From Cheryl Papasian

21.09.2015 - 20.10.2015

The Trelex residency is a unique opportunity to take a break from your normal art practice and contemplate new work, complete a set of work that has been brewing in your mind or just do something totally different.

I heard about the residency when reading Abi Box’s brilliant blog about her time in Switzerland. I had a studio in the same building as she did in London for a while and it sounded so exciting and Abi got so much new work done there, that I applied.

Living in London is a great place to experience lots of art, galleries, museums and shows, but getting away from the city is a great way to recharge the creative juices and I was looking forward to seeing Switzerland, the alps, as well as Lake Geneva.

La Cure, Switzerland/France. Due to current events with the migrant crisis and whilst being in Switzerland close to the borders of the EU, I became interested in the significance of such events. It made me think about borders a lot especially as Lake Geneva is partly Swiss and partly French. One train trip was to La Cure on the small two-carriage train up to the French border from Trelex. This stone is one of the border markers between the two countries in the town of La Cure that is half French and half Swiss. There is even a café that is divided inside by the border as well.


My main sculpture project at Trelex was making small rafts out of driftwood found on the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman).  They were quite time consuming to produce and varnish before I could film them floating in the lake. I also made a lake ‘border’ out of fishing line and bobbles. Filming them was quite relaxing on calm days when I would stand in the water photographing them or making videos. When the water was rougher the rafts really crashed on the shore and floated away fast. This project will be completed in London with work on the photos and videos.

My use of pearls on the rafts came from one of the lake museums that had information about cultured pearls being made from fish scales on the shore of Lac Leman for many years until it became economically unviable.

I spent time away from the studio mainly along the shores of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva). The closest access to the lake from Trelex is the town of Nyon, which is an eight-minute train ride from the nearby Trelex train station. I visited art museums, galleries and local history museums in Geneva, Lausanne and Morges all on the wonderful Swiss train lines.

I wandered around Trelex sketching the Jura mountains, Mont Blanc and photographing wildflowers. I also painted the lake water surface, wildflowers, and mountains in the studio. I made two sets of Mont Blanc and surrounding peaks, one out of cardboard and one from clay.

I shared the studio space with a London artist, Michael Robertson, for three weeks. He spent time reading art theory, filming hand gestures and doing motion capture sequences. It was great seeing such a different practice to mine up close. Michael also helped me on one of my filming sessions with my rafts in the lake at Nyon. We enjoyed eating dinner together and one evening had a barbecue in the massive garden with the little dog Talisker close by. The last few days of my residency overlapped with Anne Svennson, a Danish painter who I enjoyed getting to know.

Nina arranged a studio visit one day with a local painter. He came to our studios at the Trelex residency where we showed him our work and had tea and a discussion about painting, art practice, taking all your ideas seriously, writing all your ideas down and putting the papers away in a box never to be looked at again. Nina is a very inspirational artist who really cares about the artists who visit and is very helpful with discussions about their practices.

A few days later, Michael, Nina and I went to the local painters house and had a critique with him about his paintings and then explored his studio. We discussed all the different paints and supports that he could use to get the effects he wanted in his paintings. Both of these days were very exciting and motivating.

The Trelex residency calms and energizes with the beautiful Swiss countryside and Nina Rodin has made a wonderful art environment for research, art production and collaborations.

Cheryl's residency blog


From Anne Svensson

19.10.2015 - 16.11.2015

I spent a memorable month at the Trelex residency last autumn. I am most thankful for the time spent in that great attic (which is situated in one of the most inspiring houses I have ever visited). I am thankful for the people I got to meet and for the views I got to see. I  am therefore pleased to finally contribute to the blog by showing some of the work done while I was there. I have broken up a short story of mine called "Behind the blackberry thicket" © into smaller segments. The sequence of  illustrations are black ink drawings, layered with transparent sheets. I spent most of my time drawing and writing (when I didn't enjoy the uncovered peak of Mt. Blanc, drink coffee at the auberge, interact with locals, chat with fellow artists or go for walks with the happy dog Talisker). Many thanks to Nina for her open heart and home. Hope you enjoy. Anne.

1. The blackberry thicket heaved like a rampart around the white wooden house in the summer twilight. She could hear a blackbird rustling in the thicket among dead leaves from another year. Other birds sang softly. Other than that, it was a quiet evening.

2. The thorns scratched her while she hunched under the arched branches that formed the tunnel. A thread in her cardigan tore up and her hair was no longer perfect. She stood in the garden and corrected the cool cotton dress and looked at the man in the lit up kitchen. She poked away a blackberry seed stuck between her teeth and noted that he was bald. She studied his movements,  how he made sure that there were space for two fingers between the plate and the edge of the table. He took out wineglasses, polished them and examined the result against the kitchen lamp.

3. She walked the last stretch along the garden path that led up to the main entrance. Some white bellflowers shone in the flowerbed and the gravel crunched under her Gucci shoes, which she acquired a few weeks ago. She was excited to see if she could make another convenient deal. Looking good never damaged when it came to negotiating prices. She fished out a powder mirror from the purse and stood for a moment in the circle of light from the outdoor lamp and studied her appearance. She wiped away some blackberry juice from the corner of her mouth, put lastly a strand of hair in order and rang the doorbell.

4. For a moment he thought of his dead wife. She had left behind a crowded closet with quality clothes. Expensive brands ranging from petite to medium. He spent several weeks going through everything, with the measuring tape hanging around his neck. Took measurements and pictures. Created a profile and waited for a response.

Many women came. Several bought something, but no one ever stayed. Perhaps he would be more successful this time?

He could see the woman's silhouette through the frosted glass. She stood still and waited, without ringing additional times. He was grateful for the gentleness this demonstrated. He opened the door and inhaled her scent mingled with the fresh evening air. He gauged her figure with a quick gaze, with about the same speed as a fast camera shutter, while he simultaneously politely greeted her welcome. She was perhaps in her forties. In good condition. Certainly attractive. His jitters passed quickly into an exuberant hospitality.

5. "You haven't thought of trimming the blackberry thicket?" she asked and pulled thoughtfully in the lengthy thread hanging from the cardigan. They stood under the great hall lamp and inspected the thread. It was emerald green and sparkled with something metallic. "It was a very expensive cardigan", the woman said seriously. "I sincerely apologize", said the man and hung it on a solid cloth hanger of cherrywood. "I've thought about trimming the thicket many times, but you know how it is, time passes ... I might be allowed to treat you with dinner as a recompense?" She was preparing an answer, he wasn't prepared to hear. "Afterwards", he said quickly and smiled tactfully. "First the suit de Coco Chanel."

6. He walked with great energy across the hall, led her up the stair tower which was decorated with African clay masks. They came up to the first floor and he guided her to the bedroom. He flicked on the light and cut across the room on a sound absorbing carpet. "Here you go", he said and opened the door to a walk-in closet. "Wow, what an amazing wardrobe! Such I have always dreamed of", she exclaimed with obvious enthusiasm.

7. She pulled on the suit which fit her perfectly like an extra skin. "Good God, how good it looks on me," she whispered and turned around in front of the mirror. The man who had hitherto acted with restraint, suddenly began to cry uncontrollably when he saw her. He fell on his knees and embraced her. He sobbed and caressed her body under the fabric, which sounded like sandpaper under his aging hands. Same size, same everything. She pried off his hands when they reached her chest, and held them for a while as to alleviate the otherwise stern rejection. "Please stay", he whispered. "Yes, I'll stay," she said flatly.

8. "Stop looking at me that way", she said. "Tell me about your wife instead ... where do you think she is now?" His expectant gaze turned into surprised unbelief "'Where she is  now? What do you mean? She's dead." A piece of steak flew out of his mouth when he spat out the initial d in dead. She followed the steak piece as it landed next to her hand. "Sorry", he said. "No problem", she said. "She's just dead. Time just stops", he concluded.

9. "Everyone will stand in judgment before the Lord", said she and took a sip of wine. "Stop talking nonsense, I can't stand listening to it", he said, while chewing hard on a piece of meat. For some reason, the woman triggered feelings within him, which he hadn't been in touch with for a long time. Maybe never. He spiked a roasted beetroot on his fork and devoured it violently. The beetroot got stuck in the wrong pipe. He struggled for air. Coughed and made a great noise. His wine glass got overturned. Red wine ran down into a puddle on the kitchen floor. The woman got up from her chair and slammed him hard in the back, took a firm grip over his torso and squeezed. "Ambulance," he hissed. Then it was black.

10. Blue light shone on the other side of the blackberry thicket. She watched mutely the experienced attempts of the ambulance medics to revive the man. His face was pale like a full moon. She hoped that he had arrived to something more than a dark nothing. "Was it your husband?" asked one of the ambulance medics "No," she said and shook her head slowly. "You can expect to hear from the police shortly. Just routine questioning." "It's okay", the woman said quietly. They carried him out on a stretcher.

11. She took the cardigan from the clothes hanger, went out and inhaled the cool air. She went through the tunnel in the blackberry thicket. It was wider now. The ambulance medics had cleared it up, in order to make room for the stretcher. "Finally the job got done", she mumbled. She stopped and picked a blackberry on the other side. It was not as sweet as the one she had tasted before. Not as big, black and juicy. She strolled home in the pink Chanel suit.

From Seçil Erel

24.08.2015 - 20.09.2015 

It was raining heavily when we arrived to Geneva and to the house in Trelex. That was unusual for a  summer day... Then the rain stopped. We went out to the garden, smelled the grass and fresh air and  we saw the amazing house. It looked magical... That was very nice.  My friend Kerem Ozan Bayraktar, who is an artist and past resident, told me about Trelex Art  Residency, and I met Nina Rodin when she visited Contemporary Istanbul last year.

I hesitated about doing the residency because I have a little girl and she was almost 4 years at that  time. But Nina understood and motivated me, because she has 3 lovely children herself. The  residency was a very important experience for us. We left our normal lives and artistic practice, we  began living and working together. I recommend this experience to all artists.

Also, I am lucky because I knew the other resident artist Gizem Unlu. She is very lovely, calm, understanding young and talented artist. She helped us when we needed something. Switzerland has extremely beautiful nature. I loved Nyon. It is very close to Trelex and amazing little town near Leman Lac, across the Apls, at the foot of La Cura mountains. We swam in the clean but cold Leman Lac, or Geneva Lake, and enjoyed walking around. We visited museums, galleries, cafes and shops in Geneva; Lausanne, and Yvoire (in France).

I collected maps, because I am influenced by them in my work, but had never used them directly before. I painted maps with watercolor and pens.

In my work, I like to begin with a fictional infrastructure and let my pieces take shape through a production process directed by the natural, random flow of painting; hence questioning the precision and overlooked aspects of architecture and existence in the relationship between painting, life, space and time. 

I create new spaces and suggests new architectural systems by overlapping layers that eventually become spatializedy. 

My paintings seek to outgrow the boundaries of canvases, walls, ceilings and sometimes floors.  I decided to set up a studio installation in my area during my residency.  

I was in the empty big walls and studio. I prepared many different projects samples on the installation.  I collected many things, such as maps, and used them in the installation. For example, I found plants  and leaves on the street - I liked them, picked them up and used them in the installation. They are still living in the my Istanbul studio.

Nina organized an open studio and an exhibition before the residency finished. 

After that we went for a trip other cities in Switzerland (Lausanne, Neuchatel, Bern, Zurich, Basel) in a  week.  

When we came back Istanbul from Trelex Art Residency, I felt calm and ready for new projects. It was  very good experience for my art discipline.

A typical Trelex project

I just wanted to add a quick note about a recent event at Trelex that was really very very special to me. Early last week, I a book arrived from Holland and landed on my kitchen table. This would in and of itself have been celebrated with a long cup of coffee and some hours of reading in a hammock but this was a very very special book. It had been conceived by Michiel Shepers at the other Trelex Residency, deep in the Peruvian Amazon, around notes, sketches and watercolours made there while on a month long residency and then been finished with a lot of consideration in Leiden over the following 7-8 months.

As if that wasn't enough, when I contacted Michiel Schepers to thank him and to suggest that he come to Trelex and work on turning the book into an artist book edition, he announced he would swing by for a night a few days later as he was on his way to a trip round the alps.

So I had an opportunity to put to good use all I had learnt last summer on the Trelex Book Art Summer retreat as I passed on knowledge I have been given by other residents to Michiel and taught him so basic Adobe Indesign. We worked hard for a good 24 hours together (Michiel far longer hours than me!), discussed every detail of the text, font, layout, line spacing, captions, dedication, cover design, image/text arrangement, title, exchanged a ton of ideas (some completely tangential to the actual book) and got the book into pdf format to be enjoyed online for now:

Secil Erel and Gizem Ünlü - presently residents at Trelex - joined in the discussion and helped resolve points Michiel and I were in disagreement over. It was a real treat to be at the centre of so much given and received and feeling the international network of artists continue to grow around the residencies.

The next step will be to find a printer who can turn this book and some of the book projects that have taken shape here in Trelex into printed volumes in small runs (100-200 volumes) without compromising on quality or breaking the bank. Does anyone know such a printer in Switzerland or in the UK?

Hopefully this will inspire other to take a chance on an Artist without any application forms (the creative equivalent of putting the cart in front of the horses). More often than not this produces something of value that surprises both the host and the artist in equal measure - something that couldn't have been planned for without considerable anxiety on both sides of the equation.

Brainstorming for the Arts, Gender Parity and Education

Recently, Caroline Watson, the brains behind the notion of a Global Arts Agenda came for a return visit to the Trelex Residency - this time with her husband and two wonderful accomplices: Fanny Ollivier and Richard Sobey. They turned the studio into a boardroom and think tank. Ideas, plans, strategies and debate whirled around for three intense days.
Fanny, Caroline and Richard plotting away.
The concept is to establish an international body (perhaps under the aegis of the United Nations) to 'enable business and government to use the arts in human development'; to be a forum for discussions on best practice; to lend international support to fledging efforts in countries where the arts are undervalued... etc. Unesco does a lot through its World Heritage programme but the emphasis is on historical patrimony rather than living breathing happening sort of Art that provides the real fibre of a living culture. And as artist we all know that when it comes to Art, most politicians don't know what they are doing and could benefit a lot from a code of best practice as to how to connect policy with people, artists, creative innovation and solutions based on a thriving arts culture.
The view from the corner of the studio where I was working

I was of course listening in intently and trying to speak a bit for the visual artist whose work may be neither hobby, business, therapy, educational or social project or particularly altruistic in any way but which tends often to be sidelined in funding, residencies and support for the arts which is becoming increasingly focussed on end products. Yet defining the output ahead of the creative process is like putting cart in front of the horses: it chokes creativity rather than giving it free rein.
Unusual creative process using post-its and numbers.
My husband, the philosopher David Rodin asked some pertinent questions on how the Council would define itself and its objectives so as not to become prescriptive, restrictive or biased towards western cultural values.

And Professor Jem Bendell shared a lot of insights on the inner workings of the United Nation agencies: how best to collaborate and innovate with the existing platforms. Would there be scope for an inter-agency meeting of elements working on aspects of the Arts already? Before we new it, we were planning for 80,000 sqm of industrial land belonging to the city of Geneva and diverging somewhat on making the arts scene there explode into something worth moving for.

So hopefully there will be more meetings ahead. I hope to meet the Maire of Geneva again with Jem, to learn about Swiss funding for the Arts with Fanny Ollivier and brainstorm the growth of the Trelex Model with the Amazing Richard Sobey in the near future.
Richard's enticing business card on my desk with my painting.
This inspiring weekend followed on directly from the Young Global Leaders summit at the headquarters of the World Economic Forum in Geneva where I once again used my privileges as a spouse to raise my voice on the importance of Arts for Art's sake, Gender parity and Education - three issues that never fail to fire me up.
Sustainable development goals notice board at the WEF
with Quality Education no.4 and Gender Parity no.5..

and no.18 added by yours truly. One day they will politely ask me to leave...
1. On the Arts front: I gatecrashed a small meeting of Young Global Leaders working in or with the Arts talking about how the Arts can have a more serious place in the World Economic Forum. It was heart warming and encouraging to see so many engaged young leaders (who have to be both leaders in the field and seriously engaged in improving the state of the world to be elected) concerned with the place given to the Arts and to hear of the steady progress made so far. Art has slowly been moved away from being something to decorate the wall between he coffee machine and the water dispenser and a source of relaxation or entertainment for forum attendees between sessions dealing with the intellectual hard core of the Forum to some tentative attempts at centre stage. Still, as the people in the room introduced themselves, the focus seemed to be firmly on art markets, art as entertainment, art as therapy (including a neuroscientist who had studied the relaxing properties of viewing art), art as vehicle for political change (documentary and fiction in the Israel/Palestine conflict), art as education tool... etc.... - in short, Art as a tool with applicable use. I bit my tongue for as long as I could but in the end, when it came to introducing myself, I said something along the lines of:
'I am Nina Rodin. I am an Artist. My Art is not a hobby, is not a business (God know I am not making a penny of it and it's costing me a fortune!), is not entertainment, is not good as decoration, will not solve political problems, does not aim to influence or teach. Some of my work stresses people and I make no apologies for that. But my art is not the soft option. I have been an astrophysicist and a neurophysiologist and written theses and published papers in both  - but I swear being an Artist is the hardest, most intellectually challenging thing I have ever done. Art is not the soft option to be indulged in my spare time. It is lonely, hard, underfunded, misunderstood. But can we please start to take it seriously?!!'
I didn't get thrown out of the room but got handshakes from a lot of people for the rest of the conference. So perhaps there is hope after all...

2. On the Gender Parity front: Years of campaigning softly (and sometimes less softly) on the sidelines about having a children's programme at such summits came to fruition. With the help of Jennifer Corriero, Lisa Neuberger and Rosy Mondardini, we put a children's programme together to run through the YGL summit - very generously and somewhat extravagantly supported by the WEF. Throughout the week, people approached me to thank us and explain what an extraordinary impact it had had on their experience and their ability to work to have their children both nearby and independently looked after. I hope this will now become a mainstay of WEF conferences and the organisation can become a leader here as well in setting a new standard for work-life integration that benefits both parent-professionals and their children. Think of the difference it would make to have similar facilities at large annual Neuroscience Conferences and at large Art fairs. And it is an extremely potent way of closing the gender gap: it makes it possible to combine professional excellence with parenting excellence. If, as in this case, the conference participants themselves contribute to the children's programme, then educational excellence for the children is seen to be complementary and not in conflict with professional excellence. I lost count of how many conference attendees told me with a palpable sense of relief that next year perhaps they would also bring their children.
My Art Theory Workshop in full swing...

Three children with an artwork of their choice explaining why
they have chosen it and what the artwork says about their individuality.
3. On the Education front: I had more interaction and discussion with the extraordinary Claire Boonstra of Operation Education, a dutch initiative looking to completely rethink children's education in the light of modern scientific evidence and studies of best practice around the world. I am particularly moved by Claire's intuitive understanding of the place of creativity in such new educational paradigm. Am hoping to become a Swiss ambassador for her organisation. But more about that soon hopefully. I leave you with links to her two ted talks: talk 1 and talk 2. Makes me cry every time. Who is with us?
Claire Boonstra: how difference from the norm is seen as failure.
Now how do you explain that as a problem to the Swiss?
Nina Rodin - August 2015, Trelex.

From Rona Shahar

01.07.2015 - 31.07.2015

Trelex Times.  It all started in late 2014. My friend Ora Ruven recommended I contact artist Nina Rodin for a free residency she's been offering in Trelex, Switzerland, saying "I know you like these things". And surely I do (Free residency! Switzerland!), so I wrote immediately and got to stay 6 weeks in the summer.

If you looked  at the website and read some you may think - oh, how nice. Well you have no idea how. It's my third week here,  and I am still finding out more about the possibilities of using my time here - everything, just everything, overflows or grows on trees. You just tune in and bathe yourself in calm delicious waters, ideas, beauty, serenity and inspiration.


I wasn't sure how much I would like Switzerland. Italy was still on my mind from my previous trip. Its northern neighbor looked much less colorful,  the architecture of old villages here mimics the mountain ranges with their pointed slopey tops. Often cloudy and rainy, much fewer people in the  streets, pricey of course. That was my first impression. But then I arrived into the micro-country of Trelex and things changed. In short, we (there usually are two artists or more at the same time) can use the residency in any way we like, there are no restrictions. There's ample materials to use in the studio itself and a zillion appetizers in the nature outside, even looking through the windows. What really started me up, strangely enough, was an innocent set of color markers left by one or more of the previous artists. The other thing was the heat wave - a long week of ever increasing temperatures, which forced me to wander away from the house into the woods, where I would sit under the heavy shade and look around me. The following works all from the same window show my progress with markers.

From Marina Carvalho

Here is a really wonderful and original trip around Marina's experiences in Trelex. Photos will follow soon, especially of the first permanent sculpture in the garden....

Just click on the image above, open in full screen and use the arrows at the bottom to navigate the mind map. You don't need to install any software. Easy-peasy.

See some of Marina Carvalho's work here.

From Ranadip Mukherjee

01.06.2015 - 30.06.2015

I was working one full month in June 2015 in Trelex. Probably I was the first Indian artist,who worked there. It was a nice experience. Very calm and silent. Nina, the founder of this residency, is always very generous to the artist and extremely helpful lady. I shared my studio in Trelex 1st couple weeks with a Video Artist Ilana Simons from USA and next few weeks of my stay with an artist from Israel Rona Shahar

I travelled all the way from Mumbai the business capital that is where I paint and have my studio and it is said that 'Mumbai never sleeps' from there when I reached Trelex in the small village of Switzerland first that touched me was an amazing silence that was exactly the silence I wanted to feel and capture through my colours. This journey of mine to Trelex will always stay in my heart. Maybe, I'll come back once again. Thanks to Nina Rodin.

From Ilana Simons

01.06.2015 - 19.06.2015

What makes the Trelex Residency so unique is a certain special system of lawlessness and anonymity –a residency model that’s based on trust. There are no applications, no fees.

Nina calls it the Trelex Model, and is in the process of exporting this dreamscape to other locations like Peru and Pakistan.

Four years ago, Nina turned the top floor of her own home into an artists’ retreat with the desire to have likeminded makers in her space.  After art school in London, she moved with husband David (a moral philosopher) and their three kids to the Swiss town of Trelex, with the small population of about 1,400. Nina found herself in a bright studio with views of the Alps, but watching the cows and missing the productive chaos of human voices. She restructured her home off a unique ethical gamble: you might invite artists/strangers into your house and trust them, off the bold fact that they’ve traveled a long distance to show up and make things with you.

There are already many residencies available, Nina says, for artists who go to art school and build CV’s angled for a life in the art market. But there are almost no opportunities for artists without that CV— imaginative minds who work almost secretly but might find themselves especially triggered, wired, and driven by this stretch of free time in a grand space in which they are asked nothing about who they are or what they promise to produce. If someone knows herself to be invested in making art, reads through the Trelex website without much guidance from outside sources, requests an occupancy, and buys a ticket to Geneva six months in advance (which is about how quickly spots fill up), then that person is invested. And, when we arrive, we see the full gift: the huge house lined with vines, the strawberries for picking in the garden, the bikes and cars available for use, the mountainsides striped with hiking trails. The surprise of the gift is enough to set an unusual mutual generosity into motion. People generally worry about what others think of them, Nina says. If you enter someone’s house, and it’s beautiful, and she asks nothing about who you are, you have some impulse to return the spirit. Just so, her house holds the trail of past creative minds that seem to have lived there, open—pastels left behind, charcoal pencils, Japanese paper, twelve bottles of glue, chocolate in the cabinets, a bottle of wine. Nina herself offers an almost endless supply of other things for making art. Then that’s what happens: you show up and you make art.

I shared my three weeks of residency with an Indian painter named Ranadip Mukherjee. Nina met us both at the airport/train station and invited us to scour the airport supermarket for a while before driving us back to the house.

The two artists in residence at any one time sleep in the loft upstairs, which also houses the studio, made of about 700 square feet with moving walls and windows for natural light. Nina and her family live on the first two floors. There is a rather neat division: you get to know the dog, the brilliance of her kids (one has unbounded knowledge and passion for Greek myth), and some rooms in the house itself are great reading hideaways, like this veranda on the second floor where I had wine and wrote romantically.

Ranadip usually woke up earlier than I did and would quietly start his watercolors by the rising sun at the open window. I am a video artist so the trajectory of my day was more scattered: filming Nina’s daughter (an excellent actor; she has insights into American culture), or painting trees in the garden for set pieces, or doing set pieces of Freud and a collage of Nina.

I took many day trips: Geneva is a good one, for its museum of contemporary art (MAMCO), where I enjoyed the short films of one queer sexualized wonderkind whose name I’m not remembering. Another great outing is to Lausanne, for the Collection de L’Art Brut, all art done by true outsiders, most of them in mental institutions. Both places are accessible from right outside Nina’s house, via train.

I took daily bike rides into Nyon, where the food shopping is best.  I did a daily runs to Crassier, a neighboring town, for which I passed through the most beautiful white/green striped landscapes with lake far below.

I came back home to New York with little nuggets on psychology from Nina. Questions asked: How does she handle the diversity in her house--the minds that come through which annoy her with their politics, or their rudeness, or their myopia, or whatever might bug her?  Smiling wider than the rim of her coffee, Nina said, “But I love and hate everyone. There is no other way of knowing someone.” It takes balance to welcome the differences in and engage with it. Her life has taken on the task of that engagement. Then: how does she trust that she’s not opening her house to freeloaders? “I ask that anyone who comes read the website and, without much dialogue, buy a ticket across the world.  That shows someone’s commitment, doesn’t it?”



Me: I’m Ilana Simons, an artist and psychologist who lives in NYC and was delighted to share Nina’s space for three weeks while I worked on my video about heartbreak.  See some of my videos here:

From Emelye Perry

18 - 30 May 2015

Emelye Perry
Making Art in Residence during Early Parenthood

I came to Trelex in May 2015, over two years ago!  Growing and raising children seems to have stalled the writing of this post somewhat.  In fact it’s taken me about an hour to write this paragraph (all 4 sentences) as my toddler son can’t seem to resist the number pad on the computer keyboard and I keep having to delete numbers!  I’m determined to write though as my time at the residency had quite a profound effect on me and I think it’s good to share.  

Trelex for me was about so much more than going on an artist residency. As a mostly 'stay-at-home mum', it  was also a break from family life and the first solo time away since becoming a mother, my daughter was 2 at the time.  I had found early parenthood very difficult and leaving my daughter, which I found such a hard thing to do, ironically turned out to be a crucial step in settling into my new mother self and in recovering from the shock I had experienced in becoming a parent.  I cried the whole way there and travelled with mixed feelings of guilt and worry but also excitement and a sense of knowing that I needed this time to create and reconnect with my work. Dealing with all of these mixed emotions was all made easier because I knew I was going to a place of understanding.  I had had a Skype chat with Nina previously and we had spoken at length about motherhood and I was taken with how willing she was to work with me to find a way for me to pursue the opportunity to go to Trelex.  I had such a strong sense that Trelex was a place where all artists, parents included, were not only welcomed but celebrated and encouraged.  

The space at Trelex is wonderful, a professional working space with plenty of room to spread out. I got to work setting up my space.  I didn’t really go to Trelex with any set plans of what to do.  I just wanted to spend some time reconnecting with my art work and seeing which direction it may be taking.  This creative freedom was also of great value to me and I would have felt intimidated if I had had to come up with something finished or that had to be based around a certain theme.

My desk space at Trelex looking over the garden

The first couple of days I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of time I had.  Having gotten used to doing everything around the constant demands of a young child it became apparent that I had mostly lost any ability to focus for more than 20 minutes and it took me a bit of time to settle into a child-free rhythm.  I thought I would start by reviewing my previous work.  It had been at least 4 years since I had actually made any gallery work and it was good to go over some old films and share these with the other residents.  I came to realise that because becoming a mother had changed me so profoundly and since I had had quite a bit of time out, I was no longer on the trajectory of my previous work.  I wanted to try some new ideas.  

‘I Did What I Thought was Right’ 2008

I have always been interested in craft but in recent years I had gotton really into knitting and yarn based crafts.  There is something about the colour, texture and tactility of working with yarn which I am really drawn to.  I am also interested in associations (or mis-associations) these materials and processes have with femininity and domesticity.  A lot of my previous work had been quite cerebral and I wanted to do something that came from a more emotional place.  I wanted to try and start from a point of what I FEEL like doing rather than 'what could I do to get these ideas across?'.  I also wanted to work with raw-materials and get away from the computer, and even get outside if possible.  

So I grabbed some wool and went outside.  The space outside is large and full of potential. Nina showed me a small shed at the bottom of the garden and told me about a previous resident who had set up a performance/installation inside, it sounded inspirational.  


The weather was clear and I spotted a couple of rows of trees which looked inviting. I had long had ideas of using nature as a canvas and I also wanted to scale up some craft techniques.  So I decided to weave.  With the trees as my loom pegs I set up a large scale loom so that I could weave in a spiral.  I didn't really know where I was going with this piece of work but I was enjoying working with the yarn and being outside, I felt quite connected to nature and kept visualising myself as a spider or bird creating a nest.  



I only got so far with this piece of work, I wanted to carry on weaving to make it huge but I just didn’t have the time, what I did try was putting it in different places and environments.  I liked the idea of a piece of work that moved and that changed depending on it's context.  It still sits unfinished in my studio at home, one day it will come out again and grow.

I started two or three other pieces of work at Trelex both of which have yet to be resolved.  I'm ok with this, it was so great to have the creative freedom at Trelex to begin new ideas.  Maybe one day I'll return when I have work which is nearer the end of it's life.  I did manage to take some good images of one (untitled) piece of work.  Nina was invaluable in helping me take some clear pictures.  Photographing my work is a skill I have not quite mastered yet so it was great to have someone there to help.   I almost felt I had enough material to put a proposal together.  



Top and left and right: untitled knitted and performance piece 
Bottom: beginnings of a quilt project ‘I put you in the bin’ and beginnings of knitted wall hanging

As well as the house inside and out being a wonderful space to work, the equipment in the studio was also brilliant.  Printers, cameras, espresso pots! were all available and it is a dynamic and inspirational living and working space.

I visited Nyon and Geneva whilst I was there.  There are hundreds of galleries in Geneva but unfortunately I picked a day where they were ALL changing exhibition!  Never mind, I started a little project taking pictures of the closed galleries.  I did manage to catch an excellent political film at the modern art gallery though (unfortunately I can’t remember the name!).  It was good to get out and about and soak up the city. 


‘Closed Galleries, Geneva’ 

I can't thank Nina enough for her generosity and for having me in Trelex. When I research other residencies the criteria can be so strict and off-putting, you must go for this amount of time, be this or that kind of artist and once you’re there we’re not letting you out! If you don’t like it, tough.  Or it costs a small fortune or there’s a lengthy application process.  Opening up residences for all kind of artists from all kinds of social, cultural and economic backgrounds is for me the real strength of the Trelex residency, it creates such a diverse and unpretentious atmosphere.  At a time when I was feeling isolated, exhausted and overwhelmed by motherhood but with more creative energy than ever Trelex was a saving grace. 

I was also very lucky to have the lovely Isabel Moseley and Abi Box working alongside me and were very patient with me as I probably bored them to death with photographs of my daughter, thanks for listening! 

Soon after I left Trelex I became pregnant with my son who is now 16 months old, hence why my art is still sitting in bags in my studio.  In writing this blog I have uncovered some of it.  In many ways it makes more sense now and it's nice to have had the distance from it.  I still have very little time to invest in my art but knowing that Trelex exists and feeling part of this wonderful community keeps me going and gives me hope.  One day, hopefully, I'll return.