Wild Twins

A unique course for writers and artists at the edge of Europe
Sherkin Island, West Cork, Ireland. 5 – 11 May 2018

Eight writers. Eight artists. Two teachers. Five days. A wild Irish island. Making ink, pens, books and paints by hand from natural materials. Responding to the sea, the wind, the land and each other. Stories by the fire. Good food and company. Wild Twins is a unique course designed to offer all this and, who knows, perhaps more.

This five day course is designed to offer new challenges to both writers and artists. We will give you permission to uncivilise your writing and art, listen to what the winds, the waves and the hedgerows have to say to you and rediscover the wild fire that lies beneath your practice. Whether you are an experienced writer or artist or a beginner, Wild Twins aims to help you step out of your comfort zone, into a place where wilder spirits roam. What will you find there – and what will you come back with?

Taught by award-winning novelist Paul Kingsnorth and artist Caroline Ross, who specialises in creating ancient art materials from the ground beneath our feet, Wild Twins is a course which will twin writers with artists, allowing them to respond to each others’ work and that of the wild land in which the course takes place. All materials, for both writers and artists, will be made by hand. Tasks and exercises, hours wandering on the beaches and down the lanes of this remote Irish island, time with teachers and with each other, and much more will all serve to rewild your writing and art.

The week

The word and the image: the told and the seen, the written and the drawn: this week we will be uniting these wild twins. Modern publishing deems them unsuitable company for adults, and often only children get the joy of seeing books where word and image run wild together, build dens and set things on fire, in the mind and in the eyes.

At the heart of the week will be the making of our own materials. During this course we will boil up oak gall ink, cut quills into pens and brushes, create books to draw or write in, grind and mull pigments and make paints, make marks with chalk dug up for us by badgers or left on the shore by the waves. We will make charcoal and tell stories around the fire as we do so. We will use bright ochres and madder rose to create paints with which to makes studies of the red flower, the lichen, or the heart of things. You will learn how to make everything you need to write or draw your own wildness, and respond to nature with what can be foraged, found, remade and transformed by simple means.

‘You will hear sounds that are almost extinct; the many-quilled scratch of the scriptorium, the pulsing whisper of muller and pigment on the slab.’

Artists will draw out the images from writers’ work; writers will distil words from the images of artists. Both will spend much time outside, tasked with paying close attention to what the natural world has to say. Everyone will go home with many new ancient materials – ink, paint, pens, brushes, and the knowledge of how to make them, to be able to improvise, wherever you are.

Through absorption and making, writing, story, and a sustained quality of attention, we will aim to re-incorporate the non-human world into your words or images, and to make your work live in a wilder dimension. If you’re lucky, nothing will seem quite the same again …

The Venue

The venue for the course is Sherkin North Shore, on Sherkin Island – a small, remote centre on the very edge of one of the legendary islands of West Cork, surrounded by rugged sea rocks, white sand beaches, fields and ancient ruins. Sherkin is comfortable but basic. You’ll be sleeping in bunk rooms, and wifi will not be on tap. But there’ll be great food in the evenings, outdoor fires if the weather holds, a convivial atmosphere, perhaps a visit or two to the island pub for a music session, and the chance to mingle with other writers and artists in one of the most beautiful spots in the west of Ireland.

The Teachers

Paul Kingsnorth is an award-winning novelist, poet and essayist. He has published seven books, taking in fiction, non-fiction and poetry, with a wide array of publishers. He has won, or been nominated for, ten different prizes for his fiction, poetry and essays, ranging from the Man Booker Prize to the Wenlock Prize for Poetry. He has taught on writing courses, mentored writers and lectured on writing for – amongst others – the Arvon Foundation, the Faber Academy, the Professional Writing Academy, Schumacher College, the Westcountry School of Myth and Story, and Falmouth University, and has run writing and story courses in places as varied as the wilds of Dartmoor and the heart of New York City. From 2009 until 2017 he was co-founder and co-director of the Dark Mountain Project, a global network of writers and artists in search of new stories for troubled times.

Caroline Ross  trained in art at Bournemouth College of Art and Design, Kingston University and finally Chelsea School of Art for her MA. Dismayed by the art scene which she was part of, from 1997-2015 she concentrated on drawing, making, learning earth skills, and researching ancient techniques and traditional art materials, particularly pre-Norman inks, tools and pigments. During this time and since she has taught life drawing, painting, materials and crafts widely to people of all ages. In 2017 she collaborated with Paul on an illustrated version of his novel The Wake. Eschewing modern plastics and disposable tools, she now makes all her materials by hand from raw materials which she forages and collects in the wild, whenever possible. Her latest commission is ten original illustrations for the new Dark Mountain book Sanctum.

Places on this course are strictly limited, and will operate on a first-come-first-served basis. Click here to reserve a place.