Are you back? I've taken bunches of workshops over the years, from teachers of tapestry, weaving, quiltmaking, beadwork, surface design, bookmaking. . .you name it. I've learned something in every one--and not always what I went in expecting to learn! Sometimes I learn, OK, this particular technique is not for me--and that's useful information to have, going forward. Sometimes I'm gobsmacked by an artist's approach to design and art-making that is so far removed from my own that I'm forced to look at my process with more critical eyes. And yes, often I do learn things that directly improve my own work.
Sometimes, as with Rebecca the past few days, I receive so many things:
- tweaks to my tapestry weaving technique (e.g., beating on a closed shed) that actually do immediately improve the quality of my weaving;
- new weaving techniques (e.g, shaped pick and pick, vertical gradation, approaches to transparency) that I will practice and refine at home and eventually add to my toolbox of useful tapestry strategies.
|Sample showing experiments in (bottom to top) eccentric weaving and outlining, and (left to right) matching color to value, vertical color gradation, seed stitch variation of pick-and-pick, and transparency effects.|
- encouragement and advice about how to put flesh on the bones of the design of my next Mary tapestry;
- suggestions about designing for tapestry so that it can be more than simply a slow and antiquated way of reproducing paintings or photographs;
- the chance to connect in person with many far-flung, gifted and wonderful tapestry weavers.
Here's the key thing, though, about workshops. Part of the problem is that they can remain self-contained experiences in time and space, especially if you have to travel to take the workshop. You go to the workshop, you immerse yourself for a few days or a week in a heady, exciting, intensive learning environment, and then you go home, resume your daily life, and the project you started and the things you learn can end up on a shelf somewhere, never to be seen again. I've found that it's helpful if I spend some time soon after I'm home, digesting what I learned, pulling out the significant nuggets for me and my way of working, making notes. As another of my tapestry heroes, Tommye Scanlin, once said in a workshop we both attended, "Take what you can use and leave the rest." Very wise words!
|My "take-away" notes, culled from Rebecca's handouts and my own workshop notes|
And then the crucial connection between the workshop and your own practice is to figure out how to incorporate what you learned into what you actually do in your studio from day to day. That's where the rubber hits the road. For myself, now I'm going to work on better ergonomic practices and on practicing several new tapestry techniques.
By the way, I'm offering a full slate of workshops in designing for fiber media this year:
- at Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild in Atlanta, ongoing now;
- at Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance (SEFAA) in Atlanta, this spring and summer (check back soon for details)
- at Convergence, HGA's biennial national weaving conference in Milwaukee in July-August.
Please feel free to share your workshop experiences by commenting below, or let me know if you want more info about my own workshops.