Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fabrications Workshop -- At Last!

Now that my digital camera/computer connection has been restored (thanks to buying a new card reader -- the old cord stopped working), you can FINALLY see some images from the Fabrications retreat. What a great group of people -- I cannot recommend this retreat enough. I've taught there twice and have enjoyed both the people and the beautiful northern Michigan location.

One of the amazing benefits of taking any workshop is the concentrated energy of so many people focused on learning and creating together. The ah-ha's and satisfaction when new processes connect with ideas and imagery are the rewards.

Patrice had learned the basic freemotion embroidery stitches in my workshop two years ago at Fabrications, so this time she could focus on the relationship between the various stitch textures, color combinations and design possibilities. She began working on a freeform pattern of maplike shapes on her surface by drawing with her sewing machine, inspired by a book of aerial photographs of the earth. Then she started translating the shapes into color and texture with thread and textural stitching.

Here's one of her pieces in progress. . Patrice's green areas in this piece are done in a mossing stitch, which is worked from the back with heavier threads in the bobbin.

Barb's reference image was a favorite tree in front of her cottage. She combined her photographic reference with an image of a watercolorist's work that she admired very much and worked to develop a surface treatment for her tree that was inspired by that artist's. She simplified the shapes in her drawing, transferred them to fabric, placed an overlapping geometric arrangement of a variety of colored sheers on her surface and began working to flesh out the textures and shapes of the tree in threadwork. She plans to change the thread colors in response to the color of each sheer layer behind the trunk and branches, so the image will be representational but the colors will be improvisational. She made a lot of progress and is quite excited about developing the idea.

As a class exercise, I sent everyone on a field trip to the ladies room at the conference center. The marble tiled walls offered a candy store of design possibilities for freemotion machine embroidery. Each person selected and traced a design from the tiles, then edited the traced lines and shapes and transferred them onto fabric. The incredible variety of shapes and patterns on the tiles offered interesting compositions for practicing freemotion embroidery textures and stitches -- what a bonanza and a great reminder that design inspirations are all around us in the least expected places! I'm hoping that students will send me some of their completed compositions -- I'd love to offer a "gallery exhibition" of them on this blog in the future!

We created another sample to "mine" for design inspirations by purchasing pieces of hand-dyed and hand-painted fabrics that Desiree Vaughn was selling. These already have wonderful shapes and value shifts on their surfaces. By letting the shapes suggest ideas, either abstract or representational compositions can begin to develop. The piece above is one of Cheryl's samples where she "saw"and stitched some textural leaf shapes onto the surface.

On the sample above, done by Karen, you can see some attached lace and leaf shapes. As part of the class, we created various shapes by sandwiching water soluble in a hoop and then stitching. This method can be used to create densely stitched shapes that can be attached to other cloth surfaces without distorting them. We also cut out shapes in the fabric sandwiches and created lacy machine stitching in the openings, a lovely open window where a contrasting fabric can be stitched behind.

The class moved at a fast pace and all heroically overcame balking machines and the classic classroom issues of shaking tables, not having all the supplies at our beck and call that we have at home and our natural tendency to want to create a perfect finished piece instead of making samples. We enjoyed great food, lovely fall weather and plenty of creative stimulation from all directions thanks to Desi, Peg, Cathy and Kathy, the hardworking AND talented organizers of these Fabrications retreats!

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