Liz S.

I started trying to do the exercises in Week 6 thinking it would be easy peasy ... and then I found I got stuck so decided just to write about being stuck. I feel as though I am in the "jack of all trades and master of none" frame of mind. I have used skills and techniques as I needed them so have not necessarily spent a long time exploring and perfecting them. e.g. for my daughter's wedding bouquet. I worked out how to make different elements from books and the internet - so I guess the overriding skill set is being able to read, use the internet and being able to use the information acquired!

I find it relatively easy to work out how to do things with my hands and can work on a small scale. In fact I enjoy working on a small scale. I read many 'how to' books, whatever takes my fancy at the time, and so I have an idea of what techniques are out there reading to be called in if I need them. Is this one of my problems I wonder? Having tried lino cutting for the first time earlier this year, I was absolutely thrilled with the block I produced in the day workshop I attended. I have done some more at home and read stuff and follow a fantastic Facebook group called 'linocut friends' but what's keeping me out of the studio? I get frustrated when I hit a problem which leaves me dissatisfied with my work and I can't see how to rectify or improve it working in isolation. But I don't want to turn into one of those 'women of a certain age' who go from course to course, but never create their own stuff, because they enjoy using their time that way and the camaraderie that can develop in a class or workshop. I have always been a bit of a loner until the last 5 years or so when I have learned to enjoy being more sociable in groups and have benefitted from going to workshops. The first creative workshop I attended which wasn't related to art (painting or drawing) was a basic machine embroidery class after I had, on impulse in 2009, bought a new sewing machine (after more than 30 years with the old one!) which can do some fancy tricks. I discovered Art Quilts and was enthralled with the idea of making them myself but have not produced anything, despite hours of reading books and magazines around the subject. Why not? I need to really get on with exploring that as something must be out of alignment which is a concept I had not thought to apply to the problem until this lesson. At that machine embroidery class another student asked me which classes I had done previously. "None" I said. Then I listened to the conversations going on around me and most of these women knew each other from attending class after class after class. Maybe they are at the other end of the spectrum from me and too afraid to do anything outside of a class. Maybe I am to afraid to do anything. Full stop. 

I joined a textile class 3 years ago which met weekly for 2 terms then stopped, but I would possibly have continued I think. I met 2 new friends there and we still get together for coffee and to share anything we are doing. One of them is a retired hospital consultant who had done nothing creative in textiles until she retired so felt she was very much a beginner. I realised that, to her, I appear to have a great deal of confidence in what I can do and have encouraged her to do things she would not have considered before. However I didn't realise what effect this was having in her until she said that she had lain awake all night before a workshop that the 3 of us attended last year, because she felt she was not going to be able to manage stuff in the class as it would be way beyond her level. Thankfully the class was run by a very experienced tutor who was able to pitch it so that everyone achieved most of what was covered. I was stretched too and achieved things I had not thought possible. So am I writing myself into doing classes after all?

Writing all this has fanned the original little art quilt flame, so maybe it was not completely extinguished after all. But I come back to the 'what am I trying to say' question with a piece which is decorative (i.e. for display) rather than functional. I think, because I am writing this late, after I've read Week 7, that working on Week 7 may get me closer to dealing with that question than I have before.

So... 2 unfinished pieces I am pleased with but what is stopping me from finishing them I wonder? Spending more time critically appraising them is a must do ....

 This is based on a conceptualisation of a primeval landscape inspired by a location on the Jurassic Coast of the South coast of England. Using  torn photo transfer strips of my own handwritten piece about the area and my own photos, as part of the background.

 This is a felt interpretation (one of my first felt pictures, about 1ft square) of the ancient White Horse of Uffington, which was created in chalk on the hillside, which, according the legend grazes on moonlit nights in a bowl shaped valley below the hill. There are silver and iridescent threads in the surface embroidery. Looking at this piece again, I am still pleased with it and think maybe I should just bite the bullet and frame it up!