Koli National Park really is a very special place, it has touched me deeply; there's so much to explore that I want to be outside looking and discovering as much as possible. My urge to collect and my love of light is being explored through taking lots of photos and some film footage as well as gathering up little twigs and bits of lichen and looking at ways of layering and holding these... I've been writing lots and collecting words and thoughts connected to my own responses to walks in the forest - and I'm looking at ways of using those...
With the school we've been looking at the little treasures around us and collecting things in tiny containers and then unpacking these and seeing what we've each found and what we've been drawn to. Lab 13 have given us some wonderful microscopes to use whilst here too so we've been really loving looking at things up in such close detail. And I find it fascinating seeing what pulls the pupils in.
Some really lovely sun here over the past 2 weeks and the children at the school and I have been outside so much - discovering natural treasures, looking at grains, finding different grasses and exploring shadows; they spent ages trying to grind their own flour too and were really interested in that. I will put a further blog post together soon about my work with the school here, there's so much to say - things that happen as a matter of course here are so different to the UK and it really does leave you deep in thought.
I was incredibly touched yesterday also to get a skype call through to a wonderful school I work with in Nottingham, I've been sending lots of images back to them and its so lovely having contact going back and forth with the UK. It really feels like a proper exchange of ideas and discoveries.
With the school here in Koli and in my own work there's lots of explorations of light and shadow happening. There are lots of wonderful ideas from the children in the school as they test out different shadows created by themselves and natural objects around them. And in my studio space I've been setting up different natural objects that I've collected and things that I've started making and assembling - and exploring ways those catch both the natural sunlight that floods in here but also lights and shadows I'm projecting. I'm trying to look at ways of layering up my thoughts and observations from my long walks in the forest here and to combine those with collected objects. These are all starting points and more exploring is to follow.
The artists residency programme here is organised by the Koli Cultural Committee who have such a fantastic programme of work happening - and they've been doing so for very many years. They have been looking after me wonderfully here and made me very welcome indeed. The residency is based at Kolin Ryynanen which is a hub of culture; its a lovely restaurant café bar with exhibition space and a programme of live music, in the centre of the tiny village of Koli. The entire upstairs floor is the artists residency space - with a huge studio area that has windows on 3 sides and then a living apartment and balcony looking out to the forest. There's access to the sauna and fire pit outside (there's a converted barn with b and b accommodation too). And there's also a wonderful little museum of village life in the grounds here.
And wonderful today also to welcome a group of delegates from Etela-Konnevesi National Park who have been visiting to find out more about how the artists residency programme works here. It was great to talk with them and talk about how time with nature gives such depth of feeling and generates creativity.
It's so rare to have time to dedicate to creative exploration like this. Partly because in the UK so much else occupies time - be it the ins and outs of work admin, pressures from juggling so many projects, domestic chores and other things that need attention daily. So much of my work in the UK is with schools, which I love and am deeply committed to, but it also consumes a lot of energy and time (as well as the physical journey of driving in busy traffic) and the context with schools in the UK is so very different to here.
I think having the space here is proving to be deeply significant for me - the physical space of a light, big studio with lovely views; but also the emotional space, space to walk and explore and to discover, space to look and listen and think... And for me, at the moment, space to think and ponder is deeply crucial.
I'm finding the landscape here is affecting me deeply and bringing about some very intense emotions which, in turn, link to other things and do feed creative explorations. More ponderings to follow...