It is mid-August and time for the guest blogger contribution: Please help me welcome Judith Hindle from Regina, SK. Judith is a passionate silk painter, avid writer and another recent graduate from my design workshop. (The image to the right shows Judith in class presenting some of her color study research. )I approached Judith to write down her impressions of the design workshop when she delivered her work for the mini exhibition in late June.
“You will never look at things the same way again after you have taken my design classes” said Anna, as I enrolled in the her first ‘studio’ class “From Inspiration to Design”, a set of three classes she decided to provide to eight women in her studio at Buffalo Pound in Saskatchewan in the winter of 2012. How very right she was! As we travelled in winter and early spring weather to her spacious studio and home overlooking Buffalo Pound Lake, and began delving into design in her ‘sacred studio space’, each of us went far beyond merely looking at our world to whole new ways of seeing – truly seeing – elements of design (or lack thereof) everywhere.
Represented among the eight of us were six talented quilters, a graphic artist experienced in sewing and working with computers, and me, a relative late-comer to fiber art with a passion for silk painting. That we were all there to learn more about design was our shared purpose. We were required to bring three essential components to the experience: a self-selected Living Form as the source of our inspiration and basis for our design activities; a large sketchbook in which our ‘work-in-progress’ and the outcomes of our design exercises could be pasted and documented; and a personal commitment to attend each class, to complete all assignments, and to design and present our own final project a month after the course.
As we embarked on the first day’s design exercises, beginning with painting sketchbook pages, it was clear that the depth and breadth of our learning experiences in Anna’s studio were going to involve not only a deep plunge into design theory, but also into our own creative imaginations, and to splashing about with the imaginations of our classmates and Anna herself. Having entered this creative pool together, we were challenged collectively and individually to learn, truly synthesize, and share our learning about the essential elements of design. Despite a winter storm and other exigencies of life that ran interference with some of our intentions, Anna’s quiet insistence on completing all of the exercises and producing a final work of art were vital to our success in learning and applying design principles to all that we create.
The outcomes of design exercises in the studio and in many hours of homework between classes led to very rapid expansion of our sketchbooks. Through use of “design forks” we studied lines and shapes; with tracing paper we drew images and reverse images that, when put together, delighted the eye with the unique designs that became the ‘source materials’ for other design activities and our final design projects. Anna’s insistence on creating our own ‘gray scales’, ‘tonal technique’ worksheets, and color wheels produced eight unique versions of these made with a range of materials – found objects, paint samples, embroidery thread, fabric swatches, colored pencils, paints and other media. Concepts of contrast and value, positive/negative space, change and “counterchange” were also added to our collections. “Triskeles” and “Fibonacci” numbers were terms not only added to our vocabularies, but also represented in stunning black and white compositions, colored pencil portrayals and even a colorful paper weaving. In the exhibition of our final projects at Anna’s Open Studio in June, everyone had contributed in her individual way to the rich panoply of line drawings, colors, shapes, forms, textures and other design elements visible within our sketchbooks and in each beautiful fiber artwork on display.
Along the way, Anna’s individual coaching sessions at the beginning of the second and third sessions were helpful in providing opportunities for discussing our homework assignments, challenges we had set for ourselves, and discoveries we had made. She also nourished our bodies as well as our creative souls. Muffins, fruit, tea and coffee awaited us upon our arrival. Delicious homemade lunches restored our energies following action-packed mornings in the studio as we simultaneously absorbed views of the lake and hills, and birds flitting about outside the windows. Most significant for me was Anna’s follow-up session with us a month after the final class, wherein we shared our progress in bringing our projects to fruition, our questions and our design dilemmas. Mutual support for each of our creative endeavours and helpful suggestions abounded – a truly rewarding affirmation of each of our creative journeys.
For me, Anna’s three design classes provided learning akin to a university level class in fine arts. I now know how to assess a work of art according to principles of design. I now know how to begin incorporating those principles into my own art. What made the experience so much richer were the studio hours and hospitality extended to us by Anna, her husband Colin, and their sweet dog Lucky. The creativity of my classmates, Anna’s own creativity, and her unbounded enthusiasm for sharing her knowledge and expertise in teaching were the very best inspirations of all.
Thank you, Judith for such a wonderful recap of your experience of the Inspired to Design workshop. I am happy to report that only one space in each session is still open (Friday or Saturday)