VAWAA: Learn from an Artist On Vacation

Travelers learning about ceramics in Belgium. Photo courtesy of VAWAA.
Travelers learning about ceramics in Belgium. Photo courtesy of VAWAA.

Take-Up a New Craft while Traveling through VAWAA

By Matt Martella

Through apprenticeships with artists from all over the world, VAWAA (Vacation With an Artist) gives travelers the unique experience of engaging with the creative side of the culture they are visiting.

Among many other opportunities, these apprenticeships with local artists include calligraphy in Kyoto, Japan, street art in Buenos Aires, Argentina, pottery in South Africa, and ceramics in India.

Caligraphy with Chikako in Kyoto, Japan. Photo courtesy of VAWAA.
Caligraphy with Chikako in Kyoto, Japan. .

VAWAA offers apprenticeships with 88 professional artists across 27 countries, so there should be something to pique the interest of anyone with a mind for creativity or exploration.

The Founder

Geetika Agrawal is the founder of VAWAA. When asked about her program, she said the following: “In this hyper-digital world, we’re all feeling that our identity is not defined only by work.

Instead, it also includes our passions and relationships. Hence, we’re spending time and money to pursue them.

“Whether it’s wanting to make our own pairs of leather shoes or knowing how textiles are made, we want to better understand the process, learn how to make it ourselves and build closer relationships with people who make them around the world.

VAWAA is providing a way for people to access master artists & makers who have a unique ability to cultivate our passions and help us dive deep into the local culture of a place.”

Geetika Agrawal is a storied traveler and the Founder of VAWAA. Photo courtesy of VAWAA.
Geetika Agrawal is a storied traveler and the Founder of VAWAA.

No Skill Required

All apprenticeships are available to everyone, regardless of your skill level. You don’t have to be an artist to do a painting apprenticeship in Italy, but you do need to have an open mind.

Apprenticeships through VAWAA typically last 4 to 7 days, and hopefully, by the end of it, you will have a souvenir unique to your experience. VAWAA best suits those travelers looking for more than sightseeing and picture-taking, but rest assured, there will still be plenty of time for you to explore independently.

Learn the art of ceramics in India. Photo courtesy of VAWAA.
Learn the art of ceramics in India.

You will typically be working with your artist for about four hours a day, leaving a comfortable amount of time for you to do as you wish.

Manoocher, a professional photojournalist employed with VAWAA, lives in Puglia, Italy. Photo courtesy of VAWAA.
Manoocher, a world-renowned professional photojournalist offering apprenticeships through VAWAA, lives in Puglia, Italy. VAWAA photos.

Upcoming trip to Puglia, Italy

VAWAA is offering a retreat to Puglia, Italy from April 5th to April 13th, 2020 for a workshop in photojournalism.

Not only will participants get to live on a farm estate in southern Italy and learn about visual storytelling from a professional photojournalist, Manoocher, they will also get to participate in all the region’s traditional Holy Week celebrations.

These celebrations include Processione della Desolata in Canosa, in which hundreds of women dress in black to commemorate Mary’s suffering after the death of Jesus, and the burning of the Easter fire. Participants will also get to enjoy authentic Italian meals cooked by Manoocher and his wife.

Women dressed all in black commemorate Mary's suffering during the Processione della Desolata in Canosa. Photo courtesy of VAWAA.
Women dressed all in black commemorate Mary’s suffering during the Processione della Desolata in Canosa.

The Artist

Clarissa Shanahan is a professional encaustic painter living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She has been offering VAWAA apprenticeships for about a year and has deeply enjoyed her time teaching students about her craft.

Although she only has a limited amount of time to teach her apprentices the art of encaustic painting, she tries to send them off with enough knowledge so that they can continue practicing and improving on their own.

As for teaching methods, Clarissa says she is more interested in following her apprentice’s schedule than her own. Her first student was extremely eager to learn about encaustic painting, so they spent roughly forty hours over ten days in the studio painting.

A student painting in Philadelphia on a VAWAA. Photo by Clarissa Shanahan.
A student painting in Philadelphia. Photo by Clarissa Shanahan.

Her most recent student spent about sixteen hours over four days in the studio, so the degree in which the apprentice wants to learn the craft is up to them.

As for field trips, Clarissa has taken her apprentices on tours through Philadelphia’s most iconic historical sites, as well as some lesser-known attractions for artists.

Philadelphia is a popular destination for public murals, so Clarissa makes sure to show her apprentices these great spots.

Clarissa working with a student in her studio. Photo by Clarissa Shanahan.
Clarissa working with a student in her studio. Photo by Clarissa Shanahan.

The Apprentices

Jenny Quenard did ceramic art in Slovenia for six days with her artist, Katja. She would spend six hours a day working on her art, and by the end of the apprenticeship, she had eleven ceramics to bring home with her.
Jenny not only enjoyed learning from her artist, she loved going out into the community with her too. She and Katja would go out to eat together, do yoga, and Katja’s mother even baked native Slovenian food for her. Some of Jenny’s fondest memories from her apprenticeship were meeting Katja’s friends and family and learning the significance that art has on Slovenian culture.

Jenny and Katja working on ceramics. Photo by Jenny Quenard.
Jenny and Katja working on ceramics. Photo by Jenny Quenard.

Adi and Srujana are a married couple who have taken two VAWAA apprenticeships together, one in calligraphy in Kyoto, Japan and the other in Ebru painting in Istanbul, Turkey. Neither Adi nor Srujana had much experience with either art form prior to meeting their artists, but they both saw big improvements in their works over the four-to-five-day apprenticeships.

Adi, Srujana, and their artist, Chikako, working on calligraphy scrolls. Photo by Adi Narendranath.
Adi, Srujana, and their artist, Chikako, working on calligraphy scrolls. Photo by Adi Narendranath.

Like Jenny, Adi and Srujana were both extremely happy with their artists, especially in how they integrated them into their respective cultures. Adi says his calligraphy artist, Chikako, took them out to eat many times and even brought them to a local calligraphy exposition. Their Ebru painting artist, Silvia, helped them connect to her community by attending a farmer’s market and traditional folk music performances.

All three of these participants recommend the VAWAA program to anyone who likes to travel. Not only do these apprenticeships help you learn a new craft in a short period of time, but they also allow you to get more integrated with a culture than an average sight-seeing vacation.

Srujana specifically notes that doing a VAWAA helps travelers explore parts of a culture not mentioned online or in travel blogs.

Walking around Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Adi Narendranath.
Walking around Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Adi Narendranath.