Orkney magic – part 3

I’m going to end this little set of posts with some images from the sights. We took a little bus tour to visit a few of the many historic monuments on the island. I could bore you silly with lots of information, but I’m mostly just going to show you how stunningly beautiful it is and encourage you to go see it for yourself.

The Broch of Gurness

The Earl’s Palace – we ate lunch here – it was just like being on a school trip, with our brown bag lunches.

The Brough of Birsay – a magical stroll across the tidal causeway

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and we ended the day at The Ring of Brodgar just as the sun was going down. Just thinking about it still gives me chills

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Our very last stop as we headed home for dinner was at the studio of the Harray Potter where it is possible I bought many souvenirs!

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I’m planning to return someday soon – one week was not enough to soak up so much history.

I’m sure I’ll go back to this place during the year as I work on things I started here, but I’m going to end these posts for now. I want to offer another sincere and enormous thank you to the Allegany-Cattaraugus-Chautauqua Fund for Women and The United Arts Appeal for supporting my trip and workshop experience.

the dye pot – adventure part 2

In the last post I mentioned my dissatisfaction with my own inability to loosen up and really experiment when doing the drawing/book making exercise on the first afternoon. That feeling  surfaced again on the second day and really would linger for the rest of my time.

On the second morning we were all given a beautiful piece of recycled wool to prepare for dyeing. We were instructed to add to it some of the fabrics we had brought along to experiment with how they would take the different dye materials. I was still thinking about the seaweed on the beach and I decided to add some vintage fabric from my stash that had a polka dot sewn onto it. I cut it into “seaweed-y” shapes and sewed it to my wool strip. But I stuck with the one fabric choice and I was very controlled about how I placed it. I looked around the room, other people were adding random bits of random fabrics with wild abandon. They were sewing fabulous marks with many kinds of thread. It was too late to change my own work and embrace the process so at that point I had to let it ride and hope the dye pot would add some magic. I was disappointed with myself for not leaning in to the process and trying to control the final result.

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my prepared wool

After lunch we headed out to gather local materials and the bundles went into their bath. I decided to just stick with my plan at this point and dyed mine with a bunch of different kinds of seaweed collected from the beach.

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wool bundles relaxing – ready to dye

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All the bundles ready to go back in the pot, mine is third from the right in the center

When it was time for the first reveal I loved the colours and I really loved the way the seaweed had embossed my wool, but my added fabric didn’t take the dye well and many of my threads didn’t dye either. My stitches were too petite and didn’t read well against the dyed wool. I wasn’t disappointed with the workshop – but I was sad about my own failure to try and LEARN something instead of trying to control the outcome.

Eventually we would sew those wool strips into a tsunobukuro style bag. I was delighted to find that the finished bag was the perfect size to carry my new sketchbook! Here’s the finished bag a few weeks later after being used as a much loved container for my sketchbook. Its growing on me, and I think I will keep working into it slowly, letting it evolve. I’m hoping by keeping my sketchbook in there it will remind me to let myself let go a bit more!

Last step to finish by bag will be to add the great button I brought on the island (shown in the last image). Hopefully I get around to that over break!

In the next post I’ll show you the results of me trying oh so hard to relinquish control. Until then Happy New Year!

An unbelievable journey -part 1

In November I had the great fortune to travel to the magical Orkneys to take a workshop led by India Flint and Alison Mountain. This was largely due to the generosity of my amazing and long suffering hubby (who gave me the trip as a birthday present), but also because two local organizations had faith in my work, and helped defray part of the costs with some grant funding, so a huge thank you to the United Arts Appeal and the Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua Fund for Women for their support. It’s really hard to find the words for my experience there on the island, but I’m going to give it a try.

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We stayed in the charming Woodwick House, that’s the sea right at the end of the garden!

As an introvert I always approach these kinds of workshops with equal parts excitement and dread. I don’t lack confidence in my work or my ability to learn new skills, and I am not shy, but I find interacting with people I don’t know exhausting and a tiny bit terrifying. I needn’t have worried. Talk about finding your tribe. It was one of the easiest group of “strangers” I have ever had the privilege of spending time with. From the first meal together it was clear that an unusual chemistry was at play, and I was able to relax into the work without trepidation. I really want to thank ALL the amazing artists for being so open and grounded, but I especially want to thank Jo, who took my awkward self under her wing and smoothed the way. She has a truly unique gift for seeing people and facilitating communication – so big hugs Jo!

I don’t want to bore you with a blow by blow description of everyday – so I am just going to share a few highlights. The first day we headed out after breakfast to “shake hands with a place” as Andy Goldsworthy has so eloquently put it. We spent a blustery few hours outside wandering, collecting impressions, sketching, I’m sure like me many people took some photos. Alison provided us with these adorable little vintage country dance books to use as a sketchbook, it had never occurred to me to draw in a printed book before, but it was an interesting challenge to marry an impression with an existing page!

In the afternoon Alison led us in a workshop to try and capture those impressions. We worked with a variety of materials including some incredible natural inks. We began by working on a large sheet of paper which was then folded to make a simple book form. Then we worked back into the pages the folding created. I was amazed to find myself working comfortably in a pretty crowded room without “walling myself in” with my stuff.

My final result looks to me like my work, but I can clearly see the influence of the place and the process. I was envious of the artists who could really work freely – I struggle to just make marks and be loose – and this was a feeling that came back to me again and again during this workshop and is something I am really hoping to carry into the new year. The first marks were pretty loose, but the end result seems a little tight and maybe overworked?

book 3book 2book 1

The first day was so rewarding, and the experience would only keep getting better! Stayed tuned for more!