Thursday 17 October 2019

Stitching Autumn : Contemporary Quilt Summer School with Helen Parrott

 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 following  morning  we went for a walk around the grounds  with a  focus on structure ,colour  and detail  gathering images  as well as items.  I took  lots of photos  and  picked lots of leaves  and berries

The dried teasel leaves  were particularly  interesting and I gathered  some of them to draw but left the  fungi in situ ! 

 I was wishing I'd  brought my hand lens when it came to examining our finds in more detail  but the phone camera wasn't too bad.  I was reminded  how inspirational the  Kew Plant Glossary  is for diagrams  of leaf shape, flower structures, stem joints .
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 

 So I started  with  a birds-eye view of birds-foot trefoil  seedpods,  drawing to capture  their shapes and variety  then moving into  stitch on  2 layers of fabric
  I prefer the stitching on the back  ( they show  up better on the plain cloth)
 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  ) 

 I did several drawings of them , including   layered  marks on Abaca paper   " Conker Calligraphy"

 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. 

1 comment:

chris said...

Just bought Helen's book today at our annual State Guild quilt show. Great to read about your weekend & love your sketches & the photos you posted. Thank you.