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  • Jamie Ramsay

Climbing On, Crispy and Content

We need the tonic of wilderness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder-cloud, and the rain which lasts three weeks and produces freshets. We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander. - Henry David Thoreau

Fishskin's limits can be transgressed by an unending sun.

My first attempt at fish and seaweed leathering came out a little crispy.

When what I’m going for is this:

So shot number one of fish tanning wasn’t a seamless process. I have gotten so used to things falling into place so easily here that waking up to a crispy, well-colored, but overly dry fish skin barely phased me yesterday. Personally, that’s a wonderful milestone.

By nature I can be a perfectionist, but perhaps yoga, age, coaching others, playing a tough sport, working with organic materials, and the tonic of life here in Træna is all finally helping me maintain perspective. As I've come to understand, Træna life very much follows the tides: when one can go harvest seaweed*, when a ferry can get to the island, when is the prime time to hit the sauna without having to walk too far in the cold because the water has receded, you know, the important details of life. The fact is, there is a lot that the world around us has to say about the flow and the scheduling of things. Sometimes, we cannot control every aspect and letting that take over is freeing. In my case, it's also progress.

Moreover, there is something to not dreading your work - especially when you experience snags. It’s something that this last year of working more for myself has taught me. There isn’t so much pressure to get it just right the first time when you actually enjoy the process of your work. Ripping flesh off with a butter knife, was not entirely gratifying, and in the future, I’ll opt for better tools. But in its entirety, I am happy to take a crack at this process all over again.

For the future of Life on Mars, I am encouraged by a promising meeting I had last week, with Geir, owner of the Modolv Sjoset AS here on the island. He walked Moa and I though his production operation and, it seems that his process has a perfect opening for me to test a fish tanning pilot program. Every question I asked, every resource I might need, he had or had a connection. The opportunity of this place hides in under every urchin shell. Oddly enough, his production building was steps away from the satellite map pin I followed to track down my fish skins, a few days before. Follow the wind.

Experiment one in tanning fish leather wasn’t an immediate success. But the color was right and all the materials that tanned it could be discarded to the sea or a field, without consequence. And that’s a start. No toxins. More sophisticated resources and a place to test the process more easily, are on the books. Tomorrow, I’m headed to Sweden to learn the particulars of tanning from a well-versed woman. Lotta Rahme, who has made natural tanning, and specifically fish, her specialty. So, I know there’s room to grow ahead. Rather than a setback, these last weeks produced a few tips on what not to do, a ridiculous story to recount of the steps to get there, and a some incredible time in nature gathering materials will all contribute to better tans in the future. Far from any loss.

This island has changed the way I see my company and my designs, changed my thoughts on light and introduced me to people who have inspired me and been so generous with their support and help. In the next few weeks, I'll recount some of the other amazing experiences that were part of this residency on Træna - so many fascinating people and stories. But right now, I have to to step outside and savor the light of one more pink midnight sun, sharing my gratitude to this community of new friends, to these islands, to Træna Kommune, to the fish in the sea and the endless sun in the sky, however strong it may be, for a life changing opportunity.

WAY more about the last few weeks will be popping up here soon or follow my photo updates on Instagram!

Vi Sees!

*more on that in the coming weeks!

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