Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Teaching and Learning

Recently, on her always-thought-provoking blog, quilt artist Elizabeth Barton wrote about why she teaches.  Much of what she said resonated with me.  She says, "For me teaching has always been about what I wanted to learn myself."   Like her, I love the process of researching, synthesizing and figuring out to present new information.  When I teach about something I've been learning about, I know what questions and issues students may run into, having recently encountered them myself.  I hope that my new enthusiasm for my subject is contagious.  And when the class and the subject are fresh, I am on my toes in a way that keeps the class experience interesting and alive for all of us.  

Terrible photo used as inspiration for quilt below
Start in Your Own Backyard, art quilt by Molly Elkind
I hear sometimes from other fiber artists that they wished they had some of the academic art training I got when I was working on my M.A. in fibers at the University of Louisville.  As a student I felt like I was being given a secret decoder ring for art--I was learning how value and contrast and balance work in a piece and thus avoiding mistakes, or at least taking a short cut through the painstaking process of trial and error.  And I'm still learning! 

Lately I've found that analyzing and figuring out how to teach the elements of art and principles of design for textile artists is an inexhaustible topic.   The students I had in April in a weekend-long intensive class at Fiber Forum seemed to agree, saying they found the class very helpful.  In this class, called Design Intensive:
  •  We talk about sources of inspiration, from nature to books to other artwork to emotions. 
  •  We look at ways these nebulous sparks of ideas can be developed into actual work.  
  • We talk about how to use a sketchbook--it doesn't have to involve sketching!  
  • We touch on how to use--and how not to use--photographs as part of the design process.  
  • We do lots of exercises to learn how to make value, color, shape, composition and balance do what we want them to, to convey the meanings and feelings we have in mind.  
  • We also talk about how to evaluate our work, both while it's in progress and once it's finished, and how to avoid falling into the trap of thinking it's awful and you're a terrible artist.  

Altered photocopy used in design for Mary (gilded)
Mary (gilded), handwoven tapestry by Molly Elkind
I'm offering this 12-hour Design Intensive in a few locations around Atlanta this summer and fall.  Registration is open now for these locations and dates:
 For those who don't want quite such a long and intensive experience, check out my one-day Design Kickstarters class at CHG on August 15.  For this class I've boiled down the essential information and most helpful exercises from the Design Intensive. You'll learn how to start a visual journal (sketchbook), do some work with line, shape, and color, and talk about how to make the most of the always-too-limited time we have for our creative pursuits.

And if you're just itching to get your hands dirty exploring various fabric paints and approaches to surface design, you can take my one-day class, Fabric Painting 3 Ways, at CHG on August 22.. We'll experiment with silk paints, oil sticks, and watercolor crayons on cottons and silk.  You'll leave with sets of each kind of paint and a stack of samples you can use to make a small project or use as a springboard for more fabric painting.   I used oil sticks to transform the fabric on this quilt.  

Sam at Glacier National Park, art quilt by Molly Elkind
You can learn more about all the classes I currently offer at my website's workshops page.  And stay tuned. . . I am working now on some new class offerings. 


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