Vacation With An Artist; It Could Change Your Life!
By Albert Chi—
If you crave something new and unusual for your overseas vacation this year, why not consider spending some time with a master artist, photographer or other creative artisan in the country of your choice? Vacation With An Artist (VAWAA) can connect you with about a hundred of them in almost 30 countries for a one-on-one experience that ranges from a few days to more than a week. Those who’ve participated have called it an unforgettable creative and cultural adventure.
VAWAA (pronounced Vah-wah) is the brainchild of Geetika Agrawal, a former creative director for a New York branding agency, who discovered her love for learning and travel during her early college days while spending summers working with local artisans in India. As she traveled to countries around the world, she sought similar experiences where she could immerse herself into the local culture and get inspired by learning something new.
“There were others like me,” she recalls, “expecting the same from their travels but there was no easy way, when they planned their trips, to find and connect with local artists, photographers and designers in and near cities they were going to visit.” Five years ago, determined to remedy that, she took off and traveled the world, recruiting artists for her future network, which now features nearly 25 creative categories.
“I love creating human experiences,” says Agrawal. “Anything that expands our minds and makes our hearts feel. When I lived in Los Angeles, I used to produce events that combined art, music, architecture and science with a group of super passionate and talented people. It was a great way to get deep into the culture of a place and tap into inner creativity.”
She explains that this one-on-one experience is modeled on the artistic apprenticeships of old, where one spent time learning a skill by watching and working with a master. And VAWAA offers many masters to choose from. Photographers in Norway, Slovenia or Italy, a picture frame gilder in France, a music producer in Uruguay, a clothing designer in Vietnam, brush painting in Japan, tango dancing in Argentina, a custom leather shoemaker in Prague, tattoo artists, brass bell casters, street artists, even bamboo bicycle makers in India. And many, many more.
The VAWAA experience usually runs three to ten days and ranges in cost from $300 to $3,000. Included are the artist’s fee, studio access, tools, materials and, of course, a priceless personal experience. Whatever you produce during the mentorship (photos, pottery, artwork) is yours to take home. Getting to your destination, accommodations and meals are extra.
“Studio sessions average about four hours a day,” says Agrawal, “so there’s plenty of time to explore the local area on your own.” She adds that family, children and guests are welcome but are limited to no more than four to respect the master’s space and preserve the intimate nature of the learning experience.
“If you’re a beginner, you’ll take it all in from scratch; if you’re experienced, you’ll further hone your skills,” Agrawal explains. “Each artist will work directly with you to understand the skills and goals you bring, no matter your age, job title, or prior experience.”
Since this is a personal, family-like interaction, artists have also invited participants to share in their day-to-day community life. Agrawal points out that, “Each artist is like your local friend, a respected professional and vetted by our team.”
Those who’ve signed up for artist vacations recommend them highly, especially if you’re traveling alone; they’re safe and you have an immediate personal contact who knows the area and is more than willing to help you with whatever you need to know.”
Looking back as to what encouraged her to start her venture, Agrawal says: “I noticed there was a growing breed of travelers like me – those looking for experiences vs. things— and those interested in traveling slow vs. checking things off a list. This platform is for people like us.”
It’s winter where I’m writing this and snow is on the ground. Plenty of time for dreaming about better weather and summer vacations. Though I work with digital, I’ve always been interested in how photographers who documented the Civil War used the Wet Plate Collodion Negative process to capture their photographs.
I’ve often thought that learning to use this intricate process would give me a better understanding about the enormous effort they had to go through to get their astounding images.
Clicking through VAWAA’s website I came across information about Borut, a professional photographer in Slovenia, a tiny country of incomparable beauty that borders Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia. That sounded interesting.
I could fly into Slovenia, rent a car, spend a few days in their capital city shaking jet lag, and then hightail it down to Borut’s studio (about an hour away) and start learning. When my session was over, I’d still have time to visit some of the other countries nearby. Sounded like a plan. So I read further:
“Borut is a fine art photographer specializing in analogue photography that includes film, large format photography and darkroom techniques as well as historical processes like wet plate collodion process, ambrotypes, tintypes, salt printing, albumen printing, carbon printing and others. He also devotes his time taking care of contemporary art books at a library in his small hometown of Dolenjske, Toplice, Slovenia.”
$930 for 4-days (32 hours). Includes:
- Wet Plate Collodion Negative process.
- Salt and Albumen Printing process.
- 2 out of 4 days on location in a beautiful river valley or in the virgin forests of Kočevski rog.
- Overnight camping or rafting if weather permits.
- Working with vintage cameras, Petzval lenses from 1860’s and producing photographs that can easily outstand modern inkjet prints.
- Visit to Josip Pelikan Studio, from 1899, with an astonishing collection of cameras, lenses, darkroom & retouching table.
- Materials, transportation.
- Your handmade prints.
Now that sounds like the kind of vacation I could enjoy!
Find out more about VAWAA.
Read stories from former enrollees.
NOTE: If you are an American or Canadian professional artist, photographer, or artisan, and would like to join VAWAA’s network to mentor travelers from overseas, there’s an application form at their site.
All Images courtesy of VAWAA
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