With two festivals behind me and a month to recover, I am now feeling sufficiently revitalised to reflect on my July activities. July is always a busy time of the year for those of us involved in the National Arts Festival, but this year, apart from having an exhibition at The Highlander, I also took time out to travel to Port Elizabeth to teach my Bohemian Bag Workshop at the Siyadala- We Create National Quilt Festival, a biennial feast of all things quilt and textile related. It’s been a long time since I last taught at a national quilt festival, but it didn’t take long to get caught up in the excitement of women with a fabric passion (obsession), having fun!
The work on display at the main exhibition was breathtakingly exquisite, revealing hundreds of hours of painstaking work in each of the many creations. Although my textile work tends to break all the rules, I never fail to be impressed by those whose work keeps within the bounds of convention. When I stand in front of a king size bed quilt, frosted over with a million or more tiny, perfectly shaped and spaced stitches, I know that this is something to be impressed by, for it would be completely beyond my capability. If I were to have the pattern in front of me and see the work that lay ahead, I would give up before I even began. This is not to say I am not capable of hard work, it’s just that when I begin one of my large fibre wall hangings, I have no idea of what work lies ahead, which is why I keep on going. Each stitch, colour or seductive piece of cloth, beckons me forward with the potential of what it could become. I have no idea where I am going, but relinquish the need to know and enjoy the process of discovery. By the time the work is finished with me, I have given it hundreds of my hours, along with sweat and blood.
This perhaps is where the two approaches meet, for both types of fibre fanatics have a desire to make something beautiful and a willingness to devote time and hard work to see its completion. It’s how we go about it that makes us different. Generally traditional quilt makers are committed to working by the rules, which is why their work, so exquisite and precise, receives awards for its excellence. In many ways I think it’s more difficult to be rewarded for kicking dust and forging one’s own path. There are many more pitfalls in unchartered territory, so to hit the right balance and produce a work of art when one doesn’t have a rule book, is really quite an achievement. The art quilts on display were an example of this and the award winners deserved the accolades they received.
My workshop was one of those that didn’t have a kit, nor did it abide by any rules, and I was happy that it attracted those who were keen to play and explore new ways to express their personalities. The Bohemian Bag Workshop offers a perfect opportunity for participants to test their creative impulses in a space that is supportive of their efforts. The project is relatively small and manageable, so happily not overwhelming.
The 14 women who attended my class came very well prepared and it wasn’t long before surfaces were strewn with colourful cloth and there was a hum of happy machines. I have selected a few images from the two day workshop to give you a taste of the scene. You will see from the images that I have every reason to be happy with the outcome. It was a fabulous experience to work with this group and the fruits of their labour speak for themselves.
If you are interested in attending my next two-day workshop, to be held in my studio in Grahamstown, the dates for this event are Saturday 9th and 16th September 2017. I’d love to see you there!