"I was supposed to be in Canada now"… Those were my thoughts as I got off the plane at the tiny airport Stockholm Skavsta. I was terrified, but also excited - having no idea what I'm doing here or what Helsinglight really will be like. A few months before, while scrolling through facebook I found one of those sponsored adverts about an Alternative Artist in Residence, AAiR program. Normally I don’t even read these adverts, but this looked interesting to me. "Alternative Artist in Residence, somewhere in middle of Sweden, skulls, bones, nature, FX masks workshop", makeup artist.. This all sounded really interesting to me.
I sent the link forward to many of my friends who I thought might be interested too and I got some various answers like “too far away”, “no money”, “not time right now” or “my English isn’t good enough”, “maybe next year”. It disappointed me in ways to get these answers, but what about myself. Why shouldn’t I apply? I really couldn't stop thinking about it for two weeks. Finally I sent the application in on my own. I though; the worst case scenario will be that no one replies. But to my big surprise they did!
When I started talking with Petra Shara Stoor, (owner and project manager of Helsinglight AAiR) she invited me to come to Helsinglight to create and stay in residence and I just knew I needed to go there. With this all my plans turned upside down. At the moment I was working hard to get my work permit to go to Canada. I had just quit my job in England after 5 years, where the goal was to try to change my life for better. I am a firm believer in destiny so I made a decision - I will grab this chance and I will go to Sweden, to Helsinglight.
Three months later I sat in train taking me 2,5 hours somewhere up north from Stockholm, and I had no clue of what to expect...
I started by taking part of the 10-day silicone mask making workshop at Helsinglight FX
I started this experience and adventure at Helsinglight by joining the 10 day Silicone Mask Making Workshop that would be up and running prior to my stay in Residence. During the FX workshop our accommodation was in lovely tiny common dormitory where we slept in a house nearby with bunk beds. I said "slept" as we only slept there to be hones. We spent whole days and long hours at Helsinglight doing amazing, creative stuff (expect one free day which we spent in Sundsvall walking). To be honest, every free second we spent exploring the fantastic and magical surroundings of the old school house where Helsinglight is.
In the workshop there was people from France, Irland and other parts of Sweden, and I myself from Poland, but the cultural differences did not divide us, on the contrary they united us and encouraged long talks about our countries and cultures. We've worked a together a lot during the workshop and work wasn't easy. A lot of different stages to go through when creating a mask from start to finish in silicone. Anyway, Petra was able to explain difficult issues many times. After 10 days, 6 amazing, sensational masks were created. I was so happy and proud of all of us. Professional photoshoots with our finished masks and creatures we had created and all of this was more fun than I even expected.
To summarize this 10-day silicone mask making workshop - it is money well spent! A lot of information, inspiration and good vibes. Professionalism, knowledge, patience, talent, commitment are just a scrap of Petra's advantages ! I never basically thought I could do a professional silicone mask on my own. From beginning to the end. This without loosing loads of money for materials during years of error if trying it out myself. That’s simply amazing! Of course there was hard physical work. But we all managed to complete our masks and I think the whole group went back home with such cool mask and happy with results. When the workshop ended it was really hard to say goodbye to all my new friends.
Then started my journey as an artist in residence at Helsinglight - AAiR
After the 10-day workshop I was supposed to stay in Helsinglight Alternative Artists Residence, but the plan changed a bit with regards to accommodation, but hey, life would be boring if everything would go according to plan, right? ;) Unfortunately the residence wasn't ready to live in due to few things that we did not have any influence on. But all in all I was absolutely happy to see the residence at this stage in the very beginning. For example, I could participate in choosing the color of the wallpaper! It might sound a bit silly, but I believe, or I just know that place will be (already is) a heaven for alternative artists. And I was the first one to witness and be part of the creation of something amazing! There are so many residence programs for landscape painters, sculptors etc. But this is finally something different, for other artists!
Since the artist apartment wasn’t ready I had a choice to stay still in same dormitory or sleep in Petra's and Fredriks house. I chose the second option and don't regret it even for a minute. To be honest at this point I still didn't know what to expect from AAiR program. I travelled there with clear mind, open for new experiences. In my application I showed some of my works in the field of Kustom art. Mostly I'm doing some pinstriping, automotive and low brow art. But due to airlines terms and conditions I couldn't take my paints on board. So I decide to prepare some epoxy eyeballs at home and go spontaneous with the flow of this place. In the end I decide to sculpt real size eagle owl using chavant clay.
I noticed that youngest member of Helsinglight team - LIV - love owls. So I just couldn't choose otherwise. I could immediately imagine an owl in these interiors. During the days my owl turned into fantasy owl creation (as this place is too magical to do a simple owl - I though). My fantasy owl was given the name “Gilbert”, as people were choosing the name for him on Facebook. I decided to give him horns, as if he likes to get up to mischief. He also got big ears - as he need to hear everything to be there first. I wanted him to have a skull on his chest - because of how much I like Petra's skulls and bones artworks. So he needed to fit in to House of Helsinglight.
Petra helped me with the mold making in silicone so that the owl could be casted in stone and I was really happy with the result. Even when the sculpture came out just pure white in stone. But thats the magic of silicone molds and mold making, we’ve got a great mold so that we can cast few more and paint every single one of them differently. I learned so much there!
So I've did what I planned. I did something cool for this amazing place, but you know what? Helsinglight has something what cannot be described. You have to experience it yourself. You can work, and work and work more and you dont feel hungry, tired, bored.. You can talk, and talk, and forget about the rest of the world - while planning amazing artworks, and then start creating them the same day. Workshops here are amazing! Try to imagine place where when you have some new idea - you can make it real straight away! Sound cool doesn''t it? So that's House of Helsinglight.
I also took part in the creative process of Gunnar The Goblin
Between doing my fantasy owl we also did quite few different cool projects together. Our conversations was bringing constantly new ideas, and there was no limits in our brainstorming! Workshop shelves was full of top notch materials which I could buy in really fair prices and just work, create and go crazy! I also helped out a bit with the creation of the amazing creature “Gunnar the Goblin” which I could watch turn to life almost from the beginning. I also helped out during brainstorming about him. I created some details for him and I even made his lantern, which I made using 100 year old broken window from the House of Helsinglight building.
I also assisted Petra with the photoshoot of Gunnar. Imagine seeing two girls with a 40 kg goblin walking along the road and through the forests near Helsinglight. <3 These are unforgettable moments. Helsinglight was also taking photo documentation all the time of my work, that makes me really happy as normally I have no photos of me working. I also noticed that so many people in the internet was following us. Waiting for results, asking questions. So great.
I also got the opportunity to assist Petra during a few days when one really talented 10 years old student Edwin worked with us for one day as he was creating his own cosplay costume for a festival. That's something we don't have in my country where students gets to visit workplaces and practice work. Edwin was so brave and doing so well. I was very impressed.
The organizers of Helsinglight made every effort to make my stay one awesome artistic blast. I meet their friends who has moved there from different parts of Europe to stay, do art and enjoy this awesome place on earth.
Horse riding - we hardly found time for this in this artistic storm - but we managed to go out one day and it was something unforgettable. Not just because of that indescribable contact with Icelandic horses (I fell in love with them) but as well for exploring so many kilometers through forests and hills. Fresh air, amazing views (and they told me I didn't even get to see the best spots! )
A month at Helsinglight felt like 3 days
I stayed a month all in all at Helsinglight and during this month I also got to experience 3 seasons! I arrived in May but it felt like autumn, then all the suddenly it was snowing, but in the end I couldn't keep up with washing shirts, it was so hot, sunny and such a beautiful spring.
I just need to say that - I love to travel, I travel a lot, but I never feel as good as in Hälsingland. I don't exactly know why - maybe it’s something in the air? But during this month, two people told me that they felt exactly the same, so there must be something to it. Maybe it’s the place. Just imagine this huge old school in the middle of a tiny village, just next toa beautiful forest with tiny glades full of white flowers. Bigger and smaller lakes near by. A little stream with and old forgotten mill nearby. This place is like a blast of inspiration. Loads of spots ready for fantasy, nostalgic, dark, misterious, or fairy photoshoots. Whatever you want! And that building on it own - pure magic. Im not surprise Petra and Fredrik fell in love with it straight away.
For example there is one room where every door is different size, that's so cool - I imagine and saw straight away how a bunny, like from Alice in Wonderland running along the wall with his tiny clock, entering a tiny door carved in wood.
Well I won't deny that I travelled to Helsinglight with lots of Swedish detective stories watched and read. (By the way, if someone has been watching "Der Chinese", then House of Helsinglight is very close to Hudiksvall) So with this in mind I thought I might feel some anxiety here. But only I felt there was inspiration. I still have my head full of inspiration and notes about what I want to do there in future if I get to visit again). Many times I imagined kids who were studying there in the old days when it used to be a school, running on the stairs next to those amazing big old anatomy posters on the staircase. Such kind of good energy is there.
What was the biggest impact of my stay at Helsinglight?
Petra asked me what the biggest impact was of my stay at Helsinglight. And that was a hard question to answer. But I think I know the answer now - It’s all the POSSIBILITIES of this place. That's just beginning of this story, but I see this place now straight away how it will be a few years from now. I know how I felt spending this month working and taking part of one workshop with Petra, and other artists who was taking part of the workshop. Discussions, exchange of experiences, hints and tips were invaluable. So I can only imagine, what it will be when more artists will meet, create and collaborate there. From different areas of art. For example - Makeup artists, mask makers, costume creators, great dancers and musicians, mapping pros and maybe some scene artist or writer. All of them in amazing building together in the middle of the forest creating something incredible. Just WOW.
I highly recommend this AAiR experience to everyone who love doing art in every meaning, meet new people, learn new things, looking for themselves and those who are open for collaborations, who want to be part of something unique. Just apply and see what happens. The only obstacle during my stay was time .....time flows incredibly fast at Helsinglight! The entire month flew by what felt like three days.. and I feel like I know these people as if I have known them for my entire life. So many ideas were born, so many words were told, so many laughs was shared.
Sometimes it's worth to trust your intuition and get carried away by fate. So don't be scared! I don't regret any minute of my journey. I feel that it wasn't just one month adventure - but also the beginning of something very special. I feel that this experience has changed me forever. I met amazing artists full of passion and with similar (but so different) view of the world. We understood each other without words. And all of it made me want to pack my bags and return to Sweden asap and create more and more. So Helsinglight - if you have got some more creative projects for me - just let me know. I will just change my shoes and I'm there in no time ;)
And think.. I was supposed to be in Canada now...
AMFIRIA - SOCIAL CHANNELS
HELSINGLIGHT AAiR - ALTERNATIVE ARTIST IN RESIDENCE IS SUPPORTED BY KULTURBRYGGAN
*Kulturbryggan (Kulturbryggan is an alternative financier which, by allocating grants to projects, will promote renewal and development in the cultural area throughout the country)