Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Where are the inspiring people?

Who are the people to watch?

I'd love to have some nominations...plus website/blog links... to the people whom you think are the ones to watch.  People who are doing amazing things with art quilts/textiles/fiber collages (whatever they like to call it).

I find it very hard to keep up with what's going on in the field...the big shows are only every two years...and unless you actually go to them, or buy a pretty expensive catalogue, you have no idea what's going on.  And one of them actually bans people from putting  images out into the world ! - making it even harder to see the best of the best.

The magazines I've looked at don't always show the best work either, for various reasons...I guess they want to show Readers' Work to keep them buying the magazine, or things that are easy to make because they assume that's all most of us want.

And while it's lovely surfing the net to find them...it takes a LONG time!

When you need inspiration, there's nothing better than looking at Really Great Work.  but where to go to find it?

If you want a great example of recorded music you look at the CD reviews, for Books we have various literary prizes (and no, the NY Times bestseller list does NOT count as literature! in fact frequently the opposite! the books are the cheetos of the book world.)

 If you look to see which quiltmaker has published a lot, it's usually the good teachers, rather than the amazing artists - yes occasionally these are one and the same...but by and large, if you're rushing around the country teaching you don't have much time in the studio making lots of great new innovative work...and vice versa.

You can get reviews of items that occur in multiples: like books, CDs, dvds, washing machines etc...but for art work, especially quilts which are almost invariably "one-off", how to find the best work?

Wouldn't it be lovely if there were a Quilt Review page in one of the national newspapers, so that every week we could see a Big Picture of something glorious?  I must admit I get very depressed when I look through various Pinterest files  online and see nothing but YouKnowWho knock offs!  Yes there are some exceptions...especially from countries other than the USA...but....

So send me your finds!!  
Whom do you find to be the MOST inspiring art quiltmaker?

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth


Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Value of Workshops vs the Love of Learning

There's been some chat on the internet recently about the value of workshops - actual and virtual.  It was postulated that, in terms of outcome - i.e a marked improvement in the work of the student - most workshops were worthless.

It seems to me that's a terribly commercial approach.  We invested this time and money and where is the improvement in the product?  Nothing very obvious?  Well then, we wasted our time and money!!

What a  very strange way to measure the value of something.  So many things are missing, just for starters: what the student wanted out of the workshop!   I remember one workshop where one of the students said her reason for being there was to escape her very demanding family for a week!  So for her the workshop was successful the moment she got there!  Other students come to have fun, it's like a fabulous holiday, so much more stimulating than laying on the beach getting skin cancer and reading trashy novels!!

There are so many reasons for taking workshops that I really don't think you can use one single measure (marked improvement in the work) as any kind of indicator of the value of taking workshops.

This is very true of online workshops -  some people are there to learn technique A or B and I feel that for the most part they do just that.  Or, if not,  they realise that that  particular technique is not for them - always valuable to know which paths you don't want to follow! 
Some people are there because they live in a really isolated place or with unsupportive people, and here in the warm ether of the 'net they can find fellowship and learning.

Furthermore, most skills improve slowly with practice - I can't think of anything  much where you will get instant success in a very short period of time.  Unless it were something very simple and straightforward and not a complex task like making art.

Indeed, the idea that we can measure how much a student is getting out of something by  a single concrete measure is probably coming from the current method of assessment in school children - how are they progressing? well let's teach them three facts, and then test them: do they know those three facts?  yes or no.  Yes success, no Fail.  Are those three facts something they can and will use, something they can build on?  Maybe not...but they are something we can measure!

 And, as many of us have had forced down us, it's important to be 95% successful in our goals and then next year try to be 96% successful. and the year after 97%!  Is education really so narrow and black and white?  When employed by bureaucracy I very quickly realised I should set my goals to something easy to achieve, and very measurable.  I will complete 6.1 units per hour next year!!!  But that's not art, and that's not what we're teaching in our design and composition classes.

When I start a class, I always ask the students what they want out of the class...and while most of them do opt for the items mentioned in the class description, they do it in a way that's not directly and immediately measurable: e.g. " I want to know more about composition  so that I can apply it to my work and eventually see myself making stronger work". "I want to find my own voice". "I want to learn how to express myself in color and thread".   It's a slow process.

One thing you can do for yourself after taking a workshop is to try to list exactly what it was you gained, and how you will put that information into practice.  I'm currently taking lessons, I make lots of notes of the new information...and between each lesson I go over those notes asking myself how I can get these ideas and skills into my hands...my brain...my heart..my creative output.

I just took a week long painting course...surprise surprise my paintings were not significantly better at the end than the beginning!  hmm does that mean the course was a failure? But, what did I learn from making those paintings?  can I list everything new I now know and can apply in future, gradually practicing so that they become second nature for me too?  And then, then, my work will be better.  And what I learned from the painting, I can apply to the quilts...what I learn from music I can apply to painting, what I learn from quilts I can apply to life!!

And what if you want to learn to create beauty? How do you measure that?  How quickly can that be achieved?

Finally, just what is wrong in learning  for learning's sake?  Just for the pure simple pleasure of knowing more about something, of stretching our wings a little bit and feeling some slight mastery of a new skill.  The great happiness is that zing inside when you feel yourself able to understand or appreciate or do something you could never do before.

Onward and upward! Let's learn!
And, if you have been, thanks for reading.  And do please comment....what do you get from lessons and workshops?  How do you know if it was worthwhile?


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Basic Dyeing for Quiltmakers


My class  Basic Dyeing for Quiltmakers   begins on Friday, January 8th. 
This class is with The Academy of Quilting, an excellent source for all sorts of different quilting classes: art, modern and traditional.  The courses are short: 3-7 weeks and are very reasonably priced.  I've found it an easy website to negotiate and the Dean is Always on hand to help - I think she never sleeps!

I've written several classes for the Academy, and one starts on the first Friday of nearly every month, I just sent a brand new one to her!  It will have to be checked and edited so may be a while before it's available...and I'll post more details then.  It's another design class, but with a lot of information!

However, the first class up this year is the Basic Dyeing class.

I wanted to approach dyeing a different way from the make 4000 little samples and glue them neatly into a note book school of learning to dye.  I find I'm really too impatient to be glueing all those bits, and the only time I took a class like that I was assigned about 10 yards of various muddy greens!!

It seemed to me that a more straight forward approach would be to address the properties of color and explain how to achieve each of them.

As we know color varies by hue (red, blue, green etc...), by value (light, medium, dark) and by saturation (rich intense color grading to very greyed out color).
So I thought, let's show people how to get - say - 12 different colors (12 steps round the color wheel), and how to dye a gradation of 8 or steps steps from light to dark, and how to dye 5 or 6  saturated vs greyed colors.    In that way, with just 25 (or so) samples you'd have an outline of how to achieve pretty much any color.  I'm a minimalist at heart - despite the clutter around me as I type!!!

I find that people can nearly always decide where a color would fall on the color wheel...you can see if the green you want is nearer to turquoise than emerald, or nearer to emerald than chartreuse.  We've been looking at colors like this for a long time!  You don't need to dye 400 steps around the wheel to be able to do that.

You can also decide: is this dye color darker than that? or lighter?

And there are basically only two ways to make a color less intense, less saturated.

Also I wanted to minimize the number of different dyes you need to buy (6 in all) - very many dyes are simply mixes of other dyes...and you can certainly learn to mix them yourselves.

And I wanted  make the whole process as painless  and straightforward as possible, with the least exposure to dye dust (as an asthmatic myself, I'm Very Aware of that).

So I think I achieved all of that with this class!  There are five lessons: Mixing Dye solutions and dyeing gradations in black, Dyeing the three primary colors in gradations, Dyeing around the color wheel, Dyeing neutrals and tertiary colors and why you need them, working from a painting to figure out all the colors and then dyeing them!

Do give it a try!  I'm happy to answer any questions.....and Happy New Year to everyone!
Above all, good health!  Remember a nice cup of tea will solve a lot of problems....
And, if you have been, thanks for reading.  Elizabeth