Maker’s Foraging Retreat, Snohomish, WA

 |  May 27, 2015

I have had so much to share here, but so little time since I came back from my retreat out in Snohomish, WA. But I want to write up a little something before too much time goes by. Going to this retreat was a gift from my family. It is difficult for me to be gone, but they sent me along and I am so grateful.

Ever since I started on my art journey I have added bits and pieces of things I have found, natural or man-made, into my mixed media works. Lately though, I have been pushing it further, like in this piece. When I saw the description of this retreat where we would be foraging for our art materials, I was sold. I wanted to see what else I could be doing, what direction I can go even further with in my work. The classes involved using skill sets that were out of my comfort zone, but that’s what I was there for. But really, to have several days in a row to create and explore without interruption, without thinking about laundry or making dinner, or deadlines- just creating for the sake of creating- was what it was about for me. And being around kindred spirits who love to be in the wood and who also draw inspiration from nature.

shannon
Shannon Weber took us on a hike to gather some materials

Shannon Weber is an Oregon artist and it was so wonderful to spend time with her, hear her story and how her life impacts her work, and learn to think about materials in a different way. As I mentioned I have always added found materials in my mixed media pieces, but I have never approached it in a way of taking this things apart to create new object with them. Or using found materials, whether natural or man made, to create sculptural pieces. Her work and her life are so intrinsically woven together that I feel that she isn’t just creating to make something. But rather that it’s an ongoing dialogue between herself and her environment. Something that really struck a chord with me.

bowl

journal

I brought one of my books to work in on my own time. I created this spread in the morning before our class started. My brain was already churning with new approaches to my books, I just couldn’t wait to work in my book.

vessel
vessel

We created vessels to fill. Some people bound their vessels with sticks and paper, I just did my boat with paper and filled it with bits of this and that. My vessel is now on my mantel and I told my kids that we will continue to fill our vessel with things we find that delight us. There is a lot of decorative stitching and attachments on my boat that can’t be seen here.

geary
Geary Jones demonstrating some experimental weaving techniques

Geary Jones was another of the instructors whose woven works, whether the intricate small tapestries to his large experimental woven installations, just pretty much blew me away. Now, weaving is not something I’ve ever done, but I love tapestries and woven forms. I was a bit intimidated by the whole thing, but determined to just have fun and see what I could do. We went to a swap meet to forage for materials to use in our own experimental weavings. I found a bit of chicken coop wire and an old rope. I also tore an old linen shirt into strips and just went at it. I had no idea where I was going with it, but in the end I actually found the whole process meditative. In and out, in and out. Tie a knot, begin again.

ocean
my ocean themed experimental weaving on my dining room wall

Randi Harper, the woman behind the retreat, introduced us to stoneware paperclay and drawing from nature for inspiration as well as using nature to create patterns. I ended up making a book art piece and I am certain I will be making more in the future.

book
cover of my book

book
inside my book

In addition to these workshops, we also had several artist come and give a presentation of their work. I loved this aspect so much and gained a lot from these talks.

Jan Hopkins. I have no words. Just awe. Ok, well, actually I do have a few words. Her dedication to her craft and process demands so much respect. Her vision and the meaning behind her work are both so inspiring.

Morgan Brig gave a talk as well of her wonderful assemblages created from found objects. From her talk, I learned that work can be so incredibly personal, and that when it is so personal then it actually speaks to a universal message. I have always felt that way as my work is very personal as well. The way she articulated it and seeing how she translates her experiences into her sculptures was very inspiring. She is also another model of an artist who is extremely knowledgeable about her materials and her craft and brings both together to create very powerful and meaningful work.

Dorothy McGuinness– um, wow. All I know is that I want one of her woven vessels to come live with me in my home one day.

I gained so much from the instructors and presenters. We work alone often and it’s really good to be around other artists. In this age of internet, it seems like we aren’t alone. But nothing beats face to face time. I also gained so much from the people who were taking the classes with me, but I will have to save that post for another day. I will end with an image of my first attempts at binding a woven form from natural materials.

nest
I felt like a bird building a little nest

3 Comments

  1. by victoria on May 27, 2015  1:41 pm Reply

    This looks like a wonderful retreat. Will there be one next year? If so how do i get on the interest list?
    Thanks!

    • by Bridgette Guerzon Mills on May 27, 2015  2:26 pm Reply

      Victoria- if you are on FB you can search for The Ranch in Snohomish, WA https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Ranch-Center-for-Arts-Craft/349948047243?pnref=story This link should take you there.

  2. by Beth on June 3, 2015  9:57 pm Reply

    what an amazing opportunity for creative exploration and growth...gorgeous work!
    just realized i need to update your new blog address in my "following" list!!!

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