As a proud original member of The Craft Academy, as soon as the plans were announced last spring I knew I had to be a part of the first annual mastermind retreat in Vegas. A little background if you're not familiar with The Craft Academy - back in 2019, pharmacist turned calligrapher and business coach Rosie from The Wander Crafter started with nine calligraphers from across the United States. We put our trust in Rosie, completely committed to growing our creative businesses and doing so with the support of one another. Flash forward to 2023. The Craft Academy now has over 150 incredibly talented artists from all over the world and we're still doing the same thing - just on a bigger and even more impressive scale. Our community has grown significantly, but so has the knowledge and the support. Ok, back to Vegas.
I went to Vegas with a completely open mind and tried not to have any expectations as I truly was just looking forward to the uncertainty of the weekend. I had never met Rosie or any of my fellow Crafties in person and just wanted to take it all in and use the time to focus on making connections and building relationships with these incredible entrepreneurs. I am so thankful that I was able to do just that and met fifteen amazing women that I can now call my friends. The weekend was so full of learning, laughter, creativity, passion, and even some tears.
I flew into Vegas Thursday evening, August 3rd on the red eye - getting there around 11pm but was somehow still full of energy and excitement so my husband and I explored our hotel and gambled a little bit before attempting to go to sleep. We stayed at the Aria where the retreat was held and it was both of our first time at this property. We loved it and would definitely stay there again in the future. Neither of us slept a wink and were up and ready to go the next day bright and early. Which if you know me, that is unusual. I love to sleep! We spent the day walking the strip and making plans for the rest of the time we would have together - when I wasn't tied up with the mastermind. We had lunch at Javier's within the Aria and as a Mexican food connoisseur - I have to say it was some of the best authentic Mexican food I have ever had - I am still dreaming about those tacos. That afternoon I took a little rest before I went and got ready to head to the welcome event to meet Rosie and the Crafties for the first time in person. I was both nervous and excited as I have been zooming with some of these ladies for several years but had not yet had the opportunity to meet any of them in person.
The welcome event was so wonderful. Every detail was thought of - we walked into such a beautiful space with personalized swag bags all laid out - so fancy!! There was a gorgeous spread of snacks and drinks and the vibes were incredible. We had a little time to mingle and get to know each other a bit before settling in the conference room for Rosie's introduction to the weekend. We formally introduced ourselves and our business and discussed our goals for the weekend and what we were hoping to take away from our time together. So many Crafties brought a personalized little something for each member of the group and it was such a cute and thoughtful surprise. I brought a few of my hand lettered and illustrated stickers for everyone and although they weren't personalized, who doesn't love a good sticker?
The Crafties were planning on dinner at Beauty & Essex within the Cosmopolitan but since my husband was with me we had plans for dinner and a show. We ate at Hell's Kitchen which is one of our favorite television shows. We love Gordon Ramsay and watch cooking shows all the time. Food was good and it was a fun experience as fans of the show but it was a one and done kind of place for us. We had tickets for Absinthe after dinner and I am so glad we decided on that show! It was definitely adult and raunchy but we loved it - highly recommend! After the show, we decided to do a little gambling so we wandered through the casinos on the strip for a bit, making sure we got to see the Bellagio fountains as we missed them the last time we were there. We were out way too late having too much fun but I did manage to get a few hours sleep before getting up bright and early for the Mastermind on Saturday.
On Saturday morning after a light breakfast and some chatting, we got right to work getting set up for Sophia with Curious Pen Calligraphy to teach us about watercolor figure illustrations. I was most looking forward to this class as I have always wanted to learn how to draw fashion illustrations and I couldn't wait to learn from Sophia and the other members of the group. Sophia's flight to Vegas was cancelled but we were able to do the class via Zoom - it was a bummer not to meet her and learn from her in person but the class was amazing nonetheless. We learned the basics of how to draw a nine head croquis figure, focusing on the body's positioning and proportions. After a little practice, we moved on to using a reference picture of the one and the only Miss Taylor Swift. We each took what we had learned to sketch the figure and then use our watercolor to create an impression of her colorful floral dress. Everyone did such a great job and we had so much fun learning this new skill together. We were all definitely out of our comfort zone and that was part of the fun. The proportions of my sketch were just a teeny bit off and poor Taylor had man shoulders and looked more like Tyler Swift but what an amazing experience!
Throughout the day and in between workshops, we had a scheduled time for headshots, a video shoot, and a recorded testimonial. Rosie's husband Christian, who we affectionately call "Mr. Crafter", was gracious enough to use his photography skills to provide all of us with so much footage of the weekend. I am so anxious to see it all put together and to use some of the content to update my website and social media. Luckily, I got a haircut and my color touched up right before my trip and I got some new outfits so I was feeling pretty and confident for my photo and video shoot. We also had some impromptu mini workshops throughout the day including a flat lay tutorial and bonus photoshoot with Leslie from Blissful Calligraphy. Not only is she a badass artist and calligrapher, she also rocks it behind the camera and provided all of us with great information and amazing photos.
After lunch it was time for our next workshop with Dani from Inked Blank Page. Dani is the master at all things pyrography so we got set to learn how to use our tools to burn on wood and hot foil on leather. I have done some hot foiling in the past but this was my first time using my fancy new professional pyrography tool. I learned so much from Dani and with the practice I have had in the past and all the new found knowledge I acquired from the workshop, I felt confident enough to add hot foiling to my list of services to offer clients. I am hopeful that this will open up some opportunities for more and different live events and brand activations in the future.
During our first session together the day before, we each took time to journal and write down our goals for the weekend and worked together to create a list of topics that we would like to cover throughout the weekend. We also were asked to write down what our deepest darkest fear was about being an entrepreneur and being a creative business owner. When we took the time to be vulnerable and share our what we wrote, nearly every person in the room said failure - including me. While it was validating to hear I am not alone with that feeling, it also made me realize how hard it is to do what we do. As a solo creative business owner who works mostly freelance, it can be incredibly difficult to do all the things necessary to run a business and do them all well enough to be successful. We each put our heart and souls into our art and often times it can feel like you are all alone. The time I spent in Vegas with these incredible women reminded me that not only am I not alone, but I have team behind me that is there to support me through it all - the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Before we broke for the day and some of the group went to get ready for dinner at Best Friend at MGM, we gathered together on in the living room to take some time to plan for the year ahead. The goal was not only to help us get organized for the busy season ahead but also to prioritize to ensure that we are focusing on what needs to be done to grow our businesses and reach the goals that we have set for ourselves. This was super helpful to me as I often get squirrel syndrome and can very easily get distracted. Through this exercise I was able to make a plan for the next twelve months that includes focusing on pitching to brands to book more live events as well as continuing to work on my website and SEO to drive more traffic and hopefully convert that traffic into clients.
My husband and I had another date night in Sin City and we decided to go to dinner and do a little gambling at the Wynn. It is such a beautiful property! We walked around for a bit and decided to head over to the Bellagio and then walk through the casinos on the way back to the Aria. . We aren't big gamblers by any means but when in Vegas...Thankfully we didn't lose much money and actually came home with cash which I think anyone who goes to Vegas would tell you that is a win in itself.
Sunday morning we met one last time to reflect on the weekend and to say our see ya laters. I think it was at this time, at least for me, that we realized how special this time together really was. The energy throughout the entire weekend was truly magical and it felt incredible to be surrounded by so much love and support from fifteen women who understand you in a way that not many others can. I made meaningful connections with each and every person there and I look forward to continuing to nurture and grow these relationships as they mean so much to me.
It's been a few weeks since the Mastermind Retreat and I have had the time and opportunity to reflect upon the weekend and really try zero in on what I took away. If you remember, going into the weekend I tried not to have a ton of expectations but had the goal of using the time to reset and refocus on my mindset while taking the opportunity to meet and learn from all of the incredible women there. In the short time we spent together, I did that and so. much. more. The retreat was exactly what I needed for not only my business and my brain but for my soul. The connections I made and what I learned from each and every person there I will take with me moving forward with Letters from Elliott and as well as in my personal life. It is not always easy taking a chance on yourself and something you care so deeply about. I took a chance joining The Craft Academy back in 2019 and what I have gotten from it so far has been nothing short of a miracle for me and my creative business. I am so proud to be a part of this incredible group of artists and am already looking forward to next year's retreat.