Friday, July 4, 2008

The Art of taking workshops wisely

Even in Art Quilting – a relatively “young” art medium – it can be difficult at times to think of new ways of being creative, new ideas, new possibilities. A good way to jump start is by taking a workshop - however there are disadvantages to this solution as well as advantages.

Different ideas, techniques, subjects, assembly methods, design possibilities etc are taught and then, within the space of a 5 day workshop, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of examples!!

“Oh no, not another Crownie!!’ You gasp, or gulp: “Yikes! another graduate of the wellknown Chicago School…..”.
You go to a quilt show and say “aha! I can see which class she took!!”

I even had someone in a workshop come up and show me very proudly an copy she’d made of one of my quilts – with the help of another teacher!! And, while it looked very nice and imitation being the most sincere flattery, that wasn’t the point!

But is this a bad thing? I don't think it’s a bad thing to try….but it is definitely not the fresh, personal and valid work that we’re looking for. Some people are good at thinking up new ideas or have access to new materials, or cross knowledge from different fields of art – they introduce the new food to us: we taste it, try it….some pronounce some things inedible (like the f**ing technique that to me translates as: how to glue fabric to the base of your iron and many other places you don’t want it!) whereas others realize they have discovered their life’s dream.

When Picasso said : Good artists copy. Great artists steal”, he meant that you should take a new idea and make it your own. (as he did with Cubism).

By the way he wasn’t the only one to say this: T.S. Eliot said “immature poets imitate; mature poets steal” in his book of literary criticism: The Sacred Wood.

It’s fine to begin by copying (as do other fine artists: the new conductor, the violinist, the landscape gardener, the glass blower…), this is one of the best ways to learn. However, this initial trying out of an idea should be just the beginning (and, by the way, not for public view). So please, don’t just take workshops continuously learning another technique and another and another*…. Instead learn one new thing and then explore the new morsel inside and outside, right way up and upside down, backwards and forwards – try it in green and pink and white!! And hold back from more workshops with the artist whose ideas really inspired you, lest you find yourself not moving forward into your own work. Make that new idea, technique, design process your own!!!

And if you have been………………thanks for reading!!!
And do write a comment! I love comments!!

* unless you are taking workshops "just for fun"!! Just for fun is totally legitimate in itself!!


Deb Lacativa said...

I hope this (hilarious) picture was staged. I am also not allowed to play with fusible anything. Irons are even risky.

And speaking of workshops, here's this for your archives:

Bethel of Bethania said...

Hear hear ... I know exactly what you mean ... I've been a rubber stamper + teacher of card making for many years & have now taken the plunge into Art Quilts - man am I enjoying the journey it's so much fun ... what am I doing ... I'm looking around trying to asorb as much as I can, buying the odd book or two or three, DVD's and scouring the internet/blogs for inspiration. No, not so much for inspiration - that I think I have, but as a learning experience - I really don't want to take a class/workshop, I want to do my own thing so, I'm looking at how everyone else does it and trying to formulate what my heart & soul is looking for - it's all so exciting ... Sorry but I have done that fusible thingo & quite like it, until, of course, I see something else that excites me to try.
Yes imitation is 'supposed to be flattery but I really think that is a whole lot of shit - well to me it is, but I've learned/mellowed, as a former craft teacher, that, is all some people can do - 'copy' to the letter ... So enjoyed your post & will be back again ... OOroo ... Bethel of Bethania

Sandy said...

Hi Elizabeth- I've always loved your work so it's fun to see you write about it along with art issues. I've gotten into some (virtual) fist-fights over the Workshop Clone Issue, in fact talked myself right out of teaching because I always told them they needed to stop wasting time in workshop after workshop and instead do the work. Who knew they would actually listen to me!