Flourish: October – December 2017


The third term of workshops at the Barn involved a diversity of settings and two collaborations with other artists.  I also spent time during October developing my own work through masterclasses with artist, Brigid Collins in Edinburgh and a week-long residency at Cove Park near Helensburgh, where I enjoyed peace, solitude and inspiration in abundance to develop my own ideas further.

Brigid Collins Master Classes

I travelled to Edinburgh for another three classes with Brigid Collins at the beginning of October to explore the theme of book objects and artist’s books focused on poetry.  The link to my previous blog about this can be found here: 2nd Set of Brigid Collins Masterclasses

Cove Park Residency


I spent a week during the October holidays at Cove Park – an artist’s residency centre nestled on a hillside overlooking Loch Long.  Both this and the sessions I spent with Brigid Collins were funded by the VACMA Awards (Aberdeenshire Council and Creative Scotland) for which I am very grateful.  You can read more about this in an upcoming blog article to be published soon.

 Aboyne Primary School (continued)

I travelled to Aboyne Primary School for the last two workshops with two P7 classes in November.  These were planned for September, but personal circumstances meant they had to be re-scheduled.  We used the garden at the Primary School as our resource and found the effects on creativity the same as those I had witnessed in the Wild Garden itself.  Giving the children the space and time to be outdoors does encourage deeper work and has the added bonus of relaxing them too.  Writing flows more readily when they’re surrounded by what they’re writing about.  I used writing exercises with them to encourage their use of the five senses when observing nature and also introduced them to mesostic or branch poetry.  They then chose either a found poem they had written during their visit to the Wild Garden in September or their branch poem to write out again and illustrate for the exhibition.

Labyrinth Workshop


This workshop involved walking my 24-foot indoor canvas labyrinth in The Barn and then writing about the experience using ‘The Five Ways To Wellbeing’ as inspiration.  (Connect. Learn. Give. Be Active. Take Notice.)  I began with an introduction to the labyrinth – an ancient tool over 4,000 years old which enables us to focus more profoundly on our own wellbeing.  The group then walked and wrote about their experience in silence.  I gave them the structure of the pantoum poem as a container for that experience and invited them to condense their writing into it as a way of sharing it with the group.  The sharing this produced was found to be nourishing for all.  This is a format I would like to work with more in the future, providing day long workshops where the metaphor that walking the labyrinth provides for our lives can be explored more deeply.

Visual Poetry Workshop – Collaboration with Fenneke Wolters-Sinke

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This workshop was split into two parts.  In the morning I led the group in how to write found poetry using old texts as source material.  In the afternoon Fenneke demonstrated how to add artistic treatments on top, leaving the words of the poems exposed to create erasure poems.  We both facilitated throughout, encouraging the group to trust their instincts and to play and experiment with ideas as much as possible.  Although this workshop was very much about going with the flow of their ideas and letting go of the need to make something ‘good enough’ for exhibiting, their work will be included in the final exhibition.  It demonstrates perfectly how letting your creativity unfold moment by moment without expectation can result in some of the most effective and satisfying work you’ll create.

Breathe: Found Words and Found Movement – Collaboration with Choreographer Mhairi Allan

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This collaboration which evolved into a set of three workshops came about thanks to Linzy McAvoy, Learning and Engagement Manager at The Barn.  Knowing both Mhairi and myself well, she suggested that we meet believing that our individual ways of working would compliment each other.  And she was so right! Developing this final set of workshops with Mhairi has opened my eyes to a whole new field of possibility and given me the opportunity to work with someone who I find hugely inspirational.  Working with Mhairi has enabled me to think more widely about how writing can be mixed with other art forms to enhance wellbeing further.  And I have been deeply nourished both personally and professionally as a result.

These workshops used the 23 words I hung in the garden as source material. We spoke the words, considered where the movement of each word began in our bodies, and created a sequence of movements inspired by linking four of the words together into a movement ‘score’. Writing activities were introduced at various points in each workshop to create found poems and to explore the experience further.  This combining of two different creative formats encouraged some people who enjoyed one but weren’t too sure about the other to have a go in a safe and trusted environment.  The work that evolved touched both facilitators and participants deeply.  The way the group were able to explore their own thoughts and feelings and interact with each other was a joy and a privilege to witness. We have recorded one of the sessions in a film for the exhibition and I look forward to being able to show a portion of the work we did together then.

All images Copyright Elaine Reid.



Flourish: August and September 2017


The second term of the Flourish project at The Barn, Banchory involved a summer-time drop-in session, a second series of Wild Words workshops, a Renga workshop, and more visits from local primary schools.

Wild Words 2


This second set of workshops involved another group of adults learning about the technique of free writing with the added bonus of writing out-doors.  I used poems by Mary Oliver and Sheenagh Pugh as well as the words hung in the Wild Garden as inspiration.  Alongside free writing, I also encouraged play and experimentation using Haiku and Pantoum poetic forms. A greater sense of connection, a willingness to try new things, increased sharing and learning to slow down and enjoy time in nature were the main characteristics of these workshops.  Much laughter, peace and an increased sense of wellbeing were the result.  Another group poem was produced and recorded for the final exhibition.

The Renga Workshop

This was the first time I had facilitated a Renga workshop and it was an invigorating learning curve!  The plan was to write a group poem outdoors over the course of four hours with an emphasis of being in the moment and observing nature.  We began the day in the garden but were soon rained indoors although we all felt we had more than enough inspiration from Mother Nature to write from.  Various haikus and couplets from all those present grew into a group poem in accordance with the structure laid out in this ancient form.  This was a most enjoyable first experience to lead and it’s something I will do more of in the future.  The poem produced will also be included in the final exhibition.

Aboyne Primary School


The first workshop with two P7 classes from Aboyne Primary School saw them visiting the Wild Garden in September.  They explored the space through the medium of the word search and created found poems from the words they were able to locate.  This method of poetry writing combined with the immediacy of outdoor exploration produced poems of a mature and profound nature alongside those that were fun and whimsical.

All images Copyright Elaine Reid.


2nd Set of Brigid Collins Masterclasses


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Detail from my ‘blue print’ book.

I travelled down to Edinburgh for my second set of Brigid Collins Masterclasses at the beginning of October.  I had another three workshops spread over three days courtesy of the VACMA Awards – funding from Aberdeenshire Council and Creative Scotland.  These built on the previous three masterclasses I had with Brigid in May (see previous blog post of May 31st, 2017). 

This set of classes combined studio time with two field trips: one to the library at the Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) and another to visit artist and publisher Julie Johnstone who creates artists’ books and installations.  You can find out more about Julie and her own imprint, Essence Press at: www.essencepress.co.uk 

During the first day Brigid introduced me to another two book forms – the tunnel book and the star book – providing a wealth of examples and practical instructions on how to construct these forms.

Our second day began with a visit to the Library at the ECA where I saw more examples of these alongside a further selection of artist’s books with a particular emphasis on poetry.  Getting to spend time with such a wide body of work was invaluable as it expanded my perception of just what an artist’s book is and what it potentially could be.  This hands-on interaction also led to a fuller consideration of the weight, texture and colour of paper and card to use than I might otherwise have had.

We then visited Julie Johnstone who gave us a highly detailed insight into how she creates her artists’ books and installations from the equipment used to the paper she prefers.  She talked us through a large body of her work and generously answered all our questions.  I was particularly struck by the less-is-more approach Julie employs in her work.  Wisdom whispers from her pages providing an invitation towards reflection which I deeply appreciate.  I was enchanted and awe-inspired by her creations and her openness towards sharing her years of experience with us.

The final day was spent back in the studio developing my ideas further.  In particular, solving the problem of how to create rigidity in my ‘blue print book’ made from tracing paper.  Brigid’s suggestions led to a very effective solution and I was able to complete my first artist’s book for the Flourish project within our final session.  That felt like a very fitting finale for our time together.

Spending this time one-to-one with Brigid has been everything I had hoped it would be, and more.  I always anticipated getting something valuable from the experience, but I didn’t understand the myriad ways it would expand my practice and enrich my growth as a creative.  Alongside Brigid’s wealth of experience and knowledge, she also shared the joy of those ‘a-ha’ moments when you find something vital to the successful outcome of a piece.  Essentially, I also found something vital to my own practice too – a generous teacher and a place of acceptance and nurture.  This whole adventure has expanded my field of vision as to what is possible for me and I am excited to continue on with what I’ve learnt to produce more visual poems and artist’s books inspired by the Flourish project.   

In addition to this experience something else wonder-full came out of my time with Brigid – a collaborative piece of work between the two of us.  During the first set of sessions, Brigid read some of the found poems I had written in the Wild Garden which I had brought with me as inspiration.  She was particularly struck by one of them and asked my permission to create some work of her own in response to it.  I was humbled and delighted to oblige.

And this is what she created  – a series of porcelain furls in response to my lines:

 unfurl your knowing


to remember

porcelain furls – by Brigid Collins

These formed part of her exhibition, “Such frail enclaves” held in September in Dr. Neil’s Garden in Duddingston, Edinburgh  – yet another wonderful garden space.  Details of this exhibition and Brigid’s work can be found at:  http://www.brigidcollins.co.uk/articles_350314.html

Flourish – Spring Into Summer

HOB Primary 5/6 & 6, Throughout May

The first term of Flourish began when two classes from Hill Of Banchory primary school visited me in May.  I worked with them once a week for four weeks using the garden as inspiration.  They had time to explore (charging around a wild garden does wonders for the imagination!) and wrote about what they found, paying particular attention to what they could see, hear, smell and touch.  They also used the words I have hung around the garden to create found poems and completed seed sentences about the elements, and the plants growing in the garden. This writing culminated in the creation of two group poems – one from each class which they read out in the garden and I recorded for the project’s archive.


Introduction to Words For Wellbeing at Number One, 10th May

During the first week I also facilitated an introductory Words For Wellbeing workshop at Number One in Scott Skinner’s Square – a new community hub for Banchory and the surrounding area.  This was held as part of the Aberdeenshire Wellbeing Festival.

Feedback from one of the participants:

“Enjoyed it very much as someone ‘new’ to creative writing.  Manageable and supportive.”


Garden Party, 13th May

Over a hundred people came to the garden party held at the end of the first week.  All were invited to go on a word search to find over eighty words hidden around.  These took the form of acrylic words hung in trees, scrabble words attached to or hidden in other objects, multi-coloured words cut from foam and words hand-painted onto stones.  Words were hidden on the ground, mid-height and just above head height – I wanted people to have to look up, down, and all around them to find the words and to take in the full wonder of the garden itself.

Everyone was invited to then write a poem with their found words and contribute it to the Flourish book.  A wonderful variety of poems were written in, including some art work – a very fitting launch for the project as a whole.

PechaKucha Health and Wellbeing Event at The Belmont Cinema, 18th May

Linzy McAvoy, Learning and Education Officer at The Barn, and I were invited to present at this event run by the Arts and Health Network, Scotland.  The evening was a celebration of the role of creativity in health and wellbeing emphasising the positive impact of the arts on humanity.

A PechaKucha presentation requires you to talk about 20 slides for 20 seconds each.  This results in a fast-paced, visually driven presentation lasting a total of 6 minutes 40 seconds.  It turned out to be a little nerve-wracking, 20 seconds was shorter than I thought, but ultimately a satisfying experience of detailing the conception of the Flourish project, its launch and our plans for its year-long run.


Wild Words, Throughout June

The Wild Words group ran for four weeks during June.  We spent roughly half our time writing and sharing words in the garden with the other half in the Lang Byre when the weather became inhospitable.  The group camaraderie grew quickly and this enabled a safe, trusting environment for people to express their writing voice and have it heard.  The main focus was free writing and how this enables us to look at and understand our thoughts and feelings better.  However, we also used the twenty-three words as inspiration for found poems and played with Haiku and Pantoum forms.  We wrote a group poem together which has been recorded and will be shared on Sound Cloud in the near future.



Labyrinth Walk at Banchory River Festival, 10th June 

Janis Wemyss, my fellow labyrinth facilitator, and I took the morning to lay a 42-foot classical labyrinth out of 200 feet of rope in Bellfield Park as part of this local festival.  It was then open for walking, running, skipping and dancing for the afternoon.  There were more opportunities to try out found poetry techniques and a further invitation to contribute poems to the Flourish book.

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The garden continues to bloom and I am now on holiday during the kid’s school break.  The twenty-three words remain in the garden and the found poetry writing prompt can be picked up from The Barn’s office or downloaded from the website to be used at anytime using this link:


Consider yourself invited to come and write and please share you writing by posting it in the Flourish post-box to add your own words to our ‘flourishing’ archive.


Happy Summer!

Master Classes with Brigid Collins


Myself and Brigid in her studio in Edinburgh.

As part of my Flourish residency in The Wild Garden at The Barn, I secured funding from the Visual Artists and Craft Makers Award (VACMA) provided by Aberdeenshire Council and Creative Scotland. It was this funding which enabled me to travel to Edinburgh last week for a set of three 1:1 master classes with artist, Brigid Collins.

At the information event I attended before applying for the funding we were told to think big – to apply for something that would really stretch us as artists to develop our practice.

I had previously been to two of Brigid’s workshops – one in 2013 at The Claremount Gallery in Aberdeen entitled ‘Poem Houses’ and one in 2015 at The Gordon Highlander’s Museum in Aberdeen entitled ‘Book Objects’.  Brigid is a multi-disciplinary artist but one element of her work involves combining poetry and art.  She creates intricate sculptural art works in response to other people’s poetry which she calls ‘Poem Houses’.  (You can find out more about Brigid’s work via her website: www.brigidcollins.co.uk)  My work goes the opposite way – I create poems and then develop them further by adding an artistic element to them.  At her second workshop we had discussed how much we both enjoy combining these two creative elements and that’s how I knew immediately that she was the artist I wanted to learn more from when I was asked to ‘think big’.

Curiosity ER

The Poetry House I made at Brigid’s first workshop in 2013.

I had three 2 hour master classes with Brigid over three days and additional non-teaching hours in her studio to further play and experiment with what I had learned.

We focused on folded books to begin with and two different types in particular – a ‘Squidgy O’ book and ‘The Massacred Trousers’ book – both excellent poetic names in their own right!  After practising how to fold and cut these, we then moved on to considering how to utilise these forms to create a container for my words.

I chose to work with the twenty-three words I have hung around the The Wild Garden as a found poetry prompt for Flourish.


These acrylic words will remain in the garden certainly until the end of June but possibly longer, as a creative writing prompt that anyone can come into the garden and write in response to at any time.

I have two further masterclasses organised with Brigid for later in the year. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to getting into my own studio (a.k.a the dining room table) to work on developing what she has taught me throughout the summer months.



My folded book and the materials to finish it, ready to take home.