Posts Tagged ‘summer programs’

Photographer Returns for More Mountain ‘Magic’

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

"It's the people who brought me back to the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program," said Paula Harding, photographer.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“There’s something magical about this mountain,” said Paula Harding, 20, photographer for the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program, when she arrived yesterday. “But it’s the people who brought me back.”

The Idyllwild Arts Summer Program attracts many talented young people from across the country to work as camp counselors, teachers assistants and instructors. Once they work here, they’re likely to return.

This year, some are spending their 5th summer at Idyllwild Arts. This is Paula’s second year.

Famous instructors from the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program include Ansel Adams, Bella Lewitsky and Ray Bradbury, who passed away this year.

To get the job originally, Paula got a good recommendation from her high school teacher who also worked as a Summer Program photographer.

“She actually worked here when Emma and Bruce McMenamin were just camp counselors!” Paula said. “She’s so jealous that I get to come back to Idyllwild again this year!”

Tall and stylish with a Southern drawl, Paula is well liked by her fellow campers.

“OMG it’s Paula!” several of them screamed as the van pulled up to her dorm.

From Paula Harding's award-winning 'Abandonment' series

“We just love her!” exclaimed Gigi, a lifeguard last summer, but a camp counselor this year. “She’s a Georgia peach!”

Although Paula is friendly, she does her best to stay “invisible” when she’s working. Her day starts at 8 a.m., and she does the rounds to all of the classes, which can be as many as 15 when summer is in full swing.

After  class time, Paula attends lectures, art shows, plays and musical performances. Oftentimes, her day ends at 8 p.m. She turns her digital photos over to Bruce McMenamin, who crops them and decides where to best use them.

On an average day, Paula shoots 500 photographs. Last summer, she shot a grand total of 40,000 photos.

“Of course, they don’t use them all!” she said, as she was looking over the printed version of the adult class schedule. Bruce had sent her several copies in the mail. “Bruce said that I’m the only one whose shot that many!”

Paula used an old box camera for this photo in her 'Abandonment' series

Paula said that Bruce doesn’t expect her to take that many photographs, but she always wants to put her best foot forward. They both agreed that her photos got increasingly better as the summer went on.

“You just never know with photographs,” Paula said. “You can capture a moment that is special, but you have to take a lot of photos to get there.”

Besides the printed class schedules, Paula’s pictures are featured on the web site, and even in a Family Camp multi-media presentation.

Last year, Paula said the Family Camp slide show was a nail-biter.

“I was uploading photos until the last minute,” she confessed. “I wanted to put in as many current ones as I could.”

The 20-minute show had to be set to music, and minutes before it began, the equipment didn’t work.

It was mostly “operator error,” because she wasn’t familiar with the equipment. But the show went on without a hitch, except one family’s photos were left out.

“This year, I’ve learned from my mistakes, and I’m going to work from a master list of Family Camp members, and check them off as I go. I’d hate for anyone to be left out again!”

“It’s the best job on the mountain,” Paula exclaimed. “I don’t have to go to meetings, and I get to see firsthand what everyone is doing at Idyllwild Arts.”

'Abandonment' series by Paula Harding

You would think that after taking as many as 500 photos a day, Paula would want to do something else in her free time.

“I love taking portraits,” Paula said. “But landscapes are challenging for me. I’d like to take more of Idyllwild. There’s so much natural beauty all around me!”

For the daily shoots, Paula uses the school’s Nikon digital camera, but prefers Canons for her personal use.

“Overall, Canons deliver warmer tones, while Nikon’s colors tend to be cooler,” Paula said.

Although she’s modest about her photographic abilities, Paula has won many awards, in high school and in college, including a recent one for her “Abandonment” series. For those, Paula took pictures of abandoned buildings and people.

Was she referring to the homeless in Atlanta?

“Not exactly,” she said. “You’ll have to look at them and see.”

To view samples of Paula’s work, visit the Idyllwild Arts web site at, and click on the Summer Program, and then select the Youth or Adult Course Catalogs. On Flickr (, Paula won “Best Use of B&W” for the “My Atlanta” photo contest.

Paula also plans to show some of her photographs during the staff art show this summer at the Parks Exhibition Center. She doesn’t have a web site set up yet, but you can reach her at:

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.



Teens Learn to Sew at Idyllwild Arts

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Teens from the U.S. and Mexico learn to sew at Idyllwild Arts Summer Program

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Even with all their high-tech gadgetry available to teens these days, some are still interested in learning the old-fashioned skills of their parents, such as cooking and sewing.

For the past 12 years, Cat Orlando has been teaching a popular sewing class at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program. With the help of her daughter, Catalina, they teach 11-to-14-year olds how to use sewing machines and knitting kits to make stuffed animals, purses and their own clothes.  In the end of their 2-week course, the teens will showcase their creations in a fashion show held on Saturday, August 6.

(from R) Instructor Cat Orlando discusses material options with Evan

“The class used to be called, ‘Sew What?’ But the name was a little ‘sassy,’ so they changed it to ‘Textiles & Fibers in Design,’ Cat said.

She still has a large backdrop with the words, “Sew What?” that she uses for presentations.

Recently, Cat took her class on a field trip to Hemet. They were going to buy materials and supplies to make a skirt or pajama bottoms. There were four girls in the class, and one boy.

“Evan was going to take a painting class, but decided to take sewing instead,” Cat said. “His mother is a popular artist from Idyllwild, so he’s open to all things creative.”

During the first week of Cat’s sewing class, they started to make their stuffed animals. Typically, teens will make teddy bears, Cat said, but this class stretched it a bit by making lions, snakes, and monkeys. During the trip to Hemet, they could also pick up fake fur or things to embellish their stuffed animals.

The five hour trip included getting supplies at JoAnn’s Fabrics, Michael’s, Wal Mart, the 99 Cent Store, and Goodwill Thrift Shop. In the end, Cat treated them to ice cream at Baskin Robbins.

Cat speaks to the sewing class about sticking to a budget

This trip was not just a chance to get off the hill for the day, Cat said, but a genuine learning experience. The students had to stick to a $20 budget to buy their material, and supplies, such as the pattern, thread, elastic for the waistband, and any other embellishments.

“Sticking to a budget can be difficult, especially when they see all of the material available,” Cat said. “They usually go crazy when they get to JoAnn’s, but we have to limit their material choices to only two.”

They also had to figure out and measure how much material they’d need to make the skirt or pajama bottoms.

“Nothing’s worse than coming up short of material,” Cat said. “Many of these students will come back to JoAnn’s to make clothes on their own.”

She said that teaching a sewing skill was rewarding, and something they can use the rest of their lives. In fact, after each class, she often gets calls from parents about purchasing sewing machines for their teens.

Do you think I can get all this for $60? asks Catalina, Cat's assistant. She hopes to launch her own denim clothing line online.

Cat and her daughter, Catalina, practice what they preach. In January, Catalina got married, and Cat made her wedding dress from blending two patterns and material that they purchased from JoAnn’s Fabrics. Then they both also made all of the bridesmaid’s dresses.

For the past 20 years, Cat has a booming bear-making business online, and now Catalina is going to showcase her denim creations online on Etsy.

“Do you think I can get all of this stuff for $60?” asked Catalina, showing off a cartload of material.

In the end, Catalina made it under budget, with the help of JoAnn’s 20 percent off coupons that Cat brought.

“We always go to JoAnn’s first because they honor the coupons that we print online,” Cat said.

She also talked to the students about the value of coupons, and how they can affect the bottom line.

Since this was a beginning sewing class, the students wouldn’t be sewing any zippers onto their clothes. To make the skirt, the students would attach and “dart” the material to the elastic waistbands.

However, they get plenty of experience sewing zippers and seams in class, Cat said. There are about 10 sewing machines available for them to use. Most of them came from Cat’s trips to thrift stores and estate sales. In fact, when they stopped off at Goodwill, Cat spied another sewing machine for $50. She checked out the contents and the brand, but didn’t think it was worth the price, not in today’s economy.

“If it was only $20, I’d snatch it up in a second,” Cat said later. “But if it quit running, it costs us a lot to repair sewing machines.”

(from L) Catalina, Cat and Rose measure out their material.

The trips to the 99 Cent Store and Goodwill were to help the students find inexpensive tops and jeans to make purses and shoulder bags.

One of their projects, Cat said, is to take a pair of old jeans apart and turn it into a purse or shoulder bag. Goodwill had jeans on sale for about $6 each, which was within their budget.

Most of the students also bought $3 T-shirts and tank tops to go with their skirt material.

“Otherwise, they’d have to go with the tops that they packed in their suitcases from home,” Cat said. “Goodwill or the 99 Cent Store is the perfect place to get inexpensive tops to match.”

“I’m having such a great time!” exclaimed Rose, a student from Mexico.

Rose was a scholarship student who took a digital photography class at Idyllwild Arts last summer.

“With the economy, I didn’t think I’d be able to come back this year,” Rose said. “But Idyllwild Arts worked it out and here I am making a skirt!”

(from L) Evan shows off his monkey material selection for his PJ bottoms.

All of their outfits will be showcased during the Children’s Fashion Show on Saturday, August 6th at 9:30 a.m. in the Children’s Center on the Idyllwild Arts Campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Cat, who usually MC’s the fashion show, will turn over the mic to Evan. He said he’s looking forward to the event.

For more information on sewing or other classes at Idyllwild Arts Summer Program, contact, or (951) 659-2171.

For examples of some of Cat’s teddy bear creations, visit

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jul 30, 2011 @ 13:54

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