life in balance

the Sweet Paul Makerie

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I’m just back from a weekend in New York for the Sweet Paul Makerie. What a whirlwind of a weekend – four classes in two days, the most ambitious program I’ve ever attended. We met at a loft space near the Hudson Yards, with amazing views from every workspace and absolute floods of natural light at every turn. I came into the city a day early to settle in and also to spend time at McNally Jackson, my favorite bookstore in NYC – the Strand to me is too crowded, too much a Thing, and McNally has an amazing cookbook section, what can I say? Bright and early Saturday morning – 7am, to be precise – I fortified myself with a pistachio eclair and a rose-elderflower presse from Maison Kayser and made my way north to the workshops.


We had an intense, busy day Saturday, beginning with an amazing breakfast, which I was too full to eat much of (see above: eclair, but it was worth it) and then continuing on to our workshops. I went specifically for Paul Lowe and Colin Cooke’s food styling and photography class as well as Mimi Kirchner’s Cuddly Night Owls workshop, and I was lucky enough to have Mimi’s class first – what a great way to kick off the retreat. I fell in love with the owl-making process and have been working on three more since I got home – soon I should have a whole parliament of owls to share. After our Saturday classes, we gathered on the roof for a gorgeous dinner, with panoramic views of the city everywhere I looked. The meal was unreal – plate after plate of delicious food, almost Roman in excess. I felt quite spoiled by it all. Dessert was my favorite – a maple panna cotta and a pavlova, both incredible.


Sunday kicked off with breakfast, this time a huge frittata and bagel spread, followed by my food styling and photography session. What an experience to see pros like Paul and Colin at work. I’m still processing everything I learned from them, and I think their workshop warrants a whole post of its own so I can link to my photosets of the shoots being assembled and talk more at length about the process. The class was worth every penny of the retreat all on its own and I’m so grateful I got to take it.


I was also lucky enough to take Living Wreaths with Matthew Robbins on Sunday afternoon. I’ve got possibly the blackest thumb around and I was expecting to find wreathmaking incredibly challenging, but it was actually straightforward, a fun and different creative challenge. I was really surprised to find myself using the same principles of composition that I use in photography to assess and improve upon my arrangement; it seems like once you begin to develop an eye for balance, you apply that analytic process everywhere.


We had an amazing sponsor for the florals and succulents, Flower Muse. In my experience at retreats in general, usually by the last workshop of the day materials are looking a bit thin, but we had so many succulents to choose from that I actually couldn’t incorporate them all into my wreath. They sell boxes of succulents just like the ones we used in class, so they’ll be my resource the next time I make a wreath like this.


The Makerie and Sweet Paul had lined up such great sponsors for us. We got three incredible goodie bags and so many during-the-day giveaways that I can barely count them all. I think my favorites were the Rit dye kits we got at our Saturday night dinner; they’re incredible, with two colors of dye and color remover and fixative. I also loved (and needed!) our mid-day Saturday iced coffee break from Slingshot Coffee, our kumihimo materials kit from Erin Considine and the felt garland from Mimi, which is now hanging in my weaving area. It has been so much fun unpacking it all this week. I’ve been going slowly to savor it all – not just the goodies, but also the whole experience. I feel like I’ll be mentally unpacking from this weekend for some time to come.



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