It's been a couple of weeks since I hosted the first Makelight retreat but I still smile whenever I think about it. What a weekend it was! Held at the beautiful Talton Lodge, nestled in the heart of south Warwickshire, it really was the perfect space to get away from it all. My plan for our time away together was to gather likeminded people to share together, learn and be refreshed. Hosting a retreat was also on my 40 before 40 list, so I'm super happy to have ticked this off the list! Everyone who came to teach on the Retreat is a member of the Makelight Community. This was something I was passionate about when building the content for the Retreat. There are so many people in Makelight who have wonderful skills to share and this was a way to recognise and celebrate that.
The weekend began gently on Friday afternoon as a group of lovely women (and of course my husband Stef!) arrived, ready for a peaceful and inspiring weekend. The bedrooms were scattered across the site and included a tree boathouse, a yurt, a tipi and a barn - all complete with cosy blankets, night lights and wood burners. Our first meal together that evening was wonderful as friendships were forged under the stars and over wood-fired pizza.
The following morning began peacefully with a guided meditation led by writer and designer Gabrielle Treanor. It was incredible how in such a short space of time Gabrielle helped us become more mindful, aware of our setting and able to relish what lay ahead. Steaming coffee and pastries followed, as we fuelled up for the day.
A busy day, Saturday was filled with the most wonderful range of workshops and drop-in clinics. Blogger and podcaster Kate Long from A Playful Day led us in an inspiring and helpful session all about storytelling - we chatted about everything from engagement with your community to finding your voice and developing your story.
Makelight community member Kate from Posy + Petal guided us in making the prettiest paper petals - even giving everyone a sweet milk bottle to display their handmade flowers in. I'm so happy that Kate will soon be at the Makelight studio teaching this workshop again, this time for a whole day! You can find out more and book your place here.
Jody Page, a florist and blogger over at Country Pages led a few sessions over the weekend, teaching us how to create floral crowns. It was so cheering to see how each person's individuality shone through in their own creations, and so much fun was had modelling these for photographs, set against the beautiful backdrop of the site.
Blogger and Pinterest ambassador Sarah Barnes from Taming Twins was also on hand to help with one-to-one questions about Pinterest. She was so encouraging and full of hints and advice to really get to grips with the platform, and everyone left their session ready to put it all into practice.
Aside from the initial guided meditation, Gabrielle also then led a workshop called Living Mindfully. This reflective session gave us a wonderful grounding in what mindfulness is, how to apply it and how it can be a key part of our photography practice. One of my highlights was the mindful walk we went on at the end of the time - slowing down, being really present and taking in the scenery was so invigorating.
After a wonderful dinner (and the most incredible chocolate pavlova!) we all called it a night, ready for our final day together. Sunday gave the opportunity for further drop in clinics, including giving time to those who wanted advice from Stef about all things tech. If you too could do with some help in this area, you're in luck! He's just begun our first Makelight Tech online course and you can find out more here. The final session was led by my friend and hugely talented photographer, Catherine Frawley from Borrowed Light. Our joint food photography class is always a sell out here in the studio, so having her share her tips with us at the retreat was such a treat. Beginning with the fundamentals of food photography, Catherine then led us outside to practically demonstrate how she goes about telling a story and shooting food images. Our Food Photography and Styling Online Course with Catherine starts on Monday.
And with that final session finished we gathered around the tipi tables for a picnic lunch before saying goodbye to our new friends - instagram names swapped ready for future meet-ups!
Stef and I had initially planned to make this retreat a one-off, but as soon as we began our journey home we already had agreed that we just had to host another! The beautiful scenery, inspiring teaching and friendships that were struck up between likeminded people was all so amazing and I can't wait to have the chance to do it all again in 2017! If you'd like to be there you can reserve your spot now, with a deposit. Find out more here. I hope to see you there!
I just want to say the biggest thank you to everyone who came to the retreat, who taught at the retreat and those who made the retreat happen. It was such a joy to spend time with each and every one of you, and I can't wait to see where your creative journeys lead you next.
Here's the full instagram list of the retreat 2016 alumni, have a look at their beautiful feeds and you'll likely spot some images from our happy weekend away together! #makelightretreat