Iceland Art Residency, Stokkseyri and Eyrarbakki

The residency crew on the island of  Traustholtshólmi

The residency crew on the island of Traustholtshólmi

On August 24th I left San Francisco on a ten day journey to Iceland for the Saga Art Residency.

Traveling through Iceland to a Stokkseyri and Eyrarbakki a village of about 520 residents. This was my first art residency, so I brought zero experience. Just an anxious heart filled with good intentions.

What I came back with was an experience that helped me see creativity in a new way. It felt wonderful to experience hiking into a cave, touching the Atlantic Ocean, feeling love, drinking water from a glacier and being able to practice, being myself and not having to pretend to be anyone else.

Here are my learnings in a short narrative and images from the artwork I produced.

Trusting the Process

As a designer I'm used to design ideas not coming together, but there are usually ways to solve it through trial and error. I learned that in the arts; there is no step-by-step way. It's a devoted journey to follow my intuition and to trust the process. 

This residency made me reflect on my definitions of "good" and "bad" results. How can I compassionately think of these words as just "a step in the journey" rather than "a bad move" or "a good move". 

Photo by Agnar Stefánsson

Photo by Agnar Stefánsson

When I first got there I intended to design and create a mobile App for the town of Eyarbakki. I was hoping that technology would allow tourists to maneuver around the little town easier. Plus there was so much to see there. I was really excited and spent the first two nights sketching and prototyping.

Madeline and I even ran a few focus groups with kids from the local school. We danced, chatted and wanted to learn from them what they needed.

I felt touched by how connected they were to each other, how they looked deep into each other's eyes as they spoke. I felt mentally relieved from looking at the way they gracefully smiled and laughed openly with each other. I felt safe and connected to them like I never felt before. 

One of the kids, when I asked her whether she believed that this app would help the tourists in the future she responded,


"They should just come and watch us swim on Wednesdays. We swim every week and I love swimming. They can just come watch us anytime."

And that was when I decided that I would stop designing the mobile app.

I decided it out of intuition. Not out of design thinking or any kinds of methodologies. I just believed that an insertion of technology wouldn't help to further connect this tender understanding of connection. So, no more mobile app design in Iceland.

I felt disappointed and at a loss because with only a few days left before our fellowship showcase I was worried that it was too late to start another project. Watching my fellow artists go through their projects made me feel behind.

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I took some time to talk to the artists and to Hrefna and Scott, the organizers and told them that how I felt.

I found solace through opening my heart to them because they were so encouraging and supportive and told me that this experience here; is my experience. No matter how it turns out and that there is no "good" or "bad" results; it's all about the process. And that if  I end up showing nothing on the day of the presentation then that would also be a statement of its' own.

I felt relieved and took time to reflect and process the learning of trusting the process. I sat down with other artists and had conversations with them on their artwork and discovered that each of them also changed their projects several times. What surprised me the most is how natural that process was to them; the idea of "failing". How they honor and see that as a helpful way to navigate through the creative process.

For the rest of the residency I took time to be with myself and realized that I also needed time to rest and do, nothing. So that's what I did. I painted when I felt like it and didn't when I didn't. I just let intuition guide me.


Photo by Agnar Stefánsson

Photo by Agnar Stefánsson

I woke up on the day of the presentation feeling surprisingly rested and refreshed. Looking at myself in the mirror in the bathroom that day; I felt creative again. I felt a desire to make and so decided to make.

I knew that my inner artist loves mixing and playing with colors, patterns and shapes. She works best when there is a time constraint. So, I purposely waited until there were only two hours left before we opened the doors to the community.

When it was go time, I picked all the repurposed materials that inspired me. I ran back and fourth from the beach and collected all that inspired me. With those materials I cut, glue, ripped and molded montages of artworks to share with the community.|

Each of the montages below are a reflection of my learnings and lessons during the residency and a visual gift to the community.

When the show ended we took apart the montage and returned every piece of material back to its' home.

Natural materials were brought back to the outdoors and all construction materials were re-packaged so it can be used to create again in the future.

This was one of the most memorable experiences of my life so far and I am so thankful for ScottHrefnaRenee and the residency crew for creating such a beautiful space and experience for me because it is through this that I stepped into a new understanding of the creative process.





Montage 1: One Step at a Time...

Eyrarbakki Taught Me  , Montage 1: One Step at a Time, Wynne Leung, 2016

Eyrarbakki Taught Me, Montage 1: One Step at a Time, Wynne Leung, 2016

Montage 2: Catch & Release

Eyrarbakki Taught Me  , Montage 2: Catch & Release, Wynne Leung, 2016

Eyrarbakki Taught Me, Montage 2: Catch & Release, Wynne Leung, 2016

Montage 3: Diamonds Grow in the Wild

Eyrarbakki Taught Me  , Montage 3: Diamonds Grow in the Wild, Wynne Leung, 2016

Eyrarbakki Taught Me, Montage 3: Diamonds Grow in the Wild, Wynne Leung, 2016


Montage 4: Gentle Strength

Eyrarbakki Taught Me  , Montage 4: Gentle Strength, Wynne Leung, 2016

Eyrarbakki Taught Me, Montage 4: Gentle Strength, Wynne Leung, 2016

Wynne Leung