Monday, July 6, 2009

Calligraphy Retreat in Minnesota

Well, I am back from my international calligraphy retreat at St. John's Abbey and University in Collegeville, MN. I traveled to the conference with my friend Suzie, a wonderful calligrapher and top notch roommate. We both have a distaste for flying so we decided wouldn't it be fun and interesting to take the train from Washington State to St. Cloud Minnesota? We booked ourselves on Amtrak, on their website they have this lovely picture of an (apparently) roomy "Roomette", which is supposed to comfortably seat 2 with sleeping bunks. We were quite excited to get on the train in Everett and eager to settle into our what we thought would be a snazzy accommodation...imagine our surprise when we were shown to the T.I.N.E.S.T. "room" I have ever seen, literally a sardine can.
Of course we were packing 50 tons of art supplies with us, plus our regular luggage, thank god they gave us free champagne right away, we were literally hysterical by the time we managed to shoehorn ourselves and our crap into that itsy bitsy space. Those people they had in the website ad must have been on drugs to be that damn happy in that teeny space, somebody was VERY creative with the wide-angle lens and photoshop that's all I have to say. Granted, meals were included, they were pretty good and they did lull us with a free wine and cheese tasting to help take the edge off. We made it to St. Cloud 35 hours later, hauled our sorry butts off the train at 6:00 a.m. and called a cab to take us to a restaurant for breakfast as we could not check into the conference til 11:00. Up pulls "Buck", John Wayne's long lost brother and we pile our 50 tons of art supplies into the cab. After more hysterics and lots of coffee we finally made it to the St. John's University and were able to check in early to our room, spartan student housing, but looking pretty dang luxurious after the "Roomette from Hell".

St. John's houses not only the university, but a Benedictine monastery and school of theology, the architecture was absolutely amazing. Here is the main abbey church, the front is solid concrete and houses the church bells.

I had two 2 1/2 day classes, first with Reggie Ezell, learning pressurized Romans, tough for me as I have never attempted those before. I learned a lot and came away with a bunch of handouts so I can continue to work on it at home. The second half of the week was with Carrie Imai, a wonderful instructor from California, teaching "Luscious Letter and Marvelous Marks - Playing Near the Edge". A fabulous class, taking familiar letterforms and letting them out of their box to play and romp around. Here is a sample of some of the work done in class on the first day....

Carrie asked us all to think of a word that had special meaning to us and she would letter it for us in her fantastic, unique italic. I chose the word "Wolf" the name of my wonderful boy kitty that I lost in January to cancer (insert tears here). I told her he had been a cat with a lot of personality and was kind of a bad-ass and this is what she made for me.

There were so many little beautiful spots on the campus, on the far side of the lake there was a little chapel dedicated to Stella Maris, Mary in her incarnation as the protector of travelers at sea. I hiked the mile and half around, in the 85 degree heat with humidity, no less, to take some pictures, and boy was it worth it.

It was hot and humid most of the time we were there, although they did have some humdinger thunderstorms at night. Thank goodness the cafeteria had all you can eat soft serve ice cream, we managed to refrain from having soft serve for breakfast but did indulge in big cones after lunch and dinner, so now I am in ice-cream withdrawal and wondering why my pants are too tight!

Here are some of the other sights from around the monastery and campus. Wonderful pieces of art and sculpture tucked here and there and in the old "Great Hall" church and surrounding buildings.

The trip back was on the train again, this time in coach, although the coach seats actually had more leg room then the "roomette". Notwithstanding the drunk chick who spilled her drinks on Suzie and the nutty guy who talked to himself when he slept we made it home in one piece, totally exhausted but thrilled with our week, although I think next time we'll fly!

I also had some great news when I got back, I had won the People's Choice award in the Stiletto's on Parade contest! Here is my darling little trophy..


  1. What a wonderful award!!! But you didn't say which shoe won?

  2. I love all the wonderful pictures you took of your trip. Sounds like you had a wonderful and fulfilling time.