Rebecca's Artist Residency Retreat at the Sou'wester
by Rebecca Pearcy on 15 October, 2015
As a small business owner, you hit a wall (or walls) from time to time. I wanted to check in with another seasoned entrepreneur and soak up some wisdom. So a couple of months ago I asked a creative business-owner that I admire out to lunch - John Economaki of Bridge City Tools. While I received many bits of insight, my main takeaway from our conversation was this: take a retreat. Go away, by yourself, to renew, to rest, to focus, and to work. It is hard to do good work and make good decisions when you, as a human being, are just plain worn out. Balancing life between running a small business and being a mom to a very active kindergartener is challenging. There is very little time to just focus on self-care and to be selfish, in a positive way. It is very easy to become swallowed up by work and/or parenting and lose track of who you are and what you want or need. I often think about the airline rule of putting the oxygen mask on yourself before helping your child or another person. I mean, how helpful can you be to others if you're passed out from lack of oxygen. Right?
Enter: the Sou'wester. It seems that everyone I know has been to this historic trailer park on Washington's Long Beach peninsula. But I hadn't been. Lucky for me, the Sou'wester has an artist residency program that offers creatives a reduced rate to stay at their sweet & funky resort while doing their work. I was warmly invited to come stay and boy, did it hit the spot.
To have 5 nights & 5 days to do as I pleased was amazing. I have had little bits of time here and there on my own, but since my son was born, I had not been away from home to spend time by myself for this long. Each day contained a variety of self-directed activity, from sleeping in (yay!) to making meals in my trailer, playing with paint, paper, and textile design ideas, taking breaks for a bike rides on the Discovery Trail along the coast, or a sauna at the newly built spa at the Sou'wester.
My son's farewell offering written on a red paper airplane.
Arrived in time to get oriented and settled, then headed to the beach for a stunning sunset. Walked a bit, cried some, and watched an enormous swirl of seabirds circling over the sea close to shore as the sun set dramatically. There were so many pelicans sitting gathered on the beach and then they would take off as a group to join the bird swirl and dive, dive, dive, for fish. Incredible.
As I walked away from the beach back toward the Sou'wester, I spotted the full moon rising and entering into the eclipse. This was the full harvest blood moon full lunar eclipse thing. Very cool and an auspicious beginning to a solo retreat experience. I don't have any pictures from this evening - way too profound to even try and capture.
My digs: the Picnic trailer, nice and big (Spartan Royal Mansion!) and nestled behind the lodge, in the trees. Private and mellow. It took some getting used to living in a funky vintage trailer but it really grew on me.
The porthole window in my trailer left me feeling a little exposed so I covered up the window with a piece of paper. The shadows from the trees and light outside uncannily resembled the gorgeous full moon.
Hallelujah! Slept til 10am! Had a leisurely time of making coffee, breakfast, getting going. Pulled out my supplies, did some rearranging of things in the trailer to aid my set up and work. Not a lot of natural light in the trailer, but made the best of it. Started painting and playing with ideas and themes. Started with work in a sketchbook and with small motifs. Took a break to ride my bike along the Discovery Trail (so good!) up to Long Beach. Stopped in to that cute funky shop Niva, and the Dennis store to find a gift for Zoli (Legos, of course) and some flip flops for me (forgot mine at home). Also took a sauna break.
Driftwood dolphin sculpture on my ride along the Discovery Trail heading north toward Long Beach
In the evening there was live music in the parlor of the lodge. Pretty good stuff and a nice setting. One of my favorite things about the Sou'wester was that they have this great wraparound porch in the lodge where they sell all kinds of fresh & packaged foods, beer & wine, and handmade goods from various artisans. This place is really very mellow with no demands. It is truly a treat to be in this space. Stayed up late watching Parenthood.
Scenes from my stay: when you don't have slippers = socks with flip flops do the trick / Randomness in my kitchen drawer / 'Ain't Nobody' by Chaka Khan was my cover tune jam on this trip / Playing with paper animal shapes.
Slept til 10am! Kept working on painting - moved onto bigger paper and motifs. Listening to podcasts, music, breaking for sunny afternoon bike ride going south on the Discovery Trail, toward the end of the peninsula, totally blissed out on golden late September sunshine by the sea! More working, breaking for sauna.
The road from the Sou'wester to the sea - a short walk or ride
I had never seen so many seagulls on a beach before, just hanging out together
I think this is the night I partied with myself. Have you ever just partied with yourself? It can be a good time. Dinner, music, wine, playing records in the back room (terrible sound, but whatever!), dancing with Emmylou, Steely dan, some R&B and then my solo dance party morphed into doing yoga before bed. More Parenthood (I'm getting hooked!).
View from and of, respectively, of the back / sitting / music / party room at the Spartan Royal Mansion
Skyped with T & Z at 7:30am before Z went to school. Fell back asleep and slept til after 10:30! Egads! How scandalous. Me in my natural state.
That gave me a late start to the day. Kind of a sluggish tired day (maybe had something to do with the aforementioned party night?). Started doing more work but with cutting shapes and tried doing some painting directly onto fabric but that wasn't really going anywhere. I think it's better to just print it when I get back. Took a sauna, rode to Long Beach to look for more paper to paint on, got a freezer-burned ice cream cone from Scoopers (not recommended). Chilled back home for a bit and then rode back to Long Beach for dinner at Adrift and some live music again. Killer clam chowder and a yummy Manhattan. Back to the trailer to chill and watch Silver Linings Playbook. The movie was ok, Bradley Cooper was nice to watch.
Playing with paper cut out shapes for textile design ideas...
My best friend on this trip was my beautiful bicycle. I didn't drive a single time during my stay.
Circles, lacy light & shadows
My last full day here. Did some more paper cut work and then painting too. Started thinking about Sou'wester images and themes from my stay here: the trailers, trees, biking, the sea, pelicans, guitar (I brought cover song books and have been playing and singing while here too - so nice! Good thing to do when taking a break from other creative work). Took another bike ride south on the trail - just a stunning day - the golden sun, the crashing sea, the yellow green grasses in the dunes, the fog on the cliffs, the little birds flitting in and out along the path. Just stellar.
Panorama of the Discovery Trail along the coast that I rode every day. Such a delight.
I didn't have a toaster or working oven in my trailer. A lover of toast in the morning, I had to do some experimenting. It took me a few days but I eventually perfected my hobo toasting method over the gas flames of the stove.
Brainstorming ideas for what to "give back" to the Sou'wester from my residency. Thought of a few things but Thandi liked best the idea of a "Trailers of the Sou'wester" themed tea towel. So I took a bunch of pictures of different trailers here and started illustrating them. I think that'll be a really cute souvenir for guests to buy from the porch shop.
After my ride had a killer sauna and settled into the evening again. My last evening here. Spent the evening super chill, sipping a homemade ginger whisky cocktail, slow dinner prep, illustrating trailers in between. Wrapped up the night with a Parenthood marathon. I am officially hooked on that show.
My last night of the residency I painted a little scene and cut it to fit the naked porthole of my trailer. Don't know if they'll keep it up or not, but I left it there.
Spent the morning packing up and getting ready to leave. Realized that I had SO MANY Queen Bee cases and bags with me that I decided to lay them all out on the bed and take a pic. Thirteen pieces!
Some scenes from the grounds of the Sou'wester. Check out their website for more info about this special place. I highly recommend a visit!
So much luscious time to myself, to just follow my own wanderings without interruption or agenda or anyone else's needs. I was thinking of this as such a luxury, but you know what, it more feels like a necessity. I think this will become an annual thing - a residency or retreat somewhere. What a gift to just have the time and space to rest, reflect, work, create. We all need a bit of renewal from time to time, no? If you are reading this blog journal and wishing you could do something like this, do it. Figure out how to make it happen. Thanks to my supportive husband and staff at Queen Bee for helping me take this important time away. And thanks to John Economaki for sharing his time & experience with me and for urging me to go on retreat.