I blogged last week about the talk we had at Bristol Quilters by Karina Thompson. Although I didn’t get to the workshop she ran, I did think that I would have a go at slashing layers of fabric using her technique. Controlled fraying rather appealed to me. So, I made some samples, and the above was the result. She takes a very stiff brush to the layers after she has stitched and cut. I couldn’t find a suitable brush so I used the edge of the rubber door wedge I use to tilt my machine so that I can see what I am doing. It worked really well, and I enjoyed the process and liked the end result. Karina said that doing all the dull up and down stitching was boring, but I was only making small samples. I really liked the way she suggested making ‘stuff’ and then seaming it together later. I make samples and chuck them in a bag and then fish them out later to combine with other ‘stuff’ to make my pieces. That’s why it’s sometimes difficult to say how long something took to make.
One of the reasons that I think that my attempt came out so well is that I had some fantastic fabric to play with. The texture is great because I was able to use so much silk so freely.
The reason for this is that my mother gives me a lot of great free fabric. She has a friend whose son, Graham, makes wonderful window treatments for very wealthy clients and gives mum the offcuts. So I have a lot of long thin pieces of beautiful cloth: linen, silk, cotton and the odd interesting synthetic, which are cut off when he hangs the curtains and then trims the hems. I do sometimes get bigger squarer bits, and I get a lot of old sample books.
Because this fabric is free and would otherwise be thrown away, I feel really quite relaxed about using it in a way that I wouldn’t if I had paid a fortune for it. I like the idea of recycling rubbish into something worth having. And it makes the point that you see in work about creativity that in order to be creative people need resources. Scarcity, despite necessity being the mother of invention, doesn’t support creativity, it inhibits it. I can afford to have a go at stacking six layers of exquisite woven silk and then hacking it to bits because it doesn’t really matter if it all goes wrong. Then again, I like doing something constructive with mistakes as well, but that’s another matter.
Finally, it makes me think about the importance of generosity. I think that it is a great quality in life in general, but it’s also important in academic life. Here’s what Professor Alf Rehn, a bit of an enfant terrible in Organisation Studies, has to say about generosity for academics:
Too many people in academia are greedy, and too few realize that this is a bad idea… Generosity, in this context, is a question of paying homage, being able to say who has affected your thinking – and also whom you are thinking with, as the notion of thinking as an individual activity should be abandoned… Academic generosity can come in many forms. It can be something small, like referencing a doctoral student in an article, even though you could easily ignore it, or it can be bringing people into a workshop or a publication, or it can be a case of simply remembering to mention good work in a random conversation. It is always, however, a case of having respect for academia as a social sphere. It is also a question of having respect for yourself.
Alf Rehn (2006) The Scholar’s Progress: Essays on Academic Life and Survival, Lincoln, NE: iUniverse: 3,4.
Given what is happening in British universities at the moment, it strikes me that this is well worth bearing in mind.