Meanwhile over in Finland

16th March, 2017

OSS Ambassador Viv Rickman Poole takes a bow

OSS Ambassador and Artist Vivienne Rickman-Poole shared a stunning photo this week of her enjoying an avanto – Finnish ice hole. Viv’s longing for water led her to create her own avanto and explore others while she is on a month-long arts residency at Mustarinda, a remote house for artists and writers in one of the snowiest parts of Finland.

Mustarinda is on the very edge of the Paljakka Strict Nature Reserve, which is so strict that humans aren’t allowed in there. The reserve is home only to nature and wildlife, the 500-year-old highest trees can reach 40 metres (130 ft) and you can find Finland’s only orchid species growing in the reserve. “I came here to explore the area, to respond to it, to perhaps forget about swimming for a while,” says Viv. “ I was content for the first day, happy snowshoeing around the forest and staring in awe at the forest. Then I discovered a map, I spotted water and went off to investigate a nearby ‘swamp’, buried under a metre of snow. It was too late, the longing for water had started; only two days in to a month long stay.”

A few days later, after bathing in a semi creek near the house and wading through waist-deep snow to get to it, Viv visited nearby lakes looking for open water. “It sounds easy, but reaching it was proving problematic in a landscape that was blanketed in such deep snow and ice. The longing and obsession started to escalate and with the help of the staff and other artists we cut an avanto in the nearest lake. This involved an ice screw, a chainsaw, an ice saw, three shovels, a pick and four hours of hard graft!”

“The longing and obsession started to escalate and with the help of the staff and other artists we cut an avanto in the nearest lake.”


Normally an avanto is about a metre by a metre. But when they asked Viv how big she wanted it, she was thinking about creative photography and suggested a couple of metres squared. “They looked slighted horrified but rose to the challenged and we may have created the most palatial avanto ever!’ says Viv. “Constructing it became part performance – it was documented, sound recorded and obviously tested. It has become quite sacred; we visit it, tend it, and look after it. It’s marked (with a slight feel of a pretty oriental garden) so that joyriding skidoo’s don’t have a surprise when crossing the lake.”

It didn’t stop there, keen to see how they are made in other locations, to find other outdoor swims and feeding the on-going need to be submerged Viv visited other avantos. “Being in the water is brief, the cold cuts so fast in these conditions,” says Viv. “It’s quite a different experience to swimming in winter in Wales, less of a journey and more of a gracious wellbeing hit, all for the glory of feeling good! Unlike swimming back home, where I spend longer in the water, the cold seeps deep inside into my bones. The warm up is slow and prolonged. Here it is extremely quick to sting the extremities but equally quickly to warm back up. For me they are totally different experiences.”

The OSS Team were delighted to hear this week Viv’s film, Afterglow, won gold at the Women in Adventure category at SHAFF (Sheffield Adventure Film Festival).