A Doorway In
As I settled into my new routine, I began to explore the country, visiting Loch Lomond and the Hebrides, the Highlands and Orkney. While I felt such joy in each new place, I still had trouble connecting to the place-specific energy of the land. And so, I developed A Doorway In as a way to reflect upon my relation to this new place and also to experience more deeply the land around me.
My artistic background is primarily dance based. Therefore, I began by finding quiet places to improvise dance. This developed into a regular practice in which I would find small subtle ways to dance in new environments. I noticed that the movement was different in each place because I needed to respond differently to the landscape. This was my doorway into the energy of the land.
When I was not travelling, I began to explore different artforms as doorways inward. I began with my long-time fiber art practice, knitting, spinning and weaving. These are slow and methodical, therefore meditative, artforms and thus provided me with an opportunity to center and ground into my own energy. To this I added a new artform, sculpture. I picked this up in order to give form to the archetypal character, The Figure at the Gate, who stands at the entrance to ritual space and asks the participant to release all things but the true self before entering in. Working with the shaping of the clay and forming a relationship with each statue as my hands worked helped me to enact that letting go. Finally, I turned my focus to the processes of felting using locally sourced wool and naturally dying fabrics.
For the felting, I took inspiration from the waulking traditions of the Hebrides and created large felted wool pieces. For the natural dying, I used recycled materials and food scraps to impart designs and colors. These crafting traditions all felt like ties to the past, using slow processes and materials at hand to create lasting and useful works. Little has changed in the form and function of each tradition and the magic(k) associated with them over centuries of time. The process of creating something with the hands links the crafter with the creation and reflects the inner and outer landscapes experienced by the artist, making them tangible.
Into the felted pieces I incorporated the use of a symbol from Celtic stone carvings, the triskele, a three-armed spiral pattern. The triskele opened yet a deeper doorway into discovery of the land, bringing the practice full circle. One of the many modern mythological associations with the triskele is to the concept of the Three Realms of Celtic myth: Land, Sea and Sky. These are a form of the elements of life, most often seen as Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, also including the Spirit in many traditions. In the case of the Three Realms, they relate more specifically to the landscape of Britain and Ireland which is mountainous and windswept and high cliffs connect the sky and the sea to the land. The process can be used with any symbol but the use of the triskele which has more localized links allowed me to explore in a more connected way. I began to focus my improvisations on the connection to Land, Sea and Sky and I found within that practice my own link to the land and to myself.
After a year of this creative operation linked so closely with my spiritual practice, I began to notice the patterns of the year and the seasons and felt a deeper connection to the new place in which I found myself. The early stages of this project, as it is still ongoing, culminated in an exhibition of examples of work and videos of the improvisations in a gallery setting that I transformed for the purpose of ritual. Now the process continues and is likely to for a long time if not forever. Endlessly changeable, I have found this intention-driven practice of self-discovery through art to be a perfect way to create while looking both outward and inward seeking connection.
A Doorway In is an artistic ritual practice that developed from a long-term project in which my goal was to connect to the land through my spiritual practice of Paganism and magic(k). Having recently moved to Scotland from the United States and from rural to city living, I struggled to find satisfaction in a new and different landscape. As incredibly beautiful and exciting as I found my new surroundings, I had much more difficulty connecting with the unfamiliar land than I expected being that I wanted to live in Scotland for many years particularly for the landscape. Much of my eclectic spiritual practice was derived from the folklore that inhabits the area and I, mistakenly, believed that the transition from my old home to my new would be a simple and straightforward one. How wrong I was.
Christopher Croucher is an artist, dancer, and long-time practicing Pagan currently living and working in Massachusetts in the United States. Having lived in Scotland for an extended period and hoping to do so again, he is a recent graduate of the Master of Letters Program in the pathway of Performance during which he developed for himself the process presented in A Doorway In. With a background in classical and modern dance technique, fiber art and other eclectic media, and particularly in nature-based spirituality, Croucher’s artwork is an amalgam incorporating all of these in varying degrees to create experiences for the viewer. His aim is to make work that acts as a Doorway into…
To see more work and to contact the artist, Christopher can be reached at: