Its Sunday night and all is quiet at the studio. Its been a hectic and creative weekend with the first of the ‘Hidden Word’ Workshops complete and my mind is working overtime with emerging ideas as a result. As with all events some things worked better than others and continuous improvement is on my agenda. Thanks once again for the patience and flexibility to all who attended. You handled the last minute changes quite well and I appreciated your cooperation very much. Thanks also to my dear partner Phillip who provided the catering all day, did the dishes and kept the kitchen open. I could not do what I do without his support on these occasions.
Eleven women gathered at the studio on Saturday, in anticipation (I trusted) for a challenging day of experimenting with textile and mixed media. Unfortunately it was wet outside, so my plans to spend quite a bit of time outdoors was squashed and indoors it was to be for most of the day. It was extremely cosy with us all inside, up close and personal around the work bench. (Note to self, reduce participant numbers next time)…….. however despite the blessings of rain, we managed and adjusted and progress was made elbow to elbow and a squeeze here and there.
We started off our day sharing our word of meaning and a lexicon of reflective words comprising of Belonging, Success, Settled, Evolve, Smile, Autumn, Courage, Spiritual, Mother-Nature, Purpose and Friends was developed to be used in the journal work throughout the day and for future entries.
It was to be a day of experimental play and as highlighted at the outset “nothing is right or wrong about how things turned out”. Students were encouraged to take the initiative and make the most of each skill set to develop a journal and create spaces within for sample pieces of work along the way. We commenced our first task with printing onto fabric from the office inkjet printer. Some were familiar with this technique, others were amazed that a simple office printer (the cheaper, the better) was capable of printing fabrics as well as paper. Such a simple application using fusible webbing or American Freezer Paper to support the fabric as it moves through the printer, was soon to be discovered, as a technique that was accessible to most and transferrable across a range of printing needs. We printed out quotes and definitions of our chosen words and discussed the capacity to print images and how to use applications such as PhotoSketch to enhance photographs for use with textiles.
While we waited for the drizzle to subside, work was progressed with covering journals and preparing spaces for small samples of work to be inserted. The journals consisted of old hard back books purchased from the recent Clunes Booktown Festival and to add to the discussions of the day, they came with a variety of dated titles and as some discovered some interesting and relevant subject matter.
The first of the the outdoor ‘wet work’ tasks was to layer fibres and textiles together with glue. Using a cellulose based wallpaper paste, students experimented with fusing fabrics with pieces of newspaper, used tea bags, card and paper to create small collages to be deconstructed and repurposed in later work. The use of wallpaper paste allows the work to dry clearly, and the fabric once worked and handled has the potential to regain its softness. Pasted fabric pieces also aides as a supportive stiffened base for free motion machining which was to be experimented with later in the day. As with all things new, some (students) used way too much glue and others not quite enough, however a range of amazing pieces evolved and placed to dry in front of the fire.
After a light lunch we shifted position under the car port to work with painting and mark making on fabric. Leaves and plants were collected from the garden and used along with pre-prepared blocks with a variety of surfaces for printing. Lots of experimentation took place in this section of the day and the play with acrylic colours, fabric medium and printing blocks produced some fascinating marks.
It was interesting to observe that whilst some were happy to embrace the experimentation which was the aim of the day, others were a bit lost with direction, not having a defined ‘project’ to commence. This happens sometimes in skills workshops and I reflected on classes that I’ve participated in over the years where I had felt very challenged and frustrated with the process, however appreciative in hindsight that I had pushed through to learn the artistic tasks regardless of how my work was turning out and what I was meant to do with it. It is an issue that many participants face particularly women as we have been traditionally textile workers with purpose and are generally project oriented. We do and have floundered when experimenting with textile art and all that it brings just for the sake of learning.
With a little extra support and guidance we moved forward and in the latter part of the day students began to work on the sewing machines, experimenting with their work and embellishing with free motion machine drawing and simple hand stitching. For some this was a first time experience and for others a technique they loved to use and had been looking forward to all day. Some very creative pieces/projects started to evolve and some beautifully decorated journals were coming along at this point. It had been a very busy day with much to absorb and consider and although a tad weary, students got a second wind to progress their work a little more before the day ended.
I was really thrilled to see several projects emerge from the days experimentation which included plans to create a lamp shade cover, friendship book, floral still life and a landscape ‘potential’!!
So finally, dear students, thank you again for such an energetic and dynamic day of creating. Your feedback was very much appreciated and I hope to get the opportunity to work with you again some time soon. I too take away many learnings from the day and the experience of working with you all. I encourage you to continue to work in your journals and/or visual diaries, in particular those who are not accustomed to working with a variety of textile art techniques. Journals are about recording your ideas, inspirations and experiments and the more you practice and sample your ideas, the better you will become with developing your unique style of working and artistic expression using fibres and textiles.
I wish you much love and creativity in every way, Cxx