Focus on Fiber Florida Style
Where retreats mean rejuvenation of the artists and their art.
From my perspective you have a unique event - a real retreat geared to serious fiber artists to network, collaborate, learn in a more informal, more organic way than the usual fiber arts workshop event. I hope it can continue as is, growing in a sustainable way and serving the artists who need it. Facilities, access to beach, food and RELAXED CREATIVE ATMOSPHERE - what more could an artist want! Lauren Austin
My Week at Sleep Away Camp for Fiber Artists
by Brenda Schlechter
I spent last week at Focus on Fiber, Mary McBride's self directed retreat for fiber artists, at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Mary is making magic with this annual retreat.
The artists Mary attracts are a wonderful eclectic mix, serious about their work and eager to share thoughts and ideas, whether it be about art or being in business. We worked, we laughed, we danced, we ate and we drank wine, lots and lots of wine ( well, not me so much).
The Center is in a lush piece of woods filled with saw grass and trees. The soaring, architecturally divine studios and walkways are cut precisely out of these woods. Every place you look is a scene. My room was a serene retreat, all white with a taupe quilt for a touch of color. Inside the dry studio was a helter skelter jumble of tables, sewing machines, fabric, and all the other things we need to do our work. There were several huge windows to let light in and that let us see the beautiful surroundings when we looked up from our work. The wet room, where we dyed and painted fabric, was quiet and colorful. A third tiny studio held my ironing and cutting station and was used by one other artist, Janet, who did magnificent small quilts reflecting her time volunteering in Guatemala.
There was yoga and massages for our sore backs. Jacque Davis led wave dancing at 4 pm to get the blood circulating after all that sitting at the machine. There was cocktail hour every afternoon at 5 on the deck of Pamela Allen's cottage.
You know how successful this event is when you realize that only about three new artists are able to join the retreat each year.
So I've told you about the structure of the retreat but not about the heart of it. It was fabulous! We worked hard. (I quilted and completed one quilt, worked on another and spent 2 days in the wet room dyeing silk scarves) We sang songs and told jokes. If you asked for it there was input on your work. I was convinced to step out of my box and remove the border from my quilt so the artwork would pop. I did and it worked.
I was able to concentrate on my work when I wanted to, or join in conversation if I chose. There was always someone to visit with when I got up to stretch.
One night, late in the week Jacque and Sheri Cooper, who are brave and adventurous, wanted to go to the pod and invited me, the cowardly one, to join them. The woods were pitch black as we left the wooden walkway and I was terrified. When I mentioned bears or panthers I gave them a good laugh. They convinced me to tag along and so again I stretched my boundaries and did something I would never have done any other place or time. I was rewarded with a feeling of courage and a sense of wonder at the beauty of the night. And no bears or panthers came along.
Our last night was over and we had returned to our rooms when I heard a commotion outside my door. I opened it up to find a few of the others complaining about no wine being left. Well, I had some so they all came in to have my Manichevitz, a very sweet wine, I also had some dates in my room so we had a party on sweet wine and dates and laughed into the night.