Today’s podcast guest is Morwhenna Woolcock, the founder of The Creative Adventurer. Based in a little village between Bristol and Bath, Morwhenna helps people rediscover their creativity and sense of adventure for a richer life. She also works part time for a charity called Creative Works doing communications and marketing. In this episode we explore many of Morwhenna’s creative projects and how her health led her to rediscover her creativity in her 30s. She did this for herself, but then realised she could use all the things she learned in these projects to help other people.
What you will learn in this episode
- Morwhenna’s creative journey and major projects, including The UK Islands Project, Bags of Love for Bristol and the Forty-Forty Project
- Why health and adventure have been big inspirations for Morwhenna to rediscover her creativity
- How Morwhenna generates and keeps track of her many ideas
- Morwhenna’s favourite creative tools and resources
- The UK Islands Project
Morwhenna’s current creative project is the UK Islands project. She is visiting a different UK Island a month for 12 months, exploring how the different islands have inspired different creative people and then creating a piece of work herself in response to her experience of the island.
So far Morwhenna has been to the Isles of Portland, Sheppey, Scilly, Lundy and Skomer. She was inspired to go to Portland because of the stone used by Henry Moore and by Barbara Hepworth, as well as the book The Isle of Slingers by Thomas Hardy. Similarly, she was inspired to go to the Isle of Sheppey because Turner and Dickens were both inspired by the island.
Morwhenna says this project, much like many of her others, is about following the crumbs of curiosity and seeing where they lead. She goes to the islands to explore, meet up with local creative people, and collect resources for her to turn into an artwork afterwards. Sometimes she goes with other people, including her partner Richard, but other times she goes by herself. She says she notices more that way because she isn’t distracted by others.
In 2012, the first creative project Morwhenna did was as part of the 30 Day Challenge. She made 30 bags from recycled materials and screen printed them with the words ‘Do What You Love’. Then she left the bags around Bristol with instructions for people to send her a picture of themselves using them. She ended up with about 15 people return photos to her and she loved seeing the bags go on to have a life of their own and have adventures.
When Morwhenna turned 40 she ignored people telling her aging was terrible and decided it was an opportunity for a project. After starting with a list of hundreds, she whittled it down to a list of 40 things she’d like to do in the year of being 40 years old. However, as she was working through them she realised she didn’t want to rush them for the sake of cramming them into the year. The focus was on the experience more than the speed of it, so she decided to extend it to be ‘in the 40s’ to give her a full ten years to complete everything. So far she has completed about 25 of the items and all the information about it is on her website.
Other Creative Projects
The 30 Day Challenge was the catalyst for Morwhenna to start doing some of the projects she’d been thinking about for years but had never had the confidence to do. After Bags of Love for Bristol, she did a joint project with a photographer called Do What You Love, where they interviewed and photographed 10 people doing what they loved.
Then Morwhenna did a year without buying any new clothes, which she shared online and had people all around the world joining in. She was also involved indirectly with an exhibition about the history of women in textiles in St. Ives.
She has run some online workshops in conjunction with Jamie McDonald called Connect to Nature, Connect to Self which were basically creative adventures in nature to help people with inspiration, mindfulness, wellbeing and rediscovering their childlike wonder and curiosity. Morwhenna also has run an online course about doodling, which she is now turning into live, in-person workshops, as well as a retreat in Lundy Island inspired by the Famous Five books.
She also did a walk following in the footsteps of Saint Morwenna from Brecon Beacons in Cardiff to Morwenstow. This was something she’d had the idea to do 6 years prior to doing it, but with some physical challenges, it seemed for a long time impossible. However, Morwhenna found that once she committed to doing it, things started to happen. She says you never know where the things you do will end up. The Pilgrim Postcards project also started with that walking trip, and now she is also doing it in a slightly different form with the UK Islands Project.
Health, Adventure and Creativity
About 5 years ago, Morwhenna was quite poorly and was looking for ways to make herself better without having to rely on anti-depressant tablets. She felt she needed a way to look after herself and revisiting creativity really helped her. It then began developing into creating workshops to help other people do the same. All of Morwhenna’s creative projects involve nature in some way and often walking, which have also been shown to benefit people’s mental health. The three threads that run through everything she does are creativity, adventure and nature.
On the adventure side, Morwhenna had always wanted to go on a volunteer placement and specifically wanted something that would involve using art for wellbeing and mental health. She happened upon Art Relief International, based in Chang Mai, Thailand. She booked a trip to work for them and also started a whole lot of other related activities to fundraise for the trip. It’s only once she decided to take those steps that it all began to fall into place.
Generating and keeping track of ideas
For Morwhenna, ideas come from all over the place, including walking in nature, exploring places, reading books, looking at maps and going to 2nd hand book shops. She follows the crumbs of her interest, notices what sparks ideas and then does research and waits to see what happens.
With so many ideas and projects, Morwhenna does find keeping track of them difficult and it sometimes wears her out. She usually uses hand-written ways of keeping track of ideas rather than technological ways. Although she does keep notes on her phone she prefers to use notebooks, diaries and big whiteboard sheets stuck to the wall. Mind mapping has also been extremely useful for her and suggests dating the ideas when they come so you can keep track of it over time.
Reflection and quiet time are also very important for Morwhenna’s creative process. She tends to work in fits and starts, so it’s important that she work with that energy and allow for stillness so as to not wear herself out. Choosing which idea to go with used to be a sticking point for her but doing the 30 Day Project helped free her up form that so she could pick one and actually get on with doing the project.
Morwhenna’s favourite resources
Laura Hollick who does Intuitive Art
John Williams’ 30 Day Challenge and his book The Play Projects
Alistair Humphreys work on Micro Adventures
Danny Wallace’s books, including The Yes Man
Phoebe Smith wild camping extreme sleeping adventurer
Connect with Morwhenna
She has some upcoming events in September including a Creative Retreat and an online course called “How to be a Creative Adventurer”