A few weeks ago I ventured back into workshop mode in the first time for -- well, I don't remember how long. The occasion was back-to-back workshops with Jacqueline Sullivan at SmittenDust. Two days, two projects.
SmittenDust is a mid-Michigan art venue where visionary Dusty DeHaven brings in nationally recognized art instructors for workshops. (The historic building also hosts receptions, showers, meetings and luncheons).
I have the most to say about the first, during which we made a book, as I learned tons of new techniques and ventured out of my comfort zone. I have never been comfortable making books. Writing them, OK. Putting things in books other people have made? Not a problem. Stitching up one myself? I don't think so. (Below is Jacqueline's sample for the workshop -- the thought I could ever make anything close to this boggled my mind!)
But it's something I've always admired. I did sign up for Karla's online tutorial on creating an art journal and haven't had time to do it. So I thought maybe with Jackie's class I'd get some hands-on mojo and then approach the tutorial with less apprehension. (I should mention that Karla's tutorial was $15 and includes instructions for several types of journals with very easy to follow instructions. It's just that sometimes I need to work with others to get started.)
For the book making workshop, there were only about eight of us and it was an excellent number. Jacqueline shared lots of techniques with excellent handouts and most of it was new to me, although I had worked with modeling paste before.
We made two books. The first was a 10-page practice book with just one signature and a "stick-type" binding, so no real sewing involved. I will probably make a lot of these once I get the Gypsy Caravan up and going.
I don't know who did this one but I am totally in love with the cover technique!
The main project was much more complicated and I probably will not make one like this again, although I really love it (and am totally afraid to write in it!).
The chief elements were the bookboard covers, a centerpiece for the cover, hardware for the corners and cover, leather to be punched, glued and stitched and of course the actual stitching it together.
One of the things I love about a class like this is seeing eight people do the same project and yet they are all so very different. Here is Joanne's. I've got to get that stencil!
And here's my finished book, photo courtesy of Dusty DeHaven.
As in previous workshops, Jacqueline's instruction was excellent, her handouts very solid and because there weren't so many of us, it was easier for her to give us the attention or suggestions we might need.
The second day was working on an art journal. It was the first time Jacqueline had taught the class and there were twice as many people. That made it very difficult for people to work easily. We were playing in paints, mediums, gesso and glitz, painting all kinds of papers and using texture materials like tea and coffee grounds.
It was pretty tough to keep neat when we were squeezed in tightly (though I loved my tablemates, so that part was fun!). Not that I'm big on neat. But I am big on having enough room to work without disturbing others at my table. More than one person had the papers they'd set out to dry stepped on by those working on the hairdryer or passing in back. And yes, if there had been more room to put them in another place, they would have been.
The class was primarily a technique class -- different treatments on pages, for example. (I love technique classes -- it helps me to see techniques rather than reading about them and fumbling. I'll fumble plenty in a crowd, but I'm energized by it.) I found it less satisfying partly because I already knew some of these techniques, partly because of the size of the crowd but mostly because we never really ended up with anything finished. And maybe in a class like that you don't -- except I wanted at least one page fully done. What I have is several pages somewhat prepped to work on independently. As one participant put it later, she could have done with some step-out pages to help us along.
And I really never learned to layer things in the way that I wanted -- not just putting one thing atop another but integrating the layers so beautifully as Jacqueline does in her own art or as Patty does on Magpie Tales (and so many others of you whom I follow).
Overall, I'd say I got more than my money's worth for the first class and less for the second. I suspect as Jacqueline teaches this more, things will move more effectively as she is an excellent and generous teacher. I also suspect that from a scheduling and enrollment situation there is a place of diminishing returns. Yes, you can have 16 people in a very tightly crowded class. It's a business, not a charity, and the more students the better the payoff for the teacher. Dusty is very committed to bringing in nationally recognized instructors (Kristen Robinson, Kari McKnight Holbrook and Jen Crossley have been there in the past and will be again).
But at some point, you look at when the class is too large for the set-up. I'm not sure if there's always a way to know before, but in the case of the second workshop, it would have been far more satisfying for several of us had there been fewer people (and perhaps with two workshops, so there would be two journal workshops and one book workshop). That may or may not work with the teacher's travel schedule but it's well worth looking at, depending on the project.
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