Week One at Akademie Schloss Solitude: Creating the mahoul

Last week, I began what promises to be one of my most interesting artistic adventures yet -- a writing residency at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany. The Akademie is located in an 18th century hunting castle on the outskirts of Stuttgart, and I am here alongside artists from around the world -- writers, painters, filmmakers, musicians, performing artists, web-based artists, architects, and more -- for 6 months of silence, community, conversation, and hopefully lots of new writing. I have never before taken 6 months, or anything more than a month, really, to just focus on being an artist, so this prospect is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. But mostly, very exciting. One of my goals during this period is to maintain a weekly blog to reflect on my artistic process as well as my time in this campus/ city/ country/ continent. In the past, I have often wished I had documented some of my journeys better, because even though I keep up my daily journaling and my nightly gratitude log while I'm away from home, those tend to reflect mostly my inner neuroses, dreams, and joys, and very little of the externals worlds I pass through. I am hoping that the public-private nature of a blog will allow me to do a little of the latter. It is also, of course, just a great way for me to stay in touch with folks in faraway homes who might want glimpses into my life here.

So, I completed my first week at Solitude yesterday, and I am finally settled in to my studio apartment here. I grew up with an architect mother, and I inherited some of her passions about space and how one shapes it. While a lot of kids dream of the big mansions that they will one day live in, twelve-year-old me wanted nothing more than to one day have a studio apartment. There was something about the particular challenges of one large space that needed to br broken up into sleep/ work/ hang out/ cook spaces without any walls that particularly interested me. I had forgotten this part of myself until I landed here into what initially felt like a too-large, too-grey room for cosiness.

Over my first three days here, I did not unpack my suitcase because i wanted the furniture to remain light enough to move around over and over. Despite a significant limp thanks to a corn that has been bothering me for months now, I managed to move all my furniture around, closets and bookshelves included, three times before i found the version I was satisfied with -- a small table by a window in one corner for work, a larger architect-style table by my bed that doubles up as a nightstand and a space to sketch or do other larger work, another single bed dragged across the room under another window and covered with a colourful bedspread to create a home-like divan, a lovely armchair pulled next to it for a seating L, a third desk dragged into my kitchenette for counter space, and closets and bookshelves sitting around it. Then, the colour: little colourful postcards to brighten up overwhelmingly grey closets, a tiny rug to tie the seating L into one space, a collage of photos from home to brighten up the wall near my bed, fairy lights over one window, lovely little ceramic ware from the local flea market, and a bright red dupatta over one window to soften the grey light of German winters. Finally putting up binder clips on the wall with adhesive putty so that i can clip papers up as needed without worrying about bulletin boards, and then two large sheets of chart paper on the wall next to it because i brainstorm better standing up than sitting down. A little plushie of my favourite cartoon character, handmade mugs I brought from my studio in India, and a colourful Rajasthani mobile later, this room finally feels like me. Now I can get to work here!

I think this sounds like an excessive amount of time and energy spent decorating to some people, but I am becoming more and more aware that this is part of my artistic process -- creating spaces that welcome me, that reassure me, that encourage me. Add in the soft strains of Shiv Kumar Sharma playing on my portable speakers and lavender-grapefruit oil burning in the ceramic essential oil burner i found at the flea market, and I am immediately more energetic, more present, more able to create. Here's to the next twenty three weeks of creating now :)