This is a love letter.
My favorite place to teach asks a lot of me and of my students. No spiffy studio chock full of tools and equipment awaits us here, just folding tables covered in protective cardboard standing in a regular classroom. The tables are the wrong height, there is no running water in the room, and we have to do our soldering outside, but these “inconveniences” only make this amazing place even more dear to our hearts <3!
We barely notice as we glide over these bumps because who cares about crap like that when you are having an awesome time?! At Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts – MISSA – it’s people, and camaraderie, and artistic cross-pollination that get your juices flowing. It sounds like a cliche, but obstacles elsetime are challenges here, to be surmounted adroitly and elegantly. A pinch of adversity really makes the lessons sticky. Is that why so many of my MISSA students have continued making jewelry? Maybe. It’s certainly part of why so many of them have become my good friends.
MISSA happens in late June-early July when around 400 people flock together to take some 40 workshops: 2-day and 5-day classes in clay, jewelry, fiber, painting, writing, music, basketry, photography, metals and more. These people are your peeps. They speak your language. If you went to art school and you miss the melting pot of ideas there, welcome home. If you didn’t go to art school and you feel a bit lonely working away in your studio on your own, welcome home. At MISSA, when you say, “Look at that, the color, the pattern, the shape”, the people beside you don’t just glance, they really look, and they truly see, and then they add more observations and outbursts of delight, and then you take the leaf to tea break, and share it with more friends.
The venue is Pearson College, a small and slightly exotic international high school located just 40 minutes west of Victoria, B.C., Tucked up on a hillside full of madrona and garry oak trees, it over-looks the serene and beautiful Pedder Bay.
MISSA takes over the entire jewel of a campus, turning classrooms into art studios for a few golden summer weeks. The food is good, the company is scintillating, the pool is warm, the yoga class meets in a meditation center so exquisitely designed that just stepping inside and looking out at the stunning view you are already centered. The bestest weeks evah. I shih tzu not.
There are no chores to do, no grocery shopping, no cooking, no taxi service for the kids. Just making art. We sleep in the dorms and smile greetings at each other in the long mirrors of the shared bathrooms as we brush our teeth. We eat chummily together in the dining hall, where we swap stories of ourselves and our classes, and soak up tidbits of lore from others. This is the warm heart of MISSA, chatting and laughing at meals about art and life and everything with people ardently passionate about their work and freakishly well-informed about their disciplines. All the glorious champagne bubbles of shared inspiration and insight and no lonely hang-over.
The location is beyond beautiful (daily morning walk on the Galloping Goose trail to entice you further?), but it is dazzlingly enhanced by the people.
The staff are amazing. Dedicated artists in their own rights, MISSA runs like clockwork in their deft and capable hands. A couple of particularly photogenic examples: Shana (Executive Assistant) makes legendary (and legion!) fascinators.
Deb (clay studio tech, Parking Princess, and much much more), justly renowned for her visionary and meticulously crafted wardrobe.
The MISSA board of directors are hard working, generous, and hands-on. The year Carol Rae was in my first ever Shoebox Studio: Jewelry Basics class, her soldering torch got quite a workout. That’s her in the green with the biggest grin. Yes. Creme brulee. Notice how there’s no one between me and the trays full of little ramekins of succulence? Not an accident.
Making art is serious. And it’s hard work, especially when you are so intensely focused that you don’t notice how tight and tired your body is until you put your tools down. MISSA thinks of everything, and there is an honest-to-god masseuse here to help you unwind all that. Book your session(s) with Sheril early, because her sign-up sheet fills quickly. Sheril’s costumes for the wrap-up party are pretty fabulous, too. Always carefully thought out, down to the dancing shoes…
The regular Pearson College dining hall staff serve the MISSA family with a loyalty normally reserved for blood kin. Power out? Trees down across the long, winding drive? Yep. They’ll sort it, and it will be so seamless and lovely you’ll think it was planned so we could dine is such style by candlelight.
Have you signed up yet? Take 2 mins. and click here. Have a tissue handy for the drool ;).
Here are some of the very cool people you are likely to meet up with in my jewelry classes (I’m teaching 3 of them this year!). I wasn’t kidding about art camp. We come back every year and are so glad to see each other. Email is good, but hanging out in person is way, way better.
You’ll note that Phyllis is wearing her safety glasses!
Cheryl Samuel is a lovely example of MISSA at it’s best. She’s an incredible weaver and wood-turner who teaches at MISSA regularly. She took a silver chain class with me and turned her jewelry project into an ornament for one of her gorgeous bowls.
There are lots of MISSA instructors who are teacher-students. In the course of their time on campus, they’ll both teach a class and take one, either expanding their knowledge in their own disciplines, or investigating completely different ones, like Cheryl.
You have read all the way to the end, and to reward you I offer… DIY Warrior Slugs! They appear on the pathways at MISSA, each sporting a mace of pine needles stuck to its tail. I discovered them there, and imagine them thrashing those mighty tails to defend their persons or their honors. Be prepared for awesomeness, they seem to hum, and go slowly enough to savor the trip.
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