To mark the 20th anniversary of my first baby quilt, I have been reflecting on what I have learned along the way. Creative Backstory is a series of blog posts each highlighting a different year. I invite you to share your creative backstory. Each day, I will post an optional prompt. Leave your response as a comment below or on my Serendipity Facebook page or use the tag #creativebackstory or Instagram and I will add your name to my Creative Backstory Giveaway. I look forward to reading about what has shaped your creative life.
Baby quilts & beyond
For the purposes of this retrospective, I am going to skip quickly over 2001. Suffice to say that, after that first baby quilt in June 2000, I spent the next two years making many more baby quilts. I worked through books and magazines in an enthusiastic but rather ad hoc fashion trying out a variety of techniques and styles. Work and other commitments meant that I was not in a position to attend quilt shop classes so I was excited to discover that Linda Kemshall offered an introductory City & Guilds patchwork and quilting course online.
Online Learning 2002-2004
I started the course in July 2002. Online courses are commonplace these days, especially with since COVID-19 pandemic social distancing rules have prompted tutors to pivot to virtual teaching platforms. However, back at the turn of the century, it was a different environment. Digital cameras were not a mainstream tool so I had to scan printed photos (or the actual artwork itself) and resize the images to make them viable to send via dial up. Despite these technical challenges, I revelled in the course. Key aspects that appealed included:
- being able to work in your own time at your own pace in your own home;
- despite being on the other side of the world, Linda was a very responsive, thoughtful and encouraging teacher;
- the written feedback introduced me to the vocabulary of the elements and principles of design and encouraged me to develop my own critique skills and language to express those observations;
- the structured syllabus addressed techniques and activities that I might otherwise have skipped over;
- there was scope to “take it further” if a particular segment appealed;
- the emphasis on contemporary quilt-making and acceptance of the quilt medium as an art form.
It took me almost two years to complete the course. I raced through the first 9 modules in as many months including my first assessment piece Sydney Jacaranda Harbour — evidence of my early interest in abstraction:
Then got bogged down with the fiddly (to me!) needle turn applique on my final assessment piece, Banana Flower Paradise:
For me, the most enduring takeaway from the City & Guilds course was learning how to dye fabric and threads using procion dyes. Aotearoa Sunrise is made from my very first dyeing project. (I cover the construction technique in my Strata Various workshop.)
I love the serendipity of dyeing and have spent many happy hours playing in the Laundry King’s workshop. Speaking of laundry, when we moved to a low-water/front loading washing machine a few years ago, I invested in a portable tabletop washing machine for rinsing out my dyed fabrics. It works pretty well.
Here are some dyeing tutorials from my website:
- Shibori tutorial #1 – Karamatsu–Japanese Larch Stitch Resist (660KB)
- Shibori tutorial #2 – Folding Resists (560KB)
- Shibori tutorial #3 – Arashi-Pole Wrap Shibori (390KB)
- Shibori tutorial #4 – Itajime Clamp Resist Shibori (450KB)
- Triad Dyeing Tutorial take three colours and create a striking collection of cross-dyed fabrics
Also Ann Johnson generously offers her comprehensive book Color by Accident as a free digital download.
Sharing Stories: Prompt # 2 & Giveaway
I invite you to share your creative backstory. Here are some optional prompts:
- Have you taken a course or workshop that had a significant impact on your creative development?
- What is your experience with online learning? if you enjoyed a particular course, feel free to share a link!
Leave your response as a comment below or use the tag #creativebackstory on Facebook or Instagram. I look forward to reading about what has shaped your creative life and will put your name into my celebratory giveaway. At the end of June, after I have completed Creative Backstory posts, I will select one commenter and, pandemic postal system permitting, this King Parrot textile sketch will wing its way to a new home.