Thursday, July 28, 2016

e2c 2016 post retreat debrief

This post is well overdue but to be honest i've struggled to find the time to make a blog post worthy of our time away. It's been 4 weeks since the retreat now, and that time has just passed in a blur.
Not only have i been reeling from such a great time and the proud feelings i get with all that, but i've been super busy too (i know Meredith has also had A LOT on her plate post retreat also).

It was hard to believe the day had arrived that we had been waiting for for so long. After a long year of planning, Wilna Furstenberg (our e2c 2016 teacher) was arriving in Port Lincoln. All the way from Canada!!

Wilna Furstenberg and Tia Furstenberg en route to Australia from Canada
 Instagram @wilnafurstenberg

After a busy Tuesday in Port Lincoln I rushed home with 20 minutes to unpack the car, change, sort out 3 kids and a husband and be ready for Meredith to pick me up. We chatted excitedly on the way down and were still pinching ourselves as we sat in the airport waiting to meet the little aeroplane that would bring our first ever international teacher to our 'country' retreat. What would she be like? How would she fit in? Would she even show??

As the plane taxied in, out excitement was bubbling over! We just couldn't believe that this wonderfully, inspirational teacher with such a soothing voice (yes we had watched a fair share of you tube clips!) was only meters away.

Meredith nudged me as the disembarking people filed in, "there she is!". A total blonde bombshell with a beautiful beaming smile was before us. Looking equally stunning was her daughter Tia by her side. Within moments we were hugging like long lost friends. With so much emailing and class planning spanning 12 months or so we had gotten to know Wilna quite well and it felt completely natural to talk to her (and Tia) as if we had known each other for a long time.

We packed their suitcases into Meredith's car and drove into Port Lincoln pointing out some sights of the city as the sun was setting. I had made an extra effort this year as normally i leave that sort of tourist chat to Meredith (she's better at it than me). It was hilarious later on when she commented at how amazed she was at my sight seeing commentary.

The suitcases were dropped off at my Mum's, who had kindly agreed to house Wilna for 2 nights. It was an ideal location, giving her and Tia a little bit more room than a hotel, privacy and ability to cook if they wanted to. We are super grateful to Mum for being so generous.

That night we headed out for tea at the Port Lincoln Hotel to show her where we would be for the weekend and had a lovely meal together. That night was full of great food and wine and lots of getting to know you conversation which was just wonderful. After tea and a quick trip to the supermarket, we dropped Wilna and Tia back at Mum's and Meredith and myself headed home to our farms.

On Wednesday we were both up early, packing and saying our final goodbyes to our families. Driving to Port Lincoln, I felt like i was in some sort of dream sequence... everything that we had planned was HAPPENING!!

Around 11am, I arrived within minutes of Meredith at Mum's house and Wilna and Tia looked as if they had had a great night's sleep and really enjoyed cooking their own breakfast. We unpacked one car and all bundled in together to do a little sight seeing. The weather was a little dodgy but we decided to park the car in the main street and have a little walk along Tasman Terrace and Liverpool Street. Luckily the rain held off while we were walking around town and we ducked into a health food shop for some lunch.

Tia and Wilna at Glen Forest Animal Park Port Lincoln from Instagram @wilnafurstenberg

Afterwards we headed out to Glen Forest Animal Park and showed Wilna and Tia some Aussie animals. Tia fed and patted kangaroos and they were adorably sweet laying on the grass while multiple selfies were taken. The koalas were a bit shyer, and further away but we were still able to see them in the trees at the park. It was a great experience seeing our fauna through a tourist's eyes, as we can get a bit blasé about 'the bloody roos' but they really are incredibly unique and something to be proud of. It started to rain a little by the time we got back to Port Lincoln and Tia and Wilna had asked to have an early night, and were hanging to cook a meal for themselves, so we dropped them back at Mum's, picked up the luggage we had previously dropped off and Meredith and myself went back to the hotel to book ourselves in and unpack. We had a lovely (and interesting) meal in an Indian restaurant and a few drinks before hitting the pillows, knowing that we had a massive weekend ahead of us.

The next day (Thursday) we again picked Wilna and Tia up at 11am and headed out to Coffin Bay National Park. Again it was cold and raining, but we managed to dodge the showers fairly well considering how miserable it was. We were able to see kangaroos and emu in the wild, which i thought was a brilliant display (thank you Coffins!) for any tourist. We also went to Golden Island beach, which was blustery and cold ... but deserted and pristine. It was sensational and i kept looking down the beach thinking 'how lucky we are to have such beauty on our doorstep!' We drove back into Coffins and had lunch at the 1802 restaurant which was delicious as always.

Golden Island beach from Instagram @wilnafurstenberg

Tia and Wilna in the Coffin Bay National Park from Instagram  @tiafurstenberg

As we drove back into Port Lincoln, we had a quick stop off at the art shop and the kitchen / homewares shop before heading back to the hotel to check Wilna and Tia in. As is our e2c tradition, we head out for tea with the teachers the night before the retreat and this year was no exception.

We had also asked the wonderfully inspiring Lou Nelson to be another teacher for 2016. We have had a long history with Lou, with her attending most e2c retreats and mini retreats in the past, and was also a teacher in 2011. We have always enjoyed her positivity and support towards our retreat and were thrilled that she was joining us in a teaching capacity again this year. We are so proud of Lou's accomplishments, here in Australia and overseas and are very grateful at her willingness to share her incredible talents with us.

Lou and Wilna hit it off immediately, and it was lovely to see them both together and bask in their creative glow!

from Instagram @loolabelle

Lou met us in the foyer and we caught a maxi taxi out for tea. Before long we were all chatting and laughing, enjoying each other's company and sharing the anticipation of the weekend ahead.

When we arrived back at the hotel we asked if we could start to set up a few things and luckily the duty manager allowed us to have a few hours in the ballroom sorting our stuff out. This is vastly different to other years, when we have had the retreat in another location which requires many, many hours of tidying up prior to us setting up. Usually this whole process takes a whole day and a half... however this year the venue was clean and basically set up for us and it took only a few hours to transform it into our creative space. On the Thursday night, we packed the goodie bags, Lou and Wilna packed and sticker-ed up their kits and I made the #escape2create2016 to go on the bottom of the selfie frame. We toddled off to bed knowing that TOMORROW WAS THE DAY!

It felt like the alarm was going off far too soon but we had an early start to get everything done in time for the 2pm opening. We were back in the ballroom at 8am, and we had some wonderful helpers join us to give a hand. Sandra, Trish, Sue, Tia and Lauren (the platterista) were incredible supports and helpers along with Lou and Wilna of course. Nothing we asked was too much and we certainly couldn't do it without them. Banners were put up, +s were strung up, balloons were arranged, tables were decorated, tables were given their seating arrangement list, powerpoint displays and music was connected, the shared area (sewing machine, minc, big shot, punches, printer) was set up, mugs and goodie bags put out and of course the wonderful shops moved in. What a massive job for Ally and Leonie but we are SO grateful for their attendance. We feel very spoilt to have two shops on hand all retreat and realise how demanding it is for them. The lolly table lady arrived very last minute, so it was a great rush to set her up with everyone pitching in, basically throwing the flowers into the display so we weren't running too much over time.

from Instagram @meredithtrel

Louise Nelson from Instagram @loolabelle

There was a great crowd lined up outside the glass doors and i went to open the big double doors into the ballroom that we had carefully hidden up until then. I'll admit that i had a quiet tear then, as i really couldn't believe that we had done this.

You see we had booked our old venue for a March/April 2016 date well in advance after the 2015 retreat, only to learn a few months later that it wouldn't be available to us due to a long term booking that had come up in the mean time. While we understood their position, it threw us into an absolute spin. Where else could we have it? Would it mean the end of e2c? We initially thought that the price for a retreat at the hotel would be completely out of range for everyone so didn't even consider it. However as time went on, and we realised that the only other option was to not have a retreat at all in 2016, we thought we would speak with the hotel and see what they could do for us.

Right from that very first meeting they were exceptional. Once Meredith had done some number crunching we realised that it could be a possibility, but were not expecting big numbers as we do with our other retreat. (haha boy were we wrong!??)

Once we had booked the hotel, we sent an email to our teachers and where thrilled when they both said YES! We suddenly had the trifecta - a great venue, Lou Nelson AND Wilna Furstenberg!!

waiting for the doors to open at e2c
Instagram @loolabelle

As we opened the doors, and the attendees rolled in, it felt like a dream. I stood there welcoming new faces as well as some familiar faces. Some that had been to every retreat we'd ever had, others that were returning for the second year, some that had been teachers in the past (i think that is one thing that never ceases to thrill me - when our teachers come back as attendees!) and a LOT that were brand new to e2c. What a buzz it is to meet so many people in such a short space of time. I felt like my brain was going to explode with a heady mix of names, faces, excitement and a drop of champagne.

Everyone found their seat and the weekend had begun!

Friday was free time, and the idea of this was for people to take their time and relax into it... meeting people, chatting and having a social night.

All of the classes over the weekend (two Saturday and two Sunday) were brimming with creative inspiration and i heard so much positive chatter about techniques learnt. I always adore the table that i am on, and this year was no different... i just love those girls! It was super special this year being next to Sue P and Marika's table as well as the Lock girls (who normally are at the other end of the shed but it was SO good to talk to them all weekend too).

I'm not sure i can pinpoint exactly my most favourite memory of the weekend... it was just a fabulous escape and every part was good for my soul. Hopefully every attendee felt as fulfilled as i did at the end. Exhausted but happy.

We are so thankful to have positive, supportive people behind e2c who share our vision. To Wilna and Tia for travelling half way across the world to meet with strangers. And to Lou for always backing e2c and wanting to be an important creative part of 2016. It's safe to say that it wouldn't be as successful without your amazing input. To our shops who add that important retail factor to the weekend and the extra services from Mandy and Ngahuia that make us feel completely spoilt. To our attendees who were as wonderful as ever and understood that this year was a completely new ballgame for us as organisers. That we were newbies as well this year and that everything ... yep EVERYTHING was unknown.

e2c2016 group photo by Sandra Wallace and Christine Cid

To our team of two that seem to do an ok job of putting a pretty big event together!

from Instagram @wilnafurstenberg

We are not sure what 2017 will bring, but it will be e2c's 10th year. Ten years of retreats deserves a great celebration. I hope we see you there.


Jill said...

Wow, what a fabulous post Amanda, I so enjoyed reading it and seeing the pics and remembering all the fun. It was such a wonderful weekend and I am so glad I made the trip from here in the West to be there and join in and soak it all up. Can't wait for next year!!!

Ben's Mum said...

Amanda, I had a tear before I was half way through this post...and was practically bawling by the end!! I know how much work you and your team put into this event, and your passion is on display for all to see. Having Lou and Wilna share their talent for "arty stuff" was truly inspirational, I am still dreaming about water colours, wire and gesso, all these weeks later! I, for one, feel infinitely blessed to have this retreat right on my doorstep, and I look forward to what E2C 2017 has to offer...BIG LOVE to you all xxx

Tania B said...

What an awesome write up, you should be proud of yourselves. I really hope to make it next year!

Fiona Harvey said...

Amanda this is such a wonderful recount of a truly amazing retreat! You, meaning you, Meredith, Louise and Wilna, the behind the scenes people, the onsite shops, the Pt Lincoln Hotel and all of the wonderful attendees made my very first e2c such a memorable and enjoyable event! It is such a massive effort to put this together, the world needs more Amandas and Merediths! Please count me in for e2c 2017! No doubt it will rock our world once again!

Georgia Metaxas said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post Amanda. What an amazing retreat, well done!!

Niecy's blog said...

What a beautiful
Post Amanda! So wonderful to have such a detailed recount of behind the scenes action leading up to it. Your excitement is infectious and I'm sure like me, many who read it will suddenly find themselves back there reflecting on the wonderful time that was had. A credit to all of you. Simply amazing what you do to prepare such an event! Xx

Wilna Furstenberg said...

Reading this was like reliving it all over again. What a fantastic memory and event. Thank you again for having tia and me. ❤️❤️

Wilna Furstenberg said...

Reading this was like reliving it all over again. What a fantastic memory and event. Thank you again for having tia and me. ❤️❤️

SueP said...

What a wonderful re-count of a great weekend!! You girls hit the jack pot with this always. Loved every minute of it!! 4 weeks since it has passed....WOW....that just means 2017 is just that little bit closer....yay!!! xxx

maddie said...

Omg- I'm in! Looks amazing. I'm a huge Wilna fan too. Where can I keep updated for 2017 please? I'm in Tassie.