9 May 2024

Does the Muse + Maker retreat have the answer to a more creative life?

| Dione David
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Bulli artist and filmmaker Zanny Begg

Inspired by France’s first female writer and proto-feminist Christine de Pizan, Bulli artist-filmmaker Zanny Begg will join the Muse + Maker artists’ retreat. Photo: Maria Boyadgis.

Bulli artist-filmmaker Zanny Begg was working on The City of Ladies – a film inspired by a 15th century manuscript written by France’s first professional female writer Christine de Pizan – when further inspiration struck.

“This was 1402 and it was unusual for women to be taught how to read and write back then. She closely supervised the illustrations of the manuscripts, and challenged misogynistic medieval tropes about women,” she says.

“She revitalised stories like Daphne turning into a laurel tree when she was relentlessly pursued by Apollo. We know in reality this was about escaping rape, but quite often, Daphne is sexualised. De Pizan didn’t want to glorify sexual assault, so she reimagined this story, and stories like it.”

Begg will soon challenge others to do the same in her workshop, Repeating Circles. In it, participants go on a journey through the bizarre, monstrous, sexually ambiguous, magical and inexplicable imagery of de Pizan’s era. Working both alone and collaboratively, they’ll reimagine ancient witches, outcasts, healers, monsters and demons for our own times, create their own drawings and learn the art of tiling a pattern for fabric or wallpaper.

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The workshop is part of Muse + Maker 2024’s weekend autumn retreat Tapestries of Light, where participants will learn textile skills from some of Australia’s leading contemporary artists including Paul Yore, Liam Benson and Maggie Hensel Brown, participate in movement workshops with choreographer Emma Saunders, eat yummy food, enjoy fireside music performance by the Doldrums and get inspired.

Muse + Maker founder and Coledale filmmaker Jasmin Tarasin hand picks experts in various disciplines to help participants discover the joy of new kinds of craftsmanship, dream up new projects, experiment and, perhaps, take creative practice to the next level.

“As an artist, I’ve always used other art forms to fill up my world artistically and creatively. I’ll see live music or attend exhibitions – it’s part of my creative process,” she says.

“It’s all about helping them live a creative life.”

The Muse + Maker approach hosts small groups of 20 to invite creative thinking and embodiment for guests to imagine, make and share ideas in a supportive environment where artists can flourish – though Tarasin uses the term “artist” broadly.

“Participants can be working artists or have no experience at all,” she says.

“At the last Muse + Maker retreat, a business coach used the philosophies learned in the workshops to broaden their approach with clients.”

The weekend-long seasonal retreats at The Robertson Hotel include practical art making, which starts with a key theme led by the artists themselves. They facilitate exchanges of art making, community, music, food, and nature led experiences, and each participant will walk away with two of their own original artworks made in collaboration with the artists.

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In the course of it all, Tarasin says participants can count on engaging in a “bigger conversation”.

“I hate small talk. I’m allergic to it. The fantastic thing about this retreat is that people arrive and launch into that bigger conversation naturally, because they’ve signed up to do so, with others who’ve done the same. As soon as you get there, it’s on,” she says.

“Creative thinking retreats are big in Europe, but not Australia and that’s a shame. I find when I think and talk about creativity in a broader sense and open myself up to other art forms, the unexpected happens. When you’re having a different conversation to the one you’re comfortable with, you become entrenched in observing and thinking differently.”

The Muse + Maker 2024 Autumn retreat Tapestries of Light on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 May. Packages start from $500 – visit Muse + Maker for more information and bookings.

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