Bohemian Bag Workshop

I will be holding a two-day creative sewing workshop in my Grahamstown art studio on Saturday 15th/22nd October 2016.

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This workshop brings together my interest in fashion, design, sewing, beading, embroidery, applique and fabric manipulation, and combines it with my interest in people, their life stories and my belief that creativity can heal.

It is guaranteed to be a fun workshop, where you can make a bag or purse that can be as funky and over-the-top as you wish. It may be any size or shape and you can use whatever materials you wish. You can go crazy with embellishments and I will be there to teach you all the skills you need for the process.

With fashion trends currently being inspired by the 1960’s and 70’s hippie era, this is the perfect time to make yourself or someone else a trendy fashion accessory.

Time: 9.00am – 4.00pm

Cost: R680.00

Space will be limited, so sign up today for a workshop you will enjoy! I look forward to seeing you there.

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COMMON ROOTS : DIFFERENT ROUTES

In two weeks time the sleepy hollow of Grahamstown will be rocked by the National Arts Festival once again. This  year I am joining forces with my talented siblings, brother Anthony and sister Nicky, both accomplished artists, to bring what we hope will be an interesting exhibition of our work. We come from a big family of pioneering stock and have had an amazingly rich, though somewhat off-beat upbringing. There is much that I could tell you, but will leave it to my eloquent brother to explain a little of the background to our exhibition…

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“Artists Anthony Stidolph, Sally Scott and Nicky Rosselli grew up in a large family of seven children in what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). While they were all still relatively young, their father, an experienced airline pilot and free ranging spirit who had served with distinction in various bomber squadrons during the war, suddenly decided that the life he had really been born for was that of a farmer.

Acting, as he invariably did, on such ill-thought out impulses he quit his job, cashed in his life savings, bought a battered old Land-Rover and proceeded to relocate the entire family, lock, stock and barrel, to one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of Zimbabwe’s Nyanga Mountains.

Although the area proved ill-suited for agriculture and the farm was never a financial success it was a wonderful place to grow up.

Bordered on the east by the great wall of the Nyanga mountain range, the landscape seemed to possess an uplifting, transcendental, almost spiritual quality; it’s beauty penetrated the soul. Every now and again, in life, one comes across a place which for some mysterious reason exerts a deep personal attraction and the farm did just that for all three children.

It provided them with some of their richest childhood memories and would go on to play a pivotal role in their subsequent artistic, spiritual and emotional development. It was here that their love for nature, for places still regarded as wild, came from.

Moving to South Africa, albeit at different times and in pursuit of slightly varying goals, the three siblings mutual passion for landscape would continue to nourish and sustain them, each, in their own way, endeavouring to observe and capture the scenery that has inspired them over the years without pretence or posture.

Always something of a humourist, Anthony would choose to go into the field of political cartooning, where he worked for The Witness newspaper under the nom-de-guerre “Stidy” for almost 26-years, while his sister Sally’s early interest in batik work would later transform itself into a distinguished career in Fabric Art (and, in turn, pastel work) which would see her win several international awards for her innovative pieces. Nicky, very much the family afterthought, also inherited her mother’s artistic genes (the other four family members chose to follow more scientific paths) establishing an early reputation as a highly talented and original  artist and etcher while, at the same time, opening and running her own Art Gallery with her husband John.

Over the years which have followed, Anthony Sally and Nicky have continued to regard their art as a form of self-examination, providing not only a reflection of the physical world without but the secret world within. For each one, art is not only a vocation to be expressed but lived as well.

Employing the notion of travel as a metaphor for living, this joint family exhibition serves, then, as a both a record and a re-evaluation of three journeys that began from the same starting point in another country many years ago. Although their roads may have diverged and detoured along the way, Anthony, Sally and Nicola’s lives have remained linked by a shared passion and a common ancestral background.

As such their work is infused with a certain homesickness, a longing to connect and get back to a place – or places – that exemplify their early ideal of happiness.

Intensely personal and reflective of their continuing bond with the earth, the artwork bears out TS Eliot’s poetic statement on how the end of all our seeking is to arrive back at the beginning and know the place for the first time…”

Anthony, Nicky and Sally in Botswana 1972

Anthony, Nicky and Sally in Botswana 1972

The exhibition will be officially opened at 5.30pm on 29th June and will thereafter be open daily 9am-5pm  30th June – 10th July. The artists will be in attendance.

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On the Pin Board

Some of you may be wondering why there’s been no movement on the blog for a while, so I am checking in to say that I have been swamped by a tsunami of work and am swimming for all I’m worth to keep my head above the water level! However, the beach is in sight, with only a month to go until the National Arts Festival begins in Grahamstown and our sibling exhibition COMMON ROOTS:DIFFERENT ROUTES opens its doors to the public.

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There will be more on this shortly.

In the meanwhile, it is most fortunate for me that amidst the current of this organized chaos, run three streams of calmer waters that help to keep me physically and emotionally buoyed and assist me in keeping perspective. I am speaking about my art class students who flow in and out of the studio each week, bringing with them an abundance of good humour, creative talent, yummy things to eat and wine to keep the creativity flowing. Despite my distractions, they have all kept their focus and have produced some truly amazing work over the past few months. So today, when I have nothing of my own to show, I am delighted to have some of their work to share. Most of these students started out as complete beginners not so long ago. Click on the images below to enjoy them at their fullest:

There will be another post soon that will give some background to our forthcoming sibling exhibition.

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Art Journaling Workshop – April 2016

My posts have been a bit sparse this year, and I apologize for that, but with less than three months to go until the opening of our sibling exhibition at the National Arts Festival, my attention has been elsewhere. However, to keep me sane and balanced I have kept a selection of Saturday mornings open for group creativity, and in February this year we had the first of my Art Journaling Workshops. It was great fun and for those who attended, light relief from the pressure of work and everyday living. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday morning and an opportunity to fulfill those New Year resolutions “to be more creative this year”.

So what is art journaling, apart from being the latest craze to have hit the Western world?

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First and foremost Art Journaling is a fun opportunity to relax and indulge in a bit of ‘me’ time.On the surface of it the process may appear to be child’s play, with fingers in paint, dollops of glue, snipping paper into pieces whilst playing with collage and pages of colourful writing, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is frivolous or meaningless, for below the surface of all this activity run currents of serious thought and great depths of meaning. The process is extremely therapeutic and the themes that participants explore, vary from personal issues that need to be dealt with, to experiences that want to be celebrated. Anything and everything is suitable subject for exploration, so family history, spirituality, miracles, faith, travels, adventures, observations, opinions, personal experiences and poetry are all fertile ground to explore.

The beauty of journaling is that it adds another dimension to the written word and offers a space where one can make one’s thoughts visible through drawings, paintings, scribbles, sketches, maps, photographs and an assortment of techniques that add impact to the imagery and allow for variation in colour and size of fonts and text. It’s a tactile process and allows for a sensory connection to the work. The direct, hands on creativity allows for insights to develop as the pages unfold, which often inspires more writing and desire for visual translation, and so the story goes…

Each designated Saturday morning, students arrive at my studio, enjoy tea and snacks in my abundant indigenous garden and then get down to work or play, whichever way one looks at it. They work on ‘pages’ that will eventually come together as a book, or they work in old books, breathing into them new life.

Our next Art Journaling session will be this next Saturday 16th April 2016, so if you are interested in joining this band of happy creatives, please contact me and book your place. There are only a couple of spaces left!

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Workshops for 2016

Welcome back to my Studio. It’s time to let you know what creative projects I have planned for 2016.

The big focus for the first half of the year will be on the exhibition that I will be having with my siblings, Nicky Rosselli and Anthony Stidolph (alias Stidy) at this years National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. I will be bringing you updates and more information on this exhibition soon.

Meanwhile, I have some exciting workshops lined up for 2016, the details of which are below.

Weekly Drawing Classes

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The drawing classes are held in the relaxed and informal space of my studio, and are specifically geared for students who have little or no previous experience, but who would like to learn to draw.

The course is well structured, with each session building on the one before and students never fail to learn very quickly, often amazed at what they find themselves capable of doing.

The classes are specifically about learning to see things clearly, and then becoming familiar with the various mediums, working with pencil, pen, ink wash, charcoal, pencil colour, chalk pastel, oil pastel, mixed media and collage. Once the basics are covered, we then explore themes, developing skills as we go.

There are numerous benefits to learning to draw, but it is the relaxing, therapeutic aspect that is most often commented upon. The groups are small and everyone works at their own pace in an atmosphere of mutual support.

Class options are:

Tuesday and Thursday evenings: 6-8pm

Friday Mornings: 10am – 12pm

There is a possibility of an afternoon class if there is sufficient demand.

Cost: R140 per session, paid in advance at the beginning of each month.

Space is limited, so please let me know if you would like to join us.

 

Creative Art Journaling Workshops

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Creative Art Journaling has become enormously popular in recent years, as it offers the individual a creative way to document thoughts, ideas, memories, experiences, observations and feelings using a combination of the written word and a variety of visual art techniques. These mini artwork pages can eventually come together as a book. Workshops will be held in my Studio on Saturday mornings 9.30am – 12pm on the following dates:

Sat 27th February

Sat 2nd April

Sat 28th May

Sat 30th July

Sat 3rd September

Sat 1st October

Sat 5th November

Cost: R220.00 per session

Space will be limited, so please let me know if you would like to join us.

 

Red Shoe Workshop

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This is without doubt my most important workshop to date. I invite women of all ages into the safe and supportive environment of my Art Studio to share stories about their lives and to make soft shoes that reflect the journey they have taken.

Based loosely on “The Red Shoe” story by Hans Christian Anderson, the workshop allows one to assess and focus upon what is really important in one’s life. The process is fun, at times hilarious, but the results are always beautiful and profound. Born out of my own personal experience and understanding of suffering, the workshop is fluid, ever moving and changes according to the needs of the group with whom I am working.

The workshop is suitable for all skill levels and no prior sewing or shoe construction experience is needed, as what you don’t know, I will teach you. It’s a great chance to play and explore your creativity and each pair of shoes will be as individual as its maker.

To date almost 300 pairs of shoes have been made, by women from all walks of life. What I have learned is immeasurable, but the overriding lesson has been that despite our differences, we all understand what it is to be a woman.

Provisional dates for this 3-Day creative workshop, which is spread over 4 days are:

4th March: 2-5pm

5th March: 9am – 4pm

11th March: 2-5pm

12th March: 9am – 4pm

Cost: R990.00

Space will be limited, so please let me know if you would like to join us.

 

Bohemian Bags

Bohemian Bag Advertwith text

I am passionate about textiles and have had many years of experience working in the field of fibre art. This workshop brings together my interest in fashion, design, sewing, beading, embroidery, appliqué and fabric manipulation and combines it with my interest in people, their life stories and my belief that creativity can heal.

It is guaranteed to be a fun workshop where you can make a bag or purse that can be as funky and over-the-top as you wish it to be. It may be any size and any shape and you can use whatever materials you wish. You can go crazy with embellishments and I will be there to guide you and teach you any skills you may need for the process.

With fashion trends currently being inspired by the 1960’s and 70’s hippie era, this is the perfect time to make yourself or someone else a trendy fashion accessory.

This fun 2-day creative sewing workshop, held on the following days:

7th May: 9am – 4pm

14th May: 9am – 4pm

Cost: R660.00

Space will be limited, so please let me know if you would like to join us. I look forward to seeing you there!

 

For more information on all these workshops, please visit my website:

www.sallyscott.co.za

Categories: Drawing, Exhibitions, My Studio, Workshops | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Summertide Exhibition

For those of my friends who will be in Grahamstown over the Christmas season, there is an exhibition worth visiting at the Festival Gallery, 38 Somerset St. The exhibition, Summertide, is now open and includes a selection of E.Cape artists work, including two of my Waterlily series.

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Lily #4 Size: 47cm x 35cm. Medium: Chalk Pastel

‘Nymphaea #4’ by Sally Scott. Size: 47cm x 35cm. Medium: Chalk Pastel

Please visit and enjoy!

Categories: Exhibitions, Landscapes | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘Double Vision’

On the evening of Thursday 5th November 2015, the doors of Mogalakwena Gallery, 3 Church St., Cape Town,  opened for the viewing of Double Vision, a fibre art exhibition featuring the work of Odette Tolksdorf and myself . The opening was part of the First Thursdays, Cape Town programme, and because we were blessed with warm, balmy weather, the crowds thronged the streets and we had a really interesting mix of people coming through.

Sally Scott, Gina Niederhumer and Odette Toksdorf at the opening of 'Double Vision'

Sally Scott, Gina Niederhumer and Odette Toksdorf at the opening of ‘Double Vision’

For those who weren’t there to enjoy it, I have included some of Odette’s works and a gallery of all the work that I have on show. We were fortunate to have Gina Niederhumer to open our exhibition and have included her opening words below:

“When Odette phoned me about a month ago, to ask me if I would open her and Sally’s exhibition I was at first shocked that she asked me, after all these artists were already famous and were part of that crowd that I looked up to and admired from afar while I still marveled over log-cabin patterns… I am immensely honored that they asked me to open their exhibition. Both artists have resumes as long as both my arms…prestigious awards to their names…their work is held in public and private collections – locally and internationally…and their art-works appear in many publications …most recently in Elbe’s new book Craft Art in South Africa.

Sally Scott and Odette Tolksdorf are amongst a group of a few local textile artists who have put South African Fiber Arts on the world map.

There are certain parallels to their biography…both have lived elsewhere for much of their formative years…Odette in Australia, Sally in Zimbabwe…both are internationally exhibited artists and both are teachers of creative workshops for over thirty years… both work with needle and thread amongst other things… and they are friends.

While each one developed their own style and working methodology…here in this exhibition they joined forces to give us a glimpse into their practice.

I will first speak about Odette, as her work is exhibited in the first room.

Odette, beside being a prolific textile artist, is also a Quilt Judge and these past 15 years has been the South African representative and co-coordinator of the World Quilt and Textile competition which is held annually in the USA.

She has also for the last 15 years, organized cultural art and craft tours to South Africa, together with American textile artist Nancy Crow and Canadian artist Valerie Hearder.

Odette’s fiber art is known for its vibrant colours, it’s geometric shapes…intricate textures… and has a linear quality about it. Her work starts often with a traditional pattern which she then distorts and adapts to fit her design concepts.

Her surroundings frequently provide the prompts for her work. …a trip to Morocco becomes Lost in Marrakech…which hint at the intricate networks of Medinas and Souks…which invite one to get lost in while absorbing the colours and shapes of the place…next to it is the work Endless Migrations which is based on rumination around friends leaving the country…and the coming and goings of people in general…all over the world… in one direction or another… like the flow of water…the circles representing the endlessness of this pursuit…given the present situation in Europe with thousands of refugees making their way through different countries in search for a safe place and a new start, this work could not be more current.

'Endless Migration' by Odette Tolksdorf

‘Endless Migration’ by Odette Tolksdorf

As a graphic graduate, Design is a strong element in Odette’s art. This is quite evident in many of her works…such as the piece Isihlalo – the Chair, which is based on the woodcarving of a back-rest belonging to a Zulu-King…. Raw Wall based on traditional Yoruba house decorations…Re-mix Africa…a lighthearted play on words referring to the watershed exhibition Africa -re mix…where Odette mixes Kimono shapes with African wax prints with a variety of textures, such as Cuba cloth, and Bark cloth…linking different symbolism and agendas.

'Re-mix Africa' by Odette Tolksdorf

‘Re-mix Africa’ by Odette Tolksdorf

Odette’s latest works, Breath I, II and III is unusual perhaps in its soft watercolor feel…but then on closer look it is again indicative of her way of responding and processing her surrounding…as by her own admission, she was seduced by the material when she found that wonderful organza and thought of a way to use it. An artist will always read any material or subject matter through his or her own lens of seeing the world…in this case, turning layers and layers of translucent textiles into a meditative study on light and breath…offering a though provoking reflection on the repetitiveness of the sewing process.

Breath, Breathe and Breathing Series by Odette Tolksdorf

‘Breath, Breathe and Breathing’ Series by Odette Tolksdorf

Double Vision …the title of this show….refers to an eye condition, Wikipedia informed me… (I could not resist) whereby the eyes when looking at a single object, see it twice, the effect is like squinting.

I like this title for the Sally and Odette’s exhibition, as it not only points in a humorous way to two artists having different views, but it also reminds us that there is always another way of looking at things. That there is the actual artwork the viewer sees when entering the gallery, and then there is the story behind each work…the story that triggered the work in the artist as well as the ‘threads’ that are spun in the viewers imagination while looking at the work. Nobel Peace Laureate Eric Kandel, speaks of the beholders share which completes the process between artist and viewer.

Which really tells us that something is happening to us while we are viewing an artwork…and the thoughts triggered have less to do with the actual work then with our own inter psychic realities …such is the power of art.

Thus in a way, art lets us look into both directions…the outer world and the world within us. I find this especially the case in Sally’s piece Surrender. While the trigger for the work might have come from Sally’s experiences, it has universal appeal, as we all can identify with the need to let go of things, thoughts, ideas that might be not only be counter productive but actually harmful. This is especially true, when we have been hurt, and have allowed the woundedness within to create an armor that we hope shields us, but it actually separates us from the world, and ultimately from living live fully

When I look at Surrender, I see the threshold that allowed the other works to surface. Art and healing go hand in hand. Nietzsche already said, that when the soul is in distress, art comes as an expert healer and sorceress, turning difficult thoughts and emotions into something that can be looked at, and talked about.

The titles often give further clues to the meaning behind the work…Axis Mundi….the tree of life….Towards Infinity…a continous search for the self…Synergy acknowledging the different elements that strive for wholeness…

The vivid colours in many of the pieces give the works a celebratory look…a triumphant transition of the souls search and healing process after the work Surrender. The repeated almond shape of the Vesica Pisces, which presents itself in much of Sally’s work, speaks of her continued search for unity and balance. Vesica Piscis, the place where two equal circles overlap and create a third shape – a liminal space – is at the root of sacred geometry… I understand Sally’s repeated use of this shape as a search for the essence of oneness

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Sally runs workshops for community projects and university students, teaching embroidery skills, drawing, journal writing and her hugely popular Red Shoes workshops, which are aimed at empowering people through helping them find their own creative voice.

Sally is not only a teacher and lecturer and a leading figure in the textile world, she is also a landscape painter and wildlife activist.

Growing up in what sound like a magical time on a remote farm in Zimbabwe, her love for the bush is evident in her photographs and paintings. Here in this show, in the three framed works showing photographs of barren landscapes over which hang little Travel Bags combine her love for remote places, traveling and needlework. It is again the search for oneness that I see in it.

Click on the images below to see Sally’s works on show:

While both artists focus on their respective tasks and work with the same medium, needle and thread, their artistic output, copious as it is, is quite distinct from each other. While Sally works with her own hand-dyed fabrics and thread onto black cloth and frequently includes text and found objects in her work, Odette’s clear lines and textures as well as her choice of strong colours, on the other hand conjure up a light filled high spirited Lebensfreude.

While ‘double’ refers to the two streams of artistic output, ‘vision’ here speaks less of the actual mechanics of our eyes, but rather it refers to the farsightedness in both artists as they impart their skill and knowledge through their teaching, ensuring the spreading of a wellbeing through creative empowerment.

The departure point for this exhibition might have been one goal, one vision for the artists ….being friends it is also likely that they discussed ideas about it while they worked towards it…the resulting body of work though speaks of separate paths. Needlework techniques acquired over a life time of individual practice… meet here, as Sally and Odette share some of their work with us … thus giving the viewer their gift of double vision….which lets us …while seeing transformations of their experiences – contemplate our own. Thank you.”

Gina Niederhumer

Cape Town, November 5, 2015

The exhibition remains open until 18th December 2015. Please visit and enjoy!

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Double Vision Exhibition

Mogalakwena Gallery, Cape Town        6 November – 18 December 2015

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I will be in Cape Town next week to attend the opening of  Double Vision, a two-woman fibre art exhibition featuring the work of myself and Odette Tolksdorf, a fellow fibre artist and friend from Kwazulu-Natal.

Odette and I met in Durban during the 1980’s when we were part of a dynamic group of innovative fibre artists who were active in KwaZulu-Natal at the time. Intent on finding new ways of working with fabric, we adjusted traditional quilt making techniques to create our own particular form of expression. Those were exciting times, and as public interest grew with this emerging art form, Odette and I had many opportunities to take part in group exhibitions, both locally and internationally. Both of us worked from our home studios in Durban and became known not only as regular exhibitors, but as teachers of Fibre Art and Design.

In 2000 I moved to Grahamstown, in the Eastern Cape, where I set up a private art studio and continued to teach drawing and offer creative sewing workshops. The geographical divide between me and my fibre art friends from KwaZulu-Natal meant that I was forced to work alone and in so doing, forged a way of working that is now my trademark style.

Meanwhile in Durban, Odette continued to make art, teach design and contemporary quiltmaking and widened the scope of her activities to teaching overseas and becoming the South African representative/co-coordinator for the World Quilt and Textile Competition, held annually in the USA. Since 2000 she has organized art, craft and culture tours of South Africa with well-known textile artists, American Nancy Crow and Canadian Valerie Hearder.

Odette and I both have a strong appreciation for textiles and are founder members of Fibreworks, a group that promotes fibre art in South Africa.

With both of us appearing in Elbe Coetsee’s recently published book “Craft Art in South Africa” it seemed fitting that we should join forces in Double Vision to exhibit some of our work from the past few years.

If you happen to be in Cape Town over the festive season, please pop in to view this feast of colour.

The opening will be at 5.30 pm on 5th November and the opening talk will be given by Gina Niederhumer.

You will find the Mogalakwena Gallery at 3 Church St. Cape Town. Open Monday-Friday 9:00 – 16:00

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Retreating to the Wild

It was May 1997, when my brother Anthony Stidolph and I set off on an epic journey from Durban, South Africa to Zimbabwe in search of artistic inspiration. It was a much anticipated trip and as we drove along the great North road, the balmy warmth of the sun reflected the grins on our faces. We had just passed through the J.G.Strijdom Tunnels when we drew up behind two heavily overloaded vehicles, one trying to overtake the other on a blind hill. Neither were doing more than 80 kph and both were packed to capacity with what looked like the contents of a house. I knew we were getting close to our destination, for sights like this are commonplace as one gets near to the border with Zimbabwe. As crazy and dangerous as these dilapidated old vehicles were, I felt a surge of affection and looked forward to crossing the border and smelling the air of home.

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The border crossing is always stressful, but once we were through and on the road again, the vehicle felt like it was flying. We made a quick stop at the Rutenga Butchery for biltong, and childhood memories of dust, heat and the slow pace of life came flooding back. Children on bicycles and old men on chairs waved at us as we pulled out of the parking lot, with a pack of biltong in hand. Back on the road, the blue hills in the distance became magnificent granite domes. We turned off at Rutenga Halt, passing a variety of modes of transport; old bent axil buses, donkey carts and wheelbarrows, all going about their business as usual.

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The mopane trees gave way to msasa trees and all along the way, amongst the rock-strewn hills, were masses of huts with silvery grey thatch shimmering in the sunshine. After Chiredzi the bush became thorny acacia scrub, the land was hot and dry and from the sky, bright, vast and open, came a penetrating light. The baobab trees became more frequent and Bateleur Eagles flew overhead. Everywhere there were Hornbills, perched on thorn trees, flying alongside the car or hopping in the sand beside the road, their quizzical expressions directed towards us as we motored past. We ploughed down the track towards the camp through thick, deep, red sand edged by bush that buzzed with life.

The camp, by contrast, was a little green oasis, with log cabins, set amongst trees and green lawns, each facing out into the wilderness. At the sound of the car, Nicky Rosselli, my youngest sister, appeared as an ethereal vision from the darkness of her hut and leant against the doorway watching us, with her paintings resting up against the outer wall. They were beautiful paintings, from which emanated light and soul.

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In that instant, I understood why artists need retreats like this, a ‘time-out’ from the routine of everyday life, a period earmarked for uninterrupted focus and engagement with the subjects of our interest, a space that allows inspiration to flower and take the form of art. Nicky, who had arrived a few days before us, had clearly wasted no time in finding her inspiration.

The place is Malilangwe, a nature conservancy in the lowveldt of Zimbabwe. As far as I know, this artist retreat no longer exists, and the area has been developed as an upmarket reserve, but at that time these small chalets were reserved for artists, where in return for a piece of artwork, one could stay for minimal cost. The chalets, set in a clearing in the bush, were thatched and cool, serviced and all meals were provided, so artists who visited there had no chores and nothing to interrupt the flow of their creativity. It was an ideal and exhilarating experience, and we had a whole week in which to immerse and respond to the wilderness.

The environment was wild, alive with venomous snakes and dangerous animals. We had encounters with all of them and to this day, I have vivid memories of my visitation from a black mamba, that slithered quietly past me, its dark, beady eyes fixed upon me as I sat on a rock drawing a group of dassies (rock hyrax) not far from the camp.

Untitled-Scanned-08pswebI was focussed and calm, enjoying the sensation of the graphite marks on paper, when I became aware of a movement a metre from where I sat. I looked down and made eye contact with an impressive, sleek, fat olive green snake that undulated along the base of the rock below me. I quietly called my brother, who was also drawing among the rocks somewhere not far from where I sat. Detecting no urgency in my call, he took his time in coming and it was only when he saw the snake and in hushed tones told me to stay still, that the enormity of the occasion began to filter into my consciousness. We stood rigidly together for a few moments and then glanced about for the quickest escape route, which happened to be a drop of several metres off the granite dome. My camera and pencils were still between me and the snake, so they would have to stay behind and in a moment of decision, we both leapt off the rock, scrambled through the thick leaves and branches and hot footed it to the camp. We waited there for an hour or so and then Ant and Nicky returned to collect our things. When they returned, they told me that unbeknown to him, Anthony had been sitting on the well worn snake path not far from the snakes hole. Things could have turned out very differently had I not called him away to come and look!

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That experience was one of those moments where death appears so unexpectedly, looks one squarely in the face, but the danger doesn’t register until after the moment had passed. I still shudder when I think how close I came to meeting my end, but I recognize that it was my stillness, my being completely absorbed in the moment, that gave me a sense of oneness with everything around me. I did not recognize the danger, nor feel any fear and the snake sensing no threat, was able to pass right by me. A profound life lesson was learned.

Malilangwe 97 5psweb

A pencil colour drawing done at the scene where I met the Black Mamba

Well, as if that bit of excitement wasn’t enough, that afternoon Nicky suggested we visit a hide to view the game as it came down to the waterhole. We packed our sundowners into the truck and headed off along sandy roads through thick bush to the hide. Leaving the car some way off, out of site of the hide, we clambered up the wooden steps and settled ourselves down with drinks and dried wors and waited for the animals. I was sitting on the top step, sketching the veld, when Nicky’s husband, John spotted a herd of buffalo moving towards us through the bush. I carefully laid down my crayons and sketchpad and eased myself into the hide. The buffalo had seen us and paused for a bit before deciding to come down for a drink. Slowly they made their way down to the waters edge, but a small group hung back, looking uncertain, milling around in the bush. Once the main herd had finished drinking and ambled back into the trees nearby, several others stood around, sniffing the air and looking up at the hide. Despite us sitting stock still, they definitely knew we were there and when a couple of them lay down to sleep directly beneath us as if settling in for the night, I began to feel a bit uncomfortable. What if they didn’t leave? By now it was getting quite dark and with our car some distance away, as per the camp instructions, we weren’t sure what to do. Nicky suggested we should sleep the night in the hide, but John wanted to try and get to the car. The risk was definitely quite great, with the herd so close and restless, so we waited a little while longer. Eventually, John decided to move, so eased himself quietly down the steps and stealthily walked through the bush towards the car. Several buffalo, alerted by his movement, moved in his direction, so to distract the creatures, Ant perched at the top of the stairs and I bashed my crayon tin against the railing. The most menacing buffalo stopped and looked at us, giving John the gap he needed and soon we saw the headlights moving slowly through the trees, pulling up alongside the hide. We made our escape and Ant and I travelled to camp in the back of the bakkie, the air washing past us in warm and cool patches, the smell of warm, dry grass in our nostrils. Up above us the dark sky was clear and filled with stars, not a cloud to be seen anywhere.

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The next adventure we had was with a lone buffalo. Nicky, who had arrived a few days before us, wanted to take us to see some bushman paintings that she and John had found on their explorations. We parked some distance away and walked through bush to a hill that had a cave. As we followed Nicky through the thick grass, I anxiously scanned for any sign of wild life. There was plenty of evidence of elephant dung and broken trees, and the smell of wild animal permeated the air. We found the cave, admired the paintings, below which were rocks stained with fresh blood, presumably from a recent leopard kill. We wandered up on top of the hill to admire the view and then decided to take a shortcut back to the car through the gap in the hills. We followed my brother-in-law through the waist high grass, crunching msasa pods underfoot, silent and lost in thought, when suddenly John jumped backwards with a shout for us to “Get back!” He had surprised a buffalo as he came around a bush. Alarmed, it leapt up and swung around. I was aware of John turning on his heels, the stamping thud of buffalo hoofs, a flash of its dark body and I turned tail and headed for the rocks nearby, as did Nicky and Ant. I scrambled upward as fast as I could, heart pounding in my ears, and glanced anxiously back expecting to see the buffalo in hot pursuit and wondered if buffalo could climb rocks. Fortunately for all of us, the beast hot-footed it in the opposite direction and I caught a fleeting glimpse of it disappearing into the grass between us and the vehicle. After that it was nowhere to be seen and we tentatively edged forward wondering if it was safe to proceed to the car. We made it and relieved, launched off onto the dusty road in search of more game. It had all happened so fast and felt slightly surreal, so I felt a strong sense of elation to still be alive!

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Between all the excitement of mambas and buffalos, our days were largely spent in a state of creative bliss. Each morning we would wake to the sound of birds, raise ourselves and head to the dining area for breakfast under the trees, overlooking a magnificent dam, where the shimmering, silver surface embraced the surrounded hills. From here we collected our art equipment and peeled off in our different directions in search of things to draw and paint.

Our visit to the Malilangwe Conservancy marked the first stage of our journey and by the end of that week we felt we had truly shaken off the shackles of the mundane.  Our senses had been awoken, we had reconnected with our environment, and were finally listening and responding to the artists within. The road that lay ahead was exciting, for it was to take us forward to Inyanga, and back to the ranch on which we grew up.

This will be the subject of another post, so in the meanwhile, if you would like to see some of the work that has arisen from my travels, visit my website www.sallyscott.co.za

Categories: Drawing, Fibre Art, Inspiration | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Retreat

In May last year I was invited to join a group of ladies from Gauteng for a weekend of art making at Ann’s Villa, a self catering early settler Victorian mansion, that stands alone in the rugged terrain at the foot of the Zuurberg Mountains in the Eastern Cape. Helen Lunn, owner of the villa, had met me over the telephone when I had inquired about renting her space for my big birthday celebration a couple of months earlier. After the party, when she learned of my involvement in the arts, she asked if I would like to join her group of friends on an art retreat at the villa. It was an unexpected invitation and a bit of a risk to accept, given that I had never met her or anyone in the group, but I was curious and the thought of having another weekend in that beautiful environment, was enough to make me take up this opportunity. After all if I didn’t fit in, I could always return home to Grahamstown, a mere 88 kms away. That, as it turned out, wasn’t necessary and it wasn’t long before we had all settled in like old friends. It was a great weekend and so much fun to work alongside people whose experience, interests, talents and skills differed from my own. I learned much and came away from the those few days in the outback of the Karoo, wishing that I could have stayed longer, but feeling enriched, relaxed and inspired.

 

With the limited time available, my output was fairly minimal, but I did manage to produce a few sketches.

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Outside the blacksmith’s shop, Ann’s Villa 2014. Charcoal.

 

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An ink sketch of Ann’s Villa 2014

 

Ink and wash drawing of the rear view of Ann's Villa 2014

Ink and wash drawing of the rear view of Ann’s Villa 2014

So what is it about retreat that is so enticing? The idea of it is filled with possibility. For me it’s being able to legitimately withdraw from the madness of modern living, to step out of the predictable and well defined grooves of daily life, to enter into a space where anything can happen, where I can take time to intimately explore the outer environment and free fall into my inner world to see what’s going on in there. It’s having the time to express myself in an honest, uncompromising manner, knowing that what I produce doesn’t matter because it’s the process of doing it that counts. I love having no responsibilities and minimal expectation, where I can do pretty much anything with my day and take my time in doing it. I love the fact that I can indulge without the slightest whisper of guilt in the pleasures of making art in an environment that offers so many possibilities.

Over the years, I have been on several such retreats, and in my next post I will share another very memorable occasion when my sister, Nicky, brother Anthony and I took ourselves off to a beautiful conservancy in the low veldt of Zimbabwe.

Categories: Drawing, Inspiration, Landscapes | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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