Monthly Archives: May 2022

Why Do You Take Classes?

In the week since I wrote about the Map Play class I took with Valerie Goodwin, I read two posts about art classes. The first by Jane Davies responds to a student’s comments that she wanted to play and have fun at a workshop and then had a meltdown when she was asked to dig deeper.

From Jane Davies’ blog.

Making art IS about play and it IS fun, but that is not all it is, usually. If you are always playing and having fun, with no angst or frustration, and you are also generating images that really speak to you, that you find compelling, then that is just GREAT! Congratulations. Most of us also have moments of frustration and occasional meltdowns or at least self-doubt. Learning how to navigate these skillfully is part of the process.

The second, Chris’ Quilting Universe post, Am I Addicted to Taking Classes?, reviews all the quilt related classes Chris has taken and the work that resulted from them. She has taken a wide variety of classes, ranging from year long master classes to online multi-lessons to one shot workshops.

Do you take classes to learn a process or leave with a product? Do you want to learn to make art like that made by the instructor? Do you want a two hour class at a quilt show or a five day immersive course? Do you want a deep dive into one teacher’s methods or a potpourri of many teachers’ approaches?

A further permutation is in-person versus online classes, and a distinction between live online and prerecorded. An additional nuance with any online class is the amount of interaction possible with the teacher and other students. I have taken classes where I had access to videos with no interaction, to videos with a class blog, and to videos with some sort of proprietary discussion forum. Some classes use Facebook.

These are very different animals, and I believe one’s expectations should reflect the differences. For example, I took a three hour Zoom class on sewing paper collage with David Owen Hastings. I learned a well explained technique that required a minimal amount of supplies. All interactions occurred during the class, with no subsequent followup.

I love using the curved bits from monoprints.

I also took Elizabeth Barton’s year long master class that required a deep commitment to developing designs and executing them each month. While the students could and did comment on each others work, the main focus of the class was improving our designs through Elizabeth’s critiques, which were copious. Each month we developed sketches in response to a theme, chose one to turn into a quilt, and then made the quilt.

“Mean Streets” was made in Elizabeth Barton’s master class

Right now I’m taking a year long set of mixed media classes called Wanderlust. The classes are loosely organized around basic art supplies like gesso, acrylic paint, modeling paste, etc., but each instructor pretty much presents her own thing. (I have yet to see a male instructor.) While I have learned a lot about materials and techniques, I find some of the instruction to be overly focused on “playing and having fun” and what I call greeting card art. To me the missing element is learning to evaluate your work. With so many instructors and students, comments on anyone’s work is pretty much limited to “great,” “nice,” “how sweet,” etc. It’s hit or miss whether the instructor comments on student work.

“An Octopus’ Garden” made for a modeling paste segment of Wanderlust

Such an approach is great if your goal is to play. I have to say I had hoped for less overlap of techniques and more building on previous techniques. Again, that’s probably not doable with so many instructors. I have learned there are as many ways to glue paper as there are teachers.

This week I’ve reflected on all the quilt/art related classes I’ve taken thanks to Jane and Chris, and decided that the ones I benefited most from were process related, with a critique/feedback component. The absolute worst class I ever took was on paper and cloth marbling. All the students shared one container for marbling and we were to take turns. Let’s just say there were some interpersonal issues. I figured the two fat quarters I marbled cost $25 each, and they were ugly. I won’t try to name the best class I ever took as there are too many candidates.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with art classes, both in person and online. Do you have any recommendations for outstanding classes/teachers?

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Filed under Art quilts, collage, Commentary, mixed media, Techniques

Map Play

Last week I took a Zoom Virtual Schoolhouse Map Play class from Valerie Goodwin. She is known for quilts that map real and imaginary places, and taught architecture for many years. The class I took was a speeded up, 6 hour version of a one to two day class of the same name.

I began the class with crinoline, MistyFuse, a bunch of fabric scraps, organza, and paint. I ended the class with two finished small maps and the start of two others. In between Valerie showed us her base construction techniques, reviewed design principles and elements, and guided us in constructing our own maps. She also critiqued our finished efforts with an eye to our possible next steps. That’s a lot in 6 hours.

All our maps were developed from a base of fabric scraps sewn to a 7 inch by 24 inch piece of crinoline (JoAnn’s sells it.) Then, we used paint (either fabric or acrylic) to blend the joins between the scraps and did a bit of hand stitching to hold down raw edges.

My scraps sewn to base. We were encouraged to not create a checkerboard, but to overlap scraps and have raw edges.

My base after painting. My paint was watery so I added white acrylic to it.

Then, we added organza shapes for more blending, and selected areas to cut into 5 by 7 inch pieces for our imaginary maps.

Before we began construction of our maps, Valerie reviewed elements and principles of design. I liked that she illustrated the principles with photos of architectural examples. It was fun to figure out which principles each used – certainly more thought provoking than the simplified graphics often used (i.e., a seesaw with different weights at each end.)

We ended up with about 45 minutes to finish a few of our maps. I got one done and began another, and then Valerie critiqued our work with an eye to further development.

Valerie suggested I extend the line of trees. I was trying to illustrate the design principles of asymmetrical balance and movement.

I hope to turn this into a representation of the southwest. Valerie liked the lines and colors, but there was little else to critique.

I did do one more last weekend.

I chose a focal point as my design principle. Let me know what you think it represents.

Overall, my class experience was positive. My only suggestions for improvement would be to have students prep their organza for fusing and to watch the base construction video before class. That took a bit of time that I certainly needed for map making. However, I’m sure teachers learn from experience that sometimes students don’t do the prep work and the class has to spend time on it anyway.

If this approach appeals to you, Valerie offers a virtual class through C & T’s Creative Spark that covers much of what I learned in her class. I think she’s also working up a class in using laser cutting machines to create intricate, lacy maps. I know she uses a cutter brand called Glow Forge, and has done extensive testing of cutting fabric with it. The results look enticing, but I know I won’t be investing in a laser cutter so will resist the temptation.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Techniques

Catching Up

Since I am busy today with a Zoom workshop about map quilts from Valerie Goodwin I will give a few updates rather than present any new work. I hope to report on the workshop once it’s done and I’ve had time to process it.

First, all but one of my free quilts found new homes. I am so happy they have a chance of seeing someplace other than my closet. An unexpected but delightful side effect of that giveaway was the many tokens I received in return, ranging from cards to maple butter. Thank you all.

Second, the quilt below is now called “Fractured.” I was amazed at the quantity and creativity of your suggestions, often with well thought out reasons for the name. Once I narrowed my choices to four, I consulted my in-house expert, and he felt “Fractured” best conveyed the sense of the work.

“Fractured”

Third, my quilt “Calliope” won a blue ribbon in its category at the Lake Farmpark quilt show. I think I mentioned that before, but here we are together.

I think my outfit coordinates nicely with “Calliope”

Fourth, for those of you who live in/near Akron, I want to let you know of a massive audio visual materials sale on May 20, 10-6, and 21, 10-5, at the main library on South High Street in downtown Akron. Low, low prices, with CDs 10 for $1. The sale includes CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, sheet music, audio books, and even 16 mm films. Proceeds will go to the Friends of the Main Library. One hour free parking on Friday, and all day free parking on Saturday. I mention this because I volunteer as a donations sorter, and I really want to get more room in the sorting area.

Fifth, I’m rearranging my studio, and have bought a few rolling carts, which I’m in love with. More on all that later.

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Filed under Everything Else

Happy Accidents

Sometimes I decide to combine a collection of my painted/printed/altered fabric parts just to see if I can make them work together. Typically, I have no plan, not even a sketch. It’s a highly inefficient way to create, but I find it fun. Plus, it takes my mind off of any real world worries.

My latest mashup began with a naughty Roomba. I had unleashed it in my bedroom where it’s great for under the bed vacuuming. Unfortunately, I had stored a large sheet of lacy handmade paper between cardboard there, and the Roomba managed to mangle it thoroughly before I rescued it. Amazingly, the paper didn’t rip, but it was much softer. Figuring I couldn’t do any more damage, I colored it with Marabu fabric spray and decided I had to use it. It became a big part of “Happy Accidents.”

“Happy Accidents,” 29″ by 42″ (the color is off as we’ve had nothing but clouds since I finished) Except for the paper, which is hand stitched down, everything is either machine pieced or fused.

Among the bits I used were an old sheet that I used for painting (with thermofax printing,) monoprinted silk and linen, painted linen, painted PatternEase, bit of old curtain, muslin dress pattern, and ancient batik. There also Zen Chic and Grunge dot commercial fabrics.

Base layer with a few additions
One of many intermediate arrangements
Detail of fabric monoprinting, thermofax printing, PatternEase
Detail of batik I made in 1993, muslin dress pattern with thermofax printing
Detail of gel printed leaves on linen

I grant you the combination is a bit overwhelming even though I removed some of the circles in the editing process. But more is more, right? Now that’s out of my system and I can try to actually plan ahead for my next project.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Fabric Printing