Director of Education and Senior Instructor
"A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles." ~ Tim Cahill
Here we were at last in Istanbul, Turkey -- the legendary city of breathtaking beauty situated at the crossroads of two continents; the ancient land of the Roman, Byzantium and Ottoman Empires; home to the oldest bazaar in the world; an international shopper's mecca! We'd traveled nearly 24 hours; logged 5,000 plus air miles; endured airplane food and cramped seats, along with snoring, coughing, screaming children. We were bone tired, hungry, a bit cranky, and a tad smelly, too, I venture. But do not underestimate the determination of seven shopping-crazed women with Turkish Lira burning a hole in their pockets! With visions of a pasha's ransom in gold, rubies, and diamonds (or pashmina at the very least) dancing in our heads, we were off to the bazaar!!! And pity the fool who gets in our way!
Splash some water on your face, brush your teeth, grab a granola bar, and let's go!
Some of us were old friends; a few were new to our group and not yet acquainted with the wacky ways of our travel madness. We were jewelry artists hot on the trail of all things bright, shiny, and beautiful, and nothing bonds a group of women faster than shopping. The Turks love to haggle, and, in fact, it's expected. So there was instant bonding and fast friendships formed as we brokered our way through first the Spice Market and then the 3,000-kiosk Grand Bazaar in search of inspiration and treasures to incorporate into our own designs.
Our week-long journey to Istanbul and Cappadocia was all about art. We were here to see, touch, taste, and savor every morsel this culturally-ripe country could throw at us!
Our highly impressive team of tour guides totally "got" our objective and went over the top to open doors beyond our expectation. We met artists in their homes, studios, galleries, and even caves. We picked their brains and watched them work their magic in medium that included fiber, textiles, jewelry, gemstone cutting, rug making, ceramics and pottery.
We drooled over priceless gem-encrusted artifacts once belonging to Sullyman the Magnificent. We were awed by young women in remote villages as they double-knotting vegetable-dyed fibers into intricately patterned carpets on ancient looms. We sipped sweet apple tea with a Turkish "National Treasure," honored for his efforts to revive the ancient art of wool felting. We watched the spiritual transformation of the Whirling Dervish as they performed their sacred, mystical dances. We saw textures in the stuccoand carved doors of the ancient palaces and mosques; intriguing images in the tiles of the mosaics and frescoes; unique symbolism; vibrant colors; amazing shapes. Our creative juices were jumping. We were more than inspired. We were transformed, enlightened, rejuvenated, and restored. We filled our hearts, minds, spirits and sketch books with designs we couldn't wait to make and I had tons of new ideas to share with my students.
We came to Turkey as strangers -- tourists in a foreign and exotic land. We boarded a plane seven days later as seven closely bonded friends. We were on our way home and we were filled to the brim -- hyped, psyched, and ready to work!
Teachers by nature are passionate people. We exude a joy for the subjects we love. And as joyful as it can be to share our passion with our students, we also risk a high rate of burn-out because of the depth of our conviction and dedication to our work. We need to find ways to nurture ourselves so we can inspire and motivate others.
Travel and interaction with like-thinkers does the trick me every time. If you need a good dose of artistic razzmatazz, the PMCC Retreat at beautiful, serene, remote Arrowmont is just the ticket....and timely, too. Meet new artists. Take a class. Learn a new technique. Take a long, peaceful walk in the forest. Open your eyes, heart, and senses to new and endless possibilities. Nourish and replenish your inner artist; your creative core.
So right about now you're thinking, "A trip to Turkey? The Arrowmont Retreat? Is she out of her mind?"
Okay, I'll grant you, those destinations may be a tad pricey or a far stretch to go in search of artistic inspiration. So look around your own community. Are there galleries and boutiques you've not yet explored? Is there a nature trail you've never hiked? Is there a museum close by with a new exhibit? Thrift shops you've wanted to rummage through?
It doesn't take a ton of time or money to have a unique and inspiring experience. Call your friends. Load up the van and organize an "Out of the Box" day trip. Head out with a mission to discover something new and different. Have everyone bring something for a "shared" picnic lunch; something new and different, perhaps using recipes from different ethnic and cultural origins. Stage lunch at a lovely park where you can get close to nature and look for "treasures" to bring back to your studio. Write the name of an artist, a word, or message on cards and distribute them to the group. One at a time, discuss what that word or phrase conjures up. How are they inspired by that thought, person, or concept? Takes notes to review and share later.
In other words, do something different! Life is full of surprises, diversity, and unexpected blessings. Open your heart, mind, and spirit to the possibilities and let the creative juices flow!
Looking forward, perhaps, to seeing you in the beautiful Smoky Mountains.