I often wish I had more time, don’t you?! With my self-employment, and I suspect it’s the same for some of you reading this, when I stop making jewellery I stop earning. There is no holiday pay, sick pay, or overtime pay. The purpose of my trip to Finland was to explore my creativity with no pressure to make jewellery so the funding I received from Creative Scotland was liberating!
I was relaxing into life in Finland by the end of the first week thanks to the peace, quiet, and meditation. I was sleeping better and I eventually started to wake up at 7am without an alarm, which for me is unheard of! I became more mindful of time; I had forgotten my watch and without that or my phone, I went for a walk on Thursday and I didn’t know how long I’d been away. Rather than being scary it was liberating to have no constraint of time, I kept walking until I was hungry and tired and then I turned to head home. I spent an unknown time photographing a butterfly, just because it was there, I spent my time looking up at the trees and the sky, noticing details. I began to appreciate my surroundings more.
My research into my creative process immediately improved from what I had expected when I was writing my funding application. My original idea to explore my process, starting with drawing from nature, found objects and photographs, had already developed into working in 3 dimensional small scale works. The areas of creativity I was researching through books, blog posts and conversations with my fellow artists was far more advanced, my research became focused on creativity as a theoretical subject.
During the first weekend especially on the Sunday, we all seemed to slow down and there was time for a little more socialising. I had taken some Edinburgh Gin, Tablet and Shortbread to give my new friends a taste of Scotland on the Friday evening. It was a great weekend for bonding and getting to know each other better.
On Saturday after meditation, yoga and a little work on my paper maquettes I decided it was time for an adventure. I rode one of the bikes down to the nearest village of Häijää, which was only 7km away. It may not seem like a huge adventure to you, but I’d never ridden a coaster bike on the right hand side of the road, in Finland, so it felt like one to me! I had a great time free-wheeling down the dirt road hills; I had to let the bike go a little bit faster than I wanted just to get up the next hill.
The views down to Häijää were stunning, I stayed off the main road and instead followed a secondary road alongside a lake surrounded by trees, summer houses and tiny saunas. The lake was still mostly frozen and the houses closed up for winter but the sun was shining and I treasured the still moments I had with the landscape, appreciating it’s beauty and drinking it in.
Back in the little yellow house on Sunday night I had an interesting conversation with one of my housemates about life. When you make plans and they don’t always go the way you expect, or want! I have always had a path laid out for myself, my life and business. I always know the next step I should be taking and where I need to move my energy to get things done. I gave up a lot to become self-employed and there have been times when I’ve had to adjust my plans. For a long while before going to Finland I felt stuck in the mindset of being unable to do things because I had to think of the business first. Hearing my housemate’s life story, plans and way of living, I realised I was probably squeezing the joy out of my life, exactly what I don’t want to do!
Another conversation on the same evening, whilst enjoying the first of many outdoor fires, focused on the idea of home as a place.
-What is home?
-Where is home?
-Do you need to have a physical building to live in to call somewhere home, to say “I belong”?
-Do you ever feel you belong somewhere?
The temporary nature of being in Finland didn’t stop me from being connected to it, it probably enhanced it; I knew I had a short time there, which led me to put in a lot of effort to get all I could out of it, both for myself and my work. However in Edinburgh I felt static, like I was treading water. Forever waiting for something to happen to me.
I felt I belonged in Finland, despite having been there for only a week and knowing I’d be leaving it in a few more. I called Edinburgh home, but I don’t feel I belong there.
This inexplicable feeling; belonging somewhere I’ve never been, is reminiscent of the feeling I get when I am in the landscapes and mountains of Scotland. When I’m out of Edinburgh and in the countryside I feel more at home, more free, maybe it’s about getting away from the day-to-day; the same escape I was having in Finland. Or perhaps it’s because I feel I don’t belong in Edinburgh. Much in the same way I’ve been living a controlled planned out path, Edinburgh has become a functional part of that rather than a place I would call home.
Having these conversations, understanding other people’s points of view, and beginning to think differently about life and ways of living really gave me a lot to think about. Maybe I need to stop holding on to my life and plans so tightly, ease off the control, let things happen more naturally and allow myself to enjoy living.
As the second week started, I felt I was revisiting those old creative blocks as I mentioned in my LAST BLOG POST however I began to let go of the feeling that I had to create something and that it had to be a new and fully formed idea before I started making it. I began to relinquish control, and I realised that it would come in time when it was ready. I kept showing up, working, exploring and following my intuition.
Whilst I was drawing, I noticed I was creating pieces that were influenced directly by my walks in Finland. The forests, straight tall birch trees were appearing in the lines in my work, as were the layers of bark, and piled up logs. Ideas were popping into my head fairly regularly, once I stopped expecting them to, whilst I was on walks and whilst I was meditating, even whilst I was reading about creativity. I had even started creating a tiny forest as one of my 3d paper models, with all the trees neatly lined up in a grid.
I also started to see similarities with work I had created in previous years. I began to wonder if my brain was revisiting these things because there was more to explore and perhaps I had only just scratched the surface on these ideas the first time round?
When I looked through some photographs I had taken of the 3d works I had been creating, one image stood out in particular.
When I analysed it, I realised it was the visual description of what I had blindly been exploring: chaos and order. I had tried to line up one side of the metal wires I had cut, (you didn’t think I’d be able to stay away from metal for so long did you?!) in lining those up I had created a mess of different lengths at the other side. This gave me a bit of an eureka moment as I realised this was everywhere and through everything I was exploring and making. The tiny forest I’d been creating in paper and twigs had originally been planned out but when viewed from some angles showed no uniformity, only chaos.
Monday lunchtime brought our weekly meeting to go over what we’d been working on and afterwards we were allowed our phones back for a little while so we could touch base at home. It was nice to say hello to people having been offline since the previous Tuesday evening, but I found it quite unsettling. It was almost as though I wasn’t ready to be back online. I was enjoying the feeling of being out of touch, it gave me a sense of freedom and naive ignorance.
I began to realise how important time was for me here, in a more traditional sense. I was living, socialising, and working in the same place, so it became easy to switch from one to the other. I had time to explore my working style and I began to understand that the residency was turning into a much more personal journey than I had expected.
This “work-life balance” that I heard so much about over the years and had tried to keep separate are, for me, completely linked. I wonder, is it the separation of the two I was trying to maintain that was harming my ability to feel like I could design new pieces?
I began to think about my jewellery practice at home. I love making client work and I felt I struggled to make my own pieces to the same high standard. I found it difficult to be creative around my client work, it would often leave me drained of energy. I work to deadlines and try to keep my order book full to ensure I was hitting business plan targets and earning enough to pay my bills. There is a perfection I expect in my work that leads me to disappointment if I don’t think something has turned out “right”. That has stopped me from making things at all. The more I thought about it the more I again realised I need to relinquish control and just keep creating!
The time I spent out of the studio that I was allowing myself, was also very important. These resting points gave my brain space to reflect and process. On Tuesday I went with a few artists to the metal yard, which is a far cry from the type of metal I’m used to working with. This little trip may have planted a seed about working in larger scale work, which I’ll come back to in another blog post, but at the time it felt more like I was escaping the studio and distracting myself because I felt lost in what I was doing. Only upon reflection can I see this escape is a GOOD THING!
The first 10 days in Finland was about resting, resetting and exploring, the things I knew I had needed for a long time but didn’t realise were interlinked. Physically exploring the landscape and exploring my mental boundaries. The time I spent reading about creativity, not only increased my knowledge about the subject but also surprisingly, became a resting space where ideas started popping into my head about the other projects I was working on.
This residency was made possible by the generous support of Creative Scotland.