For a lot of us, a holiday involves lounging in a hammock with sounds of the waves humming in the backdrop while you sip on a cool drink. Geetika Agrawal is not one of these people. Simply being a tourist wasn’t enough, what she wanted was to immerse herself in the local cultures of the places she visited, spend time with the people, make things with her hands, and learn as much as she could. A professional in a digital agency, and having worked in a number of cities, travelling for her was about interaction, learning and experiencing something new. “I like the idea of learning something artistic while travelling but it was not easy to find artists who were knowledgeable and willing to share their skill in a country I wasn’t familiar with,” she told us.
Over time, Geetika noticed that there were other people like her who wanted the same things she did in their travels, but for them, there was no easy way to find local willing artists in the places they would visit. Thus, the idea of ‘Vacation With An Artist (VAWAA)‘ came to life.
VAWAA is an online platform for those creative travellers who want to experiment and work while travelling. It’s quite simple, Geetika curates artists from around the world and connects them to people who are interested in learning a new trade or skill. Starting on June 1, 2015, Geetika took a sabbatical from work and embarked on a 12 month long expedition to 12 countries around the globe, spending a month in each place finding artists, spending time with them learning about their creative processes and life, while continuing to build VAWAA online. We caught up with her to find out more about the unique travel venture.
HG: What is a ‘studio session’ with VAWAA, and how is it different from a workshop?
GA: It’s very different. A studio session is the time you spend with an artist in their studio. It can be anywhere between five to 10 days, even a month depending on the art. The reason it’s different? A typical workshop lasts a few hours and rarely in an artist’s work space or studio. It has a fixed structure, includes groups of people you don’t know and not personalized. A VAWAA studio session includes a deeper experience where you not only get to learn their artistic skills but also participate in their everyday studio life - whether it is going to the market to buy the right linen or sanding wood or doing morning book readings. Since it’s only open to 1-2 people, it allows both the artist and traveler to create their own intimate and collaborative experience.”
Geetika tells us that several of the artists on her site are also professors, which allows the traveller to be a part of a teaching environment. A workshop or a class comprises of a large group of people, VAWAA provides a one-on-one experience.
HG: How do you go about the decision process and curate the artists?
GA: Two things--mastery of art and personality. Travellers come with various levels of skills and knowledge, and artists should be able to deal with their doubts and show them what the art is all about. I say personality because there are people from different cultures and background, so the artists should be accepting and willing to share. There is so much we can learn from each other, we just have to be open and willing.
Artists can apply to VAWAA and host travellers from around the world, currently Geetika tells us that they’ve limited themselves to curating those she meets during her travels.
HG: What are some of the responses and feedback you’ve gotten from travellers so far?
GA: We’ve got very positive feedback from our early guests. Travellers who have gone for a Vacation With An Artist said it was a special and unique travel experience. They will definitely do it again. It gave them a chance to relax, explore their own creativity and find a new passion. They are liking the personal connection with the artist. In fact, one of our first guest Katja, from Austria who spent her Christmas with soap designer Anja in Slovenia ended up exchanging their skills. While Anja shared how to make handmade salt soaps, Katja showed her how to crochet little soap bags. Each experience is unique and it’s up to the artist and traveler what experience they create together.”
“Artists have been very intrigued by the idea as well and interested in joining the platform. They see this as an opportunity to bring new influences and inspiration to their work, meet people from around the world while making extra money. They are excited to learn from other VAWAA artists and potentially collaborate. VAWAA soap artist Anja from Slovenia traveled to Hanoi, Vietnam and took a studio session with lacquer artist Le Kim My.”
VAWAA is growing a lot faster than Geetika expected. Right now they have about 22 artists and almost 10 more that need to be published. By the end of May, VAWAA will have a diverse selection of 40 artists, all masters of their own crafts. Having planned 15-20 vacations just in the past four months, and quite a few requests already for summer, the future looks bright for VAWAA, and it comes as no surprise. From bespoke shoemaking in Prague, leather shadow-puppet making and rattan weaving in Penang, Anatolian dance in Istanbul, to felting in Ahmedabad and bamboo bicycle making in Bangalore; VAWAA provides an assortment of creative travel options that are calming and relaxing, but can also be intellectually stimulating and adventurous at the same time.
One question remains--why would someone want to do this instead of lets say lounging on a beach? “More than ever, today’s generation is curious and looking to spend their time meaningfully. They look for authenticity and intentionality in their travel experiences and VAWAA provides a unique way to spend their vacation in artist studios around the world, learning a new skill.”
Click here to know more about the artists and book your own creative vacation.
If you enjoyed this article we suggest you read: