It’s almost the end of the first month of the residency – the first few weeks have flown by. I’m getting into my stride with the workshops (and the travelling) and it all seems to be going well.

In the past week or so I have given workshops for several groups. These photos are of Foundation students from Shrewsbury College who came and did a half-day session on fabric manipulation. We focussed on the more complex techniques of applique using recycled fabrics and some pleating and folding techniques. It was really interesting working with this group as they had quite a lot of ideas and good technical skills, although they hadn’t used these particular techniques much. They were clearly really inspired by the Well-Fashioned exhibition and we discussed some of the pieces they had really liked.

In the evening I lead the second of my sessions for Wolverhampton YWCA youth club. The young women are working on re-fashioned and embellished outfits to wear for a fashion show at Bilston Craft Gallery on 17th February. Some really amazing work is being created in these sessions and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished results. Jennifer Collier ran a session for some of the young women a couple of weeks ago and we are combining the two groups this week for a joint session. It’s been interesting watching how much many of the young women have been inspired and excited about what they are doing, and have really progressed in just couple of weeks. I always enjoy doing projects with more than one session. Many of my workshops are one-off days and you don’t get to see how the participants have progressed, and where they have taken their ideas. I always hope that at least some will be inspired to carry on with their textile work into the future.

I also ran a workshop for a group of GCSE students, working on an applied art programme. I showed them a range of fabric manipulation techniques, this time mainly gathering and pleating, as well as some trapunto quilting. I was a bit unsure about how this would go, but the students really got into it – even the boys were stitching away! I was taken aback and slightly embarressed when the teacher asked if he could show my sketchbook to the students. I don’t use a sketchbook much, and the one that was lying around was several years old with various random bits and pieces in it. I think it proved a point that you don’t have to be able to draw to be a designer! It made me realise how important it is to have that kind of resource available to students, as it’s one way of showing what a designer’s life is like. In future I will talk more about how I got to where I am and what my working life is like. I tend to focus my talks on the techniques and inspiration of my work, rather than the broader picture.

So all in all, a busy couple of days, but enjoyable, challenging and satisfying.
On Saturday I was back at the gallery to lead a drop-in workshop day making soft toys for all ages. The visitors were a broad range of ages – from 3 – 60-something, and everyone had a go at making a felt monster, doll, alien, dinosaur, dog… you name it, one was made. It was kind of nice that a few adults came in to have a go – shy at first, and a bit self conscious in a room of kids, but all were welcome, and they all stayed ages and got really stuck into making something. For some of them it was the first thing they had made since leaving school. I always feel sad when someone says they haven’t made anything in years and years. We all need to be creative.

This week I am working with another foundation course group, a fashion group, the YWCA final session and a jewellery workshop for the Youth Service. I’m planning a workshop for young men next week, using screen printing and then some silk painting sessions for community groups and kids workshops for half-term which is just two weeks away.

After half-term, several school projects start, as well as some more sessions with adults.

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