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Blog / Nurturing Wellbeing Through Nature

Nurturing Wellbeing Through Nature

James Chitty’s Combine to Create residency began by looking at traditional making skills, the shoots of creativity that have germinated for many during lockdown and the natural environment as a resource for
perspective and wellbeing. In this blog, James reflects on his initial explorations into the themes underpinning his residency.

I’m excited about this Combine to Create residency working with people in Moray and exploring the role that making and creativity can play in our lives. Some themes that I am interested in hearing from people about are: identity and belonging, nets and networks.

Coming out of the last couple of years, how can we work together? What do we want to leave behind and what do we want to take forward?

I am beginning to explore and reflect on these through conversations and my first blog.

During the first few months of 2022 I see a shift in my Combine to Create residency from research and theoretical development into practical exploration of working with collaborators and aligning values and aims.

I have started public engagement activities through a trial beach art session and supporting Nature 4 Health on delivering the ‘Branching Out’ program.

For this salmon beach art session, I invited participants to step out of our normal routines and join a relaxed gathering of conversation and playful drawing on the beach using stencils, rakes, sticks and ropes. The activities provided a focus and a way to spend time together. 

We shared stories about salmon including the salmon of knowledge. We reflected on the significance of salmon to the people of the Moray firth from the Picts and through the ages, coming to the present day and challenges that the Atlantic salmon are currently facing. We experimented making fish shaped stencils from beech and willow, reflecting on the importance of the the riparian woods for successful spawning.

Having the time for thought, preparation and research over the previous months has helped develop open engagements that have produced unforeseen creative outcomes and connections. These are feeding directly into developing ideas with the collective for events during the festival and beyond.

Participants reflected that the session helped or supported them in a number of ways, including:

‘Helped me grow connections with folks I didn’t know so well.’
‘Supported me to reflect on my relationship with the wider ecosystems, history and culture we’re a part of here along the Moray Firth.’
‘I enjoyed the gentle pace & being outside.’
‘Overall experience of connectivity… with others, place and creativity.’ 
‘Perfect decompression after tricky times.’
‘I appreciated connection with others.’

I’m delighted, and at times slightly daunted, to find at this stage in my residency that there are a growing number of collaborators and participants who would like to be involved in future events.How can I retain the sense of connection, gentle exploration and safety?

I have found that being supported through the Combine to Create programme to work in new ways has helped me to push my comfort zone and bring personal meaning to my work. It is transformative to see how doing this consciously and with care has had an impact on others and what they have gained from participating.

About the Artist

James Chitty is a designer, maker and artist based in Moray.

James trained in Furniture Design at Edinburgh College of Art and Rhode Island School of Design. He has spent 20 years working in Scotland in furniture design, making, drawing, printmaking and on various collaborative construction projects, from traditional timber framing to boat building, with people and communities in Scotland and beyond.

James’ work brings people together. He is inspired by the satisfaction and meaning that people of all ages can derive from making, from shared experience and shared conversation.

Find out more about Combine to Create on the project page.

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