Finland Residency – Part 5 – Balance

THURSDAY

The 20th of April, everything began to feel like a downwards slope with the balance tipping towards leaving Finland; I would be returning home in a little over a week. No time to waste! I spent a lot of Thursday reading as I wanted to think over what I’d been exploring and working on and work it into some semblance of order – some sense of a finished exploration of things. You can read more about my previous weeks in Finland here.

I now know that paper models work really well for me, did I need to explore them further? I had started with them and come up with an idea for a sculpture, but was it “finished”? I felt like it was but maybe there was more to explore? I was assuming that having thought of a finished piece, unless I actually made it in metal it wouldn’t move any further forwards. Drawing had also been hugely beneficial towards the start of the residency as they had freed up my brain from my usual work.

Ideas were more often now coming to me when I was in my work space. I was still having flashes of inspiration during down time, like meditating but more often it was in my studio. Usually after I had been out for a walk and was then reflecting and processing in my work space. I would often create something based on those adventures. There was a balance to be found here. It felt to me like my brain needed the structure of the workplace before it would release ideas. Often waiting until I was writing and then the ideas would come rushing forth.

CREATIVITY

I came to Finland to unleash my creativity and find a balance between my client led jewellery and my self-directed designs. I was stopping myself from being creative, even here, in a number of ways. My automatic response when I think of a new idea is, “what’s the outcome of this idea, what’s the finished design going to look like” Rather than doing this, the book I was reading (Wired to Create) says that “Those who derive enjoyment from the act of creating and feel in control of their creative process tend to show greater creativity than those who are focused exclusively on the outcome of their work.”

So, when I am making my  jewellery, rather than always focusing on the outcome I need to focus on my enjoyment in the making process. It was a revelation to realise this is why I enjoy making client’s commissions; I already know what the finished piece should look like, I don’t have to worry about it and I enjoy the skill and process of making the piece.

 

FRIDAY

On Friday we woke up to thunderstorms, followed by flurries of snow followed by blazing sunshine. It was like Finland was giving us all the weather in one day, giving me a little taste of home!

WORK LIFE BALANCE

The finite timescale of Finland; knowing I only had one month and now just over a week left, made it easier for me to be productive. I was so keen to get a lot out of the experience of being there that I wanted to keep pushing myself, and my work. Any time I could, I would jump at the chance to experience something new.  This is in stark contrast to my time at home where I go through waves of feeling productive and often feel like I need a couple of days with nothing in my diary to get jewellery made at the studio.

I had been watching the way everyone was working and finding balance in their day. Spending time on one project, working on something else for a while, then taking some time out maybe a break for some food, then back to a different project. I thought about the way I work when I am at my studio in Edinburgh. I often focus on one thing, until I have completed it. Sometimes this can be great and I’ll get through a lot of little tasks. However if I work solidly on one project for a few days, my designing, blogging and other tasks are put to one side and so it tips my balance.

In Finland having my living and working quarters just a short walk from each other made it easier to find a balance. I fell into the pattern of mixing up my days with lots of different activities which was invigorating. Before Finland I tried to keep my personal and work life very separate, I was strict about when I worked and limiting my creativity to my working hours was stifling it. I think there’s a different balance to be found when you’re creative and everything you do has something to do with your work! I should be working late if I wanted to, and writing on some mornings, or talking a walk through the park on my way to the studio. The balance was to be found in variety and keeping my mind fresh and seeing new things all the time.

 

STUDIO TOURS

Friday afternoon brought about a continuation of the studios tours. One of the painters had been working away consistently and, it felt to me, every time I turned round she was working on something different, so it was a treasure to go and look at all the amazing pieces she’d been working on.

As she discussed her work she made an interesting point that has really stuck with me; a lot of her work time was contemplating a painting. She mentioned that she often puts a painting to one side of her if she’s not sure where to go with it, so it’s always in the corner of her eye, if it continues to bug her she can start painting again. If it doesn’t then she knows that it’s finished. She also explained how hard this was to explain to a client, that a lot of the time spent working on a painting or sculpture is often just thinking, looking and watching to see what the piece is telling you it needs.

In relation to my creativity this took me back to my trouble with wanting to know what the finished piece will look like! Maybe this is a way for me to develop my creative process, to involve time when I’m not actually working on the piece. I can start making a piece of jewellery, put it to one side and let my brain mull it over while I work on client work. This could be a great way to add making new work into my day to day studio life without feeling like I was compromising.

 

SMOKE SAUNA

On Friday evening we went to the local smoke sauna, Kauhtuan Sauna. It was quite an experience, this was our first time in a public mixed sauna and with the promise of a dip in a lake! After we’d found the place, we paid our money and got ready for the smoke sauna, we watched what the other people were doing and followed their lead! There were little wooden mats to sit on, so you didn’t get covered in soot from the smoke which stuck to the walls. One woman asked us if it was our first time there and marked us all with the black soot from the sauna walls. Once we had warmed up enough we walked outside to the lake and slowly, because we knew it’d be cold, walked backwards down the steps into the water!

It was so very very cold. There was a pump in the water to keep it moving so it didn’t freeze over and a few meters out you could see the lake was still frozen. It was so cold that my face contorted into a grimace while I was also laughing about how cold it was and trying to say how bloody lovely it was. It was punch-the-air-out-of-your-lungs cold and such a shock to the system. Bizarrely it did get easier the more you went in, and the last time I managed a few paddle strokes which could definitely have been mistaken for swimming.

We spent a nice evening here, going in and out of the different saunas, one was a smoke sauna and the other was a regular sauna like we had been used to at Arteles but the Fins like their sauna HOT and we were finding it difficult to keep up with them!

 

SATURDAY

On Saturday I had a notion that I wanted to somehow chart and document all of the information I had been reading and discovering about creativity. I knew it would all link together but I didn’t quite know how, I wanted to map it out. I started with a large piece of paper, I wrote creativity in the middle and got to work. Everything started spilling out, I systematically went through all my notes and for a good couple of hours I worked with an intensity and focus that I hadn’t felt in a while.

Towards the end of the day I had a huge mind map which covered everything I had been thinking about, I kept adding to it as I went on when something popped into my head but this felt “finished”. It was more a study of the entire creative process, rather than specifically things that work for me. It now has a place on my studio wall and I often look at it to remind myself of all the potential elements that balance with each other in order to make creativity work. It’s a messy and complicated thing creativity, it can be difficult to understand but I like that I have this now. It’s one way to understand it!

We met one of the locals on Saturday!

 

NEW WAYS OF SEEING, OR SHOULD THAT BE HEARING?

On Saturday we had some more studio tours, one of the painters had been working in a separate room, so I hadn’t really seen a lot of her work. It was absolutely fascinating to go into her space and see everything she had been working on. It was very relevant as a lot of her work features balance! We had an interesting discussion about the building up of your work with layers which led on perfectly to the DJ’s work.

She so perfectly explained her love of music and building something new when she was DJing that it opened my eyes (ears?!) to music in a way I hadn’t appreciated before. She explained that to her, music can express things that words can’t, it allows people to escape and get lost in the music and the mass of humans. She explained her work as being a collaboration, as soon as she starts building up music she gets immediate feedback about her work from the people dancing, she can instantly change it and get inspiration from the crowd, to constantly change and improve it. 

Around every corner and behind every studio door in Finland I was finding more and more things that were opening up my mind to new ways of looking at things!

 

SUNDAY

Sunday started earlier than usual. I was wide awake at 6am! I didn’t want to waste a moment while I was still in Finland so I got dressed, put my hiking boots on, took my camera and went for a walk around the pond.

It was so quiet on my walk and a lovely way to reflect and think on the things I had most recently been reading about. All of this time to think and contemplate whilst I was in Finland was so invaluable to my work. It’s often something you don’t get to do when you’re trying to balance your work, personal life and all those other things that come with being a grown up. Who knew that thinking about all the things you have to do as an adult would be so taxing on the brain and take away some of the time and space we need to be creative! I definitely know now that walking is one of the things that gives me the balance I need. It was perfectly captured by this quote from Wired to Create

“ a connection to our inner selves and our stream of consciousness is undeniably what makes us creative”

 

SHOW AND TELL

One of the artists had the brilliant idea to have a show and tell evening on Sunday about what we do at home. We all knew a little about the projects we were each working on whilst in Finland, but we hadn’t seen much of each other’s previous work or websites.

I spent some of Friday deciding what images I was going to use and planning what to say. I wanted to tell the story of what I do, where and when I started and why I wanted to be a jeweller. As seemed to be the way of everything I was doing in Finland, at that moment in time I was reading about something very relevant “passion”. Wired to Create was explaining that once you’ve felt a spark for a particular subject, when it really grabs your attention, it’s likely you’ll follow it for the rest of your life, there is no expiration date for something you’re passionate about.

This made me think about my days at school and one particular art teacher I had who had a passion for jewellery which she certainly passed on to me. This was when I fell in love with jewellery and found so many amazing jewellery role models. My desire to learn more about it hasn’t wavered and thankfully jewellery making is a seemingly endless subject, there are so many different techniques to learn, there is always some way to improve. The more I make jewellery the more I feel it is becoming an intrinsic part of who I am, it has become my identity!

Watching everyone else talk about their work was fascinating, it was awesome to see so much creativity and talent in one room. It also tied  lot of things together, hearing more about why people worked the way they did a lot of sense to some things, hearing people talk about their work before Finland made it easier to understand where their creativity was coming from whilst we were there. To hear everyone talk about their passion and to see the progression in people’s work over years too. Very interesting to get a taste for what everyone does at home.

 

MONDAY

On Monday we had our usual weekly meeting. I explained how I had enjoyed hearing about everyone’s work and about their creative processes as it was helping with my own. There was a lot of talk about it being the last week and soon time to go back to reality. I was already in a reflective frame of mind and was thinking about what I had learned.

I felt like I knew myself better after having time in Finland to explore my creativity and by extension my personality. I felt like my gut instinct had improved as had my health and general well being. I was feeling a lot of gratitude towards my fellow artists for opening up my eyes to lots of different things. I was also anxious about having my phone back and wondered how I would cope getting back to the real world without my scheduled daily group meditation classes and Yoga three times a week.

In the afternoon it was time for my studio tour so before hand I went for a great walk in the forest, I sort of wanted to get lost, explore and capture what Finland has been to me, I still can’t believe I’m in Finland!

 

STUDIO TOUR

I showed some of the smaller works in paper that I had made, my sketch book designs and my mind map. I placed more emphasis on the mind map. I explained that I had wanted to explore my creativity and this was what all my reading and thinking had been about, exploring this theory behind creativity. I did feel like no-one understood what I was doing, I probably hadn’t explained myself well because I was still working it all out too! There were a lot of questions, “what’s the point of it?” “Why are you stopping your creativity of actually making things, to make this?”

They felt I was stopping my actual creative process by exploring the theory behind it when I should be making things still! I understood what they meant but as I had felt my pieces were finished until I made them in metal I had moved on. One of the artists suggested I get out of my head and go back to making in 3D models. 

Some other useful points were made by my fellow Arteles residents; there is a lot of creativity in what I do for my clients. I am able to pull ideas out of people, or take their ideas, and find ways of incorporating all the different things they’re suggesting. It was also pointed out to me that the way I listen to, and interact with people is a skill in itself. One which I would now like to understand better and improve on. 

MEDITATION

After my studio tour we decided it would be a good evening for another fire meditation. I had missed the last one not realising it was happening, so that was a whole new experience. I did fall about laughing after a couple of swans flying in the distance made the hilarious noises that they tend to do! After meditating someone passed around marshmallows and long sticks and we spent a large part of the evening talking around the fire.

Despite the very cold weather in Finland, we were able to spend a few evenings like this, outside enjoying each others company. It’s a very different and wonderful experience to be sitting round actually talking to people, no-one was on their phone or looking something up on the internet, conversation flowed naturally and we all enjoyed each others company.

 

TUESDAY

I wanted to act on the feedback I had got the day before and go back to working in 3D models. I decided that in order to get an idea of what they could look like I should make my 3D pieces larger than the small paper models I had been working with. 

 

I am particularly pleased with the ones that incorporated rope into them. These were still working with the idea of chaos and control that I explored way back here, and I was able to manipulate the paper in a way I wouldn’t be able to with silver or any other metal. I could visualise how this piece would look as a large sculptural piece in slightly weathered steel with large ropes. The balance between the metal and the textiles would be really pleasing and I began to wonder if sculpture was something I could explore more when I returned to Scotland.

Tuesday evening brought about the beginning of the farewells. One of our friends was leaving the following morning. However, not to leave on a sad note, she made a couple of large jugs of margaritas on Tuesday night and we all swapped our contact details so we could stay in touch!

 

WEDNESDAY

This was the first day someone left and it was tough, it was like having a member of your family leaving. It signified the beginning of the end for all of us and her departure left a weird feeling around the buildings.

Wednesday late afternoon was spent having an adventure to escape the sadness, it was lovely to spend some time driving around rural Finland with each other and spending a little more time getting to know each other. The scenery in Finland is just so beautiful, with so many lakes and trees around every corner. We found a defrosted lake on this walk, piles of ice had collected at the sides after being pushed up by the water.

On Wednesday morning I went to work to distract my mind. I made more paper samples and then I took the opportunity to learn how to weld. One of the artists wanted to create larger work while she had the opporunity and space. I helped set up the outside working area and once she was finished her work she kindly took the time out to show me how! It was so difficult and different to my usual soldering, I can see it taking me some time to master.  The idea of having one small area where you’ve bonded the metals was totally alien to me and I kept getting the soldering rod stuck to my piece. I did however manage to solder three rods of metal together, even though it’s not the most amazing thing I’ve ever made I’m still pretty happy with.

I LOVED the super warm suit I wore to weld. This felt like my happy place, being outside, doing something physical and learning! I was very happy.

 

 My trip to Finland wouldn’t have been possible without Creative Scotland’s Open Project Funding and funding from Arteleswho have residencies all year round.