Rugged Solitude

lighthouse at Lybster Harbor
Lighthouse, Lybster Harbor
In the summer of 2017 and again in 2019, I was fortunate enough to spend time at North Lands Creative with 14 other glass artists. North Lands Creative is a glass studio in the small village of Lybster, on the east coast of Caithness in northern Scotland. At the feet of this quiet village lies the North Sea. On a clear day, you can look across the water and barely make out wind turbines and oil platforms on the horizon. These mirages in the distance hint at the stark contrast between Lybster's quiet harbor and the industrialization of what is recognized to be, at times, one of our most unforgiving natural environments.

While I was at a glass studio with glass artists, my time at North Lands was not about "making glass", but about trying to understand who I am as an artist. Our days were filled with creative exercises and  presentations; field trips to ancient cairns, churches, and castles; shared meals, shared tears, and shared dreams. Like the contrast of Lybster and its sea, it was a time of closeness, as well as a time of quiet inner reflection.

rocky beach of Lybster Harbor
Lybster Harbor
When I think about North Lands, I think about the warm welcome from people in the village, the amazing staff at the studio, my fellow artists, and the women who fed me crab rolls and tea for lunch at the Waterlines cafe (almost daily!). I think about the gravel shortcut to the harbor and the old wooden boat along that path, the view of the Caithness coast from a boat, and the steep steps down to Shelligoe beach. I think about my last day in Lybster, sitting on the rocky shore of the harbor, sketching while the tide slowly crept to my feet. I think about returning to the harbor that same evening before our closing dinner, for one last look at the sea.

I have just started down the path of learning what I want from my art and, as the cliche goes,"finding my artistic voice". I suppose it is something that you never really figure out, because if you do, what then? I think creativity is truly about the journey, not the destination.

After my last trip to Lybster, someone asked me what I liked about it so much. I thought for a moment and then answered, "The rugged solitude". While I don't know where my journey will lead me, I have a feeling I'll find my way back again to that quiet harbor on the sea.

Until then, Dana

"Selfie" outside the North Lands Studio

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