I've been happy sighing since last Friday, when my mom and I arrived in Philadelphia at the Sweet Paul Makerie opening reception at Occasionette. I knew from the moment I walked through the doors of this quaint shop in South Philly, filled with handmade goods, one-of-a-kind gifts, and the sweetest stationery you've ever laid eyes on, that the weekend was going to be one I'd never forget. And the wildly talented teams behind Sweet Paul Magazine and The Makerie did not disappoint.
If you've never heard of the Sweet Paul Makerie, it's a weekend-long creative retreat filled with making, eating, and connecting with fellow craft lovers of all stripes. After pining over the last two retreats, I was finally able to attend this year and it was everything I'd dreamed it would be and more. From sun up to sun down, from the biggest moments to the tiniest details, the team behind this inspiring event left no stone unturned, no opportunity to go the extra mile not taken. The result was the over 100 deliriously happy, grinning faces of attendees from all over the country and the world, each of whom left with cherished memories, a renewed sense of creativity, and enough inspiration to last at least until next year's retreat.
Below are 5 reasons this year's Sweet Paul Makerie rocked my freaking socks off and why you should join me at next year's retreat:
1. The People
One of the things that struck me the most about the retreat was the number of attendees who came alone. Admittedly, the thought of attending something like this by myself scares me a little. What if no one talks to me? What if I have to eat alone? What if my enjoyment is dulled by the fact that I have no one to share it with? But from the moment we arrived at the retreat venue, I realized that this crowd was different. The sheer diversity of the group was admirable in and of itself - it include men, women, young, old, professional makers and newbie crafters, people from everywhere from Minnesota to Australia - but what really struck me was the friendliness of everyone in attendance. Maybe it's being surrounded by people who share a common passion, maybe it's the excitement of the weekend, but whatever it was, I've never met a more welcoming, inspiring, and all-around fun crowd. I walked in to a room of over 100 strangers, and walked out with over 100 new friends.
2. The Space
When I signed up for the retreat, I had hoped it would be someplace magical - and to my delight, it was that and more. The entire weekend took place at the URBN campus - the corporate headquarters for the Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, BHLDN, Terrain, and Vetri brands. Built in the shell of an old 350,000+ square foot navy shipyard in Philly, the campus celebrates the original, industrial features of this 100-year-old building while giving it that distinct Anthro twist. Massive windows flood the main hallway with not only natural light, but epic views of the navy shipyard just outside. Small in-ground pools where torpedoes were once washed now house beautiful koi fish. Original beams and mechanicals have been cleaned and juxtaposed with greenery, lanterns, and a shimmering art wall. The entire place was so light and airy and inspiring that it was easy to forget you were in the middle of a bustling city - a perfect backdrop for a weekend centered around creativity and artistic expression.
3. The Food
Let's be honest: when we think of food for a large crowd, we usually think of overcooked, under-seasoned meals that barely pass as edible. While I knew the food at the Sweet Paul Makerie would be better than expected, I still wasn't expecting much. I even packed some breakfast bars, just in case. But the food at this retreat wasn't just your run-of-the-mill wet scrambled eggs, soggy sandwiches, and bland vegetables. Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style and boasted everything from parfait with cocoa nibs and pistachios to pickled eggs, from Dutch babies with fruit compote to beet and goat cheese terrines. Dinner was an elegant sit-down with a table setting as beautiful as the food was delicious. And you can't have a Sweet Paul event without something sweet, right? Dessert was offered at every meal and was absolutely sinful - chocolate chip cookies, ice cream with all the toppings, and tons of perfectly baked cakes with the help of sponsor Nordic Ware. But the best part? Everyone, regardless of dietary needs, had plenty of mouthwatering options. As a pescatarian, I'm often limited as to what I can eat at large gatherings - but not here. Every meal had a variety of choices for meat eaters, fish lovers, vegetarians, and even vegans. A delight for every tastebud in the room!
4. The Workshops
The reason we all were there, this year's workshop offerings were a crafter's paradise. The team behind the retreat assembled a wildly talented roster of talent - many of whom I've been following (stalking) on Instagram for quite some time - each with their own distinct craft and way of teaching. No matter what you're interested in - woodworking, fiber arts, cookie decorating, styling... anything! - there was a workshop to tickle your fancy. Almost all tools and materials needed were supplied, so all you had to do was show up with your own two hands and a positive attitude - of which there was no shortage this weekend. Not only did I walk away with several new addictions to explore, but I was immensely inspired by the passion that each instructor exuded. Even those teachers whose workshops I didn't get a chance to attend brought such a powerful, electric energy to the retreat that you couldn't help but be moved by it. I dare say that I'll never again be in a room with so many uniquely and incredibly people at once... until next year's retreat, that is.
5. The Organizers
This magical weekend simply would not have been possible without the incredible event organizers. I get stressed out when I'm having four people over my house for dinner - I cannot even fathom the organizational skills, creativity, patience, and sheer determination it takes to pull off an event of this size and splendor. Ali and Krissa, the amazing women behind The Makerie, and 'Sweet' Paul and 'Other' Paul, the dynamic duo responsible for Sweet Paul Magazine, along with their team of volunteers and behind-the-scenes crew, made this entire retreat a true joy from beginning to end. Every detail was considered, every need was met, and every creative fantasy was indulged. I got to listen to the endlessly inspiring Grace Bonney speak so honestly and candidly, and then carve a spoon alongside Kelly Kapowski! This dream team made each of our crafting fantasies come to life and all with perpetual smiles on their faces. This weekend filled my heart and lightened my soul, and left me feeling inspired, invigorated, refreshed, pampered, and immensely grateful. Time slowed down, stress melted away, and my only 'job' was to focus solely on the present moment. That is a true gift, and one I will be forever thankful for. So here's to you, Paul, Paul, Ali, and Krissa - you rock!