Sunday, 2 July 2017

Mixed media Art Workshop at Bedford Arts and Crafts Centre

I spend a lot of my art and craft time at home, learning from the Internet, so it was a real treat to go out for a whole day last Saturday. I went along to a mixed media workshop with a couple of friends from the craft group I attend and spent a full five hours of interrupted time just making stuff.

Yes, I did eat some lunch but I timed it to fit around my work's drying time!

The tutor was Lisa Tilley who is a textile artist at uoldbag as well as teaching at Bedford Arts and Crafts Centre.

The day started with Lisa talking us through her process for exploring and experimenting with a variety of techniques and materials. I found this really helpful because I've fumbled my way through a process for the last two exhibitions and it turns out I wasn't too far off track. Maybe I'm being a bit too hard on myself because it was based on the process I was taught as a design and technology teacher. That was a long time, ago, though!

The big lesson for me was to not be too concerned about the outcome in the early stages and just see what happens. I've also been a little hesitant lately about practical things like which glue should I use to stop my work falling apart? Why does my thread keep breaking when I try free-motion machine embroidery? Lisa helped me by answering lots of these questions.

Then we got stuck in to the making. The main techniques in the morning were batik and printing. Batik is 'drawing' with hot wax on fabric or paper, then applying dye, followed by removing the wax with a hot iron. Then you can repeat the process if you want to. Here's the first one of mine (blue dye on purple fabric):

With the printing, we applied (thick, sticky) printing ink to a plastic sheet then either removed some or put in objects to cover some of the sheet before pressing a piece of paper on top. Here's one where I scribbled in the ink:

I'd not used either technique before, so I spent quite a while just experimenting, to find out what was possible and how the materials behaved.

Once our work had dried it was time to layer it up, combine it or add embroidery (hand or machine). When I've tried this before I've struggled with composition. I'm never sure how to change a collection of objects into something that looks like a whole. So I did a lot of arranging and rearranging. 

I've been playing around with sewing and crocheting on paper this year, so this was also a good opportunity to pick Lisa's brains on how to approach this!

I decided I needed a theme and as I've been playing around with ink and lines lately, I decided on 'words'. 

Here's what I came up with:

Top right: a page of the script from the film Casblanca, with batik on top.
Top left: printing inspired by hand lettering or maybe a signature
Bottom left: Batik pattern inspired by some of the artwork on the Lindisfarne Gospels with hand embroidery on top.
Bottom right: A print of a feather with silver ink added on top.
Middle: Quote by John Dryden 'Words are but pictures of our thoughts' on thick paper with torn edges.

This was great practice at going with the flow, as this was a more experimental approach than I normally take. Usually I have the end result in mind when I begin.

It was a really enjoyable workshop and I learned quite a bit, too. If you're in the Bedford area I recommend taking a look at the programme on offer at Bedford Arts and Crafts Centre.

Next time I fancy trying lino printing!

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