Kindred Tales Interview | T A O | Alice & Albe
Alice is the designer behind T A O, a studio based in Cornwall exploring the art of moving in harmony with ourselves and nature through clothing and conversations. After a neurological disease unexpectedly turned Alice's life upside, walking became her daily purpose and a metaphor for regaining independence and freedom. Inspired by this Ali began the 'The Path Unknown' Podcasts, where she is joined by guests walking their own unique paths in life.
We joined Alice along with her West Highland Terrier Albe for an afternoon walk along part of the Cornish Celtic Way to hear more about her inspirational story and how having a dog by her side has been an inspiration to get outside during her recovery.
Tell us about T A O and the inspiration behind the brand
I suppose T A O is less of a brand, and more of a studio. A studio exploring the art of moving in harmony with ourselves and nature. Whether it’s clothing ‘worn’s’, the podcast, or something else, everything that’s created is a physical manifestation of that exploration and ethos.
T A O worns explores the idea that what we wear is not a separation but an extension of the body; pieces that find their form when worn-in, the garment softening and shaping to the wearer. It’s an evolving experiment of creating Timeless, ageless, trend-less forms for everyday wear that allow for freedom of movement and rest as we ebb and flow through our day.
It’s also an exploration in changing outdated business models, and instead putting the wellbeing of the environment and people at the center. So keeping every part of the process as local as possible, from the yarn and working with regenerative textiles to making everything here in Cornwall with Rain Studios and all knitwear made on a 3d knitting machine in St Ives. All worns are made to pre order, so there’s no wastage, and everything works in a harmony of sufficiency. It’s a slower process and a concept that’s harder to settle into in terms of mindset in this culture of instant gratification.
So the podcast dives deeper, becoming a journey in opening up conversations around the interconnectedness between our bodies, self and the natural world. Exploring the stories of those cultivating a deeper understanding of this interconnectedness, The Path Unknown seeks to craft new narratives, making the invisible visible and the unheard heard.
Tell us about ‘The Path Unknown’ Podcasts
In 2015 my life was unexpectedly turned upside down by a neurological disease. One that would leave me with lifelong incomplete spinal cord injury from the chest down, accompanied by many health complications. It has been a long recovery of learning to walk, drive and live again. Walking became my daily purpose, and a metaphor for regaining independence and freedom.
This experience has given way to a curiosity for truth and connection in a society so conditioned by ableist, capitalist, dogmatic narratives and expectations. Knowing that our health and the health of our environment are so deeply and intrinsically interconnected, this pilgrimage became the right time and place to question ‘what happens when we are not well, when we are set on a path of true uncertainty and the true unknown. When existing societal narratives no longer serve us?’
The podcast begins along the 215 miles of the Cornish Celtic Way, (where I started walking and fundraising for neurological care in Cornwall in 2021) It’s the lesser known but more ancient pilgrimage route through Cornwall, and provides a very different perspective of our homelands. Walking and meeting others along the way started opening paths of deep conversation around navigating a path unknown.
Each episode, we are joined by guests who are walking their own unique paths in life, who come to offer they’re awakenings and insights. We dive deep into concepts of societal expectation and slowing down with Peace Pilgrim Satish Kumar. With fashion production consultant Jon Hampstead we take time to unearth the invisible aspects of living with ‘perceived’ disability. Exploring the limbo state of illness and the gifts it can bring, we discuss the power of nature’s healing in SCI recovery with survival, bushcraft and wilderness skills expert Jack. We speak to writer Jess Ione Henshall on changing language and crafting new narratives around the body, disability and illness. With embodiment coach Melinte, Path of the Lioness, we move against patriarchal ideologies in reclaiming the feminine. We talk with ex-professional rugby player Ed Jackson on the pressure of what “success” is post-injury, and discuss narratives of stoicism. And we explore more, talking with a wide range of guests from agronomists working with biodiversity and soil heath to breath work coaches, all who have carved their own path through challenging times.
I think many of us are in need of voices who are willing to explore other ways of being and experiencing the world, allowing connection to unfold and opening within us our own sense of truth and place
What are your first memories of dogs being in your life?
That would be the one and only Poppy, our cheeky chocolate lab. She was just like Nana dog in Peter Pan, checking on us in our cots while we were sleeping, carrying us around the house by our dungarees, and chasing us all around on the beach.
She loved food, especially chocolate! In her old age even with severe arthritis and cataracts, she still managed to climb up on my dads filing cabinet where all four kids' Easter eggs were being stored. Packaging was no match for our Poppy as she made her way through cardboard, plastic and silver foil to devour all of the easter eggs in less than an hr whilst we were out. But I have to be honest, apart from Poppy I wasn’t a huge dog person until I got ill…
Tell us about Albe and how he came into your life
Dogs, just like people, come into your life exactly when they are meant to. Throughout my recovery over the last six years, all I wanted was to have a dog around, especially during the endless days of being bed bound with everyone else at work and carrying on with life.
Friends would visit with their dogs and the dogs instinctively knew how to be with me. During a low point of my recovery, but with the mobility back in my left leg, Ben, a huge affectionate Golden retriever came into my life needing daily walks as his elderly owners were both unwell. Having someone be that excited to see you everyday, completely turns your situation around. He became my rehabilitation physio, side kick and best friend during that time.
I knew that once I managed to start living independently, I wanted that in my life full time. I had never intended to get a puppy, I had been looking for an older dog and preferably an assistance dog. But once I met Albe over face time, a fluffy 14 week, mischievous, west highland terrier, who was recovering for a hernia operation, I just knew. Since the moment we met, we have been inseparable.
Back in the early stage of recovery I had been encouraged to make a visual board of all the things I wanted to happen in my ‘new normal’ life. Looking back at the board, there he is, a little white cuddly westie.
How does Albe fit into your daily routine
Ha, Albe dictates the daily routine! He loves to sneak in for morning cuddles in bed over coffee. Then he gets me up and out in the morning light, wether I feel well enough or not. But he does know when I’m not well and will snuggle up with me, often lying on my chest when I have tachycardia or on my legs when they are spasming. I mostly work from home, so he creates good boundaries in the day to move and get outside. He is very sociable and loves everyone, so we end up chatting to a lot of people which is lovely during more isolated times of being unwell.
Where is your favourite place to head out for a walk with Albe?
Albe loves the beach and loves the sand, so much so that getting him off the beach is a challenge, with the stubborn west tantrums setting in (lies down flat on the sand and becomes a dead weight, refusing to move). We have such a variety of landscape in Cornwall, and it’s not all beaches. We love heading to the gentle woodlands of the Helford and up on the desolate ancient moorlands with their panoramic views of both coasts. Just like the moorland walk we did today, which is part of the Cornish Celtic Way.
You can follow Alice & Albe's adventures together on instagram and check out the T A O website here
You can also support Alice's crowd funding for the Path Unknown Podcast Here
Photography by Jill Barnard | A Modern Craft