Autumn in the Highlands 2021
On the shores of Loch Carron.
We shared a dream that became reality on the shores of a Scottish loch, with its wild swimmers, and seals, moody mists, and seabird songs. We were so pleased to have this wonderful group of Wandering Crafters join us in our very first retreat in the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye. When the world was just emerging from two years of near-shutdown in the world of travel, we joined together to celebrate crafting, and to joyously rekindle the power of friendship.
High in the misty Highlands, out by the purple islands, brave are the hearts that beat
beneath Scottish skies. Wild are the winds to meet you, staunch are the friends that
greet you, kind as the love that shines from fair maidens' eyes.
We started our journey with two days in Edinburgh where we explored the ancient cobblestone streets, fortunes were told, the skirl of the pipes was heard echoing in the halls, and Stitched Stories were crafted with Summer over a glass of wine and tasty Scottish nibbles in our gorgeous 'temporary local' home.
We Sketch Strolled around the ancient seaport of Leith, where we created maps of memories. There's nothing like the power of slowing down, and sketching your personal impressions to make a trip come alive with the eyes of an artist.
Our feature artist was Anne Kelly who was such a brilliant and inspiring teacher to share our time with! Anne's work is a symphony of personal narrative, so profoundly rooted in the ethos of 'spirit of place'. She marries mixed media collage backgrounds with her evocative, deeply-felt multilayered approach, incorporating serendipitous found textiles and folkloric influences.
She is also such a warm, funny, enthusiastic sharer of textile skills with her students, and we're not even kidding when we say we couldn't have done it without her. She custom-crafted our classes to reflect the 'spirit of place' through collage, fiber, pattern, and just plain fun memories of learning together.
As our groups are small, everyone has plenty of time for questions, and our attendees are always as generous with sharing their knowledge as our teachers.
Did we tell you about the time we washed our faces with the elixir of youth? According to local lore, you can gain eternal beauty from the faeries at the Old Sligachan Bridge on the Isle of Skye if you splash the magical (and also quite brisk!) waters to your brow. So we tried it, because Scotland will do that to a person, and we think we're all much improved as a result.
It's all part of magic of discovering a country through an artist's eyes, and recording our impressions of this perfect land, where the green highland hills and the ever-present sound of the sea enveloped us..
We went "over the sea to Skye" as the famous song says...the magical isle of myth, legend and fairies!
Dusk drew in, and the Scottish sense of ‘coorie’ (to snuggle, or nestle) becomes our world. We stayed in our own Victorian corner of the West Highlands, an 1880’s Lodge that was perched on the shore of a remote Scottish loch. We sewed in cozy nooks where we could chat, and get comfortable, renew old friendships, and make new friends too.
Moments of songs sung (and danced to) as the local Scottish folk band gave a special private concert right in our living room!
We toured and visited places too, like this special private tour of Knockando, the historic 1784 working woolen mill in the heart of Speyside. We learned the rich history of the site and browsed the range of quality woolen throws, scarves and accessories.
We met the locals, and spun a yarn or three...that's Marion, one of the docents at the Highland Folk Museum, (also where Outlander's famous 'wool waulking' scene was filmed) telling us about the ancient craft of spinning and dyeing wool using plant materials.
Some of our attendees are sheep farmers themselves, and this is a 'family portrait' of some Wandering Crafter sheep mamas talking about (what else do farmers talk about) but SHEEP! All the sheep, all the time... pretty sure they're planning their next cardigans here.
When we asked for feedback, members of our group told us: "You have created something truly special and I'm eager to attend again in the future. The combination of inspiring art lessons, touring with folks who know and are passionate about the area, the cultural knowledge/kindness/teaching us songs in the bus/etc., and the amazing hospitality (food, accommodations, gifts, supportive & encouraging energy) made this the trip of a lifetime. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything!"
"I was completely blown away by all the WOW moments you created. It was magical, unforgettable, can’t stop thinking or talking about it. Definitely the best retreat I’ve attended over the past 7-8 yrs. it’s tricky to combine a retreat and Scottish tour and pull it off for the first time during a global pandemic, but you guys did it and did it amazingly!"
(to be honest, that made us feel really good :-))
Truly we couldn't have asked for a nicer bunch of crafters, and we will always remember them so fondly. In fact, several of them are coming back for more, and we can't wait to welcome them back to the magic of Scotland this autumn again, to hear the stags in the glens, and watch the jewel-like colors dance over the hills as we wander ever forward!