Rocking Day in the Life of… Robin Watkins-Davis

A 20-year-old award-winning artist who’s recently displayed her installation ‘Shift’ in Painswick. Robin splits her time between her art and teaching yoga and works hard to inspire mental wellbeing in under 25s.

So Robin, when did you discover you had artistic talent….and did you know you wanted to move into contemporary art early on?

I have been doing art since I was around four years old and began focusing on developing my artistic skills when I was 10 years old. After my school day, (Croft Primary School in Painswick) I had tutors in fine art painting and sculpture and this began my fascination with art as I found the extra circular lessons stimulating and challenging. I built up a portfolio of work which then got me an art scholarship.

At secondary school and sixth form I focused mainly on fine art painting, developing my technical drawing skills, it was on my art foundation course at Stroud, last year where my mind opened to contemporary art and I pushed my own artistic boundaries like never before.

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When did you start practising yoga?  We saw that you were the UK’s youngest yoga instructor not so long ago, so it must have been at a very young age?!

I started meditation first at the age of 12, this was to support me as I was going through a bit of a dark time and connected to the practice as a way of overcoming the challenges, providing me with some hope and control over the way I was feeling.

I got into yoga around the age of 14 and then trained at 16 years old to become the UK’s youngest yoga teacher.

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You are keen on promoting mindfulness, particularly with young people around Gloucestershire, what would be your three tips for someone needing more calm in their life?

Ooo… this is a good question!

Tip 1) When in a state of overwhelm or stress, I try and use my body and breath as a way of connecting into the present moment, this doesn’t have to be yoga, it could be walking or another form of exercise. Instead of thinking, I try and connection into sensations and feelings, for example following the breath as it flows in and out through my body. This helps anchor me into the present moment and then things often seem much more manageable!

Tip 2) To step outside of the ‘heat’ of the emotion and instead see the body in a mechanical sense, ie: what you put in, you get out. When I am not feeling well mentally or physically, I apply to perspective and think about how I can change a habit or behaviour so that I then get a different outcome. For example, when I feel stressed instead of delving into that and getting even more stressed out, and then telling everyone how stressed I am, I try my best to step back and say to myself mentally, ‘Okay Robin, you are feeling stressed, that’s okay, that’s just my body telling me that its under a bit too much pressure.’ Then I try and find some small changes, for example sleeping more which will shift that emotion or experience.

Tip 3) To remember there are only so many hours in a day, I often remind students this when I go into schools and do de-stress exam workshops. All we can do is our best, taking moments to pause is just as important as the doing.

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You’re originally from Tasmania, how did you come to live in the Cotswolds?

Yes, I was born there, my father is Australian, we came over to the UK after spending a few years in both Australia and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. I think my mum was missing her family back in the UK so we decided to come back here, my mum liked the idea of my brother and I going to a small village primary school which is why we moved to Painswick and I am very grateful for that because I love the the community of the village, the people are very supportive and have encouraged me to dream big and make them come true!

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You worked with Zandra Rhodes and Giffords Circus – which sounds amazing – what did you do?

Yes, I lived and worked with Dame Zandra Rhodes, an opportunity which I won through Art Couture Painswick with their wearable art festival. It was an amazing experience as I was 17 and had never stayed in London for that length of time before, I was assisting Zandra with designs for costumes she was making for an opera and drawing her archive collection for her ‘fashion bible.’ In the evenings I enjoyed meals with Zandra, and one highlight was going to look around the David Hockney exhibition with her.

I worked with Giffords Circus for about a month last spring, helping in the art department with set design and prop making, I loved this experience because I have found Gifford circus such a magical and uplifting show since I was a child, so to be able to work behind the scenes was fascinating.

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What’s a fairly typical morning and afternoon for you?

Ooo… haha! My days are fairly unstructured, which can sometimes be unsettling as school provided such routine that it can feel odd without one (I only just left college in September) but I also love having a flexible and creative working day. My day typically starts early, before the sun has risen, where I practice yoga and meditation before any of my brothers have woken up, I have three, the youngest is four years old. I then spend a few hours working on art projects, that may be organising an art exhibition/ event or making more work/researching.

I then start working on yoga projects, where I focus on improving education on mental health for young people, sharing tools and techniques.

The afternoon, normally involves a couple of yoga classes or private family classes/ one – to – ones.

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What would you say about the work/life balance of being in the Cotswolds?

I personally love it, when I go and visit London for events and conferences, I am always shocked by how much work people do, and how fast the pace of life is. The Cotswolds provides a sense of leisure but there are also plenty of opportunities and ambition, there is lots going on especially in lifestyle, hospitality and creative industries.

I think that balance is important, as I would say I am a driven person so being able to slow down and retreat in nature is essential for me staying positive and enthusiastic with my work and not burning out.

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You’ve set up yoga for under 25s – could you tell us more about that?

Yes, Bliss by Robin is the name of my business which focuses on delivering yoga and mindfulness to young people, now that involves me teaching yoga classes in Gloucestershire, both outside and in schools. These are really growing in popularity as I think young people can relate to me, because we are similar in age and so they find the classes supportive and of relevance to what they may be going through

I have recently started a project called bliss-ed which has exciting plans to make yoga more accessible for a wide variety of young people. Bliss-ed is primarily for young people and by young people (I have a small team of young people who are involved in the content making)

  1. Using social media and youtube to share free content, for example in a few weeks’ time I have mental health campaign coming out, especially for young people to help them with mental health.
  2. Bliss-ed ambassadors this is a new idea I have had which empowers young people to share yoga and mindfulness with their peers by running lunchtime clubs, this has already been tried out at Stroud High School, with one of my students, Flo Cross.
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You’re a patron for the Teen Yoga Foundation – could you tell us more about that?

The TeenYoga Foundation is a charity with the aim of making yoga more accessible for young people. They do studies with the university of Westminster, and others investigating the effect yoga has on young peoples well-being and they also represent the ‘yoga in schools’ section of the All-Party-Parliamentary-Group (APPG) for yoga in society, where MPs and lords, as-well as health care professionals and yoga teachers meet to raise awareness of yoga and coming up with solutions for the government to put these practices into our healthcare, schools, prisons and businesses. As the Teen Yoga Patron, I support their work by going to the APPG meetings.

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Where do you like to go to eat/drink in the area?

Somewhere close: The Painswick Hotel – I just love the interior and the balcony has amazing views, it’s so comfortable and stylish and the food is divine, the veggie options are experimental and tasty.

What’s been the most challenging and rewarding part of your jobs so far?

Juggling art and the yoga as they both have lots of potential opportunity and areas of growth so managing my time between them both can sometimes mean the workload is a bit overwhelming, but I just do my best and try not to rush.

It was exciting to do the ‘shift’ art exhibition as that combined art and yoga together in a powerful synergy.

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What are your goals living and working here or have you reached them already?

I have reached some big goals already, my next big one Is to leave something behind which can keep running without me having to be here all the time, the work I do for young people in the are has really started to kick off and I hope with the bliss-ed ambassador scheme other young people can take on some of my work and expand it, so that a suitable and supportive mental health support is offered.

My art goal is to now take my ‘shift’ exhibition on a tour out from Painswick and around the Cotswolds and up to London.

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Where’s your favourite place to relax over a weekend?

Walking on Rodborough common or through the Painswick Rococo gardens.

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Where would you go in the Cotswolds to be inspired?

There are always lots of interesting, creative events going on in Stroud and Cheltenham, I enjoy going to live music, local festival and art exhibitions to see something new.

Look out for Robin’s videos on ‘Movement for Modern Life’ or the ‘Netflix of Yoga’ as Robin calls it, based in the Cotswolds.  www.mfml.co/robin

In April Robin is releasing a special series called ‘Sharpen your Mind’ to help people through stressful times:

https://movementformodernlife.com/

For more be sure to follow Robin:

@blissbyrobin – personal yoga account
@blissedgeneration – new project
@rart.insta – art account

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