InterviewBeth Kirby

The beautiful,
messy contrast

of the imperfect

In her pictures she captures intimacy, quiet beauty and simple adventure. Her blog Local Milk is one of the most astonishing lifestyle blogs we have ever laid eyes on. Discover the golden light and shadows of Beth Kirby’s wonderful prosaic and floral world_______.

What inspires you?

Beth: “Nature in all her beauty. Based in the Appalachian hills of Tennessee, my work and events are inspired by the beauty of the imperfect and mundane, wanderlust, the art of slow living, sustainable food, fresh flowers and light. When I'm not behind the stove, lens, or keyboard I can usually be found combing farmers markets and flea markets alike in search of inspiration or cooking for friends in my kitchen or theirs.”

What is your earliest memory of flowers?

Beth: “My mother kept a small tulip bed, and I remember helping her out back, but I've never been a passionate gardener or had much of a green thumb; I joke that that's why I'm such a farm fangirl, I need them! I can't grow a thing myself.”

We're very curious about your hometown Tennessee, can you tell us more about this special place for you? In your website you mentioned that “It’s a broken place, and its richness lies in its brokenness.”

Beth: “The south has a checkered history, a lot of richness but also a lot of heinous injustice. Mistakes, heartache, and brokenness result in a richer place or person once the mending has taken place. I think that which has been broken, used, and mended is always more beautiful than the pristine and perfect. It has character.”

What inspires you?

Beth: “Nature in all her beauty. Based in the Appalachian hills of Tennessee, my work and events are inspired by the beauty of the imperfect and mundane, wanderlust, the art of slow living, sustainable food, fresh flowers and light. When I'm not behind the stove, lens, or keyboard I can usually be found combing farmers markets and flea markets alike in search of inspiration or cooking for friends in my kitchen or theirs.”

What is your earliest memory of flowers?

Beth: “My mother kept a small tulip bed, and I remember helping her out back, but I've never been a passionate gardener or had much of a green thumb; I joke that that's why I'm such a farm fangirl, I need them! I can't grow a thing myself.”

We're very curious about your hometown Tennessee, can you tell us more about this special place for you? In your website you mentioned that “It’s a broken place, and its richness lies in its brokenness.”

Beth: “The south has a checkered history, a lot of richness but also a lot of heinous injustice. Mistakes, heartache, and brokenness result in a richer place or person once the mending has taken place. I think that which has been broken, used, and mended is always more beautiful than the pristine and perfect. It has character.”

DIY 1

If you'd like a step by step “How to weave a floral crown”, you can find it here.

I love to cook with honeysuckle, chamomile, lavender, rose, lilac, and any other edible floral I can get my hands on

You also went to Australia to teach a workshop on creating content with food and florals...

Beth: “Yes. I teamed up with Rebekka Seale of Camellia Fiber Co. and photographer Luisa Brimble to teach in Australia last September 2014. Slow Living, A Practical Workshop: Creating Content through Food, Florals, Photography and Textiles was designed to both enrich students through practical skills such as natural dyeing with flowers and baking while also strengthening photography and styling skills and giving you the information you need to both create and get your work out there. On the first day, we guided students through the process of naturally dyed textiles using foraged plants and flowers.”

What’s your happiest flower-memory?

Beth: “In 2014, I wove a crown of flowers from local blooms as a farewell to the Estival Mother, a pretty little meditation on my gratitude to nature and all her wild, wild flowers. I don’t have long, languid hours stretched out before me to weave daisy chains. I doubt that any of us do. But what I do have is a choice, and I chose, one afternoon, to say to hell with that load of laundry, I’m going to spend some time with these mad little poems and their spindly stems and nodding heads. I set to weaving them together with a bit of floral wire and within a few minutes, I had a crown. It was actually unbelievably satisfying. And I traipsed around in it doing the rest of the day’s work like a manic faery.”

What flowers were in your wedding bouquet?

Beth: “Beautiful ones… We were married just the two of us in Iceland, and I picked my own bouquet of cotton and wildflowers on the side of the road.”

Can you tell us more about your "Appalachian wabi-sabi"-style?

Beth: “Line, shape, colour, and texture all come together to tell a story and invoke a mood, whether it be of a recipe, home, clothing line, or still life. My style is what I call "Appalachian wabi-sabi", a rustic minimalism that balances the vintage with the modern, the cluttered with the clean. I prefer to work with muted, neutral tones and natural textures like metal, wood, linen, concrete, marble, and ceramic. Synthesis of disparate aesthetics in order to produce an entirely new one is always my goal when styling, and instead of striving for the pristine, I work towards a natural organic, lived-in look.”

What do you try to capture in your photos?

Beth: “My photography aims to capture small moments through prosaic, natural light driven photos. I'm largely inspired by the notion of finding the familiar in the foreign, by nesting wherever you go, as well as conversely finding the exotic in the everyday, of traveling even when you're at home. From cookery to coast lines, geometry to shadow, I try to capture intimacy, quiet beauty, and simple adventure.”

You love to cook. Do you have any favourite edible flowers?

Beth: “I love to cook with honeysuckle, chamomile, lavender, rose, lilac, and any other edible floral I can get my hands on. I love how unexpected and poetic a hint of flowers can make a dish. They all have metaphysical and medicinal properties that lend even more depth to whatever you make with them.”

What’s your favourite spring-recipe with flowers?

Beth: “I once shared a delicious chamomile panna cotta recipe on my blog. This creamy panna cotta, perfumed with chamomile, is the perfect consistency and the ideal dessert to welcome spring. It's easy enough to make on a weeknight, can be made ahead, and, served with shortbread crumbs (recipe below) and a few fresh herbs. It's a special, dinner guest worthy dessert.”

You talk about nesting and traveling in the same breath. Can you tell us more about it?

Beth: “All of the work I do is inspired by the notion of nesting wherever you go and traveling even when you’re at home. My work revolves around seasonal cooking, natural bouquets, simple gatherings, workshops with friends & makers, and vignettes of both a quiet life lived in Tennessee and my travels and wanderings. For me, eating locally is just part of the larger picture of living mindfully, of being present. We are here, and it is now. Slow food and a slow life make moments more prismatic; tomatoes are more salt and earth, flowers more bright and scented, and days more farm-stand than fluorescent.”

What flowers were in your wedding bouquet?

Beth: “Beautiful ones… We were married just the two of us in Iceland, and I picked my own bouquet of cotton and wildflowers on the side of the road.”

Can you tell us more about your "Appalachian wabi-sabi"-style?

Beth: “Line, shape, colour, and texture all come together to tell a story and invoke a mood, whether it be of a recipe, home, clothing line, or still life. My style is what I call "Appalachian wabi-sabi", a rustic minimalism that balances the vintage with the modern, the cluttered with the clean. I prefer to work with muted, neutral tones and natural textures like metal, wood, linen, concrete, marble, and ceramic. Synthesis of disparate aesthetics in order to produce an entirely new one is always my goal when styling, and instead of striving for the pristine, I work towards a natural organic, lived-in look.”

What do you try to capture in your photos?

Beth: “My photography aims to capture small moments through prosaic, natural light driven photos. I'm largely inspired by the notion of finding the familiar in the foreign, by nesting wherever you go, as well as conversely finding the exotic in the everyday, of traveling even when you're at home. From cookery to coast lines, geometry to shadow, I try to capture intimacy, quiet beauty, and simple adventure.”

You love to cook. Do you have any favourite edible flowers?

Beth: “I love to cook with honeysuckle, chamomile, lavender, rose, lilac, and any other edible floral I can get my hands on. I love how unexpected and poetic a hint of flowers can make a dish. They all have metaphysical and medicinal properties that lend even more depth to whatever you make with them.”

What’s your favourite spring-recipe with flowers?

Beth: “I once shared a delicious chamomile panna cotta recipe on my blog. This creamy panna cotta, perfumed with chamomile, is the perfect consistency and the ideal dessert to welcome spring. It's easy enough to make on a weeknight, can be made ahead, and, served with shortbread crumbs (recipe below) and a few fresh herbs. It's a special, dinner guest worthy dessert.”

You talk about nesting and traveling in the same breath. Can you tell us more about it?

Beth: “All of the work I do is inspired by the notion of nesting wherever you go and traveling even when you’re at home. My work revolves around seasonal cooking, natural bouquets, simple gatherings, workshops with friends & makers, and vignettes of both a quiet life lived in Tennessee and my travels and wanderings. For me, eating locally is just part of the larger picture of living mindfully, of being present. We are here, and it is now. Slow food and a slow life make moments more prismatic; tomatoes are more salt and earth, flowers more bright and scented, and days more farm-stand than fluorescent.”

What do you do with the flowers you find during those travels?

Beth: “I like using foraged flowers as gift toppers. I shared a DIY guide on Local Milk on how to make beautiful, rustic gift wrapping using florals, greenery, dried flowers or berries. I used old pages from a Wild Unknown calendar, black matte paper, and linen (still my favourite) along with twine, yarn, and washi tape. To complete them, I created these floral toppers using nothing but some floral foam, a knife, and trimmings.”

What is your philosophy?

Beth: “My philosophy is that regarding the quotidian as art down to the detail renders so much more out of life. That’s the aim of my work; be it baking a pie, writing prose, styling a photoshoot or just a table, arranging foraged florals, hosting a gathering, teaching a workshop, or cooking a dinner. I strive to appreciate every scent, every texture, every season, every taste. I want to love my sugar bowl and my toothpaste, what I learn from conflict and from a weeping meringue. Sometimes beauty is very ugly, and sometimes the ugly is very beautiful.”

A selection from Beth Kirby's timeline, @local_milk