Friday 10 November 2017

On Being Mentored

2 weeks ago I was heading down to Eastbourne ( along with  thousands  of  of runners taking part in the Beachy Head Marathon/ 10K !)  for my mentoring session with Christine Chester at Studio 11.
I'd discussed  the possibility when I'd been there  for the excellent course with Alice Fox in June.
But after winning Fine Art Quilt Masters, booking onto the programme was the first thing I did when I got home , to help  me work out what to do next.

There was a lot of preparatory work:  a detailed questionnaire  on  ambitions, barriers to success , strengths and weaknesses, time available and  other relevant information;  'Pinterest' pinboards of an 'e-portfolio'   showcasing representative examples of my  work and of inspirations ( I did separate ones for art and textiles). This ' homework' in itself was a very useful process, to clarify  what was most important to me, what direction I wanted to pursue  and sadly what I was beginning to  acknowledge I had to let go in order to realise these.

In order to fit me in her  packed teaching schedule, we'd agreed that the tutorial session would be on the Saturday evening  after the 'Wild about Colour' course  had finished for the day before Strictly (  we're both fans, have to get priorities right!)

As I was free during the day, I  went to Worthing , about an hour by train,  to see the first exhibition by ' Curious Threads' , an interesting show in a lovely bright venue,  and then found some wonderfully weathered wooden breakwaters on the beach afterwards. A perfect day out ! 

I turned up at  Studio 11 as the class was packing up  to lay out the quilts I'd brought with me which along with the e-portfolio provided the basis of our initial discussions. 
Aside  from 'Birchington Breakwaters' and ' Eroding Margins' ( which I couldn't bring as they're currently on tour) , the pieces I like most  and represent the direction I wish to explore further are 'Red Flotsam' and 'Red Remnants'.  Red Flotsam in particular with its move towards abstraction ( I had help from the 'Quilt Doctors'!) , it's combination of direct painting  with acrylics and  monoprints  , repurposing an  old quilt  and the use of handstitch sum up all that I love best. 
I had a bit of an epiphany while doing the paper collage for Contemporary Painting Studio, that many of my textile pieces involve collaging fabrics. One of  Christine's suggestions was to  use this technique more as a design tool  for helping with abstraction and scaling up along with  mind-mapping to assist in developing more  abstract concepts.  

The mentoring programme  includes 2 days access to a print bench  and all materials and  equipment  so I  came prepared for monoprinting on acetate sheet using acrylics . I also brought my Gelli plate which I hadn't used since Rydal 2015 (  Christine also  had one available  but I didn't use it as it was the same size as mine) . Although I  have my painting easel in the 'kitchen studio' ,  I don't  have such good facilities  for wet work/printing as the conservatory in our previous house.

On the Sunday , the second session of ' Wild about Colour' was going on   so I was able to  watch  and hear  about what the participants were up to as well as getting on with some printing, mainly using blacks. It was useful to compare the acetate sheet with the Gelli Plate. Although you get very fine  subtle marks with the Gelli, particularly  in the 'ghost prints' of threads and feathers, and the build -up of paints and marks, its' much more of a  pain to clean and the size is limiting. 

On  the Monday , it was just me and Christine  and we spent the morning companionably , Christine making up dyes while I expanded over 5 print benches(!!!)  with monoprints  , colour matched with the red in 'Birchington Breakwaters'

I used the time profitably in a 'what if' session , observing marks made , exploring possibilities of  different fabrics and layering them, taking one idea and seeing how far I could push it.
In the afternoon  , we reviewed what I'd produced ( 65 monoprints!)  and talked about how I  could use them , making copies in paper  at quarter scale to work out compositions to generate ideas that could be scaled  up,  and the importance of  having bolder larger scale marks. 
  Appropriately ,I'd seen some giant scale mark-making on the beach that morning made by several large yellow earth-movers working on the sea defences! 

Most of the afternoon  however was spent in ' full and frank debate' about my work practices:   developing a professional approach , ideas about building a supportive network, reviewing and rebuilding my website as part of capitalising  on my 'brand' . This week I received  a detailed   summary and action plan based on our discussions and have a much clearer idea of  how to move forward. There will be a follow-up Skype discussion  about my progress in March. 

I enjoyed working with Christine very much. It was tough at times but  because I was prepared to be honest and open to ideas and a fresh approach I really benefited from the mentoring process. I appreciated Christine's insight  and felt privileged that she shared examples from her own experience and practice in response to my questions. Now it's up to me.

1 comment:

Sandy said...

Wow Margaret,
Thank you for sharing this experience. It was brave to do, but also brave here.
Sometimes we hear about mentoring, but rare to actually hear what it is from the point of one who is the one being mentored.
Looking forward to seeing where you go from this.
All the best!