Friday, December 9, 2011

Bauhaus philosophy and transformation into textiles

In the middle of November I spent four days on a workshop by Margit Amann vonGlembowski. I had spontaneously signed up for it after talking to Margit at the German Patchwork Guild’s Annual Meeting in May, when she was so enthusiastic about the atmosphere of the house where the workshop would be held. I had figured it would be a good way of summing up the year, which had brought me a lot of teaching, by being a student myself again. And by being a student with a different teacher than Nancy Crow, who was the only one I had been taking workshops from for several years.
Margit certainly was right about the peaceful and creativ atmosphere of the place where we were staying. A monastery on the western side of Lake Starnberg, close to the “Museum der Phantasie” initiated by Buchheim. (I have already written about our visit to the museum here.) The house is located in a hugepark area which has been saved for the public through the generous donation by Wilhelmina Busch-Woods.

I went for a short run before breakfast almost every morning and enjoyed seeing the different appearances of the old trees in the park, depending on the thickness of the fog. (I did not really enjoy the fog, but...)

When I had received the supplies list for the workshop I had been briefly tempted to chicken out and cancel. There were so many things on there that I had finally removed from my many kinds of collections when I decided that I had not used them in several years and was probably never going to use them anyway, such as sweets wrappers and things like that. (One of Margit’s attitudes is “anything that fits under a sewing machine foot can be sewn!”...) But then I thought “what the heck” – I have enough experience to manage in a situation like that with little material available, so off I went.
The car was FULL up to the roof, because I was taking my handdyed fabrics for sale, so at least there wasn’t going to be a lack of fabrics.

The topic of the workshop was “colour - form – object: textiles after Bauhaus-philosophy”. I have done a bit of studying about Bauhaus over the years. Not only did we take a brief stop at the actual Bauhaus building on a family trip up north, where my son, who had just learned to walk, very much enjoyed the staircase, and climbing up and down the famous Bauhaus design chairs.

But I also have several interesting books on the Bauhaus, its history and its most famous protagonists. Many times have I admired the beautiful desings for carpets which were carried out in the weaving department. Nevertheless, I had so far not made any attempts at integrating Bauhaus design or philosophy into my own work, so the workshop would possibly open up new fields of activity for me.

We started off with some history of the Bauhaus and the various developments of and changes in the faculty. After that we did a couple of exercises as they might have been done by Bauhaus students (e.g. touching and feeling various materials and shapes that were hidden under a piece of fabric), and trying to apply them to the textile medium. For example, we sewed a number of pieces that dealt with Kandinsky’s attribution of yellow, red and blue to the triangle, the square and the circle respectively.

Amongst these were hollow objects in color, difficult to sew, delicate to handle, and intriguing to look at. In the final „exhibition“ of all our completed works at the end of the workshop we presented a collaborative textile sculpture “Objects in Color” in which we combined every participants’ objects on a black background.

As for a way to ‚use’ the objects at home I have decided that I am going to try to find foam that can be cut into the respective shapes to stuff them, so that these delicate little things don’t get squished completely. Beyond that I haven’t made up my mind yet. They are certainly too interesting to just leave them lying around, too voluminous to fold them up and pack them away as reference material to remind me of the workshop, and too nice (and too big) to turn them into a needle cushion.
The various types of „sewable“ materials that almost scared me off were needed for an exercise in which we were supposed to create a small collage inspired by a pair of opposite adjectives which we had drawn from a bag of papers. My pair of opposites was „starr – bewegt“ (stiff – in motion) and used up a pair of knitting needles with additional string attached to them which I happened to have with me. In addition, I made creative use of a little bag of organza in which we had received a little welcome-present, and a few items from Margit’s large collection which we were allowed to take from. And suddenly I had again produced something about the topic “dance”, although I claim that I never work in a representational manner...:

The entire workshop lasted for four days, which made for a pleasant and leisurely atmosphere. We weren’t rushed for time or pressing deadlines, we had plenty of opportunities to sit down with our sketch-book, and I jotted down many ideas about the triangle – square – circle combination.
Here’s another small piece for which I had the idea during my morning run before breakfast.

Unfortunately it turned out just a little bit larger than the assignment had called for, which is the reason why it couldn’t be mounted on a frame for the final exhibition.
I’m planning to use this as a study for a larger piece. And then we will see how much of the Bauhaus will enter into my future work.

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