In July, I traveled by plane, ferry, bus, and boat to Silverskär, a remote island among many in Åland, an archipelago between Sweden and Finland. This journey was all in pursuit of a creative destination, a workshop with Lotta Jansdotter, a print and textile designer.
In the four days that followed, a group of talented, entrepreneurial, and generous women—and one brave man—would learn to unplug and reconnect with our creative minds. Lotta encouraged us to embrace our amateur spirit, which is a love for exploration without the pressure of mastery.
For the past few years, I’ve been attending creative retreats and workshops, all dabbling in various techniques. While learning new skills is always the primary motivation, I have never gone into a retreat or workshop with the expectation of creating something great. Most of the time, I don’t even finish the project. Instead, my joy comes from exploring and learning without pressure. For that reason, the tone Lotta set for the workshop really resonated with me and put me at ease almost immediately.
If you ever have the opportunity to attend Lotta’s Åland workshop, I highly recommend it. It’s been so transformative for one woman that she’s already attended three or four times and I can understand why. Between the creative space, the amazing people, the incredible food, and the beauty of the island, there’s no match. Registration for 2019 opens in November and is likely to sell out immediately.
A warm welcome on Silverskär
After our long journey, we were greeted by the island staff with afternoon fika, a Swedish tradition of afternoon breaks where you enjoy a sweet treat and coffee, or in our case, an locally made aperitif.
Peppered across the island are several cabins, each with their own unique character and theme. My room was in the main barn, which was cozy and quiet. It made it easy to recharge after full days rich with creative stimuli and conversation.
Each day focused on a different printing technique. The first day we started simple with potato stamps. It’s a finicky material and forced us to reduce and use simple shapes. From there, we built onto our carving skills with linoleum pads and learned how to print on both paper and fabric. Finally, we created stencils. For each, there was ample time to explore and by the end, everyone had their preference and were experimenting with different patterns and approaches.
A beautiful place
Silverskär is truly a magical place. It is one of over 6,000 islands in the archipelago and used to be home to a 40-acre farm. These days, it is host to creative retreats, weddings, and other private events. The staff source all the food locally, growing much of it themselves. One day, they even took a group out fishing and served the catch for lunch.
In between printing, many people would take hikes around the island—you could walk the entire perimeter in about an hour. At night, after a satisfying meal prepared by joyful brothers, you could unwind in the sauna or enjoy the extra hours of daylight (up to 20 hours that time of year).
Gratitude for a lifetime
I can’t express enough just how special and cherished this retreat was. It will stay with me always and I feel so grateful to have found myself among such wonderful people, in a beautiful place, and led by Lotta who is truly a generous and kind soul.
(I look hella crazy in the photo, but whatevs…)