I am so pleased to introduce you to the founder and director of Squam Art Workshops, Elizabeth MacCrellish, who lives in Sandwich, New Hampshire. If you already know her then this may not be an introduction but rather a nice opportunity to get to know her better. When I first heard about Squam Art Workshops (SAW) last year and that it’s a local art retreat I had to pinch myself — a creative haven right here in New Hampshire? I don’t have to hop a plane and head west? Yay! With a year of SAW behind her I thought it would be a great time to catch up with Elizabeth to not only learn more about her background but to see what she enjoys most about her newly formed retreat, where the idea came from in the first place and what one can expect from the whole SAW experience. Lets get started!
decor8: Hi Elizabeth! It’s nice to have an opportunity to talk to you today about Squam. What exactly is SAW?
Elizabeth: It’s a retreat located at Rockywold-Deephaven Camps in Holderness, NH. From the time you arrive Wednesday to the time you leave Sunday, there’s no cooking, no cleaning, no laundry, no driving kids to practice and all meals are taken care of for you. There are workshops all day with spectacular teachers to indulge your creative spirit. Squam attracts the full spectrum of attendees– we have working artists who are looking to recharge and gain fresh inspiration for their work as well as people from all walks of life who do not consider themselves artists but cherish the opportunity to mess around and play with stuff– and lots of people in-between those two extremes. And, on top of all that, the people who come have the most extraordinary energy so the whole gathering becomes the event itself.
decor8: What inspired you to create an art retreat?
Elizabeth: In 2006 I attended Artfest which absolutely changed my life. I have written about this many times, so I am just going to link to one of my rambles here. In a nutshell, it opened me up. It connected me with my tribe and set me back on my true path. I launched Squam because I wanted someone else to have that same experience. And, it turns out, quite a few people did.
decor8: All of our past decisions place us where we are today so I’m curious to hear about your path. What is your professional background?
Elizabeth: Well, unlike most creative types who zero in on a career soon after high school and stick with that one thing their entire professional lives my professional trajectory, as it were, has been rather erratic. For a number of years I taught French and coached lacrosse at Holderness School and then did a stint of writing including publishing a book, Dorm Room Feng Shui. I also spent seven years getting a taste of corporate life as the commercialization manager for EFI, which was an exceedingly interesting experience. Today, I teach writing at The New Hampshire Institute of Art and it is hands-down the best job I have ever had; I absolutely love it.
decor8: How much does it cost to stay at SAW and take classes there?
Elizabeth: $890 all-inclusive, room & board or, $480 if you want to stay off campus.
(Where the magic happens and founder Elizabeth MacCrellish)
decor8: If someone lives locally and wants to just show up for a day or a single workshop, can they?
Elizabeth: No, I’m sorry to say– it’s a retreat. We’re not set up to offer one-day classes.
decor8: What is your personal mission with this project?
Elizabeth: Well, I’m a little bit behind in writing our mission statement– I am gonna sit down and do that one of these days. Meantime, I just want people to come, have a good time, and keep the high spirit and creative energies flowing into their daily life long after the weekend is over.
decor8: How do you locate the artists that you invite to participate as instructors?
Elizabeth: I seek them out. Some I know through attending Artfest, some I know cause of blogging, some are referred to me by friends. It’s a mix.
decor8: What is the rooming situation like?
Elizabeth: It’s champagne in a tin cup. If you like pine trees, being on directly on a pristine lake surrounded by mountains, and starry nights– you’ll probably like this, but it’s definitely not for everyone. The cabins were built at the turn-of-the century and each one is unique. Every one has an ice box and the ice is cut from the lake each winter. Yet, all the modern conveniences are in place including wireless internet, should you want to keep hooked up to the outside world.
decor8: Where do most of your students come from?
Elizabeth: Last year, people came from 27 states and two eastern provinces of Canada. This year, we’re already expanding beyond that and have attendees coming from Switzerland, Mexico, Vancouver and the UK and registration only opened at the beginning of February. It kind of blows my mind.
decor8: What makes SAW so special in your eyes?
Elizabeth:We receive such wonderful letters, mothers and daughters who come together, old friends who meet up here after not seeing each other since college, husbands who joined their wife here last year but this year are going to come and do the workshops, too — people write us the most BEAUTIFUL stories and it pretty much knocks me off my feet. I honestly feel so deeply grateful and privileged to participate in the creation of this gathering where people get to have such extraordinary experiences (read the raves here).
decor8: How do you spread the seeds and get SAW out there?
Elizabeth: Word of mouth, baby. Thank heavens for bloggers. And to YOU, Holly. My deep thanks to you for sharing information about Squam at your beautiful site! Looking forward to the day when YOU are here bringing your magic to Squam!!
Thank you so much Elizabeth for this terrific insight into your inspirational program. I wish you much success and joy!
(photos: Elizabeth MacCrellish and Denise Andrade of Boho Photography)