Tanya Shadrick, Bucks Mills Cabin

Artists' Cabin at Bucks Mills, North Devon

Perched above the sea in the ancient fishing hamlet of Bucks Mills, the Cabin was the studio and summer residence of painters Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards. More recently the Cabin has been used as a space for artist residencies, to keep this artistic heritage alive.

Writer and artist Tanya Shadrick grew up by the sea in North Devon, and has written on performance beside the UK’s oldest lido, Lake Geneva and Bude Sea Pool. As a former hospice lifestory scribe, Tanya weaves the stories of those who pass her by with thoughts on place, purpose and belonging.

What is your artistic inspiration?

The way I write — long hours at a low table in a fixed spot, usually outside and open to elements — is inspired by ancient Japanese haiku writers like Basho who wandered the countryside, collecting stories and sharing their words as they went. I work often on long paper scrolls so that my work is intriguing and inviting to those who encounter me.

What will you do during your residency at Bucks Mills Cabin?

I will be moving between books and poems set by the sea, my own thoughts about growing up on this coast, and the stories I collect from visitors. These words will be set out around me like a bird’s bower, inviting those who spend time with me to write as well: Here is a pen, I will say, and paper. Write me how it feels: Here, now. In this way, we will share a while in the peace, effort and concentration experienced by the Cabin’s former owners, Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards.

How has Bucks Mills Cabin inspired your work? What makes this place special?

The Cabin — like the tiny island on which the Moomin creator Tove Jansson and her partner lived and worked for decades — is a powerful symbol for me of female dedication to a simple life of creative practice and closeness to nature. I’ve had photos of the Cabin by my writing desk for years, so to be resident here myself is a heady feeling.

Are there any other National Trust places that have inspired you?

The life and works of Virginia Woolf are very important to me. When I left the North Devon coast for college a quarter century ago, I chose Sussex University partly because it was close to her beloved Downs and final home, Monks House at Rodmell. I spend many hours each year sitting quietly in the garden, enjoying Woolf’s descriptions of it in times of war and peace. I also enjoy peering into the tower writing room of her friend Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst Castle.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to write?

My travelling library of books on writing for wellbeing will be alongside me during my stay at the Cabin, and I will enjoy sharing them with visitors. For those who have never written for themselves before, I always suggest beginning with ‘Morning Pages’ — a practice of three quick sides of writing done daily on waking, first described by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones is another wise and kind classic that encourages us all to start making our mark.

Tanya Shadrick was Artist in Residence at Bucks Mills Cabin the week of Mon 6 - Sun 12 August 2018. 

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