Five Students – Three Days – Then More or Less on My Own

Reliving just one of the workshops recently completed in Australia. I am in the Botanical Studio at Beautiful Silks in Allensford VIC. There are are five students, myself and my hosts, Marion and her husband. The class is the first of two workshops about Memory Vessels.

We seem to always start with making watercolors from their collected soils/rocks/dirt from someplace special to them.

And once we talk about their hopes for the class, all I have to do is get them there. Easy. Here they are.

Trish and her pigments from France that she wanted to use in some book forms with mementos from her time there. And another book about her time spent in Norway. Here is what she wrote when the class was over.

“Your workshop was fabulous! More than I could have anticipated. Not only in new processes and techniques, but in stimulating the thoughts that go behind and beyond the work. It has reinvigorated my approach to my own work which has been put to one side while other things needed my attention and energy.”

It was very generous of her to say that and I look forward to seeing more of her work through emails that go beyond these few things she did in class.

And Ros who had a large pile of letters saved from an old friend named Tom, I think. They were the kind of letters that email just does not do justice to. They were philosophical and thoughtful. They deserved a special place. She gave them one. Made from scraps of silks turned into a fragile backpack.

Kaye wanted to work on her seemingly endless collection of bones from roadkill and pastures to create boats that would accompany her on a journey back to a childhood when she was more “girly” as she put it. An entire fleet that increased in size trailed after a bone representing her in a pod lined with a pink doily and heading from west to east.

Joy, a book binder, was recreating the trunks of old burned out trees and the stories of her past and perhaps theirs on the inner barks. So much intriguing materials to choose from. Her space just mushroomed out with the selections, thoughts and trees. Here are some of her choices and results.

That last image is of her sketchbook made from three covers of old salvaged books. Two are used for front and back covers of a portrait format book and the third is bound to the bottom of the back cover to create another book out the bottom back which is a landscape format. I thought it very a clever re use of materials.

And then there is Jillian who seemed to pull magic bits and pieces from her hand felted pouch and sewing case to make a small concertina book about her daughter’s childhood fairy friend and a pouch of her own inspirations from walks. I love her use of the shifu thread she made in class as part of the weaving in the stick that helps keep the bundle closed. And another shifu thread in a weaving for the small book cover.

And here is what Jillian wrote to me after the class was over.

Thank you for all your guidance. It was a very special workshop to be part of.
You have so many amazing skills but your ability to help students translate their ideas into something they can see and touch is truly special.

Very kind of her as well. But I learn so much from them. Not the least of which is to just get on with it. Use what you have to say what you need to say. Just pick up something and manipulate it into your desires.

After they were gone I did get on with it. A trip to the Southern Ocean to gaze toward Antarctica with a glass of champagne. I dined on some of the tastiest meals of the trip. And finished my stay there with botanical and indigo dyeing loads of things to send home.  Thank you Marion for asking me to be a part of one of the most beautiful places on earth, for the hospitality, for the students and for thinking I should do it all over again.