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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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

My Creative Year in Review – Part 1

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 will be split into two parts) and see what happened along the way to carry me into 2018, older but so much more younger in terms of wonder and curiosity.

January came in cold and dark. The ideal time to go deeper into my practice of hygge. During my winters walks #TheHealingPeopertiesOfTheSeas was conceived as a one day symposium all about our relationship with water. This has still to take place but the concept is out there and can be found on IG  and Twitter. Holding this idea throughout the year has meant that I’ve been curating short 10 second films around water. These will be available to watch and add to during 2018.

February was the beginning of my exploration of voice. Having been chosen to take part in an Arvon foundation residential course for writers wanting to make change happen, I met a whole heap of interesting people who supported me on my journey of claiming and using my authentic voice around the theme of my body in the environment. This led into further publications of my creative non-fiction poetic writing here. I was also exploring my voice through painting by completing Painting the Feminine with Connie Solera. This was another opportunity for me to embody my multi-layered identity, providing the tools and techniques to support my self-expression.

March saw me return to Iceland as part of a self-directed residency with The Westfjords Residency. To spend an extended amount of time in an isolated village miles from a major town was testing. I questioned what I was trying to achieve by doing this, in terms of my creativity as well as my life. It was unsettling to some extent as all my usual boundaries were missing and for a while there I did flounder. I also experienced some racial abuse while in Reykjavik which made me question my relationship with the whole country. March was definitely a learning curve which manifested in a deeper love of Iceland which meant before I left I made plans to share this love with my family.

April was another month of learning as I not only completed a Woodland leader training course in the Highlands of Scotland but I also went live with my new website and brand name Living Wild Studios. I’d procrastinated enough and it was time to be seen, showcasing all of my creative adventures under one roof.
It was a scary time but one that I wouldn’t change as I went with my gut and created a beautiful website I’m proud to call my home. It’s varied and dynamic and changing to reflect how I’m changing.

May seemed to have gone in a blur. I know it was a time of disrupted plans due to Alan’s mam being in hospital for an extended stay. It was a time of sticking close to home and putting my family first and foremost. But I did try to keep moving forward with Living Wild Studios as a business, extending my reach through social media. To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy this month as I was trying to operate in a way that wasn’t being authentic to me. I had to explore my relationship with social media, with the pubic arena at large and withdraw to do so. This was good for me, for my sanity.

I continued my social media hiatus into June. I felt I was just settling into my own space and voice by the end of May so wanted more time away from distractions to listen within. This was an important month for me to dive deep into the Creative Facilitator Training I had started with Lisa Sonora this year. I had been building up a resistance to the course as it wasn’t as I had thought it would be. I expected more. But then I realised that this is an experiential course and I get out of it what I put into it. All along I’m using myself and my experiences and beliefs as the learning examples so in order to learn and move forward I had to be more engaged. A light bulb moment which saw me returning at the end of the month to social media to share my visual journaling practice, the foundation of my creativity, much more extensively and thoroughly than before.

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

ten:three

1. Re-entry into my everyday after being away is harsh.
2. The sun glows low.
3. We walk the shore alone and smell the waves.
4. My everyday life is full of kinks.
5. The terns dance within the foam.
6. Strong black coffee steams.
7. Luther Vandross ‘Searching’ on the radio.
8. Emails plying up as is the washing.
9. Box set bingeing late into the night.
10. Not ready to start it all again tomorrow.

ten:one

1. He goes into the bathroom and slams the door.
2. The candle flickers in the draft.
3. My shirt with black blobs of paint is creased.
4. The coffee beside me smells hot.
5. I curl my legs up under my bum and feel my muscles stretch.
6. A car drives past outside.
7. There is cloud. There is weak light.
8. A fine drizzle speckles the window.
9. The central heating rumbles into life.
10.The house groans in its spaces.

New Practice : Ten@Tuesday

I’m planning to share my new practice with you, just on a Tuesday, even though I’m completing this task everyday. This practice came to me first via Alisha Sommer and her beautiful writing and photography. And this practice came to Alisha via Marie Howe being interviewed on On Being.

Within this podcast, Marie Howe talks about the power of poetry and the sacredness of the every day. Sacred space is there always just waiting for us to stop and pay attention. To stop and hold space for the now.

I love the thought of this. I love the idea of gifting ourselves the beauty and grace of our present moments. All we have to do is slow down and listen. Slow down and observe.

Marie recommends to her students to write down 10 observations of the actual world each day. No metaphors, no comparisons, just detail the world as it actually is. Simple. Engage the senses and be up close with the world around us. Be present.

After embarking on this practice for a few weeks now, I have to say it hurts, sometimes, to be so present as the tendency is to look away. To want to distract myself and move on. Get moving, get producing. But at the same time as the pain and is the simple joy of being present. There’s pain but also happiness to be found in being present. And this is amazing. Try is yourself and see.

Marie Howe calls this ‘a gift of holding sacred space.’ And you’re doing this for yourself, no one else, just yourself. I claim this as self-care to the max.

Each Tuesday, I’ll share my 10 observations. Feel free to share yours too, here with me.

listening to the voice of my soul

When my days are lived at a pace.
When my time is filled with noise.
When my eyes are lit up by a screen.
I feel a creeping dread up my spine.
Red ants invade my hairline
and I feel as if there is no escape.
I’m uncomfortable in my skin,
taking only shallow breaths.
Heavy and awkward, never feeling rest or calm,
I forget who I am.
I’m distracted.
When I withdraw to slow down.
When I turn off external sounds.
When my ears become accustomed
to the voice deep within my being,
I can feel my soul and she speaks
from heart of love.

becoming whole 


I’m on a social media hiatus. I do this from time to time as part of my self-care routine. If you’d asked me what self-care was a few years ago, I’d have said a spa day in some posh hotel. Something beyond my reach. I now know self-care as something different. There’ll be other posts on that this month. 

I’ve popped in here today to remind myself about authenticity. This month is the time and space I need to get back to me. To keep on trucking towards my true self. But I also know that I resist the work I need to put into becoming my authentic self. I know that through the action I take, and refuse to take, I’m diluting my becoming. I’m slowing down my progress along this path to wholeness. 

Why? For a number of reasons really. The most strongest reasons include fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of change. Fear of eliminating excuses. Fear of failing. That’s it the fear of trying and subsequently failing. 

And yet, here’s the thing. Everyday I fail by not reaching for my wholeness, for not investing in myself to be the best version of myself. 

Each day I fail to fulfill my true potential, my whole authentic self because of this fear of failing. Therefore, what would I lose if I invested in myself more consistently? What would I lose if I did everything within my power to support my progression towards wholeness? Nothing. 

However, I could gain so much in the process and progress. I could gain myself. I would be/coming whole. 

learning to change 


Over the weekend, our clocks went back. We lost an hour and gained the darkness. Usually at this time of year, I go into a bit of a slump. With the night’s drawing in so does my mind and emotions. I get a bit grumpy as this is the way I’m supposed to act. I’m not supposed to welcome the dark, to enjoy the dark, I should be reaching for the light, or so I’ve been lead to believe. But this year, I sense a change. 

This November I plan to go within, deep within. Cosy up and settle into my new home at the same time as explore my internal darkness. I’m looking forward to the rest, to the reduction in the pressures to perform and show up. I’m looking forward to just being. and don’t get me wrong, I’ll not be idle. I’ve got plenty of things to keep me busy, to be getting on with behind the scenes. But allowing myself to rest and to take care of myself, is a change, is an advancement for me that I will continue to cultivate as I reap the benefits of such. But of course if these plans get disrupted, I have also learned to be flexible.

This time last hear, I was knee deep in curriculum planning, marking and examination preparations. Self-care amounted to getting to bed before 10pm and most nights that wasn’t achieved. Things weren’t really going to plan and I was constantly knackered. What I can take from that time now is my ability to be flexible, to not make a fuss but to just go with the flow because I learned that it was me and only me who was hurting. It was me and my unrealistic expectations that was causing the ruckus, not anyone else.

I carry this nugget of knowledge with me now, when my best laid plans go up in smoke because of unforeseen circumstances. I become disappointed and hurt and yet I also see that these things happen and I’m more adept at being centred, rooted in myself but still allowing my trunk to bend, and my branches to sway in an unexpected wind or storm. These things happen, it’s nature. It’s how I perceive and handly these changable circumstances is the development, is an indication of my growth as a human being.