Still Processing

This past Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I participated in a Zoom workshop on Textural Style with Natalya Khorover. We had a two hour Zoom session each day and then homework to do for the next day’s class. The class focused on using scraps of any type to create small machine and hand sewn collages. Natalya stresses materials reuse, especially plastics, in her work and teaching, though this workshop used fabrics more than plastics.

By Friday afternoon my studio looked like a fabric scrap cannon had been fired off, I had started four pieces, and my brain was exhausted. So, there was no Friday blog post.

I will be unpacking the lessons I learned for some time, and then merging them with what I already know to arrive at what works for me. Natalya loves working with small scraps (including old cashmere sweaters) and favors hand stitching. She often uses heavy Pellon interfacing as backing and skips batting. She doesn’t use glue but relies on pins and tulle to hold bits in place until they are sewn down.

Here’s an example of her work, which began with a piece of muslin used on her painting table.

The background is all little scraps sewn down with a running stitch. The fire escape is sewn with velvet thread, something new to me. The Pellon interfacing is easy to sew through yet allows for really long stitches.

Our first assignment was to create two one color small works, one machine stitched and one hand stitched. I finished the machine stitched one, but have miles to go on my hand stitched work.

Scraps from a current WIP.
The start of a glittery, in your face, piece. I hope to use lots of seed stitching to tone things down.

Next, we picked a work by our favorite artist and created a piece that interpreted it. Natalya showed us many examples of her interpretations of work by Matisse, Sargent, and others. I chose “Temple Gardens” by Paul Klee and lived to regret my choice. My first downfall was Klee’s palette which I strove mightily to match from my scraps. My second struggle was trying to interpret the watercolor without copying it.

“Temple Gardens” Paul Klee, 1920
I am now cutting out most of the tulle cover to brighten the colors, and plan to overlay some areas with more scraps for a better composition. Then I will throw this in the bottom of a drawer.

Finally, we were to choose a failed block, ugly dyed fabric, or the like to transform. One of Natalya’s examples was her piece shown at the start of this post. We had a good laugh at the choices made. Lots of dyeing goes wrong, apparently. I chose some cotton with yellow and red dye splotches that I had screen printed over with yucky results. I then started laying ripped up loosely woven old linen scraps on top followed by silk organza scraps. We are to work on this piece on our own.

Some of my scraps need to be smaller, and this will definitely require hand stitching.

Class wrapped up with a review of different ways to finish textile art work. Natalya does no binding and little facing. She often glues her smaller work to canvas with matte medium and then finishes the canvas sides with paint. This type of presentation, along with mounting in deep frames, elevates work from sewn together scraps.

Right now I have mixed feelings about the class. I appreciate the different ways I learned to create with scraps and take advantage of scrap qualities such as their “hairiness” (i.e., raveled edges.) The videos shown of Natalya creating work were informative. On the minus side, I had a hard time creating quickly with no advance directions as to subject and materials needed. For example, the course description could have said, you will create samples in single colorways, interpret a work by your favorite artist, etc. I need time to gather my thoughts and materials, and typically we were told what the next assignment was in the last half of each session. We began work during the Zoom session, but I barely had time to gather my thoughts and start grabbing materials. I asked for more advance notice, but received little guidance. I guess part of the class was about improvisation. I think this class would be better in person so students could interact with Natalya and fellow students as they worked.

Natalya is folding this class into her Innovative Repurposing Community, so it is no longer available as a stand alone course.

The upshot is I now have more hand stitching projects to work on, and a different perspective on what constitutes a scrap to save.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under collage, Commentary, Techniques

14 responses to “Still Processing

  1. I think you can get great ideas without finishing class projects. Just thinking about them is an education; doing them is a bonus. I had one instructor who advised labeling class projects with class name, instructor name and date and considering it finished. I’ll admit I’ve never done that. I keep scraps down to 3/4 inch square though I’m considering going larger. I’ve never started raw edge stuff. maybe I should think about trying it.

    • I like the idea of labeling class samples. Typically I finish workshop pieces in some fashion, sometimes years later. I decided I don’t want to get back into saving every little bit of fabric, and have sewn together many of my smaller scraps to make new cloth.

  2. That all sounds interesting and I’ll bet you are correct about an in-person class being more helpful. Hopefully you will share more about any pieces you transform or finish in the future. I’m finding the idea of hand stitching a collage of tiny fabric and fiber bits very appealing these days.

    • Natalya’s techniques are rougher than yours, with lots of running stitches and ladder stitches rather than elaborate embroidery. She doesn’t worry about neat tie-offs but relies on matte medium used to adhere her work to canvas to hold her stitching. But she does use her scraps like a painter and mixes all manner of materials. I am continuing work on some of the pieces as I got my second wind. I just can’t process new ideas and create quickly.

      • I understand this completely – “I just can’t process new ideas and create quickly.” I have used medium to hold stitch/floss ends too.

  3. Marie Watterkibd

    Natalya spoke to our guild and did a workshop for us as well. It was one day, 5 hours. Really fascinating and I have a whole new respect for what are scraps, what’s waste–I now feel tremendous guild when I toss a wad of thread waste!

    • I get the guilt, but I reach a point of no more space. Natalya uses bits of serged seams in some work and she has an eye for useful bits. My rescue operation for reuse involves scraps from theater costumes.

  4. It seems that the more we work with scraps, the less we can actually throw away! I’m TRYING to throw away anything that I cannot sew a seam into, even though I love raw edge work. Sounds as though this class could have given you more ‘pre-work’ for more success with finish work. Remember–you’ve learned the lesson. You don’t have to finish any part you don’t like!!!

    • The class readjusted my definition of a scrap. What I previously thought of as a scrap is now more like a fat quarter. I mean, the teacher saves cut off serged edges. And yes, some of what I made will reside at the bottom of a drawer, though part of me always thinks I can make improvements.

      • I’m still wrestling with what to call a scrap, but it’s generally less than a fat quarter. However, I’ve been keeping things much smaller than I used to and can’t seem to stop! Hope all your new work becomes something you love and doesn’t stay in the drawer for very long!

      • The irony of this workshop is that recently I had purged my scraps of little bits as I couldn’t see how I would use them. You can use smaller pieces when you don’t seam them.

      • You can keep almost everything and use it when you are an art quilter! The only thing that gets me throwing away teeny bits now is that I’m totally tired of working with the same fabrics. I’m trying really hard to use up stuff, but it will never happen at the rate I’m going! The makers dilemna every single day–keep or save?–and it’s time to take a day and look for throw aways!

      • Why is it that bits of some fabrics seem to crop up for years in scrap piles, even though you only bought a half yard.

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