Now that the International Quilt Festival show of my “Specimens” quilts (catalog available) is over, it’s time to catch up on a couple of retreats I held last month.
Despite the title of this post, I wasn’t exactly “On the Road” during the month of October. Rather than cross-country journeys to teach, it was either a ten minute walk or a 45 minute commute. Hosting my own retreats has advantages, the chief being that I’m close to home, sleeping in my own bed, kissing the pets every morning and, oh yeah, my husband too. When I teach in Maine, it’s a double treat for me. Not only do I get to share my knowledge and skills with my students, I also get to share my home state with them.
October is a wonderful month in Maine. The crisp autumn air, warm in the day and cool at night, and of course the incredible colors of the turning leaves. It makes for a great time to hold my fall quilt retreats.
This year, I hosted two October retreats. The first, my annual Leaf Peeper’s Retreat, was held at the Harpswell Inn in my hometown Harpswell, Maine, for four days the first week of October. For several years now I’ve held retreats in this quaint New Englander, which is half a mile down the road from where I live and overlooking one of the most beautiful seascapes in Maine (if I do say so myself!).
A week later, I hosted my second retreat at the Hyatt Old Port-Portland, which as the name implies is located in Maine’s largest city (though compared to other cities it’s pretty small). This is a new venue for me and my students and, this time, was sort of a test run to see what it would be like to hold a class there. Therefore, I made it by invitation only to some of my experienced students. It turned out very well. The location contrasts sharply from Harpswell, and is good in its own way, being close to many fantastic restaurants and only a short shuttle ride from the airport.
Leaf Peeper’s Quilt Retreat
Each morning, as I do with most classes, I did a demonstration introducing a technique or tip that helped my students with their day’s work. Then I visited each in turn, giving advice and encouragement.
One day we had a show-and-tell. Among other lovely work, were some previously made fabric collage pieces. Scroll over the photos below for captions, or click for a larger view.
The following slide show shows everyone’s progress over the course of the four days. They worked hard—often well into the night—paid attention, and are well on the path to completing their fabric creations. I’m always so very proud of my students and these guys were no exception.
Leaf Peepers In-Progress Work
Food is a critical component of my retreats. For lunch, Dick, the innkeeper, keeps us all well-fed with his home cooking. We do a variety of things for dinner: one night at the inn, one as a group at a local restaurant, one night free to explore, and one evening for a buffet at my studio.
The visit to my studio is always special. The students get to see my workspace and its resident quilts. This time many of those quilts had already made their trek to Houston to be included in my “Specimens” exhibit. However, “Crocodylus Smylus” and my newest “Kaloli Moondance” (still in progress that week) were—literally—hanging around, and were greatly appreciated.
For this meal, my husband, Tom, worked like a galley slave (or so he claims) preparing a dinner of soup, spreads, salads, specialty pizzas, and his world-famous (they ought to be) wild Maine blueberry and apple pies. Lobster rolls were also served, but they were “imported” from down the road.
Dining Out and Other Rambles
Portland Advanced Retreat
When I decided to add more retreats for 2017, it seemed obvious to look in Portland for a new venue. The city had many attractive features: close to the airport, dozens of great restaurants, art galleries, shops, and so on.
Once I had chosen a hotel in Portland, I needed some willing guinea pigs to test the venue. I contacted some of my former attendees, and lured them into the retreat by promising them a class specifically for experienced students. I would skip the introductory talks that I typically give each morning, allowing them more one-on-one time for us to work on their projects, which were all very ambitious pieces. Check out the slideshow of their work below.
Portland Retreat In-Progress Work
Some of these returning students also brought other work either to finish up or to show off in our traditional show ‘n’ tell. Those pieces are below. All-in-all it was like old home week with friendships from previous classes being renewed and new ones being made. I loved the feel of the “advanced” class and the creative energy that just exploded from the group.
Portland Retreat Finish Up and Show ‘n’ Tell
Portland is big enough to have a lot of interesting features, but it’s still small enough to be walkable. Which is what I did the mornings I treated myself to a stay at the hotel. I got up around dawn and strolled around the waterfront where I watched the sun rise over Portland harbor and the waking city.
Strolling around the Old Port, Portland
Portland proved to be something of an adventure. This was especially so when we I suggested the group go to a local Eritrean restaurant for our night out together. Asmara is a small, homey place tucked into a side street—a destination for locals. There we sampled the exotic cuisine in the traditional Eritrean manner—with our fingers (at least most of us did). The owners are long-time immigrants from that east African country and were charming and generous. And no complaints about the tastiness of the food!
Dinner at Asmara’s
Now that I have this October’s Maine retreats under my belt, so to speak, I look forward to those of next year. I am both happy and regretful to report that all five of those 2017 retreats are fully enrolled and have waiting lists. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter if you wish to attend an upcoming Maine retreat. That’s where I will first announce the dates of my 2018 classes (but not for a few months yet).