Saturday, June 21, 2008

Still Under Water

That's just figuratively, not literally! My studio has still not been put back together after my return from the Nancy Crow workshop. But I've told myself that I just need to go in there and put just one or two things away each day and it will be finished in no time. Well, I'm still working on it.

As soon as I can see my floor again, I have to x out a day on my calendar, go into my studio and refuse to come out! I'm hoping to get some time during the July 4th weekend.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How Do You Piece That Thing?!

Someone asked how I managed to piece the 30-color abstract that I did on day 4. Well, the answer is I'm still working on it!

The way that I am approaching it is to first piece the easy stuff - those pieces that can go together with relatively straight seams to create a "unit" that can then potential be later sewn to the unit next to it.

In the picture below I have circled two of the units that I have assembled this way. I haven't sewn the two units together yet because I'm still working out the sequence. You need to figure out in advance how you are going to fit all the units together so that you don't box yourself into a corner. And even if you do, you can always resort to applique, by I'm going to try to avoid that. It is also a good bet that the look of the piece may change slightly during the construction because I might change a shape to make it easier to piece or I might add another shape somewhere for the same reason. That is why Nancy calls this improvisation - just wing it as you go along.

But as much as I long for a bolt of fusible at this point, I am going to try to piece the whole thing together, as that is part of this project and a major part of the challenge.

It's definitely not going to be easy.

This is probably the part when I should have been asking Nancy for help. She had asked me why I hardly ever asked for help during the class. I didn't know what to say. I know I have a hard time asking for help even when I desperately need it. Probably has to do with some shyness/self-worth issue. (Did you know that in kindergarten I was forced to go up to the teacher and whisper good morning to her in her ear because I wouldn't say it out loud with the class? Good grief, what was that about. ;-) Don't worry, I can now say good morning with the rest of them!

I was hoping to get in my studio this week but we are having a bit of a heat wave here in Greenville and my studio has no air conditioning, so I am procrastinating. Maybe if I can find a small fan . . .

Monday, June 09, 2008

Last Day at the Crow Barn

Wait a minute, wait a minute. I think I'm confused. Well, just a little disclaimer - I may be mistaken about which day some of these projects began and ended. I just looked at the pictures I have for day 5 and realized that is is quite possible that some of them actually occurred on day 4. In any case, the pace was grueling.

So on the second half of day 4 we started to make fabrics composed of solids, solids and prints (stripes and plaids). We were suppose to have 5 light values, 5 middle values, and 5 dark values.

It actually takes longer than you think to sew strips together, especially when each strip is 40-plus inches long! I only had time to put together the lights, 4 middle values and 3 dark values. Below is a pic of some of these composed fabrics.

Here is some more.

Then on the dawn of day 5 we were instructed to cut up our created fabrics to create a design that featured a repeated unit. This project was the most fun for me. Maybe it was because this was something familiar, as we had done a similar project in the first workshop I took with Nancy. Maybe it was because I finally got to use some bright non-solid fabrics! (Oh, by the way, Nancy has a wonderful fun selection of fabrics in her own mini fabric shop at the barn. Lots of great prints and patterns. I did my share of shopping here!)

I created the design by pinning the units first on the design wall and then came the tricky part of putting it together without having to resort to inset seams -- I only had to do one. Whew. I think this is my favorite of all the work I did in the workshop.

The final project was, I think, the very first "stack n wack" technique, or at least I had done it in the first Crow workshop way before all the Stack n Whack books came out -- by at least 3 or 4 years. You stack four large squares (like 24" squares) and cut a certain number of lines and shapes through the four layers, then reassemble them using the different contrasting fabrics. I used 3 fabrics and cut through 6 layers. (No matter how many times I told myself to keep it simple, I refused to listen. Boy, I'm stubborn. ;-) Anyway this project is a lot of fun, too. Nancy said she saved this project for last just because it was so easy and fun.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of this final piece! Probably because I was racing like a fiend to get it finished before the deadline. I barely made it. I'll post a picture later this week once I clear a path through my studio so that I can get a good shot of my design wall. I'll talk about it more once I have the picture up so that you can see what I'm talking about.

The final part of the workshop was the grand "gallery showing." Each of us had to take turns hanging up all of the work we created during the entire workshop and then giving a short (3 minute) presentation about what we got out of the workshop and what we thought of each of our pieces. Everyone was encourage to take photos during these presentations as a reference. It was quite amazing to see the body of work that each person created.

Unfortunately the person who I asked to take a picture of me in front of my gallery of work did not get the whole wall of work. I guess she thought it was better to get a closer shot of me. (Looking rumpled, of course.)

So, what was the final analysis of the workshop: I loved it. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Yes, it was grueling. Yes, there were times when I thought I was crazy for doing it and working until I was exhausted (I do that at home already. I don't want to do it on my time off). But I do think I will continue to use what I learned. I do think that I final get some of the concepts that Nancy is trying to teach, and if I took a workshop from her again, I'd learn even more.

I think you just have to be prepared for hard work in Nancy's class. It is not a "fluffy" class. As she says, it is a graduate level workshop and you have to be there because you want to give it your all. You have to be prepared for the deadlines and the 12 hour work days. Of course, all of this is really self-imposed because not once did Nancy threaten to kick someone out for not completing a project! But to me, even though I desperately needed time to relax, I couldn't not try to push myself to keep up with the pace. I get the chance to take very few workshops, so I was going to get the most I possibly could out of this one, and that meant keeping up with the projects. But my words of advice -- keep it simple! I'll try to remember this myself next time.

Regarding the supply list - of course, I didn't use all 100 yards of fabric, but having that range of choice made creating the compositions much easier than they would have if I had had a much more limited palette. Also I now have the fabric to continue playing with the lessons we learns. Most important -- bring lots and lots of black and white fabric. I'd bring twice what Nancy suggests. Many people ran out of what they brought.

Some people used polaroids of their work in progress to help them with their designs, but I never looked at my digital pictures after taking them. So leave the dated camera or printer at home, but take lots of digital pictures so remembering the processes later on when you get home.

With all that piecing I thought for sure that I would be going through spool after spool of thread, but I only used up one large spool of Star thread and I used it in both the bobbin and on top. It is good to have lots of bobbins so that you can prewind a whole batch of them in the beginning and don't have to stop midway in a project to wind bobbins.

I took extra rotary cutter blades, but never changed the one I started with. Maybe because I'm too use to using the blades until they are really annoying instead of just starting to be annoying.

I don't think there was anything that I wish I had remembered to bring. I followed the supply list (except for the polaroid/printer) and used everything.

I enjoyed spending the week with like-minded women. It was fabulous to see the wide variety of work that was created. I tend to be very quiet in group settings, but I loved listening and watching.

Nancy, John, Nathan, and Margaret were wonderful hosts.

I definitely recommend taking workshop retreats where you get away from your every day life and immerse yourself in the creative process and the community of artists. I'll be waiting for my next opportunity!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Day Four at the Crow Barn

Ok, so I finally have a moment to blog to my hearts content! We had a full house at the inn yesterday which meant I was making 30 breakfasts this morning.

But back to the regularly scheduled program . . .

Day three ended with the critique and since the critique didn't hurt (I had heard that Nancy was quite strong with her opinions), I retired to my hotel room exhausted but anxious for the next day.

The assignment for day four was to create a composition in black and white using squares, rectangles, triangles, and lines in various sizes. The size was to be relatively small. You were suppose to just pin something up on your wall and then sew it together quickly. Nancy "encouraged" us by saying, "the Japanese students had the design created and sewed together in less than 2 hours."

No one in our class came close to completing something that fast!

This is what I came up with.

I'm still seeing very architectural elements in everything I've created so far! (My Dad was an architect, so maybe I have a repressed desire to follow in his footsteps. At the very least I know that I am very much my father's daughter.)

This simple little desire was quite the bear to sew together. I was still working to finish it when the next assignment was given in the afternoon. But I wasn't too far behind, so wasn't worried.

But then came the next assignment . . .

We were to recreate that black and white design but with a few little twists: it had to be MUCH larger, instead of black and white it had to use 30+ colors, and all of the shapes had to be "whobberjawed". (Whobberjawed is roughly translated to mean "Wonky" or "Larger, Twisted, Bent, and Generally Skewed".) Again, Nancy mentioned the speed of those Japanese women!

This is the assignment that caused the most teeth-gnashing, hair-tearing, and the desire to sit in a corner and cry. (Ok, I'm exaggerating about the crying, but not by much!) I think I must have put up a design on my wall and taken it down about 5 times. At one point, when Nancy came by to see if I needed any help, I looked at my composition on the wall and pointed to one piece of fabric in it and said "that's the only part I like." And then I took everything down off the wall except for that one piece.

The really hard part was the whobberjawing because you also had to maintain the design elements of the original black and white piece so that when they were put side-by-side anyone could easily see how one was abstracted from the other.

Many people commented that another difficult part was using 30 colors. This wasn't too much of a problem with me because this time I had come with enough solid colored fabrics to have a choice. It was a little tricky to keep the dark/light contrast that the original black and white piece had in the color version, though.

So, drum roll please . . .

There it is - pinned on the wall. If you're wondering which was the one piece I had liked and kept from my previous design, it is the orange and the blue piece in the upper left corner. It is still my favorite part.

I think at this point I had just started to sew it together. Gads, I think I must have paused to stare at the thing so many times just trying to figure out how in the world I was going to piece this thing together. Where was some fusible when you needed it!

Nancy is very opposed to fusibles because they are not archival. I hear you, Nancy, and while I do love piecing and will continue to do a lot of it in my work, there are times when a fusible will make things so much easier! I can definitely see the value of using a fusible to create design studies, so that you can knock out several designs quickly to find the one that works best and then maybe recreating the best one in a pieced design.

In any case, I wouldn't have dared bring a fusible into the barn! So I struggled and struggled to get this beast pieced together. At 9:45pm I gave up. I too worn out to think straight, let alone sew straight. (The next morning, I heard that a number of classmates had begged to stay past the 10:00pm barn closing and were there until 11 - 12 pm.)

I got back to my hotel to find the front door locked. Obviously I was out after curfew! Luckily, an employee who was just driving out of the parking lot saw me at the door and stopped to let me in.

I fell into bed, had my champagne and piece of chocolate, reviewed the millions of emails that my husband sent to me about a million little things and tried to reply, only to have the emails sit in my outbox because the internet connection was too slow. Very frustrating.

Too tired to even knit. I'd definitely need a double shot latte then next morning.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

And Now For a Brief Intermission

Ok, Ok. I know I promised to not take so long between posts, but I have a life you know. ;-) LOL! Actually it has been so hectic and crazy at the inn with the workshops and the chocolate that I haven't been in my studio to even put away the fabric that I took to the workshop in the past 3 weeks. So actually I don't have a life outside of our businesses at the moment. However, relief is in sight. We have no workshops all next week, so I should have no problem finishing off the Nancy Crow workshop story.

In the meantime here is my intermission photos!

The Irises are in the garden at Olana, the home of Frederick Church, who was one of the Hudson River School Painters of the early 1900's.

This is the woods above the Katerskill Falls, which was one of the favorite painting sites of the Hudson River School painters.

I get to visit these places when I deliver lunches to the painting workshop groups. So, while I'm working hard and putting in an at least 16 hour days, I at least get to see some inspiration for future fiber art!