…leaving Italy 2018

 

2018 has been the year of renovation. We switched into full gear this year, renovating the rest of our fortress. We added a kitchen, a lounge area next to the kitchen, 6 guest rooms, a kitchenette and a new outdoor seating area outside the dependence (the out building that serves as 3 guest rooms).

It was challenging in a way I have never been challenged. That is saying a lot as I have built and renovated many residential and commercial spaces, but this one was a beast. It was challenging but not why you think. Our contractor, project manager and geometra (the architect/engineer, that is required for any construction in Italy) were incredible. The electrician, painter, plumber and marble guy were top notch. Mostly, everyone working on the project was really efficient. However, the mere  scope of the project was daunting. Resurrecting a medieval fortress is not for the faint of heart.

I am happy to say that it’s all behind us. It is finished. We still have many projects ahead, but the idea that the majority of the renovation is history is quite frankly the best feeling in the world.

I loved all the workshops this year. The privates were fulfilling, and everyone who attended this year had a special point of view. I loved doing our wedding shoot; it was fun to imagine a wedding at La Fortezza. Frank and I really had a blast with all of our guests and loved showing everyone our little part of Italy.

La Fortezza guest rooms were a hit with all of our guests, too which was especially rewarding after all of our hard work. Everyone loved all the special touches, and it was really fun hosting everyone. All the aperitivi and all the suppers and discussions around the table were exactly how I imagined it would be. It warms my heart that I made so many new friends and got visit with old friends as well. I hope everyone comes to visit us again. Such precious memories make all the work the past 2 1/2 years so worth it!

Many ask if I am sad to leave Italy. I am sad, but being back in the US with my family and friends is great. I will be back next spring and in the meantime, I am enjoying all the peace of not making renovation decisions every day, but I will miss all the group dinners under the stars and the moon. Until next year…

xx I will miss you Italy. cin cin

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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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Steve McKenzie’s Abstract Painting Workshop at La Fortezza + Artist in residence announcement.

567F7AB6-8841-48B2-B15C-B6FE204B368F IMG_2712 IMG_2788 Ciao all!  by now you know we have been trying out a few different workshops and retreats here at La Fortezza. A few weeks ago, I had my dear friend and amazing artist Steve McKenzie here with students painting all over the place. Of course like with all workshops, we served local food and our own wine. It was 5 days of pure creative bliss. Our newly renovated out building, known as the “dependence,” worked perfectly and all guests were comfy and cozy.

Our farewell pizza party was a huge hit and visiting a local castle owned by artists was a big thrill. Thank you to Steve for making every minute count and every lesson so valuable. I even stopped my duties here to paint one morning, and it was divine. Steve is an amazing teacher. Oh and we picked a few grapes with our handsome vintner Manolo since our grape harvest was in full swing! The looks on their faces tells the story. They were all so happy!

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We also had a cooking lesson, as we do with every workshop, with retreat chef, Teri. Homemade pasta was so fun to make.

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This season we have been thinking about how to come up with a way to offer a more flexible workshop experience to folks. I have people that email us all the time asking if they can come during a visit to Italy, but we were bound to our workshop calendar. I think we have come up with the perfect solution. We have a new and exciting addition to our 2019 summer retreat roster. We will be starting a new creatives program, an “Artist in Residence” program here at La Fortezza the entire month of July.

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Steve will be the very first artist to spend a month here creating under the Tuscan sun. He will be starting here the 1st of July. If you are in Italy during the month of July, or planning a trip here in July, here’s how it will work:

You will be able to book as many days as you like based availability to assist or create art with Steve. He will be working on a collection that will be hung here end of July. He will have an opening exhibition party here at La Fortezza which will be another opportunity for you to come join us at his opening the last weekend of July. More details about Steve’s art opening to come.

Your stay at La Fortezza will include:

  • Accommodations
  • All Breakfasts
  • Some Lunches
  • Some Dinners
  • Aperitivo-( Italian Cocktail hour) with me, author of Cocktail Italiano
  • Excursions with Steve
  • Lessons with Steve
  • All Art Supplies

If you’re not a painter but want a creative experience, you will be able to assist and apprentice with Steve. This retreat is open to all levels. The rate will be $500 per day. We have 5 rooms available, so if you are coming to Italy in July, please sign up early as this experience will be first come, first serve.

There will be more information on the website mid-November when we plan to announce all the spring and summer creative workshops. So if you’ve always wanted to live in the Italian countryside, paint and co create with other artists, this opportunity might just be for you. As always feel free to email me at annette@annettejosephstyle.com for more information about July’s Artist in Residence Program with Steve McKenzie.

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Have a peek at Steve’s instagram to see the whole story of his week here teaching abstract painting to our great group!

xx Annette

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