Finding how NOT to proceed is as critical as proceeding
The days following a "retreat" are almost more work than the experience itself. Unpacking your brain of a zillion new ideas, organizing your thoughts into subject files, rehashing pages of notes and drawings, trying to remember that brilliant scheme that came in a dream or was it during a hike? All of that is much more exhausting and time consuming than actually going through the delightful day to day routine of no-routine and total dedication to your craft.
Such are my musings after returning from a wonderful 4 days spent with my sister and co-collaborator at AZULE located off the beaten path in Grassy Creek, NC just outside of Hot Springs.
If you closely on the left middle floor you can see the outline of the original
log cabin Camille and her husband homesteaded in. She continues, in her seventies,
to dream up projects to add onto the "compound."
What did we accomplish during our artistic residency? Weeeell. As Edison was fond of saying, "We discovered 99 ways not to make a light bulb."
Our original intent had been to explore our childhood as fodder for a poetry/art collaboration. We spent many a chuckle-filled hour revisiting those years and playing the "but do you remember...." game. However after thrashing and hashing our early years, my word-smith sis admitted that nothing grabbed her senses as intense enough to eulogize. My visuals were equally uninspiring. So we then morphed into a long discussion about technique and approach: using 'we' or 'I', feelings now or then, calls and answers or just two unrelated bodies of work, large or small, ....see the problems here? So much more to decide than first meets the eye.
Amy found a comfortable niche by the front door. Camille made all the stained glass windows
herself after gathering all the glass from a manufacturers dump site.
We hiked, we sweated, we sat and stared, we dabbled in our craft hoping the muse would take over, we revisited every possibility and we took stabs at producing.
I liked the table under the skylight where the old cabin featured a
porch that eventually was closed in. The furniture was crafted by the
husband of a board member.
Sister Poet was in a slight Panic. Sister Artist said "been there done that." Both sisters stared like deer in headlights when asked to "share" our progress with the crew on site that evening. Ah, well, advised the elder, we share our conundrum, we throw it out to the universe of willing listeners and see what comes back.
And here is the glory of Azule: they understood. no judgement, no disappointment. A discussion of ways the project could go, a few "have you ever's," and much sympathy for the valley we were in. Along with a huge dose of faith that we would, we could, climb out!
The common room ready for relaxing, discussions, or reading from the
extensive library. The kitchen is communal and can be seen
behind the alcove with the round cut out.
Which is the pervasive attitude around Azule: it can and will be done. We were surrounded by interesting unfinished projects just waiting for the right crafts person to show up. Camille proudly showed us the difference in the work done by a "finish carpenter" who made amazing fits of things into odd places with an elegance befitting a five star hotel and then turned to contrast that with a woodworker who loved raw edges and did much interior siding which left the bark exposed with a rippled edge. Both gorgeous and somehow both appropriate side by side here.
Here you can get a sense of the creativity and whimsy of the place. Camille asked that this '47 Chevy be thrown in when they finally bought the place. She envisioned it as you see it now warding off any bad "ju ju" blowing in from "Troublesome Gap" off to the left.
She laughs that some large estates have magnificent rearing horse sculptures to do
the same thing but so far the Chevy has worked fine for Azule.
Camille is an inspirational jewel but she has gathered together an incredibly hard working and dedicated board of directors. We met several while there and they displayed no end of creative ingenuity in progressing the ideals of a gathering place for artists to nurture themselves and each other. The day before we departed a hearty group of Davidson University students were on site to learn the craft of stone walling. This eager bunch of laborers were not only building a retention wall for a camping site but they were learning how to move 60 and 80 pound boulders and lift them into place while chipping the smaller pieces to fit inside. Of course the stone mason was a friend of Azules who fed his hogs with the recycled food scraps saved from our kitchen. And who, BTW, will be teaching a fall class on how to slaughter, butcher and put up the hog. See how this works?
I hope this is not my last experience with Azule...it is nearly impossible to explain all it has to offer. Yes, the accommodations are "basic" and yes, you cook your own meals. But what a small price to pay for a lifetime of inspiration. Just email me your questions or go on-line if this tempts you in the least. I can assure you they would love to have you come be a part of what they are building.
Oh...and with a little bit of time and luck I hope to be sharing some fruits of our labors in the not too distance future!
Art Fully Yours,