Friday, November 19, 2010
Reflections on City and Guilds (or how I discover why it is I'm doing this)
I've mentioned here before that I've been plugging away for some time now in an online City and Guilds course with Linda and Laura Kemshall.(What's pictured above is an exercise I did for it.) At the time I signed up for it, I did so because I admire the Kemshalls' work tremendously and hoped to learn a bit more about how they achieved the effects they do. And I figured that it would be good for me to focus more on design.
So, I've intermittently worked away at the exercises, trying techniques and making samples and playing with various new supplies. It's all been fun and it's showed me some new things, and even made me appreciate some things I already knew in a new way, in a sense of realizing that I could use them in different ways. Still, there have been moments when I've wondered why I'm doing this, why I'm taking my time to fuss around with little samples when I have ideas in my head for bigger projects that I haven't made yet. And I think, maybe I should just stop.
But recently I had an epiphany about why this is good for me. When Helen was here from England in October and we attended PIQF together, we talked about how PIQF was different from the big quilt show she attends each year, Festival of Quilts in Birmingham. Helen commented how she saw so many more patterns at the US vendor booths, and how there were far fewer art supplies on offer.
And that got me thinking. In the City and Guilds course, each section links design and technique together. From the very first lesson, a patchwork technique is shown along with exercises designed to get you thinking about how to create designs that might use that technique. The idea that you can create your own designs from the outset, even with the most basic techniques, is built into the program from day one.
And that strikes me as quite different from how most of us learn to quilt here in the US. I know this is not universal, but I think it's typical that people generally learn quilting here by taking a class in which the focus is making a sampler quilt or some traditional block, and the goal is to make the quilt the way it is shown at the beginning of the class. You learn technique by making pre-designed projects, and while you might advance into more complicated projects involving more complex techniques, the goal is still to make your version of that particular project. The idea that you design your own isn't typically introduced in the "typical" quilting path until later down the road, and it seems to me that here in the US, most quilters never move to that stage. Designing their own quilts is not something they envision doing or want to do, and quilting is all about sewing quilt patterns and taking classes to learn someone else's quilt. Design is considered either a) very advanced, or b) something only the "artsy" people do.
I'm not saying there is anything wrong with this, if indeed if my distinction is even accurate. (I think it is, but I'm sure many others have had different paths or leapt into making their own designs from Day One.)
But thinking about this has confirmed for me why I'm doing C&G and why it's good for me. It reminds me over and over that the design is up to me, and I can find inspiration everywhere. At the moment, I'm working on an assessment piece for which I'm pulling inspiration from one of my favorite places ever (Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire) and translating some aspects into fabric. It's been fun and exciting in a whole new way.
So, I'm realizing that this C&G course has shown me a different approach to quilting, and I like the switch.