Liesel’s post doesn’t even need an introduction–she explains our meeting and how I begged her to tell about her experiences at retreats both large and small, so I’ll turn it over to her:
A funny thing happened on the way to Omaha . . .
I was in the Denver airport, eating a turkey sandwich, waiting for my connecting flight, when I spotted a woman in wildly colorful clothing. Recognizing her, but temporarily unable to speak with my mouth full, I waved wildly in hopes of catching her eye. Fortunately she was not put off by my strange flapping. That was how I met Ricë.
I was flying from Seattle to teach at Handmade U, in Omaha, NE. Ricë was flying to Art is You! in Petaluma, CA. After a short chat, she asked me if I’d be interested in sharing, “What it is like to teach at a small retreat, such as Handmade U with 25 attendees, v.s. teaching at larger retreats, such as Journalfest (250 attendees) or Artfest (550 attendees)?” Since I’ve been both student and teacher, I decided to include both perspectives to give the clearest comparison I could.
For students, the small retreat is perfect for those wanting an easy, relaxing experience. You don’t have the dilemma of choosing which classes to take. Everyone stays in the same room for the whole retreat. Students and teachers have the luxury of setting up their work space just once, and you can leave your supplies spread out to work on during class and in the evenings. The hostess often really spoils her guests with goodie bags, art supplies, t-shirts, give aways, a delightfully decorated classroom, and even a snack buffet for the middle of the afternoon lull time. In addition to the natural intimacy of a smaller group, it is easier to get to know people because you usually share all meals and activities together.
As a teacher, small retreats are both easier and harder than the large retreats. They are easier because many of the details are taken care of, including the huge bonus for me that often the retreat organizer provides the art supplies, saving me both money and shipping angst. The thing that is sometimes hard for me is that I want to visit with everyone and participate in all the extra curricular activities. However a good way for me to recharge after a day of high wattage teaching is to have some alone time. With a retreat that is just 2-3 days long, I participate in everything, but I’m completely exhausted by the end. At larger retreats, with a variety of activities outside of class for everyone to choose from, it is easier for me to step away to rest without potentially hurting anyone’s feelings.
At larger retreats, attendees have a wonderful variety of workshops to choose from. You can take a jewelry class one day and a painting class the next. If you don’t get your first choice class, keep an open mind. I know I’m not the only teacher who has had a student come up after class and tell me, “You weren’t my 1st choice, but now I’m so glad I got your class.” At larger retreats, students have the fun of meeting new people in each class, at meals, in the lobby or dorm. There is often an evening marketplace where you can not only shop for cool and unusual art supplies, but you also get the rare opportunity to view and purchase a wide variety of original art pieces by all the artists.
And oddly enough, even if you go to just one retreat, the experience stays with you. You will remember that you are not alone. Just knowing that others understand the joys and struggles of being creative, helps you surge forth. Many people strike up very meaningful friendships they keep for years, keeping in touch with Facebook, blogs, and art swaps. When I’ve been a student, I have gone home creatively renewed and energized for weeks!
Join us on Friday for Part 2 of Liesel’s post.
Liesel teaches year round at her art studio in Seattle, WA and at art retreats. She will be teaching two art journaling workshops at Art is You! in Petaluma, CA, September 2013 and 2014. Be sure to check out her website and her blog.
For more information about all kinds—and sizes—of art retreats, check out Destination Creativity.
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