Well so much for my promises to blog regularly…… it has been a very busy and somewhat exhausting few weeks travelling – including Copenhagen, rural France, Amsterdam/rural Holland, Lancaster UK and London – but more about those later. We are now back in Copenhagen for 3 months – somewhat relieved to be staying in one place for a while – and what a beautiful and stylish city to live in! When we arrived here at Easter not even 6 weeks ago it was snowing gently. Now the sun is shining, the birds are twittering and Copenhagen is sparkling.
Of course the highlight of the past month was participating in Ruudt Peters’ “Dream Now” workshop in southern Holland. It was a tough week – very intensive and I soon worked out that the way I was going to get the most out of it was just to give myself up to the process – to just go with it and see what emerged. It was great. I haven’t since had the space to really reflect at length on the implications of what I learned for my jewellery practice – but my biggest realisation was that there is possibility in any material if I search hard enough – even ones I hate like plastic! Having been through the process I realise now that if I push a material enough I can find its beauty for myself. This of course opens up endless creative opportunities and I can’t wait to get working and experimenting!
Other aspects the workshop reinforced for me were to trust my gut instinct and to have the courage to do what I do so that it speaks from me, in my voice (not worrying about what I think people want to see or hear). It also confirmed for me that the design process of using imagery and mood boards (harking back to my interior design training) as inspiration is one that works well for me and is one I can also use to communicate the basis of my work – avoiding the “art-speak” that I so detest and resist.
I also realised just how important nature and fragility are in my work. Ruudt encouraged me to reflect further about my relationship to nature and what was it about it that I feel so compelled to communicate in my work. This I’ve yet to do at length, but my immediate response is that nature represents for me freedom, authenticity, perfect imperfection (just letting be), integrity and quietness – all things I aspire to in life.
We also had a brief discussion about beauty – as I had stated that for me it was essential that I considered my pieces beautiful – I cannot be happy with ‘ugly’. What I feel I failed to communicate in that conversation was that the ‘beauty’ I seek to create and highlight is MY version of beauty – that while I hope others can share it also, I accept that some may not see it as such and that is 100% OK. I am inspired by the beauty I see every day in elements often overlooked – fragments, contrasts, textures, small details often from nature or as a result of nature and I try to capture the essence (or beauty) of these things I see without replicating them. Indeed the realisation from the workshop that I might find beauty in manmade materials is a breakthrough for me and one I can’t wait to investigate further.
As I’ve said elsewhere, the capacity to appreciate beauty is a core part of our humanity and I believe that by drawing attention to this beauty and encouraging others to see the beauty in the everyday can add a richness to life and encourage a greater respect for nature and our environment. In 1919 a Swedish art historian Gregor Paulsson coined the phrase “Vackrare Vardagsvara” which is translated roughly as “beautiful things for everyday use” – and this became a key reference in the development of modern design in Sweden and Scandinavia throughout the 20th century and still today. Since discovering this phrase many years ago I realised that it summed up my personal philosophy on design (and maybe life). For me it is both an encouragement to find beauty in the every day and also a call for designers and makers to design objects that are both beautiful AND functional. Beauty should not be kept for special occasions – it should be integral in our lives, available to everyone through the development of an appreciation of the detail, materials, form and functionality. Nature always gets these right!
One of the benefits of doing a workshop is the interaction and discussions with other participants. We had a great group of people – 10 of us from Japan, Korea, UK, Ireland, Germany – and it was fantastic to hear of their experiences, see their work and observe how they tackled the tasks set in the workshop and hence reflect on my own approach.
The workshop was held in Ruudt’s lovely summerhouse – to which we rode in Dutch style on our bikes every morning from our accommodation in the nearby village. It is a small renovated old barn in the middle of the Dutch countryside. I just loved how it had been transformed so simply and beautifully – dark stained wood, large windows to capture the sun, raw materials and flashes of bright colour in the furnishings. It was situated in a wild garden surrounded by hedges, trees, wildflowers and a stream – a true retreat and an inspiring space in which to create.
One cold morning we rode along the dike through thick mist – lines of trees and white wildflowers emerged from the whiteness, vague impressions of freshly ploughed fields either side, beautiful silence and the cool crisp air – absolutely stunning. Unfortunately didn’t have my camera so sadly only iphone shots to remember it by.