Gillie + Millie: Text Workshop Weekend

UKnadian - TextWW - Gillie + Millie      I have to start this post by saying that I love my Mum. So, so much. Not only is she an incredible physiologist and scientist who writes guidelines for ethical and humane treatment of animals in Canada, she’s also a published poet who has a sensitive and unique artistic voice. Her book of poems ‘Warm Bodies, Foreign Parts’ was published in 1994 – the year we moved from the UK to Canada. This piece of work has always inspired me, and helped me gain deeper knowledge of our life in the UK, of myself, my mother and her parents, and of my father and my Baba.

When I was dreaming up this project I knew that I would be including stories from my family and wanted to make sure I honour them throughout this project. I approached my Mum to see if she would be interested in collaborating with me for the text portion of UKnadian. Having my Mum agree to be part of the process, and re-work/re-imagine her poems is a huge honour and I’m grateful for to her for agreeing to be a part of my work. I am already loving this mother-daughter collaboration – it feels right!

To catch you up, over the past while I have gathered select poems, and other text that relates to the work. I have had it in studio with me as inspiration and some level of guidance. My Mum has also been gathering some material that inspires her, or helps her understand the themes. It’s a lot of material to navigate, but each piece speaks to different parts of the process. These texts are:

  • Select poems from ‘Warm Bodies, Foreign Parts’
  • Excerpts from my Great-grandmother’s 1920’s publication of ‘Housewife’s Handybook’ (which I find problematic and hilarious in equal measure)
  • The eulogy speech I gave at my Gran’s funeral this past November
  • Love letters between my Baba Kateryna Woywitka and Grandfather Gilbert Griffin just after they had fallen in love
  • ‘Honey and Ashes’ memoir by Janice Kulyk Keefer on her Ukrainian/Canadian family and identity
  • Letters and recipes from my Gran
  • A wee bit of text on ‘Things That I Know’ that I wrote for the work.

To help navigate the development and integration of these texts into UKnadian, Mum and I got together for a Workshop Weekend/Artist Retreat at her home in Wakefield to share these texts, examine them together, and whittle them down to excerpts that relate to UKnadian. We started by identifying and defining the themes related to this work:UKnadian - TextWW - Themes

From there, we brought the themes together into four overhead thematic categories; Ethereal, Landscape, Culture, and People. We then assigned each wrote underneath which text belonged to which thematic category:

UKnadian - TextWW - Themes + Content

It felt so good to make some headway on this, and really see the text start to have the beginnings of a structure and connection to the movement work I’ve been creating. For now, Mum will work on bringing these texts together to create a first draft of text for the piece. I’m so looking forward to seeing how her beautiful mind and soul connects these ideas.

I have to say that at the end of this weekend I was so much more encouraged by my decision to do this piece, and deeply thrilled to include my Mum in my work. It is a true honour! We so enjoyed our time together, and I look forward to sharing more text-related developments with you. For now, I will leave you with a couple of pictures from our Workshop Weekend/Artist Retreat of the main road in Wakefield – the sun was out, we were making good headway on the work, and went to grab mushroom croissants in the village. I think it represents the productive weekend we had working together, and a promise of beautiful things to come. We’re on the road to more great collaborations for UKnadian 🙂

With love, Amelia


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