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.

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My Creative Year in Review – Part 2

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In recent years during December I’ve taken the time and space to reflect back on the past twelve months in terms of my creative life. It is always inspiring and surprising to remember the things I have achieved as well as the mistakes I have learnt from along the way.

Following this practice of review means that I enter the next year, fired up and focused about the choices I want to make going forward.
If I had to sum up 2017 in 3 words it would include courage, voice and business.

Let’s take a look at each month ( the year is split into two part,  part one here) and see what happened along the way to carry me into 2018, older but so much more younger in terms of wonder and curiosity.

July offered up the opportunity to share my practice with others as I became one of the women in residence with Idlewomen for a week on a canal boat. This was such an amazing experience, one I was most thankful for as I got to share my love of visual journaling with other women who were in need of a safe space to explore their own voices. I also felt reaffirmed in my desire to support women, particularly black women in their relationship with the natural world.
Hence me putting feelers out there on social media about who was interested in the creation of an Iceland Creative Retreat.

August was downtime as I took the family for a tour of Southern Iceland. It was lovely to return with the family and witness them fall in love with the country just like me. The only problem is now is that they want to return so it might mean I don’t get back there alone ever. But it’s not really a problem as I love sharing my experiences of Iceland.

After the summer break, in September, I came back to business with planning a visual journaling workshop just down the road from me. I also completed an important draft of the chapbook focusing upon black women’s bodies in society due to be published with Culture Matters in 2018.

October was a month of upheaval and change as we were forced to move house and downsize. But it was really a blessing in disguise as it gave me the opportunity to declutter, to become more minimalist as well as to prioritise my creativity. As a reaction to less time, I made time to blog more consistently through the move.
I started my next creative non-fiction project around the theme of death. More to talk about around this soon.

November was earmarked as a period of time to settle into the new home but that didn’t go to plan as I did withdraw from social media again but I was still beavering away behind the scenes. I was interviewed by Amanda Fall from The Phoenix Soul, as part of this digital magazine’s Truth Tribe Interviews. I had a soft launch of The Iceland Creative Retreat and filled half the spots. And then I enjoyed a women’s gathering in Pendle Lancashire called Shifting Loyalties when I enjoyed the challenge of sharing my visual journaling practice with over 30 women all at the some time. To be there, to witness this transformation in creativity made my heart sing.

December was time to wind down and get ready for the holidays. I took the time to explore December Reflections on IG hosted by Susannah Conway. With a much needed rest again from social media, I spent the time gained to read as well as fire up the creativity with completing Tara Leaver’s Practical Intuition course to create my own Iceland Oracle Deck. This fed into #IcelandInsights where I am sharing text and images each day in January in relation to my love of Iceland. There are more Oracle Decks in the pipeline for 2018.

So on reflection of 2017, on the whole, was very productive and successful in terms of moving forward with my voice as well as increasing my courage in being present as my authentic self. I hope to build upon the gains made here into 2018. I have learnt that the downtime and rest is just as important if not more so than the productive times. In these quiet moments, conversing with myself, I am learning to listen and observe more deeply and truthfully.

ten: five

1. A grey morning.
2. That heavy feeling when you should get up but don’t want to.
3. The canned background noise of joy.
4. Big meaty raindrops on the bedroom window.
5. Icy air creaking in under doors and between boards.
6. The bitter taste of resentment.
7. The overwhelming feeling that this too will pass.
8. There’s no need to be afraid of death, he said.
9. I pull the duvet up and over.
10. My shower can wait.

5 things …

#decemberreflections2017 day 13 – 5 things about me

1. I’m still in my pjs and dressing gown today. Just don’t give a hoot.
2. When I was about 8 or 9, I used to dress up like Miss Marple right down to the tasseled shoes.
3. I have a PhD in Creative Writing but don’t crow about it as the nasty people tried to take it away from me. But failed.
4. My favourite colour is red like my core, my inner wisdom, my soul.
5. I’m a Queen.

ten: four

1. The roof opposite holds the snow steady.
2. Our central heating blows out slow white smoke.
3. I don’t seem to be able to get warm.
4. I switch the Christmas lights on to create some cheer.
5. Slow is the pace for everything this morning.
6. Let me make peppermint tea and spend half an hour curled up with a book.
7. No school today even if we are up in time. To the doctor’s instead.
8. We slide along the street all bundled up.
9. We sit. Her small chubby hands small in mine.
10. Our deep brown eyes meet and smile.

Today’s reflections:

Hard to get going this morning. Tiredness and sickness and just plain ready for the holidays to kick in which would mean we’re off the clock.
Still coming down off my time away with #shiftingloyalties and still trying to process it in a way to move forward. Safe spaces for women to connect and nurture each other are in decline making these spaces even more precious when you find and experience them.
Dreaming of Iceland, and when am I not. Planning to go back in January for the #northernlights ahead of going back in June for the #creativeretreat I’ve created for women. Details can be found on the website if you’re interested. Only two spots left. Payment plans are available too. Just get in touch. Enjoy the rest of your day, we’re sending our letter to Santa later 🤗 #icelandcreativeretreat #womenscreativity #empoweringwomen #womenssafespaces

Discovery

#decemberreflections2017 – day 11 – I have discovered that I would be lost, lost I tell you without my visual journalling practice. This practice grounds me, centred me, plugs me right back into the core of me. I have been lucky enough to share this practice with different groups of women this year. I hope to expand this reach in 2018. Did I mention I’m running a creative retreat in Iceland where visual journalling will be at the heart of this adventure?
Only two places left. #discovery #womenscreativity #empoweringwomen #creativeiceland #icelandretreat

The Challenge of Doing Nothing

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#decemberreflections2017 – what I found most challenging this year was to do nothing. Self-care. Stay still rest. #challenge #womenscreativity #livinginthisworld

Shifting Loyalties

I’m getting ready for the off again. Remember my time in residence on a canal boat with idlewomen? I facilitated a visual journaling workshop for women while there which was really inspiring. Well off the back of that, I’ve been invited back as a guest speaker/ presenter at their informal conference for women in Lancashire next week.

Shifting Loyalties is a gathering of women. Establishing in 2016 in collaboration with Silvia Federici in 2016,
for a week we’ll be living together near Pendle, a place known for its persecution of women as witches in the 1600s, utilising the space to have critical conversations and self-organising against society’s treatment and representation of women. This is an opportunity to share stories and experiences at the same time as becoming empowered as a sisterhood to make change, internally and externally.

All week I’ll be sharing my visual journaling practices through workshops and a drop-in room hopefully inspiring and encouraging other women to explore and adopt this creative practice for self-care and self-awareness.

I’m pulling together my resources and materials, gathering journal prompts that I feel will be accessible as well as beneficial for us to dive deep within safely and effectively when I realise that I could be a witch.

Witch. I really haven’t considered it before but I’ve got witchy tendencies. I believe in the Divine Goddess. I worship the natural world; Great Mother Earth. I observe and honour the Wheel of the Year, sensitive to the seasons and rituals as we cycle through the year. This year, during Samhain, I spent time at my altar conversing with my dead ancestors.  I look upon this path I’m on as magical, empowering me to grow, change and heal.

I call myself a Wild Soul Woman who listens to the wisdom within; my intuition and instincts. This is where my power lies. Maybe this isn’t the mainstream way of thinking and believing. But this is my truth.

The Witch was feared because she ( and sometimes he) lived “outside” the natural order. They represented a different way of living that challenged the status quo. Self-contained and self-possessed, they were a threat that could not be explained  and had to be eliminated.

Unfortunately, witch hunts still happen today in such places as Africa and India where old women are killed on the mere accusation of being a witch.  It saddens me that women who know their own power and worth and self-determine their lives, are persecuted and destroyed.

I’m hoping that my time at Shifting Loyalties will clarify my thoughts and feelings around this realisation at the same time as strengthening my voice in speaking out. ‘shifting loyalties is another beginning…’