Again I say “where has time gone” as I realise it has been 6 months since my last post. And of course much has happened in that time. In January I had the privilege of working with UK textile artist Dionne Swift at Fibre Arts Australia summer school in her ‘Establishing Rhythm’ workshop. What an amazing and inspiring time and the artistic wisdom I gained from the experience I find hard to express in words. It was tiring work from beginning to end and even my trusted Bernina (‘Betty’) had to go off for a major over haul after it was all over.
Dionne Swift is truly a dedicated textile artist. She is an expert in thread painting and has a unique personal relationship with her sewing machines, quite like I have never seen before. What she taught me and the other students in the class during the time we were with her I will take with me to my creative end. Her techniques are second to none and she well deserves the international accolades she is now receiving after years of focus and dedication to perfecting her craft.
As part of the initial process, we (students) were to seek inspiration from our external environment, using our camera and broad stroke sketching to capture images that could be utilised later for machine stitching . This is always an interesting process for me and I love to get the opportunity where I can to observe the finer details of the things around me that can be expressed into a different form. After working up our images using both paper and fabric collage and with coloured pencils we began the process of preparing for free motion stitching. It was refreshing to be reminded of how important our machines are for this type of artistic work and tips and tricks included getting your personal posture correct, working at the right desk height, then of course machine preparation and maintenance, changing needles and tuning in.
We had great instruction regarding the use of an embroidery hoop which we all had to prepare before stitching commenced. I don’t often use a hoop when I draw with my machine but my frustrations have moved and I’m hooked and a devotee of how useful it is to use one for this style of work.
And so our journey ‘Establishing Rhythm’ commenced. No stone was left unturned, no machine neglected, no stitch left misunderstood and no thread left unknown. How Dionne advised us to make our machines work by encouraging us to experiment with our threads, tension and bobbins is nothing short of a miracle as evidenced by the amazing stitching that was produced by each student. Outside the weather was hot, inside our machines got hot and our tempers frayed. We were encouraged to make our machines go fast at the pedal and at the same time remain steady and focussed with our hands and as each day passed we pushed through our fears and trusted the process more and more. We eventually all did get into ‘a groove’ with our machines as I’ve never really experienced before and I personally broke through my fears to trust and feel how you ‘become one’ with your equipment.
As a group we created some amazing work. Each one unto herself and uniquely interpretive. After our time together came to an end, full of inspiration and raring to come back to the studio and practice, I immediately sorted my threads into weights, types and colours and stored them in a dark place. I purchased a couple of thread holders and use them now like a paint palette by my side. Ive even amazed myself, where I once felt inconvenienced if I had to rethread my needle or change my bobbin it now is like second nature to do so . . . . no complaints!! Im still working on small pieces at this stage but practicing, I am and loving the experience. Im learning which threads my machine likes, which ones break and how to use embroidery threads in my bobbin. Im learning when to sit up, straighten my shoulders and take a big breathe. Im also learning when to just say enough is enough and walk away for a while. My time with Dionne has to be one of the most dynamic learning experiences I have had in a very long time and I feel deeply grateful to have shared the creative space with her for a moment in time.
Thank you for coming to Australia to be with us Dionne Swift