Category Archives: Classes & Teaching

A New Fabric Design Class “On the Road”

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I have all of the details ready and registration is open for my first Spoonflower Master Class “On the Road”! I decided that I wanted to try to offer the class in some other venues to help make it more accessible to more people. Not everyone can get to NC quickly and easily, so here it is at another venue that might be a little closer for you. After I taught a class at the WI Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts this spring, I knew it would be a great place to host a workshop like this. You can see all of the details on the master class page.

Also, there are some spaces left in my October class in Atlanta with the SE Fiber Arts Alliance. Be sure to check that one out too!

A teacher’s life: My week at Arrowmont School

IMG_3597I just got back from teaching a week-long workshop at the Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts in Gatlinburg TN. Arrowmont is like summer art camp for grownups in all the best and worst ways. Each class is an intensive week. Studios are open 7:30 am – 1:00 am nearly every day. Students and teachers stay in no-frills dorm-like rooms; meals are provided at the dining hall. There are evening slide talks and open studios. Above is a view of the main building as I am walking down from my cabin.

IMG_3530There was a little snafu with a late shuttle and some very bad communication when I first arrived, so my week started off a little rocky, but things smoothed out as the week went on. I was teaching in the textiles studio, which is set up like the most amazing dye lab you can imagine. Only we weren’t doing anything with dyes, because I was teaching a whole week about digital fabric design with Spoonflower. Having this lab full of computers and scanners is not exactly the norm for Arrowmont, but it worked out just fine. We got to try some things in class which I almost never have time to do, so it was fun for me to be able to teach the students some more complex techniques.

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Class started right away on Sunday evening and continued through Friday afternoon. There were 9 classes running during the week I was there. I had 6 amazing students in class; class sizes ranged between 3-15 people. Running parallel to us were classes in woodworking, paper, ceramics, mold-making, wire sculpture and mixed media jewelry. We had 37 hours of class time and we packed it full. We talked about color, patterns, making things seamless, effective repeats, scale, texture…

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One afternoon we went for a photo walk around campus to collect photos of textures to use in our designs. We focused on work with Photoshop, but also explored a variety of other programs and tools that are really suited to fabric design. We made organic photographic patterns; we made geometric patterns from cut paper; we made faux batiks and digitally painted designs. Spoonflower worked with us to get fabrics shipped out lightning fast, so that we could create some designs on Monday and have the fabrics in our hands on Friday afternoon.

The gallery which was just outside of our classroom featured an exhibition of work by this year’s Arrowmont instructors. You can see my piece (my Wallflower dress) along the wall on the right. Arrowmont’s awesome gallery director came and filmed a little clip of me teaching to add to the interactive (QRcode) part of the gallery exhibition. I will post a little clip of that sometime soon.

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Our class worked really well together and I think everyone left totally fired up about designing some of their own fabrics. Below is a few of them goofing around with their freshly printed fat quarters on Friday afternoon. I was so proud of what they accomplished. And they blew me away with how much they learned. One student had me sit down on Friday with her and she talked through a step-by-step plan she had made for how to finish her “final project” design when she got home. She had come up with about 18 steps and knew exactly what to do at each step. SO proud!

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If you have ever wondered what this kind of workshop experience is like: intense, exhausting, focused. Part of the appeal is that you can come and have hours to use specialized equipment and facilities. With a digital class though, I had to be a little more on the ball. There were no special tools or equipment we needed to use; we all brought our own laptops. So the special and intense part of this class was having the one-on-one help and hands-on practice with the tools, with me to look over and remind you to check the checkmark or unlock the layer when suddenly something seemed to stop working.

One of the funniest things about Arrowmont is that just a 5 minute walk away is the tourist trap town of Gatlinburg, which is full of t-shirt shops, ice cream, deep fried food and old time photos. (There’s also a Starbucks and a Walgreens, which I found the first night I was there.) Arrowmont feels like a magic bubble in the woods; they really are odd neighbors. There is a really nice aquarium in town, which I visited on Sunday morning since I didn’t have much classroom setup to do. I took a selfie with a shark.

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In our discussion about colorways, my class and I decided if you were going to walk down the street and then design a Gatlinburg fabric it would need to include these colors:

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(And if you are designing fabric for anyone under the age of 8, throw in some neon green.) I met some fascinating teachers, I had fantastic students to work with and I had some great conversations with the work-study students that were busy all over campus. Thanks to Arrowmont for a one-of-a-kind experience.

Upcoming Classes: Tatted Snowflakes

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That’s right!  I am teaching a beginning needle tatting class coming up in just a week.  We are going to use sock-weight yarn (so you can really see your stitches) to make these awesome snowflakes.  Class is at Darn Knit Anyway in Stillwater and all materials will be provided – you even get to take your tatting needle home with you.  This is the very first design I mastered when I learned tatting and I really think it is fun to do with yarn (and a lot easier than teeny-tiny thread).  I will even show a couple of ways to add beads to your basic snowflake design.  Come and try something new!  Monday November 23 at 6pm.

Upcoming Class: Fabric Labels

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On Monday October 19, I am teaching a class called “Digital Fabric Labels” at the lovely shop, Darn Knit Anyway.  It is a quick-and-dirty hands-on class focused especially on making labels for your handmade items.  This is great just in time for the holidays!  Make a quilt label with the name and date that you can stitch to your quilt; a care instructions label for your hand-knit sweater or even hangtags for when you want to sell your work.  You will learn the digital design skills to set up the file you need and then we will talk about ways to get it printed on fabric, paper, sticky vinyl and more.  This is a “beyond the book” class, based on a project from the Spoonflower Handbook.  We show a basic quilt label in the book and this class will show you variations and ways to adapt that idea to work for many different projects.  You need to bring your laptop for the hands on part, but otherwise there are no other materials you need to bring.

Class projects & collaborating

I taught a really great class last night which was an intro to digital fabric design.  We talked resolution, we talked pixels, we talked formats & file sizes.  It’s basically a class to make you brave enough to go dabble and try something on your own.  My goal is to empower and inspire: to give you enough information that you feel confident enough to try and to give you some idea that is exciting enough to make you take the step and do it.  I hope that’s what happened for my students last night.  (It felt like a pretty inspiring and empowering night to me.)

Once we got through all of the vocabulary, we did a couple of hands on projects.  In this class, I like to do a collaborative fabric design where everyone contributes a piece and then we put it together, create a design, I order a yard and I mail everyone a swatch after class.  So you get a piece of fabric you worked on.  Sometimes I do a grid where everyone draws in a square.

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Sometimes we do a collage like this one with speech bubble shaped sticky notes and our favorite “clean” swear words.

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This time I decided to play with the Spoonflower weekly contest theme: microorganisms.  My class was skeptical.  I prepped a little ahead of time: I cut vellum paper to be microscope slides, we drew organisms, we added a sticker label to our “samples”.  I like to keep it small and simple so we don’t take up a lot of class time or trigger any “i can’t draw” anxiety.  Someone suggested a herringbone arrangement, which I thought was really fun.

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I think it’s adorable.  And funny.  And it got us many great lessons – how to scan, how to touch up & crop, how to upload and so on.  We did all the steps in class, looked at different repeats, discussed negative space and made a great cohesive design.  Score!

But one thing that made me think.  One student said: Do I have to?  What if I don’t want to make a microorganism on a slide?

I get it.

I totally get it.  Part of the joy of making things is that you get to do it your way.  That’s the bonus of making it through so many elementary school art classes (at least the ones I was exposed to). If you learn the skills of working with a paintbrush or using the scissors by making all of the “cookie cutter” projects, then you can take those skills and run with it.

I told her she had to make a microscope slide along with the rest of us.  And not because I needed everyone to be doing the same thing, but my goal was different.  I encouraged everyone to try things that they were interested in seeing the results of: use colored pencil if you want to see how that texture looks as you print it on fabric; outline in pen (or not) if you want to see what ink lines look like; try shading.  You have 1 inch to do your experiment.  We talked about ways to make a design cohesive.  Sometimes I limit the colored pencil colors so we have a specific colorway (the hearts design above), sometimes we have a theme like the post it notes.  These design elements all had the “slide” and the sticker shapes to tie them together, so we let that be the cohesive element.  We talked about how to arrange them (and the drawbacks to the pattern we chose), we looked at all of the repeat styles and the pros and cons of those as well.

On a personal level, I loathe group projects. (Who doesn’t?  Have you ever met anyone who says:  I sure love working on group projects?)  But as a teacher, we got to have a deeper discussion because we were all working on the same design and not 10 different designs.  We didn’t compare whose was better or more clever because it was ours, together and we were all equal contributors.

I once sat in on a seminar with awesome feltmaker Lisa Klakulak.  She was teaching a really basic wet felting technique and we each started a 3 inch square of felt, laying it out and getting the first steps done.  A few minutes in to the process, she had us pick up the piece and pass it to the person on our left.  The clamour!  No one wanted to hand over their precious piece and she made us do it anyway.  By giving away the ownership, we could focus on the technique.  The new piece that was handed to you was different.  You had to look and feel and analyze and think about what it needed next and think about what she had taught us.  After a few minutes, we picked them up and passed them again. Once that first shock had passed, the grumbling got much less.  At the end, we all ended up with a random swatch, made by many hands, but I learned so much.  I saw so many different versions and variations, successes and challenges. And there was no talk of “I’m not good at this” or “Mine looks dumb” or “Look at how pretty Lucy’s is”.  The discussion was instead about the process: “Look at how much smaller this one was, I wonder if it started with less fiber or those were just aggressive felters.”  The discussion moved away from “me” and on to the art technique.  I haven’t been brave enough to pull Lisa’s kind of a “trick” on a class, but I still think about it and how effective it was.

 

 

Upcoming Classes: Intro to Digital Fabric Design

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I forgot to do a little plug for this class earlier, but it’s coming up this week! Wednesday October 7 at 6 pm. You should still be able to register if you call Textile Center (online registration is closed).

Intro to Digital Design is just what it sounds like: a crash course in printing your own fabric.  We will make a collaborative design in class, scan and upload it and then you will get a swatch of that fabric later in the mail.  We will troubleshoot, talk about color matching, review some vocabulary (pixels, resolution, scale) and more.  It is the class to take if you’ve never designed your own fabric OR if you have dabbled a little but have questions.  I hope to see you there!