Much to my amazement, I found myself in a drawing class yesterday. Despite the fact that I work with images a lot, I really don’t like drawing, don’t think I can draw, feel embarrassed to pick up a pencil in public and so on. But Janet Haigh, a very fine quilter and embroiderer, is opening a design and textile studio/workshop in Bristol and was having a dry run for one of the classes she intends to offer, and so, armed only with some drawing equipment and the moral support of my very brave friend Mike, I went along.
Fantastic. Janet actually taught us drawing techniques. It wasn’t about expressing ourselves in paint, or celebrating our inner artist in junk, but actual drawing techniques. We did about five exercises and were all (I think) astounded with the progress we made. The subject was shoes, because they are Janet’s passion and it was her workshop, and the aim was to have a drawing which we would stitch in the afternoon. The above is my drawing of a pair of Janet’s shoes which I loved for the colour and the little metal flourishes on the end of the laces. I also, and here I am about to have a Kaffe Fassett moment, loved putting these happy looking pinky-mauve pumps against some yellow tissue with tiny red hearts on it. I started the piece in the workshop and finished it when I got home. Here’s the end result:
I was really pleased that I could use my favourite NeoArt crayons to apply the colour, and then draw on it in pencil and then do the very simple stitching in ordinary stranded cotton.
I thought Janet was a tremendous teacher. She got me from mildly terrified, to thinking, ‘I can do this’ to thinking well, ‘I want to make an embroidery of these shoes so I should get the drawing down, and then think about the stitching.’ So, by the end of a single day, I was confident I could do the drawing without even thinking about it, so I drew them again rather than tracing the original drawing. I think Janet is right; traced drawings are a bit lifeless.
Two things struck me during the day, in terms of academic quilting. The first is that Janet was saying that her preferred style of embroidery can now be done quickly and easily by machine. So where does that leave her and her work? What does that mean for how she might work in the future?
The second was to think hard about the idea that drawing is seeing, really looking rather than waving pencils around. What does that mean for a researcher? How can we apply drawing to doing organisational research if what we are trying to do is to look deeply at the organisations and organising that we study. I don’t have an answer now, but it would be interesting to develop this theme.
I will put up some of the other drawings in subsequent posts so that you can see what a great teacher Janet is. She was very encouraging and made it totally safe, but she also offered a real critique of our drawings. Oh, and thanks to Mike for being the only man there and not making a big deal out of it, and for being prepared, at least for a bit, to pick up a needle…
Janet’s blog, which is well worth a look, is at http://www.janethaigh.wordpress.com.