Camp Waldemar is typically an all-girls summer camp but for four days, every other year, the creative and rowdy attendees of Design Ranch call it home. Instead of lectures, this unconventional conference is comprised of intimate workshops taught by creative professionals. The whole point of the event is to step away from your computer and revive your creative spirit while making things by hand. And the best part: no wifi or cell reception. Only good food, drinks, nature, and new friends to inspire you.
The conference only allows 150 people to attend and this year tickets sold out in a single day! Thanks to Mutual Mobile, I nabbed a ticket along with my co-workers Lin Zagorski (good friend and talented illustrator) and Ryan Considine (my nerdy other half). Together we drove 2.5 hours west of Austin to experience Design Ranch. We bunked (and I mean summer-camp-bunk-bed-style) in a cabin with illustrator Kevin Rathge and his lovely photographer wife, Roxanne.
When we weren’t attending the amazing workshops we were walking around the beautiful Camp Waldemar sipping on espresso made by Flat Track Coffee or enjoying a local beer from the Austin Beerworks brewery. My favorite Design Ranch experience: being woken up by a bugle alerting everyone that breakfast was ready in the main hall. Design Ranch was design heaven!
Each workshop was an hour and half to three hours long. I participated in 6 over the course of three days:
- I branded and painted bird houses with Helms Workshop
- Carved my own gravestone from wood with Bryn Perrott
- Painted and screen printed on a skate board deck with the two guys from Morning Breath
- Shot and developed my own tintype photograph with Lumiere (if you live in Austin, you have to check these guys out!)
- Drew type on reclaimed wood canvases with Bobby Dixon and Brian Phillips
- Made my own fields notes with non other that Mr. Aaron Draplin himself!
I was completely overwhelmed with the good vibes emanating from every single attendee. It was so easy to walk up to anyone, including the amazing workshop leaders, introduce yourself and end a conversation with a new friend. Design Ranch reminded me that it’s important to play, even as an adult. It was a breath of fresh air to be immersed in such a strong, encouraging community. Thanks to the Austin chapter of AIGA for organizing this event. It’s a big undertaking and the thought that goes into it shows in the quality of the event. I’m already missing Design Ranch and day dreaming about 2017.