It's 5am and I am in a marina on the outskirts of Alesund in my boat TessBess. I am delivering a workshop via Zoom to a group spread across the globe, hosted by Dotty at The Net Loft based in Alaska.
It is dark outside, it is not yet April. There is a thick layer of snow on the deck as there has been since January. It is still dark by the time I finish the workshop and go back to bed.
I was asked to do the workshop by Dotty as one of her regular sessions in water colour journaling from a varied selection of designer\makers.
My session was sparked by a blog post written by Dotty about delivering a hand knitted gansy to her son on his fishing boat. It got me thinking about all the connections we have in common in northern latitudes where the knitting and gifting of gansies to our sons, daughters, husbands, wives, lovers, is not only about the practicalities of a warm work garment, but also the love and creativity that goes into every stitch. As if by making them we can wrap a protective spell around the wearer.
I created a garland by cutting out figures and painting them in water colour inspired by memories of friends and family in the gifted sweaters that I have made over the years. This is the process and concept I shared in the workshop.
It was a lovely encounter with people I will in all likelihood never meet in the flesh, who all brought their own invention and creativity to the garland idea. one participant created a garland with memories of her grandfather, in the gansies she remembered him wearing.
It is always a delight to facilitate a workshop, I am usually nervous before the event, but, it is such a joy to see how people take my idea and make it their own and share the stories as to why they choose the things they do.
Strangely enough Covid proves a blessing for us. In the historic city of Alesund where there are many city centre offices lying empty we are able to rent a space at a reasonable cost.
Something that I think would have been very unlikely before the pandemic.
So our winter in the city is exactly what we imagined. It snows heavily and regularly and lays on the ground for months. We have a 40 minute walk there and back from TessBess in the marina where we live and the office space where we work.
We have a window high above a junction and the narrow strip of water that cuts through the city. It is a perfect lunchtime window for watching people, the city pigeons and crows and the falling snow transforming the streets from dark to white.
I have been busy in my studio, completing commissions, creating new designs and experimenting drawing with ink onto old sail cloth, then adding drawn and embroidered details. I am so inspired by the snowy landscape we are living in, a set of plates I found at a second hand shop and pictures and books I have seen in my Norwegian friends houses, but, mostly it is the snow, how it transforms everything, not just visually, but, also how we move.
The marina where we live on TessBess is close to a protected swimspot in the fjord, where me and Chloe (who sailed to Norway with us) have been challenging ourselves and each other to get into the water in all weathers. We never had to break ice to access the water, but, we did go in a few times in falling snow and early morning light. Anyone who wild swims will know what an invigorating way this is to start the day. sometimes I wondered if today would be the day when I just can't bring myself to get in that cold water, but, it never happened. It helps to have a companion and that slightly competitive element creeps in, We were never in for long especially on the really snowy days, when you got out it felt like your skin had been slapped red.
These swims that we had been enjoying....enduring.....experiencing...inspired me to make more designs painting and embroidering onto old sail cloth.
From then on, trying to sketch water became a major theme of my year.