I wanted the final workshop to follow on from the previous two I had done but this time making nature more of a focus. As the breathing spaces project shows, moments of calm can be found everywhere you don't have to be totally immersed in nature to achieve it. Having said that I think this time of year is fantastic for tuning in to and noticing nature, the autumnal changes are so dramatic and colourful, from tree lined city streets to garden's and parks.
We began with a 'chocolate meditation' (adapted from Mark Williams' raisin meditation). This process of slowly noticing a piece of chocolate by using all of our senses including, eventually taste, helps to show how much we gain from giving something a little more time and attention. It can be very rewarding (the chocolate tastes better) and it places us in the moment, in our body for a while.After the chocolate we moved on to noticing the natural objects and materials I had brought in, trying to give these the same attention as we had the chocolate (though without eating this time!).
A feast of leaves, ferns, conkers, pine cones, heather, spices and bark where all available to explore. I had also brought a selection of different types of paper: brown, tracing, tissue, loo roll, sugar, packaging, rice and handmade papers as well as crayons and graphite, pens, ink and brushes. I encouraged the group to explore, play and make use of the materials in the space, leaving it open for everyone to find their own way with it.
The table we were all sat around was completely covered by the enormous tissue paper drawing we had begun in the first session and continued in the second. We had focused then on the technique I have been using in my own work, which is a kind of collaboration with the paper itself, initiating and following its creases, folds and tears something I feel relates to the Japanese art of Kinsugi, repairing something flawed in a way that highlights and makes permanent the history or journey of an objects, rather than trying to erase that damage.
And so everyone began to work, on new pieces hovering on top of the tissue paper drawing or working into that drawing itself. The natural objects were used as templates, rubbings, were drawn from life and became a part of stories enriched with text or magazine cuttings.
On a very cold blustery day, we stayed warm in our self made nest of papers and leaves, with music, hot drinks and more chocolate to sustain us. Like quilters gathered around one table, contributing to one joint drawing, the time was punctuated with bursts of chat, jokes and calls for more tea.
At the end we had a look at what had been made in this very prolific few hours, and laid out our giant tissue paper drawing on the floor of the hall to see - A map of ink rivers, a multitude of marks, plants and animals rising out from the abstract, tears and repairs, the result is beautiful I think.
Everyone quickly found their own way in this workshop, bringing their own unique style to the materials. It was lovely to see the sheer variety of work born out of just paper, leaves, ink...
One participant combined using natural objects with his regular practice of using magazine cut outs to build a mixed media collage which he said he had not tried before. Another participant enjoyed trying a more 3D approach using the packaging paper, wine and gold coloured ink. Others said they found the session peaceful and relaxing. As did I!