At the end of September I travelled with my friend Sue to Contemporary Quilt Summer School in Birmingham . When I arrived at her house, before I could take my coat off , we went gathering horse chestnuts on Ealing Common, filling an African basket's worth to take with us!
We had a lovely weekend : excellent food , good company ( great to catch up with so many friends) and excellent , insightful tuition and guidance from Helen Parrott. I've used her book on Mark-Making a lot , this loopy piece ' Red Stapelia' took years, a labour of love .
The workshop was based on her new book ' Mark-Making through the Seasons' ( I bought a signed copy at Knit and Stitch later ) . On the Saturday evening she unrolled her fabulous quilt ' Nine Yards ( or thereabouts)' which was juried into Fine Art Quilt Masters 2016 and talked about its background based on the 1773 Mary Ware notebook and techniques used ( I loved the old ruler used a wooden batten)
The first exercise on Friday evening was to make a collage based on colours and shapes using 5- 6 images from magazines / photographs then to write on a post-it our thoughts on it.
Mine were : " Contrast of different yellows against dark. Nights drawing in .Abundance of fruits :reds, oval and round shapes"
We then went round the room , looking at everyone's collages and left a post -it with comments . The work was as you might expect, very diverse and it was interesting on returning to your own to note what other people had seen in your own collage.
The dried teasel leaves were particularly interesting and I gathered some of them to draw but left the fungi in situ !
Helen shared some of her methods for tracing, simplifying, looking at the details , the angles of stems, where things join and how to develop patterns in this case drawing with chinograph pencil, repeating marks : " Repetition is how you get good at things "
She then showed how she developed these into stitching through production of samples , looking at the difference qualities of solid and dotted lines, overall pattern or isolated element, use of colour, working from centre or in a grid. She covered the materials she uses : fabrics, needles , batting, threads and methods such as use of templates and the corded line and had lot of the samples from the book which we could look. I particularly liked the ' Radiance ' patterns developed from Cow Parsley
I then used couched paper string to depict the curves of the teasel leaf
Sue had placed all the chestnuts we gathered in a large red pottery bowl : on Sunday it was time to turn attention to those. By taking some of out their casings, I managed to find 100 ( thinking of Kurt Jackson's Fig paintings and the 100 mussels exercise I did with Dorothy Caldwell in Puglia )
And raided everyone's collections of fabric , cutting out chestnut shapes, pinning then tacking them to a section of Japanese fabric I'd brought with me
It's now one of my current train stitching projects "100 Chestnuts (or thereabouts)"
Besides the practical tuition, Helen shared her inspiration including poetry ( eg Thomas A Clarke and Nan Shepherd) and thoughts on the seasons , posing questions about what made up our our personal year. She also devoted time each day for personal one-to-one sessions, the opportunity to discuss current and possible future work was incredibly useful and helpful
So much joy, friendship, laughter and inspiration in a just a few days, banked for the future.