Beading with others enriches the soul

Article by Janelle Grimshaw, published in Digital Beading Magazine, 2010

There is nothing quite like being able to see and hold the work of your peers, spending time sharing laughter and life with people you have known for years, or have only just met, learning how to get that tricky project just right when someone shows you how. The online beading and jewellery community offers so much these days and technology connects us in ways we have never been connected before… but nothing beats getting together in real life.

The rewards gained from spending time together in person are too numerous to count. Engaging with others, learning new things or sharing your passion is simply good for the soul. How often do you get a chance to take time out for yourself and be creative without interruption or just have a chance to relax with good friends? Newbies and regulars are instantly at ease and welcomed into the group by all. The importance of social interaction is so easily lost in our lives of instant social media and online environments. When you are physically sitting next to someone you can converse with them. You can ask questions if you are not sure. You can actually see and feel an example of work that you have been staring at on your computer screen. You can share your frustrations and triumphs. It makes you feel good, enriches your soul and beyond a doubt it can also improve your mental health.

Born from online conversations and that single concept of a good idea was the creation of Alida MacGregor, Aussie Beading Retreats. The idea was to bring a group of online friends together in one location to share skills and knowledge in a relaxed environment away from the demands of work or family. And so, in 2010, 20 people attended the very first Beading Retreat at Berry, nestled in the beautiful southern highlands of New South Wales. Mini workshops were organised with budding tutors willing to teach each other some simple techniques or small projects across a wonderful long weekend of fun and laughter. The enjoyment of having others cook and the giggling fun of bunking in with friends known for years, but in most cases never “met”, was a hoot and the promise of a bigger and better retreat was realised 6 months later in the same location.

Since then Aussie Beading Retreats have met on the Sunshine Coast in QLD and Stewarts Bay Tasmania. Learning new things is the aim of the game too and during the Tasmanian retreat there was a great range of workshops on offer. There were little groups making and glazing their own earthenware beads, some micro macramé knotting as well as seed beading, polymer clay play and even some silver smithing. Each retreat offers a variety of new skills to learn as well as some spare time to create with friends or take time out to breathe in some beautiful scenery. Sometimes there are even some adventurous activities on offer for those so inclined. Whether you are a novice or an expert, there is something for everyone. The best part is the chance to try your hand at something new just to see if you enjoy it before you embark on a new obsession.

The Aussie Beading Retreats members are also supported with a facebook page to stay connected in between retreat times and proves to be a great place to continue new found friendships and ideas. Here you can share your finished pieces, retreat photos, arrange travel details and find out everything about future retreats as it happens.

The Beading Retreats have grown and now average 2 planned retreats per year and with around 30 participants and anyone is welcome. All you need is a passion to create and a desire to learn new things.