Business Spotlight - Muse Retreats


After the success of September's 'Spotlight' post which featured an interview with Tom of Thorne and Anchor (do you and check it out if you missed it - he carves the most beautiful spoons, bowls and home accessories from wood) I have been collecting lots more interviews to share with you all, and I think you're really going to love this months instalment. 

Shirley, a writer and creative curator has recently launched Muse Retreats, a subscription box with a big difference. Shirley and I met via Instagram, and after reading a little about her and her struggle with her own creativity after her education in the arts came to an end, I immediately felt we were something of kindred spirits.

Shirley set up Muse Retreats after using personal creative retreats to start building creativity back into her own life. When people around her started noticing she'd got her old fire back and wanted a piece of it for themselves, her desire to spread the joy began to grow and when Muse Retreats launched in September, the first month of subscription boxes completely sold out! 

I was really keen to interview Shirley and find out more about her boxes, what inspires her, her thoughts on creativity and what her plans are for the future. She was kind enough to oblige and I therefore have a really inspiring interview to share with you today! 

So, grab a cup of tea (something else Shirley and I share a love for!) and enjoy....




1. Can you introduce yourself and describe what you do.
I’m Shirley, the Founder, Writer & Creative Curator of Muse Retreats. Muse Retreats is a subscription box service which provides gorgeous creative retreats for people to explore in the comfort of their own home to ensure they take time for themselves to reconnect with their joy.

2. We have both experienced the feeling of our creativity slipping through our fingers. Why do you think daily creativity is so important?
I think regular creativity is so important because it reconnects us with the purest part of ourselves. As children, we play without inhibitions. We paint, draw, weave stories, role play, dance, sing, pull funny faces in a beautifully unselfconscious way. We delight in ourselves, in imagination and all of the possibilities life holds. Sadly, whether it be through school, the media or other people’s opinions, we soon get the message that there is no value in creative play, what we create isn’t as good as this person or that. We are told to be sensible, focus on how we are going to pay the bills and generally to grow up. This process squashes the magic inside of us. Without regular creative time we become sad, frustrated and ill. So many of us have received negative comments about our creativity and our dreams, but we all have something beautiful and unique to share with the world. There’s one particular quote by Marianne Williamson which really resonates with me: ‘Virtuosity in life means singing out - not necessarily singing well.’ I think if we shift the focus from what we create to the joy we feel through the process of creating, it liberates us to shake off limiting beliefs which prevent us from being our true selves. Stepping off the merry go round of day to day living to stop and connect with our creative selves allows us to tap into the magic and wonder of life. I believe that joy, magic and wonder are the true essence of us all. 



3. What drove you to start Muse Retreats and what are you hoping your subscribers will get from their monthly box and creative retreat?
Muse Retreats arose out of a really dark period of my life when I was at the crossroads between multiple bereavements and complete burnout. I have a lot of self-care tools like meditation, yoga, walking, shamanic practice and reiki which all helped me to survive the harshness of the time but it was spending time playing with pens, paints, collage and other creative experiments that actually helped me to reclaim a sense of joy. I wasn’t well enough to travel to spend time on a creative retreat for a bit of breathing and healing space so I created my own mini retreats to complete at home. People started to comment on the positive change in me so I shared what I was doing with others and I was surprised at the response. I soon realised that although my situation was a bit extreme, many people feel sad when they are consumed with working, family responsibilities and all of the other ‘shoulds’ in their lives while ignoring the needs of their creative soul. It seemed like people were crying out for a bit of self-care and it was clear that people longed to cultivate a relationship with themselves through spending some time alone to do what makes them happy. Most of us dream of things we want to try ‘one day’ like a pottery class or jewellery making or painting on canvas but other people and responsibilities take priority so we never seem to have the time. Creative retreats tend to be expensive which excludes many people. They require the energy to research a suitable place and also to travel to get there. They require the time off work which is not possible for some. For parents, creative retreats also involve the logistics of finding baby sitters too. For people with fur babies, kennels and catteries need to be thought about, booked and paid for. Something more flexible, affordable and accessible seemed to be needed to spread a little wellbeing and joy, so Muse Retreats was born!



4. What things inspire you every day? Do you have one particular Muse, or are there several in your life?
Oh, I find inspiration everywhere, which is why my Facebook and Instagram feeds are so eclectic! My dogs, Suzy Q and Jasper inspire me every day. Their playfulness and sense of mischief is a delight! Walking with them daily means I spend time in nature everyday which is a massive source of inspiration for me too. Cloud formations, the quality of light, the many colours of flowers and birds soaring overhead are a constant and ever changing source of inspiration. I feel inspired in the mountains, by the sea and in the desert. One of my most inspirational and healing spaces is being in the forest. I’m a self-confessed greedy person too so I also find inspiration in food: the colour, flavour combinations and textures. I love cooking shows on TV especially Nigella, Sophie Dahl and the Little Paris Kitchen. I really enjoy vintage stores, craft fairs and charity shops. Even the thought of them makes me smile! I love people, faces, clothes, voices, music, painting, books, colours, quotations, films, theatre, a conversation overheard on the street… Inspiration is literally all around us and there is joy to be found on the most mundane commute if we are willing to be open to receive it. 

5. Lastly, can you hint at any future plans for Muse Retreats? Any exciting things that will be included in future boxes?
There are lots of gorgeous things coming up. I’ve planned the themes for the boxes for at least the next year and I’ve started a book of theme ideas because, with so many things inspiring me, the list is becoming quite long! Without spoiling the surprise too much, all I can say is that there are a wide range of activities and themes to explore which will involve using many different senses. Some retreats will be based at home, others will challenge retreaters to go out into the world and explore with a very clear intention. 
I wholeheartedly believe in only creating and sharing retreats I have experienced myself. From October, I will be including a page from my own personal creative journal so people can see what I got up to when I explored the same theme on my own retreat. I will then be following this up with a blog post to expand the theme further so our Muse Retreat tribe will have an insight into how the finished piece of writing actually began. I saw a quote on Facebook the other day which said, ‘Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.’ This really struck a chord with me. Sometimes when we are playing creatively our inner critic tries to dismiss our attempts as awful in comparison to others, so we become discouraged and give up. This is why I thought it might be useful to share the start of my own creative pieces in the journal page in the box so people can see how it evolved from first inspiration and ideas to the end result on the blog. Creativity is a process. It’s messy and gorgeous and imperfect. The process is actually the most intriguing aspect of creative living to me which is why including the journal page is so important.
Something else I’m really excited about is that each box will now showcase the work and story of a ‘Featured Creative’. One of the intentions of Muse Retreats is to celebrate creatives from across the UK no matter whether they’re a professional creative, someone just starting out or someone who runs an Etsy store from their kitchen table while working in a 9-5 job. I’ve met with the Featured Creative for October and she is amazing! There is so much inspiration out there, so many talented people and stories and beautiful things being created, it’s time we took a moment to celebrate our own gorgeous selves and also other beautiful creative souls too! I’m hoping we can start a joy revolution!

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A joy revolution! How fantastic does that sound! I hope you're with me in finding Shirley's words completely inspiring, and I can't be the only one who has felt like my creativity gets swallowed up by day to day life sometimes. 

If you'd like to learn more, head over to Muse Retreats where you can read more about Shirley's story and sign up to receive your very own creative retreat though your letter box, either monthly or as a one off treat! You can also follow Muse Retreats on Instagram where Shirley shares inspiration, snippets from her life, and also sneak previews of future box planning! 



Shirley was also kind enough to send me Septembers retreat box - I won't share too much just yet, but it is fantastic and totally lives up to the excitement! I will be reviewing it in the next few days, so if you're on the fence about subscribing for yourself, stay tuned to find out how I found my first creative retreat. A little hint, there was tea and chocolate involved! 

(All images courtesy of Muse Retreats)

9 comments

  1. "This process squashes the magic inside of us" that was so spot on! I found she's my kindred spirit too! Very inspiring post. I'm gonna follow her right now!

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    1. This is so full of wonderful bits of wisdom isn't it! x

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  2. Lovely post! She is an amazing soul ☺ I'm looking forward to my second retreat x

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  3. Lovely post! She is an amazing soul ☺ I'm looking forward to my second retreat x

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  4. Shirley Si*Star smiles a lot and when she didn't it seemed a cold day, in deed. I am so delighted just, reading this review. I have a 'certain someone in mind' whom I just know, will revel in receiving such magic through the post! Congratulations, Shirley for rising from the flames of adversity just like the fire bird! ~ <3 ~

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  5. Late coming to this, but you've just inspired this week's blog post!

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    1. Wahoo! Glad to hear it and I look forward to reading it! xxx

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