Wonderland with Kim Bernard and friends

As I mentioned, my afternoon in Boston was a layover to Kim Bernard’s Maine Coast Encaustic Workshop Retreat.

My respite on the Downeaster Amtrak train from Boston to Wells, Maine was lovely. The train is equipped with power outlets, and I listened to the clickerty-clack of other passengers typing on their laptops. Being prone to motion sickness myself, I enjoyed looking out the window, although most of the time all I saw was a blur of trees, and eagerly anticipated the rainbow of wax I knew awaited me in my newly dubbed Wonderland retreat.

Upon my arrival a taxi (one of three in the town) was waiting for walk-ups. The friendly driver showed me the hotspots along the way to Kennebunkport, and offered to give the group a driven tour if the trolley schedule didn’t work for us.

As I walked into the lobby of the Colony Hotel, my retreat group was already there, getting the grand tour from Kim Bernard, our hostess for the week.

I dropped my bags at reception and followed along the path toward the Carriage House, which would serve as our classroom and studio space for the week.

We passed Wonder House along the way. Yep-wonderland indeed!

Properly guided toward our various morning destinations, Kim left to prepare her classes, and the out-of-towners staying in the hotel gathered for dinner in the hotel restaurant/bar, where we quickly decided that we were going to be a fun group.

The historic hotel was lovely, and we were quite pampered the entire time.

My room even had butterfly wallpaper!

The next day Kim’s husband Christos took a few groups of us on a sailing excursion with the Pineapple Ketch. We enjoyed relaxing on the smooth ocean waters, and learning about the lobster ‘bobbers’ that mark each company.

I also waved at the Bush compound as instructed by my Texas resident friends.

Christos is also a painter, and it was nice to admire his paintings in our breakfast area knowing the artist.

After our morning excursion it was time to take the Do-it-Yourself class, where Kim taught us how to make cradled boards, blend our own encaustic medium, and color our own wax with pigment.

She stressed that these are not living or working space activities (a particle filter mask and gloves are required), so I will have to wait until I have an appropriate outdoor space/garage to implement these learnings, but it is nice to know the recipes.

She also made all the hot plates we used in the workshop, with anodized or powder-coated aluminum over a burner.

After class some stayed for studio time and I was free to explore the grounds until dinner. I took advantage of the lovely saltwater pool.

Lucky for me, the hotel has pretty butterfly gardens where I could observe monarchs and painted ladies basking in the sun.

It was wonderful to get close to these creatures.

Of course we all had various iterations of lobster during our meals. I savored the lobster mac and cheese at Arundel Wharf, and enjoyed the presentations of other dishes.

I was off the next morning and explored Kennebunkport with my friend Cindy. We came upon a fairy garden with twinkle lights.

We returned for lunch, and the spreads were amazing every day. One day our dessert was strawberry shortcake, which resulted in three tutorials for me on how to make the best shortcake.

Another day, we had multiple pies and cookies as big as one’s hand (do they make me bigger or smaller?).

The next day we got to examine Kim’s wax pendulum up close. She created this after watching a pendulum in a museum. It took a try or two, but she figured out how to heat the aluminum funnel and the right size to create an organic piece of art by letting the wax drip over the surface. We spent the class session creating our backgrounds, and then watched as the pendulum did its work. The result was lovely (and I was happy my not-so-pretty backgrounds suddenly became art).

We had fun making one-part and two part molds out of clay and plaster. Everyone created amazing plaster pieces. Our apple two-part mold channeled some interesting creatures during their drying time.

On Wednesday, we took the wax resist class, in which paper was first waxed and then dyed to create wonderful batik-like effects. I’d seen the results of the FUSEDChicago workshop last spring, and was thrilled to now have my own lesson. Watching the rainbow of paper grow was such fun.

I spent midafternoon combing the beach for organic materials, and enjoyed the pretty seascapes arranged by the tide.

Later in the afternoon, we were instructed on making leaf stencils and on how to incorporate organic materials into the wax. While I had been experimenting with embedding before, it was good to learn the do’s and don’ts. (Undried leaves will rot even when encased in wax).

Dinner was spent in the Mad Hatter’s chair downstairs.

I had another morning off so I strolled through town again, enjoying the quaintness of touristy boutiques.

In the afternoon I refreshed myself on transparency and embedding, something Shawna Moore had taught me earlier in the year. The most fun was watching how others incorporated all the techniques into their art work.

We got to peruse exactly that during the student art show, at which everyone displayed their pieces and we admired everyone’s work, style and color preferences.

Our last dinner was spent laughing and enjoying more seafood, and promising to keep in touch before next year’s retreat.

I reversed my route of taxi, Amtrak train, T-trains and airplane transportation to arrive in Chicago content and happy.

It was time to return to my home wonderland, which is a happy place as well.

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