Thursday, February 10, 2011

Taking a Class, Hesitations

My Blue Garden, begun in a Laura Wasilowski class
I taught myself to sew.  My grandmother was a seamstress, and we lived with her for a time.  Since there was nothing much to do at her house, I would gather up scraps (often the hems of dresses she'd cut off for short society matrons) and sew hideous but lovingly made clothes for my Barbie dolls.  I don't remember anyone teaching me to stitch a seam, to take a backstitch, or any other handsewing techniques. I think my aunt Regina taught me to make a cheater's knot, and my mom taught me how to slipstitch, but that's about it.

So, when it came time to learn to quilt, I had no problem just figuring it out on my own, mostly.  A quilter from the base where we were stationed taught me how to baste a quilt, and I hand basted my first quilt (my youngest son's baby quilt) and that was it.  I've never hand basted another quilt. 

I started making art quilts before I knew that people made art quilts, and it was a revelation to me when I went to Dominie Nash's show at Glenview Mansion in 2001 that what I was doing had a name and scads of devotees. 

So a couple of years ago, after teaching myself quilting for over ten years, I took my first quilt class.  Laura Wasilowski came to teach a class for a local guild, and since I liked her work, I signed up.  I enjoyed the class.  I mastered fusing and learned some cool tricks.  And I made some very Laura Wasilowski quilts, but I'm not sure I'd sign up for another class about technique or product again.Laura gave us beautiful fabric and her thread, and that was fun, but it did mean that all the quilts had the same look to them.

When I first got the fabric, I started playing, and I began this sort of city scape.  But everyone else was making flowers, so I quickly thought, "Beginner's mind, Lori.  You're taking her class; you should do what she's teaching."  So I put the cityscape aside and did two lovely flower quilts that vaguely resemble quilts that Laura Wasilowski makes.  She encouraged us to try our own shapes and to explore, but even with our own shapes, most of our final quilts looked as if we were imitating Laura Wasilowski.  I prefer the cityscape that I started in the class to the two floral quilts, and I think it's probably important that I've used my own handdyes in this quilt as well as Wasilowski's Artfabrik. 
Windy City Reflections, begun in a Laura Wasilowski class 
Imitation isn't bad.  You can learn a lot by mimicking someone's style and process and I do think that's how style develops in many artists, but I think maybe I just waited too long to take a class.  It was a charming diversion, and it was fun.  And the finished quilt tops have given me some good free-motion and hand-stitching practice. Maybe that is a good enough reason to take a class. 

Oh, and in case you're keeping track, that's two more unfinished quilts that are now finished.  Yeah.


The Idaho Beauty said...

Great observations - I so agree. I've had my own experience with this - trying Allison Schwab's (sp?)method of inserting curved strips of color into a block. It looks so cool in her quilt per the old magazine article I'd saved, but when I'd finished my experiment, it just looked like another Allison quilt, and I was pretty disappointed. Since then I have spotted several more Allison look-alikes, and after reading the fine print discover that indeed, these quilters had taken a class from Allison. It's driving me nuts trying to figure out how to make this little quilt of mine my own - I think I will have to give it up.

I really like your cityscapes - I don't think anyone would mistake it for something out of Laura's class.

LaughingLG said...

Thanks, Idaho Beauty, I think using my own hand-dyed fabrics helped make it more my own.

Pam Geisel - For Quilts Sake said...

LOVE the city scape!

Judy Whelley said...

I guess it is quite a bit like learning to paint. By imitating the masters, technique is learned but it is when the technique becomes your own, with your own interpretation that it shines. And you are shining!