Category Archives: The Creative Retreat

The Creative Retreat – my thoughts

I drafted this post some time ago (early July, just home from the Retreat) then published the post by Jess and never got around to expressing my own experience… Today I found this sitting in my drafts folder and thought I should just press publish – here are my thoughts, they are, raw, unedited and quite possibly not coherent! If you want to read another participants take on the retreat, Emma has given a wrap up here.

We had two absolutely amazing weekends and have some more coming up as well as plans for a more permanent space, I can’t wait to have you along for the ride!

Content below the line was written on 8 July 2016


Wow! The very first of The Creative Retreats have come and gone. I am just home and have a big, full cup. Community has been built, creativity has been fuelled and boy oh boy am I overflowing with gratitude for so much.

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I’m grateful for the attendees, without them taking time away from family, work and caring commitments, believing in the unknown and committing to being present, we would not have had such a blast. A complete blast. At each location, the sewing room was full of encouragement, support and hilarity round the clock.

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From the one who had never attempted making a quilt to the one who owns a quilt shop and the one who writes quilt patterns, books and designs fabric for a living and everyone in between, we had a large range of technical skill and experience. These wonderful participants placed their trust in me to bring them an untested experience, thank you all for coming and participating wholly.

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To Cheryl, who put blind faith in me to bring her outside of North America for the first time, who gave her all and was an absolutely amazing tutor, thank you. I miss you already and can’t wait to have you back again!

And then there’s the team I worked with to pull this thing off. Bianca who created my website and provided small business advice and assistance, Sylvia who encouraged me for years to follow this dream, Claire who folded more fat quarters than anyone should ever have to fold and provided more support than I can possibly put into words.

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Special mention must go to two ace ladies who worked tirelessly across the retreat weekends, these two women are generous, supportive, kind and so damn funny. Nomes and Cath you are both seriously amazing. You were right there the whole weekend and you worked like crazy town from dawn to dusk and beyond. I had so much fun with both of you, my dear kitchen slappers, and you know I could never have managed so much behind the scenes without the two of you. I’m so, so, so grateful for all that you did, all that you are and I hope your hands are starting to recover – I owe you both some hand cream! Love you both, thank you.

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And while I’m on the train, there’s one last mention of gratitude I have to make, to my family. To the Mr who picks up the slack at home while I’m away and provides encouragement, support, reality checks and washing services and to our three smalls who have all helped this come about in their own special ways, our dreams only happen with the support of the people who love us and I can’t do what I do without my family.

I’m already planning the next retreat in November, can’t wait to tell you who the next tutor is!

The Creative Retreat :: A Wrap Up

I’ve sat down more than ten times now to draft a post about The Creative Retreats – the very first ones held this past couple of weeks and I’ve been so overcome with the responses and the experiences that I’ve not had the words, they just won’t come. So I asked an attendee,the gorgeous and uber talented Jessica Wheelahan, to help me out. Here, she describes the Retreat as she experienced it:

The Creative Retreat promised a three day getaway where our time would be devoted to our own creative pursuits, we’d have nothing to do but relax and explore and build on our creativity.

What was delivered went far and away above and beyond. I wanted for nothing. I literally felt buoyed up, cushioned and supported by a marshmallow cloud of care.  My three days away were nothing short of bliss.

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Arriving, I found an idyllic country setting.  It was chilly but the sky was high and blue and the sun beamed down.  The beautiful Southern Highlands – Rolling hills, picture perfect cows and horses, bird calls and a flash of a darting parrot here and there.

On entering the retreat guesthouse I found a buzzing hive of activity, everyone hushed and concentrating.  I was late and an activity had been set.  The central room was warmed by a roaring fire, fellow retreat goers had machines set up and stashes were spilling out of cases in a spacious layout of tables in the centre of the bright room.  Around the perimeter of the hall were the bedrooms, design walls already set up like blank canvases begging for that first mark to be made… this was going to be perfect.  DSC_0191

We’d arrived with supplies and the beginning of an idea.  These were discussed as a group and we were helped with deciding on a project.  Individual ideas ranged from experiences of travel to something skill based, an inspiring photo, or artist to the deeply emotional and visceral.

Mine was an idea which had been percolating for a while.  One which had already been a ‘false start’ so I knew that I would need a long stretch of uninterrupted sewing time to develop my idea.  I tend to ‘snatch’ sewing time at home – 10 mins here and there as a low order priority around the other tasks that a busy working mother must see to.  That’s why The Creative Retreat and its promise of three days of stitching appealed to me.

A found vintage block had inspired a vision.  A bright quilt in solids alone with improv crosses and arrows following my style – a ‘Go your own way’ quilt (Fleetwood mac were playing!) I had also packed my stash of vintage fabrics, a riot of colour and pattern.  I thought if my primary idea didn’t work out I might find some encouragement to cut where I previously had not been able to!

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It didn’t matter what our individual goals were, Cheryl was skilled enough to guide us on the path.  She was gentle, she listened and allowed us the space to develop our own ideas into something special.  These were our quilts and regardless of skill or experience Cheryl supported us and we were encouraged to achieve.

It is at this point that I need to describe the way that The Creative Retreat in Jules and her team ‘had our backs’.  Ample provisions of the very best from T2 tea and fresh roasted coffee with homemade treats ranging from Afghan biscuits to syrupy gluten free cakes and fruit always on offer, perfection right down to the final detail.  Meals were generous and designed to suit every taste.  Each meticulously planned and prepared by Jules, they were nourishing and flavoursome.

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Nothing was too much trouble.  At one point in my design process I was creating blocks to flow on from the ones I already had on my design wall… behind me… I pondered out loud that it would be much better if I was looking straight ahead at my blocks and as though I had waved a magic wand with the instruction ‘make it so’ a new design wall materialised in front of my eyes!  -Thankyou Cheryl!

As the time wore on and we became comfortable in our little community the sew–along turned into a sing–along and contentedly we stitched the days away, sharing, laughing, bonding.

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Each morning I woke at around 9am having sat up late sewing,chatting and laughing.  What a guilty pleasure – not setting an alarm.  I found my ‘Batteries’ were recharging and my mind was relaxing as my creative spark was coming to fruition and that sense of frustration with not having enough hours in the day to achieve all my creative goals was replaced with a deep sense of satisfaction of having achieved what I had set out to do.  For a creative person held back by the pressures of life this feeling is like nothing else in the world!

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By The last few hours of the retreat on Monday my quilt top was taking shape.  I wasn’t alone, looking around the room there were projects nearing completion on every available design wall.  We were proud of our efforts and so were Cheryl and Jules, sincerely so.

The Creative Retreat is a new venture for Jules McMahon and in my mind it hits the spot, bullseye, bingo, Eureka, Cowabunga!  I can’t recommend it highly enough and hope to be involved next time Jules and her carnival of creative energy and encouragement roll my way.  A big smoochy thankyou to Jules, her team and Cheryl Arkison the superstar.