Sharing My Joy

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Just popping back in here quickly to highlight that I’ve created a new page all about my practice of visual journaling. For the past 3 years, this visual and creative practice has been my lifeline. It has not only got my head straightened out but it has also been my playground where big dreams have been declared and explored and come to fruition.

I do look upon this practice as magical. And the special thing is, everything is inside me waiting to come out. Through the use of paints, images, photography, collage, drawings, stamps and stickers, I get to tap into the magic that is inside of me, all the time, each day. No wonder I go all evangelical when I start to talk about visual journaling and share this practice. As it has quite literally changed my life.

Check out the new page in the portfolio and keep checking back as I continue to update it as well as develop the new ecourse to go with it.

Everyone visual journaling here we come.

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Life Drawing Class

 

A couple of evenings ago now, I attended a life drawing class locally. This was the first time I’d attempted something like this. But in all honesty, I wasn’t worried about going along. And once I got there, I totally enjoyed it.

It was weird at first though as when I got there, I recognised one of the women standing up taking. I thought to myself, I didn’t know such and such as an artist. It was only when the introductions were made did I realise she wasn’t an artist but the life model.

It could have been an embarrassing night after that but it turned out to be very liberating and interesting. Within that setting, the human body naked became nothing to be embarrassed about but became something else. Something, an object for want of a better word, that I was attempting to capture a likeness of on paper. It wasn’t flesh but more so angles and curves, light and shade.

It was good practice for getting lost in the flow of creativity. To feel the texture of the paper, hear the scratch of pencil as well the rubbing of charcoal and stains appearing everywhere. My senses became heightened and I was present in the moment. It was awesome.

Would I return? Yes I would but I would probably go along to an open session rather than a tutored session. As I didn’t go along so much as to learn about drawing the human form ‘properly’ with the right proportions. I went along to play and just let loose. A chance to try something new and free up my creativity. I’m not practicing this to get anything right. I’m doing this just to express what I feel or see or think. That is always right to me. For me.

Working Behind the Scenes

Through April, during my social media hiatus, I have had two intense weekends away from home. One experience nourished my soul. The other pained my soul.

I will write at length about this some other time, some other place. For now, the first weekend was wild swimming in Snowdonia. It was awesome and exhilarating and pushed me out of my comfort zone. And subconsciously, I must have known within my body that I needed this, and the sea swimming the week afterwards, in preparation for the following weekend.

I was the one and only delegate for my union, Artists’ Union England at the TUC Black Workers’ Conference. I presented a motion around discrimation within the arts and culture as well as the cuts in funding which are felt the most by already impoverished communities where Black, Asian and ethnic minorities predominately reside.

This weekend was educational, informative and inspirational, as well as a wake-up call. I say we live in a beatiful world, but this world is also ugly, unfair and unjust. Systematic racism is the operating means of power and control. And I forgot. I bury my head most days. I live in my own little world. And this is a luxury I have to readdress and change if I am to be the agent of change I want to be.

When you are woke, you stay woke. You have to stay woke in order to keep that fire in your belly alive.

Expect more to follow about both of these experiences and others.

But for the time being, this site is going into reconstruction.
It has been a year in existence and things need to change. Hopefully for the better. I’m not sure how things are going to turn out but I’m excited about the prospects.

This is a hold page while I do this much needed work behind the scenes. But I’ll be still writing and creating during this time.

To stay up to date you have three options.

1. Follow me on social media from May – IG @wildsoulwoman – images and words, twitter @awildsoulwoman – politics and insights

2. Subscribe to Studio Notes, receive a free download of poetry and intimate notes about my life and adventures about one or twice a month.

3. Become a patron for my Slow Writing practice on Patreon. Here I will be sharing my musings, creations and breakthroughs as I explore race, gender, power, the body and nature.

Hope to connect with you through any or all of these platforms.
Until next time, take care

Sheree x

Four Months: Thursday

We leave our Eco-house early driving into Reykjavik for coffee and breakfast at Braun’s, a delicious bakery selling fresh bread, cinnamon swirls and croissants.

From here we have the length and breadth of the city centre to play with.

We become the Flaneuses, the walking women that we are. Armed with our cameras and pens and journals we begin our adventure.

We walk up the hill to the iconic church, Hallgrímskirkja. We take inspiration from the exterior, designed to resemble the Icelandic landscape with its rocks, mountains and glaciers. This a sharp contrast to it’s clean, understated and simple interior of grey and padded pews. We take the lift to the top of the tower and see the streets of Reykjavík below us as well as the sea and surrounding snow-capped mountains. We are Queens, women unto ourselves up here. We take this sense of power and awe back down as we sit and take time to capture our thoughts and feelings of being here, now. Being present.

Let me take you into a hidden garden of sculptures just by the church. Einar Jonsson Museum. Many walk by and miss this moment of beauty. But we don’t as you have a frequent visitor to Iceland as your guide. Me.  We stop and write here too soaking up the quiet and peace right in the middle of the city.

Down the hill we walk in the direction of the museums and art galleries. We have a few to choose from and it all depends on what they’re exhibiting. The Photograhy Museum is a favourite of mine. The criteria for selection is women, nature and beauty.

We enjoy a workshop within the gallery, stopping for lunch and sharing our creations. Then the afternoon we have the time and space to shop, walk, explore alone or together but really experience the feel and buzz of this compact but vibrant city centre.

As the days are long, we can stay as long as we wish in the city, grabbing dinner, catching a concert at Harpa, experiencing the nightlife. We play it by ear as the adventure just keeps enfolding just beyond our next step.

Sarah Spaeth

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Hello Sarah. Welcome to Livng Wild Studios. Thank you for agreeing to answer these questions. We are so looking forward to spending time with you in Iceland.

1. Tell us something about yourself (How did we meet?)

I have spent most of my life being washed in the drizzle of the temperate rainforest and rich habitats of the Salish Sea, located in the NW corner of the US. Getting lost in the woods, paddling the waters, climbing the mountains and dancing to the diverse beats of the community -the slurp of oysters, the tang of strawberries and rhubarb from the garden, my mother’s forays in Indian quisine, Grandma Glickman’s kosher pickles, the Kurose family sukiyaki – all built my bones, tantilized my tastebuds for the wild, and fed my character and curiousity like the flesh of spawned out salmon feeds the bears and otters and mink and eagles and cedar trees and giant firs of our place in this world. Nurturing this place, the creatures that live here, including my three sons, my husband, extended family and friends has been my life, through a long and sporadic career of feeding people, including starting a bakery and cooking aboard natural history charter boats, and over twenty years of conservation work to preserve Fish, Farms and Forest habitat of the Olympic peninsula. I nurture myself through adventures in the wild and of the heart, and through travel to different landscapes and cultures.

It was on one such adventure that I met Sheree in the hills outside of Rome, where we helped a group of artists harvest olives from their olive grove for a few days. That was the beginning of my deep affection and great admiration for Sheree that has grown with her visits to the NW. I feel SO fortunate to have her in my life!

2. What gets you up out of bed in the morning?

The view out my bedroom window is a reminder of how fortunate and privileged I am to live in a beautiful home built by my family in a welcoming, creative and progressive community. I look upon cedar trees and willows, birds dashing from the bushes to the feeders and the sounds of croaking frogs and ravens overhead. My garden feeds us, as do the famers of our region, and my work as the Director of Conservation at Jefferson Land Trust is very gratifying, as I get to help the community to preserve open space, working farms and forests and wildlife habitat, forever!

3. What do you know to be true in your heart?

As far as I know, we are given one life on this amazing planet, and we need to live it to its fullest! Find and follow your passion, nuture your creativity, appreciate the people in your life and what you are given, and dance!!

4. What was the best advice your received? The above!

5. What are your thoughts about a woman’s place/ position in society at the moment?

Women have a lot of opportunities these days that my mother’s generation and those before did not. In my own world, this has manifest in a career that garners respect and opportunities. In the greater picture, it seems that a fuse has been lit to take the women’s movement to the next level, hopefully addressing the deep inequalities, gender stereotypes, actions and attitudes that continue to divide us and foster disrespect and oppression of women. I believe that our future will be brighter with more women in power. It will be a bumpy road, but I hope that we can demonstrate how to do this with respect, love and compassion for all genders, races and cultures.

6. How do you hold a relationship with the land?

I believe in the concept of reciprocity, as Robin Wall Kimmerer in her book Braiding Sweetgrass writes. We are nurtured by the land in so many ways – from the food and other natural resources it provides us, to the solace and soul food of time spent in nature. In turn, we must nurture the land and creatures of the world as well, otherwise we will lose the riches offered us.

7. What are you looking forward to most about your time in Iceland? Why did you agree to come along for the ride?

I am really excited about the adventure in Iceland!! Of course, I’m eager to explore the landscape and culture of a new place – it’s glaciers, people and foods. I’m also very intrigued to explore the inner landscape of creative thought and spirit with a group of inspired women, led by our amazing Sheree!

8. What are you planning to offer to the Iceland Retreat. What plans have to put in place so far? 

I look forward to nurturing my new friends – with good food inspired by what Iceland has to offer; with foot rubs and laughter and dance! My latest passion is wildlife tracking, and it will be so great to explore Iceland’s wildlife mysteries with the group.

9. Anything you’d like to add? Gratitude, night-Time routine? Rituals?

I am very grateful for the opportunity to join you all in this experience! I look forward to stretching myself – with yoga, new creative tools, daily practices and adventures.

Getting Angry

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Last night I got angry and I mean really angry. I think I might have scared @hazmatt72.

This was a different anger to any I’ve experienced before. No I tell a lie. I think I might have had a glimmer of this deep visceral anger back in 2014 when I was organising #blacklivesmatter events and I was finding my political voice and going public with my thoughts about race.

And then I was silenced and all that anger turned inward. Turned against myself and how stupid I’d been and the mistakes I made. Anger turned up so high that I almost didn’t hear the whisper of self-compassion, forgiveness and love.

Fast forward to last night, the anger has shifted from focusing on myself to sending fierce fire balls out there.

I recently became a member of @secretmessagesociety ( or am I supposed to keep it a secret?!?) and my first Zine talked about developing a back bone. To start putting myself at the centre of my life and everything/ everyone else out there, outside of me is ‘the other’.

At the mention of ‘the other’ I had a gut reaction. A recoiling. As a black woman in colonial, imperial, patriarchal, hey (wo)man, in any kind of discourse, I ‘m labelled/ perceived/ treated as ‘the other’. And even though I have argued against this, this didn’t stop me internalising it. Taking on the label myself and seeing myself as ‘the other’ in comparison to the white norm.

Coming across ‘the other’ @secretmessagesociety, something shifted and was dislodged to the point that I’ve de-centred my whole belief, operating system. I no longer claim ‘the other’ as me, my label, my positioning out there and within me.
No. I’m right bang centre in my life, in my identity and everything outside of me is ‘the other.’ I’m no longer kept in the margins, the minority, the freak, the fat ugly black bitch, the deformed, the other.
I’m so gloriously centred with me/ within me.

And I’m angry. But a shimmering healthy get things sorted, changed sort of angry. Which always flows from love. #iaintsorry #hellno #fuckem #angryblackwoman #othering #decentre #takingbackwhatsmine #practice #process #patience #self-love #self-care #secretmessagesociety #gettingmesomebackbone

Folksy Store

I was going to write, ‘for some reason’ …But I know my reason for real. And that reason is fear.

A couple of weeks ago, I opened a Folksy Store.
I felt the need to start selling my artwork. Starting with my abstract paintings, I’ve been quietly posting my items for sale onto the storefront and that’s it, leaving them there, hoping that someone would come along and buy.

I’m reminded of that song from Oliver- The Musical; Who will buy my sweet red roses? Two blooms for a penny.

The answer is no one. No one will buy if they don’t know you’re selling.
This has been the case with me, as I might have mentioned it in passing, or provided a link to the store in a profile, but I haven’t really been broadcasting it because of fear.

Fear has stopped me really opening my mouth and singing, who will buy?
Fear that no one will like my artwork. Fear that no one will buy my artwork.

But here’s the thing, I don’t create to sell. I create my work because of the way it makes me feel in the process. Because I gain so much joy and freedom from just playing with paint, moving it around the blank space, enjoying the feeling as something takes shape, comes into being which didn’t exist a moment before. Sharing this love, this joy, the feeling comes naturally to me.

It’s what I always do. I share my love in my artwork and writing through social posts. So why be fearful of sharing this love a little bit further, a little bit closer through offering to sell what I create to individuals

It’s only now, that I see the connection and see how this isn’t about the money, but about sharing little pieces of my soul. And being recognised and appreciated for doing so.

Check out the only listing at the moment, Blue Blush. But don’t worry more are coming and a selection will be showcased on this website. All listing will be made available at my beautiful Folksy store. Have I told you about my new store?

Artists’ Residencies

While coming to the end of my first trip to Iceland, while relaxing after time at The Blue Lagoon realising that I wanted to return to my life back home with Grace, I made a promise to myself that I would return to Iceland. I had to return.

It was from this point onwards that I started to look at artists’ residencies. I had just spent a week touring the whole of Iceland, so I was looking to base myself in one place for the duration of a residency in order to give myself a different experience.

The only place I couldn’t get to this first time around was the Westfjords. I’m not sure if I did this on purpose so I’d have to return or because it was about 8 to 9 hours drive to get there from Reykjavik off the Ring Road. This gave me a good enough reason to return as well as to fix my sights on a retreat in the Westfjords.

Through my research I found The Westfjords Residency.
“We seek to create encounters between nature and man, foreigner and local, the remote and the connected.“
A Danish-Belgian couple came to Thingeyri in 2005, started to rebuild an old, historic house into a coffeehouse called “Simbahöllin” in 2009. They then went on to create a cultural space with the Residency program being part of this. They offer group residencies that can be applied for but also self-directed individual residencies.

Before I worked out what I really wanted to do with my time in the Westfjords, I put in an application asking for a two week stay in winter 2017. I knew I had to immerse myself in the landscape of Iceland more, to explore this curious relationship and connection I had formed with this place. Basing myself in a remote and isolated fishing village was the ideal situation to do so.

I look back now at the time I spent in the Westfjords, while still in Iceland but this time in the south, and I wonder what happened then. What did I do with my time out there? What did I achieve, if anything?

I could judge this endeavour along productivity lines. I could judge it by the all-doing, all- going and all-singing-and-dancing routine that are the external markers of today’s society. It’s how we function.

But that would be missing the point. A residency or retreat, for that matter, is about the time and space away from the everyday not doing the usual. An opportunity to settle deeper into the self. It’s a chance to take your foot off the accelerator and to press on the brakes, gently. Allowing yourself to come to a complete stop and just be.

Breathe, deep breaths not the shallow sharp ones that you’ve been getting by on for years. But really deep juicy breaths that fill you up with wonder and awe and reignite you again from the core, from your true self.

Taking my cues from this definition of a residency then my time spent in the Westfjords was time well spent. I look forward to repeating the experience.

Walking on Ice

While walking in Reykjavík this morning, I was getting really ****ed off by the ice. I know ‘ice’ in Iceland, who would have thought! Soon as I walked out there , I had to watch my every step. I was getting really frustrated. I couldn’t enjoy my walk, take in the sights because I had to watch my feet. I needed to get downtown, see this exhibition, listen to that band. But I wasn’t getting anywhere fast. And to top it all I was walking like a duck. I wasn’t getting anywhere fast and my plans were all to pot.
But in the process I realised something really important. The ice meant I had to slow down and ditch those best laid plans and just go with the flow; the slow flow.
I needed to slow down. I also needed to re-evaluate my plans. Was it the end of the world? Nah.
I was fixing myself up for a right ruckus of a day not because of the ice but because of my attitude towards the ice. My attitude was all wrong. Shit happens. I wasn’t missing out but I was tuning in and savouring the experience. It quantity but quality.

Longing for Rest

Those who in youth and childhood wander alone in woods and wild places,
ever after carry in their hearts a secret well of quietness and …
they always long for rest and to get away from the noise and rumour of the world.

W. B. Yeats, Letters