A Natural Part of the Journey

Last week I visited 2 naturist clubs in the heart of the rich south of this land. One was a site visit for Sex Maniacs’ Ball, and then a few of us went to a sexual energy channelling workshop at another club down the road. It was all in the spirit of the Ball, because amongst other naturist activities will be an energy healing workshop and we were being briefed in how to help facilitate. No private parts are touched, but the power of the sexually focussed reiki can be such that participants are brought to orgasm. Personally I experienced a very pleasant euphoria, but I guess it all depends on who you are with. Both clubs had a very open, sexy vibe, most fitting for the mission.

Last month I was invited to model at Naturist Foundation, also in Kent, which is a more regular naturist resort. They have a life drawing group amongst other art clubs, and the organiser knew me from a class in Sidcup where I model. He picked me up at Orpington station and drove us to the club. As soon as he parked inside the grounds, he stripped off to acclimatise; I didn’t feel quite ready. It was a fairly mild day, and once we had been to the cafe and had a coffee and sandwich, said hello to quite a few people, I felt adjusted. I shed all other items, and just draped a shawl over my shoulders whilst being given a tour. It is quite a large space, with woodland and different camping and games areas. Children and teenagers were present though not nude like the older folks. I posed outdoors for the second time this year, and enjoyed it more than the first for the liberation of artists also naked. It was a special occasion as normally they take turns to draw each other. Nudity no problem, they some of them struggle with finding interesting poses. I said next time I’d give them a lesson, maybe get some group poses going on. After the session I swum in the warm pool. I don’t remember swimming nude in such relaxed setting before.

Posing in a garden in South East London, a warm evening and a red shawl. Pastel by Arnie

Posing in a garden in South East London, a warm evening and a red shawl. Pastel by Arnie

Scenery at Naturist Foundation where I posed outdoors

Scenery at Naturist Foundation where I posed outdoors

perching

perching

the red shawl (from my Grand Father) is popular this Summer

the red shawl (from my Grand Father) is popular this Summer

In Scotland we exalted in student digs, right in the middle of Edinburgh. Noisy, cheap, no frills but what we needed. A bust tyre on our journey down slowed our progress to Glasgow the next day, but we got to All The Young Nudes just in time. We had trouble finding the venue once we had parked and found the street. We asked an Italian for directions and she told us “It is down a very nasty alley”. Every corner led to a nasty alley and on we shrugged till we reached the last corner. A sign on the main road told us to go round the back. Right at the back and down into the depths of some cave of a club, nothing much to look at, but that seemed to be the way with Glasgow. Inside they were waiting, keeping the artists out till the last minute, and what a queue there must have been, of artists who kept arriving through the first half and packing out this cellar of nooks and pillars, levels and pathways, no obvious centre to work with. We divided up our group of models or else not all artists would get a look. They drunk and music played, we fitted poses into spaces right in front of artists’ noses, making much of all our Scottish collaborators being professionals too. I could see why; if I was new to life modelling I would probably feel daunted by this intense and in yer face set up.

Thelma I believe

Thelma I believe

a Scottish model

a Scottish model

linking up

linking up

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Next night in Edinburgh was at the opposite end of the scale, in a well-to-do part of town (or is it all like that?) in a well kept church hall, attached to the church. A handful of artists drew intently, a more measured affair but the artwork was really special. We had a couple of new models and one pro joining us; I stayed out to direct this time.

Scottish Witches

Scottish Witches

Friends

Friends

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This was a mini-Pieta pose for 15 minutes!

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Loads more beautiful art work from this session here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.607794702576542.1073741837.320375434651805&type=1&l=f30476d02a

There was a hiccup with our final gig north of the border – the venue were unprepared for us, the room double booked, and though we still managed some nice poses together in a different space, we realised this place was not on the case (though some very lovely people did come to our rescue). We are still seeking a resolution here in terms of our next step on the Scottish mission. Overall we made some brilliant connections and can’t wait to get back, in the best possible fashion.

We all loved being on the road too, even Little Chef, takes me right back! That chance to share a bit more of our lives together, get to know each other in closer quarters and have an adventure.

With this baby, Baby Spirited Bodies, well technically a toddler now, like many Mums I make friends on the path. Friends who might not take the plunge if they didn’t know me, if we didn’t become close. Makes it accessible, less scary to be able to talk about it and feel safe with someone who knows. I’ve never been less lonely and it’s a good feeling, but I am getting familiar with some friends passing through for that part of the journey. It’s just so intense for a while, and sometimes the flame goes right out, suddenly because invariably emotions come up, and maybe a clash. I cannot hold their hand all the time, and bam they feel rejected! Onwards. Hopefully I’ll learn to smooth that phase more delicately. I am not a counsillor but I could be a better friend. Fortunately other friends that I have usually known longer, get involved and the effect is just uplifting, because of where they are at in their own journey, and how established our bond already is. Modelling with Spirited Bodies brings us closer, and I am beginning to see that some who needs must part from my company a while, do return when ready, for a new lease of friendship, with a stronger bond.

So lately I’ve been to several naturist places, and while I think these people have the right idea, not only do I not live near enough to one to consider joining, but also, it’s like they are in a timewarp somewhere between the ’70s and ’80s. Of course it’s not about appearances and that’s the point, but at least it’s about having people your own age you share cultural identity with. My own cultural identity may be quite comfortable in the ’80s and ’90s, but most naturists are older. I think it is becoming cool again though. Groups I am part of on Facebook testify to this trend, and the desire to shift the naturist way more into the modern day is a popular conversation topic; how to attract more women, and how to attract more young folks. The growing popularity of nudist events outside of naturist clubs also indicates a change; it may be young people are more inclined to undress socially within a more familiar setting, be it urban such as at this evening’s private view of an exhibition at Guerilla Galleries in Holloway (Daniel Libeskind Space) to be part of an installation (I am involved with several friends, see https://www.eventbrite.com/event/6785468519 for details), or outdoor such as tomorrow’s Streak for Tigers at London Zoo (http://www.zsl.org/support-us/challenge-events/streak-for-tigers-thursday-15-august,2096,AR.html) which is a fundraiser to help save the Sumatran Tiger, or further in nature for a mass skinny-dip!

Last Monday Thelma and I went to The Outsiders Trust Jamboree, which is a light-hearted daytripping prequel to The Sex Maniacs Ball. With children present it was all very tame, but we got to talk a little to the party about what we do with Spirited Bodies, and how that may relate to people gaining sexual self confidence. A gentleman after described how with his unusual condition he is used to being prodded mercilessly by doctors to the point that he is unfussed about his body, but feels it has lost its specialness, just a curiosity and problem to be solved by the medical profession. My Mum is familiar with that too; paralysed from the neck down she relies on others for every bodily function, dignity plays little part, or rather dignity may be redefined according to necessity. The idea of being regarded for art is exceptional, appealing, and I found that with The Outsiders themselves I felt drawn to create a life modelling event just for them. The Ball will likely be a jolly rollicking affair, less time for quiet drawing even if tantric reiki is happening. I would prefer to give my baby the true attention it deserves, although a little taster might spread the message.

At The Mall Galleries last Wednesday, it was a special day for Mum.

water colour by Graham Wood

water colour by Graham Wood

drawing by Margaret

drawing by Margaret

There are more pictures of Mum from this event but they have not been shared yet. There are also many pictures of all the other models of course too; see our Facebook page for them. I just wanted to emphasize Mum as it is harder for her to make herself known, being paralysed and less able to attract artists with dazzling moves. I look forward to events which bring disabled/differently abled people modelling to the fore. It is on the agenda.

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My Naked bike ride

On Saturday 8th June, I didn’t want to go in the morning, I wanted to stay in bed. It looked cloudy, and I am not generally great with the cold. Still my boyfriend rang to encourage me which always helps, and I did not try to rush myself. Too much time in a crowded place if you are not in the mood would backfire. By the time I left, sun was shining and I felt glorious for what would happen that day. It’s all about the attitude – doesn’t matter if I miss the body painting bit, or even my friends; if I am on form I will have the best time ever no matter.

I had noted directions to the secret spot for painting our bodies, and after alighting the train at Victoria, cycled over there, not far from Marble Arch. Pretty quiet when I arrived, Natasha was painting Will, Susan was at the ready and a few others were about. The photographers had not yet sussed us and descended! I messed about with my watery bottles of silver and pink which did not nearly cover me thickly enough, much to my sunburnt grief later, but at least I had a sort of glittery golden sheen about me! A kind woman painted Spirited Bodies in big letters across my back, and I helped with painting others where I could. Generally I was getting all excited by this time, if only internally and my painting skills which normally might be more reasonable, were pretty basic.

A friend made a stencil, so I had small letting on my front, big on my back

A friend made a stencil, so I had small lettering on my front, big on my back

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More friends and others arrived, and so too the camera’d masses… well you have to expect that, ideally revel in it, but it is testing even for the hardiest exhibitionist at times. Being a female, they tend to crowd especially if you are nude. Oh for a world where naked humans are more normal.

It seemed to take an age to get the ride going, but at this point Richard who has come to draw at Spirited Bodies before caught me as he was making his WNBR documentary.

The World Naked Bike Ride, London (2013). from Richard Agnew on Vimeo.

When the ride finally got going, and we were at the end almost (of the long trail of 100s of cyclists), I felt heroic! Crowds cheer lining the streets and the freedom of being nude on your bike as you streak down Park Lane is awesome!

Landmark occasion!

Landmark occasion!

Highlights of the ride? Having friends to share it with mainly, that meant a lot. Seeing all the extraordinary cyclists in their stunning attire and some works of art on skin. Chatting with strangers as we rode, recognising friends too, sharing in blissful moments like when people who were not on the ride suddenly decided to join in, you know, random cyclists, and especially people in rickshaws in the West End where we were. We saw them strip off, stand up and pose to applause! Just getting into the spirit of it. The overwhelming joy that kept me high for some time after, is of course still with me. The luck of the mainly warm, sometimes hot weather that day, especially considering the following greyness of subsequent days. The sunburn was worth it, and kept ‘Spirited’ on my back till now even!

Oh and I remember singing ‘Just can’t get enough’! (Depeche Mode) whilst riding down famous streets of the capital. It’s a number from the East London choir I am part of, Hackney Secular Singers. Felt most apt to sing in such high spirits. My original intention to bring more women to the ride did not exactly transpire, but it is in the intention that matters. My presence was there, and Natasha remarked that there were more women than the last year, we just want to keep growing that number.

When we stopped at the lights, Steve caught me and Julian

When we stopped at the lights, Steve caught me and Julian

celebration, and lovely painted women

celebration, and lovely painted women

with Natasha, who managed to raise money whilst riding (and being photographed) for Help for Heroes

with Natasha, who managed to raise money whilst riding (and being photographed) for Help for Heroes

gorgeous group shot - other friends were scattered about, but this unit emerged to keep reconvening!

gorgeous group shot – other friends were scattered about, but this unit emerged to keep reconvening!

best painted rider - took 2 days to prepare apparently! He had a tail too. Photo by Camila Gelber

best painted rider – took 2 days to prepare apparently! He had a tail too. Photo by Camila

Camila caught us at the beginning of the ride

Camila caught us at the beginning of the ride

One more thing. At the end when we were dressed again at Hyde Park Corner, and people were disbanding, I did not know what to do. I was not ready to go home. Just like that and it confused me, so when friends had gone, I stayed a while and cycled back towards Marble Arch uncertain where to or why. Then I saw a couple who had clearly been on the ride (he was still almost nude except literally a loin cloth), and I recognised the woman who had been riding near us. Older couple, very sweet, in fact are good friends not partners. They said hello and invited me to have tea with them in the dusk of the park. Turned out to be the perfect way to unwind, chatting with fellow riders, from Wales in this case, quietly after the chaos. Making friends and sharing stories of naked escapades (these two travel far and wide for it), and having friends to be nude with when your partner isn’t that bothered about that scene. Made lots of sense, I’m sure I’ll see them again.

With thanks to all who shared in this, and Steve, Camila and Matthew for sharing photos and Richard for the film. Here is a link to more pictures discovered on Flickr by Darren – http://www.flickr.com/photos/dave-cool/9013964241/in/set-72157634069609804/

Till next time!

Continual Rebirth

The negotiation of the model with her destiny; her liberation from karmic bondage dealt pose by pose, breath by breath, artist by artist and stroke by stroke.

A fastidious group in Dulwich. I am confident, go for a long standing twist. They are 320 degrees around me and some spot infinitesimal changes as more or less breast appears in their sight line, a greater proportion of shoulder etc. Their individual wills vie for the pose they want, they see; so they pull me – my profile a tad this way, my right arm back a bit and more weight on my left hip. I feel like a puppet. So I must be strong. By the time they have finished manipulating I feel like I am on the rack. I want to scream “I make the pose – you deal with it! Otherwise there is a mortuary up the road at the hospital…”

I think, when I can make every session smooth, work each one to be bliss for myself, the nirvana it can be, then I will be ready for the next level. Ready to reincarnate!

Running around to far flung pockets of London all in a day’s work is no stranger to a life model.

My session in Muswell Hill is weekly and in a ‘therapy’ room in a sort of neutral facility. Here I will process years of childhood and adolescent torment in a slot on Tuesday evenings. There are four arbiters of my progress drawing results from my posture. They will experiment with wrong-handed drawing and release their inner artist/child while I writhe on the inside as my inner rebel taunts me.

Getting the bus to freedom after feels like I ought to be heading to Feet First at the Camden Palace. I am just missing a can of Strongbow.

Drawings by Simon Whittle from my recent session at the Mall Galleries (see last post: http://spiritedbodies.com/2012/11/06/performance-preparation/)

This water colour by Graham Wood, also Hesketh Hubbard, Mall Galleries

Meeting With Freedom

When the doctor calls in the middle of the night, come to the hospital, this could be it. We don’t know if she’ll make it, but we need to know from you what you would like us to do if – if the life in her is not worth – if when she opens her eyes there is nothing there. They have the power and they need to know, have you thought about it? Yes because it happens each time – different doctors, sometimes different hospital, but each time she is under they have to ask.

Sometimes my instincts check in advance, they are not feeling adrenaline, I am sure this time will pass. Often I am pulled in to the brink on the edge of the rollercoaster seat. By the bedside crying, and appreciating time in the relatives’ suite, because that is the most meaningful conversations the rest of the family ever has with Dad. The family drama; and when the doctor calls, I know now that he is hoping. This time could be his meeting with freedom. He has discussed her wishes with her and the answer is to switch off from a life not worth the trouble. Meanwhile they continue, we keep on.

At the front of The Royal Festival Hall, Lucy and I find a table and furnish it with my large painted Spirited Bodies sign. We discuss the press release, skirting over our brushings with mental health. I was supposed to prepare the meeting we are about to have with our brand new SB models. We’ll wing it; well it’s not like we haven’t done it before. The hardest thing I find is putting myself in the position of someone new to the whole business. Remembering what it was like before nudity was normal, and even then it wasn’t that new to me. And tuning myself to a sensitive mode that is ready for newbies both anxious and nervous, as well as those in it for the craic, or because they just love what we’re doing. I’m a tiny bit nervous but it’s going to be fun.

They arrive one by one, with warm hand shakes and smiles, chairs gradually accumulated from across the room. They find me familiar, I have been emailing them individually, and it’s like we know each other, except now they’re all here I don’t know who each one is. It’s ok. We have important informations to impart and light-hearted anecdotes of bodily fluids and anti-sexual encounters. We – Lucy and I – are on familiar territory, and we pick up after each other. I try to feel what the interested faces are hoping to glean, and they ask about the photographs (for London Drawing) and how to choose poses. It goes well and I am high and full of love afterwards. That’s why we do it, because of them (and us). I love it when they are happy. The artists make another level of content, but for me it’s for the models first. They make me feel both humble and worthy. They are on edge with excitement to meet themselves in a space that is about just being, and being drawn. And they will be together, as in a drama, complimenting and interacting with each other, creating a story where there are bodies. We will be guiding them, but now already these that we have met, know more what to expect. Their minds will imagine and start to build the scene of the next event. The seeds are gestating in time for a rich bloom.