Posts in Workshops
It's a family affair!
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A big thank you to everybody who stopped by my stand at last weeks Creative Craft Show in Manchester. As well as giving a workshop once a day I was busy demonstrating breakdown printing on the stand. Always a bit of a challenge to work in a small space without easy access to a sink but the best thing about using dyes is that they don’t clog the screen when they dry out. I was quite pleased with the pieces I printed (above). And all from screens made using turquoise, rust brown and black dyes!

I also demonstrated stamping using textile inks and acrylic shapes. Easy technique and great for kids. And to prove the point my son, Joe, decided to have a go. OK so at 33 he is not exactly a kid any more but he really enjoyed himself printing a bag with stylised Batman and Joker logos. (And yes, I am aware of the copyright issue so my demo and the workshop I’ve developed using this technique did not use other peoples logos or images).

I really couldn’t do shows without Joe's help. So a very, very big thanks to him!


Now that I have calmed down ...

It’s been nearly two weeks since Festival of Quilts and life is getting back to normal. I’ve taken the opportunity to have some time off, to have a bit of a sort out in the studio, but also to sit back and consider ‘what next?’

What is actually next is the Introduction to Surface Design group that has their last day in the studio tomorrow so I’ve been busy cleaning and preparing. It will be sad to say goodbye to them but we’ll be celebrating all that they have achieved with lots of cake!

Quite a lot of ‘what next?’ is on a list of ‘workshop prep’ to work through ready for my workshops and other events this autumn. I’ve been neglecting this a little over the last couple of month and it feels good to start ticking some boxes!

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In a couple of weeks time I will be demonstrating and giving workshops at the Creative Craft Show at Event City, Manchester. I’ve been working through the big pile of printed and dyed fabric that I have created whilst demonstrating in the studio and at shows over the last year and have started to make up packs to sell. Initially at the show but maybe online as well.

I’ve also taken the time to develop a new mini-workshop for the Creative Craft Show at the NEC at the end of October. Still needs fine tuning but will involve printing both sides of a tote bag using textile inks.

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Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be finishing my preparations for the Contemporary Quilt Summer School where I’m teaching a colour class. Preparation mostly involves figuring out how we can dye fabric and print fabric in a room without sinks! I do like a challenge. And I have things I want to do ahead of my first Creative Surface Design class which begins in September.

But beyond my ‘to-do’ list I’ve also been thinking about how I want the ‘business’ side of me to develop. This is the bit that includes the studio, teaching and writing. I’m striving to keep this from swamping the ‘artist’ side of me but, at the same time, it is the bit that pays the bills. This last year has been so hectic that I know that I need to slow down a little so my plans need to be longer term. And to maybe involve a series of smaller projects rather than the stupidly ambitious challenges I set myself recently. I’m thinking of developing a small online shop that sells some of the dyes, screens and fabrics that I already sell in my studio. But this needs a lot of thought before I jump into it as it probably involves a major revamp of my website. So watch this space.

I’ve also been thinking about ‘what next?’ for me as an artist … but I’ll talk about that next time!

New workshops with Ruth Brown and Debbie Lyddon!
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I am very excited to announce that Ruth Brown and Debbie Lyddon will be teaching here at Urban Studio North!

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that Ruth Brown is a good friend who encouraged me to take that leap of faith to become a full time artist and teacher. She also happens to be a textile artist, book binder and experienced and respected teacher. You can find out more about Ruth on her website here. Ruth will be teaching a 4 day workshop at Urban Studio North called Books for Textile Artists in which she combines her two loves - textiles and books. The workshop with take place from 6th to 9th October 2020 and you can find full details here.

Debbie Lyddon is an artist and maker based on the Norfolk coast. Her work includes mixed media cloth, sculpture, installation and drawing. If you don’t already know her amazing work you can find out more on her website here. I am totally in awe of her work and her experimental approach to creating. Debbie is a sought after teacher … her 4 day workshop at Urban Studio North will take place from 23rd to 26th March 2021. Yes, 2021! The workshop is called Decorative Surfaces for 3D Textiles and in it you will explore the construction and decoration of 3D forms. You can find full details here.

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As well as adding these two fantastic workshops to my website I have added new dates for some of the courses that I teach. The Creative Surface Design course starting in September only has one place left so I have added new dates starting in February 2020. This workshop is spread over 5 weekends and is intended to support each student as they work from their own source or sources of inspiration and develop their own way of working - their own design process. You can find out more here.

I’ve also added an extra Breakdown Your Palette 5 day workshop on 20th to 24th July 2020 as the other workshops in 2020 are filling up. You can find out more here. In case you haven’t noticed I love breakdown printing!

You can always contact me via my website, or via Messenger if you have any questions!

And breathe ....
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After a wonderful 5 days spent with lovely students on my Breakdown Your Palette workshop I have got the studio clean and tidy for the next set of students on the 1st of July. Of course it won’t stay clean and tidy …. I need to switch into ‘artist’ mode for the next week as I continue to get ready for my upcoming exhibition. Then switch back into teacher mode to clean up after that messy artist person!

It is rather nice to take a quiet moment to just sit in the studio and reflect on the week. A 5 day class is exhausting for students and teacher, but it is worth it. I get to see the students develop their ideas and become more confident in their work. I get to develop as a teacher. Fabulous cloth is printed. Not so fabulous cloth is also printed but that is OK because we are all learning, me included. There are periods of comfortable silence and lots of laughter. Friendships are formed. I really am very lucky, if a little tired.

Below is a snap shot of what was produced over the five days. Although there was an awful lot of golden yellow, rust brown and petrol green flying about the variety the students work was amazing.

Where does time go?
Fabulous quilt by Pat Wills

Fabulous quilt by Pat Wills

My next Breakdown Your Palette workshop starts tomorrow morning and I’m just about ready. My first Breakdown class was three weeks ago and it was glorious! Since then …. well I’ve been super busy trying to get art made for my exhibition at Festival of Quilts as well as teaching my Introduction to Surface Design classes. I have three groups of students each at different stages of the 1 day a month for 10 months programme. So over the last two weekends I have taught one group paper lamination, one group mono-printing and one group had their second session on screen printing. Lots of preparation, lots of swapping around samples on my design wall and lots of getting things out and putting things away. Because I’ve found that I have to clean up completely from a class before I feel comfortable working on my art.

I did get a special fuzzy feeling when one of my students, Pat, brought a quilt she has made from the first piece of fabric she screen printed in class. Based on rock strata and fault lines it references all the places Pat has lived that have been affected by seismic activity. Fabulous!

The studio looks like an oasis of calm right now but it has got awfully messy in between teaching days. The weather has been dreadful so I’ve been drying soda soaked fabric on two lines strung across the studio whilst constructing and quilting a rather large quilt. Lots of walking the long way around tables and benches to avoid getting soda on everything. This has made me rather twitchy. Lets hope for better weather!

Wonderful, wonderful breakdown printing!

Last week I held my first 5 day Breakdown Your Palette workshop and it was brilliant. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you will know that I am just a little bonkers about breakdown printing. It has formed the basis for my art quilts for the last four years or so and is the subject of my book Breakdown Your Palette. The workshop and my demonstrations roughly followed the structure of the book. However, having 5 days meant that I could spend lots of time with each student and could encourage them to explore the techniques that best suited their inspiration and personal tastes. It also meant that there was time for the students to dye a 15 piece colour family that coordinated with their printed fabrics. The diversity in their work was truly amazing and inspiring, I feel so proud of what they achieved.

And I’m rather pleased with myself. Yes it was intense and I was rather tired by the Friday evening but I can’t think of a better way to earn my living. The next class is in three weeks ….. can’t wait!

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Sometimes I wish there was a second me .....
I stretched some string across the fabric and added some shredded paper. I used an open screen with rust brown and petrol green thickened dyes. The screen picked up pieces of shredded paper as I printed creating a rather chaotic pattern. I didn’t like the areas of white, unprinted fabric so used a plastic card to scrap very pale petrol green across the whole piece.

I stretched some string across the fabric and added some shredded paper. I used an open screen with rust brown and petrol green thickened dyes. The screen picked up pieces of shredded paper as I printed creating a rather chaotic pattern. I didn’t like the areas of white, unprinted fabric so used a plastic card to scrap very pale petrol green across the whole piece.

Sometimes I wish there was a second me. Alt-Leah would go with the flow; she would be spontaneous. She wouldn’t have a plan A, B or C and definitely wouldn’t track her hours in the studio. Today is a lovely sunny day so alt-Leah would probably have kidnapped her grandson from school and driven to the coast to play in the sand, paddle in the sea and eat fish and chips out of their paper followed by ice cream. Tomorrow she might spend the day making replacement cushion covers for her garden furniture using the fabrics she printed during the Simply Screen Printing workshop she ran at the weekend. Because they really are rather lovely fabrics. Which isn’t always guaranteed when demonstrating techniques.

Unfortunately there is no alt-Leah, just me with my somewhat ambitious exhibition at Festival of Quilts to make art for. So these lovely fabrics will join an increasingly large pile of fabrics that I can use as teaching samples. But I can at least give them an audience! And, of course, there was the wonderful work my students did!

This piece was printed using a thermofax screen and screens made using positive and negative sticky back plastic resists. Again I used rust brown and petrol green thickened dyes and killed the white space with a layer of very pale petrol green.

This piece was printed using a thermofax screen and screens made using positive and negative sticky back plastic resists. Again I used rust brown and petrol green thickened dyes and killed the white space with a layer of very pale petrol green.

In this one I used masking tape to add a resist to my screen. I used the screen to print on top of crumpled fabric. After each print I moved the screen and carefully transferred the textured dye that had clung to the back of the screen onto this piece of fabric. Difficult to explain but a great technique. Same colours and again finished with a layer of very pale petrol green.

In this one I used masking tape to add a resist to my screen. I used the screen to print on top of crumpled fabric. After each print I moved the screen and carefully transferred the textured dye that had clung to the back of the screen onto this piece of fabric. Difficult to explain but a great technique. Same colours and again finished with a layer of very pale petrol green.

This was the piece of crumpled fabric that I printed onto. It gets a bit messy as you rearrange the fabric in-between each print. I got distracted when I was printing this and stopped too soon. There was lots of white fabric so I added a layer of intersecting lines using a thermofax screen. Same colours and same final layer.

This was the piece of crumpled fabric that I printed onto. It gets a bit messy as you rearrange the fabric in-between each print. I got distracted when I was printing this and stopped too soon. There was lots of white fabric so I added a layer of intersecting lines using a thermofax screen. Same colours and same final layer.

Top left: Val Lewis breakdown printing. The screen was made with black thickened dye and she is pulling through with a slightly muddy golden yellow.

Top right: Val again, she used a thermofax screen and great colour control.

Bottom left: Pat Allen’s breakdown printed fabric. The screen was made with a black grid and objects embedded in turquoise dye.

Bottom right: Hilary Fidler using a plastic card to add a final layer of pale colour. Her first layer used an open screen on fabric that had shredded paper and paper circles scattered it. Her second layer was thermofax motifs in a mustard yellow.

Teaching and learning
Work in progress by Maggie Pearson

Work in progress by Maggie Pearson

In my old life I used to do spend some of my time training people how to use particular pieces of equipment or how to carry out specific tests. I knew the equipment and tests inside out. There was always a correct and incorrect method. A needed to be followed by B which needed to be followed by C etc. With experience I learnt to pass on the information more effectively but it was always the same information.

Teaching surface design is very, very different. Yes, there are a few rules that have to be followed if you want the colour from your Procion dyes to fix to your fabric. (Always remember soda + moisture + heat + time). And I do supply my students with sets of recipes that they can choose to follow rigidly (or not!). But pretty much everything else is about personal choice. There are no rights or wrongs, just choices. So my role as a teacher is that of an ‘enabler’ providing encouragement and support. And I am still learning how to be a good teacher. The more classes I teach; the more students that I spend time with, the more I am learning to tailor my support to fit different needs. My students tell me that I am very well organised - writing class notes, preparing lots of samples, labelling all the cupboards is stuff that comes easily to me. Learning how to nurture the creative process in others is harder but so very satisfying!

The other difference is depth of knowledge. Or in some cases, lack of depth. I have spent hundreds of hours over the years screen printing (especially breakdown printing) and dyeing and, although there is always more to learn, I can teach with confidence. But there are some areas of surface design where I have not spent hundreds of hours, where my skills are a little ‘wobbly’. Of course I rehearse before class but the reality is that I will be learning just as much as my students. I facilitate, I enable and, in return, my students inspire me. Which is actually kind of wonderful!

Just what I needed!!
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I am my own worst enemy! I have a habit of taking on just a little bit more than I should then setting myself challenging deadlines. I did just that with the decision to write my first book, Breakdown Your Palette. But the late nights were worth it - I have been completely overwhelmed by the response and a big thank you to those of you who ordered the book and who got in touch to tell me how much you liked it. I am feeling very loved right know!

Having launched the book I was feeling just a little bit tired. By chance (or maybe by careful planning!) last week was my annual five day retreat with members of the North West Contemporary Quilt Group. It was wonderful. Lovely location on the edge of Grasmere in the Lake District surrounded by hills and sheep. Great weather. And fantastic company. This was our ninth retreat together so we are very ‘comfortable’ with each other. We did some things as a group but mostly we worked on our own projects in a room that was filled with chat, with laughter and sometimes with a gentle silence.

It was just what I need to recharge my energies and redirect my focus towards creating new art for my solo exhibition at the Festival of Quilts in August. I spent many hours at my sewing machine working on a new large piece in my Ruins series inspired by the Cotton mills in the area I live in. This was great thinking time and I now have a clear plan for the pieces I need to make. And yes I have probably given myself a little bit more to do than I have time for but it worked with the book so I will make sure it works for the exhibition!

But before I can get ‘stuck in’ though I have two shows - one in Glasgow this week and one in Birmingham next week. I will be giving a 90 minute workshop each morning called Colourful Cityscapes (you can buy tickets by following the links) and will be demonstrating breakdown printing on my stand in the afternoons. I’ll have lots of copies of my book with me as well. If you are visiting the shows please stop by the stand, it is great putting faces to names!

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