Last of the La Fortezza Workshops, end of the season

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I must admit the last 2 workshops in October were amazing. The first workshop was a private group. All I can say is that it was the most amazing group of friends. It was comprised of four ladies that really supported each other and enjoyed each other’s company. I have never seen anything like it.

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Philip and Suzanne prepared a pizza lunch for the group.

We tried a new chef, Philip Meeker, a classically trained chef with tons of restaurant and teaching experience. He was a fantastic addition to the La Fortezza workshop team. He was genuinely enthusiastic about our garden and local vendors like the dairy and the various butcher shops. He loved shopping at the Tuesday local market in the square in Fivizzano, and he became quite the local celebrity as he speaks great Italian and is quite charming, not to mention easy on the eyes.

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His food was absolutely delicious, creative and seasonal. His high regard for great ingredients is exactly what we look for in the meals we serve at La Fortezza – high quality, beautiful and delicious.

Our private group’s organizer, Suzanne Vizethann , is the Executive Chef and Owner of Buttermilk Kitchen. She brought all her best friends with her, and we had an amazing time touring Modena with my sweet friend and stylist/editor Barbara Pederzini. She even gave us the VIP tour of her hometown. As an aside, Barbara will be joining me next year for a couple days to teach the Italian side of styling during my Strictly Styling Workshop 2019; we have lots of surprises up our sleeves, so stay tuned.

We stopped for a bit of power shooppingat Oro Nero a custom design shop in Modena

We stopped for a bit of power shopping at Oro Nero a custom design shop in Modena

We began the workshop with Suzanne’s group with truffle hunting. It was a gorgeous morning trekking through the forest.

Truffle huntiing followed by a 4 course truffle lunch, left us stuffed and sleepy.

Truffle huntiing followed by a 4 course truffle lunch, left us stuffed and sleepy.

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Suzanne treated all of us to her Nonna’s sauce and meatballs at our Sunday supper. Philip rounded out the meal with amazing handmade pasta noodles along with sides and dessert. Private workshops have been very exciting and so fulfilling.T hanks to Katie, Janie and Kristy for joining the adventure and making the dance party so fun.

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For our final workshop of the year, Angie Mosier brought an amazing group of photographers to La Fortezza. We had a wonderful time touring and photographing. Angie is a gifted teacher, and she brought so much energy and expertise to her workshop. Chef Rebecca Wilcomb joined her friend Angie, and we all visited local food purveyors and introduced Philip, Angie and Rebecca to local fare, like panigacci and testoroli. My Italian girlfriends, helped introduce them to all things local in food stuffs. Thanks to Giovanna, local food ambassador, and Federica of China Clementi. We had professional barman Simone join us one night to create cocktails with China Clementi a locally produced Amaro, created in Fivizzano by the family.

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Panigacci made the traditional way on the open fire.

Testaroli being made

Testaroli being made

Me with Giovanna

Me with Giovanna

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Testaroli

Testaroli

Testaroli tasting

Testaroli tasting

We toured the China Clementi Amaro factory earlier in the day, so it was such fun to do a cocktail tasting later that evening for aperitivo with Angie’s group.

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Philip was enamored with our outdoor pizza oven (il forno). He and Rebecca opted to cook a few of our meals in it as well as a pizza lunch for our attendees. It was really an honor to have Rebecca cook in our kitchen, and she and Philip had a blast using fresh local ingredients. Phillip taught handmade pasta to many of our attendees. His charm and ease in the kitchen made him an instant hit with our guests. He’ll be back next year in June to create more exciting meals in our kitchen.

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Roasted in the forno

Roasted in the forno

Wrapping up the workshops with such great people was so rewarding, I am back in the US for a few months. I’ll be on book tour and of course producing a few editorial stories. I will be back to Italy next year. A heartfelt thanks to all who attended. I loved meeting you all and showing you my Italy.

xx Annette

 

 

 

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Announcing:: Our 2019 Italian Workshops at La Fortezza

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LA SERRA MK TEXTILE ATELIER

As some of you may know, we bought a dreamy medieval fortress aptly named, La Fortezza in the countryside of northern Tuscany,  a region known as Lunigiana. Over the course of the past few years, we have worked tirelessly to create a stunning atmosphere for our guests to attend workshops and retreats, create alongside the best instructors in the business, enjoy long dinners under the Tuscan sky, and rest their heads after a day of exploring.

This past summer, we completed our guest quarters and additional guest rooms, and we hosted several inspiring creative retreats for visionaries from around the world. We’ve enjoyed meeting everyone and working with attendees from all over the world.

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And now, I am delighted to announce our spring and summer 2019 Italian workshops roster. Beginning next spring, we will offer our traditional styling workshops and several one on one experiences with me. We will also offer, for the first time, a once in a lifetime artist in residence program, and an amazing styling workshop with three of our best instructors: Eliza Honey, Joanna Hawley, and Maren Ellingboe.

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Perhaps most exciting announcement is our Artist in Residence opportunity with Steve McKenzie. Steve, an accomplished interior designer, textile designer, and abstract painter, will spend the entire month of July painting under the Tuscan sun. As a guest at La Fortezza, you will be able to paint and or assist Steve, shop with him for supplies at an charming art store in the artsy town of Sarzana, discuss his style, or learn more about your own painting techniques. You can book as many days on our property as are available. I’d love to have you join us during this magical artistic experience.

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If you are an aspiring stylist, new blogger, experienced stylist, or experienced blogger looking for some new inspiration, you must book a one on one workshop with me. This workshop will consist of styling lessons, prop shopping at all of my favorite haunts, cooking, and even discussions about styling and production, including the business side of things and making your brand stand out to get clients. If you want to hang out with me and learn all of my styling secrets, plan to book this one of a kind experience.

During all workshops, we go on many excursions to flea markets and local farmers’ markets to buy food and products to use in our shoots and at our cooking lessons. You will meet the locals and experience Italy Italian style. We have so many amazing resources including our neighbors who run various food artisan businesses. Because we live here, we are so well connected. We have a wide array of resources for flea marketing, antiquing and prop hunting, too, so those excursions are always a part of our workshop experiences. Day trips to Florence are an easy 2 hour drive. Cooking lessons with our workshop chef is possible as well, yoga is also available on request.

Making our workshops even more unique is that you will stay on the Fortress compound with us surrounded by breathtaking views. We pride ourselves in offering everyone newly renovated and comfortable accommodations. Rooms are simple and authentic. We like to think of the design aesthetic as bohemian and monastic, a unique countryside take and pared down design. All rooms feature wifi and their own bathrooms. We have a private chef and all workshops include cooking lessons in our stunningly outfitted commercial kitchen.

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We pride ourselves on providing one-on-one personalized instruction for everyone, therefore classes are limited to 6-8 students max. Our instructors have 10+ years of real life experience in the professional photography field, or field of study, working for real publications, and with commercial clients and in the fine arts. We are very selective about who we bring to teach in this very exclusive learning experience with seasoned professionals.

Of course, as always, there will be plenty of eating and wine drinking especially since we are now the owners of our own vineyard. Drinking our own wine is really something special!

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Visit our workshops and retreats page to learn more about each of our 2019 summer workshops! There are only a few spots available, so act fast!

A Note about La Fortezza’s Guest Instructors Program: We will have a few surprise guest artisans/instructors cooking and styling and teaching art in 2019. Our goal is to network and create beauty with amazing talents from all over the world. We want La Fortezza to be worldwide creative haven where the best of the best teach and mentor other creatives from all over the world. A real creative cooperative where like-minded people can meet and create in the most gorgeous, untouched region in Italy. If you’re interested in conducting a workshop, please email me. We are welcoming all sorts of workshops and retreats next year!

photo cred: Infraordinario

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Private Creative Workshops :: an update

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Ciao all! As I head back to the states, I wanted to reflect on some of the unexpected perks and a few little challenges with my private workshop sessions this year. I came up with the idea of “private styling/branding workshops” when I kept being approached by people that were not interested in a group workshop. Most of the time these were professional folks that were on the crossroads of career paths, or simply wanting to improve their brand and/or styling of photography. People wanting a one on one experience with me – alone – as a moment to pick my brain, be inspired or just chat about their creative path. I would serve as an open ear and mind to help sort out where ever they were on their journey.

I must admit, I was a little taken a back by the overwhelming requests. I get it. Going somewhere to think things through with someone willing to listen, help and discuss seems like a great retreat.

So I posted two private workshops last year, and they were immediately grabbed up. So quickly that I had someone talk me into opening up another date for them. Of course I did.

Privates are funny because you’re never really sure if your students will walk away with enough information and guidance to nourish their career and personal goals. Well at least that is what I thought going in…

To my surprise, the privates were not only productive, creatively fulfilling and fun, but I was able to personally delve into why I am where I am, and what made me walk down this crazy path in the first place. I found out that I am indeed fearless, analytical, and even empathetic (which was something I never regarded myself as to be honest.) I always considered myself a hard ass, but truth be told, I have a very compassionate side that was ultimately explored as I discussed my life through styling photography, art, food, family and my life’s work with my private students.

Full disclosure, my first student this summer, realized early on in the context of the workshop, that a career in styling had passed her by. Having had a full career unrelated to creativity per-se, she wanted to switch to a prop styling career, only to come to the conclusion that it probably was not the perfect fit. She realized through the styling exercises that styling was not natural or fun. She realized it was harder than it looked. She was frustrated and felt defeated before she began. Sometimes these self realizations result in an outcome that was not expected. While she felt a bit unresolved leaving, I told her these experiences are sometimes retrospective, and we were both old enough to know that this was true. I felt fulfilled that we had talked, and that I had challenged her to think about all her other creative options. I loved the experience and felt happy that she had the opportunity to explore her options in a safe place.

My second private was a young woman from a remote part of the world. She had such an interesting story, and she was so ready to explore styling. She came from a similar background of store displays, so we could relate composition wise immediately. She was curious, wise, patient and most of all, showed amazing potential and talent. So we hit the ground running. She took to styling for the camera like a duck to water. We moved quickly though all the styling exercises. She was selective at flea markets and understood the importance of the hunt. All in all she was a natural. I can’t wait to see what she does with her knowledge. She is on a journey that will take her where ever she wants to go. It was so satisfying to be a part of the education process of such a smart and spirited woman. It was a great honor if I am totally honest.

As I await my 3rd and final private workshop this year, I am inspired to inspire others to live their best creative life. I can’t wait.

So as you can see, the private workshops are as much of an exciting journey for me as they are for my students.

My mission in this moment is to mentor and teach as many creatives as possible. After all, what is a life’s work without sharing all this knowledge and inspiring the next generation of inspiration? To know that I am a part of that is a humbling thought indeed. x

Look for more private styling and branding the business of styling workshops posting next month on the workshop site, Grab your spot for a life-altering, uplifting experience. Find your creative self.

photo cred, styling : Rachel Ritchie (one of my private workshop students)

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Using Trays to Style

One no-fail stylist secret is gathering things in mass on trays. It works in the living room on your coffee table, for home accessories, and even on the dining room table. It’s a universal stylist trick.  When I’m hunting flea markets and vintage shops, I’m always on the lookout for trays to add to my I prop stash. They’re just so versatile.

Trays make plating food simple and fabulous, and styling with them is a tool of the trade you’ll want to have in your repertoire. Next time you have a party to plan, look around the house for trays to repurpose. Think outside the box, and you will wow your guests.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to use trays:

For an unexpected centerpiece: Gathering guests around the table will never be a problem if you place a beautiful tray of bruschetta (or any other nibble!) in the center.

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For salad, beverages, and desserts: Try turning the tray upside down to use it as a riser on the table.

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For a beverages station: Gathering glasses for guests to help themselves always makes for a beautiful display.

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For entrees: Using a gorgeous wooden tray instead of a ceramic platter adds instant style to your table.

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Photography in order:

Deborah Whitlaw Llewelleyn

Jennifer Davick

Marte Marie Forsberg

Deborah Whitlaw Llewelleyn

Michael Graydon

 

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How to Style Bookshelves


Staring at rows of bookshelves can be daunting which I’m sure is why people are always asking me questions about styling them. Where do you put the books? Where do you put the knickknacks? How much is too much? How little is too little? Do you layer items? Organize by height? By color? A few years ago, I teamed up with Ballard Designs to break it down to 7 golden rules, and that interview still holds true today.


You can head over there for the full story, but if you just want the quick and dirty details, here are the 7 Golden Rules of Bookshelf Styling:

  1. Think about storage: a bookshelf is an awesome place to disguise items that you might need to store. Use cute, function baskets to add texture and function.
  2. Incorporate artwork: layer artwork to add depth and create interest. Small art that you pick-up from markets, travels, and antique stores are perfect.
  3. Stack books: create vignettes by using books with bindings in similar colors and styles. Stack them horizontally for some unexpected height.
  4. Add collections: bookshelves are the perfect place to showcase any collections you might have. Think an arrangement of fun jars or a bowl of seashells.
  5. Use repetition: odd numbers are you friend. Organize like items in a row (3, 5, or 7) to bring a shelf together.
  6. Think creatively: tear off book covers from flea market books and bind them together with twine for texture.
  7. Don’t forget pops of color: throw in a few colorful items that complement the other colors in the room.

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