Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My week in Ohio

Where to start?

I had a fantastic time in Ohio at Nancy Crow’s workshop. It was extremely inspirational and a huge step in my learning curve. The main shift for me is my perception of myself and of my work.

I think I am a very non pretentious person. I find it very hard to describe myself as an ‘artist’ for fear of the sniggers, and the ‘who-does-she-think-she-is’ comments. I find it difficult to discuss my art work in a way that gives it credence, often resorting to deliberately off-hand comments intended to demean what I make, thus deflecting any criticism.

This week has taught me to stand up and present my work in a positive way, articulating the decisions I made during the process, and believing that what I create has a right to exist and to be respected.

I also learnt that, of all the ‘crafts’ I have indulged in over the years, fibre and fabric is a medium that I can use to create pieces that I am proud of. I have tried painting but never feel that I can express what I feel through the paint.

So bearing this in mind here is some of what I did during the week.

The first day was all about line, figure / ground relationships, and composition. We had to make 18 small studies in black and white that explored the free hand cut and sewn line as the figure, but also paying attention to the ground, and the relationship between the two. It took me a while to settle into the exercise. I was very nervous and self conscious. By the afternoon I was fine, and was sewing demonically. I produced a few really nice little compositions, and I was very glad of my architectural training. At least I have a good eye for proportion, which was really the crux of the exercise.

These snaps are of Caitlin, Leslie and Margret working on their line exercises. This is the main barn studio, and as you can see it's a great place to work in.

The next day we had to take what we had learned about line, and apply it to a 4 foot square composition, using only white and off whites, black and darkest blues. The limited palette really helped to concentrate on the figure / ground emphasis, without getting bogged down with too many decisions about colour.

I struggled big time in the morning. I pinned up loads of cut pieces, knew they weren’t right, but didn’t know the way forward. Nancy really pushed me. She refused to tell me what to do, only kept asking questions to make me analyse my work. It was not an enjoyable process, but I was driven because I knew something good was lurking in there somewhere! By 3 in the afternoon I realised it was coming together, and by 7.00 I started to sew. The studio closed at 10.30 so I was nowhere near finishing, but I mean to complete this piece because I really like it. This is it before starting to sew it together:

Day 3 was another quick study day. We had to produce multiple small studies with curves, circles and bends, and assemble them into a sampler for future reference. I found this exercise quite easy as I seem to have a knack of sewing curves without making the fabric go all wrinkled and puffy.

Day 4 and 5 were dedicated to producing an 8 foot square composition. That’s large! The brief was to make a 4 plex of bulls eyes, in other words 4 bulls eyes that are formed from 4 quarters. I loved this exercise. I loved the colours I chose to work with, and I enjoyed the improvisational nature of the way I was working. I cut out the shapes and pinned them to the wall, moved them, re-cut them until I was happy with the composition, and only started sewing once everything was in place. I managed to sew all 16 quarters with 10 mins to spare. If I had had another 2 hours I would have been able to fit them all together into a whole piece but I shall have to do that at home in the next few weeks.

These are the photos of the exercise in progress:

The results symbolise a huge step for me, both technically and design-wise.

On a wider note, I greatly enjoyed being in the states once more. I realised again how much BIGGER everything in America is! My small hire car turned out to be a huge saloon ford fusion. That was the smallest car they had! Even the road-kill is big. I was shocked to see 2 huge dead stags on the side of the motorway (sorry, free way). I wouldn’t fancy hitting one of those at 70 miles an hour! One night I had to brake suddenly for two does who were standing in the middle of a country road. They didn’t move out of the way! They just stood there looking dazed and I had to nudge them off the road with my bonnet (sorry, hood). I don’t consider myself to be slim but in America I look like a bit dropped off! Some of the people there are ENORMOUS!!! Mind you with the fast food so cheap I can see why. I went to Wendy’s for my lunch at the airport. I got chicken nuggets, fries and a coke and it came to $3.60, which is about £1.80. No wonder they get so fat! Also, the Americans do shopping on a large scale. I went into a Walmart to buy Nick a new Ipod touch and felt a bit agoraphobic. The aisles were so long they were disappearing into infinity. After that I went into a quilt store next door. Fuck me – I am not kidding here, it was the size of large British supermarket. There was an aisle dedicated to pins that was over 5 m long. The scissor and cutting section alone was the size of my local quilt shop. I was virtually hyperventilating and I had to phone Nick immediately to tell him about it. I only had 25 minutes to spend in there before going to the airport. Come to think of it, that was probably a good thing. I managed to spend £50, and I could have easily spent 2 or 3 hours in that shop. The exchange rate is the best in history (£1 = $2.06) so everything is so cheap over there for us Brits. A spool of thread that here costs £6 is a little over £2 in the states. I bought 8 spools. I also had to buy a new suitcase to bring back everything I had bought!

There were some wonderful people on my workshop. We had such a nice atmosphere in the barn, which is a sensational space to work in. We had plenty of laughs including a long discussion about the toilet paper habits of different nations. Yet again I proved my theory that Brits fold, and American scrunch. You may remember my rather un scientific study from a while ago, well I think this time I proved it conclusively.

Another thing I learning is that in America you can get away with saying rather crude things if you say them in a ‘cute English accent’. As my husband would say, you can take the girl out of Scunthorpe, but you can’t take Scunthorpe out the girl.

I was pleased to see there were some other pretty crude people there, including Caitlin who had a sticker on her sewing machine that proclaimed ‘I love my cunt’ and Martha Lee who was apparently a sex pot in her youth and was telling us (in a wonderful slow Carolina Drawl) a thing or two about Viagra. Very enlightening!

Finally I realised I need to:
To rename my ‘craft room’ my ‘studio’ to help with that mental shift
Buy a new bernina sewing machine to replace my £99 crappy thing
Install colour corrected lighting.
Get a better steam iron
Find some like minded people in the area who will motivate me
Get a better routine of working on my art stuff on Fridays when I’m not being an Architect.
Stop procrastinating and just do it.


Anonymous Andreas said...

Very interesting post. I'm glad you had such a great time!

2:54 PM  
Blogger Primrose Hill said...

Hey you!

Good to hear you had a great time, you're work looks amazing as usual!

The barn you were working in looks stunning, how cool would it be to be working in studio like that every day!

You know you're more than welcome to come up here and work away anytime, especially once we get the studio up and running.

We must try and meet up soon - maybe see you at one of the fairs?

I'll drop you an e-mail. Take care,

L xx

P.S. Thanks for the offer of doing the drawings, so far they've all been done on the back of used envelopes and there's a picture of what we want in both mine and Gregg's heads, just hope they're the same!!!

2:56 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

rach, love the bulldog circles. brilliant. and you study in lines for totally different reasons. thanks for finally posting these. eleanor

10:30 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

I must get one of those stickers for my sewing machine!!!

9:22 PM  
Blogger Twila Grace said...

Rach, since I was at the NC workshop with you, I am well qualified to declare that you definitely have all reasons to be very proud of your artistic, thoughtful quilted pieces. I absolutely loved the work that you did that week and feel that you are well on your way to great things in art quilting. I say to stay with quilting! Just stay the course and you'll do quite well. Hey, I love your sewing machine choice. I have a Bernina and a Pfaff, both of comparable value, and although I like the Pfaff for certain tasks, if I had to give up one, I'd keep the Bernina. I honestly feel that the Bernina executes a better stitch, period. Rach, that was a very nice write-up you did on your experience at the NC workshop. As Nancy would say, you were articulate. You go girl!

4:13 AM  
Blogger Twila Grace said...

Rach, to your comment on my blog, I left a return comment:
Rach, no I have not finished any of my unfinished work from NC's workshop, but I have taken everything from their travelling boxes and put them in their living spaces. My bulls eye piece in on what I now consider to be my tiny design board! I need a larger studio!

4:44 AM  
Blogger Exuberant Color said...

I came over here from Twila's blog. Thanks for the pictures of the NC workshop. I would love to have been there. Your 8' piece is great.

8:08 PM  

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