By Lucy Tipper
Lucy is an illustrator from Hampshire and shares her journey of grief and loss into creativity and nature when connecting with Embercombe’s land on The Journey.
It was grief that brought me to the gates of Embercombe, a catalogue of tragic events that saw my life crumble around my ears. Grief had wiped my slate clean, although my creativity had helped to heal the pain I wanted to be sure that everything that went back into this new ‘normal’ felt aligned to the right path. I was in need of something nourishing, a way to know I still belonged here and there was a ‘me’ shaped space in the world that I could thrive from.
I heard about Embercombe through the work of its founder Mac Macartney. Immediately I was drawn to their self development programme, The Journey. The Journey aims to address 3 questions…
- What is it that I most deeply love?
- What are my most profound gifts?
- What are my most important responsibilities?
When I first read these questions I was struck by just how impossible I thought they were for me to answer. I had no idea what I truly loved and I knew for sure that I had no gifts at all let alone profound ones. On the flip side it felt like I had so many responsibilities that I didn’t know where to start. It was at that moment, reading those potent questions that The Journey started to change me.
I had no idea what to expect from my time at Embercombe, however those details were never important to me. I didn’t need to know the itinerary. But what I really hadn’t appreciated was that not knowing would be absolutely key to its unfolding magic.
To be truly honest and to set the scene clearly here, I had never been more afraid! I don’t go to places like this, people like me don’t get to go to courses to find themselves, I’m a Mum, that’s my job, to look after everyone. I don’t travel out into life, I stay where everyone needs me. Five days to myself seemed ludicrous on every level but somehow I was doing it anyway, the draw was so strong.
So I found myself arriving on this precious land, I had never been so far away, but never have I felt so very much at home. The welcoming of the staff and supporting back-row blew me away from the moment I was met at the door. The holding, the care and attention to detail, it just allowed me to unravel wide open. Everything was thought of, offered up and encouraged with such honesty and beauty that I was left feeling massively empowered and deeply planted on my path.
Embercombe caught my tears and grew my widest smiles. Her night was deeply dark and yet she fed me the brightest bravery I have ever known. Her holding taught me so much about my own darkness and capacity to be strong, fearless and unbounded on my path through life. It has been quite a few months since I finished The Journey but her affect does not leave you when your body pulls away from that sacred land, oh no, she has wrapped her root tips around your viscera, her touch stays warm on your skin, she continues to grow you strong, confident and at peace in the leadership of your own life. You are left in no doubt that you are loved and you are welcome to take a place at the table of your own life, ready to make a difference in the world.
I am a Botanical Contact Printer and artist. I see every landscape as a chance to channel a story onto paper. I couldn’t leave Embercombe without translating some of her beautiful stories into art.
My process began by collecting plant material from the landscape, listening carefully to what wants to be added and sensitively collecting leaves, bark and stone. At Embercombe I collected from all over the site, including plants from the table decorations of our final meal together on The Journey.
I drew water from Embercombe’s beautiful well before departing on my train home. In the days afterwards I laid the plant material on cotton rag paper and began to make bundles of plant materials. The bundles are placed into my cauldron to boil in the water I had collected from the land.
After spending a few days brewing and boiling the paper it is unpacked to see what plant stains remain. I take time to look deeply into what marks have appeared and paint the images I can see using natural mineral pigments and watercolours. This was a slow digesting for Embercombe, so wide was her wisdom it took me time to consolidate and settle into the images. I still have many more to paint and I cannot wait for a chance to return to create many more.
My creative process helped me to integrate my own experience at Embercombe. This piece aims to show a deeply entwined relationship with the landscape, the many creatures I spoke to while I was there and the gifts I left with which are still unravelling many months later.
Never have I met a landscape through my art that has so many important stories to tell, so many people had whispered their hearts to her that I could honestly make art at Embercombe every day and still find inspiration. I felt so privileged to translate her tales onto paper. She holds so many stories, so much knowledge and the most important healing.