Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Planning a Weekend Art Retreat with Friends

planning an art retreat weekend

If you've ever been to a conference related to something you're passionate about (or even just mildly interested), you will know what it feels like to leave there buzzing with excitement. Unfortunately the "conference high" can only sustain you so long before you're back somewhere close to baseline. And gee, wouldn't it be nice to get together with other creatives sometimes to just learn from and inspire each other without spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars? The AJE team was kicking around our own little art retreat, but we quickly realized trying to get everyone together at once was a logistical nightmare.

Karen offered to host us in small groups at her cabin in New York. Except life threw her a curveball and she ended up employed in Pittsburgh and was going to have to back out of hosting the groups. I REALLY wanted it to happen, so I was like "hold on! I have a lake house that can easily sleep 3 people (besides my family) with a perfect space for doing art stuff. If you all are willing to come to northeast Indiana (possibly too big a hurdle to overcome....), I will host it." The first small group all agreed to it and then I decided I should probably break the news to my husband....heh. 

Let me tell husband? He's an amazing cook. If he's willing to cook, I'd rather eat whatever he's making than any restaurant meal. So I told him we would be hosting some crazy bead ladies and we needed a hunky chef. He's like "where are you going to find one of those?" He's funny too. 

art retreat weekend book binding

Once I knew he was on board with it, we started planning the specifics. Here are some tips for planning your own weekend art retreat:

-small groups. Planning for more than 4 or 5 would be a logistical nightmare and more than I personally could have handled. 

-an easy way to organize the retreat is to create a private group on Facebook

-create a document for techniques each person wants to learn during the art retreat that someone else in the group can teach. We did bookbinding, bronze clay, and bead embroidery. We had lampworking as a back-up option if we ran out of stuff to do. 

-create another document for what supplies and equipment are needed and who will bring each item 

-create a document of activities to do locally in case everyone gets bored with doing art stuff (not bloody likely, but I suppose it could happen). As a side note, Justin Bieber showed up to our little Indiana town that weekend and we discussed trying to stalk him. We decided bead embroidery was way more entertaining. 

-as the hostess, I was concerned about food allergies and preferences. I got a list of those and gave them to my chef. 

art retreat weekend breakfast

-the chef also worked as the bartender. 

art retreat weekend libations

-speaking of the chef, if you don't have someone willing to help you out with food prep, have simple meals and snacks on hand. For dinner we went out one night and ordered pizza in another night because the chef had to work his day job a couple of the days. 


-enlist your teen daughter (or some other human within proximity) to take a group photo

art retreat weekend participants

-as the hostess, I was also concerned about comfortable sleeping/bathing arrangements. I tried to make sure there were enough towels, pillows, blankets, toilet paper, soap, etc and made sure everyone knew where to get extras if I wasn't available for some reason (which, strangely enough, I had to leave early one morning to drive the 45 minutes to our house in Ft Wayne to deal with a mega wasp infestation...another story for another time.)

-I also wanted to make sure the space we were working in was comfortable and had enough space for everyone to spread out. Because we were using our 3 season room that doesn't have any type of temperature controls, and summer finally decided to start Labor Day weekend, we had fans going and the door open from the house to the 3 season room. We always use a folding 6' table in that room, so I brought up a 2nd one from the Ft Wayne house so we had more space to work. 

planning an art retreat weekend

-if you can convince a Virgo to attend, who also happens to be a teacher, she will make sure everyone is organized and on task and keep things moving (thanks Jenny Davies-Reazor!) 

art retreat weekend learning bead embroidery

-if you can convince a Brit to make the trip, the chef will make an effort to recreate a traditional English tea. Except I'm not sure anyone actually drank tea during tea? 

art retreat weekend tea

-if you can convince Karen to come and teach bronze, you get to play with her amazing handmade molds. It was like getting to be Karen for an all too brief glorious hour or so. 

art retreat weekend bronze clay

Everyone worked together to make it an absolutely perfect weekend. You can read more about our weekend in Jenny's post about learning to use bronze clay and Lesley's post about her inspirational three week visit to the United States


  1. It was a fantastic weekend and you and the Cameron clan were perfect hosts Jen...I do hope we can do again :0)

  2. LOL. You know I mean business when I clip my hair up like that. Its all true... Small numbers... coffee... While I would love to art camp with the whole AJE team, there are so many of us. Ill happily take my Virgo to any and all other small AJE gatherings that pop up!

  3. It sounds like you bloody well hung out with a Brit for a few days lol!! Fun fun fun!!!

  4. this sounds like you had so much fun! I love this idea and have a few friends I might try this with.

  5. Sounds fantastic and your re-counting of it was funny. You are lucky to have that hunky chef/bartender!

  6. Sounds like it was a lot of fun! I so want to be able to go to a retreat.


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