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Almost nothing gets a reaction quite like the one you get when you tell people you made the jewelry you’re wearing — especially when you have no prior experience as a designer. The surprising shortcut for becoming an amatuer jeweler is one week in Ghost Ranch — a stunning 21,000-acre site in Abiquiu, New Mexico, 65 miles northwest of Santa Fe.
The hiking trails of Ghost Ranch are surrounded by red, yellow, and white bluffs, and monumental stones carved by nature into fanciful shapes. Every evening, it’s bathed in orange, pink, and magenta sunsets. If it looks like a Georgia O’Keeffe painting, it’s because the artist lived and worked there for over 40 years.
People come to Ghost Ranch to view O’Keeffe’s home, explore more than 20 miles of trails, and to take in the peace and tranquility of its natural beauty. But most don’t know about it’s hidden secret: small jewelry classes you can take right on the premises.
At Ghost Ranch, beginners with no prior experience in metalsmithing can create silver inlay jewelry. Everyone is warmly welcomed and encouraged — when you arrive, you’ll walk into a large room filled with grinding wheels, anvils, saws, mallets and the searing flames of a soldering torch, plus mounds of multi-colored stones to sift through.
I first went to Ghost Ranch to try my hand at hot-fused glass. Although formal classes were about five hours a day, I became so hooked that I spent every spare moment in the studio. The following year I made belt buckles for my husband and holiday gifts. The third year I did silver inlay work. By the end of that week, I had made a matching pendant and bracelet set.
It’s not unusual — while walking the labyrinth of Ghost Ranch, or sitting in an Adirondack chair watching the sun dance on the mesas, or eating at a communal table in the dining room — to meet other creators who have come back four, five, or six times. Many will say that they haven’t felt this free since they were kids, or at least found a meditative space they can’t quite achieve at home.
Prices for one week include six nights of lodging, all meals, the cost of the workshop, and all materials. The lowest weekly price, for rooms with a communal bath, is $1,000; rooms with private baths are $1,350.
Accommodations are simple and clean, and meals are served cafeteria style: think of it as summer camp for adults. You can fly into Albuquerque and, if you don’t want to rent a car, take an airport shuttle to the Sage Inn in Santa Fe — which is home to some pretty great shopping, too.
Judith Fein is an award-wining travel journalist, author, speaker, and workshop leader. Her website is www.GlobalAdventure.us