I think the downside of keeping many balls aloft is trying to launch another one without creating mayhem. That’s probably why quilting classes and retreats are rare for me: they are difficult to slide into my routine. Although when they do pop up, I like to park those pesky balls and immerse myself in the experience.
That’s just what happened about a month or so ago when I went on a road trip with my compulsive quilt retreater friend Cyndy Rymer. We steered a course southward to the Monterey Coast for the last session of the 2014 season of the Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar.
What’s not to love? Five days of quilting with a master teacher, camaraderie, seaside hikes, and, best of all, no daily grind at the office, no cooking, and no housekeeping! Perhaps I should stow those balls more often, but I can’t manage Cynderelly’s pace–she’s done +50 classes/retreats to my three!
She Came From the North Pole . . .
Cyndy and I elected to take Canadian Judy Farrow who offered a design class for our week’s immersion. Neither of us knew much about her so it seemed like a voyage into the unknown, which indeed it was . . .
Upon meeting Judy it’s all to easy to be deceived by her quiet nature and British reserve, but that would be a mistake. She’s spirited, passionate, and very funny. Still, it was surprising to learn that, some 40 years ago, Judy and her husband left comfortable Montreal to teach high school on Baffin Island, a remote and frigid Canadian island that straddles the Arctic Circle. While there, Judy and husband Malcolm travelled extensively by dog team and hunted seals to feed them! These days, after three decades in those northerly climes, she’s ensconced in more-temperate Vancouver.
That arctic imprint is unmistakable, especially in her most-renowned quilts, and has served as the starting point for her evolution as quilt artist. (Remarkably, Judy learned the craft from home study of Laura’s curriculum outlined in Quilts!Quilts!!Quilts!!!) Nowadays Judy’s quilting vernacular is very broad and inventive, although still rooted in inspiration from the environments she has encountered.
At Work and Play by the Seaside
While communing with a teacher is the major part of the Empty Spools experience, sharing a classroom with a unique set of fellow quilters is the other side of the equation. It’s at once exhilarating and humbling to experience the aesthetics and skills of other quilt makers. It’s also liberating to hitch a ride on another’s point of view and see how she might tackle the same design exercise.
Another Empty Spools feature is the Artist-in-Residence program. Gail Abeloe, owner of Back Porch Fabrics in Pacific Grove, just down the road from Asilomar, wrapped up the 2014 program with an opening night talk and exhibition of her work. The rest of the week Gail repurposed orphan blocks from her past projects and created brand new quilts. I slotted in daily visits to Gail’s workstation in the main hall, just across the way from Carolie Hensley’s pop-up quilt shop, to see her progress. Wow! It certainly helps that she has the best stash ever (quilt shop owner–duh!) and a superb eye for color.
Probably the hardest part of quilting by the sea is ignoring the call of the surf, especially when the sun is shining and the breeze carries that salty tang. On “good” days, Cyndy and I walked the shoreline morning, noon, and night, but sometimes we just couldn’t fit in a third stroll what with class work, making friends in the dining hall, and checking out the evening programs offered by Empty Spools. Although, once we experienced one sublime Pacific sunset, we were hooked for the rest of our stay. See my sunset photo essay below. Three consecutive nights of the setting sun: same time/same place–each distinct.
Here’s my parting thought about quilt retreats–go when you can and, if Empty Spools is on your horizon, do it!
p.s. Did I forget to mention the picturesque town of Pacific Grove, just a mile or so down the road from Asilomar? Well, it’s eye candy central for many reasons, among them: Kidwell’s Paint.