Virtual travel provides women the opportunity to learn, exchange ideas and cross borders without leaving their homes.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Imagine: four days, travelling from London to Edinburgh, Paris, New York and Oslo. Your first-class ticket: booked. Your itinerary: carefully planned and curated, including visiting 12 galleries. You’ll meet artists in their studios who will explain their craft, and even share their techniques while you ask questions.

These experiences of art, jewellery and design take you behind the scenes, with visits to ateliers, salons and museum tours, bring you one step closer to that inner circle of art. You’ll even explore surroundings where inspiration meets the creator.

Where do I sign up?

These women-only experiences – which currently don’t require a passport — are the creation of Isabelle Fish. French-born and raised, Fish pursued her passion for merging French craftsmanship and culture when she opened up her storefront 10 years ago in Toronto called Rue Pigalle. Since closing the boutique, Fish started hosting events in her home that recall the heydays of salons when guests networked with artists and writers,

purchased artisanal works and explored ideas with like-minded women in a unique, creative community.

‘I AM SUPPORTING ARTISTS WITH TRADITION AND SAVOIR-FAIRE WHO CREATE THEIR OWN STORY.’

Isabelle Fish

Anyone who meets Fish, a renaissance woman in her own right, knows her engaging personality and story-telling abilities linking the world of the arts and destination travel was too alluring not to tap. Her clients kept on asking that she take them with her to those scouting trips to London, Paris etc., and before she knew it, the travel side of RuePigalle.ca was born.

“The concept was to take a small group of 10 women, who don’t know each other, and connect them to artisanal craftsmen and history. It was also a chance to reveal the value and importance it has in our lives and how relevant it is to nurture and promote it. The experience would be one-of-a- kind with exclusive access you wouldn’t normally have if you were to travel by yourself.” And followers craved the community they had developed and realized they missed the events she had designed to stimulate, enrich and energize. “There is nothing more enjoyable than to discover a new artist, learn from a scholar, discover

an exhibit and engage in lively conversation while making new friends. We’ve now taken our experience online. I’ll be the first to admit I was surprised how well the virtual experience using Zoom worked.”

In a recent posting on her blog, Fish recalls how the launch of her first virtual tour, Calling Collect, reignited an emotion she had forgotten. “After being grounded for months, I found the anticipation of our trip to be almost too much. My spirit is up, and I am giddy with excitement — I find myself thinking about my wardrobe, what jewellery to wear, and what background to use for my Zoom-self. Finally, something positive to look forward to.”

Isabelle Fish, gold work embroidery

Travelling as we had known it may still be on our bucket list, but for Fish, the lockdown was an opportunity to discover another way to make meaningful connections – virtually. “I did my first Zoom conversation on March 23rd, which included three wonderful artisans, jewellers, and embroiders in London. I contacted them and said, ‘Why don’t we have a live conversation on Zoom. You can share your story from your studio, and I’ll post this event on my newsletter, and we’ll see what happens.’ We ended up having 60 women signed up.”

The free virtual series, called In Conversation, became a lifeline. Being able to share the stories of these artists to an audience who wanted to learn and share in their creativity and skills truly was a gift. It meant they could still connect with their customers and benefactors. “An artist needs an audience,” says Fish. “They provide that feedback, the food that energizes their spirit and creativity.”

Virtual travel also provides the opportunity to learn, exchange ideas and cross borders without leaving your home. If you’re not quite ready to take flight, then maybe check out one of these ticketed workshops.

This year, Fish hosted a virtual gold work embroidery class with Hand & Lock, London’s premier embroidery house providing embellishment services to the Royal family and top European design houses. With space limited to 10, participants from the U.S., England, Canada and Australia joined the session.

Sometimes you’ll meet an emerging artist, or you’ll go to an art gallery in central London like Jaggedart. Or you might get a chance to meet artist Lison de Caunes in her atelier in Paris, who has embraced her grandfather’s skill in straw marquetry, an art form few practice but is passionately kept alive by Lison de Caunes.

One of Fish’s earliest connections was with British literary jeweller Jeremy May in the series called The Jewellery Box Diaries. May transforms unique

pieces of jewellery carefully cut from the pages of vintage books. The inspiring quote of text and images is visible through each piece’s lacquered surface before being returned to the space and heart of the book. “Each piece is impossible to replicate and is unique to the wearer,” says Fish. “My most recent ring was made from the pages of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Imagine being able to connect further with a passage in a book by wearing it.”

Salon Travel contributing editor Pico Iyer wrote recently, “We travel, initially to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.” When we invite the virtual world of Rue Pigalle into our lives, we can also make new friends in the company of other like-minded women and harness that energy of community, all for the love of the craft.

Discover More: Check out this helpful article on how to stay motivated working from home.

Author: Marylene Vestergom is a Toronto freelance writer who has reported at four winter Olympic Games for CBC and CTV. Her work has appeared in the Toronto StarGlobe and Mail and other leading media outlets. Her focus includes health, fitness and lifestyle trends.

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