Fall 2007 continuing education

Recommended New England courses about house, garden and related creative arts

(Classes and schedules are subject to change so check program websites for updates.)

Berkshire Botanical Garden

After my recent visit to tour their gardens in Stockbridge, Mass., I became curious about their classes. “The Berkshire Botanical Garden offers visitors a peaceful refuge of natural beauty, stunning display gardens, exciting community events, and informative classes for all ages and levels of skill and knowledge,” according to their website.  This one-day offering appeals to my interest in trees and shrubs as elements of architecture. See what you think.

Japanese Garden Design Pruning Workshop -- The Role of Trees and Shrubs

Instructor: Asher Browne, arborist and owner of Asher Browne Gardens in Saddle River, N.J.

Saturday, October 13, 2007: 10:00 am-2:00 pm

All levels

$45 member, $50 nonmember

Dress for outdoor weather and bring a bagged lunch

“Learn about the importance of trees and shrubs in Japanese garden design. This two-part class will combine a lecture on Japanese garden design followed by an outdoor pruning demonstration. Designed to introduce gardeners to elements of Japanese inspired design, the program will focus on the role of trees and shrubs. Many pruning techniques used in Japanese gardening bring out the beauty and character of specimen trees and shrubs and can help make the most of each plant. Focus on aesthetic pruning of small conifers, Japanese maples, and flowering small trees and shrubs in this outdoor class. Discuss how to prune specimen trees, maintain size and scale, and bring out the natural beauty of each individual plant.”

Great River Arts Institute

The website for this Bellows Falls, Vermont program says, “The mission of Great River Arts is to create and sustain a New England-based arts center to support and nurture visual and literary artists and provide regional youth programs.” I’ve never taken one of their classes, but this workshop lead by Dan Snow would be a good reason to sign up. His book, In the Company of Stone, beautifully demonstrates his gift for working with stone. A class taught by such a talented artisan seems hard to resist.  

Art of the Stone Wall

Instructor: Dan Snow, author and stone installation artist

Saturday, Sept. 22 – Sunday, Sept. 23, 2007

Limited to 24 participants


“Dan Snow is an artist in stone installation and site based art pieces. The primary building blocks of his work, literally, are the techniques in dry stone wall building he learned in Ireland and Italy. Participants will build a four-foot-tall, free-standing wall by applying four basic principles and employing a few simple techniques. At a local park, participants will prepare a base and build up a double-faced wall using common, round-edged fieldstone. From “founds” to “throughs” to “copes,” each stage in the construction will be explained and demonstrated. The completed project will remain in the park for the community’s benefit.

The Landscape Institute

According to their website, “The Landscape Institute of the Arnold Arboretum provides professional education in landscape design, history, and preservation,” in Cambridge, Mass. Here’s another offering I’d recommend for those who share my penchant for landscape as architecture.

Plants as Elements of Garden Architecture

Instructor: Gary Koller, president Koller and Associates of Stoughton, Mass., and recipient of the Julie Morris Award and Gold Medal, Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

Thursdays, Sept. 13 – Oct. 25, 2007: 5:30-7:30 pm


In this seven-week module, students will learn how to enhance garden design by looking at plants as architectural components. Using these components, it is possible to create structure, enclosure (or the impression of it), and year-round interest. Participants will look at the use and maintenance requirements of hedges, espaliers and cordons, and topiary, pleaching and pollarding as techniques to provide form, focus, and definition to the garden setting. Lists of plants appropriate for each effect will be included.”

Lesley Seminars

Part of Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., these continuing education seminars consist of “courses and workshops focused on writing, fine arts, art history, special thematic learning experiences, and professional development,” says their website. The following workshops tempt my writing aspirations and belief that it’s never too late to pursue a passion.

Creative Nonfiction: Ordinary to Extraordinary

Instructor: Anne Sanow, author

Tuesdays, Sept. 11 – Dec. 18, 2007: 6:45-9:15 pm

Students are required to have some previous experience in writing, and to have completed at least one writing workshop in any genre.

Noncredit $445; 3-credits $1395

In this course students will learn to look closely at the world around them and turn their observations into finely crafted writing. Various forms of creative nonfiction will be explored—the personal essay, memoir, profiles, writing about place and nature, family history, cultural criticism, and literary journalism—and students will learn how to identify subjects to write about, how to determine the purpose and audience, and how to draft and edit their work. Writing exercises will allow students to practice using fictional techniques such as narration, scene, and dialogue to expand works of nonfiction. Students will develop a portfolio of creative nonfiction work to be discussed in class workshops with their peers, where we will pay special attention to the process of revision and development of each writer’s voice. We will read creative nonfiction by writers such as John Edgar Wideman, Susan Orlean, Robert Finch, Michael Martone, Terry Tempest Williams, and many more, and look at innovative approaches some writers use, such as photographs or drawings. At the end of the course we will discuss the basics of publication.”

Enormous Changes in the Second Half: A Workshop on the Possibility of Transformation

Instructor: Kendall Dudley, career consultant, writer, and artist

Mondays, October 15 – 29, 2007: 6:30–9:00 pm

Non-credit $100

People say the second half of life can be a cauldron from which our greatest deeds and visions emerge. Drawing on the work of artists such as Sabrina Ward Harrison, Willem de Kooning, and David Whyte, we’ll set a context for change that invites appropriate risk-taking and proactive learning. Structured writing, music and visioning practices will help us dig deeper into the clay of our experience. We’ll examine the forces that anchor and sustain us, those that ignite our imagination, and those that link us to what may be an underlying sense of personal destiny. Through various dialogues with our chaotic and balancing natures, participants will strive to name two big ideas around which they can gather momentum and purpose.”

Silvermine Guild Arts Center

Their website indicates that the mission at this facility in New Canaan, Conn. is “to cultivate, promote and encourage growth through the arts; to showcase and serve artists; and to foster arts education and appreciation opportunities for the greater community.” These one-day workshops look like enjoyable, creative diversions.

What’s So Funny?

Instructor: Marc Tyler Nobleman, author and cartoonist

Saturday. Oct. 6, 2007: 10:00 am-1:00 pm


“Cartoons are mini-mysteries. We become detectives to figure out how the words and the art are working together to make a joke, otherwise known as the gag. Learn the hidden language of cartoons. This is not a conventional how-to-draw workshop; it is as much about humor as it is art. Students will learn astonishing new tips to help them create a comic’s strip or single panel cartoon, from generating a funny idea, to converting it to cartoon script, to yes, drawing the pictures that go with it.”

The Art of the Plastic Camera

Instructor: Suzanne Brandt

Saturday. November 10, 2007: 10:00 am-4:00 pm


“Take a step away from your digital camera and take a look at six inexpensive “Toy” cameras that will bring you many steps ahead in producing very creative photographs. In this workshop we will look at various cameras including: Holga, Color Flash Holga, Fisheye Camera, Split-Cam, Action Sampler and Color Splash Camera. Students will have the opportunity to take some photographs with most of the cameras. Many examples from working with each camera will be presented and critiqued discussing how each camera produces a different effect. Some of the unique effects include: taking 180 degree photographs with two overlapping images, four photographs printed on one piece of photo paper displaying action, photographs displaying movement as well as photographs which come in multiple images. No prior photography experience required, just a desire to dive into a new world of photography. Nominal lab fee will be charged to cover cost of film and developing.”


Design/Build School

This unique school in Warren, VT comes highly recommended. According to their website, “Yestermorrow Design/Build School offers over 100 hands-on courses per year in design, construction, woodworking and architectural craft and offers a variety of course concentrating on sustainable design.” I’ve never taken a class here, but I’ve toured the facilities and found them impressive. Check it out:

Historic Houses

Instructor:Jamie Duggan, principal of Preservation Unlimited in Montpelier, Vermont

Saturday, Oct. 6 – Sunday. Oct 7, 2007

All levels


“Older homes are typically built utilizing materials and techniques not readily found in contemporary construction. Not only do historic homes help preserve the cultural heritage of our built environment, they are also underutilized as renewable resources. All too often, character-defining features, uncommon materials and exceptional craftsmanship are lost to deterioration or removal when resolving maintenance and repair dilemmas. This workshop will help owners of historic houses, maintenance personnel, property managers, general contractors, and anyone involved in the stewardship of older buildings to make informed decisions on the job. We will discuss the historical, material and technological changes that have shaped building construction practice. Through lectures and site visits, students will learn where to look and what to look for when assessing the overall condition of a structure, how to prioritize their work, establishing routine maintenance programs, and finding help for projects beyond their capacity.”

Box Making

Instructor: Skip Dewhirst, co-founder Meerkat Design and Handwork in Worcester, Vermont

Saturday, Dec. 8 – Sun. Dec. 9, 2007

All levels

$300 plus $15 for materials

“Learn to design and build beautiful wooden boxes using woodworking skills that can also be applied to larger projects. You’ll learn about miters, rabbets, dadoes, sliding dovetails, box joints, hardware choices and more; then choose which to use in your own design, whether it be a simple storage container, a gift, or an elegant jewelry box.”