Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Inspired by Nature Retreat 2017

I meant to write this up sooner, but I feel like I've been running nonstop since I got back from this amazing three day retreat with Heather Powers in South Haven, Michigan earlier this month.  I still wanted to do a little mini wrap up of my weekend reconnecting with my beady friends, learning new things, and just generally getting inspired!

If you haven't heard of the Inspired by Nature Retreat, it's the brain child (love child??) of Heather Powers of Humblebeads.  This was the 7th year of this event that is held in Heather's home town each October and my second year attending.  The last couple of years the whole event has been held at the Riverbend Retreat Resort set on a large piece of property along the Black River.  It's the perfect place to get back in touch with nature and your creativity!

After having some travel glitches last year, I decided to drive to South Haven this year.  Luckily for me, a fellow jewelry maker who lives on the East side of the Twin Cities was interested in road tripping with me!  A long drive is always more fun when you aren't alone!  Anyways, I picked up Anna Pierson of SagaHus and we set out on our adventure.  The first leg of our journey took us as far as the Chicago suburbs where we met up with two other retreat goers for a beady slumber party at Monica Pena's house before making the rest of the journey on Friday morning.  Having our priorities in order, Anna and I did stop for a wine tasting along the way to South Haven!

Day one of the retreat started out with getting settled in, getting our goody bags, and doing our charm exchange (so great to see what everyone came up with!).  Our first project started with making some fun polymer clay molds that we would then use to make polymer clay beads later in the day.  While I found the process fun and interesting, my results were mixed.  I learned some things that I think will make any future attempts go smoother, but mostly it's about practice.  Heather's beads are always so perfectly shaped and even.  Mine turned out a bit more on the lumpy gravy side!  

The top picture shows some of my molds.  The bottom are beads before painting.
We didn't completely finish with this project before it was time for our early dinner reservation in town at Taste... painting would just have to wait!  After dinner it was still a little light out and the weather was mild so we took a little stroll down to the pier and lighthouse.  It was lovely and a little magical to see the sunset over Lake Michigan!  After dinner and our stroll, we kept working on our polymer clay beads.  Some of us actually got painting done, but not this girl.  I work a bit too slowly!

Most of the group after dinner!

What a view!  I'm so glad that we took that walk.

After a good night's sleep and a filling breakfast, we were all ready to begin our next big project on Saturday.  Today was the day for the star of the show... Heather's amazing faux tin process!!  For obvious reasons, I can't share the magic of the process, but I did want to show you a few pics from the day.  One thing that I can attest to, is that having a good file made all the difference working on these components.  I have always hated filing... like, hated with a purple passion!  I can't honestly say that it's my favorite thing, but at least I'm now able to file metal edges smooth without wanting to bang my head agains the way!  No more spending stupid amounts of time filing metal only to to find that I've somehow managed to make it sharper!  (Seriously, don't ask me how, but this was apparently my super power in the past.)  Anyway... pictures!!

Are you good with puzzles?  Making the most of the space I had on my copper sheet!

My bracelet bars:  These are the only pieces that I got completely done... filed and sealed.  

We had a decent amount of down time during the faux tin process, so I finally got back to painting my beads from day one.  I didn't finish the process, going back to sand and add more paint is still on my post-retreat to do list.  You may sense a theme here...

These still need sanding and maybe some metallic accents!

Dinner was pizza and salad at the cabin.  We all hung out chatting and continuing to work fairly late into the night.  Several of my cabin mates toddled back to our little cabin for night caps of wine and cappuccino (not at the same time!).  

Sunday funday and we still had more to learn and make before heading home!  First up, Heather taught us how to do some cool braiding with leather and a lucet (i.e. an amazing fork that Jesse, aka Mr. Humblebeads, made for each of us to keep).  Getting this braid started was tricky for this girl who has never known how/been able to braid anything ever!  I'm so glad that I stuck with it through the awkward first stages because the end result is amazing.  I had some issues finishing the braided ends and Heather had to help me.  If I can't figure out how to do it all pretty on my own, I do have a back up plan that involves bead caps.  Stay tuned... I'm going to try it again very soon!   

The beginning stages of my braid on my trusty new lucet fork!

Forks up!  All hail Mr. Humblebeads!!
I'm really very proud of the finished bracelet... and not just because it's the only thing I actually finished at the retreat!  In all seriousness, for me it's not about how many finished pieces I leave with, but about what I learned.  By that standard, this year's Inspired by Nature Retreat was a huge success!  Anyway, back to the bracelet... other than Heather's disk bead and the jump rings, this piece is totally hand made by this girl right here.  This is the first time I've managed to make a toggle bar that I'm completely happy with... and I think I've learned the secret to making more in the future.  

The finished product!
Running behind a little bit, we ended up having lunch and then doing one last quick project before hitting the road.  Heather taught us how to use the Now That's a Jig system to make a really cool focal for a charm necklace.  We all had 20 brand new charms to choose from to decorate the pendant so the hard part was deciding which ones to use since they were all so fun and fabulous!  I'm excited to say that I went home with one of the scratch n' dent jigs that we were using for class so I'm eager to play some more with my new toy.

Full disclosure: I finished this at home after the retreat.
One last item before we all finished loading our cars and headed out... the group photo.  It was cold, windy, and a little rainy so we all huddled (for warmth and to fit!) on the porch while Jesse snapped the picture.  What a fun group of ladies (and one lad) to spend the weekend creating and laughing with!  Thanks to all (especially Heather and Jesse!!) for another wonderful event!

End of retreat group photo:  Can you tell it was a tiny bit windy??
Not wanting to lose momentum after I got back home, I sat down to finish filing and sealing the faux tin earring charms that I had started at the retreat and get the earrings all finished up.  I love how these little cuties all look.  The last pair is a keeper for me since I discovered that they were a great match for a newer top in my closet.  Now I have to get brave and decide what I'm doing with some of the larger "tin" pieces that came home with me.  Hopefully you'll see some necklaces and other goodies from me before too long.  

My keepers.
It's not done yet, but I had a third piece from one of the patterns and I know what I'm going to do with it.  My plan is to rivet the smaller faux tin piece to some of the etched metal that I did at Bead & Button.  Here's a sneak peek:

Thanks for stopping by and following along with my Inspired by Nature Retreat exploits!!  If you have the chance to take a class with or attend a retreat with Heather, you should totally make it happen... you won't regret it. 


  1. Thanks so much for this trip down memory lane! I can't believe that it has been three weeks already! This truly was one of the best years yet. And I actually stayed {mostly} on task! I am so very glad that we got to spend some more time together. I can't wait for 2018! Enjoy the day! Erin
    P.S. I added some metallics to my pc pieces and they feel a lot more like me. Next time I will pick some different colors that are more soft metallics than the colors as I think that is more my style. I hope I can make more of those tin pieces on my own (not sure about my laser printer) because I have a really cool idea for them. So many possibilities!

  2. Oh wow! That sounds like it was a lot of fun, and the techniques you learned sound so, so fabulous. I'm so glad you shared what you could of this learning adventure. Your pieces are great (that bracelet!!), and I can't wait to see what else comes from this collection.