Arts + Crafts, Interviews

Meet Squam Art Workshops

February 24, 2009

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)


  • Reply sarah*ahearn February 24, 2009 at 9:03 am

    oh holly and elizabeth! great to see this interview! squam is an amazing magical place and i cannot wait until september to be there! thanks so much for putting this together~ a wonderful little sneak peek!

    sarah*ahearns last blog post: paris & the moon…

  • Reply Kari February 24, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Elizabeth is an amazing woman and Squam was an amazing experience. I saw people’s lives change there right before my own eyes. Plus, the setting couldn’t be more wonderful… and the food was great too! Well worth attending. Everything about it was energizing and fresh and special.

  • Reply Marisa and Creative Thursday February 24, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Yay!! I can’t wait to teach/attend this June!!! Elizabeth is one of the most spirited lovely, inspired people you will ever meet ~

    Marisa and Creative Thursdays last blog post: May Victory be Yours

  • Reply Swirly February 24, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Elizabeth had an extraordinary vision and made it a magical reality – great interview!!

  • Reply leaca February 24, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    I want to do this. It sounds great.

    leacas last blog post: 12 secrets–#4 Surrenering to Creative Cycles cont.

  • Reply Trina February 24, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Wow! I had no idea this existed! I often see art retreat’s on the west cost, but I havn’t been able to find any on the east coast. This would be day’s drive from Toronto, but it’s do-able! Thanks Holly @ Elizabeth!

    Trinas last blog post: DecorAddict needs your help! {and happy weekend!}

  • Reply Vicki Dvorak February 24, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    I’m curious if Elizabeth offers any online art classes….specifically Color Theory. I’m looking for a course with some fun hands-on projects. :)

    ~ Vicki

  • Reply lizardek February 24, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Elizabeth really knows how to make the magic happen :) Great interview!

    lizardeks last blog post: DUCK & COVER

  • Reply Lisa Occhipinti February 24, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    So great of you to feature such an amazing person as Elizabeth! Her generosity, vision and hard work are undeniably inspirational and have influenced so very many of us!

  • Reply Laura February 24, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Thanks so much for doing this interview, Holly and Elizabeth! I just heard about Squam this year, and it looks *so* amazing! Really good timing, too, with your Creativity Series and all, Holly. On their site I noticed that there is also a Fall workshop that focuses more on writing, painting, photography, and more! I am seriously considering attending the fall workshop…better start saving up now :)

    Lauras last blog post: Hunting For A Preschool?

  • Reply decor8 February 24, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    I love seeing so many familiar faces here commenting. Hi everyone!
    Thanks Lisa for reconnecting me with Elizabeth! :)

  • Reply Tracie Lyn Huskamp February 25, 2009 at 11:11 am

    What an INCREDIBLE Interview… Thanks so much Holly and Elizabeth for inspiring our imaginations and our hearts.

    I look forward to being part of the magic of Squam in June!

    Tracie Lyn

    Tracie Lyn Huskamps last blog post: The Coming of Spring

  • Reply Georgia February 25, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    This made me so happy to read, I am sooo excited for the September session of Squam!

    ~Georgia Cranston

    Georgias last blog post: Be Safe Twilight Inspired Necklace

  • Reply Alex. February 27, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    I’d love to be able to jump on a plane and head on over to this. I swear, the only thing even remotely similar here in Australia are all scrapbooking retreats! Not to put down the scrapbookers (scrappers?) but it’s not for me.

    I just love the idea of being able to meet all these other artists and creative people! It would be wonderful.

    Alex.s last blog post: Sirena Updated:

  • Reply Thea March 26, 2010 at 6:12 am

    Great interview Holly!
    When I started blogging and exploring my artistic side more deeply back in 2004, I kept reading about wonderful retreats-especially artfest. Oh how I wanted to attend artfest, but being a sahm and small business owner on the east coast, the trip was a bit challenging to make happen.

    When Elizabeth announced Squam art workshops right here on the east coast, I was so excited. I attended 2008 and then again for the fall 2009 retreat.

    Elizabeth has extraordinary vision, which shows in all the details of the retreat. The RDC Campgrounds on Squam lake are dreamlike. Rustic cabins nestled in beautiful NH woods, with well worn paths to travel from place to place. It is a perfect combo of rustic with all the amnenities of modern day living. This past year after dining on a gourmet breakfast in the dining hall, I went back to my cabin to watch a happy anniversary video my husband had emailed me. While I was taking this break, the rest of the attendees were in their classes, and the staff was cleaning the cabin, assembling the makings for a fire in our fireplace (each cabin has a fireplace), and delivering our block of ice for our ice box. Just five minutes away is an amazing general store with gourmet hot meals, sandwiches, drinks, coffee, wine, cheeses, all the basics. Both years we stocked up with yummy snacks that keep perfectly in our ice box.

    Most all of the cabins have their own private dock, where you can sit and chat with old and new friends or simply soak in the gorgeous sunshine right on the lake. Each day I would sit on our dock during my call to my husband and son. Divine!

    The classes are taught by a slew of talented, well known artists, and there is a class for everyone!

    I highly recommend anyone looking for a retreat to consider attending. You will be so glad you did!
    .-= Thea´s last blog ..Shayla ~ Family photography session sneak peek =-.

    • Reply decor8 March 26, 2010 at 7:31 am

      Thea – What a nice comment! I asked Elizabeth a few times if I could teach a workshop there but there doesn’t seem to be room for me. Perhaps it’s only for artists and I’m not one so… at least not one who makes things for others though I do love to paint and craft on my own. But I often think about how nice it would be! I really enjoy your comment, thank you for leaving it — it sounds very relaxing and so nice!

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