Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring and the benefits of teaching

 ant jew flowers 7

ant jew flowers 7
Spring  has sprung! Actually here in Georgia, thanks to the global warming “hoax”, spring has been and gone and we are into high summer with mid 80s forecast for today.  So I have been neglecting the poor old sewing machine in favour of composting instead of composing, planting instead of planning and cultivating instead of cutting!

I’ve also been very busy with two online classes: Inspired to Design and Working in Series, both of which have been very interesting. (see sidebar for more info).   I love the fact that a person anywhere in the world can take an online class; it’s great to gossip with quiltmakers from all over the globe, discussing their challenges and inspirations .  I find that one of the very best ways to learn is to teach.  So, even though I’ve not been making much myself, I’ve been solving (or attempting to solve) many design problems each day for the students in the classes.   They tell me they are keen to get “real critiques” and not just “cheerleading”.  Both the student and the teacher can learn from looking at a design and assessing what is right and was is wrong.   What can be strengthened and what is superfluous and what is missing.  Such repeated daily practice strengthens the critique faculties as do exercises the muscles (well in theory anyway, sometimes I wonder if my muscles are beyond strengthening!).

driveway trees summer 300

Another benefit is that since I’ve been helping others with their designs it has forced me to go back to basics in my own design process.  It is just too easy to skip some of the “boring” steps like making a value plan but it’s so important to be able to find a way through  the trees.  Ignoring values leads to cutting out and painstakingly inserting 45 different possibilities for sky fabric behind your landscape or cityscape!  A significant waster of fabric, time and patience! Now my value plans are only 4 values at best (light, medium light, medium dark and dark), so I’m going to try to improve on that.  You can buy from any art store (there are numerous ones on the ‘net: art supply warehouse, cheapjoes, dickblick, jerry’s artarama etc) a nice little 10 step value finder: it’s just shades of grey on a piece of card with holes cut out so you can view your fabric and the 10 steps at the same time.   The more values you have, the more depth and richness.

all that glitters is not gold I’m also going to be ruthless in getting rid of fabric I don’t use – d’you remember when we all loved the rough muslin look?  with the fuzzy surface?  Now that stuff looks like old flannel, dead and gone.  I can’t believe I really dyed about 2,000 yards of it!!!  It’s great for quilt backs, of course, because it needles well unlike the high thread count cotton I use now which makes the sewing machine needle sound like a drill! Spring is a time for spring cleaning after all!  

I’ve been wondering whether my online texts should be rewritten in the form of a book, but I must admit I am distinctly underwhelmed by the “quilt” books I have seen published.  Most of them appear to be mainly pictures of quilts made by the author and  students with very little, often jumbled, explanatory text.  Is this a formula required by publishers, marketing, and vendors?  Do I want to spend time creating another such? These questions whirl around.  So many possibilities!  And I’d really like to move forward in my own education rather than go round in circles.

So, I have  been  trying to educate myself (yes there will eventually be a class based on this but probably not till next year) on the developments in abstract art in the 21st century.  When I think “abstract art” I always envisage the beginnings of this art form in the mid 20th century, but there have been many different “schools” and “movements” since then.  Some of the new work has an order to it that suggests significant textile origins – it’s time we stole it back!! oh yes, artists do steal! Constantly!!  So on with the mask and the gloves……

If you have been, thanks for reading!!  All comments most gratefully received and it would be lovely to know where you are located – you don’t need to give a name if you don’t wish!  Elizabeth

6 comments:

Sally said...

I'm one of your QU students. I love your blog, and your attention to our concerns in the class. Great job. Great blog.

Beverly Alice Nash said...

I'm taking your working in series class and STRONGLY recommend it. It has helped me tremendously, although, thanks to your instruction, I am now too busy working to participate in class discussion very much. Please, please do work up the abstract art class. I am in love with the midcentury abstract expressionists, but need guidance through contemporary work.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, I couldn't agree more with your comments on most quilt books. Should you, however, publish, I will be first in line to purchase a copy!
Your blog is a source of information and inspiration - thank you!

Lizzie, South Africa

lstrowbridge said...

Should you rework your classes into a book? OH ABSOLUTELY! As someone who has taken one of your in-person classes and read your blog for about two years now, I absolutely think you could generate a fascinating art education book. I think there is room -- shoot, I think there is craving -- in the book market for savvy art copy that relates directly to art quilters. Your insights, analysis and processes will make great content, and your wit will make it a fun read. And I will be the second person in line to buy a copy. :-}

~ Linda in Baltimore, MD

karenviser said...

This is exactly the reason that you should publish a book - so we can have a true "art" quilt book. I am always nervous that your blog will disappear and there won't be a permanent copy of your cogitations. Please publish!

acarolegrant said...

Elizabeth, I concur totally! Please publish... then I, for example, would be able to 'linger' in the moment of what you are saying...
A previous student... who had a lot of difficulty...