My first SOAR back in 1995 I chose my Workshop based on the teacher, rather than the subject matter, which turned out to not have been the best way to make that determination. While she was a wonderful teacher, I didn't learn as much as I'd hoped, as I really knew much of what others in the class were trying to absorb. At that time I believed that this would be my One And Only SOAR Ever, so you understand, I had to make it count, and I was more than somewhat disappointed at the lack of information density.
All was well however, from my first Retreat session when Judith MacKenzie said "This is really a three-day class, but we're going to try and squeeze as much as possible into three hours" and then I knew I'd hit the mother-lode, even though it was all about bast fibres which I love to wear but don't care to spin. Almost all of them, unless they're blended with cotton, in which case I might.
As it turns out. I did learn a lot though.
I had such a blast that I haven't missed a single year since then, though there have been times I've not been able to make it to both the Workshop and Retreat.
Over the years, Workshops have run the gamut from fabulous to less fabulous, with a higher concentration up in the rarified section, as have Retreat sessions, but one thing has been constant: I have come to rely on those four Retreat sessions to inhale an intense flavour of four new somethings.
I've never been one of those who are exhausted by Saturday afternoon, skipping out to sleep or stare at the wall - I'd be happy with another full day of sessions, as I just can't get enough.
Because SOAR is my total fibre opportunity every year (I don't do Maryland or Rhinebeck or Stitches or Convergence or Greencastle), I try to get as much from it as I can, a huge part of which are the informal gatherings when nothing else is going on. People hang out and knit and spin and talk politics or fibre or gossip or literature or anything, and no one holds back, and no one is excluded, no matter if they're teaching, participating, tagging along or administrating.
This is why I am so offended by the new Retreat format: only three Retreat sessions plus one session of what many of us do every time FOR FREE anyway. (Yes, I meant to shout).
Sorry Interweave, but a session of group spinning in which "participants who are not enrolled in a retreat session can gather to spin and share information" isn't a Retreat session, even if a couple of mentors are hanging out with us. They often do anyway.
So we don't have to move the chairs ourselves. Big freakin' deal.
It's not as though the Retreat is suddenly heavily discounted or anything: they're charging as much for three days of Workshop as for two days (which is really one and a half days) of Retreat, so our Retreat dollars go only half as far as our Workshop dollars in terms of time when we can expect to be receiving instruction.
Whose brilliant idea was it to stiff spinners already paying through the nose? SOAR is already not bargain basement, but until now, I've had little reason to complain. A hundred bucks to hang out for a few hours and give each other tips?
This is me, unimpressed and more than a little annoyed.