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.
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
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
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.