Monday, June 2, 2014

And A Fabulous Time Was Had by All

Well, OK, I can't speak for every single person, but let me tell you for reals: everyone I talked to 
(and that was a lot of fabulous people) had an amazing time in Olive Branch. 

 I think part of it was the bonding over having escaped being swept away by a tornado, which felt like a real possibility there for a while, didn't it? But the rain was lovely, and the sun came out, and we *didn't* get blown away to Oz. Yeah, the Oz part might have been fun, but getting blown away? Not so much, I'm guessing.

We *did* get blown away, though: by the great workshops and the after-dinner projects, the Morning Motivators and the evening gatherings in The Voodoo Lounge.

There really was something about this incarnation of Art is You that felt, well, magical.

For me, the magic shows up all over, but nowhere as brightly as in the organic growth of the community. No matter where you're from or if this is your first retreat or your 20th, there is this sense of coming home, of connecting and reconnecting with people with whom you have more in common than, well, just about anyone else.

You love your family, you adore your friends, but sometimes—just sometimes—you want nothing more than to hang out with a bunch of people who Get You: who understand your fascination with rusty stuff and why you love to paint with your hands and why gesso is sometimes your best friend, never mind that your human BFF is sitting right there in class next to you. Sometimes it's true: all you need is gesso, and a lot of it.

What was especially magical for me this time was meeting Kathy Bricker, something that might well have never happened but for Art is You. Kathy and I have been connected online for years, but we'd never talked on the phone, and we'd never met in person.

When The Ever-Gorgeous Earl and I went on our Big-Ass Eastern Road Trip, we had a book signing in Manhattan, and so we booked a hotel in Manhattan, but saying it was a little out of the way would be minimizing its hidden-ness. I'd never been to New York, but I was under no illusion about my ability to get totally lost in just a manner of nano-seconds. Kathy's daughter lives in Manhattan, and she goes there frequently to visit, and she did this amazing thing: she found our hotel, took photos of the front of it, where it was located on the block, where we should unload and where we should park. She gave me excellent directions for getting there (Siri and Google Maps can do only so much; sometimes you just have to have a human being telling you how to get somewhere), and it was perfect: we turned the corner onto the street, and there was everything in front of us, just as Kathy had said it would be. The hotel entrance was hard to find (just as she'd said), but her photos and directions made arriving in Manhattan (from the middle of The West Texas Desert) a breeze. Plus this woman is just snort-in-your-coffee-cup funny.

So imagine my delight when Kathy said she was going to Art is You in Olive Branch. Imagine! You know how it is with online friendships: you'd love to meet in person and hang out, but the travel! The logistics! It just hardly ever happens, sadly.  And then there's the scariness: what if it turns out you don't have anything to say. Not that any of *us* have ever done it, but you know how some people create this slightly shinier, glossier, more interesting and generally more fabulous self online? A sparkling conversationalist with perfect hair? And then, In Real Life, they turn out to be, well, kind of bland and beige? And while they're still perfectly nice, it turns out you don't have quite as much in common as you thought you would? And then you have to wonder if they're sitting there thinking you're even *more* bland and beige.

Well. So there's that. And while I didn't worry a bit about Kathy not being fabulous, there really wasn't any way that she, way up there in The North, and I, way out here in the desert, were ever going to be in the same place at the same time. Until now! Art is You = creating bridges across continents! Maybe that should be a new motto, right? So Kathy picked some workshops and hopped on a plane, and when  she got to the hotel and walked into the dining room and introduced herself, it was as if we'd known each other for years. In Real Life. We got to hang out and talk and make each other laugh along with a lot of other people who were connecting with people they'd never met before or re-connecting with people they see far too seldom.

It really does become a family, this group of people. Some of us go to all the retreats, and some of us go to just one. Some go every year, and some get to go just whenever time and other commitments allow it to happen. 

But the threads of friendship are there, woven into our regular lives. We check on Facebook to see what everyone's doing, now that they're back home, and we check in here to find out what's happening next.

What makes this all possible are the workshops, of course. No matter whether you find your tribe (and you so often do) or get to connect with friends from far away, you're still getting the experience of taking amazing workshops from top-notch teachers, an opportunity that's probably not going to present itself in your hometown (well, definitely not in MY hometown, where "art" is a painting of 1) bluebonnets or 2) cows or 3) cows standing in a field of bluebonnets). The workshops are the core of it all, and everything else is the glitter/frosting/the sparkly tiara on top.

If my math holds up, it's exactly 134 days until Art is Petaluma, so there's still time to make some plans, juggle your schedule, and hop on a plane. Kathy, are you reading this?

...and yes... you get to have your cake and eat it too!


Maria McGuire said...

What a great review of the event! We all had a FABULOUS time! Can't wait to do it again in October!!!

Sarah (wonderstrumpet) said...

Aw my little creepers! <3

I seriously miss everyone way more than I ever imagined possible. You're all amazing and awesome and awe-inspiring and other things that start with A.

Much much love.

Cat Kerr said...

Awesome post! You captured the feeling so perfectly!!

Kirsten Reed said...

Perfectly captured! 💜

Carolyn Dube said...

Dixie was an amazing time!Seeing all these photos just make me feel like a little kid waiting for Christmas morning...when I can get to the my next Art Is You in October!

Queentypo said...

Loved this retreat,loved creating the art and meeting such amazing people. Ric It was almost like summer camp without the teenage angst and much more fun art and craft work than we did in summer camp. I'm sold on this and can't wait to go next year, no matter where it is!

ansharas_atticbymaryann said...

AIY Dixie was the highlight of my year. I had a wonderful experience and so loved meeting all amazing artists.

Kathy said...

I am indeed, Ricë! Reading and wishing! You captured it all so well for this first-timer. I had the best time and met the best people and I miss it all so much. Petaluma beckons (sometimes very loudly) but the parents are becoming more fragile and I'm hesitant to make long-term plans just yet. But…. I have a couple of ideas in the back of my head that have potential. The oddest thing that I found with AIY is how quickly it became a vital part of my creative self. I have been to several quilting retreats - even helped plan some of them - with people I have known for 20+ years, but this was different. This was better. This was my tribe. In addition to meeting you and Earl (which sounds odd because we KNEW each other already), I met so many people I needed to know and need to know better.
And now I find myself "planning" my time off around AYI retreats! How much vacation time will I have by then? How much will it cost? Who's teaching? Who cares? I just want to be there.
So, we'll see about this year. You never know.
It's a bittersweet sort of thing….
And those NYC emails?? I still have them. That was so much fun and I'm heading there next week to see Sarah.

Lynne Suprock said...

nothing like girlfriends and art sisters laughing out loud! xo