Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Hosting a creative retreat with nature: Wild Art 2016

Two weeks ago I realised a dream I had held for a very long time; I hosted an art retreat on a beautiful nature reserve in the Dorset countryside.

Along with the wonderful Lisa Wright I welcomed a group of beautiful creatives to the Kingcombe Centre in west Dorset for a weekend of art, nature, good food and great company.

We explored the meadows of the nature reserve, looking at the many different plants that grow there, and the insects and other animals that depend on them. The reserve is managed with careful grazing by a herd of beef cattle at a very low density without adding artificial fertilisers to the land. This is the traditional method of farming before the advance of modern intensive agriculture and allows a huge variety of plants to flourish on the reserve, from grasses and medicinal herbs (giving rise to the term "wellground" as the medicinal properties benefited the animals grazing there) to several species of beautiful orchids.

1. Meadow flowers, Lisa Wright. 2. Grasses, Sue Lloyd. 3. Selfheal, Simon, Flickr. 
4. Common spotted orchid, Sue Lloyd. 5. Bee orchid, Sue Lloyd.

Part of the reserve is also managed as traditional hay meadows, these are left until late in the summer to give the flowers and grasses a chance to set seed before being cut for hay. These fields are literally buzzing with insects on a warm day, it is a sound, and sight, from the past that is hard to find these days. Although it wasn't the best insect weather (typical British summer really!) we saw several species of butterflies and moths, lots of hoverflies and even a few bees.

1. Meadow brown, Lisa Wright. 2. Common blue, Catherine Mason. 3. Scarlet tiger moth, Aah-Yeah, Flickr. 
4. Large Skipper, James Pratley, Flickr. 5. Six-spot burnet moth, Lisa Wright.

The studio at Kingcombe is a beautiful, light space that is perfect for getting creative after being inspired by the colours of the countryside. We created some easy no-sew journals based on this tutorial to turn into a record of the weekend interpreting the landscape around us. Gradually, over the weekend the pages were filled with paintings and prints, as a colourful reminder of everything we had seen.

Lisa also taught everyone the basics of iphonography and how to edit pictures using various different apps to create new works of art from our photographs. This is something I haven't really tried before and it was lovely to learn something new that can give such quick results.

In the evenings we gathered around a bonfire to tell stories and sing songs. We used the storybowl method devised by Andrea Scher to give everyone a prompt that they could use to inspire a story. It was such a special atmosphere of connection with like-minded women, and I feel very lucky that I was able to help create the space for this to happen, and to share the experience which such lovely people.

I hope this is just the first of many retreats and workshops I will be running. Please get in touch if you would be interested in a small workshop for you and your friends, or if you have a suggestion of a suitable venue for a larger retreat. You can also sign up to my mailing list here to hear about future opportunities.

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