28 days of pure magic

Written by Anne Stillwell


How do you summarize 28 days of pure magic?

From May 19th to June 16th of Spring 2021 I experienced the Kingsbrae International Residency of the Arts (KIRA) in Saint Andrews New Brunswick. The pandemic hijacked our original arrival but even with an extra year to prepare, I had no idea just how life changing these four weeks would be.

I stayed in the historic KIRA estate with four other New Brunswick artists, each provided with their own independent studios and full access to the 27-acre Kingsbrae Gardens hosting over 30 masterfully themed gardens.

Throughout my time, I photographed years of content, worked out my racing thoughts through energetic drawings, played with various inks and paper that fulfilled my eager printmaking heart, carved my face off and took on projects way bigger than I would normally consider sane.”

As an emerging, self-taught printmaker deeply inspired by nature, my goal over the next month was to explore as much as I possibly could. Free from restraints or distractions and focus solely on my growth. I thrive during Spring as the flowers begin their cycle, and I knew KIRA was the absolute perfect place for me. My biggest intention was to test and study printmaking materials so I could develop a thorough foundation for my future work. Evaluating paper, fabric, inks, and blocks for texture, absorbency, dry time, contrasts of colors and all the surprises along the way. Residencies are a gift of time more than anything and I couldn’t bear to waste any of it.

It didn’t take long to build a routine, but it took time to realize it wasn’t a dream, genuinely feeling like we were living on another planet, isolated far from reality. The gardens were the most intensely impactful. Spring flower buds have a pull on me unlike anything else. The early growth cycle, containing complex and mind-blowingly perfect natural gems patiently waiting to blossom. I wanted to memorize every detail and be a part of the daily transformations, taking note of the speed of change. Observe, absorb, and evaluate. Each day I hopped along through every garden, being sure to never miss a single corner. First was the sculpture garden, checking progress on the lupins and irises. Then a long visit with the Galaxy Magnolia Tree, studying her curves closely. On through to the perennial garden with the sea of Snake Head Lilies. Breathing deep through the apple orchard and strolling slowly through the buzzing Rhododendron path. Looping back around through the secret garden where the Japanese Cherry Tree hid away, leading into the quiet forest trails. Each day I noted the progress, anxiously waiting for blooms and feeling the urgency as others were already nearing the end of their cycle. I had seemingly endless time on my hands, yet not enough to possibly capture everything I wanted.

Imagery in my artwork carries a theme of nature that I can’t stray away from. It is my attempt at freezing time and slowing those fleeting moments of magic. It’s within my ability to pause where I need to, savoring all that passes me by too quickly. The vibrancy of florals in real life is so flawless it’s something I have no interest in competing with. Instead, I strip it down, simplifying through striking positive and negative space, focusing on the shapes, lines, curves and patterns.

Throughout my time, I photographed years of content, worked out my racing thoughts through energetic drawings, played with various inks and paper that fulfilled my eager printmaking heart, carved my face off and took on projects way bigger than I would normally consider sane.

Four flowers made it to print, each with their own purpose and each with a piece of my heart. The Allium-Ornamental Onion was the stepping off point, the delicate paper housing and testing what was to come. The Sandow Apple Blossoms showcasing their abilities to transform and challenge me to evolve. The Fritillaria – Snake’s Head Lily bursting with energy and passion. Finally, the Galaxy Magnolias, circling back to my first focus and everlasting awe.

Each 5 am sunrise, 6 am bike ride, shared morning teas, studio visits, lunches by the ocean, garden walks, evening porch poetry and countless adventures with my fellow artists balanced me more than my intended solitude. Our Artistic Director Geoff Slater’s wise words echoed from day 1– we are all storytellers; our day-to-day experiences are input, and the act of creation is output. Every single moment of this residency is banked and cherished and will infinitely affect my output.

I deeply thank artsnb for the funding of this project through the Career Development- Artist in Residence Grant. I am forever grateful to Kingsbrae Founder, Lucinda Flemer, for the opportunity to participate in the residency. Geoff Slater for the overwhelming support and encouragement and I am so proud to share this experience with my fellow artists in residence, Kaitlin Hoyt, Chantal Polchies, Dan Xu, and Roger Moore. I was able to walk away fulfilled beyond my wildest dreams.

Anne Stillwell is a multidisciplinary artist located in Keswick Ridge, New Brunswick, with a focus on linoleum block printing. Her influences are rooted deep to her connection with her hometown and surrounding New Brunswick nature. Her work calls attention to the simplicity yet complex beauty and shape found in nature. Anne is not confined to one medium, rather merging her knowledge across many forms. Her work presents itself through printmaking, jewelry, ceramics, and oil painting, to name a few.

She graduated from the Foundation Visual Arts program at the NBCCD in 2018 although is largely self-taught in her disciplines. Anne is a recipient of two artsnb grants; Arts Infrastructure (2020) and Career Development: Artist in Residence (2021). She currently operates her home-based practice, Ridge Works Studio, participating in numerous artisans’ shows around New Brunswick and showcasing her work online.

Stay up to date with Anne’s practice on social media and on her website:

Instagram: @ridgeworks.studio 

Facebook: @kimannestillwell 

Website:  https://www.ridgeworksstudio.com/

Watch this video about Anne’s residency at KIRA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxG6uKEeolM


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