Posts in Workshops
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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Out and about in Glasgow and Birmingham
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I’m off on my travels again soon so have been busy in the studio this week getting ready. Preparing and printing handouts, laminating new signs for the stand (I love laminating), deciding which quilts and fabrics to take to display and, the time consuming bit, mixing textile inks, cutting fabric and making up workshop kits. And figuring out what I need to take to demonstrate breakdown printing and screen printing. I really enjoy the occasional week like this - I started with a very long to-do list and have been diligently ticking them off turning what seemed like a mountain of work into a tidy and labelled set of boxes ready to load in the car.

All this activity because in three weeks time I (and my partner in crime, son Joe) will be at the Scottish Quilting Show (part of the Creative Craft Show) at Glasgow SEC from Thursday 7th to Sunday 10th March. I will be demonstrating on stand ZM26 . I’m looking forward to the show especially because we’ll be staying with my daughter who lives in Glasgow.

The following week I’ll be at the Fashion and Embroidery Show (alongside the Sewing for Pleasure Show) at Birmingham NEC. I’m there from Thursday 14th to Sunday 17th March on stand ZL40. I’ve booked an AirBnB for the duration - not as nice as staying with Jess but better than a hotel.

I will also be doing a 90 minute workshop called Colourful Cityscapes each day at both shows. It’s my first time at these shows so if you are visiting please come by and say hello - it is lovely seeing friendly faces!

In case you haven’t noticed I am most definitely not a last minute person! But getting ready three weeks early is early even for me. That’s because I have two groups of students in the studio between now and then. I also have some BIG stuff happening which I hope to share with you next week. And I’m taking 5 days off to go on my annual retreat with my buddies from the North West Contemporary Quilt Group.

Yes I am taking 5 days off. I will be taking my sewing machine and expect to put in many hours quilting my next Ruins piece surrounded by good company and sustained by good cake and the odd glass of wine. Can’t wait!

Discharged with full honours!
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My day a month Introduction to Surface Design students continue to amaze me! This last weekend we focused on discharge which is the process of removing colour. We used four different discharge agents, two as liquids and two as pastes. This allowed the students to screen print, thermofax print, resist discharge in a vat, paint and use low immersion techniques. Great fun albeit a bit smelly at times!

Linda Hill - thickened Formosol applied using a screen with a masking tape resist

Linda Hill - thickened Formosol applied using a screen with a masking tape resist

Jean Martin - collection of fabrics discharged using thickened Formosol and deColourant

Jean Martin - collection of fabrics discharged using thickened Formosol and deColourant

Using discharge can add new lines or shapes to a dyed or printed fabric. Although it is a process that removes colour the fabric rarely goes back to pure white. More often you get pale shades so I think of discharge as a process that adds more colour. It is an integral part of surface design. But it is also a great tool for ‘recovering’ fabric that you don’t like. I call my Thiox immersion vat the redemption bucket!

The discharge process is also covered in depth in my 5 day Colour Your Palette workshop. Places are still available for the course in April. More details can be found here.

Jan Walmesley - thickened Formosol used with a thermofax screen

Jan Walmesley - thickened Formosol used with a thermofax screen

Lynda Edwards - discharged using household bleach

Lynda Edwards - discharged using household bleach

Letting my students do the talking ...

Top left: Sue Warburton - breakdown screen. Top right: Maggie Pearson - open screen and sticky back plastic resist screen. Bottom left: Jan Walmesley - sticky back plastic resist screen. Bottom right: Tracey Ramsay - interfacing stencil screen.

I’ve had another couple of wonderful days with my Introduction to Surface Design students. The diversity of their work is amazing. So I will shut up and let their work do the talking ….

Top left: Tracy Fox - breakdown screen. Top right: Lynda Edwards - mylar stencil screen.

Top left: Jean and Tracey hard at work in the studio. Top right: Phil Langford - breakdown screen. Bottom left: Linda Hill - sticky back plastic resist screens. Bottom right: Jean Martin - thermofax screens.