...the teacher will appear. Nope, apparently the Buddha never said it, but that doesn't make it any less apposite for me. I spent the past two days at a Cas Holmes
workshop at Eaubrink Studios
. It was one of those things... I saw it, saw the word 'Japanese' in the description and thought, yup, I'd quite like to do that... and signed up. Those of you who know me well, will know I don't do many workshops... it's just not my thing. At the moment, though, I'm undergoing major change, mostly down to the health 'challenges' I'm struggling with, and thought that it would be useful to use the workshop as a kind of catalyst for change....and that's pretty much what it turned out to be.
I should say of Cas that she is a generous tutor, who met me where I was, accepted that I wasn't quite walking the same path as everyone else, and provided unobtrusive, unfailing support during the two days. The focus of the workshop was paper, cloth and stitch with particular reference to momogami, or Japanese paper scrunching. And scrunch, I did... producing some surprising results. As always, it was interesting to watch everyone else, and what they were doing, and the diversity of the work was remarkable. What did I make? A number of small pieces, all of which I expect to finish. I had done some pre-work, which resulted in a single piece of work, which I think will be the first in a series.
I've turned up the volume on these, colour wise, because I wanted you to realise that the semi transparent focal point is made of a lot of different colours...I have to say, it looks a LOT better in real life. It has a little bit of crinkled paper, and is very simple...I love the Japanese aesthetic, which I guess could be summed up in the phrase 'Less is more'. The piece I started with was much more complicated, nothing like as successful, and shows the impact the workshop had before I'd even gone...
So... what did I learn? I'm not going to go into the content of the workshop, because that's not fair to the tutor. I thought I'd sum up the learning, instead.
First... less really is more. As you know, I've gone from two rooms of fabric, to two boxes. This workshop, with its emphasis on working from scratch to develop a couple of pieces, reminded me that even those two boxes might be too much. It is possible to work with nothing but a blank canvas, and colour as you go along, rather than having a huge palette of fabric sitting waiting to be used. And that's the way I need to work.
Second...workshops make you do things you'd never ordinarily think to do. These bags are a case in point.
Both paper bags were scrunched up in order to tear them up and use the paper, whilst the cloth one was made in response to the paper one it is paired with. . I felt I needed to use the top, brown paper bag entirely as it was, and realised, after a carefully placed comment from Cas, that this was 'about' creating a bag to keep my grief in. The second bag is to keep secrets in, as it closes. I'm pleased that the secrets bag is much smaller...it goes inside the first one. The patterened bag wants to have stitch, I think, and is 'about' something else entirely...not quite sure what, yet. But more small bags will be made, I suspect.
Another thing I learned, or was reminded of, is how important it is to talk about the work, preferably with people who 'get' it. The bags are a case in point, but another would be these following pieces. I have a small collection of vintage white cotton table runners...it wasn't until I pulled this piece together on a long, thin piece of tea and onion skin dyed fabric, and talked about it to Cas, that I realised that this was a similar shape to a table runner, and was my way in to working with the collection, which I started about fourteen years ago, knowing that I wanted to make things that shape, but not knowing where to start. I know that now...
Equally, looking at some of the fragments I had made during day two, I found myself telling Cas that I had been fascinated by flint walls, and that they had seemed to me like a lot of paintings, all combined in a building...and how I had made several fruitless attempts to make a painting inspired by that idea. Being a good Norfolk lass herself, she talked about Norfolk Churches, and in particular, the wool churches. As this post is long enough as it is, if you're interested, here's a link.
And something in my head shifted. What I'd been doing, in making fragments, was creating the textile/paper 'paintings for a felt 'wall'.
Another learning point is that workshops are safe places to test your own limitations and beliefs. Part of the reason for the first piece I showed you, was 'about' my belief that I couldn't work any bigger than vintage napkin size. Err...no, actually, it turns out I can work larger than that... and here's the proof. Okay, it's not huge, but it is bigger than a napkin. Hurrah. I still feel in my gut that small is my future, but I don't have to create false limitations for myself. After all the ME creates enough real ones... though I do get a mobility scooter out of the deal, which pleases me somewhat... I never have to look for a chair...
This last is very much a work in progress, a piece of Sumi E paper, tea dyed and scrunched, stitched to a calico background. I have absolutely no idea how it's going to progress, but it will.
And finally...there is one more piece, which I haven't photographed. I have the feeling it was 'the warm up piece'...there's always one... and to be honest, I can't see it going anywhere. I made it because I was carrying a set of expectations... and that particular one, which was about working with semi transparency, just didn't fit either the framework of the workshop or my own real needs, which became apparent very quickly. And that would be the final learning... you don't have to do anything you don't want to...
I have to say I'm delighted with the outcomes of this particular workshop. Would I recommend a Cas Holmes workshop to anyone? Yes, without hesitation. Run, don't walk, if you get the chance. I was really impressed, got lots out of it, and would do it again... probably in three to five years time...I suspect that's how long it's going to take to work through the ideas that this one has generated. And that's no mean feat. Thanks, Cas.