The here and now is an enormous and entrancing place. I discovered this at Rosalie Dace’s workshop this week. Last week I wrote about my anticpation of doing a class with this famous South African textile artist and teacher. Well, my expectations were more than fulfilled. It is 48 hours since I packed up my sewing machine and messy work table at the end of the three-day class, and I am still floating in a sea of ideas and excitement at what I learnt.
There was much energy, laughter, discussion, excitement — all signs that we were living in the present moment — as Rosalie guided us through our individual stitching adventures. I am aware that I am using up my stock of adjectives as I write. This is because it is difficult to describe in words the wonder and fun of those three days.
As I drove the 300 or so kilometres to get home I tried to pinpoint what lay behind the magic of Rosalie Dace’s teaching. If I say it is her abundant warmth and empathy, combined with superb technical skill and an artist’s eye, you may get an inkling of what I am trying to describe. Put more simply, she is a good teacher.
At the start of the class she said she wanted us to “design in the moment”. I did wonder how that would be possible, but by the second day I think that that is what I was doing. There were about 20 of us and each one produced something completely different. As Rosalie said, it was not a class where she was teaching a technique or method. But, where it was necessary, she patiently explained how to stitch to get a certain effect, or turn or facing, etc. She helped me to discover how to use my machine’s triple stitch. To non-sewers that may sound odd, but for me it was a breakthrough. This stitch sews three lines of thread at a time and is generally used to mend or reinforce the seams on, for example, a pair of jeans. For a quilter, it opens up a world of textural possibility.
Another trick she showed us was to use black paper to cut out shapes. For example, on the second day I decided that the thoughts, inspiration and ideas spinning about in my brain was what was happening in the here and now of that day, so I first cut out the shape of a head. (See what I mean about having fun!) Here is what happened in pictures.
I am looking forward to finishing my two “brains” — the rational one on the right (of the photographs) and the emotional brain (centre). Perhaps it was Rosalie advising us to consider how to simplify an image and pare it down that led to the making of these two heads (!). She told us that simplification is the hardest thing to do. The representation of the brain also gave me an excuse to use the newly discovered triple stitch on my machine (see the photograph on the right).
Each day we started with a discussion and learnt many things from Rosalie Dace such as the use of contrast, shape, line, layers, texture, symbols, colour, enhancement; the importance of making a decision, of simplification, of thread. She said many things, one of which I am going to adopt as my stitching mantra. It is: play, have fun and take risks. She also warned us to “beware of the tyranny of realism”.
She said a piece of textile art should have
- evidence of the artist’s own voice
- evidence of mastery of technique
- evidence of some risk taken
This is a tall order, but worth aspiring to.
We learnt much more than I have reported from Rosalie Dace and were all delighted when she said she would be happy to return next year to give us another class. What a privilege. Her website address is https://www.rosaliedace.net Prepare yourself for a visual feast as you look at photographs of her work.
Here are some photographs taken during the class, with apologies for the bad lighting.