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      JOURNAL — Family business

      Home is where your heart is...... but so challenging to physically get to during a pandemic.....

      Home is where your heart is...... but so challenging to physically get to during a pandemic.....

      We’d always planned to go back to New Zealand for my maternity leave with Malakai. We’d done the same when we had Maximilian - to introduce him to family and friends and have their support in the early months.

      But we never expected that it’d be quite so tough to get back this time around.

      Once upon a time it was the simple job of arranging baby's passport, booking flights, maybe an airport hotel the night before or airport transfers. Done, ready to go!

      But this time......

      Nothing. Has. Been. Easy. 

      Here are the series of challenges we’ve had to navigate to plan our journey back to NZ. Hopefully this post can help any Kiwis in the UK with young families who're also planning their journey home. Otherwise, just some insight into the many parts we've had to align and to what's been keeping us busy on top of everything else. 

      Challenge 1: Closed NZ Border + International Hubby

      Gone are the days of a 5 minute electronic travel application. With NZ’s borders being closed to non-NZ nationals, Stefan, who travels on a German passport, has had to apply for a Critical Purpose Visa (CPV) to be able to enter with us. Although relatively straightforward, it was still a time consuming task as needed to collate and provide detailed proof of our relationship. You also have a window to enter the country which, when you’ve got a baby’s passport to apply for, quarantine and flights to book, can be a bit stressful to ensure you’re going to be travelling within the said window......

      Challenge 2: Getting Malakai’s NZ Passport

      You need a birth certificate to be able to apply for a passport and you need passport details to be able to book MIQ (hotel quarantine) and flights to enter NZ.  Unfortunately there are COVID-related delays with registering births in the UK, and so this delays getting passport applications in. The London NZ Passport office has also closed due to COVID and passports are processed back in NZ with lengthy turn around times..... what’s not advertised on their website, and only offered after enquiring by email, is that ‘urgent’ services are still available in London with a guaranteed return within 10 working days (vs 4 week +). It’s an extra couple of hundred pound, from memory, but felt worth it in our case for the security!

      Challenge 3: Booking Managed Isolation & Quarantine (MIQ)

      On entering NZ from abroad, you need to complete a 14 day hotel quarantine before being granted access to the 'free world'. You need to ensure that you book a quarantine slot BEFORE you book your flights as (we're now aware) they're blimmin hard to get. It was before Christmas that I registered our family to get a slot, but the MIQ calendar wasn't visible - as to book as you need to input all family members passport details and we were still awaiting Malakais. On speaking to my auntie, who was also planning her return, she mentioned it was already booked up until March. March?! Fully booked three months out?!

      The feeling of being unable to get home, to be reunited with loved ones, is truly not a nice one.

      Many emails around the houses later, we were able to get the direction to remove Malakai from our booking to be able to successfully secure a slot. Mid-march. Yes! Although at that point it felt like an eternity away, it was a true celebratory moment. Once we received Malakai’s passport we were able to then add him back onto our voucher via a simple email request.

      Challenge 4: Booking Flights

      Now is not the time to look for the best deal through a third party search engine like Skyscanner. It's back to booking through travel agents, people who, when shite hits the fan e.g. new strains, cancelled flights, banned transit routes etc, are able to rebook you on an alternate route to get you home as planned. There’s a fine chap out in NZ, Tim Malone, who runs House of Travel (Albany). He specialises in getting Kiwis home at the moment and has ‘saved’ many people from being stranded in the country they're currently in. We’re feeling in safe hands to have booked through him.

      Challenge 5. Booking PCR COVID Test

      When the South African COVID strain appeared late last year, it was introduced that you needed to have a negative COVID test (within 72h of your first flight) to be able to 1) board your flight and 2) to enter NZ. There are a number of options to have the tests done across the UK (Boots, Express Test, your local airport etc) but they vary with regard to cost and processing times, and there've been a few stories of inconclusive results or results returning too late in the piece. So we've gone for what seems to be a very reliable mode - the Test & Rest option at the Sofitel Heathrow. Again, it's not the cheapest but it includes the hotel room for the night before your flight, testing and rapid result processing - which you're guaranteed to have before your flight.


      So here we are, self isolating in the Cotswold countryside, doing our best to remain COVID free. All that now remains is to continue to avoid contact with others and cross fingers and toes that all goes to plan from here!!


      | A Woman's Work - A Q&A with Textile Artist Debbie Smyth |

      | A Woman's Work - A Q&A with Textile Artist Debbie Smyth |

      'A Woman's Work' is a LOMIE Q&A series with inspirational women, often mothers, whom I've met throughout the years and have made an impression on me. It's such an honour to be able to share their stories with you. Today we speak with Debbie Smyth, a textile artist who's travelled the world for her work, creating large scale thread art pieces (often live) for the likes of New York Times, Hermes and Instagram, to name but a few.  

      Debbie and I became acquainted a number of years back when I was director of design for an interior textiles manufacturer, and have since followed each others careers with interest. Debbie's work is incredibly intricate and when I first saw it, it blew my mind. Not only does the final piece make an incredible impact, but it's also the high levels of planning, followed by the execution which is involved that makes her work truly mesmerising. An incredibly talented lady. In this Q&A we learn more about Debbie's craft and career, how her partner joined to support her business and, now as a recent mother, how the two of them share both work and parenting duties for their gorgeous son Rigby.


      Hi Debbie! Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you came to specialise in textile art and, in particular, thread art.

      Textiles have always been a passion; I suppose, a second nature. I don't ever remember not being able to sew; it was something I learnt at a very young age. My mother always mended our clothes so I learnt the basics early and I was constantly altering my clothes as a teenager. When deciding what career path to take when leaving school, the two choices I whittled it down to were going to Art College or studying biomedical engineering. I decided to go do an art foundation course to help make my mind up.

      It wasn't until I did my foundation course that I really discovered what was achievable through textiles, sewing didn't just have to be functional, and I fell in love with this way of creating art. I then moved to West Wales to study; graduating in 2008 with a BA (Hons) degree in Contemporary Textiles.

      Having specialised in textiles, I liked the concept of using the integral materials of the discipline, yet in an unorthodox way. I am textile artist most identifiable by my statement thread drawings. My process is very material led. I look at thread as a drawing medium; how the thread falls or knots, often dictates my next step. Achieving complex shading and tactile surface patterns by pushing the expected scope and application of my chosen materials; I established my studio practice in 2009, and have worked on an extremely diverse range of projects spanning large scale hotel installations, event art, corporate interiors, illustration, gallery installations and smaller bespoke pieces.

      My partner Zac has come onboard in more recent years due to the scale and magnitude of some of the projects we have taken on across the globe. Our unusual style and distinctive approach has garnered deserved attention; commissioned by major companies including Ellesse, The New York Times, Sony, Adidas, Instagram, Continental, Four Seasons Hotel group, Mercedes Benz and Hermes to name a few. 



      You’ve recently become a mother, and are just getting back into creating again. How are you finding balancing your craft with motherhood?

      Myself and Zac worked on very physically demanding projects right up until I was 8 months pregnant. By doing so, we saved up, allowing us both to take 4 months maternity/paternity leave together. We eased ourselves back in slowly, sharing the workload & took on our first project as a trio when Rigby was 4 months old; an event in Dublin, producing an interactive live art event piece over the course of a few days. Part of the reason we were willing to take on this project was due to my family being in Ireland. Rigby got to go sightseeing in Dublin with his Granny & Auntie, whilst we cracked on with the job in hand. I took regular breastfeeding breaks and we made it work.

      We’ve been selective with the projects we have taken on since being pregnant & having Rigby. In recent years, we’ve been incredibly fortunate that our craft has taken us around the world. However we have had to limit the projects, which involve travel & long hours as it’s not so easy these days. Not only because travelling and working with a baby is tricky but also COVID-19 has stopped us in our tracks recently.

      So instead, our focus has been on more studio based work where we can set the schedule and hours in the comfort of our own space; allowing much more flexibility to juggle parenting & business. We have had to adapt how we work; I take care of managing, admin and design & my partner undertakes the majority of the fabrication. It’s a massive balancing act; we juggle caring for Rigby between us so we share the workload. It has taken a bit of fine-tuning to figure out a system, but we are finding a rhythm. We are also currently renovating our house so lots of juggling going on.

      We count ourselves very lucky that we both spend precious time with Rigby; both getting to witness those everyday moments and the big milestones. The toothy grin at bedtime or the first steps. This is the real magic that makes the rest of it happen!

      Debbie & Rigby in LOMIE Scarf Bib


      Does ethics and sustainability come into play at all with what you do?

      Sustainability is something we would like to address further within our practice as one can always do more however when working to clients brief it is sometimes hard to implement our own values. We use recycled/sustainable thread ranges by Gutermann & Coats when possible. If we create work that is fabricated for an event, and could potentially only have a short life span, we make suggestions to give the piece more longevity. Usually by designing it in such a way that following the event it can be transported to a new home to be displayed permanently.

      We love working on sustainability-centered projects. For example, last year we created a series of artworks for Coats using and celebrating their Ecoverde thread, which is made from recycled plastic bottles.


      Tell me about a particular highlight you’ve had with your work? What are you most proud of?

      This is a really difficult question. I suppose an aspect I find very satisfying is the final unveil of a piece that has been years in the making. So much work goes on behind the scenes that people don’t realise; months of back and forth between ourselves and the clients, countless presentations, numerous rejected designs, amending and tweaking compositions, laborious hours of planning and prep work, multiple site visits and inspections and long hours installing on site. Months and months and months of work that finally leads to what we had all this time been working towards, a monumental artwork and a happy client. This elated feeling was had when we completed a ‘Fleeting’, a 10m x 2.5m piece now permanently installed at 10 Fleet Place, London. Inwardly and outwardly the reflections and distortions of the curved glass façade mirror and echo the motion of the life of 10 Fleet Place; distorting the perception of the city and blurring lines of brilliant light streaks; echoing nuances of it’s environment whilst capturing ‘a fleeting moment’ of a city constantly in flux.

      Feeting by Debbie Smyth

      A very contrasting highlight was a very special art residency we undertook at Folio Daan, Taipei from Oct – Dec 2017. Over the course of 3 months, we worked at a much slower pace allowing ourselves to be completely immersed in the Taiwanese culture, we documented our journey through the people we met. Each character in the FOLIO X FUBON series represents a significant aspect of our Taipei impression. From the language barrier and what we learnt to the everyday customs and weather. Expressing how we adapted to a new culture, and absorbed the environment. These 3 works are now permanently installed at Folio Daan Hotel, Taipei.

      Debbie Smyth


      Has COVID-19 impacted on your business or your way of working at all?

      We didn’t have any projects which involved intensive travel lined up, so luckily, that aspect of our practice was not affected. Our focus has been on more studio based projects since having Rigby which fortunately has swung in our favour as it has meant we have been able to continue to work in isolation at our studio during lockdown.

      We quoted on quite a few projects at the beginning of the year which have been postponed or cancelled. Although we have not been massively immediately impacted, I think this is only the beginning.... The sector we work in will have a tough few years ahead, I’m sure.


      As a mother, what do you look for in baby and children’s clothing? What other brands would you recommend for new mothers.

      Longevity is a big thing for me; I often buy clothes that are too big, and roll up the sleeves or cuffs... they grow so fast & I love a baggy-chic baba!

      I go for pre-loved if I can; I buy a lot from charity shops & a local second hand kids shop, in particular – KIDS STUFF @stroudkidsstuff.

      If I do buy new, I try to but from small independent makers & shops...
      Aside from LOMIE, here’s a few brands and shops I have made some recent baby purchases from...

      @marmalade_sky @hapsnordic @aciubaba @thelittlewoodenpeg @we.are.pop @magnusmakesthree @wornbylittles @cissywears @lilyandfred @wemightbetiny

      Rigby in LOMIE


      What’s one piece of advice that you’d give for other mothers who are considering starting their own business?

      Take care of yourself...if you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot take care of your family or run a business. It’s very easy to burn yourself out by putting too much pressure on yourself.

      After settling into mama hood, I found a rhythm to our days & was able to schedule in set times to focus on business. I try to make sure that I am fully present during the time I am with my baby; this allows me to be in a more focused state when working, rather than trying to juggle several tasks at once, which really stresses me out. Focus is something I have really struggled with getting back since becoming a mama so I try to be really strict with my time, which helps.

      It helps that my partner and I share parenting and business, meaning that neither of us gets too fed up.... that often!?!