A bag filled with miniature painted stones, my backpack, me and everything leading up to this moment. Standing there and then, on the first day of the first Camino in 2015. I thought to be extremely prepared, researching and practicing beforehand. But not being prepared at all, for how this would change everything, personally and also for my art.
This is how it started many years ago: watching a documentary and not only being interested but feeling completely drawn to it. I saw a solitary woman on the beach walking what turned out to be the “Camino del Norte”. What an unbelievable challenge with way too many kilometres, I thought. (Although this meant an extra bonus point for attraction.)
Life happened after the documentary, with all its opportunities and sadness too. So at this turning point, it would be the right time to prepare for an adventurous challenge and go. The idea planted its seed in my head and I started preparations.
Of course, art had to be included. This is an important part of who I am and should be with me on this journey. Although it did not seem a good idea to carry loads of art materials, expecting the journey to be physically and mentally challenging.
It should be something smaller, about people, stories and connection…
It took me only one year to figure out.
After that, I prepared the art project until the point of no turning back. This became the first stone project, with 61 miniature painted caminostones for the 61 stories of people. Painted, varnished, and waiting in a big bag for me, to be on the road and do the thing.
And so I did.
This would be a long Camino from Espalion in France, crossing the Pyrenees into Spain, walking the Camino del Norte and the Camino Primitivo up to Finisterre.
It turned out to be a big, life-changing adventure.
It was amazing to carry out the art project and the positivity it brought.
With extraordinary events surrounding the stories, participants and the locations where the stones were left. Some participants felt relieved that after carrying their story and stone on my back, it was left on a spiritual path. Others, followers or pilgrims were touched or inspired by the story or paintings. It put something in motion, a rock started rolling and developing…
This first Camino turned out to be the starting point of a big change. No “normal life” for me no more.
I returned home with a backpack filled with new experiences, memories of special encounters, insights and loads of ideas on art, small and big!
The first project became the starting point for more Camino’s and more very long walks.
Caminostones are always a part of my travels and developing further. With lots of miniature painted stones, connected to new stories of participants, tales about beautiful but endangered species and poems.
The caminostones themselves developed too. I’ve added labels with a link to my website so anyone who finds it can easily discover the story attached to it. The label reads: “Let me travel!” So the finder can take the stone and leave it in a new location.
The story and caminostone set off on its own journey, connecting and inspiring more people.
For the past years, the stones are reported in new locations all over the world, i.e. Australia, Canada and even Stonehenge (a stone returning to its roots). People have connected and commented on the stories from all over too.
The last caminostones project was carried out in autumn this year on the Via de la Plata. 25 stories and miniature painted stones set out on their journey between Sevilla and Granja de Moreruela.
The stories attached to the miniature painted stones are connected to participants but also to the history of the Via de La Plata. This remarkable path has a history of over a thousand years. This means there are many interesting stories and old monuments relating to its past. The stones attached to the history of the Via de la Plata are left and photographed in the historical place they’re connected to.
The stones attached to the stories of participants are left on locations related to their stories.
Below is a stone painted for one of the historical stories. The painting is made for the story of one of the founders of the St. James Society in Sevilla. He passed away while marking the Via de la Plata. The stone was left at a monument in his honour, erected at the location where he passed away.
It was discovered by a pilgrim from Austria. He took the stone, continued his journey with the stone and returned home to Austria, still carrying the stone. In Austria, he left it on an Austrian Camino, on a holy stone. From its rest place there it might continue its journey..
Below you see a stone which carries the moving story of Zozan. She had to flee Syria with her 4 children. Being on the run, living in camps and separated from her husband for years, the family has finally reunited three years ago.
The stone carrying her story was discovered and taken to the south of Germany. This is kind of amazing because Germany is the country in which Zozan settled with her family.
Seven of the stones on this part of the Via de la Plata have already been found.
You can find all the stones and read the stories on this specific project here at Caminostones.
I hope you too, are or will become one of the finders, somewhere, somehow on a Camino or outside of it…
I hope you will also find some joy in little things. There will always be a sparkle of hope, a happy moment… or a silver lining on a dark day.
Visit Andrea at Andrea Haandrikman-Schraets to view her artist portfolio. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Check out my e-book, A Wild Woman’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago for practical advice on preparing to walk the Camino de Santiago including snippets from my journey and stories from Camino pilgrims. Click the link to download your copy.