Poppets, lovlies and dear ones,
Don’t be blue that the weekend is almost done and it is nearly Monday again- for it is blog time! As the the snow has fallen on a very ICElandic of Icelandic Sundays, and the light is fading, it is time for my weekly roundup. Less wordy and possibly less foodie than previously, as it has been fairly studio heavy week- and quite right too!
My week (13.02.14) begun with the now familiar beautiful sunrise in this uncharacteristically snowless and mild February.
The day was consumed with research on Icelandic seal women and Selkies. I started reading a wonderful book called “Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. It is a book of folk tales- retellings, reworkings and translations of stories and storytelling’s from indigenous peoples across the globe. Each story is followed by analysis and interpretation applied to women in contemporary culture. The stories are so beautifully written and I am finding it incredibly insightful- especially when I think about the last year, the decisions I’ve made, and my current situation . In particular I have been engaging with the story, Sealskin/Soulskin which has Icelandic roots, and is about the seal woman and the lonely man.
In the studio I worked on probably the most ambitious lino cut I had ever made, which took two days to cut. Relief printmaking is something I have not done for a very long time (having got really into etching as a form of printmaking in 2015) and I really enjoyed the process. My practice jumps about (and always has done) across different media- but maybe I am a printmaker and I just never realised it! I feel very connected with the stories I am reading, and the work I am making at the moment- even though it is not perhaps a direction I have gone in before it still feels personal. Folk art, tales and music are consuming my thoughts and practice. Brynja tells me if this is the work that is calling me, it is the work I must make.
I also begun my first knitting project (14.02.17) at the beginning of the week. Given how clumsy looking my awkward double-jointed Jafar hands are (as Zanna once christened them!), it is a wonder I can draw or even manage to knit reasonably well- but I do. In the past as well as standard stuff I had knitted detachable cuddly zombies, a much hated chilli outfit for Alfie when he was born, and even a jumper (with a lot of help from YouTube!) However, I put my needles down last year, quite traumatised, having taken over 2 1/2 years to knit one pair of socks (you’re welcome Mother!) But with knitting being stitched and woven into the fabric of Icelandic culture, it felt only right that I revisit my wooly love affair. Every supermarket has a knitting aisle! The wool is so soft and beautiful- and SO flipping cheap. I had been thinking about buying needles but Rosa said I could borrow some from her, and so I popped down to her house that evening to collect them. Her home is the homiest home I have ever visited. It is full of art and warmth and wool! Rosa’s personality is charming and warm like her house, and she has ability an to instil confidence and so needles in hand I left believing I could do anything- anything wooly at least! So watch this space- and dear ones prepare and steel yourself for knitted gifts!
As well as printing, Wednesday (15.02.16) involved a shopping trip. Thankfully this week was less treacherous and I even got to see a little more of Reyðarfjörður as it wasn’t completely drenched and consumed by the hanging mists of Austerland! A quick stop for a pre-shopping pylsur and then down to the business of the weekly shop. I like these little weekly excursions out of the fjord- they break up the week and even though I didn’t need a lot of food, as there was space in the car I wanted to go. My main purpose this week was to find some hiking boots. Buoyed by the previous weekends walk, I wanted something light and comfortable for stomping the mountains and hillsides. I had winter boots and trainers- neither quite practical enough for hiking in the current conditions. There is an outdoor shop just next to the supermarket- and not only was the assistant unbelievably helpful, but I found it so refreshing to not be comforted with walls and walls of choice. There was no need for indecision; you buy the boots they have, that your’e meant to have and they do the job they were made for. One thing is for sure- these boots are going to take me places!
On the way back from the supermarket, I studied the mountain tops, finding hidden faces on the rocks and snowy peaks. I begun thinking about how hardwired we are (or maybe it is just me!) to humanise objects and landscapes. (*I knew it had a name and I have looked it up- pareidolia;
Back home, after an afternoon printing, I spent the evening, frightening myself, watching Fortitude. Full of now familiar sights, I felt very at home!
Sara and I had decided to try and start our days with a walk and I was keen to break in my new boots. At 8am we walked to the top of the fjord to the strange little bird hide I had been told about. It was dark, misty and atmospheric- ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Kate Bush going round and round in my head as we walked the hour to the hide. A beautiful, creepy structure, camouflaged by yellow grass, sitting on a miniature black beach looking out to the fjord. It locks, from the outside…! No birds to watch but we went in anyway- the window perfectly framing our view of Stöðvarfjörður . Sara and I imagined alternative purpose for the hide- a small temporary home, a meeting place for dodgy deals, a hiding place or perhaps even a secret spot for a lover’s tryst.
It was lovely to walk with Sara and talk one on one. We are such a large group so sometimes it is just nice to have the quiet individual moments where you can actually get to know each other and share an experience. We agreed same time tomorrow- but perhaps two hours was too long pre-studio time!
My studio work was once again Lino based. A second block based on the legends of the selkie women.
That evening Brynja came over for supper, as she has agreed to give me my first Icelandic lesson! She was a wonderful teacher and very patient with me. Icelandic is hard, and I know I will never be able to speak the language, but I want to be able to say the names of the places that I visit properly, and also to be able to have very basic conversations- to show that I am trying to connect with this wonderful place and it’s people in a real and meaningful way. It took me hours just to make the right sounds! There are so many R’s to roll, and clicks and strange unfamiliar characters that my tongue just can’t get around. Brynja helped me break down sentences and words into more familiar sounds and spellings. By the end of the evening, I could say “Eyjafjallajökull” fairly well (the name of the volcano that caused all the ash cloud chaos in 201o), a few other key phrases and was preparing and practicing to be able to order a pizza the following evening! I felt very proud of the few words I managed- especially when Brynja said I was doing well. I have a terrible memory and have never has the capacity for languages, so for me it is so alien and magical trying to learn a little of a another tongue. This is what it must feel like to learn to speak as a child- no wonder Alfie looks so happy every time we clap and praise him for a new word!
Another pre-studio constitutional with Sara, just for an hour this time. It was another dark morning (17.02.17) and we walked to the lighthouse and back. I felt as if the rocks were watching us, the light falling on their many faces. I told Sara of the folk stories I’d be reading the night before from a book of translations by Alda Sigmundsdóttir. The stories are short, direct and brutal-and completely without sentimentality. Straightforward and quintessentially Icelandic: this is the person, this is the bad thing they did, this is the consequence, so that is why you must not do it. Sara suggested it might be rather nice to have another power cut so we could all get together to tell stories by candlelight. I suggested we should just do it anyway! And so we are! It is a wonderful privilege to be able to structure the time as we wish, and to share a space and time with likeminded people who want to do these things.
Back at the Factory, I practiced my Icelandic on Rosa- who seemed impressed I was trying! I worked on my two lino blocks and spent the afternoon once again in the familiar setting of the print studio. I kept checking in with my gorgeous and supremely talented print maker friend Scarlett in Brighton, who informed me “Maybe you are one of the chosen ones. Maybe you are a printmaker!”
Finally on Friday evening, after almost three weeks in the country, the moment arrived- the Icelandic experience you have all been waiting for me to experience…NOT the northern lights- but be ready to be alarmed- pizza with jam! And the only was alarming thing about it was that it was a taste REVELATION! A very dear friend in the UK of Italian decent has told me that like chicken, jam is something that does not belong on a pizza. Well Amalia I beg to differ- all pizza must and will come with jam from now on. I will keep a small pot of jam on my person at all times just in case there is even a slim chance of pizza! “Ég ætla að fá pizzu með sultu takk!” I’ll have a pizza with jam thanks! With my teacher Brynja’s help I practiced ordering beer from the lovely lady in Brekkan. Later in the evening I even managed to buy a chocolate bar on my own, without instruction. The Þristur bar, that Brynja had recommended from her pre-vegan days, was an unexpected treat! A chocolate covered caramel bar with a liquorice centre. I told Brynja I didn’t like liquorice but she told me I would like this one. And she was right. Þristurs all round! I wished everyone in Brekkan a good weekend- Góð helgi! It was a lovely and not in the least bit alarming end to the working week.
Saturday (18.02.17) didn’t get off to the best start and was perhaps a little alarming. There was a TERRIBLE smell in my room overnight- like burning, and yeast and ammonia, and after a little detective work I realised my little furry gentleman friend had pee’ed all over my bed. Or probably more accurately- he had marked his territory and had sprayed. Boosti has been such a comfort whilst I’ve been here, and knowing that I couldn’t trust him to come into my room made me feel really sad. I was meeting Sara for another walk so leaving my sheets to soak- late, tired having had an unsettled night, and rather ratty I headed out to blow the cobwebs away and to get the smell out of my nose! It was drizzling- the kind of rain that sticks to your glasses. And as we walked passed the lighthouse and to where we had watched waves the previous week Sara talked and I moaned- I have a feeling I wasn’t best company. I promised to make pancakes when we got back to make up for my foul mood. Once back, sheets on to wash, and Nisa having helped me with the duvet situation, I made spelt pancakes with grated pear, eaten with butter, syrup and mixed nuts- and they were pretty damn good. I was able to smile again!
That afternoon I had a little quiet time, and did some knitting. I felt calmer again. And then I made a pretty magnificent fish pie (down to the amazing fish from the fish man rather than my culinary prowess I think!) for the evenings pot luck supper. We were all making things to eat in the concert hall at the Factory before an evening of short informal presentations about our work in the studio. Dinner was once again a feast. Though all delicious- Nisa’s Turkish salads are fast becoming my favourite things at a shared supper. I was not so sure however of the fermented fish that Peter brought. Not shark, but an unknown fish with a fairly noxious odour. I tried a little. But I did not like it. Ina made another bread and butter pudding- so with that teamed with the fish pie and I could have been back home! It was much needed comfort on a wobbly day.
In the studio we all presented about our work. It was great. For a few weeks I’d been looking at what people had been doing and now finally we were talking about it. And strangely we all seemed to have a common thread running through each of our work- connection. I do not feel it is not for me to discuss what we talked about, but if you are interested and want to find out more, you can check out the links to websites below for their own work in their own words.
So today I woke up to snow- for the first time since arriving in Stöðvarfjörður. It came down quickly and gifted me with the landscape I had expected and dreamed of seeing in my new home. Writing, looking at the light on the mountains, watching the snow fall and eating cold fish pie- what simple joys on a Sunday afternoon! I end my week contented, calm, and looking forward to getting back to my studio tomorrow and the new things I will learn this week.
TTFN, much love until next week,