Meet the Experts: Belle Benfield, Artist, Sensory Herbalist and Health Coach
We are delighted to welcome Belle Benfield to Gazelli House on Thursday 4 July to host a very special workshop that focuses on the sensuous power and sweet medicine of the beautiful rose.
Based in Cornwall, Belle is an artist working across many media, an expert botanical illustrator, a sensory herbalist (more below!) and a health coach who weaves the power of plants into both her creative and healing practices. One of her most recent projects is The Sensory Herbal Handbook, which offers a revolutionary way of understanding the plant world and our relationship to it that empowers readers to take charge of their own wellbeing by reconnecting them with the plants, land, elements and seasons around them.
We were intrigued – so we caught up with Belle to find out more…
How did The Sensory Herbal Handbook come about?
The Sensory Herbal Handbook is written from the hearts of the Seed SistAs, Fiona Heckels and Karen Lawton, who have been working together in herbal medicine clinics and teaching for the last twenty years. The book celebrates their journey with plants, and gifts the reader the tools that they need to begin their own journey into plant medicine by building their own relationship with the plants that commonly grow around us. It’s full of recipes, rituals and practical tips for medicine making.
I’ve been working with the Seed SistAs since 2011 – first as their apprentice and later in collaboration with them on creative and teaching projects. The illustrations I made for the book have grown out of this ongoing relationship. I share Sensory Herbalism with my clients in my herbal practice, so I’m really excited that Watkins Media took on the project and that the Seed SistAs’ knowledge can be shared far and wide through a book.
Can you tell us a bit more about Sensory Herbalism.
Sensory Herbalism is a unique system of health devised by the Seed SistAs over twenty years of practice. It combines traditional herbal knowledge with an understanding of how the elements (water, fire, air, earth and spirit) and the ever-changing seasons interact with the human body. Sensory Herbalism is also about using your own observations and intuition to build a personal relationship with plants and their medicine.
Drawing and herbal healing seem inextricably linked within your practice. Can you explain how drawing helps to teach us about the herbal medicine of plants?
Drawing is a meditation. It takes time and it takes focus. To draw something, you must slow down and stop and observe deeply. When you quiet your mind and focus intently, you begin to take in the information the plant gives you through its appearance, touch, taste and smell. Deep focus allows your perception to become broader and, in turn, you begin to be able to perceive the plant on its own terms, at its pace. In a sense, you both slow and broaden your frequency so you can perceive the frequency of the plant and the wisdom and medicine it is willing to share. It might sound a bit out there, but that’s what my workshop at Gazelli will be about – creating a time and place to experiment for yourself by working with the delicious, sensuous medicine of rose.
Tell us more about the Botanical Rose Drawing workshop you are hosting at Gazelli. Do participants need to be able to draw to attend?
The workshop is going to be an evening for you to learn about rose and her beautiful medicine through drawing. I will introduce you to the tools of Sensory Herbalism that are featured in the handbook, we will taste, touch and smell rose and then I will guide you through very easy exercises to draw roses and tune into the messages rose is giving you about her medicine for your body, mind and soul.
People have a lot of fear around drawing that usually stems from some point in their schooldays. But here the drawing part of the workshop is just an extension of your observation. Drawing for me is not about how perfect your proportion and line and representation are – it is simply about slowing down, looking and feeling. Drawing focuses your attention so that your mind can make space to receive the medicine from the plants. What your drawing looks like at the end of the evening is not important – although I can guarantee that it will be beautiful! No drawing experience is required, but a playful spirit may be helpful.
What are your essentials for maintaining balance and a sense of wellbeing within your own life?
Plenty of sleep, good food, growing and eating herbs, time with friends and family, and work I enjoy.
How do you unwind?
My deepest relaxation happens out in nature. Being a herbalist gives me the opportunity to know the land through the medicines I harvest. I travel to Wales for bilberries and heather, I gather yarrow and meadowsweet along the Cornish coast and pine tips in the Forest of Dean. I am blessed to be able to be outside regularly alongside our majestic plant healers and my days outside harvesting are when I can truly unwind, lay my burdens on the earth and rejuvenate myself so I am ready to come back once again to the roller coaster of life.
Tell us about your typical day before 9am?
As it is summer at the moment, the light wakes me very early, which I have been embracing and enjoying as it means I can have a slow morning, with time to meditate, have a bath and eat breakfast before 9am – simple luxuries that set me up for a great day.
What mantra do you live by?
One of my teachers, Pip Waller taught me this mantra and it has always stuck with me as an antidote to our wild, consumer-driven world:
“I am enough, I have enough, I do enough, all is well.”
Our Botanical Rose Drawing workshop, led by Belle, is at Gazelli House in Chelsea on Thursday 4 July from 6pm to 7.30pm. All materials are provided as well as light snacks and a complimentary cup of Gazelli’s signature rose tea. You can book to join us in the gathering here or email us at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
The Gazelli House wellness space, at 174 Walton Street SW3 2JL, is a short walk from King’s Road, Chelsea, South Kensington station and Knightsbridge.