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The White Stuff ☃

20170712_150131Time to find myself grounded in comfortable surroundings again for the next 3 weeks. It was great to catch-up with Michelle and Stefan before they headed off on their big American adventure. I was fortunate enough to be given more time at Glowing Adventures which I was more than happy about, I had missed the place and the people very much. I also had the bonus of house-sitting and looking after little Milly the dog and affectionate Izzy the cat, little did I know at the time how much they disliked each other. It wasn’t too long before I realised the cat stalked the cat flap ready to pounce on Milly each time she wanted to come back indoors. It made for amusing company for the small amounts of time I’d spend at the house, I decided I’d work pretty much every day and with the Lions tour bringing in many tourists it was a full on 3 weeks ! In true unpredictable style I wound up giving a tour despite being in the office – sometimes people have different ‘needs’. Heath needed to split his tour up due to extremely different abilities within the 6 people, so I headed on down and took the hardest ever, due to the lack of balance mainly of the parents of the family and lack of English spoken, but they had a great time and you have to get on with it, rather than question why they had booked in the first place! Working in tourism I have realised how little people (not little people) actually research in to the tour they book, whether they are distracted by pretty pictures, discounts, or such I’m unsure but we’d often find people pleasantly surprised with no idea what they had booked themselves in to.

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Scottish Michael who I’d befriended in Kaitaia had since left the mandarin picking and was touring the north island. Of course, unable to switch off my tour guide head I suggested he visit for a tour- which he did! Getting him to smile in the photograph wearing his stripy thermals was another matter (!) 20170628_122220
Michelle had suggested a few more creative projects to work on whilst I was back, so over the best part of 3 days we had designed a fun mural for the side of the shed. It was essentially a photo spot for when groups had completed (survived?) the tour and wanted a pit stop to capture the moment. The muddy footprint logo continues the mural around the side of the shed. Nice to leave another piece of work in New Zealand.

20170710_155126Time for farewells again, it had become a bit of a joke as we kept seeing each other again so we’d say ‘see you in a couple of months?’…
I had a bit of free time on my hands before heading down to the tavern so had decided to explore more of the National Park area home of the 3 peaks and picturesque alpine surroundings. Little did I know how much of a treat I was in for. On the approach of Whakapapa I had read about a 2 hour hike to Taranaki falls Heading closer, the surroundings changed to a grey stillness and the snowflakes began to cover the windscreen of the car. I pulled over, eager to capture the beautiful sight of snow which always feel magical, particularly as it’s a rare occurrence on the South Coast of England.

P1110384Seeing the iconic Tongariro Hotel on the horizon the snow was getting plentiful now, along with cars parked on the road with families making the very most of this massive snow dump that was happening, it was wonderful! The Chateau Tongariro Hotel is surrounded by a stunning natural playground bursting with diverse landscapes for visitors to the Tongariro National Park to discover. c761c3384cb613a95f3429fc4fa0b41b--boston-public-vintage-travel-posters
Grinning from ear to ear I began to wander, deciding whether the hike would be good/safe in this now quite extreme weather. The stillness surrounding the hotel began to pick up pace and show itself in snow showers almost making me consider turning back – by this time is was getting rather later in the day and no-one else was around hiking that I could see. Much as I enjoyed that, it’s sometimes nice to have somebody on the horizon just in case there was a major change in weather, but I was well layered up and determined. It was a stunning barren landscape, mostly unrecognisable and gave me the same pangs of longing that the hike around Mount Cook did that snowy day.  The upper and lower tracks form a loop with the waterfall situated around the half-way point. Tumbling 20 metres over the edge of a large lava flow, which erupted from Ruapehu 15,000 years ago, Taranaki Falls plunge into a boulder-ringed pool. From below the falls there are spectacular views into the water-worn gorges of the Wairere Stream.

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Glowing red cheeks (face cheeks that is) and enjoying the anticipation of sipping from the flask of coffee in my car I began the remainder of the trip down to Apiti. Leaving National Park it was apparent the snow was localized and I was greeted in the Manawatu with a grey drizzle instead.

Blown away by the experiences of the day, together myself and Hendrik decided we’d make an early start and head up to do the hike together this time around, he was as excited about the snow was as I was, it just may be our favourite thing.
Waking at 6am peering out of the window I let out a squeak of excitement which accidently/on purpose woke Hendrik ‘Look out the window !! Wowwwww’ -this was the deepest untouched cleanest beautiful snow we’d ever seen and it had completely covered Apiti, we were in excited shock.

P1110434Deciding to enjoy this rare sight (it hadn’t snowed like this in Apiti since 1975 ) we walked around crunching the snow beneath our feet, watching as the snow fell from the sky increasing the weight on the trees, hearing almighty ‘flomps’ (thanks for the adjective Leah) as it fell down on to big piles of the white stuff. We shortly realised however that while beautiful, it had caused a power outage in the pub and the surrounding area. The snowfall was so thick and heavy it had taken out power lines. That lovely community spirit you dream of came in to place, the neighbour brought round soup to cook on the fire top and the food from the previous days delivery was being buried outside in a new natural freezer to keep fresh. 20170713_150221 Drinking booze by candlelight, surrounded by locals unable to do very little in the extreme conditions we enjoyed a simple pleasures kind of a day, it’s amazing how time slows down without the ‘distraction’ of power. Heading into the next day of no power and no hint of the snow clearing for some time. Trying to set up a friend’s generator to power the pub’s fridge was needed, and as you can guess pretty much a few moments after this being set up the power came back on. Although only 2 days without power, internet, hot water and lights it was a relief to have the comforts back as the cold was becoming uncomfortable.
I was somewhat biding my time before I was due to begin an arts residency I had been planning some 2 years ago. Helping out as much as I could at the pub I decided after a few days I would do another stint of WWOOFING at the nearby Rangiwahia Environmental arts centre.

Pulling up to Bridgette and Jim’s home I could see the historic dairy building. In April 1898 the Rangiwahia- Ruahine Cooperative Dairy Company, Limited was formed. In December 1898 the Rangiwahia Butter factory was built 600m south of the village and was opened for business. It was built on a sloping section using gravity to save labour and pumping. It was great piece of history and was home to the workshop of the REACT art centre that Bridgette and Jim had set up some years previously. 2081338_orig The ethos behind the charity organisation is promoting sustainability in creativity, reusing projects to promote waste minimisation with resources that are found locally. Bridgette and Jim are a great buzzy couple and it wasn’t long before myself and British Jim realised we had worked with the same festival art makers in the UK. Hard working, travelling, anarchistic and driven, it was an insightful few days. Their world travelling truck ‘Beattie’ has taken them both around the world enhancing the connection between community and art, Bridgette showed me the giant puppets designed, created and performed by a diverse range of inspiring women for International Women’s Day.

P1110461Another offshoot of the organisation is what they refer to as Junk and Disorderly:-
‘Junk refers to the stuff we use, and Disorderly is how we can get when we’re let loose on the streets’ Full of wonderful ideas, for the greater good – how inspiring indeed.

‘Something we’ve made a name for ourselves with,
Lighting up the Night with Community Spectacles.
Made by the People, Enjoyed by the People.
Intergenerational, Multi cultural, Very Pleasurable.’

Willow provided the base material for many projects. I found myself harvesting the willow crop and planting willow cuttings alongside the nearby gorge which will provide workable willow in the next year or two. There is something so simple and rewarding about becoming part of the whole process, from willow shoot to creative joyful projects enhancing imagination and connections between people. It is humbling to be immersed in such a selfless idea, turning passion into reality and creativity.

http://www.rangienviroartscentre.org

 

Soundtrack: Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow

 

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Earthskin Muriwai

Creativity is about living life as a journey into seeing and communicating the extra-ordinariness of the simplest, most every day acts. It makes life infinitely interesting and fulfilling.

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And so I arrived. The only confirmed plan I had for my New Zealand trip this time last year was the art residency I was selected for at Earthskin Muriwai.

This was going to take some time to sink in, after a very steep drop down the driveway I began to see the yurt and 3-storey house that was to be my base for the next month. I’d lusted over living in a yurt for many years, sparked by an amazing experience whilst art-working on the band The Levellers first ever music festival when I was 17. In the drizzly rain I was greeted by local artist and musician Judy who showed me around the beautiful Grand Designs-esque house, open plan, full of windows and curiosities and situated outside were my very own 2 chickens to take care of (I was quite pleased to have chickens around again!). img_20160908_145952There was a lovingly created vegetable garden using resourced flora from the surrounding Nikau palm trees and forest. On the lower level housed the studio fit for painting and wood chopping and gardening tool area complete with enough webs to house approximately 3000 spiders. The trees around the back of the house took you on a path through Wiggley woods through pine, Nikau and wonderfully enigmatic Pohutukawa trees, also known as Christmas trees from their seasonal red flowers. The walk leads you down to wind-swept Muriwai Beach famous for its iron rich black sand and rugged good surf.

p1080914This was to be so much more than an art residency, it was a month for quiet reflection and restoration, as most of the time was spent on my own. Earthskin isn’t over-looked, it is a portal that lies deep in a forest channelling some pretty strong energy. Two days in and I received a call from a neighbour asking if I’d like to meet him and his family over tea and scones. After a couple of days to nest and form a routine and familiarity with the surroundings I welcomed this offer with open arms and was greeted by Pipi, Robin’s daughter and family dog Danny. Robin had taken it upon himself to form a link from the artist in residence to the local community of Muriwai. A wonderfully friendly and interesting older chap who has lived and still lives a life full of adventure. He was OIC of the weather station on Campbell Island 1966/67 as well as leader at Scott Base, Antarctica 1968/69. He has run many marathons and triathlons and managed Turoa Skifields on Mount Ruapehu for 8 years, not forgetting he has 7 children ranging from 9-53! His energy and attitude was inspiring.

I began somewhat of a routine each morning of tending to and collecting eggs from the chickens- providing a tasty breakfast, a session of yoga on the sunshine deck then down to the studio to start some paintings. I’d often wander off to break from the concentration, luckily the surrounding landscape was so inspiring I had a good balance.

dsc_0929Over the first weekend I had an impromptu visit from lovely Apiti chum Hendrik. The anticipation of touching base with a good friend and being able to show him around my lovely abode was such a pleasure. I found myself fantasising about the house being mine as most elements were just as I would like for my own place one day. Hendrik rocked up in his super-cool Ute and didn’t take long to feel comfortable and inspired by the lush surroundings. We walked down to the beach, back through the forest, cooked a heart-warming meal and listened to great music over red wine. The evening wasn’t complete without a log fire burning away in the yurt with incense and candles, a perfect moment. img_20160907_125613

Short and sweet, I was on my own again, and ready to get tucked into some work, I found the next few days hard, feeling a pressure to produce outstanding work because I’d finally been given the idyllic place and time for it, and felt judgemental about everything I had created. I felt very distracted and spent far more time gardening and wandering around to try and gain some clarity. An out-of-the-blue phone call from owner of the property Nancy put me back in to shape- an inspiring and deep conversation discussing the changing shift in energy when you are in such a place and how often after a week you begin to understand where you are, and then the work starts to come easily, a natural process. A creative person allows themselves to be their true self, without worrying about being judged. Creativity becomes ingrained in your very essence as an individual and your creation is a projection of you and your deepest thoughts, translated into a beautiful work that adds to the value of not only your life, but also that of others.

dsc_1119The following weekend I was joined by Southampton chum Luke, which I knew would make for an enjoyable and restful few days. I felt particularly happy that he decided to visit as he needed a break from his work and location, and boy, did it do him good! It was as though people who visited were somehow cleansed and rejuvenated- powerful stuff! We jammed on guitar, had a dance and fair few drinks over a game of truth or dare, simple wholesome pleasures. When you know that you needn’t rely on external factors for mental stimulation, it is a major personal triumph. When you know that you are living up to your true potential, you are truly happy.

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Every once in a while I’d meet with Robin and his family for a meal (they were so hospitable) and other times I’d just hang out with the kids and go on a bit of an adventure. Pipi, Bene and Thaddie showed me this sites of Muriwai Beach, including the huge gannet colony and incredibly powerful rock formations, blow holes and surrounding caves. This wasn’t a place to mess with.

p1080928I did have a reasonable structure to the residency in that the following Sunday I had an open invitation for locals to come and visit me at the house for a discussion and an informal presentation of my work (with cake). I gave a talk on my background, inspirations and work produced in Muriwai as well as throughout my (almost) year in NZ. It turned into an inspiring afternoon of likeminded creatives and lovely souls having a good yarn- a nice boost as sharing is such an important element in the creative process, something I miss about my old studio at The Sorting Office. img_20160925_112040

The locals kids and I wanted to go on one last adventure before I left and their idea was a hike through Goldie’s Bush. A 9km hike through Kauri forest, taking in the impressive Mokoroa Falls, it was quite the challenge at this time of year! The water was rough and deep on the 20+ river crossings we needed to make, but we managed it as a team, and Pipi and Bene couldn’t have been better company. At the local Muriwai Surf Club Robin and Pipi were lifeguards (Pipi at 14yrs still in training but nearly fully qualified!). Robin had a monthly supper club with lifeguards past and present and I was kindly invited along to meet them all. Some true characters, a wholesome meal and a stunning sunset rounded off the day perfectly.

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On my final day at Earthskin I was greeted by new resident artist Sam Heydt from New York. A big ball of energy (despite her tiredness from travelling) we spent a fun evening together chatting over a drink until I tucked myself into the yurt for my final night. We were both involved in a community event happening in Muriwai the following morning, called the Fun Palace. Myself alongside 30+ other artists/performers/creatives were offering free workshops with anybody who wanted to join in. It’s a great initiative that was started in the UK and is an ongoing campaign supporting culture at the heart of every community. Danielle the organiser and all-round great sort did a wonderful job-it was super busy and buzzing.

Leaving Muriwai on a high, in the quiet reflection of the drive onward I felt changed by this place. Plans outside of the residency were starting to fall into place for me, an exciting new door had opened…I was too curious not to venture on in…

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Soundtrack: Type O Negative – Cinnamon Girl, Led Zeppelin – Going to California, Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon