Craft retreats – what a great idea

Crackle canvas project: Chesterton craft retreat

This last weekend I got ahead with day-job work during the early part of the week so that I could pack and then set off to Oxfordshire Friday early afternoon. The craft retreat that I’d booked into was organised by the UK Stampers Network. I’d got an invite from the organiser as we had sort of kept in touch after meeting at the Bridlington craft retreat with Leonie Pujol (of Create and Craft TV) in March.

The term retreat suggests solitude, quiet and doing not very much, which is the very opposite of a craft retreat, but its still a great way to get away from everyday stresses and relax in the company of other crafters while learning new techniques.

The event at Brid had been in the Royal Bridlington Hotel, where they have a huge room set up with tables for quilting so also perfect for crafting. We only had to stagger next door to the dining room to eat the huge amounts of food laid on by Tim and Fiona, the hosts. This time was different in that we didn’t have a celebrity craft presenter or such luxurious facilities – but it was still great.

Craft retreat in Chesterton, near Bicester, day one

Craft retreat in Chesterton, near Bicester, day one

Many of the members of the UK Stampers Network are very experienced and we had eight different workshops run by different people, who had all do quite a significant amount of prep and who offered their services for free. The venue was the local village hall, we stayed in the local Travelodge and we dined off Chinese takeaway and Tesco meal deal sandwiches – and lots and lots of cake, biscuits and chocolate. Craft retreats are not that good for the waistline!

Craft retreat in Chesterton, nr Bicester, day one

Craft retreat in Chesterton, nr Bicester, day one

Papercrafting workshops day one

My card making skills are still in their infancy, so any technique is new to me. Because most other people are very experienced, the workshops on card making tend to be a bit advanced and I have to struggle to keep up. The first workshop of the day was a box card technique – making card concertinas and fitting them together to make a frame that is then pasted into a book-like cover. Everything can be decorated and the inside of the box card can be used for decoration and/or keepsakes, which is a really nice idea. Mine got a bit surreal with an umbrella with rain coming out of it into the sea – but I wanted to use the little jewels so much.

First project - the box cards

First project – the box cards

Workshop 2 was making a little journaling album using an envelope maker to create square envelopes that were then interlocked and decorated. Getting the envelopes square was key to the success of the final product, and I admit I failed badly. But learning the technique is what matters and with a bit of practice I can see that this technique will be very useful for mini-journaling projects and keeping samples of new techniques.

After lunch it was time to make a flip card, which I had also never done, but the background was done using an embossed piece of waxed paper to transfer a resist (using an iron) and then colouring with distress inks. I was on relatively solid ground here as we had also done this at Bridlington, but I managed to make my flip card the wrong way round. It still turned out OK though, quite a decent first effort.

Crafting against the clock

Card consequences with a twist followed – this was the fastest paced workshop of the whole event and one that I really enjoyed. I think this would be a great thing to do if you had some friends round, even if they weren’t into crafting but wanted to have a go. The workshop leader, Sheila, had split us into three groups and given each group six folders containing coordinating card, paper and embellishments, including a couple of toppers and sentiments. It was then a race against the clock. We all started with one of the folders and had to put a background on the card – 2 minutes.

The bell rang and we passed our folders on to the next person. Then we had two minutes to add something. This went on for six rounds, with the card taking shape as a joint effort between the group. The race against the clock was fun and the cards were all actually very good.

The consequences of card consequences with a twist

The consequences of card consequences with a twist

We then did a round of little tags or artist trading cards (ATCs) with what was left – and they even turned out well too.

After a quick stop to eat our vast Chinese takeaway, we carried on for an evening session and made canvas plaques using crackle glaze and acrylic paints and then finishing with paper flowers and charms – see the pic at the start of the post.

No rest for crafters

We all set off for our travelodge rooms at about 10.30pm and just enough time for a bit of my audio book and sleep before setting off again to get back to the hall at 9.30 on Sunday. Workshops on the second day included a play with Project Life, a new way of doing scrapbooking, and backgrounds, which was my favourite. Lots of messy, inky stuff, including playing with shaving foam, paint and the effects it can create.

Me crafting in Chesterton at the craft retreat

Me crafting in Chesterton at the craft retreat

During the few minutes spare between workshops, the organiser told us about the ATC club exchanges that are done between members of the UK Stampers Network. I’d learned a bit about this at the last craft retreat but I think I am going to be learning a lot more over the next few months as I am now signed up and active on one of their lists! I can see this being a whole new life’s work 🙂 I’ll be doing little books of ‘inchies’ tiny works of art on a square inch of card.

The Inchie exchange project

The Inchie exchange project

I did miss the last session to get away to try to beat the Sunday night traffic up the M1 and did the home journey in about three hours, no stops. Tiring, but fun. Trouble is, I could have done with the Monday off to recover!