Finland Residency – Part 6 – Creativity

THURSDAY

Despite this week being the exact same length as all the other weeks we’ve had here, it felt quite short.  My creativity had been boosted and I had made a lot at the beginning of the week after the studio tour feedback, but as people started leaving it became harder to focus and concentrate on much. I realised I was a bit scared of going home and having to create in my own space again. I think that’s partly because I did so much planning and organising for Finland, I hadn’t thought about what came after it. I had no idea what I was going home for. I was also going to miss my friends, our daily nourishing conversations, after work saunas and the adventures we’d been going on!

It has been amazing how the lack of internet connection and mobile phones along with living in the forest with fewer people had clearly allowed my body and mind to reset. The deep sleeps must have been helped by my lack of screen time, and waking up at 7 am was easy now, as was going to bed because I was exhausted everyday. The best thing was, I was going to bed at midnight and getting up at 7 am and I actually felt rested. Often at home I would find myself up early on some days, raring to go, others I turn off my alarm and go back to sleep without realising it until I wake up at 9 am or later. This re-setting in Finland led me to believe that the combination of all those different factors and pressures of work and trying to conform to other people’s working hours was making me feel guilty about when I worked.

I felt quite exhausted today and I knew that because in Finland my body and mind were far more connected and had less external stimulation, it must be all the emotions of leaving that was making me tired. I received another barrage of post today, it had become a bit of a running joke that I was constantly receiving mail. It really was a wonderful thing, to get letters in the post in Finland, it made me feel like I was a little bit closer to home. Today I received a pretty excellent care package from my mum. She had sent me two boxes of Tunnocks Teacakes. A lovely taste of home to share with my Finland friends!

On Thursday evening we had our farewell last meeting with the Arteles staff. The wonderful Ida, Teema and Reeta. They provided us a spread of tippaleipä (a type of funnel cake), munkki (donut) and a mead called Sima, which is seasonal and mostly drunk around the time of Vappu, which is a celebration on the 30th of April. It was a good chance to chat to the Arteles staff and discuss what we liked about the residency programme and discuss what we got out of the experience.

FRIDAY

We were all up early on Friday as another member of our tightly knit group was leaving. I was glad I was leaving the next day, before a lot of the others, as I found it quite hard when people were leaving. After the emotional goodbyes, I started to pack up my own work space and my bedroom. It was strange to drag my suitcase out from the cupboard under the stairs where I had been hiding it, and knowing that I was off home soon. I felt sad but excited about getting home and starting new adventures on my own.

I wanted another Sauna before I left Finland, so tonight was the only night to do it. I really wanted to help start the fires, but I decided to go along on another adventure in little blue, the trusty residents car.

Last adventure

The trips we had been taking in the car made me want to go out and explore more around Scotland when I got home, and had reignited my desire to have a car again. I also wanted to journey more outside of the UK too – my sense of scale has totally changed. Finland seemed like it was only a few hours away on the plane, and therefore more reachable to me than I had expected. I felt like I had been stuck in a bit of island mentality at home without even realising it. Going back to my first blog about my experiences in Finland: the scale of the world, the variety of the people in it and the vastness of their experience is not something I had appreciated in this way before.

The adventures and going out for long walks always led to one-on-one chats. It was nice to be able to walk and talk as there wasn’t always space to do this at Arteles. Especially as it’s often easier to talk about the big things in life when you’re walking side by side. I discovered I had a lot in common with people this way; feeling lost where we were living, missing out on a sense of belonging and not quite sure what route to take with our creative work. The space that the residency provided has been wonderful to take a step back and consider new options in life.

Friday evening

Once we were back from our adventure I had my last Sauna. Ohh I am going to miss having a Sauna twice or three times a week, especially when it’s cold outside! The after sauna process of scrubbing all the dead skin off, having a warm bucket shower in wood-fire-heated water followed by the best sleeps of my life will sorely be missed.

After a lovely hot sauna, a few of us cooked and ate together in the main kitchen. There was a lot of food to get used up and it was wonderful to spend more time with these amazing humans. If anything the last few days has brought us all together more, we have shared more and savoured our time together.  I’ll so miss these connections and I’m glad we’re all making an effort to email, write and keep in touch now.

Back to reality

I got my mobile phone back  on the Friday evening. I had, of course, missed a lot of things being offline and without my phone; but I think it would’ve been a greater shame to miss the people and connections I made at Arteles. Being offline meant we couldn’t escape, we had to be present and spend time with each other. There was no sitting with laptops, browsing the internet together. Instead, we sat and read together, had cups of tea, chatted in the kitchen whilst cooking. Watched a few movies, but mostly we shared our experiences, stories and lives with each other.

One of the weirdest things I noticed about having my phone back was that I experienced motion sickness when I went back on Instagram. It was nothing compared to the weird depression that hit me when I went back to Facebook. My business has since then become more present on Instagram as a result of this but I do try to keep up with my Facebook Page too.

 

SATURDAY – DEPARTURE DAY!

I was up and packed in plenty of time before a few of us were being driven into Tampere. There was time for one last walk in the forest with my friend Kripi. We had been on a forest walk on the first day so it seemed like the perfect ending to go on another walk together!

I found it horribly emotional leaving the residency, and Ida the residency assistant said everyone from Scotland cries when they leave. Really I was just carrying on a tradition! 

 

I really hadn’t planned for what I would do when I got home, other than getting there and knowing I had the next month to work on my blogs and processing all of what had just happened!

THE OTHER ARTISTS

We’ll probably never all be in the same room at the same time ever again. These are the wonderful people I spent the month with. I have shared things with them and they have seen parts of me (literally, in the sauna!) that most people haven’t. I’ve never felt so deeply understood, valued, comfortable and cared about with any other humans. That is truly a wonderful experience to have on its own. A massive thank you to each one of you that was there.

Carolyn Angus  |  Margie Brown Ash  |  Amy Casey  |  Cecile Dyer  |  Felipe Enger  |  Anki King  |  Jean-Francois Krebs  |  Noëmie Vermoesen  |  Kripi Malviya  |  Stuart McMillan

Arteles have launched the next set of Back to Basics residency and I suggest that if you’ve enjoyed my blogs you should APPLY.

OUTCOME – PERSONAL REFLECTION

I’ve discovered a lot about myself and my creativity whilst I was in Finland and I have been reflecting  for 6 months now. It has taken me a lot longer to process the experience than I expected. It’s still ongoing and I am enjoying learning, about myself and my creativity.

I reignited my love for meditation and discovered a love for yoga. I enjoyed listening to my fellow artists and hearing about them and their lives. It reminded me how much I love talking to my clients and listening to the stories behind the jewellery that they’re commissioning from me.

The sense of home I was looking for is not necessarily about where I am. It comes from feeling welcome, instantly at ease and understood by other people. The most important thing for me is to have people around me who’s company I find nourishing and that I enjoy spending time with.

I have more confidence in myself and my decisions. As soon as I arrived back I tried to put these things into practise. I stopped second guessing myself and seeking permission for my actions.

I’ve realised that trying to achieve this “work/life balance” is total rubbish for me. I’ve spent ages trying to keep the two separate and while I agree you need time off, SO IMPORTANT! I actually enjoy admin work and planning in the evening. I enjoy doing my accounts in front of the TV! Some evenings I enjoy working until 10pm, other days I want to get up and go to work and finish early. My creativity is not an infinite resource and sometimes I need to do other things to top it up. The important thing for me was recognising that the things I love doing, like yoga, walking, and cooking are all part of that. They can’t be separated from me as a jeweller. Just as I can’t separate being a jeweller from my personal identity. Meaning my Instagram handle is very existential and true!

I have noticed a difference in my usage of social media since Finland. I try not to go on it, other than for work, especially after I realised how quickly time passes. I found that it can really hamper my creativity especially if I start comparing myself to others, which is so easy to do.

I want to keep learning, about myself, about other people, cultures, lifestyles, what makes us all creative. This will no doubt lead into my life-long desire to learn!

 

OUTCOME – CREATIVITY REFLECTION

Work Ethic

I have become more confident in myself and my jewellery. Perhaps it was thanks to my funding from Creative Scotland, I felt so much confident that what I was trying to achieve by being a jeweller was what people want to see. A balance of creativity and making jewellery that everyone can appreciate and find something they love in.

My working conditions in Finland is something I still aspire to. Living and working in the same place, with a community of artists around me that I can dip in and out of would be ideal. I love the idea of having a distinct work environment at home, perhaps a workshop in the garden! It’s not necessarily achievable at the moment it’s still nice to have goals!

Now when I notice my focus is waning I stop and change what I am doing rather than forcing myself to keep going. I have always been one to persevere, even if I wasn’t enjoying things. This is a massive revelation to me it seems like something I should have known! So rather than leaving the workshop when I’m tired and things aren’t going well, I leave at the point where I still want to do more. This has reinvigorated my love for the client led work that I do. 

I work with more focus and efficiency now, slower in some ways. I am better at prioritising and listening to myself. I know when it’s time to stop working, or move on to a different task in order to re-focus. I enjoy making jewellery when I have long intense periods of focused work – flow experiences. I don’t like the rush of some work, I like creating slowly and taking time over pieces of jewellery.

Creativity

I’ve realised that my creativity and therefore my ability to produce work had actually been needing recharged for a long time. Creativity is finite, not that it will run out, but that it needs recharged. I had to try to make things in Finland in order to understand my creativity. What I did, designing a sculpture from start to finish was part of understanding this process.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the process of learning more about creativity as a subject, it’s fascinating. This has led me to look into studying creativity.

I enjoyed immersing myself in trying new skills such as welding in Finland, and I really enjoyed exploring the culture. Having a Finnish Sauna after a day of work and snowy forest walks is something I can highly recommend. Walking has become part of my creative process. It’s a wonderful place to purge your thoughts, process the day and recharge your creativity.

Exploring creativity by talking with the other artists, and reading more about it was something I really enjoyed doing  so I have added it into my working life now. I’ve been taking time to talk with artists, pushing myself to meet more artists from a range of fields by joining Creative Edinburgh and I’ve started meeting up with creative friends, going to more galleries and shows in order to absorb more art! Wonderful to live in Edinburgh and be able to do this so easily!

 

CREATIVITY SUMMARY 

So this is the end of my creative journey in Finland. Here are some bullet points to remember (for me but also for you if you’ve found this useful!)

  • Time – The time to create pieces, also time away from the thing you make. Down time, contemplation time, bath time!
  • Balance – Balance in all aspects of work and life. It’s not necessarily equal. Balance your work, balancing marketing with making, or accounts with designing, viewing art with producing it.
  • Accretion – Being constantly open to influences from everywhere. Keep consuming art in all forms to allow your brain to fill up with ideas. Read, write, visit galleries, go outside and look at the sky.
  • Writing – Writing everyday in Finland enabled me to process my thoughts and it gives my brain the space and downtime to create.
  • Walking – Being active in my environment allows my creative brain to release, also gives space away from work. Take long walks, go on adventures, be in nature, do something you’ve not done before, push yourself. 
  • Making – Relinquish control, free your creativity by not having an end in mind, enjoy the making process.
  • Variety –  Mix up your days, blog in the morning and make in the afternoon. Listen to yourself and  work out what you’re in the mood to do.
  • Learn –  Develop new skills, challenge yourself, improve your practice, embrace the process, challenge yourself, work hard.
  • Socialise – I need connection with other creatives in order to stay mentally healthy. This could be client meetings, meeting friends for fun but also nourishing conversations. Chance meetings leading to new things.
  • Paper models – Creating ideas in paper before committing to them makes it easier to play around with an idea.
  • Drawing – Sketching and drawing thing unrelated to my jewellery designing frees up my mind to create.

 

THANK YOU!

My time in Finland and the invaluable support of Creative Scotland has opened my creative life, far beyond what I imagined. There are many more opportunities opening up to me that I wish to explore further; sculpture, writing, helping others unleash their creative potential, exploring creativity as a theoretical subject and making jewellery!

If you’ve made it this far and have enjoyed my blogs I would love to hear from you. I am excited to be making jewellery and I hope you’ll continue to read my blogs and keep up to date with me to see what I get up to in 2018. jen@jencunningham.co.uk