I've recently done some work with Reconnect In Nature, an organisation working across Pembrokeshire, (West Wales) using nature and the outdoors to help address mental health challenges, tackle isolation and improve wellbeing.
Reconnect help people reconnect with their natural environment, reconnect with themselves and reconnect with community. The organisation is currently running an accredited 'Nature Connection Leader' training programme to train individuals to deliver Nature Connection and Wellbeing courses throughout the county.
Last week I delivered a Nature Arts training day exploring how nature and land based art can be used as a mindfulness activity, as basic diversional therapy and as a process to connect deeper with nature. The session aimed to develop participant's skills, confidence and ideas of how to use nature/land based arts within their own personal practice and professional work for improved wellbeing and mindfulness.
The morning introduction session looked at how a physical connection with nature may be visually represented and documented. Using a (playful!) Step-by-Step guide on How To Hug A Tree, physical connections were drawn onto the trees using chalk and flour paint (natural forms of paint) and then documented through photography.
The afternoon session was titled 'Weaving In The Woods'. On a previous training day, participants had chosen their own personal "sit-spot". (A sit spot is a physical space which one uses to connect with self and nature: 'A Sit Spot can become like an anchor in your life -- a place to settle down, cultivate present-moment awareness and a quieter mind, and to observe the flow of reality occurring around you.' (Wilderness Awareness School).
Participants were invited to create a site-specific nature-weaving in their 'sit-spot' as a way to form a deeper understanding and connection with that site. The weaving frame became the artist's frame, used symbolically to frame our connection with the woodland.
Participants were asked to be intentional in the way they worked and the processes they used to choose their site, their frame and their materials.
Choose a space that you want to explore further
Connect with and understand that space and what happens within it
Create a 'frame' to hold your work and frame your connection
Collect materials using an intentional process
Weave with your space
Participants were asked to consider:
- How their work may be found and viewed by others
- How time (movement of light, seasonal shifts, natural decay/growth) would change both the work they made and the spaces they inhabited
- What exists both within and beyond the frame
- What movement happens within the space: light, wind and animal tracks and how this will impact the work (and vice-versa)
- What visual elements the space holds: the colours, textures, spaces, patterns, shadows, shapes and perspectives...
- How to create the frame and where and how the frame is to be held/sat/hung/placed within the space
Reflections from participants:
'I began to smile, to feel happier'
'I had the same feeling as when I enter the sea'
'I found I wouldn't let go... my cheek pushed against the tree'
'I felt a sense of connection to my childhood'