Walking With The Buffaloes

If cooking is not your bag, how about painting, photography or quilting? For people whose passions lie somewhere in the broad field of arts and crafts, a growing number of trips gives a vacationer hands-on lessons, often with exposure to another culture--overseas or in a remote locale in the United States. Lili Matsuda took time off from her high-powered job running a start-up in London to shoot pictures and write fiction in Guatemala. "Many people come down here because they need a jolt, or a shock of creativity," says Liza Fourre, whose company, Art Workshops in Guatemala, arranged Matsuda's classes. Porter Smith-Thayer, a graphic designer in Richmond, Va., flew to Italy for lessons in lampwork, the craft of making intricate glass beads. Retirees Virginia and Harold Shuster from Bozman, Md., lived in a rustic lodge in Nepal, learning to make pottery and studying local customs. "We walked home with water buffalo," she recalls. "We saw how the ceramic water jugs were made and then saw them in use by the village."

Jane Sinauer, whose company, Horizons to Go, arranged the lampwork-making trip to Italy, says her philosophy is simple: "Art is a way to understand the culture you are in." A firm called Remote River Expeditions offers a floating art class on the largest river in western Madagascar, with a wildlife watercolorist sharing tips on painting the area's unique animals and plants. But outfitter Eddie David has noticed that, despite all the exotic flora and fauna, "people are more interested in the art." Skip Bell, a house remodeler from Salt Lake City, says his interests shifted during a watercoloring raft trip down Utah's Green River. "Before, it was just 'This is pretty'," he says. "Now it's 'Wow! What are the shades? What do I see?' "

Artisans pressed for time can take their craft to weekend getaways at resorts in the American countryside. Yoder's Quilting Lodge on Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau urges visiting quilters to bring along their unfinished projects, offering instruction and the tools needed to sew up loose ends. Laurice Heath, who owns the Oldfield Cabin in Fredericksburg, Texas, takes in overnight guests who work at one of the nation's oldest crafts: rug hooking. Three years ago her husband's family moved their 1820 log cabin overland from Tennessee to Texas--a trip that was the ultimate in the art and craft of vacation travel.