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I'm a firm believer that crossing Death's Door to Washington Island is like going to heaven.
You can pack up all your worries and cares, and spend a few hours or a few days in a place that is quietly beautiful - the kind of beauty that makes you exhale and feel oh, so peaceful. Even the wheat fields on the Island seem more golden than most - is it the northern light? Oh, and of course there's the Bitters Bar.
Don't even try telling me there's no bitters in heaven. There's got to be. The other thing I love about Washington Island is the people. They're friendly, but not in a fawning way. They're solid - they'll have a warm and honest conversation with you, and tell you exactly what they think. And dang but if they're not extremely creative. I guess you have to be when you live in a place with no Home Depot and spotty TV reception.
So when I got to spend an evening at my friend Greg Goettelsen's cottage last weekend, I knew I wanted to get the inside scoop on one of the most creative spots on the Island: Sievers School of Fiber Arts. Founded in 1979 by a 70-year-old Walter Schutz (more proof that creativity knows no age limits) as a mail order loom business, Sievers has grown to become an internationally known, three-season school of the visual arts. The school's classes, held May-October, include weaving, basketry, papermaking, bookmaking, felting, batik, quilting and more. Teachers and students come from around the nation to this quiet creative mecca, and Sievers' reputation has grown steadily, though the school has intentionally retained its intimate feel. Sievers' setting is the historic Jackson Harbor Schoolhouse, lovingly refurbished (though the original chalkboards still remain) and home of Sievers' Shop which features consigned work from teachers and students at the school. I could have stayed all day just in this area of the school - and I probably could have gotten all of my Christmas shopping done, too! Colorful hand-woven offerings at the Sievers Shop Fortunately, my hosts Ann Young and Carolyn Foss took me out to the studio where a group of women were working at their looms. Wow! The creative energy in that building was incredible. As the shuttles flew, a few of the women took the chance to tell me what makes Sievers so special. "There's no where else like this place," says Jeanette Biederman of Merrill, WI. "There's so much energy here that you don't sleep at night." An artist at work Speaking of sleeping, Sievers' 2 to 7 day courses do require accommodations. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the many hotels, B&Bs and rental cottages on the island. But the school also provides dormitory style accommodations in its studio/dorm facility, housed in a classic barn. Students can cook meals together, or enjoy the restaurant offerings on the Island. My lovely hosts, Ann and Carolyn. Carolyn and Ann told me that many of their students return year after year, and start to feel like family. I didn't find this news surprising at all. If you're going to learn to knit, spin, or weave, why not do it in heaven?
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