So, before the distance learner weekend last weekend, I took a new notebook and filled several pages with all the tasks I needed to do before I finished up the course. None of which seemed related to the other list in my journal of all the ideas I wanted to work up - ideas I was excited about but didn't have time to do because of the C&G tasks I had to devote time to. I had noticed the textile content of this blog declining in direct proportion to the time I had to do non C&G projects. And, more privately I had noticed that my brain was not spontanously producing ideas at odd times of the day. It was full to the top with to do lists.
So, as I drove to Durham, a little dialogue began in the back of my mind between Me and I as to whether I should continue or not. Was it 'feckless' not to finish? Was it a waste of money? Or a mature well thought out decision?
Now, one of the tasks which I had actually done was to do some edge samples. Mine is an A4 piece of fabric demonstrating various ways of doing it. It passed the requirements but it is not exactly a wonderful textile work. When I did it I had to do a sample so I did, but nothing I was working on for myself at the time required edging like that and so it was a 'bare minimum' sample.
I sat down in class and there in front of me was this most beautiful sketchbook stuffed with painted pages, edging pictures, notes, examples. Bulging. Hours and hours worth of work. I loved to see it. But there is no way on God's earth I either can, nor want, to devote that much effort to a book like that. And I am not required to to pass. But it kind of prompted me to really think about what I needed in my life right now to improve my abilties and to inspire me. I decided that I did not need samples and I did not need to work to a syllabus that didn't co-incide with the creativity welling inside me.
Dennis had come up for the weekend and so when we met for lunch I talked to him. Amongst other supportive and insightful comments which - I admit to my surprise - did not include encouraging me to finish - he suggested I should go and talk to an artist he had discovered working in Durham Cathedral bookshop. So I went up there and she was expecting me and allowed me to sit with her and chat whilst looking at her portfolio. Her name is Judy Hurst and she says her website is badly out of date but you will get a good idea of her work there anyway.
She had no idea what I was thinking about but said several things which confirmed my thoughts. In particular I commented that she really knew who she was in her art. She smiled and said, 'I've spent a lot of time learning who I am not'.
She also asked me about my work and what it was about in a way which forced me to really think about why I made textile works and what direction I wanted to go.
I thought that Stitchbusiness taught the City and Guilds course really well. And I learned a lot. I did it because I wanted to learn more about modern embroidery and to add that element into my quilts. I have learned that.
But I have also learned that I am not someone who needs to makes samples to prove to someone else that I know how a technique works. If I read a book about edges, I know how to do it and when a work requires that finish, I shall go back and do it - with a sample related to the piece if needed. But samples in abstraction - not my way of learning.
I learned that I want to learn. I am excited to learn. But I need to follow my nose down an independant line of enquiry and see where I go with it, far more than I need to follow a structured syllabus. I have learned that I want to do things well and that doing the bare minimum when I would like to do better does not satisfy me. Particularly when it prevents me form doing a task I could do well.
I have learned good design processes and have loved to see the sketchbooks and final pieces of others but the works that are inside me wanting to get out are not going to fit into the requirements of the City and Guilds final projects. I will no doubt work with sketchbooks, but as the muse leads me, not as the City and Guilds verification woman requires.
I have learned that I am not interested in decorative for decorative sake. I like to work with meaning (even if it is only obvious to me) or a aprticular purpose, or I am not engaged enough. I like concepts and connections.
I concluded that whilst I am still moving towards finding my own distintcive 'voice' and and still learning techniques to enable me to achieve what is in my head, the course was no longer sustaining me. It was stifling my creativity. I had found that the wellspring of fresh ideas had dried up in the face of a long list of course requirements.
So, at the end of the day I announced that I was going to cease my particpation. The tutors Julia and Tracy were very understanding and not at all suprised. And as soon as I made the decision all the ideas came flooding back. I felt excited about art quilting again. I felt like a lot of heavy long hair had been cut off me. And the ideas are involving a lot more embroidery than they would have done had I not done the course. I dodn't regret starting it at all. I got from it what I needed. but now I am done.
So, I now have some projects I am excited about which I shall embark on over the next few months. I am also going to allow myself to play. And I hope that means I shall have more work to show you.
And yes the photo of the kitchen was a pathetic attempt to get a picture into this rather non-visual post! And it looks better now.But that is another post....