A whole new world

We’ve all watched Escape To The Country and that’s what my husband and I did. When I first moved here to the beautiful heart of Wales, I had been a teacher for twenty plus years with little time for anything other than work.  At first the chance to have a bit of peace and quiet, take walks in the countryside and read my way through a list of books I’d never got around to filled my days. But after a while I was bored with all that. Plus, when you’re new to an area you need to get out and make a new network of friends.

So one day I spotted a two day willow basket -making workshop at a place called The Minerva Arts Centre which was in our nearest town just four miles away.  The basket making was a disaster – weaving willow was not for me I’m afraid. But what an amazing place I had found!  As someone who had done a bit of patchwork and quilting many moons ago the weekly quilting group, Welsh Heritage Quilters, gave me a chance to not only brush up on my old skills but to build a social life too. And then I discovered the workshops run by the Quilt Association which opened up a whole new world of creative possibilities for me.   I’ve always loved sewing and I’ve also always painted and sketched when time allowed.  Over the last couple of years I’ve been on several workshops at Minerva that have combined my love of sewing and art. Fabric, paints, colour.  What’s not to like!!! This is the journey I’ve been on so far.

In 2015 I went on a workshop tutored by Deborah O’Hare. We learned lots of different techniques for painting fabric and came away with lots of samples, some of which I’ve recently used on a World War One themed piece. Deborah will be back at Minerva on 26th July to teach a workshop called Layers and Shadows

Last March, I did a Print and Stitch workshop with Linda Paris where we used thermofax screens to print onto both commercially produced and hand dyed fabric.  Again, I’m still using up some of the samples we made that day on my WW1 piece. And the little thermofax screen of a stag I bought from Linda was used to make my Christmas cards last year.  I don’t think Linda is teaching any longer but her legacy lives on.

Below are a couple of photos which show an example of the painted landscape backgrounds I did with Deborah O’Hare.  The top one has been incorporated into a piece about World War One and the one below has a thermofax print on top, done with Linda Paris.

In May we held a Spring School tutored by Hilary Beattie. Hilary has a lot of followers and the course was full before I tried to book so I had to make do with looking at her work in our Spring Exhibition which featured work by the group Art Textiles:Made in Britain, of which Hilary is a member. I then discovered she has a whole series of videos on YouTube so I was able to watch and learn. Until I did that I’d never heard of acrylic wax or gelatos. Thanks, Hilary!

In August I did a fantastic two day workshop with Bobby Britnell,  a wonderful teacher who gives her students so much confidence to try new things.  What I took from those two days was an absolute passion for mono printing and, in particular, making my own stamps. I cannot tell you how much pleasure this new technique has given me.  I learned so much from Bobby – I am like a woman possessed. This was followed by a two day workshop in November led by Ruth Issett, Ruth is the absolute hero of many a would-be textile artist because of the way she uses colour in her work.  From her I learned how to improve my work with mono printing by overdyeing with procion dyes and how to be brave with colour.  The workshop was such an enjoyable one – one of my fellow students was beyond excited at the start of the second day (yes you, Lynda!).

Foam print blocks I made after my workshop with Bobby Britnell.

Mono prints in my sketch book using the foam blocks.

Mono prints on cotton fabric, waiting to be overdyed.

Mono printing and overdyeing done on Ruth Issett’s workshop.

Both Bobby and Ruth are members of the Textile Study Group , ‘a group of nationally and internationally recognised textile artists and tutors, well known for innovative and challenging approaches to art practice and contemporary teaching.’ We are so pleased to be one of the venues for their touring exhibition, DIS/rupt, which opens here at Minerva Arts Centre on 21st April. As part of our Spring Exhibition series of workshops, Bobby will be tutoring a half day workshop , Barking Up The Right Tree, for us on 8th May, and Ruth will be here on 25th May to lead a half day workshop called Disrupting Repetitive Pattern. We are also delighted to welcome Sarah Burgess, another member of TSG, on 28th April for a day workshop entitled Lost And Found.

This has been a long (and quite personal) post for me but I wanted to share with you how much being part of the Quilt Association means to me.  As a group of trustees we are passionate about what we do.  We take our responsibilities as curators of the building and conservators of the quilts we care for very seriously but we also have a commitment to sharing the very best practice in quiltmaking and textile art through the medium of our workshops programme.

If you haven’t been on one of our workshops before please give it a go!! I promise you that you will learn so much and have a fabulous time. We are in a beautiful part of the country and many of our course participants bring their ‘other half’ along. There’s plenty for them to do – walking, fishing, cafes, trains!!!

We look forward to seeing you soon.