Over 1500 years ago, this misty mountain land was home to the Ohlone Indians.
Thought to have been descendents of aboriginal tribes that came to North America from Asia across the Bering Strait, the Ohlone were sun-worshippers, hunters, and fishermen. They were also keen crafters, and their womenfolk wore deer skin aprons and bead necklaces. They found cinnabar at the Almaden mines and used this bright red clay to paint their bodies.
Fast forward 1500+ years and the mountains of Los Gatos are visited by another tribe. A tribe of women who have migrated from all over North America and further afield, armed only with Golden Gel Medium, Shiva’s Artists’ Paintstiks and Tim Holtz Distress Ink, collectively beating out the war cry “Let us paint!”
I feel incredibly lucky to be part of this tribe, tightly bound together by a shared passion for creativity, a curiosity to learn and a love of life. Our aprons aren’t made of deer skin and we haven’t come here to weave baskets, but we feel the same magic in the redwoods that has been felt by tribal women for centuries before us.
We were gathered in Los Gatos, California, for Cindy O’Leary’s ‘An Artful Journey’, an art retreat which could have just as easily been called ‘A Heartful Journey’. It was a rare opportunity to indulge in the luxury of a four day creating adventure under the supporting guidance of inspirational artists, and in the company of some very special souls. Safe in the knowledge that ‘there are no mistakes’, we happily painted, laughed and told stories into the early hours. It was absolute bliss.
Thanks to Kelly Rae Roberts and Mati Rose McDonough for being such fantastic instructors. You shared your wisdom and techniques and talent so generously. And thanks to the rest of the tribe for leaving the everyday behind, and wholeheartedly diving in. Together we made many things – a chunky book, a happy mess, and a whole bunch of wonderful new friends. (Workshop photos to follow in the next post)
Although everyone came to the retreat at a different stage of their artistic career – some full-time professional artists, some art teachers, some just starting out – we all, in our own way, unfurled our wings, dusted them down and prepared to take flight. I am so excited to follow this group of talented artists as they begin to really soar in their creative lives.
Magic happened on that old Indian Reservation in the shadow of the redwoods, and I don’t think any of us will be quite the same again.