Finding Your Visual Language course

I have tried to write about my week at Committed to Cloth a couple of times and just ended up with a confused tangle of impressions, ideas and happenings.    So here we go again…

Before the week started, Claire sent us a list of questions to answer and send to them in advance, and this in itself was a valuable exercise.  They were things like, what do you want to commit to in the coming months, what do you need to do to realise this and how can we help?    I think the key word for me both before and during the week, was focus.  To choose one thing and focus on it, and get rid of all the extraneous things; be willing to chuck anything that isn’t working and stop fluttering like a butterfly on to any and everything textile related, the latest technique, the latest ‘must have’ item.   I think that ever since City & Guilds, when you get to try lots of different techniques and samples, I’ve been a ‘butterfly’, hopping on to one craze and then the next without getting deeper and trying to make my own path through one thing, ignoring all the rest.

So during that week I decided that what I really love is to colour the fabric, and that the stitching bit isn’t really important to me; often I would dye cloth or paint it and then feel I had to make it into something, and stitch it, and then it got put into a pile and never used.  So I decided that I’d concentrate on wholecloth work.    Hence my destashing over the last few weeks.  (There are still about 8 fabric bundles left, by the way, plug, plug!!)  I freecycled a load of stuff, chucked out or rehoused another load (what hordes of rubbish I was collecting in there in the hope that it would come in useful one day….), rearranged my studio and moved the tables around to make it easier to paint and print large pieces of cloth.  I did hope that I might be able to have a sink put in there but that looks as though it might be too impractical.  But already it feels more workable and I’ve been getting down to a piece of work that I started sampling on the course.

Claire and Leslie were great during the week – there were only 5 of us on the course and so we were able to have lots of one to one time with them.  Over the last year I have been trying to work on a series about the local river and I had already come to the conclusion that I was trying to do too much in each piece and so got bored and come unstuck.  They helped me see that I had to be a lot more specific – FOCUS again! – so I decided that I would take the theme of reeds and develop design material round that during the week.   Claire advised me to do a writing exercise to help put into words exactly what I wanted to say in a particular piece and so I was able to do mark making around those words and feelings.    Here are some of the designs which came out of that:

designs at c2c 

When I’d done a lot of design work, with Claire and Leslie’s help I picked out several which seemed to work best with the words and thoughts about what I was trying to achieve, and then we used acetates to see how these would work when layered.  After that I worked on a sample of cloth to see how these would turn out in colour.  Here is the result (though the photo isn’t very faithful to the colours and there are some random shadows which aren’t there in the original!).

reeds sample

I’m in the process of making this into a large wall piece and the great thing is that I have a load of design material and ideas to develop other pieces in a series on reeds.     And, more importantly, I learnt to see how to get from doing a load of design stuff to actually translating it into fabric without being too literal.  I made the above sample with fabric paints using a stamp cut from a rubber, a credit card, a scrubbing brush and a piece of laminated plastic!

Through the week, as well as working on our own designs (and every one of us worked on very different things), we got together and Claire and Leslie taught us about the elements of design, what you have to have in a design to make it work and how to critique our own pieces of work to help us ascertain why they were or weren’t working.   And lots of other discussion about methods of working, ways of framing or finishing pieces of work – and yummy lunches and endless cups of tea and coffee in the process!   The course took place in Claire’s wonderful house and an important part of the atmosphere was the beauty all around.   It was a wonderful week and a pivotal one, for me, I think.  Time will tell on that last point.

16 Replies to “Finding Your Visual Language course”

  1. Oh Liz, this sounds like a simply awesome time! Time to think…to plan…to work. Good for you getting to go spend this special time and work and learn. I’m drooling with envy.

  2. Sounds really really good Liz. And especial congratulations on all the decluttering – know what you mean about C & G!

  3. Ooh! what a wonderful experience, and a beautiful piece of fabric. SOunds like this was one of those pivotal times that influence for a long time…congrats!

  4. I’ll bet, Liz, as you clear out all of the “distractions,” that the ideas for what you can do instead (your focus!) are just streaming in. I think I have the same problem…too many interests, too little time, not enough focus on what I really want to do. Great post!

  5. Hi Liz, it sound as if you has a wonderful time doing what you do best. I love the reed piece and am looking forward to seeing more. You have even got me excited for you.

  6. What a fantastic time you had. Claire and Leslie are inspirational, and you seem to have really learnt to focus. I look forward to seeing where you go from here!

  7. The course sounds fabulous and you are so right about focusing! I think that the many facets of C & G set one up for a very diverse attitude to crafting. Not that it wasn’t good at the time but one needs to, as you so rightly say, focus! Now that I no longer teach C & G I’m finding it easier to let go of those aspects that do nothing for me. Your printed/painted fabrics are lovely and I love your theme of the River!

  8. thanks for such a detailed description, I think that is so true about making choices and having to exclude some (most!) things to focus on others, it’s something I’ve taken a long time to accept. The course sounds fantastic. By the way I usually read your blog in Google Reader, which is a shame, because I’d missed seeing your ‘new’ blog design – looks great.

  9. Liz, what a wonderful time you appear to have had!!! And, so productive, I am truly envious. Your description of being a butterfly rings so true for me. I look around me and get all sorts of ideas and just want to do too much so that it ends up not working and I abandon or create something I am really not happy with.

    The painting about reeds is great and would make an amazing wall piece.

    Thanks for giving me a kick start and making be think!

  10. Liz, it really does sound like this course has been pivotal for you. If that reeds piece is any indication, you are off in fantastic new direction. Focusing is so important–and it may seem obvious but can be a very slippery thing to grab hold of.

  11. What a great course Liz. I could do with something like that myself, but reading aboout it on your blog helps. Thanks.

  12. What you’ve said really resonates with me. Have had similar feelings for a while, trouble is I keep getting involved with other projects, probably being a member of 2 textile art groups doesn’t help.
    Sounds like you got a lot from the course, I’d love to do one with them. Very much enjoyed the one with Jane Dunnewold last year and got a lot from it.
    Hope the work continues flowing – looks great so far.

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