Saturday, March 22, 2008

On Being an Artist in Residence

I have some more pictures to post of the last six pieces I did on Thursday at the Empty Spools Seminar. But I thought that first I would share some thoughts about being an artist-in-residence in this type of setting.

This event was much different from the time I was at the Great Expectations Creativity Center. There, we worked for four weeks and most of the time we were by ourselves, except for various staff that would come through. At Asilomar, I was ensconced in Merrill Hall which is a large room which seats several hundred people. Freddy Moran and Gwen Marsten were both teaching in the room with students lined up on the sides of the building and also in another room just to the back. Additionally, Gail, Suzanne and Diana all had their work station just katy-corner across from me and then Cotton Patch had their set up store right across from me. I was generally on my own during class hours, from 9-4, except for the few students who were in to pick up more fabric. This was my prime time to work although I frequently had conversations with Carol Lee from Cotton Patch (she became my personal shopper finding batiks I just had to have!, much to the benefit of her shop!) and Gail, Suzanne and Diana. So all that time was not really by myself. When the noise level would get a little high I would take out my hearing aids and put on my iPod head phones and tune everyone out. But that wouldn't stop people from stopping by to talk!

I was absolutely amazed as the very positive comments I received from everyone. On Sunday night I gave a 30 minute presentation with slides of some of my work. I had so many people come up to me and tell me, both that night and all the next day, how much they enjoyed my presentation. I really found it hard to understand as I just didn't feel I had done anything special. Someone later explained to me that I let my work speak for me and I didn't need to talk about "I" all the time (but they didn't know I have a blog and that is all I do!)

And then, the numerous compliments on the work that I had up and then later, the work I was doing. I was overwhelmed with all of the kind words and I think I still smiled all night long in my sleep. It was just amazing.

I have never had such accolades for such a long period of time! I really don't know what to say.

I was discussing this with someone and she wisely said to save up all those good thoughts and great comments which I should write down for those times when I am questioning myself.

How true this is. As artists, we all go through periods of wallowing in self criticism and angst about our work. We all have periods of time when it seems we can't do anything different or new or anything at all.

I had gone there without any real sense of what kind of work I wanted to do. I had cut timtex out in 12 x 12, 8 x 10, and 6x8 inch pieces to work on, I had my Misty Fuse, and some new batiks, my discharged fabrics and a bunch of dyed cheese cloth as well as a few pieces of my dyed and discharged work. But I ended up working in a way I have been trying to progress to in a long time. The past eight months have not seemed very productive for me, although I do have two more of my California Dreams pieces done. But I have wanted to do more fabric collage work and was having a hard time pulling it through. So I did a lot of mixed media collage which included a lot of paint.

This time, I didn't paint fabrics. I had to buy lots of very pale fabrics without a lot of design elements in them to use for the background, just as if I had painted a canvas with lots of tints.
Then I worked with shapes and values in my placement. I like to stitch down fabric I have fused. But silly me, I forgot my whole box of threads that I bring with me. So I took a look at Cotton Patch and they had some black which I used for the first piece. I liked the loosey-goosey sketch stitching that I did and felt that it added the feeling of brushstrokes or underpainting to my work. But I didn't want to use black on everything (although I should have!) so I went in to town to Hand Maden to pick up Anton Robinson rayon threads in beautiful colors. I used those on some of my work which was nice but had a very different feel to it. So back to the black I went for all the rest of the small pieces. And I am getting to the idea that I have been searching for, looking at lots of painters' works on the internet and really studying different people's types of compositions for ideas. I have spent a lot of time drawing those basic compositions and design elements into my sketchbook and when I felt they were sufficiently divorced from the original artist, I felt I could start incorporating them into my own work in my own way. And, by golly, I like what I have done!

Besides all the compliments people gave me, I had tons of questions as I was fusing (what fuse do I use ...Misty Muse) what is the stiffener I am using (Tim-Tex) what kind of thread do I use, how do I do the backing, etc. It gave me a good opportunity to just talk to people about the art of quilting and making art quilts. And it was so much fun!

I got home yesterday afternoon, ran some errands, and today I am doing laundry and business work and catching up with my students and then going to the Easter Vigil tonight. Tomorrow it is up to cook and then go over to my daughter's for a family day, then come home, pack up and be ready to head out to Mass. on Monday morning!

1 comment:

Gerrie said...

Art quilter on the go!! I needed to read this as I am going through an angst period where I am thinking I should just give it all up. This is all due to one comment from someone I really care about. The fact that I sold my latest piece and got juried into a national show is irrelevant. Ahh! The saga of being or wanting to be an artist. Have fun in Mass.