Sunday, April 14, 2013

Workshop Weekend

Looking out to sea from the beach at the Anacortes ferry dock.
Lola and I arrived in Friday Harbor around 4 p.m., pretty much on schedule even though the ferry had been delayed. We weren't about to miss that ferry and being Kemps, we were plenty early in the ferry line, like 2+ hours before the scheduled departure. We had a good chicken caesar salad and shortbread cookies with pink frosting from the little deli in the terminal. We walked on the beautiful beach nearby and watched the fog roll in and out. An hour later we had more pink-frosted cookies after they announced a 1-hour delay.

We checked into Earthbox just moments before we were due to meet Robin and some of the other students for dinner, connected with our "sister-from-another-mother" Jenny, and were on our way "downtown" (3 blocks away) for the start of our dream workshop weekend.

It was the first time I'd met Robin in person. She is taller than I thought from her pictures, very pretty and slim. She was beautifully dressed (every day!) and wearing a gorgeous beaded necklace she'd made herself.

Lampwork beads at Dream Beads
I didn't take enough pictures! I was too involved most of the time. So I've taken some pictures off the net to show you the places and people who helped make our weekend memorable.

We started off with a "meet-the-artist" event at Dream Beads. Leilani Dyer made us welcome and we mixed, mingled, and picked out special beads we'd like to put on our bead embroideries. Dream Beads is a small store with a big heart and a surprisingly large variety of beads and tools. I was particularly fascinated by the large selection of lampwork glass beads by local artists.

The workshop started promptly at 9 a.m on Saturday morning. Robin has the impressive ability to teach while simultaneously drawing clear bead diagrams, complete with thread paths, on a flip chart. And - she makes it look easy! I know from experience that it's not! We all practiced the stitches on small samplers.
Working on our samplers
Robin brought many of her bead embroidered pieces to share with us. What a bank of inspiration! I'd seen pictures of most of them, but 1) they don't do them justice, and 2) there's nothing like being able to pick something up and look at it really closely, see how the fringes and textures move and catch the light. They can be seen peeking through the back of this next photo.

Robin created this quilt using twelve of her Bead Journal Project pieces.
Four hours in a row may be too long to learn and bead non-stop.... we were all pretty much tired and hungry by the time lunch arrived at 1 o'clock the first day. Folks who know me know that I love my food, and I wanted to be sure we had an excellent lunch as part of the day, without having to leave the conference room. It's not always easy finding the best caterer from 2500 miles away. 

Deb Nolan, of Deb Nolan Custom Catering came highly recommended. One friend said, "People will come just for the food if they know Deb is catering." They would have, too! Deb worked with a long list of food allergies and preferences and served us the best vegetarian soups, salads, whole-grain breads, and little "protein sides." She is such a neat lady! Such a good cook, for one thing, and highly organized and efficient and just as nice as she could be. The food was awesome good.

The tables were set up in a U and Robin moved around the center in a rolling chair, helping individually. The great thing about a small group setting like this one is that everyone had a chance to ask one-on-one questions and the others get to hear the answers and learn from each other.

She also called us over in small groups to demonstrate a particular stitch and share how it could be expanded, using her own works as examples. Again, being able to see and hold the actual pieces added a lot to the learning.

 Look at these happy smiles!
After lunch we had more lessons, and some time for free beading on a project of our choice. At 5 p.m. we were invited to a special discount sale at Vital Elements, an interesting shop a short walk away. The owner, Rhonda Scott, has a marvelous collection of beads, ribbon, trims, papers, embellishments - all of my favorite things - and finished art pieces for sale. This picture, from their blog, gives you a small feel for the store. I was glad I had a well-established daily budget to stay within and a weight limit on my suitcases going back. I was tempted by so many things here and could have browsed for hours if I hadn't been more than ready for dinner. Rhonda fortified us with sweet iced tea, which was very welcome since I was acutely dehydrated most of the time.

Easter Sunday was Day 2 of the workshop. It was beautiful and clear and cold (45 F?) when we went out to breakfast. Everyone we met in Friday Harbor was so friendly and warm. They really made us feel welcome. Did I plan to have a workshop on Easter? No. I had no idea it was Easter weekend and it kept surprising me.

Many of us, including me, were a little under-the-weather. I love the spring flowers, but they don't love me so much anymore. Still, determined to bead and learn!

Beading all day long wasn't enough! We had evening sessions after dinner, too. One night I put in a stacked bezel around a flower and decided that it was just too high and took the entire thing out before I quit for the night. The next night I worked peacefully on my sampler and really practiced some edgings I wanted to know more about. There is an endless variety of things you can do using four or five basic stitches.

It was fun having my sisters Lola and Jenny there with me. We all had the same basic kit with a prepared piece of fabric, 3 sizes of beads and some sequins. In addition, we could add anything we wanted from our own stashes. Over and over again, without looking at each other's beads,  Lola and I would choose the same colors and sizes of beads on our samplers. Sisters!
Lola's sampler on the left, Peggy's on the right

I waited until the end to shop at Robin's "store" at the workshop. I think I was afraid that if I got started, I wouldn't be able to stop. Again, the basic daily (or in this case, 2-day) bead budget helps when faced with more size 15 Miyuki seed beads than you'll ever see in one place in person again. The rule is "Always buy as much as you can afford of anything you really like because you may never get the chance to get them again, especially not on Kauai." I call it the "Living on a Desert Island" syndrome.

I did get her "Beaded Treasures" book - I've been wanting it for a long time. Snuck a peek at it on the way home on the plane - oooh, can't wait to try it. I have lots of charms and individually interesting beads.

I pretty much bought beads everywhere. Fusion Beads, Dream Beads, Vital Elements.... my brother Mark invited me to go bead shopping with him on Monday and I actually declined in favor of going to the big video store. I wanted to get a present for Doc Matt, one he'd really like, not some hot pink gimcrack orca coffee mug from the ferry, that leaked so badly it ended up in the Goodwill bag. Oh wait, that was MY souvenir gift, not his. If I'd known Mark was going to give me a double daily budget gift when I got back in the truck, I might have re-considered that choice. EXCEPT - we got a whole season - 26 episodes - of the original Star Trek, which will give us many evenings of entertainment.

And I got plenty of great beads, including 24 K Delicas, pearls, titanium, hematite, whales, and some great shell dentelles and cockles.

da swag
Stone cabochon, dentelles, cockles

I spent my last 2 nights in my sister Lola's clear bright condo in Seattle - my starting place, too. We had peaceful dinners at home with family and I beaded quietly much of my last full day of vacation.

View from the lanai at Lola's - the camera click scared this little squirrel and he ran away.
Was it my dream vacation? In many ways, YES! It could have been longer...

Was it my dream workshop? In many ways, YES! Johnny Depp didn't come, but it was probably just as well. We had a superb teacher in Robin Atkins, truly inspirational. I met some great people and enjoyed seeing their work and getting to know them better. The food was awesome. We were surrounded by natural beauty and plenty of flowers. I think everyone had a good time. I hope so!

Would I organize one again? Probably...although I'd rather just be a student at a workshop someone else organized and coordinated.

Roche Harbor, San Juan Island
I remember now being really happy being in the company of one of my staunchest bead mentors over the years and other beaders and my sisters, being stimulated learning new things and really getting the space to practice them and try out variations, being inspired by how unique everyone's individual pieces were. I'm so grateful that we had this opportunity to study with a master artist and for everyone who came and added their energy and beauty into the mix.

Journey to Improvisational Bead Embroidery

On the way!
All the dreaming, the visioning, and focus paid off. We created a great Improvisational Bead Embroidery workshop on San Juan Island. Well, Robin Atkins created it, taught it, and constantly inspired us. I just dreamed it into being in that particular location. I'm so glad I did.

I flew into Washington state a few days before the workshop and spent time with my family. That was the main thrust of my visit at this time. I live far away in Paradise and I miss them. I didn't take very many pictures when we were together.

My sweet mama - Uta Mae in her kitchen
My mama offered to donate and help round up all the snacks, containers, paper products, pens, and other small things so that I wouldn't have to shop for them. Thanks, Mama! That was so great, we got to enjoy each other's company instead of dashing about tracking down crackers. She has always made the best snacks for parties and made it look so easy.

I brought some things from Hawaii for the gift bags. In Hawaii they usually have nuts, an individually wrapped cookie, and small gifts like sunscreen or a beach frisbee. These also included a rainbow string and String Figure Bracelet of Blessings from Lois and Earl Stokes and a small bag of assorted sequins and charms I wanted to share. I have about 33,000 sequins - always willing to share some of them! I had so much fun putting the bags together, making little grass skirts on each one.

My family days went by way too fast. I got out to Mark and Nicolette's - near Oso, in the foothills of the mountains. It was so beautiful out there - spring bulbs in bloom, new leaves on the trees, dogs joyfully prancing about. Nicolette baked one of her famous blueberry coffee cakes and then fed us a wonderful pasta lunch. My heart expands when I think about them and their life together on that farm.

So let's go already!

Good thing sister Lola was driving us up to Anacortes and over on the ferry. I had just a few things to bring. I told her, "There's 80 things on my bed that are ready to go in the car. No, wait, there's 80,000." I can't resist yanking her chain. She wasn't sure whether to believe me. I think she was relieved that there were only 8 things.

Next post - the workshop!