Talk Story – Eat Cake Create – Art Is You Movement – Stamford, CT

There are so many different names for this collection of superb art retreats organized by Sallianne McClelland. I tend to still call all of them Art Is You because I’m a stubborn old gal, but this particular one was called Talk Story in Stamford, Connecticut. When I saw that Sharon Payne Bolton was teaching and her class was scheduled over our two day fall break at the university where I work, I busted out my tired old credit card and headed north. Here’s a link to the blog post about my previous class with Sharon.

I did not take many photos of the class or the event itself, and that for me is a good sign, because my brain is totally in the present moment and focused on what makes me happy. And God knows we women needed a lot of that last week. Another great feature of Sallianne’s retreats is that she feeds us well. The Sheraton hotel food was excellent. Most importantly, though, is that these retreats are welcoming communities. Many of the attendees have taken classes with the Art Is You family (and they do seem like a family) for years and have developed lasting friendships across the states. This was my first AIY retreat on the East Coast, and Sallianne had pronounced it the last one in this location. There was such sadness and outcry over this that she decided to schedule another one in Stamford in 2020. In the meantime, she has other West Coast and midwest locations in play, and I hear that she might do one in the south.

This art retreat addiction, especially for Art is You and Focus on Book Arts, is the only thing that makes me regret not being rich.

Anyway, the class that I took from Sharon Payne Bolton was called HERTEL, based on a box structure that she designed. One of the boxes had a piece of book cover with the word HERTEL on it and she has a story about someone buying it from her for a good friend of his with the last name Hertel. It was a two day class and she had not taught it before so she was nervous. She is SO dedicated to providing everything you needed, right down to tools and aprons, so that you can come to her class and not bring anything at all if you wish, which is super great when you are flying. I was able to fly with only carry-on luggage. Plus, instead of having us cut all those little pieces of bookboard and paper text blocks for little books, she did it.

I told her that if I could swing it financially, I would be her groupie and follow her around like a stray puppy.

We built the box on the first day, and spent the second day further embellishing it and building little books to go inside. She had Apoxie Sculpt (which I immediately ordered online after the class was over) and encaustic medium and moldmaking materials for us to use. There was a plethora of gorgeous papers, leather scraps, ephemera, and baubles to attach. She taught us coptic stitch for single sheets on the second day, which I have done before but I needed a refresher.

Work space:

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In progress. The “Inspire” pin is a gift from Maria. It might go in another book.

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My book, outside and inside:

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Reva and Kathy’s books:

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A better shot of Reva’s book:

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David’s book:

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Maria’s book:

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I think that this is Eileen’s book:

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Four people had to leave before we took photos. I wish I had taken photos of everybody’s books because they were all so different, especially some of the ones that left early.

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Circle of Power

I will add more photos later. My box is at my office this weekend, but I want to show you more of the little book with the key embedded in the cover.

Once again, I came away with not only tons of inspiration, but many new friends that I hope to keep up with at future art retreats and on social media. And five “new” cigar boxes for the studio!

Fossil Butte National Monument, and going home

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There seemed to be historical markers about the Oregon Trail or California Trail or Mormon pioneers everywhere we went. I like the way Idaho paints its historical markers. Our metal ones might hold up to all kinds of abuse (and we saw one marker in Idaho that had been destroyed by a wildfire) but the metal ones with just type are so boring compared to Idaho’s artful markers.

We crossed back over the state line to see Fossil Butte National Monument, near Kemmerer, Wyoming. The visitor’s center was extremely interesting, with a timeline that led from the beginning of geological history up to the present, beginning as you drove up the road. The spatial aspect of it was mind-blowing. I am fascinated with geology but if I studied it for long my head would explode. Seriously. The fossils within were excellent too. A nice follow-up to our trips to four other fossil-related National Monuments in the last five years.

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We didn’t spend long here. We needed food and we had turned our thoughts to returning home. A side trip to Kemmerer filled our bellies at a sweet little diner on the main drag and then Sandy wanted to take the quickest way to Salt Lake City, so instead of the scenic route, we took Interstate 80, where the speed limit was 80 and every big truck in the area was zooming through. The wind was up and I can say that this was my least favorite part of the trip. I had a death grip on the wheel while Sandy napped, and then he awoke to watch me drive a long fast descent into Utah. There was a time when a drive like this would not have been possible for me due to panic attacks. I am a flatlander from the swamps of coastal Carolina. But I’ve gotten a lot of experience driving in the past ten years so I did not relinquish the wheel. I would not choose this route again if possible.

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We ate at a chain restaurant because no independent restaurants nearby were open on a Sunday night, and stayed at a chain hotel. Early in the morning, we returned the rental car. We drove around Salt Lake City airport three times – what a confusing place! Our plane stopped on the runway and returned to the gate because of an engine problem. One man insisted on getting off the plane. I think he was scared. But the engine was repaired and we made it to Phoenix in time to catch our connection. Southwest delayed its flights to give us a little more time, which was nice.

Flying into Raleigh Durham Airport, we didn’t know what to expect. Our car smelled dank, but it was fine. The pilot had said that the storm had moved to our west, but the drive home wasn’t bad. My friend had cooked us dinner. We had a great time, but we were glad to be home and see our kitties.

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Now where will we go next?

Saturday: Yellowstone to Soda Springs, Idaho

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

^^^The inlaid wooden map that gives the Map Room in Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel its name. The Carolinas were very much on my mind.

Saturday was another day of perfect weather. We left Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace behind and drove north to Gardiner, Montana, for coffee and breakfast at the Two Bit Saloon and to fill the gas tank, since Montana gas was cheaper. Then we drove south on the same road we had been on the day before, except we kept going at Yellowstone Falls through the Hayden Valley. Trumpeter swans swam in the river below us.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

We stopped at the general store at Yellowstone Lake for coffee, ice cream, and a hot dog. This is a HUGE lake. A lot of this area is still coming back from the big fires several years ago. We decided we didn’t have time to see Grand Prismatic Spring and the West Thumb Geyser Basin. Too bad, but that’s a reason to come back. 🙂

Yellowstone National Park

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A quick stop at Lewis Falls and down John D. Rockefeller Memorial Highway through Grand Teton National Park again. This time I saw the beginning of a wildfire in a canyon that turned major after we left. I think it is called the Roosevelt Fire. We listened to KHOL community radio from Jackson Hole and a New Wave program that was great for the drive.

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We stopped at the National Wildlife Art Museum to see the sculptures and I bought a beautiful coffee mug with an aspen design in the gift shop there.

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We drove through Jackson and south on Hwy 89, along the Snake River Canyon where we had rafted on Tuesday. Near Etna, we decided to take Hwy 34, a back road through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest and past Gray’s Lake National Wildlife Refuge. I’m so glad that we did because it was absolutely lovely. It also was a part of the Oregon Trail, as many of these older roads seem to be.

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In Soda Springs, Idaho, we were hungry and tired. We ate at a restaurant that I won’t name, because I don’t recommend it, and settled down in our room at the Caribou Lodge, an older hotel/lodge that was very inexpensive and comfortable and clean and had friendly staff. I recommend it if you don’t need air conditioning. I find these old hotels charming and I wish that more of them had survived here on the East Coast.

Yellowstone National Park, Day Three

On Friday, Judy joined us again and guided us to the areas where wildlife is most often spotted. We drove to the Lamar Valley where wolf watchers scan the meadows for members of the packs that were re-introduced there years ago. Judy spotted a wolf and aimed her spotting scope at it so we could take a look. This area with its wide vistas was stunningly beautiful in a difficult way to capture with a photo.

Yellowstone National Park

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We saw hundreds of bison in this area of the park. At Soda Butte, we joined a small crowd of humans where the bison were very close. The little ones pranced around and butted heads in play. When one large male decided to cross the creek in a place where he could have come at us quickly, we all backed toward our cars while he eyeballed us. Fortunately nobody in this group was stupid enough to think that stare meant that he wanted to be petted.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

^^^Click the photo above to see a video of the bison on my Flickr page.

At the top of Mount Washburn we stopped because someone said there was a grizzly on the hillside across from us. It must have slipped into the trees by the time we parked and got out. The pink of the fireweed was beautiful, though.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

One of the big attractions is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Yellowstone Falls. We viewed it from Artist’s Point and walked down to the edge of the upper falls on the other side of the canyon.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Here’s a petrified redwood tree stump from a time when the climate was very different here. There used to be more of these, which is why this one is fenced off. People, please. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Yellowstone National Park

More wildflowers

Yellowstone National Park

We said goodbye to Judy and she headed back home to get ready to go on her next backpacking adventure. I admire this woman so much! Thank you, Judy, for your companionship and guidance on our trip!

There was a large bull elk wandering around our cabins with his harem of does. Rangers stayed close to make sure people stayed back from this one. Elks were in rutting season and we heard their bugle calls every morning and evening.

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That night we ate in the Mammoth Hot Springs Dining Room and planned our trip back through the two national parks south toward Salt Lake City the next day. We decided that instead of exploring Salt Lake City on Sunday, we would swing east in Wyoming and pick up a fifth National Park/Monument for our list: Fossil Butte National Monument.

Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful Geyser Basin

I guess that I thought Old Faithful would be one solitary nature soul surrounded by humans looking at their phones. In a way, it was, but it was one feature in a large field of thermal pools, geysers, and bubbling springs called the Upper Geyser Basin. While we waited for it to erupt, Judy and I went for a walk around the basin and Sandy hung out at the Visitor’s Center, then saved us seats on the benches for the main event.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

^^^Aurun and Anemone Geysers?

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Beehive Geyser was one of a few major geysers we did not get to see erupt. It’s just bubbling here. After Old Faithful erupted, we could see a large geyser erupting beyond the trees. We think that may have been Riverside or Grand Geyser. We saw so many geysers – honestly, I had no idea.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

^^^Click photo to see the video of Old Faithful erupting on my Flickr page.

Yellowstone National Park

The inside of the Old Faithful Lodge was almost as impressive as the geysers.

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Yellowstone National Park

^^^Critters on the way back to our cabin.

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That night we decided to drive five miles to Gardiner, Montana, just outside the northern entrance to the park. We ate bison cheeseburgers at Wonderland Cafe, and they were excellent. I was able to text with my sister and get a wifi signal to check in back home where everyone was prepping for a major hurricane.