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Monday, October 17, 2016

When The Student Is Ready...

...the teacher will appear.  Nope, apparently the Buddha never said it, but that doesn't make it any less apposite for me.  I spent the past two days at a Cas Holmes workshop at Eaubrink Studios.  It was one of those things... I saw it, saw the word 'Japanese' in the description and thought, yup, I'd quite like to do that... and signed up.  Those of you who know me well, will know I don't do many workshops... it's just not my thing.  At the moment, though, I'm undergoing major change, mostly down to the health 'challenges' I'm struggling with, and thought that it would be useful to use the workshop as a kind of catalyst for change....and that's pretty much what it turned out to be.

I should say of Cas that she is a generous tutor, who met me where I was, accepted that I wasn't quite walking the same path as everyone else, and provided unobtrusive, unfailing support during the two days.  The focus of the workshop was paper, cloth and stitch with particular reference to momogami, or Japanese paper scrunching.  And scrunch, I did... producing some surprising results.  As always, it was interesting to watch everyone else, and what they were doing, and the diversity of the work was remarkable.  What did I make? A number of small pieces, all of which I expect to finish.   I had done some pre-work, which resulted in a single piece of work, which I think will be the first in a series.

I've turned up the volume on these, colour wise, because I wanted you to realise that the semi transparent focal point is made of a lot of different colours...I have to say, it looks a LOT better in real life.  It has a little bit of crinkled paper, and is very simple...I love the Japanese aesthetic, which I guess could be summed up in the phrase 'Less is more'.  The piece I started with was much more complicated, nothing like as successful, and shows the impact the workshop had before I'd even gone...

So... what did I learn?  I'm not going to go into the content of the workshop, because that's not fair to the tutor.  I thought I'd sum up the learning, instead.

First... less really is more.  As you know, I've gone from two rooms of fabric, to two boxes.  This workshop, with its emphasis on working from scratch to develop a couple of pieces, reminded me that even those two boxes might be too much.  It is possible to work with nothing but a blank canvas, and colour as you go along, rather than having a huge palette of fabric sitting waiting to be used.  And that's the way I need to work.

Second...workshops make you do things you'd never ordinarily think to do.  These bags are a case in point.

Both paper bags were scrunched up in order to tear them up and use the paper, whilst the cloth one was made in response to the paper one it is paired with. .  I felt I needed to use the top, brown paper bag entirely as it was, and realised, after a carefully placed comment from Cas, that this was 'about' creating a bag to keep my grief in.  The second bag is to keep secrets in, as it closes.  I'm pleased that the secrets bag is much goes inside the first one.  The patterened bag wants to have stitch, I think, and is 'about' something else entirely...not quite sure what,  yet.  But more small bags will be made, I suspect.

Another thing I learned, or was reminded of, is how important it is to talk about the work, preferably with people who 'get' it.  The bags are a case in point, but another would be these following pieces.  I have a small collection of  vintage white cotton table wasn't until I pulled this piece together on a long, thin piece of tea and onion skin dyed fabric, and talked about it to Cas, that I realised that this was a similar shape to a table runner, and was my way in to working with the collection, which I started about fourteen years ago, knowing that I wanted to make things that shape, but not knowing where to start.  I know that now...

Equally, looking at some of the fragments I had made during day two, I found myself telling Cas that I had been fascinated by flint walls, and that they had seemed to me like a lot of paintings, all combined in a building...and how I had made several fruitless attempts to make a painting inspired by that idea.   Being a good Norfolk lass herself, she talked about Norfolk Churches, and in particular, the wool churches.  As this post is long enough as it is, if you're interested, here's a link.  And something in my head shifted.   What I'd been doing, in making fragments, was creating the textile/paper 'paintings for a felt 'wall'.

Another learning point is that workshops are safe places to test your own limitations and beliefs.  Part of the reason for the first piece I showed you, was 'about' my belief that I couldn't work any bigger than vintage napkin size., actually, it turns out I can work larger than that... and here's the proof.  Okay, it's not huge, but it is bigger than a napkin.  Hurrah.  I still feel in my gut that small is my future, but I don't have to create false limitations for myself.  After all the ME creates enough real ones... though I do get a mobility scooter out of the deal, which pleases me somewhat... I never have to look for a chair...

This last is very much a work in progress, a piece of Sumi E paper, tea dyed and scrunched, stitched to a calico background.  I have absolutely no idea how it's going to progress, but it will.

And finally...there is one more piece, which I haven't photographed.  I have the feeling it was 'the warm up piece'...there's always one... and to be honest, I can't see it going anywhere.  I made it because I was carrying a set of expectations... and that particular one, which was about working with semi transparency, just didn't fit either the framework of the workshop or my own real needs, which became apparent very quickly.  And that would be the final learning... you don't have to do anything you don't want to...

I have to say I'm delighted with the outcomes of this particular workshop.  Would I recommend a Cas Holmes workshop to anyone?  Yes, without hesitation.  Run, don't walk, if you get the chance.  I was really impressed, got lots out of it, and would do it again... probably in three to five years time...I suspect that's how long it's going to take to work through the ideas that this one has generated.  And that's no mean feat.  Thanks, Cas.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Funny... things change.  And quite quickly, too, even though it doesn't feel that way at the time.  My last blog was in January this year, and said that I wouldn't be making, or blogging, for a full year.  Wrong...or at least, wrong-ish.  I have been making...textiles, changes and a new workshop...but more of that later.

I'd like to say I'd come to terms with the ME which has changed my life so dramatically, but I'd be lying if I said I had.  It would me more truthful to say that I am going through a great deal of grief... coming to terms with ones limitations will do that to one.  My old life has died, my new life is a work in process... emotionally, that's a lot to process.  Interestingly, I'm not depressed...which for a life long depressive, is, well, quite surprising, really.  In a good way.

I have been spring cleaning my creative life... instead of a room full of fabric, I now have a couple of boxes.  About ten carloads of materials have made their way to new homes, with a bit more still to go.  I'm debating what to do with Big Bertha, my large scale printer, because I am not physically able to work on large pieces, so she seems a bit surplus to requirements (contact me if you're interested... she will be priced Very Attractively).

It's probably easier to tell you what's left.  What's left, is materials for drawing, print making, hat making, felting and hand stitching on a small scale...think the size of a napkin (a vintage napkin).  Embellishments, and some beads.  Two sewing machines and an embellisher.   And that's pretty much it.  When you consider the range of things I used to do, that's pretty narrow.  Felt making is way down the list at present, because I don't have the energy.  Hand stitching is it...that and thinking.   And looking.  Of course, I haven't forgotten the skills and techniques I have used, which is just as well, given my next project...

I recently met Anita O'Neill, the owner of Eaubrink Studios, near Kings Lynn.  The location is fabulous... really spacious, well equipped studios in an amazing location, a lake, sheep, chickens, a lovely garden... what's not to like... and the last piece of my personal jigsaw fitted into place.  I miss teaching... particularly working with people on I offered to run a six week series of workshops for Eaubrink on just that topic.  Starting on the 18th October, the course is called 'Finding Your Voice'.  The blurb says; "This is a series of six weekly workshops lasting four hours each time, which encourage you to look closely at the world around you, record what you’ve seen (in a variety of different ways) and then turn your findings into creative projects. Although the focus of these six weeks will be working in textile, the workshops are suitable for anyone who wants to learn how to turn ideas into finished art works, including painting, printmaking, photography and writing; opportunities to try all of these things will be available during the six weeks."  And the gem at the end, is a reunion after six months, to review the work that has come out of the workshops, with the intention of creating an exhibition.  

If it's something you fancy doing, please contact Anita at Eaubrink.  This will be the last time I teach in Norfolk; we will be moving in the Spring, heading further north to be closer to our family. There are two places run, don't walk, if you're interested.  More about it in my next post.

The work... the piece on the top is napkin sized... a monoprint, which was hand stitched using two different hand dyed threads, with the gold circle in a metallic thread...which doesn't gleam in the photograph, but does in real life.  The middle piece is a wet felted base, with skeleton leaf inclusions, and couched yarn on top of the leaves.  The one below is another felt piece, heavily stitched, with yarn felted on top as a feature.  All three pieces were WIPs from before I became ill, finished off in the last few weeks.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

It's been a while...

...a year, more or less.  Most of you have probably forgotten who I am... and I don't blame you. About fifteen months ago, I became ill; it turned out to be ME, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).  What that means, in practical terms, is that I don't have much energy, can't walk very far and can't work.  I mean that in the broadest of terms; I have my usual load of ideas, just don't want to do anything that even vaguely resembles art.  I've spent a year being very upset about that. My creativity has always been at the very heart of everything I've ever done; I'm not sure who I am without it.  After a lot of thought, though,  I've decided, though, that it's okay.

New Year is the traditional time for making changes...and here's mine.  I'm not going to make any art for a year...and I'm not going to get het up about it.  I have already given away a significant part of my stash, with more to go, and then I start on the non textile 'stuff', the paint, etc.  Whether I like it or not, my body craves rest... so I'm going to rest, body and mind.

I'm also going to get organised.  My theme for this year is a place for everything.  If it doesn't have a place, it leaves the building for a charity shop, a friend or whatever... as long as it doesn't stay here.  That's about simplification; I'm called 'artmixter' because I've always done lots of different things.  No more.  Clearing out will, I hope, clarify what I really want to do, so that when I'm well enough, I'll be able to do it, and do it well.  Whole heartedly.

So...that's the plan.  No blog for a year, either.