Busy, busy being creative..!

Sunday 15 July 2018

Easy Evening Adventure

Too hot to be going out during the day? Have an evening adventure...
Find an interesting place on a map of your local area. Go see what it actually looks like...

All images copyright Morwhenna Woolcock.
If you wish to use any - please contact me. Thanks!

Wednesday 4 July 2018

A Wild Art-ternoon

Look up. The view from my hammock.

Last weekend (30th June/1st July), was the UK's national night and day of adventure known as Wild Night Out. This year I took part and here's what happened...

My Wild Night Out actually became a 'Wild Art-ternoon' and was close to home. I had planned to sleep out in my hammock, but as I couldn't get my dog to get into it, my partner was away and the place I chosen had a massive badger set - decided a wild afternoon would be my alternative!! 

It was wonderful.

The main aim really was to *finally* put up the hammock I've had for over three years (possibly longer??) and never taken out of its jacket. I did a test run in the garden the night before, and discovered that no, the gazebo frame wouldn't actually hold the hammock with me in it!! ;-0 Doing that test helped me realise how easy setting up a hammock actually was. Actually going and put it up in the location I've had my eye on for a long time was hugely satisfying.

Spending a few hours relaxing in the hammock whilst watching my dog enjoy herself exploring, looking up and marveling at the different view and perspective being cocooned in a hammock gave me and having the freedom to play with whatever natural materials I could find to created some doodles (a feather) was lots of fun and a much needed tonic. 

Due to my disability I do struggle getting in and out of small tents (I always get my left foot caught some how and usually end up tripping over the guy ropes!), so having spent just a few hours in a hammock and discovering how easy it is to set up by myself, get in and out of and how deliciously comfortable it is, I'm definitely going to be sleeping out in it this summer and having more hammocking adventures! [I've already got plenty of ideas].

It's surprising how being the recipient of a WNO mug gave me that extra bit of encouragement and impetus to do something that I'd been thinking about doing for years!

Thank you Wild Night Out! 

Did you take part? Do you fancy a Wild Night/Afternoon/Morning yourself? Well, you can do it anytime - how about this weekend? Have a look at The Wild Night Out website for some inspiration.

Pre-Wild Afternoon trial. The slight look of terror on my face is due to the fact that, at that very moment,
we realised the gazebo couldn't hold the hammock with me in it!! ;-0 he he

A quick look through my emails and I discover that I actually bought the hammock in September 2014!!! Its a Scout Hammock from DD Hammocks, which I think is brilliant value and I'm def doing to sleeping out in it!

[This isn't affiliated - I bought the hammock myself][I won the WNO mug via an instagram competition]

Saturday 30 June 2018

Taking things to the Extreme

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sleep suspended by ropes over looking the Clifton Suspension Bridge or from Portsmouth’s Iconic Spinnaker Tower?




Well, my epic and inspiring travel writing and author friend Phoebe Smith, along with A&E doctor, Zoologist and rope specialist John Pike and rigging supremo Ollie Laker have done just that, as well as sleeping at 8 other UK Landmarks to raise funds for Centrepoint, the young persons homeless charity.

Phoebe Smith getting ready for her Extreme Sleep in Bristol. Photo by Morwhenna Woolcock

I had the fantastic opportunity to meet up with Phoebe and Team Extreme during their Bristol Extreme Sleep on Wednesday. I’ve never been climbing or abseiling so all the equipment required, the careful thought, planning, re-planning, tweaking and the length of time (hours and hours) it actually takes to set up a safe portalege camp was fascinating and made me appreciated even more what a challenge this was.  Whilst both John and Ollie have climbing and rigging experience, this is something pretty new for Phoebe. 

I also meet Libby Houston who has a tree named after her – A Hornbeam that only grows in the Avon Gorge as well as a bench dedicated to her. Libby is incredible, A world expert Botanist and at 71 incredibility fit with no signs of slowing down. She’ll often be in a harness dangling off the gorge looking after the special plants that grow there. [we both said 'we want to be like Libby.']

Apparently, no matter what time they started rigging, they always seem to end up getting to bed at 1.30am....

Imagine doing this for 10 nights in a row and you can see why they'd re-named it the Extreme Sleep Deprivation Challenge. It really made us think about that side of being homeless. The anxiety of where to sleep and wondering if it is safe. 

I took them some champion cake [had gold sprinkles on it] the Wild Night Out mug I’d just won as Phoebe is the ambassador and some bug repellent.

Spending time with all of them [They were super at answering all my questions] has definitely inspired me to have a go at climbing with ropes up into trees and possibly abseiling, although not so sure about going over cliff edges just yet. Think I'll start by sleeping out in my hammock. Starting small is still starting....

How about you? What do you feel like challenging yourself to do this summer? It's Wild Night Out today [30th June] so maybe just start by going here for some ideas > Wild Night Out

To see the amazing places they slept, check out their social media:

Phoebe: @PhoebeRSmith
John: @Pikejwt
Ollie: @figure_nine
and Photographer Zak who captured some amazing images: @zakbentley

Article on Bristol 24/7 here > Trio sleep dangling over Avon Gorge

And what PJ's does an Extreme Portalege Sleeper wear? >

Their donation page is still open so if you’d like to support Centrepoint go here >


Thursday 14 June 2018

[UK Islands Project] Coast Magazine - July Issue 2018

I'm beyond delighted and excited to share that this month's Coast Magazine [July 2018], features an article I've written about my UK Islands Project. 

It's this copy....(see pics below) 

If you do read it, I'd love to hear what you think and if you are now keen to go on your own Creative Island Adventures...! (or any other Creative Adventures for that matter) 

Huge Thank You to Caroline Wheater & Coast Magazine!

Friday 25 May 2018

[UK Island Project] First Completed Artwork: Bardsey Island

Close up detail of the piece in progress.
I didn’t know in advance what form or materials I’d use for each artwork and the idea was to let the island experience inform each piece. Also, rather than creating the artworks in the order I visited them – I went with which island was speaking to me most loudly to be unleashed creatively. The first turned out to be Bardsey Island which I spent a week on last August. I found it a fascinating and spiritual island and although it wasn’t one of my favourites of the 14 I visited, there was something about it that got under my skin.

Bardsey [Ynys Enilli] can be found off the tip of the Llyn Peninsula, North Wales and until I’d started this project I’d never actually heard of it.  I discovered that it was a site of pilgrimage which reached it peak during the medieval period and that three trips to Bardsey was equal to one trip to Rome and any pilgrims making the journey would be blessed by the Pope. [Read about the letter I received from the Pope here]

Initial sketch and ideas
Bardsey is a difficult island to reach due to the fierce currents that swirl around it and was touch and go if we’d even get there. My Partner, Richard, joined me on this trip and we opted to stay at the Bardsey Bird Observatory. One of the things I discovered as part of this project was that anyone is welcome to stay at Bird Observatories and being a bird expert isn’t a prerequisite. This was great news as I knew a few birds but am no expert.

The idea to create an artwork that combined elements of Bardsey and Illuminated Medieval Manuscripts came about as a result of the Islands layers of history and its importance to pilgrims. I wanted to create a modern version so researched illuminated manuscripts and the kinds of materials used. 

First test version on fabric. Richard looks more like Shaun Ryder from the Happy Mondays than, well, Richard!
This quest led me to the British Library and then closer to home – Downside Abbey as I discovered they have a large collection of Illuminated manuscripts and it’s actually only a short drive from the Arts Charity I work for part-time.  

Seeing examples up close made me realise that they weren’t at all perfect and that I’d been trying (and failing) to create something that I just couldn’t with my current skills. 

Realising/reminding myself that: 

  • The illuminated manuscripts had flaws, were often smudged, repaired and some even had ‘school book style graffiti’ and were no where near as perfect as the digital versions I’d been looking at
  • I’d never tried calligraphy before and its an art unto itself that requires years of practice. 
  • It was totally OK that all my animals seemed to appear with their own character as most of the animals in original illuminated manuscripts bare little or no resemblance to the actual animals they are trying to represent.

All this made me feel much better. In fact I was laughing - much like the monk in this picture below...

Monks telling each other jokes by the looks of things....A 14th century illuminated Manuscript
Once I’d accepted all this it really took some of the self-imposed pressure off and freed me up to continue to experiment and to finally complete this first piece. It took me waaaaay longer to complete this artwork than I'd expected. Originally I'd given myself a month, but in the end its taken nearly five.  And you know what? That's totally OK.

The cost of vellum was so expensive that books would be mended. As each book was handmade can you imagine how long that would take to complete one?
I experimented with materials and used a mix of fabric, gesso, vellum - which I stitched with gold tread into the fabric, gouache, inks and photographs. It became a much more textural piece in the end. I wasn’t trying to create an exact replica, I was trying to create something that had a feeling of Bardsey island and of my visit there. Something that told a story.

After working through the ‘its not good enough and being frustrated with my efforts’ thoughts I was actually really pleased with the final result. Now I need to work out how to mount or frame it.

The vellum being stitched into place with some gold tread I already had. Were possible I tried to use materials I already had at home (minus the vellum mind you. That came from William Cowley).
In addition to actually visiting the island I loved the research and discovering the amazing resource of Downside Abbey on my doorstep, trying materials I’ve never used before and the feeling of satisfaction once it was completed. Ahhhh!

The completed Bardsey Island Illuminated Scroll

Here’s my explanation of each element to the story:

  • The Yellow Boat of Hope and the Sea Monster: We are taken across the water in a bright yellow boat skippered by Colin Evans. It was a really rough crossing which made me think of the sea monsters often depicted on old maps. As I was painting in its details I realised that this monster also represents mental health as I struggled a bit physically and mentally on this particular island adventure. I think everyone could benefit from a Yellow Boat of Hope.

  • Bardsey Bird Observatory where we stayed. We had a really warm welcome and learnt so much about the island and its wildlife by staying here. The owl in this piece is a bit funkier than the one we actually saw, and if you look at illuminated manuscripts often the animals and birds look nothing like real-life as they’d have been drawn from the monk’s imagination. So, I let myself of the hook!
  • Zoltan the Skomer Puffin & Wren.  I was given a sponsored Skomer Puffin and the soft toy that came in the pack I named Zoltan on account of his ring number. Zoltan joined me on the island visits. The wren is the talisman I took with me in the form of a necklace. For each Creative Adventure I have a different talisman that is linked in some way. I chose the wren as some islands have their own wren subspecies and it also represents my mum, who died of cancer when I was 14.

  • The moth and beetle – just some of the insects we saw. Each morning we had the opportunity to join the opening of the Month trap [some large tubs filled with egg boxes] to study what had crawled in to the trap the night before. Everything is released and logged in a note book.
  • The Bardsey Apple and a Brenda Chamberlain Fish. There is an apple tree that only grows on Bardsey, but apparently its not actually very nice. Brenda Chamberlain, A welsh artist, lived on Bardsey for 15 years [1947 – 1962]. Bardsey is a very creative island and is home to the poet Christine Evans and the Willow and Wool Weaver Jo Porter.  There is also an annual Artist Residency Programme run through The Bardsey Island Trust and the Artist there when I visited was Carole Shearman, I did a wonderful workshop with her.
  • The letter from the Pope [Had to include that!]
  • Seals absolutely surround Bardsey and you can see them quite close to the shore. They'll either be lounging on rocks or bobbing about in the sea. I discovered that, if not treated, you can actually die from being bitten by a seal as their mouths are so full of harmful bacteria. Yikes! After learning that I didn’t get too close to them.
  • The huge cross represents the 20,000 saints believed to be buried on Bardsey. Islands were seen by the Celts and Celtic Saints as portals to the other-world and so often coming to Bardsey [or any other island] would be for the sole purpose of it being their final resting place. Some days the island was so misty you couldn’t see your hand in front of you, making a walk to this cross next to the Abbey ruins a rather eerie experience. 

  • Merlin/The King of Bardsey/The Spirit of the Island. Legend tells of Merlin living in a cave on Bardsey and this island also used to have its own kings in the early 19th century. One was called King Love [How cool is that?] The Crown is now in the Maritime Museum in Liverpool.
  • Richard and I about to climb the Bardsey Island Mountain being guided by a Manx Shearwater, amazing birds who fly in under the cover of darkness to their nests and make the most unusual raspy cry.  The gps coordinates share the location of a small artwork I created whilst on Bardsey, left in a crevice on the Mountain…If you ever visit Bardsey – you might find it’s still there…
  • Pretty much every Island has a lighthouse and the Bardsey Island one is no exception. They have a smart square one. It became fully automated in 1987.

I included a Welsh Translation as the Island is a Welsh Speaking one and the services held in the church whilst we were there we also held in Welsh. It all added to the mystic of the island for me. That sense of history and richness of language and stories of all those past who've walked on this land. The text was very kindly translated into Welsh for me by Siân Stacey, Bardsey Island Manager. [Thank YOU Siân!] 

I'm really keen to create something more 'messy' next as I discovered trying to be super neat and controlled was really hard work for me and I didn't take to it naturally!

Friday 6 April 2018

[UK Islands Project] Lundy Island Stampy Treasures

One of the delicious things I discovered about Lundy as part of my UK Island Project, is its status as having the longest running private postal service in the world. It was started in 1929 by Martin Coles Harman, who owned the island at the time and from what I've read about him, he was quite the entrepreneur. 

This discovery really struck a creative chord with me. I wanted to know more about the stamps, the artwork and artists who created them. Was there a collection of artwork and stamps? If so – Where were they? 

Turns out that the Landmark Trust, who’ve cared for Lundy since 1969, had a collection which they’d given to the British Library.

Right I thought. I need to go to the British Library. I wasn’t able to fit it in last year, but finally went last month and was able to meet up with two friends at the same time. Stamp artist Scott Thomson who runs Positively Postal and Illustrator/Comic creator Michi Mathias (do check out her current project: A graphic novel based on 1897 travel adventure called Cycle and Camp). I’ve known Scott online for a few years as we’ve done some of the same 30 Day challenges, but we’d never met in person. This was the perfect opportunity.

To see a collection at the British Library requires an appointment. I’d been in touch with Paul Skinner head of the Philately Department and on arrival had to enter via the Staff entrance at gate 8 to collect my special pass from security. I was met there by Richard Morel, Paul’s colleague, and taken up to the third floor where the stampy treasures are kept under lock and key.

The room was compact and filled with boxes and files. A trolley full of Lundy stamps and artwork was there waiting for me. I was to have an hour or so to myself before meeting Scott and Michi at lunch.

The British Library holds two collections of Lundy stamps – The Landmark Trust which I’ve already mentioned and one by an avid collector called Chin Chie. Chin Chie’s collection consists mainly of sheet upon sheet of stamps which actually looked fantastic all together. Something about the image repeated and the perforations made each sheet a work of art in its own right.

Lunch called. Time to meet my friends. 

Having already been up to the philately room I was entrusted with getting us back there to ring the bell and be let in. That didn’t quite go to plan. We got the passes, went up in the lift, exited the lift and then promptly got lost.

We found ourselves in the ‘behind the scenes area’ of the library with lots of corridors and books but no one around. All the desks were empty…Finally someone walked past us and we could ask for directions, but they were new and didn’t actually know where to send us, so she went off to find someone else. We stood about giggling nervously as it was rather comical and typical for me to get lost so easily. Eventually she came back with a colleague who proceeded to take us back to where we’d gotten out of the lifts and took us through an opposite set of double doors. 

Here I realised my mistake. I’d turned left when should have turned right. Suddenly we were back in the Public library and a familiar space! Hurrah now I knew where we were.

After introductions we sat down at the large table and more boxes were lifted out of the trolley. Two folders in paticular were full of artwork. One name that kept cropping up on the stamps was John Dyke, and now here in front of me I could see his exquisite artwork. Some in pencil, some ink and some in what looked like gouache. 

Some pieces were around A6 size and very detailed and vibrant. Looking at the original artwork and then the stamps I have to say that some of the impact is lost when reduced to stamp size. Being able to see the actual artwork in its original state was a real thrill. 

There were some fragments of information about John Dyke on the backs of the first day covers, but not a great deal. I’ll have to search elsewhere for that. Richard, who has a particular interest in the stamp artist Victor Whitley, discovered that he’d actually designed two stamp sets for Lundy. It wasn’t just me discovering something new that day!

It was fascinating hearing Richard and Paul talk about the history of stamps, their role in capturing social history, the most expensive stamp in the world (The British Guiana 1 Cent Magenta that sold for £10m as there is only one in existence), stamp forgery (which was rife during the 1900s) and learning about other artists who’d designed stamps. I hadn’t appreciated how much a stamp could tell you.

Having seen the Lundy stamp artwork it occurred to me that actually, I’d like to create some stamps myself. Handy that Scott already does this...!

I have to say a huge thank you to Paul and Richard at the British Library for being so brilliant, helpful and kind. It really was such a fun and fascinating day at The British Library! 

Have you ever been to the British Library? 
Or, to an impressive library somewhere else in the world? 
What were you researching? 
What did you discover?

PS – Thank goodness I asked Mr CA to read this though. Otherwise we’d have ended up at the Phallus room.

Having stayed at Lundy Old Light and loving maps this is one of my favourites of the collection

Thursday 29 March 2018

Creating your business on your own terms.

Judith Morgan, Magical Coach has recently written an excellent book entitled ‘Your Biz Your Way’ and in it she busts many (52 in fact) myths and legends about how businesses are ‘supposed to be’ when in fact, its your business and you can create it around what works for you. Judith gets right to the heart of the matter and really makes you consider your thoughts and ideas. Heck, Judith has even managed to get me to focus on ‘ONE’ thing at a time (well, mostly!) and many a time I’ll be dreaming up some crazy idea and I’ll hear Judith’s voice in my head. This, I’ve discovered has really helped me to develop my creative projects into a business. In fact, I hesitate to use the word business to talk about what I do as for me it’s more about Creative Adventures. So I've been considering how do I run my business my way?

I actually registered as self-employed in 2012, mainly as there had been a course offered at the local job centre, so it was sort of by accident. At that time I’d left a job that I wasn’t really suited to and had made me very ill both mentally and physically. I didn’t have a clue what to do next. I knew that it had to be something that would re-ignite my creativity. Something I’d suppressed and neglected for too many years. I joined a program called the '30 day challenge' and decided to put into action and idea I’d had a few years previously for a socially engaged creative project. I called it Bags of Love For Bristol and it was fun, dynamic and completed in 30 days. There was no agenda, no one telling me how it had to be done or what was expected, no fear of failure. It was playful and made me feel great and excited. I realised then that this was part of what I needed more of. This first project led me to being in pop-up shops selling the bags I’d made and getting to know local artists. I started other creative projects and over time discovered that for me, the combination of Creativity, Adventure and Nature was doing me the power of good both mentally and physically.

I was doing things that pushed be out of my comfort zone and making me more resilient. I wanted to explore this further and spent time learning about personal coaching, going on an arts volunteer placement in Thailand for 6 weeks, and developing courses that combined these three elements - Creativity, Adventure & Nature – CAN – with an idea to help others who have/are where I’d once been suffering with depression and anxiety. People who were looking for ‘another way to wellbeing’

At first I couldn’t really figure out how to make this a business and how it might work. Through continued play and Judith’s key questioning skills, all of these different elements were brought together under my ‘Creative Adventurers Hat’ as I run workshops, some in person, some online and I’ve recently started writing articles for magazines. At the heart of this is the fact that each year I’ll go on my own Creative Adventure, which I’ll document in various mixed-media ways. The current project being about UK Islands.

Alongside my projects, I work part-time for an arts charity based in Radstock, near Bath. At the moment running my business my way means being flexible and embracing the balance between having a part-time paid role which gives me some freedom and headspace to continue with my Creative Adventures and whatever form they may take.

I’m still working things out. Each project or course I create gives me an opportunity to reflect and ask myself ‘is making me happy? ‘Am I enjoying what I’m doing? Yes? I’ll carry on, No? I’ll stop and look deeper to see what needs to change or to be dropped altogether. Something I’ve had to learn to give myself permission to do.

Running my Biz my Way is also knowing that I actually have some degree of control over what I do and I find this hugely empowering, sometimes scary!  Knowing that really I can choose.

Are you self-employed? Are you like me a mix of having a part-time job and self-employed work /projects?

If you'd like to know more about Judith Morgan - visit her website here: Small Business Oracle

At the top of the Bardsey Island Mountain. August 2017

Monday 8 January 2018

Cycling the Hebridean Way on a Unicorn

Just when I thought I’d gotten my monkey mind under control with a clear vision for the year ahead, focusing on just two things; UK Islands Project book & exhibition, things go awry.

Last week I was so giddy with excitement that I couldn’t sleep.

The giddy was caused by our upcoming adventure to cycle the Hebridean Way with some friends and our dog (in her own dog 'chariot'). 

Inspired by Grayson Perry’s bike festooned with a large goddess, I'd been contemplating having my own mascot for our trip. As soon as I'd had that thought the word 'Unicorn' popped into my head. OK, I thought. Unicorn it is...

Inspired by Grayson Perry's bike I'd seen at his recent exhibition at the Arnolfini

A late-night internet search for unicorn paraphernalia brought up this beauty which was even better than just a mascot. Why not do the whole trip on an actual unicorn!! 

How long, I wondered in all seriousness, would it take to traverse the 185 mile Hebridean Way on this? We'd have one each of course...

Taking a unicorn for a test ride. Actually faster than I'd expected!

Much laughter and excitement meant that I couldn’t get to sleep and had to try to calm myself down. Yes, I did search for adult sized versions and yes, they do exist.

I knew it would take an absolute age to actually do it on one of these, so decided why not see what unicorn type things we could somehow attach to our bikes (not quite sure the others are as keen on this as I am ;-P). 

If you come across anything you think might be suitable - please do send me a link!

PS - Much to my delight I've since discovered that The Unicorn, is in fact the national animal of Scotland!! How's about that then...*Cue spooky music*