I must confess I might have squeaked just a little when the advert for the Gathering Retreat opened on my screen.
Here was an opportunity to take part in a live online workshop with Rachel. I’d always wanted to attend one of her in person workshops but the stretch of distance, time and cost had all been factors at one stage or another. Cornwall sometimes feels a million miles from anywhere.
The Gathering Retreat felt as far away from the dry meeting rooms or online classrooms as you could get. Rachel created, blended and balanced screen time with space in your real environment, encouraging fresh air breaks and scavenger hunts, infused with tea breaks, opportunities for chocolate, biscuits and cake.
Starting on the Friday evening Rachel warmly invited us to take this time and space for ourselves and our creativity, she asked us what were we going to Gather, words, intentions, ideas, marks, connections, new friends?
Making a book is clearly advertised, we made the interlocking slot book from Bound, but what isn’t advertised is the magic Rachel infuses in the workshop. Sprinkled with poetry, prose, mini makes and mark making Gathering is a master class on how to get the best out of your students.
Rachel creates complete trust by stealth. I felt no pressure or need to compare. My inner critic was silenced and I felt a freedom to play, experiment, be guided and lead, with a lack of fear, through expert directions and clear instructions (a camera focuses on her hands when she demonstrates).
Our cohort was a perfect mix of folk with various backgrounds, some more used to writing and crafting words, and those more familiar with making with their hands. Being of the later, through Rachel’s encouragement and guided exercises, I felt capable of both.
Rachel managed zoom perfectly, break out rooms were used as an opportunity to meet and chat one to one with fellow participants. My “workshop table” buddies varied throughout the weekend and I was able to have individual conversations and make connections. Zoom is not second best to an in person workshop as Rachel has used her 20 years of teaching experience to truly craft an inclusive and friendly environment.
Gathering filled my well and charged up my creative batteries, something I was longing for after 2020. I felt capable of making everything Rachel asked us to, the books, the writing, the mark making, the story telling.
I finish the weekend wondering where it had gone. I left with inky fingers, a box of books, pages of words, tentative poems, a full heart, a fizz of creative excitement and a folder of email address of new friends that love making and filling books as much as me.
Thank you dear Cat, for putting the experience of Gathering into words and glorious images – find her website here.
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