Photo: surachet khamsuk/Shutterstock

This Company Lets You Vacation With an Artist to Learn a Traditional Craft

Insider Guides Art + Architecture
by Aryana Azari Aug 16, 2019

Between work, family, friends, and life in general, it’s hard to make time for your own self, let alone time to learn a new skill. If you’ve been wanting to embrace your inner creativity or diversify your skillset but can’t find the time in your daily life, then consider turning your next vacation into a unique apprenticeship with Vacation With An Artist (VAWAA). While taking classes in your home city can lend to a great experience, nothing compares to actually going to the places where the art forms originate and are most prevalent, and learning from the masters themselves.

How it works

VAWAA offers travelers the opportunity to, as the name suggests, vacation with an artist. It has partnered with 67 artists across 23 countries and five continents (Australia is coming soon!), so there’s something for everyone.

To start, you’ll need to browse the list of offerings and choose what appeals to you the most. All trips but one occur over multiple days, and you could end up on a trip that lasts anywhere from two days to a full week. Every artist has their availability listed, and from that, you can select the dates that work for you and send a booking request to the artist that they then can approve. It’s similar to booking an Airbnb; the host has to approve your date selection and, essentially, you.

It’s important to note that language is often not an issue, so travelers don’t need to worry; in addition to their native language, many of the artists speak English or a second language. Translation apps can come in handy if something does come up, but it’ll be easy to learn without words.

Once you’ve selected your dates, you’ll be directed to a booking request form where you’ll fill out information like your name, the number of guests, email, country of residence, and the like, as well a short blurb as to what about your chosen artist and trip piqued your interest. Additionally, if you’d like to spend more time with the artist, you can add a note saying as such in your booking request and one of VAWAA’s guest coordinators will assist to see if it’s possible.

From there, you’ll be contacted by one of the guest coordinators who will be the intermediary between you and the artist pre-arrival and finalize the details. Once everything has been confirmed, you’ll need to pay the full cost of your trip.

Pricing and what’s included

Photo: VAWAA/Facebook

Prices vary depending on a number of factors: what trip you’ve chosen, the duration, and if there are any additional guests. Each artist has set a maximum amount of extra guests, which ranges between two and five, and the fee for each extra person is less than that of the first original guest; a few trips, like porcelain ceramics in Paris, France, don’t charge for extra people, but that generally is not the case. All in all, trips can be anywhere between $169 for a day of salt soap making in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and $3,325 for five days of bespoke shoemaking in Prague, Czech Republic.

For all VAWAA trips, the price includes the artist’s fee for their time, the lessons, exclusive access to their studio space, use of their tools and supplies, the artwork you take back home, and a VAWAA fee that’s used to keep the program going. You won’t be with the artist 24/7, so you’ll need to pay for anything you do in your free time.

Not included is airfare, food, and accommodation, which means it’s up to you to figure out those extra arrangements — though VAWAA coordinators can provide suggestions if you need the help. A few trips do include accommodation within the price of the overall trip, such as natural dyeing and indigenous weaving in Oaxaca, Mexico. Some have accommodation listed but you have to pay a fee for the first guest and then any other guests after that are free, such as writing with an award-winning author in Hanoi, Vietnam, and cooking historic cuisine in southern Italy. And then there are the trips that have accommodation listed, but you’ll have to pay for every guest, like karakami printmaking in Shiga, Japan; Dhokra metal art in Panchgani, India; and photography in Lyngør, Norway.

Why you should go on a VAWAA

Photo: VAWAA/Facebook

“I’ve always loved the idea of slow travel, immersing into a new place, and learning something new. After all the world is full of wisdom and different perspectives, perfect to inspire and feed my curiosity,” said Geetika Agrawal, VAWAA’s founder, to Matador Network on the impetus behind the company’s creation. “Over the years, as life got hyper-digital and fast-paced, I craved such experiences even more. I wanted to disconnect, slow down, and stir my creativity, and it was hard to find such experiences. Hence, VAWAA was born.”

There are no requirements to go on a VAWAA. Agrawal went on to say that people should go on one of these trips if they’re curious and lifelong learners, feeling overworked, in need of a digital detox, going through a transitional phase in life and seeking inspiration, are an artist looking to develop their skill set, or want to share a meaningful experience.

You don’t need to be a master of the arts to participate in one of the trips — you don’t even need to be an artist at all. You can have zero experience and still enjoy an amazing time on the trip. All you need is an open mind, an eagerness to learn, and a willingness to slow down.

Not just your average class

Photo: VAWAA/Facebook

VAWAA trips offer an opportunity for travelers to try something truly unique. They can provide the space needed to take a moment’s breath and really focus on the here and now — something that has become increasingly hard to do nowadays.

The trips cover a wide breadth of art forms, and the most difficult choice you’re going to have to make is which one to pick.

Photo: Andrew Angelov/Shutterstock

One of the more unique experiences that you’ll definitely be able to brag about back home is learning the art of Ebru painting in Istanbul, Turkey. Otherwise known as Turkish marbling due to the swirled shapes in the final product, this art dates back to the 16th century. With Ebru painting, people don’t use solid canvases and instead paint on water; different dyes are added to a surface that contains water, the shape is manipulated by pointed tools (like an awl), and then in a method similar to printmaking, a paper is placed over the art so that it can transfer over. You’ll learn all of this and more from Silvia, your artist guide for five days. She has studied Ottoman culture, Islam, Sufism, and the cultural significance of water in Istanbul for almost 25 years, which led her to Ebru painting.

With Silvia, not only will you be instructed on the entire process of Ebru painting and producing your own work, but you’ll also receive a cool history lesson that provides some context, visit a local calligraphy studio, and go on a tour of the city’s local waterways.

Even cooking classes have a different spin with VAWAA and go beyond the typical ones you might find on your own. A cooking class with Nazlina in Penang, Malaysia, for example, won’t have the ingredients ready for you upon arrival. Over the course of four days, you’ll be taken to see the ingredients you’ll use in the natural habitats in which they grow, go on a tour of a local market, pick out the ingredients with Nazlina, and then cook recipes that are both traditional and healthy. Nazlina believes in the slow food movement, and the recipes she follows have been passed down through her family.

Agrawal hopes that after their trips, people “feel more in sync with themselves, develop new perspectives and skills, have a better appreciation for a craft, culture, and place, and make meaningful connections with people.”

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