From calligraphy and wood block carving to weaving and bell-making, Vacation With an Artist offers the chance to take mini-apprenticeships with master craftspeople around the world. Anthony Pearce reports
These days, the search for authentic travel experiences is a top priority for many travellers. To make life easier, one US company called Vacation With an Artist (VAWAA) is offering travellers the chance to book “mini-apprenticeship” retreats with master craftspeople and learn skills which are otherwise at risk of being lost.
Vacation With an Artist features local artists specialising in “crafts under threat” – such as block printing, leather shadow puppet making and bamboo bicycle making – on a platform through which they can share their skills with a wider audience.Prices range from US$300 to US$3,000, and include lessons, access to materials and the artist’s studio space.VAWAA so far lists 69 artists in 23 countries, with retreats differing in length from four to seven days. For example, in January 2020, there is a five-day trip to the Canary Islands with photographer Tomás who will take participants to shoot in the most beautiful locations.
Other experiences include traditional brass bell crafting with Yoshinori in Takaoka, Japan, where travellers will learn the 400-year-old craft of making Buddhist bells from one of ten remaining craftsman in Japan. Yoshinori, the teacher, is a fourth-generation master. The four-day experience costs US$1,495 (accommodation is an extra US$445).Travellers can also try rattan weaving with Sim in Penang, Malaysia. This five-day Vacation With an Artist experience sees offers time with the son of a master rattan weaver in their historic family shop. The retreat costs £290 and participants will be able to take their creations home.
For those interested in Indian crafts, there is an Ajrakh block printing masterclass in Mumbai, where people can learn all 13 steps of the technique from Sarfraz Khastri, a sixth-generation artist. With a choice of 800 carved teak blocks, the patterns are printed on to saris, scarves and shawls.Vacation With an Artist was launched in 2015 by Geetika Agrawal during a round-the-world sabbatical with Remote Year.Globetrender highlighted the growth of Upskilling Escapes in its 2020 Trend Forecast, which is available to download for free here.
“While experiential travel bestows individuals with memories and stories to share, and transformational travel is about self-improvement, learning journeys are a chance to return home with new knowledge and abilities.”The report also highlighted research by the Heritage Crafts Association, which said that 37 per cent of traditional crafts are in danger of dying out in the UK. Airbnb Experiences, Zuri Zanzibar and Villa Lena are all companies that offer travellers the chance to learn a new skill while on holiday.