Friday, November 11, 2011

Last workshop of the year

Just recently I returned from teaching my last two-day workshop this year. Now there are only two more evening session of the beginners’ class I am teaching here in my town left, and then the teaching will be over for this year. (But I will get to be a student for four and a half days myself next week...) This last workshop was another instance of my class „IQ – from inspiration to quilt“, a workshop that I originally called “Quilts from children’s drawings”.
As I have taught this workshop a number of times over the past year now, I decided that I wanted to change the order of assignments a little bit. Participants are still asked to bring their inspirational picture from which they will eventually work. However, the workshop begins with technical assignments. Through these, the participants get acquainted with the various techniques that I use for my own work, and can develop their own opinion as to which of these they particularly like, or which might be less useful for an attempt with their own picture.
At first participants insert a full circle into a piece of fabric, then have to cut through that insert with free hand rotary cutting in several ways, and take their first attempts with my new little tool.
After that I demonstrate my method of making paper templates. 

Making individual templates
And then they get to work on their own design.
I do believe that mastery of techniques is a very important step on the way to the development of an own design, and pay a lot of attention to these in my teaching. For me personally, participation in a workshop nowadays means that I want to learn the technique in order to be able to then work with it at home and figure out whether it will be useful for my work. I notice, however, that this approach is not shared by most participants in my workshops. They often want to produce something “useful”, want to leave by the end of the two days with a visible result. They find it hard to embrace the idea that what they are sewing in the workshop might not turn out to be anything beyond the piece through which they got acquainted with a new technique.
It is interesting and challenging to see (and accompany) how participants approach the difficult problem of developing an own design. For many, the picture they bring, however, seems to be more of a hindrance than a starting point to development. Mostly, because they want to simply put the picture into fabric, as closely as possible, have difficulties of entering into a process of abstraction. Instead, my approach is that an inspiration is always just that – an inspiration to move on from there, through lots of abstractions, fragmentation, perhaps turning the whole thing upside down after a while. Only rarely do my final pieces resemble the original inspiration. But it makes me very glad when I see that a participant manages to do just that – take their inspiration further along, turning it into something ‚hers’.

Early stages of development of a participant's design
This workshop demands that students be ready to try something new and different, and definitely that they be willing to start over and over, and perhaps over a third time if they should discover that things  weren’t working out the way they had first thought. It’s not a class from which you return home with a finished top.
During this last workshop several participants did not sew any more than the first few techincal assignments. Instead, they spent the rest of the two days intensively working on the development of their design. They went home very much satisfied, because they realized that they had invested their time well by continuously altering, editing and improving their designs. The sewing could be done at home.

In each of the instances when I taught the workshop there was at least one participant who was working with a (rather young) child’s drawing as the inspirational picture. I still have the impression that it would be easier for many participants if they would indeed do that, because I usually found the designs based on the children’s drawings the most interesting designs in these workshops. This may well be because children’s drawings, for adults’ eyes, have a certain degree of abstraction already, making it easier for beginners in own design to start their individual process of abstraction from there.

In this most recent workshop, however, a wonderful design was developed from a picture of the German Bundestag:

I will not show the resulting design here, though, because I don’t want to pre-publish anything that is not mine. But I am definitely looking forward to seeing the finished quilt! Let me just tell you this: you wouldn’t recognize that it was derived from a picture of the Bundestag!

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