Sabbaticals and Professional Development aren't just for the elite or educators in the field. Coordinate your residency at any time or choose the annual summer gathering.


an annual summer theme:

special focus on community, narrative, story, place...

Smell the earth, feel the rain, gaze at the stars, be mesmerized by fireflies, hear the birds or the sound of your feet crunching through the woods. Participate in a FARM STAY retreat and interact with donkeys, chickens, and even the studio mate black rabbits.

Rejuvenate your design spirit and cultivate the ideas germinating inside your creative energies during a residency in the rural rolling hills of mid-south Tennessee. Flip through the pages of many design and art books in the camp libraries.


Slow down to notice the moments the flora and fauna of the earth shares with us, and the phases the sun and moon provide while you reconnect with the handcraft of the creative process. Spend time immersed in drawing, painting, collaging, and even photographic processes like cyanotype. Keep a daily journal. Let the mind wander. Make a book. Create a patch, learn to tie knots, try origami folds from your own designed patterns. Be active in playful experiments with form, color, texture, type and more in the woods, pasture, and even along the Buffalo River bed. Get your hands dirty in clay in the pottery space.

Dig around in the garden, build something recycled or upcycled, take a day trip to explore, kayak or hike, nap in a hammock, hide in the bamboo grove, and other forms of summer respite. Have a project in mind then mention that in the application, otherwise allow yourself the chance to make some discoveries or happy accidents through exploring to plant seeds for future endeavors. Your stay can be organic or structured. Design coach consulting formally or informally available to guide you through your project or even curriculum refinement for educators.



Embrace a PAUSE for no client work as you immerse in this mini-sabbatical.


Take a PAUSE between life as a student and life as a professional.

What's included? Furnished lodging in a private room with linens and towels, natural soaps, access to work spaces and basic tools (drills, hammers, staple gun, etc.), a Lost and Found commemorative camp poster, and a special Camp Wonder Wander gift. Options include Twin with shared bath (2), Full with shared bath (2), Queen with bunk ensuite (2), King with twin ensuite (1), and dorm style for 8-10 more for larger group workshops.

What's not included? Transportation (please inquire about assistance from the Nashville airport if you are flying into TN). Food - unless otherwise stated food is not included except for garden harvests and eggs from the chickens. The kitchens are stocked with new appliances and storage areas with cooking essentials of pots, pans, utensils.


What should I bring? Shoes that can get wet and muddy if it rains. Slippers or socks since there are no shoes allowed inside. If you are interested in swimming or kayaking or just exploring the river bed, you will need shoes as the river bed is very rocky. Seasonal items - bathing suit and beach towel, or gloves and a favorite blanket or cozy sweater. Rain gear. Flashlight. Sweatshirt or something for the cooler evenings after dark. Your own pillow if you have a preference. Any of the art supplies you will need because supplies are between 1 and 2 hr drive -  or ship to yourself at the camp.


annually in JULY

Join up to 5 people interested in any or all of the following:

  • narrative, story, non-linear narrative

  • memory, feelings/thoughts, identity

  • community, place, history

  • citizen designer - socio-economic, social justice, environment/sustainability

  • specific place:
    the Buffalo River and the rural rolling hills of mid-south considered the foothills of Appalachia, historic Natchez Trace Parkway and the Trail of Tears, explorers such as Meriwether Lewis and Davy Crockett. 

  • disciplinary directions:
    human-centered design, citizen designer, climate designer, design for social good, curriculum or personal project development


If this resonates with you, start the conversation and  use the submission form below. Our 2022 program will have a maximum of 12 participants.


- Stay a full month or half-month (either July 1 - 31, July 1 - 16, or July 17-31)

- Itinerary includes forest bathing, instructional and work time, critiques, exploring in the community, group meals, and more.
- 5 private rooms available including two en-suite options


For more information, please submit the form below and click the July 2021 SEED group selection.



includes: lodging; food including several group meals; instruction/mentorship, critique and guidance; guided forest therapy sessions, naturalist talk and upcycling scavenger hunts; access to the land and various community connections; hands-on craft options; garden and pet therapy; river access and kayak use. Not included, transportation to/from camp.

half-month : (3 rooms shared bath) $1,200 or (2 rooms private bath) $1,500

full month: (3 rooms shared bath) $2,200 or (2 rooms private bath) $2,800

note: full month reservations will get priority on room choice. Priority applications due no later than March 30, final applications and/or payments due May 30, 2021. Payment plan options available for priority applications only.

If you are seeking an independent residency, please mention this in your form and review the pricing on Residency Overview.





Start the ball rolling, please submit...
Length of Stay
Schedule Preferences
Preferred Room Choice

Library of materials
*a home away from home office*
approximately half of the collection in these photos



Coach Val


Val received her MFA in Graphic Design from the University of Florida where her thesis "Inside/Outside: Lincolnville Stories" examined narrative techniques found in visual communication and storytelling to empower a marginalized community. After spending immense amount of time over the 3 year MFA program in the St. Augustine historical society library and interviewing residents, the final form of the thesis was a bus stop resembling a front porch. The irony of the bus stop is that there was no public transportation in this community and it represented the flight away from the community. The structure of the porch was selected as the representation of the space between the private of the home and the public of the street as the story space as a common architectural feature of many of the homes in the neighborhood.

I am interested in curriculum development and innovative methods for teaching design in an ever advancing technological time. I've created numerous courses and comprehensive structural curricular recommendations over the course of more than 20 year career. Moving from visiting instructor and visiting professor at alma maters, to tenure track positions at two private liberal arts institutions, I achieved the rank of Associate Professor in 2012. Due to the extreme pressures caused by a toxic work environment and a bullying situation with my direct cohort in the program (targets ranged from students and faculty to administration and staff), I made the difficult decision to walk away from tenure for a healthier life outside of those particular academic walls. I have written about my saga in academia if you are interested in learning more please visit my blog.

I pride myself on being a coach and mentor so I welcome dialogue from those participating in the residency program who are interested in receiving feedback on their work or just discussions in general about life and career path trajectories.

I am excited to work with Design Educators to help them craft or revamp new courses. I've innovated my course for many years and participated in numerous teaching centered activities while pursuing the Boyer Model of Scholarship as my primary research focus for the tenure track process. Some of the innovative things I implement regularly is the concept of immediacy (ask me), creating active exercises and games (source ideas "Professors are from Mars®, Students are from Snickers®: How to write and deliver humor in the classroom and presentations" by Ronald Berk), integrating the intent of making mistakes to recognize happy accidents in the design process, learning to explore and build a sense of wonder as a creative intellectual, and made many attempts to go beyond the 'teach the way we are taught' methodology which means drastic changes in courses like an Introduction to Design and the History of Design transforming from professor to coach many years ago. Ask me about my long bibliography of teaching resources.


It's imperative that we recognize that students are entering college with a completely different set of skills than a few years ago not just 10 or 20 years ago. Education should be changing too. Val has participated in numerous teaching workshops, attended the Lily Teaching conferences and several AIGA design education conferences, worked on curriculum, as well as participated in the East West Center Infusing Institute and a Fulbright-Hayes Group Project abroad in Egypt during the summer of the Arab Spring.

I am interested in narrative, designer as author, memory, identity with place and am looking forward to meeting other creatives to see how their work develops.

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