I’ve been on another summer school felting pilgrimage. Once again I found myself heading south to Red Deer College to attend Marjolein Dallinga’s week long workshop. This session was billed, “Adventures in Felting and Dyeing.”
Last year when we entered our studio workspace we were exuberantly greeted with a humungous table filled with luscious rovings in every color imaginable. Another area, not quite as large, was piled with exquisite pieces of Marjolein’s hand dyed shibori fabrics; silks and the like, as ethereal as fairy wings. Project after project, we gorged on this seemingly endless buffet. The extravagant colors and materials gave me a constant sugar high that kept me charged for the entire week. Combined with Marjolein’s expertise and tutelage, the whole experience was one big wild wow.
I eagerly entered that same studio space a week and a half ago. Each work station was allotted approximately a pound of white roving and 4 pieces of white fabric. Where was the buffet? Baby wants some sugar. An entire week with a small mound of white wool and a bit of fabric?
Things began in a more subdued fashion. I don’t say this to imply anything negative. I think it speaks to the power of color and in it’s absence this session was simply starting at a softer amplitude. We explored red the first day, moved on to blue and finally yellow, mixing and building a palette as we went. As we began to fill the studio with color we also began to fill it with our personalities and energy; a transformation on many levels. Our days were filled with complex choreography that included dyeing,shibori, felting, and sculpting. Fibers and fabric were often handled many times to bring new techniques and interest to these materials that would eventually culminate in our felted pieces.
With this amount of intense experimentation, I can tell you there was a very low percentage of wow going on at my table. Color combinations fell flat, over dyes obliterated color blends, shibori pieces weren’t stitched tight enough. I could go on. At one point, Marjolein referenced an excerpt from Bruce Mau’s “Incomplete Manifesto for Growth”. ” Love your experiments(as you would an ugly child). Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.” But it wasn’t always fun. My mind knows this is part of the process but my heart wanted to create fairy wings right off the bat.
Nevertheless, by friday’s end I knew I had learned a lot and even though I was bringing home a brood of (mostly) ugly I was very grateful for the experience. A little time and distance seemed to soften my heart and clear my vision. As I laid out my ugly ducklings to thoroughly dry in the back yard, I began to see them differently; bits of lovely; charm in a crooked smile.
I thought back to Marjolein’s opening remarks. She talked about teaching and how she used to be very concerned if a student experienced a disappointment. She went on to say she no longer worried about it and that it’s good to give less sometimes. It took awhile to fully understand what she was saying. I think it takes a caring, masterful artist and instructor to lead a group into more difficult territory where everything may not have a shiny, happy, easy to love outcome. She didn’t give us the candy up front, or lay out a fool proof format. Marjolein opened up and shared her world of technical excellence and artistry to empower us to make our own buffet so we could feed ourselves and ultimately create with more depth and sustenance. For me, it was a week of transformation and revelation: WOW, the things I can do with a small mound of white wool and a bit of fabric.
View Marjolein Dallinga’s work at Bloomfelt.
Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth.
W.O.W. ( World of Wearable Art Awards Show)
Joanna Close’s 10 part series on color.
Series, Red Deer College Summer Arts Program
Thanks for stopping in!