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NEWSLETTER ISSUE 168 / June 2024

Dear Friend,

Old olive press transformation

We think you are going to be amazed, on your next visit to the Watermill, at the transformation of the old frantoio (olive press) into one of the most exciting and elegant spaces in the whole of the complex.

Colourful Indian textiles complement the stylish sofas and the wicker and rattan chairs; curvaceous green glass damigiane have been converted into stately table lamps, all reflected in the sturdy mirrors that celebrate the frantoio's industrial history

Water through the Watermill in Tuscany, Italy

But the capolavoro, the masterpiece, is undoubtedly the rectangle of glass panels set into the floor at the far end of the frantoio, where you can see the waters of the millstream overflow channel rushing beneath your feet. Stand on the reinforced glass of the panels (if you’re brave enough!) and you will get some idea of the formidable power of the water and how it was able to grind corn and squeeze olives, as well as run a pasta factory here!

From time to time, we will take aperitivi in the new frantoio, as an alternative to the Vine Verandah: we’ll listen to music, watch videos and hear talks about painting, writing and Italian language. But above all we will enjoy the convivial company of like-minded people in an inspiring and elegant setting.

The photos are by the renowned photographer Francesco Lastrucci, who is preparing a new portfolio for the Watermill website. But even the best photographs cannot do the Watermill justice: you have to experience the unique ambienza yourself. And it looks like it’s probably going to have to be NEXT year…

As we go to press, we have some 270 bookings for our 2024 painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language courses, a record number. Every week is now fully booked until we close at the end of the season here.

BUT, even if the course you like the look of is fully booked, don’t give up hope completely, there are often cancellations, so if you’d like a particular tutor, or a particular date, please get in touch via the Watermill’s Contact Form and we’ll put you on a waiting list. You can find details of our 2024 courses on our website. (Just click here.)

If you are keen to come NEXT year, NOW honestly is the time to get your booking in: our 2025 courses are also filling quickly. More than 70 places have now already been taken. So, to avoid disappointment, reserve your place, not least because if you book now you can take advantage of our ‘2025 courses at 2024 prices’ special offer, which expires on 1 September.

Also in this edition:

  • If you want to get ahead, get an (artistic) hat
  • Introducing two more new inspiring Watermill painting tutors: James Swanson and Paul Weaver
  • Our 2025 painting courses programme
  • The magic of mosaic knitting with James Cox
  • Our 2025 knitting courses programme
  • Be dashing, but do it right!
  • Simone Pols interviews Giulia and Lois about a new dimension in learning Italian with us

The two pictures below, also by Francesco, are of the guests on our last course of May, a painting holiday with Maggie Renner Hellmann, at work and play: Maggie teaching in the courtyard and the group enjoying the gourmet lunch at the hilltop village of Monte dei Bianchi.

Maggie's group at the Watermill in Italy

Kelly and Astaire
Beatrice: “I told you we should book early
to be sure of our place
at the Watermill.”

Bring a partner: there's plenty for them to do

Your partner doesn't have to participate in the course, but they will be able to enjoy the wonderful hospitality of the mill and, whenever they want, to come out with you to our beautiful locations.

We also offer a range of Alternative activities for partners on all our courses, as well as a generous £GBP 250 discount if they share a room with you.

Picture Right: Emma Thompson as Beatrice and Kenneth Branagh as Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing


If you want to get ahead, get an (artistic) hat

Under the hat at the Watermillin Tuscany
Who is under the hat?

I’m confused (a not-uncommon phenomenon)! The right-hand photo is James Shand who came with his father William on our painting holiday with Maggie Renner Hellmann. I thought the photo on the left was a quirky artistic shot of James too, but closer inspection suggests it is actually his father, William.

No matter, it reminded me of one of the latest quizzes from of my favourite online DailyArt magazine, where you have to guess which hat was worn by whom in some famous paintings. I thought I would share a few of the questions with you, and suggest you take the quiz yourself as part of a pleasant tea- or coffee-break.

For instance, is this hat familiar?

Painting by Elizabeth le Brun
The National Gallery in London

Yes, it is from that vivacious self-portrait by French painter Elizabeth le Brun.

And which Dutch gentleman sported this elegant titfah? (If you don’t know his name, the title of the picture and the artist’s name will do.)

Dutch titfah - Painting by Rembrandt

Alls quite in Florence
Rembrandt van Rijn. The Night Watch. 1642.
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

You knew, of course, that it is Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch in Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. (Properly known as Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, or The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch, but I think we’ll stick to The Night Watch!)

There are ten other questions in the DailyArt quiz and some of them are quite tricky. So, make yourself a drink, put your feet up, click here to open the quiz and take your hat off to DailyArt for providing the fun!


Watermill in Tuscany's Painting NewsPAINTING NEWS

Introducing two more new inspiring Watermill painting tutors: James Swanson and Paul Weaver

James Swanson and Paul Weaver

As our 2024 painting courses are fully booked, we are turning our attention to NEXT year where, despite the fact that we’ve only just published the 2025 Preview page on our website, more than 70 people have already reserved their places. They can now spend a year or more in anticipation of pleasures to come. Not only that, but they are also enjoying the satisfaction of money well saved: There’s a special ‘2025 courses in 2024 prices’ offer, which means you save in the region of £140 (British pounds) if you book before 1 September 2024.

We are running 17 painting courses in 2025, with many of our favourite teachers and a handful of new ones. We thought we’d introduce you first to the new tutors for next year, in strictly chronological order. This month it’s the turn of James Swanson and Paul Weaver, two more inspiring artistic talents to add to the Watermill team.

Introducing James Swanson

James Swanson

James Swanson is an award-winning oil painter from Chicago in the United States. He will be with us for his week, teaching in oils, from Saturday 21 June to Saturday 28 June 2025. The painting below left, redolent of the Watermill courtyard, was a demonstration at another on-location workshop. James says: “I was working with students on how to pick out something and get going. The flowers drew me in and the wall and the planter with the buildings behind them just set off the scene.”

paintings by James Swanson

Or how about this atmospheric oil of ‘A Roof with a View?’ (Right above.) James says: “I felt it was a shame that this old roof was looking at this wonderful view and was being passed over. I thought it deserved credit for being around so long and having so much character.”

James has been teaching for more than 15 years and loves passing on his knowledge to others. He says: “I have a light-hearted way of teaching painting and I believe art is fun, so enjoy it”

A comment from a previous student: “I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge. Thank you so much for all you do for being such a good teacher and great artist! "

James Swanson

James Swanson
21 - 28 June 2025 - still plenty of places
Oils
To learn more about James and his course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


Welcoming Paul Weaver

Paul Weaver

Paul Weaver is a full-time artist, tutor and demonstrator, based in Bristol in the West of England. His primary inspirations are light and atmospheric effects. Paul will be with his for a week-long course in watercolours from Saturday 28 June to Saturday 5 July 2025.

paintings by Paul Weaver

The splendid watercolour on the left is of a cottage garden belonging to a student friend of Paul’s. He says: “Looking into the sun, the highlights on the buildings, bench and the shadows on the ground were amazing. The balance of shapes worked well, with the shed top right and the low wall and pots leading the eye into the picture"

The luminous watercolour on the right is of Sunday shoppers in Green Street, Bath in the West of England. Paul says: “This is another example of the light driving my choice of subject. The sun hitting the shop blind on the right, the hazy light in the distance, the shadows and strong darks on the left were irresistible! The passing figures create scale and movement.”

Paul specialises in watercolour, but he also enjoys working in oil, acrylic and line and wash. He will work in watercolour during his week here, painting en plein air whenever possible. He says: “My aim is to pass on the skills of good drawing, design and the fundamental watercolour principles, to help students get the best from their subjects and enjoy the whole painting process.”

One previous student said: “Inspiring! Paul captures the essence of a subject in his loose, atmospheric style, while explaining the process to his students as the painting progresses. By offering lots of encouragement and enthusiasm, Paul makes the learning experience so enjoyable.”

Paul Weaver

Paul Weaver
28 June - 5 July 2025 - still plenty of places
Watercolours
To learn more about Paul and his course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


Our painting courses in 2024

Our 2024 painting holidays are now fully booked, a testament to our emphasis on ‘convivial creativity’, where you enjoy inspiring teaching, warm hospitality, spectacular, delicious food and wine -- and the convivial conversation of like-minded people. You’ll release your own creativity in our secluded safe haven. Although we are currently full, there are often cancellations. So, if you’re keen on a particular tutor, or a particular date, please get in touch via the Watermill’s Contact Form and we’ll put you on a waiting list.


Our convivially creative 2025 painting courses

Don’t forget the extra bonus: if you reserve your place on a 2025 course before 1 September this year, we will give it to you at the 2024 price.

You can see the Previews by clicking here.


Eunice Friend

Eunice Friend
26 April - 3 May 2025 - 4 or 5 places left
Ink and watercolours
To learn more about Eunice and her course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


Penelope Anstice

Penelope Anstice
3 - 10 May 2025 - still plenty of places
Watercolours and oils
To learn more about Penelope and her course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


Randy Hale

Randy Hale
10 - 17 May 2025 - fully booked, waiting list open
Watercolours
To learn more about Randy and his course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


Maggie Renner Hellman

Maggie Renner Hellman
24 - 31 May 2025 - still plenty of places
Colourful & expressive oil & watercolour’ (also travel sketching, acrylics, and pastel)
To learn more about Maggie and her course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


Herman Pekel

Herman Pekel
7 - 14 June 2025 - still plenty of places
Watercolours (also oils and gouache)
To learn more about Herman and his course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


James Willis

James Willis
14 - 21 June 2025 - still plenty of places
Watercolours
To learn more about James and his course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


James Swanson

James Swanson
21 - 28 June 2025 - still plenty of places
Oils
To learn more about James and his course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


Paul Weaver

Paul Weaver
28 June - 5 July 2025 - still plenty of places
Watercolours
To learn more about Paul and his course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


Paul Talbot-Greaves

Paul Talbot-Greaves
16 - 23 August 2025 - still plenty of places
Watercolours (and acrylics)
To learn more about Paul and his course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


Mellissa Wishart

Mellissa Wishart
23 - 30 August 2025 - still plenty of places
Oils and acrylics (and watercolours)
To learn more about Mellissa and her course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


Crystal Beshara

Crystal Beshara
6 - 13 September 2025 - still plenty of places
Travel journalling in ink and watercolours (and gouache)
To learn more about Crystal and her course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


Pamme Turner

Pamme Turner
13 - 20 September 2025 - still plenty of places
Watercolour and gouache
To learn more about Pamme and her course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


Gary Tucker

Gary Tucker
20 - 27 September 2025 - still plenty of places
Watercolours
To learn more about Gary and his course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


Charles Sluga

Charles Sluga
27 September - 4 October 2025 - still plenty of places
Watercolours
To learn more about Charles and his course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


Mary Padgett

Mary Padgett
4 - 11 October 2025 - still plenty of places
Pastels (and other portable media)
To learn more about Mary and her course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


Grahame Booth

Grahame Booth
11 - 18 October 2025 - still plenty of places
Watercolours
To learn more about Charles and his course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


 
 
 


Watermill in Italy's Knitting NewsKNITTING NEWS

No, she didn’t put them in too-hot a wash! Althea’s amazing miniature sweaters

Knitted by Althea Crome

You may recollect that a few months back we ran a newsletter story about a lady who was knitting her own garden fence with needles almost as big as she was. Well, this month we are the pushing the boundaries of knitting (if you’ll pardon the pun) in the opposite direction, from the massive to the miniature.

more of Althea's work
More of Althea’s meticulous work

Althea Crome’s miniature sweaters test the limits of traditional knitting, says an article in the online arts and crafts magazine This is Colossal (a misnomer if ever there was one!) It was sent to us by Watermill knitting guest and friend Barbara Paley who describes Althea’s work as “truly astounding and beautiful”. We agree; the mini-knits can be compared with Persian miniature paintings in their design and dexterity. Above you can see two mini-sweaters, inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night, and a Greek amphora.

While the average knitted sweater has a gauge of between four and eight stitches per inch, says This is Colossal, Althea achieves more than 80 stitches per inch, “meticulously entwining extremely fine silk in different hues”. She uses an intense magnifier, knitting with tiny knitting needles that she made herself from high-tensile surgical steel, You can see and read more by clicking here,


Our 2024 knitting courses are completed. How about next year?

Busy knitting at the Watermill in Italy

Our five knitting courses this year are all completed. Now is the time to book your place for 2025!

As ever, your knitting week at the Watermill will combine expert tuition, like-minded company, wonderful food and the delightful ambience of the Watermill, its gardens and riverside walks, and outings into the surrounding unspoiled Tuscan countryside of Lunigiana. We will take you to knit in stunning locations (a castle, a convent, a hilltop village, market day in a walled mediaeval town) and an excursion to Lucca or the Cinque Terre.

Among the many commendations for previous knitting courses:

“I just want to thank all of you for a week that far exceeded any of my expectations. Your gracious hospitality seemed effortless and daily excursions were wonderful. The Watermill felt like home except I’m so spoiled now it will be hard to adjust when I’m on my own. You have thought of everything possible to make for a memorable week.”

“Spending a week every year since 2017 at The Watermill has been such a pleasure and something to always look forward to. Bill, Lois and Karsten are such wonderful hosts! I've joined several knitting courses and one Italian language course which were all great fun and relaxing. And the food, especially on the days that Lois is cooking, is just something else to look forward to! The rooms are lovely and all have air-conditioning. The places we visit each year remain spectacular even after so many times, they are well worth it.”


The magic of mosaic knitting, with James Cox

Welcome James Cox to the Watermill in Tuscany

We are delighted to welcome the renowned knitwear designer James Cox to the Watermill team. He will be tutoring a special course on The Magic of Mosaic Knitting, from Saturday 31 May to Saturday 7 June 2025.

James Cox

James Cox, from the USA, has been creating original patterns for 45 years. He says: “If you enjoy colour work but do not like handling multiple bobbins of yarn, you will love mosaic knitting. It is amazingly simple and extremely rewarding.” During his week at the Watermill, Jim will share with you the how and the why of this magical technique.

You'll become comfortable with the logic of how mosaic knitting works, you’ll learn how to read mosaic charts, and discover how to reduce the number of floats on the wrong side of your colour work. In the process you will find the simplicity of mosaic knitting truly captivating.

Audrey wrap by James Cox

Jim will also share a couple of other fun and remarkably simple techniques for beautiful colour work that is ideal for hats, socks, cowls, even sweaters.

You will select your yarn from various colour options and choose a stitch pattern that fits your own personal style: “Then you’ll receive a knitting pattern for the first project on my course: to create a little two-colour, light-weight scarf as a fashion accessory. In the second project of the week, we will work together on another amazingly simple colour work technique, helical knitting, to create a fun and colourful little hat.”


Our convivial 2025 knitting courses


Linda Daniels

Linda Daniels
7 - 14 May 2025 - fully booked, waiting list open
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Linda and her course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


James Cox

James Cox
31 May - 6 June 2025 - still plenty of places
The Magic of Mosaic Knitting
To learn more about James and his course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


Georgia Farell

Georgia Farrell
12 July - 19 July 2025 - 5 places left
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Georgia and her course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


Sylvia Watts-Cherry

Sylvia Watts-Cherry
30 August - 6 September 2025 - still plenty of places
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Sylvia and her course at the mill, please visit the 2025 preview page.


Knitting group at the watermill in Italy

Don't forget your partner!

And don’t forget that your friend or partner doesn’t need to participate in the creative course, whether it’s painting, language or writing.

We offer them a range of Alternative activities for partners on all our courses, as well as a generous £GBP 250 discount if they share a room with you.


 
 
 


Creative writing News at the watermill in ItalyCREATIVE WRITING NEWS

Dashing about haphazardly? And do you mind your m’s and n’s (as well as your p’s and q’s)?

Alls quite in Florence
YourDictionary online

I don’t know about you, but I tend to scatter my dashes and hyphens around my text in a rather haphazard manner: slapdash, you might say. But do you know your em-dash from your en-dash? Or your en-dash from your hyphen, for that matter?

The definitions are quite straightforward: an em-dash is simply the width of the letter m, while the en-dash is as wide as an n. But when to use them? If you want to know all the ins and outs, you could do little better than a definitive article in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online, which you can see by clicking here.

Be dashing, but do it right!


Our 2024 Writing your Life Stories course is fully booked. How about 2025?

Creative writing course at the Watermill in Tuscany, Italy
Seeking inspiration on the vine verandah

Jo Parfitt’s renowned Writing Your Life Stories week this September is fully booked but, as we keep saying, there are often cancellations, so if you’re keen on coming this year, please get in touch via the Watermill’s Contact Form and we’ll put you on a waiting list.

Or, to be sure of your place why not book for NEXT year -- and take advantage of our ‘2025 courses at 2024 prices’ offer?

This workshop is perfect for anyone wanting to write about their own lives for an effective journal, memoir or blog. While concentrating on autobiography and memoir, the course gives insights and advice for writing in any genre. If you would enjoy an injection of inspiration in a calm and supportive environment, this course is for you. It is appropriate for students of any level.

We have inspirational settings, interesting characters, rich history, convivial conversation with other aspiring writers, but above all we have Jo Parfitt.

Jo Parfitt

Jo is an author, journalist, teacher, blogger, conference speaker and poet. She has published 32 books herself, has helped more than 250 authors get into print and more than 2,000 people to begin writing. Jo's a compassionate, inspiring, and encouraging teacher: her motto is 'sharing what I know to help others to grow'.

She says: "The course at the Watermill will provide a safe haven in which to unlock your creativity, write from your heart and hone your writing craft. You will be empowered to write in a compelling way, bringing your experiences to life."


Jo Parfitt

Jo Parfitt
21 – 28 September 2024 - fully booked, waiting list open
5 12 July 2025 - still plenty of places
Write your life stories

To learn more about Jo and her course at the mill, please visit please visit the 2024 Tutor Profile Page.


 
 
 

ITALIAN LANGUAGE NEWS

Simone Pols interviews Giulia and Lois about a new dimension in learning Italian with us

Simone Pols

The exceptional Italian Language Coach, Simone Pols, who is adding a new dimension to our unique Italian language course at the Watermill this October, has just sent out one of his gentle ‘learning Italian’ podcasts, interviewing the Watermill’s Italian language teacher, Giulia Balestri, and the boss (Lois Breckon).

Simone makes a weekly podcast in Italian about his world, his daily life and his philosophy for living. He speaks slowly and his podcast is easy to understand for we Italian learners. Simone says: “My aim is to improve people’s lives for the study of the Italian language. simone Pols podcast People learn Italian without effort while listening to real and engaging content.” You can even get a transcript, to check the words you didn’t understand.

You can listen to his latest episode (number 225) in conversation with Lois and Giulia, by clicking here. And you can meet him (virtually at least) for an hour or so during Giulia Balestri’s Italian Language Course from Saturday 12 October to Saturday 19 October. There are details and a link below. The week is now fully booked but we do sometimes get cancellations so please do enquire.


Learn Italian from the Italians in in our unique language week

The Watermill has teamed up again with Giulia Balestri for a week in which you can learn Italian in the most natural and enjoyable way. Your immersion into the language and culture of real Italians will be customised for you, to suit your curiosity and your interests.

Here is what some of the participants on last year’s course had to say:


Francesca la SalaGiulia Balestri
19 - 26 October 2024 - fully booked, waiting list open
18 - 25 October 2025 - still plenty of places
Learning Italian with the Italians

For more details on Giulia's 2024 course, please visit the 2024 Tutor programme page.


 
 
 


The watermill in Italy's newsletter specialsNEWSLETTER SPECIALS

Everything's included in your watermill painting holiday, creative writing holiday, knitting week or Italian Language course

Don’t forget that everything is included in the cost of a painting holiday, writing, knitting, or language holiday: tuition, accommodation (including all linen and towels), pre-dinner aperitifs, all meals and local transportation (including transfers to Pisa airport; an excursion by train to visit the ancient walled city of Lucca or the stunning seaside villages of the Cinque Terre).

All you have to do is to get to Pisa airport and we do the rest.

Whether you're travelling alone or with a partner you can be sure of a warm welcome, and that you'll be well looked after. We have built our reputation on the comfort of the mill and the care we provide.


Thank you for reading the watermill in Italy's newsletterTHANK YOU

We very much look forward to welcoming you to the mill and, for those of you who have already tasted the many delights at The Watermill at Posara, we look forward to welcoming you back.

Your hosts at the watermill, Italy

With very best wishes a tutti

Your hosts at the watermill in Tuscany

Lois and Bill Breckon