a while, but I didn’t want to do it if I couldn’t make it sustainable. I do a lot of research into suppliers and make sure the metal and crystals that I use are sourced locally, which can involve delving quite deep into the supply chain! All the jewellery is made and packaged without plastic and I try to make sure all the materials are hypoallergenic as well.”
The result of this mental and physical labour is a beautiful selection of predominantly earrings, but also necklaces and bracelets, which are inspired by nature and delicately charming in style. My particular favourites are these adorable little bee earrings, which match very nicely with my bee socks. I feel ever so slightly like I’m letting the team down if I fail to wear the socks and the earrings together.
As well as being pleasingly in keeping with the natural theme of her work, these bees are an affectionate hat-tip to Faye’s home city of Manchester.
“The founding fathers chose the worker bee as the symbol of Manchester in 1842, around the time of the industrial revolution, as a reference to all the people working in the factories in the city.”
She also spoke fondly of following the Bee in the City art trail around Manchester in 2018. The trail featured over 100 bee statues, which had been designed and decorated by local artists and community groups and were eventually auctioned off to raise money for local charities. Follow this link to see all the bees in their unique glory. As a lifelong Coronation Street watcher, my favourite has to bee (as ever, I will not be apologising for my terrible puns!) Hilda Bugden, but there really is a bee to suit every taste in this fine collection.
As well as discussing artistic pursuits, Faye and I obviously had to have a good old gossip about climbing. We compared notes on some staples of climbing chat including how she got into climbing, the perils of fingerboarding, and bouldering versus climbing with ropes. But the parts of our conversation that stuck out for me centred on the mental aspects of the sport.
Even in her very first bouldering session, Faye was putting a lot of thought into her motivation and evaluating what climbing really meant to her.
“I was introduced to climbing by my boyfriend and I was adamant I wasn’t going to like it. I didn’t appreciate proving him right when I had a great time during our first session! But I still wasn’t sure if this was something I could love for myself or something I liked because I enjoyed spending time with my (then) new boyfriend.
The Depot, Manchester, opened not long after I started climbing, which gave me the opportunity to climb on my own more often and I realised that it really was the sport for me.”
Since then, she’s not only developed her relationship with climbing but also herself.
“Before I took up climbing, I had bleach blonde hair, fake nails, fake eyelashes. It was A LOOK. But through climbing, I’ve really developed as a person and gotten more in touch with myself.”
Faye highlighted the fun and explorative nature of climbing as one of its major plus points, but she also spoke very candidly about the role fear plays in the sport.
“I’m an emotional Pisces! I’ve had to learn when to use my fear as a tool to push myself or leave it on the ground if it’s not helping me. I also recommend having a little cry after a scary fall. That always makes me feel better!”
Having shed tears of joy, sadness, and frustration over numerous boulders I can also advocate for the benefit of having a quick cry to let your emotions flow and simmer down mid-way through a stressful climbing session.
In a recent Instagram post, Faye highlighted the importance of acknowledging how fear affects people’s day-to-day climbing experiences and how sending hard grades isn’t the bee-all and end-all (not stopping with the puns, still not sorry!)
“My mental game for bouldering comes in waves of good days and bad days. On a good day I’ll be ‘fearless’ and take a fall - I am confident in my ability. On a bad day I get nervous before I even start a climb; I won’t trust my body and end up in more danger because of down-climbing or awkward body positioning.
I have the knowledge now, that I accept my fear but within reason and if my fear is really bad I’ll call it quits for the day so I don’t end up injured... and that’s absolutely fine . . .I believe it always feels great to achieve a new grade, but overcoming a fear feels so much more rewarding.”
By the end of our conversation, it was clear to me that Faye is someone capable of not only accepting and allowing space for her fear, but also using it to fuel her tenacity and push her limits. This fighting spirit provides a little extra clinging power when hanging off her Beastmaker, precariously located above a flight of stairs, and the willingness to branch out into new types of climbing that initially seem daunting.
“I’m not super enthusiastic about trad climbing. I’m intimidated by the energy levels and lock-off power required for it. But my partner wants to try it and we’re quite competitive, so I’ll obviously have to give it a try as well!”
Although we talked about some of the more serious sides of life, Faye’s wonderfully silly sense of humour was ever-present. She described her power scream as more of a power “yelp”, admitted being very partial to a bad pun and professed a proud love of the comedic morsels on offer on TikTok, which she also dabbles in creating.
“I have a load of videos that I filmed for a YouTube channel that I never started but I prefer the silly sense of humour on TikTok. It’s all bad puns and daft memes. And honestly, how much can I embarrass myself in a 7 second clip?!”
I must confess, as at 31 years of age I feel a little too old for TikTok, but some of her 7-second snippets have made it to my Instagram feed and they are an excellent giggle. Not embarrassing at all and certainly a worthwhile way to lighten your day.
Initially, I was a little nervous about conducting my first Zoom interview for the blog. I’m generally more comfortable with the written word than the spoken word and, as I mentioned, very out of practice with meeting new people. Thankfully, I chose a wonderfully engaging, generous, and witty soul to start with and the 2 hours I spent chatting with Faye flew by in a refreshing and amusing manner. Hopefully we’ll be able to have a similar chat in person, preferably in close proximity to some rocks, in the near future.
Where to Find Faye and her Work
Not only can I highly recommend picking up some of her beautiful pieces of jewellery but also keeping an eye on her for sincere and engaging nuggets of wisdom as well as some much-needed ludicrous levity.
Foxgloves and Ferns on Etsy, where you can buy her sustainable and super cute pieces of jewellery
Follow @foxgloves_and_ferns on Instagram for the latest updates and products
You can also follow Faye herself on Instagram @hellafaye
Check out her amusing antics on TikTok
And finally, read her article in Beta Magazine here