The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
- Sylvia Plath
Squeals of laughter resonate throughout the villa, bouncing off the heavy stone walls, boomeranging down the stairwell. Women clatter from floor to floor, trailing power cords and camera bags in their wake. Sweaters tugged closer to ward off the chill of this Old Grande Dame of a house as we settle in for the second From Plate to Page workshop.
Like a first day at camp, we gather around the long wooden table, sneaking barely perceptible glances at one another, feeling out, sensing personalities and expectations, eyes sliding from one face to the next, self-conscious in our own newness. Introductions made, we begin to know each other as only as women can do, ooohing at wedding photos, giggling at confessions, cheering and urging on, hesitations melting into avowals, admissions of passions, desires, obsessions; the gates to secret gardens slowly but surely opening to this adventure.
The warming Tuscan sun breaks through the autumn chill, luring us into the gardens of Il Salicone. We breathe in the charm of Italy and pinch ourselves, surprised to find ourselves in this ancient, storybook spot. Sixteen women, feeling somewhat like schoolgirls away at some imposing boarding school, have gathered together in the vineyards outside of Pistoia for this Plate to Page workshop. Twelve new participants, each fairly unknown to Meeta, Jeanne, Ilva and I, new acquaintances quickly becoming friends and colleagues, yesterday strangers, now confidants and collaborators. Working with our senses, writing, styling, tasting, breathing, immersing ourselves body and soul into the atmosphere and the food surely has an effect, breaking down barriers, pulling us close through these common, emotional, sensual bonds.
Sixteen women of all ages, all backgrounds, traveling from places far and wide, Canada and Holland, Britain and Italy, Germany, Malta, Brazil, Belgium, Norway and the United States, with cultures even more disparate, claiming bedrooms, sharing space and meals, simply enjoying each others company. Dinners loud, raucous affairs reverberating cheer, emphatically festive. Information passed along from mouth to ear like the juiciest gossip; women studiously huddled around computer screens or heads close together, peering through camera display screens, searching for the perfect image. Pensive expressions, studied faces breaking into unexpected, satisfied grins, chuckles harboring a good secret only to be divulged later as stories are read, photographs revealed to an expectant cast of characters.
Eager students, the cacophonous clacking on so many keyboards, twelve women anticipating, curious, daring to ask, wanting to understand, our art, our craft the foremost priority, the passion of each and all. Lunch al fresco Under the Tuscan Sun, served by voluptuous Nicoletta, exuding her Italian heritage, expounding passionately on the food and the wine, sixteen cameras capturing the moment, images seared into memories, frozen in cameras, impromptu, instantaneous, alive and vibrant or created in still life, heady with scents, textures, sounds. And captured in words, black on white, words voluptuous, luxurious, colorful, emotional, memories old and memories new.
6 months of meticulous planning, head scratching, head banging, tears and laughter, everything must be perfect. Each one of our participants must feel welcome, at home, comfortable enough to share her every thought, fear and whim. As our lovely Judith so perfectly captures and expresses:
We struggled, and worked through long hours, weeks and months endeavoring to create the perfect atmosphere, the ideal, consummate, program that would inspire each one to reach inside herself, think, search, feel… and be able to express herself as need be, freely, without fear or shame; the perfect creative environment that would inspire our participants to express their innermost thoughts and let loose their imaginations. And stimulating it was for each one of us, participants and instructors alike, and the words and images flowed like the Bisol Prosecco, sparkling, cool yet so warming, invigorating and exhilarating.
- Ray Kroc
Our group, Friday morning strangers, by that same afternoon had found the rhythm, channeling our common bonds and passions to not only be able to work together in perfect harmony and unity but to open up completely and become friends. The rest of that weekend lost in the Tuscan vineyards, nestled cozily amongst her lush rolling hillsides, was beautiful creative symbiosis; each member of this fantastic group felt less alone, part of a family, finally understanding that we as bloggers are all trying to find the same balance between craft and life, yearning to express our innermost thoughts and tentatively, then boldly trying to let loose our emotions, imaginations and creativity. From Plate to Page allowed for growth, understanding, comfort in the realm of writing and photography, our art, our craft, our passion.
Our Plate to Page Tuscany participants, this group of stunning, generous, funny and talented women made the workshop and the weekend truly harmonious, memorable and successful… and they will stay friends, colleagues and inspiration for always.
Judith of Aroma Cucina
Marta of Princess Misia Recipes
Kate of Serendipity
Valentina of A Wee Bit of Sugar
Lynn of sacatomato
Alexandra of Ombranelportico
Elizabeth of Roast Duck and a Big Gooey Cake
Hayley of The Delectable Diary of Hayley Harland
Olivia of Eatmania
Heidi who writes for Xmagazine
Robin of What About the Food?
Denise of The Little Things
And a huge, immense thank you to our sponsors, whose products will surely inspire each of us in the kitchen and find their way one by one onto our blogs…. Plate to Page was only made better by your generosity.
Taste of Home
Zwilling J.A. Henckels
Riso Gallo (your boxes of instant risotto were left in Italy with a very happy son)
With a special shout out to the wonderful and amazing Sarah of Taste of Home, Sven of Smaromi, Hadley of FarSide Marketing and Tracey both with Gourmelli, Wendy of Sunchowder and Tess from Food Matters ….
Art is knowing which ones to keep.
- Scott Adams