This week I have been back in Devon for the second gathering hosted by artist Yvonne Coomber. You may remember I went last year and had a truly inspiring time, so when the invitation came through to join again this year, I jumped at the chance.
Yvonne's paintings are joyful. If you ever have the chance to view them (or own them, another thing that is on my 'one day' list), I would encourage you to do so. It is tricky to capture them entirely through a camera. The layers of texture and colour change with the light. Like any painting, seeing them online is very different to meeting them in person. But I have done my best to share a little of the magic below.
Yvonne's gathering is about more than just her work though. I guess you could liken it to a retreat of sorts, a time to connect and share knowledge with others working in a creative role.
Unfortunately I was unable to join earlier on the first day, but made sure to arrive in time for a skill sharing session on using Pinterest as a creative, run by my friends Georgie and Dörte. I have attended one of their workshops before which was incredibly useful, so was keen to be involved in this further chat about how Pinterest can help small creative businesses like mine. You can find a post they shared with me recently here.
That evening we feasted courtesy of chef Djamila - actually I was delighted to find out she would be there again this year after experiencing her amazing culinary skills last year. The babble of conversation with the joy of connections both new and old, was only enhanced by a delicious vegetarian meal. All in all it made for a very enjoyable evening.
Our second day began with another skill sharing session - one I hosted - focussing predominantly on Instagram. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed steering a conversation between so many people who understand the highs and lows of social media so well. In creative roles that mean many of us are fairly solitary for much of our work life, having the input of several others who have different ideas and experiences is absolutely invaluable.
Our second session of the day involved creating dried flower wreaths with Bex of Botanical Tales. I have known Bex for a long while and have watched her business bloom (yes, pun intended), so I was really excited to finally have a chance to join one of her workshops. I am not sure I will be a wreath expert any time soon, mine is hanging on the window latch above, but it was all very photogenic at least...
After another feast by Djamila (it was so good to experience a wide range of vegetarian dishes, I have to say), we took a trip to Totnes to visit Yvonne's gallery. The gallery is filled with colour as you would expect, and it is always a pleasure to see what is currently on display.
We took a wander round the town before heading back to Yvonne's home for afternoon tea. I think it is a privilege to visit an artists home, to see the heart of them and the art they themselves collect. For me, it leads to a greater understanding of and connection with their work.
Our last stop was to visit Yvonne's studio, the space where she creates her paintings. Although she actually paints outdoors.
Yvonne has been working on some new pieces which are quite different to the wild flower inspired meadows. It was wonderful to have a peek at what she has been creating recently. I loved the pink painting, part of which is in the image above, so different from the flowers yet still so recognisably Yvonne. There is also one of Yvonne's new pieces at the end of this post.
Then it was back to Pip Farm for dinner and more conversation. I am writing this post the day after I returned home, partly to absorb the experience a little more myself, and partly as I want to share it while it is still so tangible to me.
The creative women Yvonne invited were, every one of them, lovely. It was a comfortable experience, if that makes sense. No awkwardness, just positive support and encouragement in all directions. I cannot express just how much I appreciated that after a difficult few weeks offline. The connections we made last year were only strengthened through this shared experience. And those who joined for the first time this year, I hope to feel the same about in the future. Although some of them are my good friends already so their company was such a bonus.
Yvonne is such joyful soul and a generous host. She opened her home, her studio, her gallery and provided accommodation and nourishment for us all at Pip Farm too. My stay was a gift, the experience another I will be thinking over for a long while to come.
And, as a personal note, I really recommend that you do indeed seek her out!