“Do you still get nervous?” Julia asked me a few minutes before we were to start with our presentations. I smiled and answered “Yes!” That never changes - it’s like stage fright and no matter how often I have given workshops for food photography and styling there’s always a slight sense of anxiety when the room starts filling up with a new set of participants.
Earlier this month I got together with photographer Julia Cawley and designer/author of the Anni cookbooks, Lisa Nieschlag at the stunning location of Schloss Ettersburg here in Weimar and welcomed 14 participants to a workshop under the theme Design and Composition. I love showing off Weimar to people who travel from near and far. It’s a small yet spectacular little city with so much to offer.
This weekend we were going to be talking, living, breathing, dreaming and working on photographing, styling, designing and composing our food for various needs. I say various because our participants came from all walks of life. There were bloggers, fashion designers, interior designers, computer scientists, cooks, photographers - it was a fantastic potpourri of incredible experience coming together for 2 days.
I was excited about this mix. It is one of the main reasons I love these small hands-on workshops. Never two workshops are really quite the same. The dynamics of the venue, the synergy of the participants and instructors and the symbiosis of entire group is always so different. Meeting and working with people who share a similar passion is something I cherish.
Our group at Ettersburg came from all over Europe: Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Holland and from right across Germany. Some were old friends but many were new, however each and every one of them had that spark in their eyes, raring to grasp and learn new things and they looked towards Julia, Lisa and me to be teaching them this. So YES … I do get nervous!
However as soon as the morning kicks off and we ease into the day the nervousness is replaced with a passion and excitement in me. Passion to share all I can and excitement to see how fast many of the participants put what they learn into use.
Our day started early on Friday morning with “Elevator Pitches” where each of the participants introduced themselves. Videos, presentations or a humorous insight, the participants’ creativity begins here and it is a part I enjoy extremely.
The staff at Ettersburg Castle arranged a delightful brunch in part of their very expansive gardens. Under a green canopy of trees the tables were set with some lovely dishes. We all got a chance to get to know each other a little more closely and of course the cameras were out and clicking away! We dived straight into the theoretical part of the day with a discussion and presentation on styling by me and photography techniques by Julia. For me it was a first to be only talking about the styling aspect, something I have to say I enjoyed very much. It was nice to leave the techniques to someone else and concentrate on props, angles, composition and all the creative aspects that create a set-up.
Julia took over and presented an insight on how the techniques of a camera work in harmony with each aspect, showing great visual examples.
It was time for the participants to show us what they had learned and after dividing them into teams they were let loose on on their first practical exercise.
The day rounded off with well deserved aperitifs - Aperol and Prosecco - on the terrace of the Ettersburg restaurant overlooking a spectacular sight of green hills and forests.
The following morning the very delightful Holly Becker of Decor 8 joined us from Hannover as a guest speaker and instructor. Holly is kind, gentle and full of inspiring words, motivating almost everyone she talks to. Her thought provoking presentation had all our participants (and me) ready to grab the proverbial bull by the horns and go out and touch the stars. My head was whizzing with ideas and new projects I would like to work on after Holly completed her inspiring talk.
The prior evening we had divided the group into pairs in which they were to work in all Saturday on their main assignment. Lisa, Julia and I selected the pairs carefully trying to pair them in the most effective ways so that each would benefit from each other. To the topic of either a “Summer Picnic” or a “Lunch at a Castle” we gave out the assignments, adding a few slightly more challenging guidelines to their project.
With fresh summer produce, delicatessen fine foods from our generous sponsor Viani, impressive selection of props from our über awesome prop sponsors Kahla Porcelain and an entire castle kitchen and grounds at their disposal the participants set off for their final challenge.
The castle offered stunning corners and quaint niches for the participants to create their story, work on the project and capture the essence of their chosen theme.
This time is so exhilarating for me as I walk around to each of the teams working intensively on their set-up, taking into consideration several of the points we discussed over the 2 days. Each of the instructors adds some more input during these very intimate sessions - hands-on and one to one. It is during these sessions that individual questions are answered, specific tips or tricks are passed on and a deeper insight is shared.
For me it is also a time to take in the people behind the gorgeous faces of our participants. Learn what drives them and what their goals and dreams are. We share jokes and talk about the future.
Finally as our participants began to work on post-processing their images and presenting their work, there was a buzz of chatter back in the classroom, as the teams pondered and analyzed their images to present them in the given theme.
During the evaluation session it was vital for me to include not only the feedback from the instructors but also have the entire group contribute their thoughts on each of the final results. I find this important as it not only provides a variety of ideas, opinions and thoughts but it also allows the participants to use some of their knowledge they gained in a constructive way.
As we winded up for the weekend, I felt drained but seriously stoked to have achieved a successful workshop in Weimar. It was so great seeing Simone and Marta again (both Plate to Page Workshop alumni), although I wished I had more time with them.
Simone and I shared a few quiet moments walking around the grounds of Ettersburg Castle soaking up some of the sun and were rewarded with some lovely sights, including a wedding.
An amazing group of talented and creative people came together in Weimar: Eva, Melanie and Söhke, Corinna, Bianca, Simone, Marta, Kirsten, Sandy, Sabine, Alena, Remo, Kersten and Sophia. Each one added their magic and creativity. We had great discussions, many laughs and shared some emotional moments. Thank you!
Thank you to my lovely counterparts: Julia, Lisa it was great working with you on our second project. It has been a true pleasure and I look forward to the three of us putting our heads together again.
Thank you to Holly for spreading her vivacious good spirits and inspiring us all. Looking forward to getting together with you again.
It seems the sun has started to shine again and we are enjoying the luxury of a perfect summer. Soeren is out from school for the summer and looking forward to starting a new chapter in his life. Wishing you a great week ahead and enjoy the weekend. Next week I'll be back with a divine treat for you.
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