I am fresh off the boat from 10 heavenly days in Greece & dreaming of ways to return! This year’s creative retreat took place at the incredible Mèlisses, a stunning cliffside B&B that trails down to the waters of the Aegean. Reached by ferry, Andros is a small island south of Athens & home to Mèlisses—the perfect environment to nurture an eclectic mix of wonderful souls on our creative retreat.
This year’s ‘En Plein Air Retreat‘ consisted of art, painting & natural dyeing. Hosted by Allegra Pomilio, creative director of Mèlisses, she created a creative retreat centred around art. Composition, illustration & painting led by the artist Blakely Little, balanced with natural dye workshops by me. This was my second year teaching alongside Blakely and as before, our lessons complimented each other beautifully. Blakely is a fantastic storyteller & who radiates warmth, it was such a pleasure to work alongside her.
Against the soothing backdrop of the Aegean, with nothing but the sounds of nature, our mornings began gently. With bountiful breakfasts, followed by classes with Blakley, essential downtime & afternoon sessions of natural dyeing. Using the plants of the island, we foraged from the abundant gardens of Melisses for a range of soothing natural colours.
Natural dyes of Mèlisses
We dyed with Rosemary & got a rich deep brown on silk and a lighter shade on linen. With the petals of the red poppy, we made purple dyes and dusty pink on cotton & linen. We extracted rich ochres from pomegranate rinds and used fig leaves for beautiful shades of chartreuse on silk. (Be warned the sap of fig when combined with UV light causes severe chemical burns). We also tried lavender, which gave a pale taupe and the combined leaves & branches of the olive tree gave a soft muted yellow. Students experimented with various dyes & swatches before dyeing large linen scarves.
Days & classes balanced with visits around the Island, we had a day in the picturesque capital, Chora. A picnic down by the water’s edge, a refreshing dip in the clear waters & a walk through the narrow streets. On another day, we hiked through meandering paths of wildflowers to the ancient ruins of a city that dates back to antiquity. On my last day, with our snorkelers & flippers attached, Blakely’s husband, Curtis, led us to the remains of the submerged city of Palaiopoli. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my time on the Island.
We spent our evenings coming together over the most incredible food, created by our hosts Allegra Pomilio, chef Agallegra d’Agostini & Barbara Pelaschier-Ratão. This year’s guests were the most wonderful group who made the entire experience so enjoyable. We chatted, laughed, told stories & enjoyed newly forged connections. We feasted on meals made from fresh, local, seasonal ingredients, prepared in the most delicious way possible. I am still dreaming of an otherworldly praline sunflower seed gelato that Allegra created. Our gracious hosts nurtured us in every way possible.
Against the incredible backdrop of Melisses, with nothing but the sounds of the bees & water lapping, you can’t help but connect to nature, the incredible beauty of the Island & relish in the exquisiteness of it all.
Take a look at Mèlisses & view their upcoming retreats here. If you’d like to join a creative retreat in the future, sign up for the Mèlisses newsletter & be the first to hear when new workshops are scheduled. If you are based in Ireland & would like to join my next workshop, I am very excited about our summer event, take a look at the details here.