Gift #1138: Inspired by Nature Retreat

This October has flown by and it has been full of wonderful experiences which I’m hoping to share with you over the weeks ahead.  During the second weekend of the month, I was able to attend the Inspired by Nature Retreat with Heather Powers.  I attended last year and loved every moment of it and have been anxiously awaiting this year’s in the hopes that I could attend again.  They are very popular retreats and sell out quickly during the pre-sale.  But fortunately I secured a place and began dreaming of it constantly.  We get to prepare for the retreat by creating charms for a charm swap.  This is great because it helps channel some of my creative frenzy and excitement about the retreat into something tangible.  The theme of this year’s retreat was “Field Guide” and was inspired by Audubon’s bird illustrations and old field guides (a perfect theme for me).  I wanted to play off the theme by creating tiny journals.  I’ve never done anything quite like it before and it took some experimenting, but I showed up at the retreat with 24 miniature journals, with individually distressed pages, wrapped in a faux leather binding, and held closed by cord and a tiny feather.


I’m really pleased with how they turned out.  And in return, we each receive 24 charms and a few freebies for the retreat.  These were all the goodies I received – and that’s just at the start of the retreat!  All these beautiful beads and charms are handmade and lovely!


After that, we settled into our first class, which was saltwater etching.  I was mesmerized by this process – especially once we set up our copper plates in the salt water and started the current.  The water eventually turned orange and kept reminding me of a pumpkin drink!


I etched one plate before dinner and did another when we got back.  The first plate was done with image transfer of old botanical illustrations.  The second plate was done with stamps that another member of the treat thoughtfully brought and allowed us all to use.  I love how the stamped images turned out as well.  This was probably my favorite class.


After working up a good appetite with our first efforts, we went to downtown South Haven, MI for dinner at Taste.  I loved the trip to Taste last year and was excited to return.  Fun fact – we pretty much sat at the exact same tables for dinner too!  This restaurant specializes in small plates and I couldn’t wait to order another round of potato pancakes!  They are amazing!  And they’re served with fruit chutney.


I also had some soup which was delicious.  And a couple of ladies ordered a 15-layer  chocolate cake and shared it with the table, which was very kind.  We went back to the lodge and enjoyed an evening of beading, working on our etching pieces, and chatting.  Did I mention that the same ladies I sat with last year saved me a spot this year, so I got to be with them again and I also met 2 new friends at my table.  My mom taught another attendee how to knit that evening too, which warmed my heart.

Day 2 started off with a rousing breakfast and then our second class – faux agate.  This was our polymer clay class, where we learned to make clay canes to look like fossilized agate, then made base beads and covered them with thin slices of the cane.  This took some practice, but here are the beads I made during class.


I made pink and green cane and layered that over gray, cream, or burgundy base beads.  I made all the beads we’d need for our projects and a few extra.  Then I also sliced the ends off my cane where the design was distorted because I thought it looked like butterfly wings and they might be fun to incorporate into another project.   When I looked at all the other participant’s beads, I really liked the way some of them made light-colored cane.  So when I got home, I experimented with that.  Here’s a pic of a couple of pendants my mom and I made while practicing the technique further.


The two lumpy beads in the previous photo above I made into an acorn shape to fit into some acorn caps I found while browsing outside.  They’re finished up and in this picture too.  The weather was great this year, so in the mornings and during class breaks, we’d frequently walk outside to admire the fall foliage and take pictures.  The retreat center is in a quiet forest and the cabins back up to a stream/pond which is lovely.  Here’s a collage of some of the pics from the back of my cabin.


That afternoon we did a faux tin class.  I first took this class last year and really enjoyed it.  I made Christmas ornaments using the technique too.  This year, we would be cutting out more complex shapes and using John James Audubon’s bird images for jewelry components.  I could not wait for this!  The technique is proprietary so I can’t share process photos or instructions for that, but it is brilliant.  We worked on those till dinner and then enjoyed pizza, snacks, more beads (and knitting), laughter, and camaraderie.  I love being with other crafty individuals who share the desire (obsession?) for making things.  It’s infectious and creative and really inspiring to be a part of these special women’s lives for a few days.

Day 3 was when we put everything together so there was lots of cutting, filing, wrapping, turning wire, and bringing projects to life.  I love Heather’s sense of style and her way of combining elements.  These pieces were a joy to make.  I put together this set during the retreat.


And I finished up this set once I got home.  It helps me to have some projects left over for home so that I can relive the experience and continue to be inspired by it.


I just love the way everything comes together for these sets. Polymer clay, etched copper, and autumnal images blend beautifully with tiny beads and accents.  We made the steel links using “That’s a Jig” to help bend the wire into complex shapes.  We made several others which were used for the sample of the 3rd necklace ( I need to make) and for a charm holder that we could display some of our charms from the swap (also still need to make).

It was a splendid weekend and I loved every minute of it.  It was relaxing and inspiring to spend time in the forest making nature-themed components and creating jewelry from them.  It was special to spend time with my friends from last year and to meet new kindred spirits.  I’m glad we have Facebook to stay in touch with each other during the year.  Thank you Heather for a perfect weekend!  On the way home, my mom and I stopped by the beach and walked for a while, listening to waves on the sand, collecting shells and bits of flotsam, taking pictures, and enjoying the bliss of an autumn day.


I’m still dreaming of it all.

Blessings to you,





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2 Responses to Gift #1138: Inspired by Nature Retreat

  1. Eliza Waters says:

    Sounds like a great retreat with much shared and learned. Good for you!

  2. Sarajo Wentling says:

    Thanks for sharing! I’m so impressed that you went home and made another cane and finished more of your pieces. I have to admit that I haven’t done much with our class projects since getting home, but it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Soon. It was so nice to see you and your sweet mama at the retreat. I’m sorry we didn’t get to chat more!

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