Monday, June 2, 2008


I spent this weekend giving a private class to nga on painting and layering fabrics and hand stitching the surfaces. Meeting people from other cultures, whose life experiences have been very different from mine, has always fascinated me. Nga, Vietnamese and very petite -- she is barely 100 pounds and just about comes up to my shoulder -- is an amazing woman. She lives near Washington, DC and discovered her interest in art about five years ago. She collects and loves instructional books and has been taking many diverse classes in fiber, jewelry, drawing and painting.

On Saturday we experimented with different painting techniques on a variety of fabrics. Nga loved painting the fusible web and composed the results into a small landscape. She also enjoyed monoprinting and when she started (all on her own, no prompting from me, I swear!) to draw a Chinese character on the plastic so she could print it, I grabbed my camera and recorded the mark.

She quickly realized that she should have drawn the character in reverse to have it print correctly to the fabric, but I loved the mark and the way she used the brush to make it. How we use tools and apply marks so individually is another fascination of mine; one of the rewards of being a teacher is how much I learn from observing other people create.

On Sunday nga wanted to spend the day stitching instead of painting. She selected a painted piece of silk net, stretched and tacked it to a layer of white cotton, then began embroidering straight running stitches to suggest flowing rivers and french knots to represent tiny villages. She hummed as she worked and said she usually feels nervous about painting and working with color, but with these materials she felt very at ease. I felt equally comfortable with her doing exactly what she wanted to do at her own pace -- some people come to my studio and work with cyclone speed, intent on producing as much as possible in the shortest span of time, but nga seemed to find it stimulating and enjoyable to contemplate that one small surface and focus on developing it with stitched lines and marks and color combinations.

I even had time to explore some stitching myself as we sat together quietly or talked and contemplated the little worlds that were evolving with our stitching choices. This small painted piece is about 10" x 12" and I'm looking forward to completing it; it reminds me of our talks.

The two of us had great conversations about Buddhism, reincarnation, ghosts and childhood memories as well as about books and artists. Nga loves to collect books as well as travel to take private classes with different teachers. Spending time with her made me realize that I would love to travel more -- not ten cities in ten days travel -- but finding residencies and artist exchange programs that would allow me to immerse myself in different cultures and work and learn from other artists and students there.

So nga left very happy with the techniques she had learned and talked about returning to work in my studio again. The experience taught me yet again that I receive as much, and usually more, than I give when I share what I love doing.

When I turned the page to June in my Zen wall calendar this morning, it flipped back a few months and I found a lovely quote:

You are all Buddhas.
There is nothing that you need to achieve.
Just open your eyes.

--The Buddha

1 comment:

  1. That small, painted and stitched piece is lovely. It kept pulling me back to look at it. Gorgeous.