Posts in Workshops
Better get a wriggle on!
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I have my two ‘day a month’ groups in the studio this weekend and it is a bit of a tip. Since getting home from Harrogate I’ve been busy breakdown printing different samples, soda soaking fabric (and drying it in the studio), ordering and sorting out Christmas presents (bah humbug), doing paperwork and generally making use of every bench. Around all of that I have been doing a bit of mark making and have done a bit more decorating in the bog shed. I may even have got some sleep!

Before my lovely students arrive for their Introduction to Surface Design session on screen printing I need to:

  • Soda soak a few more pieces of fabric then clean up the mess this leaves on the floor. The weather has been very uncooperative this week!

  • Varnish another 5 screens - meant to do this months ago when I could have left the studio doors open to get rid of the smell (apologies students!)

  • Rinse, wash and iron all the breakdown samples and put a few of them up on my design wall. Hide the ones that are perfect illustrations of how NOT to breakdown print.

  • Load the rest of the design wall with quilts and samples that show various aspects of screen printing.

  • Make some more thermofax screens based on mark making for my students to use as background texture this weekend.

  • Decide on the colours I’ll use in my demonstrations this weekend and test drive the new thermofax screens.

  • Top up the print paste and thickened dyes.

  • Double check that all my screens are really clean - a speck of leftover dye goes surprisingly far.

  • Move Harrogate / show boxes out of the studio into the storage part of the bog shed.

  • Clean the bog shed.

  • Open the Amazon boxes, wrap presents and find somewhere in the studio to hide them away from my grandson.

  • Clean the studio. A bit.

  • Make it look a bit Christmassy (but not too much, bah humbug).

  • Make sure there is a good supply of tea, coffee, juice and biscuits (must hide some of the dark chocolate gingers for the Sunday class). Thought about making mince pies. Decided to do more breakdown printing instead.

  • Get some sleep….

My next Introduction to Surface Design courses will start in February. If you’re interested have a look here. My studio might be a tip today but by Saturday it will be an oasis of calm and creativity. But only if I get a wriggle on …

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Sampling for others

Whatever I have done in life I have always tried to do well; to be the best that I can possibly be. Now I recognise that there are lots of things that I’m never going to be any good at (foreign languages, clean manicured hands, nurturing plants ….) but that’s OK because they are not important to me. However teaching in my studio is important to me so I am striving to be the best that I can be.

I have worked hard to organise and equip my studio so that my students have lots of space to work and so that they don’t have to bring masses of stuff with them. I have had great fun making colour wheels to help and guide my students. And I’ve worked through my lesson plans to make sure I have lots of relevant (and hopefully inspiring) samples. But I realised whilst I was at the Knitting and Stitching Show last weekend that I don’t have enough breakdown printing samples. Don’t get me wrong, I have metres and metres of fabric printed ready for the art I need to make for my solo gallery at next years Festival of Quilts but those fabrics are in ‘my’ colours and have been made using breakdown techniques that fit in with my personal inspirations.

Not everybody wants to see rust and black fabric inspired by the decline in the cotton and mining industries. Strange but true. So this week I have been playing with other types of breakdown printing and with a slightly broader colour palette. I can’t quite bring myself to do pink flower inspired things or green landscape inspired things but I’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable time releasing my inner Jackson Pollock and squirting dye about. I may even let all my inhibitions go and print some screens at wonky angles. Blimey!

All ready to go!
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Phew, with one day to spare I am already for the Knitting and Stitching Show at Harrogate. The show is open Thursday 22nd to Sunday 25th November and I’m going to be on stand TG626. Please stop by and say hello!

There are lots of things to do to get ready for the show. I am there to promote my workshops so I’ve spent lots of time in front of the computer getting new courses ready and online. I put the last two up this morning. Print Your Palette (21st to 25th October 2019) is a 5 day deep dive into screen printing that is suitable for beginners but also a great opportunity of those who have done some screen printing in the past but want support to refine their knowledge and to learn how to put fabric through multiple layers of printing.

The other course is a response to all those who need a little encouragement to actually use their printed and dyed fabric. Yes it is lovely to get our fabrics out of the cupboard to stroke them every so often but it is even better to see them hanging on a wall or laid over a bed! The workshop is called Print, Stitch, Go! (25th to 29th November 2010) and in it students will spend the first half of the week printing and dyeing a small set of fabrics which they will then use to design and sew a simple wall hanging or quilt. Suitable for people who have never printed or dyed before the workshop is designed as a fun, gentle 5 days of time away from the world.

And in between all that computer work I have been dyeing fabric to sell at the show. This is an important part of the preparation as it, hopefully, provides a good contribution towards the cost of doing the show. And it’s so much fun! I’ve aimed for a good selection of colours, lots of ice dyed pieces and layer dyed pieces, and have enjoyed bundling together sets of fat quarters. Looking at the boxes of fabric there does seem to be quite a lot of teals and blues but also some really nice golden rusty brown pieces. Which happen to be my favourite colours - strange that!

Hope to see lots of you there!

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New workshops with Alice Fox and Christine Chester
 Alice Fox dyed silk with hand stitch

Alice Fox dyed silk with hand stitch

I am delighted to share the news that Alice Fox and Christine Chester will be teaching in the Urban Studio North in 2020. Yes that seems a long way off but both of these excellent tutors get booked up early!

Alice will be teaching her three day Rust Marks workshop (27th to 29th March 2020) in which she shares her experimental approach for transferring marks from rusty metals onto fabric and paper. Alice has a passion for the natural world and for using found objects and materials in her work. I am fascinated to see how she, and the students, work in an urban environment. You can see her work on her website here. And you can see more details of the class and book here.

Christine will be teaching her five day Poetry of Decay class (15th to 19th June 2020) introducing students to materials and processes that can create rich and textured surfaces based on their own photographs of decaying and eroded surfaces. Christines’ own work on absence is made even more poignant by her use of a restricted colour palette which she also uses in her class. You can find out more about Christine here. And you can see more details of the class and book here.

Inspirational images from Christine Chester

Creative Surface Design
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I’ve just finished setting up the studio for this weekends classes with my day a month Introduction to Surface Design students so it seemed like a great time to tell you about my new course - Creative Surface Design which starts in September 2019. I have developed the course for those of you who have had exposure to lots of different surface design techniques and have a head full of ideas but are not sure how to transfer ideas into finished cloth.

The course will be run over 5 weekends spread over an 8 month period. I’ve chosen this format rather than a day a month as being able to leave work on the bench and come back to it the next morning allows for deeper exploration of an idea; it allows you to take your time rather than hurrying to finish. Because I am ‘me’ the course will start with a focus on colour and the power of using a restricted colour set or family. There is a loose structure for each weekend but the exact content will be largely driven by the individual students. I’ll give demonstrations as needed but I am assuming a basic understanding of dyeing and printing techniques.

I’ve mentioned before in this blog that I’m not a ‘sketchbook’ type of person as I tend to work directly, intuitively onto fabric with a lot of my design process happening in my head. But I do keep a journal where I write down ideas, and importantly, where I critique my own work. I will be encouraging students on the Creative Surface Design course to keep some form of personal record - whatever form they are comfortable with - and will have a one to one review with each student each weekend to support them as they develop their ideas and their own way of working.

All the details are on my website. Or, maybe you can come see me at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate, 22 to 25 November, stand TG626!

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Breakdown Printing
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It may be cold and grey outside but it is artfully grey inside! I’ve spent this week breakdown printing using squeezy bottles and wooden printing blocks. All in one single colour - grey. The humble squeezy bottle is such a useful tool. I have collected a range over the years with different size nozzles so I’ve been able to play with scale when using them to draw grids on my screen. And by varying the strength of the dye I have been able to play with value. I’m slowly building a palette of printed fabrics to use together.

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This is the first time I have used wooden print blocks with breakdown printing. I’ve tried a couple of things. Using them to stamp thickened dye onto the screen is quick and easy but it doesn’t get much dye on the screen so I’m only getting 1 or 2 good prints per screen. This would be OK in the summer when you can dry screens really quickly but much slower in the winter. The other way I have used them is to embedded them into a layer of thickened dye. Sometimes on their own. And sometimes combined with a grid on the screen. This shows much more promise.

I love this stage in developing a new series of work. Playing with new ideas. Auditioning fabrics. Stitching samples. Figuring out what is missing and going back to the bench to print more fabric. Figuring out if I need to include fabrics made using other surface design techniques. Who cares if it is cold and grey outside!

And whilst I wait for screens to dry I have been adding workshop dates to my calendar. There are only 3 places left on my Breakdown Your Palette workshops in 2019 so I have just added 2 workshops in 2020. How crazy is it to be planning that far ahead! The sessions are on 18th to 22nd May 2020 and 22nd to 26th June 2020. Details can be found here.

I’ve also added new dates for my 1 day a month Introduction to Surface Design course and over the next couple of weeks will be announcing some new 5 day workshops and, very excitingly, workshops with some wonderful guest tutors. Life is good. Now back to my bench!

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A good (two) days dyeing
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This last weekend I had my two ‘Introduction to Surface Design’ groups in the studio for the 2nd session in their ‘day a month for 10 months’ program. I had introduced the groups to dyeing in the first session by having them dye an 18 part colour wheel using the ‘dye in a bag method’. I learnt this way many, many years ago during a workshop with Helen Deighan and still use it today when I want to dye small pieces of fabric.

But in the 2nd session we got into the serious stuff. Each of my lovely ladies dyed 12 x 1/2m pieces using a high immersion bucket method in a dark, medium and light version of a single colour. These pieces will be over dyed with a different colour in the next session to create a colour family of coordinated ‘nearly solid’ fabrics. They then dyed 6 x 1/2m pieces in a gradation using a low immersion technique. And finally I let them loose using multiple colours with tray dyeing and layered dyeing techniques. My goodness but they worked hard! They each dyed over 11 square metres of fabric! And so far they are delighted with the results - it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling when they share photos!

Because I teach by ‘doing’ I dyed fabric using each method each day. So Monday and Tuesday were taken up rinsing, washing and ironing a mammoth 22+ metres of fabric. And I couldn’t be happier. Not everyone likes this bit but I do …. its that sense of a slow reveal as you rinse away unused dye, as the washed fabric drys and finally as you iron it. Life is good.

Simply Screen Printing
 Hilary Kimber: open screen over a string resist

Hilary Kimber: open screen over a string resist

I ran my first two day screen printing workshop this last weekend and loved every minute of it. With only two days it was difficult to know what to include. I started with a focus on using temporary resists that are readily available and relatively cheap; masking tape, freezer paper and sticky back plastic. You could probably spend two days just on masking tape resists but I wanted the students to go away with a sense of the range of options open to them. Their work was wonderfully varied.

 Judy Tomlinson: masking tape resist pulled through with three values of turquoise and yellow giving some lovely greens

Judy Tomlinson: masking tape resist pulled through with three values of turquoise and yellow giving some lovely greens

 Jean Martin and Judy Tomlinson: masking tape resist pieces

Jean Martin and Judy Tomlinson: masking tape resist pieces

We moved on to breakdown printing - where the thickened dye / print paste that is dried on the screen acts as a temporary resist. The weather wasn’t kind but the screens just about dried over night. I loved hearing the students ohhs and ahhs and can’t wait until next May when I teach my 5 day Breakdown Your Palette class.

We looked at different ways of using an open screen - on pinned out fabric, on scrumpled fabric and, with wonderful results, onto fabric with string on the surface. Love Hilary’s piece! And somehow we found time to play with thermofax screens.

It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling seeing the groups confidence grow in the two days! I am so glad that I took that big step into teaching. The next two day class in February is already full but there are still places on the workshop in 27th and 28th April 2019. Can’t wait.

 Anita Bennett: using thermofax screens to create texture

Anita Bennett: using thermofax screens to create texture

 Maggie Pearson: repeated layering of a thermofax screen

Maggie Pearson: repeated layering of a thermofax screen

Ticking off those boxes!
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Phew, I have survived my first time demonstrating screen printing with thickened dyes on my stand, and my first 90 minute workshop using textile inks. All without a handy sink. And I managed to get through my first ever radio interview without stumbling. It was live so I was rather nervous but thankfully it only last a few minutes!

The three days at The Creative Craft Show at Event City, Manchester whizzed by. I meet some lovely people and really enjoyed talking to them about screen printing and particularly about my favourite technique - breakdown printing. It is so much easier to explain when you have the screens with you! It is always going to be difficult to measure how successful a show has been when you are there promoting workshops but I’m very pleased to have sold the remaining places on my Simply Screen Printing workshop on 16th and 17th February 2019. There was lots of interest in this workshop so I have added extra dates - it will also run on 27th and 28th April 2019 - details can be found here.

Some people would have taken a day off after a show. But not me. Instead I had a brilliant day in the studio with my second group of Introduction to Surface Design students. We talked about colour, we dyed 18 fat quarters and we made colour blankets. And we chatted, drank brews and eat biscuits. There aren’t many better ways to spend a Sunday!

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