I believe it is essential to get out of our own work space and experience different people, places and approaches in order to grow as an artist. I am a potter who invests in travel for learning and enrichment. I understand the necessity for careful spending and investing in our work. You won't be surprised to hear that I'm on a serious budget; I must look for value where I can (I generally stay at airbnbs which cost under $80/night. I mostly buy groceries to prepare meals at the rental). So, when I built the studio and began planning workshops, I kept my own budget in mind.
Here I think it's important to state the mission of the studio. I've been teaching for over 15 years. I've taught all ages and abilities. I've seen the importance of varied approaches. My goal was to build a place for artists to come together and share ideas and inspiration, particularly as our country and the world is increasingly fractured in some ways (there's so much more to write about this). Over the years I have seen the effects of intimate creating and exploration in the studio setting. A few years ago I felt a strong urge to create a place to connect and build relationships and enrich practice through clay. I am perpetually abuzz with excitement and wonder at the power of this kind of working and sharing. I see it every day.
And there is a business side. I wish I didn't have to think about it, but there it is. Every day I figure expenses, calls artists, orders supplies while balancing my studio practice, my deep love for working with clay.
Here are some of the aspects that factor into pricing each workshop:
PAYING THE ARTIST: Our culture grossly under-values artists and their work. Without question the artists I invite are worth every penny and more. I pay whatever an artist requests if it fits my mission and I believe their example and process will benefit participants, and I can maintain my studio costs. This is why I must have a minimum for participation at workshops.
Additional artist expenses:
often include :
Transportation, (often) flights, transportation to and from the airport, tolls, miscellaneous.
clay, glazes, and tools I might not already have on hand which are specific to the artist's process.
Room and board.
If it's a wood fire workshop (a world of expense depending on source, delivery, prep). When we're firing with locals folks who can be here to prep beforehand, I work their time into cost. It is a tremendous amount of work to maintain a wood kiln - a world different from electric or even gas firing. When workshop participants are arriving to a wood kiln ready for firing, someone has done all the prep work and they must be paid for their time.
More about this: As wood fire workshops might cost more to run, should my presenter make less so I can pay the studio and myself? No. Should the studio make less? No. The expense has to be added somewhere, though. I try very hard to keep it affordable for participants, but this a realty of a specialized workshop.
Not only do we have housing on the premises, it's lovely. I believe on site housing makes my studio a unique offering in the workshop world. We’ve put a tremendous amount of resources into making it a comfortable place for artists to rest between studio time. 2 or three of the rooms are shared spaces, making them a bit more affordable. I generally block one or two of the rooms as a singles. They are a premium, but I've found that accommodating those who cannot share a room is important. They often book first although they can be 50% higher in cost. And, there are always a few more local options, airbnb, hotels, etc. , but ask anyone who's been here about the convenience and comfort of staying in the same building as your work space and they'll tell you they wouldn't do it any other way. AND, you're really not going to save money unless you're staying with a friend for free.
Participants bring their own food necessities. However, the shared kitchen is stocked with staples: coffee, tea, milk, butter, oatmeal, cereal; and during warmer months, fresh vegetables from my garden. I provide a nice group meal on the last night.
Small group learning:
I built the guesthouse to comfortably host 10.
I generally cap participant numbers at eight-ten (this number varies, depending on the workshop); this allows for personalized attention, creating space for deep, intimate conversations about the process.
So, each participant generally pays around $200/day for small group instruction, workspace in a light-filled studio, lodging, (in some cases) a wood firing, and learning in a small group. This is less than some people pay for a nice hotel room.
All of these things considered, I believe it’s an incredible value. But are we looking for a deal when we invest in our craft? I learned years ago that you have to invest in your life's passion in order to grow in it. This means time and sometimes money. It's a challenging prospect. I believe it has more to with self worth than workshop costs. I find that when I get to know students they share that they're not sure if they and their work are worth the commitment (thus the possible $220/night hotel, but sqeamishishenss around workshop fees). I can't answer these concerns for them, but I can provide a place for them to explore the questions.
If you have questions or comments about the ins and outs of running a small artist retreat/workshop, get in touch. Better yet, come join one! I'll fluff your pillows:)