Tag Archives: Islay

Inspiration Monday: GalGael

GalGael carving ef

GalGael carver – I am mortified to think that I never got this lovely man’s name. But my talk with him will linger in my memory always.

Now, you’ve heard me banging on before, probably ad nauseum, about how CREATIVITY HEALS.

Now here is the proof.

GalGael is a charity which teaches people in difficulty ancient skills such as carving, boat-building, spinning and weaving, and by doing so, gives them a chance of a new start in life.

“We provide a space that serves as something of a safe harbour for those whose lives have been battered by storms such as worklessness, depression or addiction. “

So says their website, and I have seen the proof.

GalGael is supported by the whisky distillery Lagavulin on Islay, where we recently had our holiday, and I met some of the craftsmen and women they have trained there.  Producing beautiful carvings in the ancient styles of the Norse and Celtic races whose cultures come together in native Scottish arts, these men and women are making gorgeous, tactile and useful works of art, working with natural materials, getting in touch with their national cultural history, and and crafting new lives for themselves in the process.  Lagavulin supplies old wood from nolonger wanted casks, which GalGael make into covetable furniture and home goods.  Each item has its own charm and idiosyncracies, both from the craftsman who made it, and from the varied history of the wood itself.

I had the privilege of chatting at great length with one of GalGael’s fine representatives (pictured above), himself a survivor of the worst storms of life.  As we talked about the Celtic and Norse myths that lay behind his carving, and the pleasure of making something with one’s own hands, I learnt a lot about the personal story of this proud man, nolonger bowed by his suffering.  He attributed his renewed joy in life and self-respect to what he had learnt at GalGael, and I felt honoured and touched to have met him.

Handmade Scots artifacts reproduced by the craftsmen and women of GalGael.

Handmade Scots artifacts reproduced by the craftsmen and women of GalGael.

GalGael is living proof that creativity saves lives.   I’ve been through a few storms myself, and have learnt through practise that it really works, but nothing brought it home to me like seeing these wonderful people talking so enthusiastically about their work and how it had helped them survive the worst that life can fling.

If you are going through a storm yourself right now, I encourage you to have faith in some act of creation that you can undertake.  Make something, however simple.  It doesn’t matter if its not any good in your eyes.  We all have to start somewhere.  Try.  Practise.  Lose yourself in the flow of making.  In the Charm of Making.  And it will heal you.

You can learn more about the wonderful work this charity does through their website, where you can also buy their goods and make donations.  And you can get more inspiration for your own work from their creativity and their hope.

Happy Creating,

EF

 

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Landing

Yes, there really is a place called 'Rest and Be Thankful', and here's the proof!

Yes, there really is a place called ‘Rest and Be Thankful’, and here’s the proof!

We arrived back from Scotland on Monday after two days of driving, and I am still in the process of mentally ‘coming in to land’.  It was such a wonderful, liberating holiday in so many ways, challenging in others, and there is so much to process, emotionally and creatively.  I’ve come back with a notebook full of ideas and a To Do list the length of my arm.  Amazing how one place can change so much about the way you see the world.  Islay is like that, though.  Clean air, empty beaches, sumptuous seafood, rolling mountains, and kind, friendly people.

Port Ellen, Islay.

Port Ellen, Islay.

I made a conscious choice before I went away to see this holiday as a kind of ‘cleansing’.  I only packed two books, which is unheard-of for me, and made sure both of them could not on any level be seen as ‘work’ – Ben Aaronovitch’s latest novel, ‘Broken Homes‘, which was funny and clever and shocking, and a real comfort book, Hermione Lee’s biography of Virginia Woolf, which I find emormously inspiring.  Frankly, though, I had very little time to read because there was too much to do, and in between, so much wonderful time sitting staring into space and absorbing the fantastic scenery.   We watched no TV at all, barely caught the news (concentrating on weather forecasts instead), and only checked email occasionally by phone.  I took my laptop but hardly opened it (although I did gobble up this wonderful ‘Lewis’ fanfic.)

Husband and I also took the chance on the journey home to spend an evening sitting in a pub, kicking around ideas for new stories and non-fiction books we might tackle.  I love talking about ideas with him, hammering out plot twists and measuring the mileage in a story.  Sometimes there is nothng better than brainstorming with a fellow writer.

I’ve a million photos to sort through now I’m home too.  This holiday has really got me back in touch with my camera, and made me want to save my pennies for a decent DSLR instead of the temperamental compact digital camera I have now.  Its lovely to just ‘point and press’ sometimes, but other times, only a decent lens can capture and communicate the sheep epic landscape that surrounds you.  I promise to share more pictures with you as soon as I have organised them all.

Happy Creating,

EF

Scottish Sunshine

If you are wondering why things have been quiet here at Evenlodesfriend lately, its because I am soaking up the sun in Scotland while attending the Islay Whisky Festival.  Now, I don’t drink, but Husband’s ‘on the side’ business is in whisky, so its a bit of a work ‘jolly’.

Nevertheless, here I am on this beautiful island with a bunch of friends and a toddler, staying in a little house on the beach.  The weather is distinctly Un-Scottish.  In other words, 22 degrees most days, and lots of sun (and resulting sunburn).  The midges love it, but so do I.

Drawing in progess - the ruins of the summer castle of the Lords of the Isles, Lagavulin Bay.

Drawing in progess – the ruins of the summer castle of the Lords of the Isles, Lagavulin Bay.

One of the things that strikes me about being on holiday is the tendency to carry on the drive to stay busy that we bring with us.  I’ve been feeling a bit ‘If its Tuesday, it must be Caol Ila’, if you know what I mean.  We have been filling up the time with rushing around, doing the sights, and whilst this is to expected with a different distillery putting on events every day, there comes a point when you have to say:

I am on holiday and I want to stay still.

Even if its just for one day.

With a two-year-old in tow, its hard to make time to be still, but nap times help.  While she’s asleep, we can journal, draw, write, read, stare into space, go for a quick walk along the strand, or just doze.  Even so its easy to get sucked into the OUGHTS and SHOULDS when you only have a week to get around and see all the wonderful sights this island has to offer.

I have been rediscovering drawing and photography.  There is lots to take pictures of here, from the rock formations on the beach to the bleak mountains.

But today, I am staying still.  I am sitting on the bed with my laptop, staring out over the bay through the window.  From here I can see across Loch Indaal to Bowmore, where the distillery makes a solid white edge to the water, its name painted in huge black letters on the whitewashed sea wall of the bonded warehouse.  The sky is bright, the cloud high, and cows are ambling along the water’s edge.  I find it hard to write when I am away from home, but of all the places I could be, this seems pretty good right now.  And after all, I am on holiday…

If you are interested in knowing more about our whisky adventures, you can read about it all here.

(I’d upload dozens of fabulous photos of Islay here, but the broadband is iffy so I shall save that for another post.)

Happy Creating,

EF