Friday, April 4, 2008

Marlborough Design Workshop Part 1

On the weekend of 15 & 16 March, I went to Blenheim for my guild's design workshop. This is the workshop for which I had to prepare some research material on a landscape theme, and after some to-ing and fro-ing, I decided on "the world as seen by a mildly depressed mind". (We were at the Marlborough Girl Scouts HQ; they must have had a whopper of a Halloween party, don't you think?)

The course was taught by Auckland weaver and design teacher Alison Frances.

Alison and I go back a few years in this battle of the wills. In May 2002, I signed up for the national guild's correspondence course on design; it had six modules and we were expected to start in May and finish in November/December. But because we had to draw (and I can't), and it appeared that nothing I did seemed to please Alison (for a different reason), it took me until July 2004 to complete, and neither of us were happy with my progress. In essence, I can't let go of certain control, and I have a predetermined goal I aim for, so I never experiment freely or tried to get off-track. And to a large extent, this is still how I design my scarves; I see what I want to make and work backwards. I understood her criticism as a concept, but I didn't know how else to do it.

Alison ran a similar weekend course in Blenheim in October 2005 where I enjoyed her teaching and personality, but in retrospect, even then I resisted doing what she was trying to make me do, and looking at the material I can see where I was going, or not going. The one thing I discovered was I learned a lot more by drawing and otherwise using my hands, instead of trying to produce pretty things to show the teacher by using technology. And using my hands was fun and very intimate.

Her methods are not complicated, but challenging if you like planning and control. In this March workshop, we had to select one visual resource from our own collections, and try to reproduce it in different media: crayons and watercolor, ink, oil pastel and turpentine, collage, pencils, whatever. We had to do ripped/torn collage as well as cut ones, and in the course of using these different media, we were to let the media take over and make us reproduce the idea of our subjects, but not necessarily reproduce the picture. These were supposed to be spontaneous and experimental, and we were encouraged to work quickly and make many.

On Day 2, we had to gather all the bits and pieces we made, and put them together using collage, painting over, drawing additional designs, cutting them and rearranging them, etc., in a little more considered, coherent way, based on our knowledge of our individual subjects. Because we had researched our own subjects beforehand, even within our spontaneity, some of the knowledge was supposed to seep through.

And we had a show-and-tell show at the end of the day, where we discussed how some of these material can be used as the basis of a textile project.

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