06 January 2009

on the subject of classes

Even though I am allowing myself however long it takes to reassemble my ways of thinking when it comes to my fiber art, I do want to keep my mind wrapped around it. So I got to thinking that maybe it would be fun to take a couple of online classes. But there's a teensy problem with that idea...

I don't take a lot of fiber art classes. Not because I think I know so much (ask Mary, she's had to endure my ongoing war with my sewing machine in which I am usually the looser and she has to help me limp through it) but because I find that a lot of classes are too inflexible for me.

I've stood on both sides of the line when it comes to this topic.

I taught a lot when I had my store. Shuttle tatting, crazy quilting, embroidery (beginner, silk ribbon, etc), a couple art quilt classes...so I have a tremendous appreciation for art teachers and the huge pile of work that comes along with putting together and executing a class. I bow to you all who do it on a regular basis.

Many of the classes I come across have a very specific project in mind. The teacher wants to teach you how to do something so he/she puts together a kit and everyone works on the same thing. I understand this, makes things streamlined and pushes the class at a steady pace.

But then you get students like me that have already found their own style, we sit in the back of the classroom twitching like we've been electrocuted. Even if the project designated for the class is meant to teach a specific technique, having to shuffle away my own style in place of the teachers makes it too hard for me to focus on the thing being taught. I admire other artist's work but I have to be honest, I will avoid any class that has me creating a project that is a duplication of their style.

I've been the student of Pamela Allen and Fran Skiles and Cathy Arnett and Lesley Riley (all of which I highly recommend). And....that's it. Over an eight year span, that's not a whole lot. These teachers have a teaching style that allows each person to do their own thing, they give you a technique, you try it out on your own work and end up with something that doesn't look like you took one of their pieces and xeroxed it. This is what suits me best. But its limiting, and it frustrates.

Part of it is what I mentioned above about having my own voice but the other part is the fact that, like most people, my time is limited. I want to spend whatever time I do set aside to take a class to create something that I can finish later (or if I drink enough coffee, finish it in class) and actually be able to say that I am the author of it. (I took a class once on mixed media shrines in which the teacher made a speech before we started working that we had to put her name as the artist on the back of our pieces since we made it during her class. Never mind the fact that basically what she taught were techniques that you could find on the internet for free, she insisted that anything we made during class was to be considered her work. Ummm...not so much. I'm all for giving credit where credit is due but this was extreme.)

So all this translates to the fact that I struggle finding classes I want to take. I end up buying books (usually techniques) but I miss the interaction of other students and artists. And especially the fact that I've carved out a time slot to work and get to leave everything else behind for a couple hours or days.

I know I said I wasn't going to make resolutions this year and I intend to keep to that (wait, isn't that sort of a resolution?) but one thing I would like to do is look around my obsessive virgo issues on the topic of classes and find some that I would like to take. In other words, quit worrying so much about what I'll make during the class and just take it for fun.

So I signed up for this last night. I've really admired Susan Sorrell's work for a long time, the woman is a hand stitching maniac (which I love). Plus if you read the class description, it meets my quirky needs of learning and independence. When I first got into fiber arts, I started as a crazy quilter, fell totally and madly in love with all the complexities that go along with it. I have the thread collection to prove this. I haven't done any kind of heavy stitching in a while so this class will be perfect.

I've not really taken an online class before but I've heard tremendous good things about it from those who have so I figured I would give it a shot. Seems like fun and that is the goal for 2009.


Anonymous said...

You will love it..and I can already imagine the things you will make that will be your own!

Judy said...

I am taking a Monoprinting class online from Susan right now (well it finished right around Christmas but I didn't have time to do all of the lessons until now). I have thoroughly enjoyed it, and think that you will like your class with her. I saw that one advertised and it is also calling my name! I am going up to Greenville this Saturday and on the 17th to take a collage class with Susan. I'm really excited about it.