constantly & continually

31 Oct

I am constantly learning.
I am in a continual state of self-assessment.
Both declarations are intrinsic to who I am.

I am also coming to the conclusion, as those around me retire to a gentler life, that I will likely never ‘retire’. I gain too much from both of those statements – potentially a more invigorating future for me than agonising over cryptic crossword clues?

I have always lived with this love of self-initiated exploring and learning, of solving problems, addressing niggles, and trying to work out pieces of the current or future puzzle I’ve set. Most often though, this exploration has merely been a way of living generally, not of art-making specifically.

Now that I have chosen to concentrate much of my time back into the world of self-directed making – for art’s and for my sake – I feel, very strongly, that the processes of making and of teaching are closely aligned. Very closely aligned, inter-meshed, and intrinsic to the advancement of both.

For many years I taught project classes…how to make this particular quilt, block or technique. 
I did that until I felt myself flagging, without a challenge, and with a need to find a new puzzle to solve.

Salvage/Selvedge was my ‘Stargazey Swansong’ but it was also the start of a different approach to teaching – working on open-ended projects which were ‘corralled’ within well-defined parameters.
Each of the eighty-three quilts made was vetted by me during the process – always alongside project participants. The results were outstanding.

The method I used was of a collaborative critique – there was no predefined result only that the work should be the best it could possibly be. My oft repeated mantra was…’both you and I need to be proud of this work’.

Collaboration was one of the most important aspects of this project. Every maker, or makers was/were expected to participate in these casual critiques, a plan of advancement was hatched, and work proceeded on a positive path towards the next hurdle, and eventually to completion.

The Salvage/Selvedge project was launched with a very carefully thought through plan, with a very willing and generous committee, and the total? trust of participants.
In my mind it is still underlined with the final sentence of my report…It has been a wonderful and unrepeatable adventure.

BUT…after a break of a couple of years, I missed both the tricky puzzle of teaching and the joys of working with others. Yes, I was returning to and advancing my own artwork but I truly missed being involved and of nurturing others. I realised that I needed another ‘project’, with responsibility, yet again.

SO… the past couple of years have seen me running STUDIO SESSIONS, over two days, once a month. Each participant works on their own projects, towards their desired outcomes, with as much of my input as is required. (The pics shown here are merely a sample of works in progress this year but there were many more. Some utilitarian and some that are a bit too special to show as yet.)

Each student is nurtured and challenged according to their needs. Some attend as the impetus to finish UFO’s. Some want to start a new project with assistance. Some need technical help. Others are looking towards their exhibiting future.
Teaching has gently morphed into mentoring when needed.
Always though, it is collaborative. The group as a whole, and the long day/days, are intrinsic to the forward motion. There is natural honesty and openness forged, for all of us, by working together.

And we work hard! Each participant is responsible for achieving desired outcomes with my role as the one doing the pulling, pushing, prodding, assenting, and/or perhaps throwing in the wild card.

We assess continually – initially at the free pre-class meeting;
What outcome is desired?
What is needed to achieve those results?
Is it about skills/materials, research ….?
How can we make it better, cleverer, easier?

These studio sessions themselves are self-directed but I am ‘theirs’ for whatever is needed.

WE are serious…about achievements, and results, and advancement, and learning.
It is part of my deal that I am there for them whenever possible ‘after hours’ as these sessions are currently only two concurrent days, a month apart (giving me time in my art practice and ‘my gals’ the time and space to work independently.)

It is also (generally) good fun where we love celebrating wins…..big and small.
I thrive in this environment where most students are regular, though others come as needed.

I truly care about what these sessions can and are doing for each gal as much as I relish what they do for me. I am pushed to think about solutions and technical problems, always aiming to propel each participant forward.

We only have one more session for the year but if you are interested in what I/we can do for you there will be a next year.
Who knows…the two days concurrent once a month may be allowed to expand a tiny little bit?

OR, there is another, equally invigorating option – for me at least…

One BIG and exciting result from these sessions was the opportunity to submit a proposal for Fibres West 2019. I hope to be leading an enhanced/exploded/compacted version of my regular ‘studio sessions’ under the label…..Where do you want to be?

The basis of these much-loved studio sessions is the basis for a week’s full time sessions. I have been asked to work with a set of individuals -I use this term specifically- to aid them in their advancement of an art-based practice.
We will look individually at their art/making past and where they want to be in the future.
We will look at what it takes to be an artist in every possible regard. Whether that is accentuating the A in Artist or remaining content with the little a – just as we do in the studio every month – there is choice.

My aim is to be teaching/mentoring/collaborating for a whole week with (excited/scared) enthusiasts to push, push, push them according to their personal agendas.
It is a rare opportunity for those in need of momentum, critiques and self-knowledge.
It is an opportunity that excites me tremendously – I love being involved in the infinite possibilities of personal transformation. I am sure I/we will set every participant on their own individually tailored artistic path.

Back in the Studio, we have one more set of sessions for the year listed on the CLASSES heading above. Next year’s dates will be placed there…next year.
It has been a slow year here in blog land but I have been very busy.
The results of my distraction will be revealed in The December Gallery very soon.

Jan Mullen

B. Ed. Art/Craft (Textiles/Sculpture) Living in Perth, Western Australia Artist, Fabric Designer, Author, Teacher, Mentor.