Hello little blog, it has only been half a year since I last talked to you. How did that happen?
It’s been a busy year so far, the harder we try to slow down the faster life seems to go don’t you think? Thankfully just at the point that I was about to reach burn-out the lovely folk at Etsy Australia invited me to attend a creative retreat they put together with Art Series Hotels in Melbourne. The tagline was eat, craft, sleep, repeat! How could I say no to that, it fulfilled all my leisure aspirations plus it was in my favourite Australian city.
The Etsy team kept us in the dark about the specific details, but kept requesting little bits of information that had me intrigued. They asked what I’m listening to on repeat (D.D Dumbo amaze!) how I take my coffee (long macchiato) and various questions that piqued my interest. The week leading up to the retreat turned out to be professionally challenging, and I was thankful for an opportunity to leave ‘real life’ at home for 48 hours. Having travelled a lot with children on planes, there is something magical that happens with air travel when you are a parent travelling with no kids. It’s a phenomenon that turns the plane trip into the ultimate relaxation opportunity – time to read magazines (check), an opportunity to watch a full movie with no interruptions (check), people bringing you food rather than the other way round (check, check, check). I arrived in Melbourne refreshed and ready for the weekend.
Etsy and Art Series Hotel Group organised for me to stay at The Cullen, one of their hotels in Prahran. I’d heard about the Art Series Hotels for years, but have never had the opportunity to stay there. The concept is right up my alley, a hotel dedicated to an artist. In this case it was Adam Cullen, one of Australia’s best known contemporary artists who famously won the Archibald Prize for his portrait of David Wenham. His work is featured throughout the hotel and each of the rooms have a stack of art books and interesting information. I love the neighbourhood of Prahran too, lots of awesome restaurants and the Prahran Market which is a foodie’s dream.
I entered my room to find the bed laden with presents that the team had thoughtfully chosen for me by clever Etsy makers (a gorgeous scarf by Squeak Design, the stunning book Flowersmith by Jennifer Tran, a sleeping mask by Orchard Rose, and beautiful calligraphy with our mantra, eat, craft, sleep, repeat!). Included was an itinerary and information about the workshops we would undertaking and a request to be upstairs at The Cullen Rooftop for afternoon tea at 2.30pm.
As I waited for the lift to take me upstairs my stomach started doing flip flops. Despite many people thinking that I’m an extrovert when they meet me, I’m definitely 100% an introvert and situations where I meet new people always make me nervous. I’m pretty good at hiding it, particularly after many years of having to put myself out there for work, but I would be perfectly happy to curl up in my bedroom with a book rather than face the task of meeting new people. Crazy, I know.
Thankfully I pushed through, because I was rewarded with the most wonderful 24 hours of connection with a group of fabulous and creative souls. First on the agenda (after an ah-maz-ing afternoon tea) and brilliantly chosen to start our retreat was session of Meditation & Mindfulness with Manoj Dias from A-Space.
Mindfulness is the big buzzword at the moment, and I have to be honest and say that I’ve never really appreciated what meditation and mindfulness could offer me. But, as I sat there and listened to Manoj speak about what mindfulness is I had a bit of an epiphany. He talked about curiosity and kindness – two things I believe in wholeheartedly – but reframed them so that those two concepts were opened up to be both outward and inward focusing.
Many of us believe that we are curious, that we approach life wanting to learn but often our curiosity is explored within fairly rigid parameters – we are open to learning but only about things that interest us or people that we think are like minded. In any social situation we gravitate towards ‘our tribe’ or the people that we feel we will have something in common with. He challenged us to try things that we would normally decide are not our kind of thing, and to talk to people we didn’t (immediately) have anything in common with, to be truly curious about all things. I’m not doing justice to Manoj’s words here, but his message sparked a little fire within me and also made me think how brilliant meditation would be for my 6 year old daughter who can tie herself in knots with anxiety. (Note to self, check out meditation apps for children, or better yet attend more meditation workshops!).
I left Manoj’s workshop feeling both grounded by his words and with my heart and mind wide open for new experiences. From here we broken into two groups to start a craft workshop. The group I was in headed to one of the gorgeous penthouse apartments to take an embroidery workshop with Madi Astolfi from Unpicking. Madi makes the most stunning contemporary embroidery creations – I adore her succulents – check out her instagram if you are after some inspiration. Her workshop was so much fun, we were taught the basic embroidery stitches and had the opportunity to make our own piece of embroidery. I was surprised at how much I loved this workshop – embroidery has always been something I’ve assumed would be too hard and not really my thing. But in fact it was really meditative and relaxing. And there was lots of laughter and questions from my fellow crafters that made the time flash by. We were all inspired to finish the pieces we started, and though I suspect it might take me a few weeks to finish mine, I have decided it’s the perfect winter craft activity. You can attend a workshop with Madi in Melbourne next month, check out the link here!
While I was doing embroidery, the other group were hand knitting an amazing blanket with Lynda Sharp from The Fat Yarn Store. This workshop also looked incredible, the blankets that everyone made had me wanting to start extreme knitting too. Lynda is doing another workshop as part of #etsyxartseries and you’ll finish a blanket by the end of the workshop – how cool is that!
After the workshops we had a bit of rest time before gathering in the lobby to walk to dinner to a surprise location. As we walked down Chapel Street we were all guessing where we would end up, until we spotted The Olsen Hotel up the street. We marched in past a beautiful John Olsen mural and went up to the incredible penthouse for the yummiest dinner. The menu was created by Julia Busuttil Nishimura and was based on recipes from her forthcoming book. Oh my goodness, soooo yummy and definitely soul food. The evening was hosted by the rather fabulous Honor Eastly from Starving Artist who led us through a series of conversational questions that had us turning to our dinner partners and listening intently, laughing raucously and generally having a grand old time. All my introvert leanings were cast aside. I collapsed into bed that night feeling grateful to have experienced so much; full tummy and full heart.
The next morning we were told to expect a knock on the door from 8am, and awaiting us was the bright and cheerful Etsy and Art Series team with breakfast in bed. Talk about spoilt! I think it has been years and years since I’ve been treated to breakfast in bed and this was the yummiest way to start the day. Of course all the food was served on handmade plates which really added so much to the experience.
Heading upstairs to the rooftop again I was keen to get started with another workshop. I was very lucky to attend a Calligraphy workshop with Chloe Flemming from Month of June Design. I love Chloe’s beautiful calligraphy, and having done a few online tutorials and workshops many many years ago it was fun to be picking up a calligraphy pen again. I found this workshop to be very meditative, the repetitive nature of practising the calligraphy strokes was hypnotic and really calming. The workshop sped by under Chloe’s excellent tuition and I could have kept going for hours. I would definitely recommend checking out the workshop that Chloe is giving on Saturday – it’s great for beginners and you’ll really get into the swing of it.
While I was doing calligraphy the other group were making the cutest little handmade creatures with Cat Rabbit. I sat next to Cat at dinner and we had a great time chatting, I know her workshop would have been super enjoyable and I loved seeing everyone’s finished creatures.
We finished off our creative retreat with one more meditation with Manoj Dias, a little bit more delicious food and lots of lovely conversation. I jumped onto the plane already feeling nostalgic for my 24 hours of heaven, but content and recharged.
I want to say a huge thank you to the team from Etsy and Art Series Hotel Group and all the brilliant makers and creatives who I shared a weekend with. You guys were just what I needed to reset my creativity for the second half of the year. I love the concept that Etsy and Art Series Hotel Group have put together – you can book into your own creative retreat for a bit of super charged ‘me’ time. Details are here.
I was a guest of Etsy and Art Series Hotel Group in Melbourne but all opinions, thoughts, words etc are mine.