Swimming: labour of imagination

a residential short course with Kari Furre and guests

Swimming: labour of imagination

an art.earth residential short course

[last offered] June 2018

Dartington Hall, Devon, UK

In 2018 art.earth ran a highly successful short course led by Kari Furre and Nancy Sinclair. Swimming: labour of imagination brought together people from all kinds of backgrounds and skill levels, but all with an abiding interest in swimming and creativity.

This was five intensive days all about being in the water and exploring how creative work and creativity can be empowered, supported and inspired by the physical experience of water, and swimming in particular.

We are now exploring running the course again in 2020 (September, probably) and we’d like to hear from you if you’re interested. Just email us at events@art-earth.org.uk

You will spend time in the water:  in the River Dart and in various nearby seas, such as Start Bay and Lannacombe Bay.  This will include swimming in the gloaming, swimming as meditation, swimming technique and tips, partying by the sea and throughout exploring your creative responses to water and to being in it.

If you have an interest in swimming and in creative practice (whether or not you are a regular practitioner in either area), then this course is for you.


Nancy and Kari are both experienced outdoor swimmers, but come from two very different viewpoints.

Kari is interested in marathon swimming and swimming technique.  She trained with Steven Shaw to teach swimming from the perspective of the Alexander Technique, although she has developed her own brand of that teaching over the years.  She is a director of the Outdoor Swimming Society (OSS).  Kari also has a successful contemporary craft practice and is known for her pioneering work rediscovering sustainable Nordic fish tanning processes.  www.karifurre.co.uk.   Watch a film about Kari’s making and swimming.





Nancy is a cold water specialist with a penchant for pootling in the sea.  She has a great interest in the local landscape, and what the sea provides in the form of flotsam and jetsam.  She is a Watchkeeper with National Coastwatch Institute at Prawle Point.  She studies and understands her local seas and weather patterns, spends time in and on the water, and collects artefacts which she celebrates for their own innate beauty and fascination.  Nancy is a skilled cross-artform artist mentor.  She was co-founder of the highly regarded artist-led rural-focussed organisation Aune Head Arts which supported artists across the UK at all stages of their careers, through the commissioning of new work, hands-on training/mentoring and encouraging them to take risks, develop new ways of working and to experiment with unfamiliar artforms.  From 2006 to 2010 she was Award Leader for the MA Arts Management at Dartington College of Arts.


Indicative schedule

Sun 9

Getting to know one another and reviewing our expectations.  Swim in the River Dart.
Mon 10A day at the beach: sea swimming & coastal exploration.
Tues 11Practical day in the workshop with a gloaming swim in the Dart.
Wed 12The finer points of distance crawl swimming and an opportunity to practice techniques with Kari.  Workshop time.  Evening swim and beach barbeque dinner.
Thurs 13Individual working; tutorials; TBC
Fri 14Presentation of work and discussion/feedback.  Lunch, roundup and farewells.


The shape of a day

Every course is different, but read this for more information about the working schedule during an art.earth short course. This course is bound to be a little different, given that we will be spending plenty of time in the water, and therefore likely less time in the classroom.

This course is for those who…

would like to explore their own practice, both swimming and creative
wish to collaborate with like-minded makers inspired by swimming and swimmers inspired by making
want some insight into practical techniques, learning experientially and unblocking conditioned reflexes
need permission to recognise the value of their own practice
would like time to consider and recognise what it is that matters to them, to (re)discover their own embedded place in nature.

Like all art.earth residential courses, the course is for anyone in need of an opportunity to engage with new approaches to creative practice or a rediscovery/refreshment of their creative selves, It allows for a condition of radical permeability – between senses, processes and materials. The course is for those who wish to engage in an unpredictable, shared process of practical enquiry with all the uncertainty and curiosity of a complete beginner, irrespective of their prior accomplishments.

All that’s a way of saying that you can bring along a lifetime of creative experience, or none at all. Either way, you will be open to change and to rediscovery, and be happy to share and exchange knowledge and ideas.

About art.earth short courses

art.earth residential short courses are designed as intensive periods of work, reflection, quietude, and creative energy. They are not just designed for artists, although creative expression forms an important part of the activity and learning.

We take an inclusive and transformative approach to learning: this is not a hierarchical structure but one of genuine knowledge sharing and with the assumption that everyone in the room has much to learn and much to offer.

Day 1 will be in the wonderful Ship Studio in Dartington Hall’s medieval courtyard; the main workshop space will be in Studio 1, a large blackbox adaptable space in which you can make a mess if you choose. This space becomes yours for the duration of the course and how it is laid out and how it feels is very much a product of the course and those engaged in it.

Dartington is in itself an extraordinary venue. In addition to its medieval courtyard and other buildings, it is situated in a 900-acre rural estate wrapped by the River Dart in one of the UK’s most beautiful areas – the South Hams of Devon. The estate is a varied ecological site, with the river and riverside, open field and woodland including some ancient woodland, managed and farmed areas, in addition to the Grade II* listed formal gardens boasting an astonishing array of native and non-native species. For almost a century the modern Dartington has been a place of societal change, of creative exploration, and of social experiment. For more information visit dartington.org.

All of this is surrounded by the extraordinary landscapes and seascapes of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We are just a few miles from the sea, and will be spending much of our time either along the River Dart as it wraps its way round the Dartington estate, or in nearby Start Bay, stretching between Dartmouth and the Start Point Lighthouse.

What previous participants have said

…I just want to say thank you for organising the short course for In Other Tongues. The course leaders were excellent; well organised, inspirational, caring and encouraging.  The evening with Alice Oswald will stay with me as a very special event. The Ship studio was a lovely venue too; and it was a privilege to be able to work in it and the surrounding gardens/grounds. I learnt a great deal, and it is still percolating.

Overall I thought the course was fabulous, not least [because of] the tighter focus on writing (with support from drawing/illustrating) which produced a very intense programme of practical work which was about delivering creative work.


Non-residential (includes lunches and dinner) £580

Full residence with all meals, in student-style accommodation (shared bathrooms) £805

Full residence with all meals, in hotel accommodation (SINGLE private/ensuite bathroom) £905

Full residence with all meals, in hotel accommodation (DOUBLE/TWIN private/ensuite bathroom) £1,045


There is a maximum registration of 15 people.

If you need to pay in instalments this is possible (at no charge). Please contact us. The entire fee must be paid prior to commencement of the course.

Some Reading

Beston, Henry/ Barry Brett (NRT). The Outermost House: a Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod. Silver Hollow Audio, 2007.

Brander, Rob. Dr Rip’s essential beach book: everything you need to know about surf, sand and rips. University of New South Wales Press, 2010.

Deakin, Roger. Waterlog. Vintage Classic, 2014.

Gooley, Tristan. How to read water. Sceptre, 2017.

Hoare, Philip. The sea inside. Melville House Publishing, 2015.

Ox-Tales: water: original stories from remarkable writers. GreenProfile, 2009.

Rothman, Holly, editor. Poolside. Dorling Kindersley, 2007.

Sarton, May. The house by the sea: a journal. W.W. Norton, 1995.

Yonge, C. M. The sea shore. Bloomsbury Books, 1990.