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a
l i g h t w o r k s
b l o g

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A guest post on finding
light and story within
darkness and difficulty
10.12

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1.11 timelapse:
a tiny temple is
inaugurated
29.11

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4.38 video in honour
of my aunt…& all our
winged relations
07.11

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Casting the Zhouyi's
winged and tailed
ancestors in glass
09.10

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How my studio
floor came to have
a mind of its own
09.09

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Layers of cyclical
change enfold
the still-point
11.08

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Time to move away
from our linear
model of time
13.07

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A twenty-second
celebration of all things
summery, light & free :)
13.06

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2.32: bubbles on the River
Ribble: a video sketch of
Rodriguez's song
15.05

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Two videos in honour
of Rennaldburn
on misty mornings
16.04

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3.56 video filmed at
the Loupin Stanes in
a snowy Eskdalemuir
17.03

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3.12 time-lapse &
video of a St Brigid's
cross Imbolc offering
02.02

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Introducing my new, improved blog with a wee dream-sketch video
17.01

    Harsh Winters, Retreats and the Exploration of Silence ~ by Cathy van Hoppe


    It's been a long time since I've had a guest post on returntotheway...nearly two years ago, when Cathy van Hoppe shared sketches for a winter's tale.

    Here's a recent work coming into being; midnight magic, kinship and starlight born from silence and winter stillness.



    It's been a long time since my last blog post. And, for those kind souls who read this blog regularly I am truly apologetic for vanishing without explanation.


    Life has its seasons I guess and sometimes a very harsh Winter comes our way. It forces a kind of hibernation, a withdrawal from our normal lives. It can be a very testing time - providing little in the way of nourishment and using up all your reserves. Survival depends on something beyond our control and a kind of surrender begins to develop.


    I feel that it's possible that good things can come from that which at first glance might appear bad. Watching the people around me, there are those that have emerged from tough times with a new depth, their eyes shining and their hearts warm and open. They are so inspiring.
    During this time I have taken the opportunity to participate in some retreats and explore the Silence of being and in a way I am grateful for the gifts cloaked by misfortune. There are strange paradoxes that occur within Silence that can transform great pain into great joy, it isn't easy at all and I feel ill-equipped to explain it any further. There are small sentences that come out of me that feel right and then there are large monologues that come out of me that miss the mark entirely - So amongst most people I know I have been quite quiet of late.

    Silence, for me, has become more than just the mere absence of sound - it is a sort of felt sense of something quite serene and joyful, beautiful and uncomplicated that is always under the everythingness that we see, feel and experience.

    Only yesterday I came across some powerful words from Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi - One line from his poem, an Ocean without shore...

    I courted a Secret which existence did not alter; for it was asked of me:
    ' Has thought enchanted you?'

    Artwork has been happening but I guess it is only recently that I have felt up to sharing. This one is one of my favourites so far. It is a little picture that emerged after a retreat early this year. When I look at it I can feel a gentle Silence, I hope that others will sense it too... It's not completely finished yet but I'm nearly there...
    The initial sketch came on a bright sunny day. It always amuses me how often stars appear in my work.




    And Silence swam as starlight between the trees


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    temple building


    Fairy Tale of Kings by Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis, 1909


    From now on ~ interspersed with small tales about artwork creation ~ there will be rolling updates about the building of a tiny temple at Rennaldburn.

    I've been inspired about the idea of building small, simple but beautiful shelters since I was a teenager. Here's a more expanded version of what I still hope to do someday:


    On a part of the earth which expresses many different energies ~ rugged high outcrops, streams running through gentle meadows, woodland hollows leading to open ocean shore ~ my dream is to create a soulful centre of creative, spiritual exploration, an abundant garden of possibility.


    I’ll honour the spirit running through the varied energies, staying open to working with different approaches for each. One place may call for a sacred grove in mandalic form, following the principles of permaculture and forest gardening so that fruit and nut trees, flowers and berry bushes entwine with one another, while another may desire a water garden, streams snaking around boulders into pools teeming with life and lotus flowers.

    And within each energy of earth, thunder, water, lake, mountain, fire, wood/wind and heaven, I’ll construct a small dwelling place which personifies its surroundings as well as harmonises with them, simple yet beautiful, each a work of art and also functioning “as a device or space where we would not only experience Nature more deeply but also where Nature would speak out, where we might come to better understand the language of Nature.”

    (This quote's from sacred land artist Bill Witherspoon’s visionary Art as Technology, available only on this site: on this page; scroll down to 'Bill' for a free PDF download.)

    Kahil Gibran perfectly expresses what I yearn to embody in his poem, On Houses:


    Build of your imaginings a bower in the wilderness
    ere you build a house within the city walls.
    For even as you have home-comings in your twilight,
    so has the wanderer in you, the ever distant and alone.
    Your house is your larger body.
    It grows in the sun and sleeps in the stillness of the night;
    and it is not dreamless. Does not your house dream?
    and dreaming, leave the city for grove or hill-top?
    Would that I could gather your houses into my hand,
    and like a sower scatter them in forest and meadow.
    Would the valleys were your streets, and the green paths
    your alleys, that you might seek one another through vineyards,
    and come with the fragrance of the earth in your garments...

    As I create these ‘bowers in the wilderness’ I’ll begin to live in them, moving from one to the next as the seasons shift. I’ll be doing this using a calendar of the four fixed points of the year of the summer and winter solstices, spring and autumn equinoxes coupled with fire and thunder, lake and heaven ~ and the lunar cross-quarters of the year of Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas and Samhain coupled with water, mountain, wood/wind and earth.

    I've been using this framework for several years to help me to understand, explore and celebrate the world of the I Ching, or Zhouyi as it expresses within cyclical change. As I do, I also journey through the chakras, starting with earth for the body of the earth (not a chakra), thunder for the base chakra, water for the sacral, lake for the solar, mountain for the heart, fire for the throat, wood/wind for the brow and heaven for the crown/heaven itself.

    I’m fascinated to take the life-changing paradigm shift of the vision quest and marry it with the idea of living rooted to one particular part of the earth in such a way that I’m seasonally present to different aspects, thus allowing them to be more fully present to me and enabling an expansive creative synthesis of presence to evolve.

    I imagine insights continuing to deepen as I spiral into this way of being one with the earth while moving with seasonal changes ~ and I also envisage the time becoming right for others to come and share the experience, taking back an embodied understanding of the wisdom of Nature seen through a multifaceted lens and rooted in time and space.

    Back from my envisionings to this moment, though, I realised that I could simply reverse the belief that this was something that would have to wait until circumstances conspired to make it possible...simply beginning by making it possible.

    Here, then, is the inauguration of Altair air Abhainn (Gaelic for Alter by the stream). It's on the site of Rennaldburn's hillside fireplace; if you look at the bottom right corner of the video you can just see the final fire burning there as the space is prepared.



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    I'll fly away


    This Samhain new moon, as our ancestors are nearer the forefront of our awareness, here's a small tale about a gravestone I made my Great Aunt Ecila this Summer.

    She died forty years ago, but ~ having matter-of-factly donated her body to science ~ never had a funeral or grave...and the time felt right for my mother and myself to redress the balance. (Since I carved a stone in memory of my father a couple of years ago, I'm quite the expert now ;)

    I decided to try a multimedia offering this time, with a glass rosy cross inset into the sandstone, along with a little metal Scotty dog broach...and we made the pilgrimage down to North Curry, Somerset to sneak it into the family plot.

    There we stayed with a family friend who had one of those wild, rambling and chaotically glorious gardens that have a timeless quality to them (you could imagine it being the same in medieval or victorian times)



    (The same could be said for many interior views, such as this nook, ode to glass and dragons :)



    I spent much of my time filming the abundance of winged creatures who made their home there and on the local waterways...



    These sun-infused interactions became this little video, made as an offering to Aunt Ecila ~ and all our relations who are now more winged than earthbound.


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    serpent-tailed angels


    A long, long time ago ~ so long ago that nobody can remember exactly when it was ~ all living beings were formed from the dust of stars. If you look deep inside this stardust, you’ll find an illuminated book continually being written ~ by two beings in ceaseless union, their serpent tails spiralling around each other. They are the primordial sacred couple but, being composed of the same matter, are also sister and brother to one another.

    A long, long time ago ~ so long ago that nobody can remember exactly when it was ~ there lived a brother and a sister...

    So begins the story of Fu Hsi and Nu Gua, the original ancestors of the ancient book of wisdom known as the Zhouyi, or I Ching. This sacred work has informed both my life and art for a few decades now, and a couple of years ago I felt called to honour its deep roots in cast glass.

    First I modelled Fu Hsi and Nu Gua in clay, using an ancient carving as reference:




    Then I poured plaster over the cosmic couple, picked out the clay and ~ after leaving enough time for the plaster to become bone dry ~ filled it with glass.
    Here's what it looked like when I opened the kiln:


    The plaster had cracked open during the firing process, leaving a long, undulating, polished ridge running all the way down Nu Gua's body, which I used to illustrate Leonard Cohen's quote:


    Most of the small tales I'll share here will be of artworks that are available...but this one found a home ~ with Kenneth in the North of Scotland, looking out at the Culbin forest:



    May they long continue to bless the space there!

    Comments

    curious feet


    I wrote the last blog post exploring a different way of looking at Time a while back...before I bought a glass fusing kiln.

    Unbeknownst to me, this was an old-style kiln, needing to be constantly in the not-too-far reaches of consciousness while being fired. As the manual cheerfully explains, ‘at settings above 4 the kiln temperature can continue to rise and could permanently damage the brick and the elements.’

    So, I come full circle, intermittently dominated by clock-time and making sure I don’t ‘lose track’ of it...but happily so, as I get to continually play and experiment and be part of the wonderful alchemical process of disparate shards of cold, sharp hardness melding and becoming one.

    Rather than being a post about glass, though, I thought it was a good moment to share a part of the creation of my studio - in Rennaldburn’s back entranceway which, though it still manages to be a powerful mess vortex, is becoming a more ‘real’ creative space all the time.

    Creating the studio started last Summer, as I finished making a mini gallery in Rennaldburn’s dark and dingy back hallway by painting the floor green. (It’s still waiting for daisies, just as the ceiling is still waiting for butterflies. Girly? I don’t know what you mean :)

    The obvious next step for the left-over green paint seemed to be to continue it out through the junk-attractor portal/would-be studio, so I did - happy with how the gloopy gloss covered over the irregularities of the rough, cratered concrete underneath.

    Aware that I had small and interested visitors at this time, I locked the door leading through to the wet floor, safe in the knowledge that my bedroom was now the only one which led through to it.

    You can probably guess where this story’s going now - deep in divination môde with the mother of Brennan, the one with the most curious feet, they pattered past us unnoticed...not just to the beginning of the wet floor but all the way to the very end and back into the carpeted room, turning round and round in little circles of wonderment at the steadily increasing indelible green marks magically appearing around him.

    Later, I had a look and confirmed that, yes, all along the footprint trail the tacky paint had pulled up to reveal small but numerous patches of powdery, lumpy concrete. So, having used every last scrap of green, I mixed some more...but without the same palette, it was a very different green.

    No matter, I thought, I’ll make it a feature - and ended up with a solid trail of huge polka dots which still seemed to be undeniably following in Brennan’s footsteps.

    No matter, I thought, I’ll just paint them all over. En masse, the sickly-green polka dots now looked like a swamp dinsosaur’s back covered with bunions.

    No matter, I thought, I’ll add a better colour on top. Finding another tin of paint store-labelled as dark green, I mixed it up well...to find it was bright red.

    Well, I spent all that time mixing it so I may as well try it, I decided, and dripped thin circles of red around each bunion, giving a 3D, oozing effect.



    Feverishly, I cracked open another can and tried to cover up this new disaster, now going for a full Pollock-splatter technique.



    After a few more hours and a few more tins, I finally felt I had an art room floor worthy of the name: standing on it now gives a palpable feeling of creative liberation; a space where anything goes and that’s alright!



    And it’s all thanks to Brennan’s small but vastly curious feet, without whom the floor would be a dull, un-marked expanse of green.




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