It’s a lengthy journey involving cars, planes and buses, between rural South West England to rural South East Poland – but eventually I arrived at Lubartow in the late evening along with the other artists involved – and was immediately taken for one more drive, the last of the day… to a local restaurant where we had the first of many delicious meals. It was a huge relief to arrive here, in what I considered fairly normal summer weather for temperate Middle Europe, after weeks of torrential rain at home.
Earlier, at Warsaw airport a couple of us had arrived mid-morning, where we met Monika, who introduced us to some of the delights of the city, whilst we waited for other artists to arrive – the wide spacious streets, the Presidential Palace, the Royal Castle and the old town marketplace area. Oh, and we stopped off for a bite to eat – pierogi, potato pancakes… and my first taste of Polish vodka. ‘This all looks very promising’, I thought, as later on we all hopped on to the mini-bus, headed for Lubartow.
Our work and exhibiting place turned out to be in the gardens of a Palace, now a Museum park– not in a deserted field in the middle of nowhere, as I had imagined. I chose to work within a small shady circle of trees, right at the boundary of the park, at the edge of the great forest. It was quiet and restful. There was a wooden seat where one could sit and enjoy the bird sounds and the trees, and a small circle of sky high above.
The weaving process was slow and extremely time-consuming. But I was grateful not to be heaving stone or sawing branches – but tuning in to my own energy and that of the materials and surroundings, and just allowing the work to grow. I liked the rhythm and its repetitive nature and its references to traditional craft. I liked the freedom of working without fixed ideas. To bed tired. Up early the next day, as I knew I would have my work cut out getting my piece finished in time.
I am visited by a school party and some TV people. I make up a story about what the finished work will look like, complete with roofing tiles and black stones – but really I haven’t a clue (though I do know the title will be Resting Place, and that the dome will be inverted, becoming a large nest or basket shape).
I fret about how to develop my piece… I work hard all day, but by evening, when I step back to look at my work, I seem to have accomplished nothing! Part of me is relaxed, trusting my process – another part is working like crazy on form, structure, poetics, what the materials and the place want to do…
I am tired and hot – and my leg (recovering from a recent ailment) is hurting. And I can’t sleep. Decide to get up extra early tomorrow, to check out my work before we all go sightseeing for the day.
6.30am Thursday under the trees – Suddenly I know exactly what I will do… abandon the wooden roofing tiles in favour of a load of split bamboo shavings. Wonderful! Feel much better.
Enjoy our long morning visiting the Castle Museum at Lublin, the chief city of the region. In the afternoon we are taken round the sumptuous interior of the Palace, now a Museum, where we are based, and in the evening we go out for a special meal with the Mayor, together with some of the project organisers and sponsors. A good day – fascinating for me to learn a little about Polish culture and heritage. When I get home, I shall definitely try to make some of that delicious cold soup. Pink, with beetroot.
My work grew very fast over the next couple of days. The most exciting moment was when I first got the dome turned upside down, and I could finally see its full impact.