Tag Archives | community

I am an embroidery teacher …. but I don’t really teach embroidery

Well, that’s not strictly accurate. Of course I teach embroidery, but it’s not the most important part of my job description. What I actually teach is confidence.

I have been running Beautiful Stitches for over 6 years and during that time I have taught workshops that run for just one day through to classes that have been running weekly for four years. With time and experience it has become very clear that the two most important gifts I can give my students are inspiration and confidence.

You see, at its most fundamental, embroidery is simply “needle up, needle down, repeat”. Of course there are a myriad of ways that this simple process can be varied to create a lovely range of textures and patterns. But in the modern world, you can find almost limitless tutorials online showing you how to stitch all these wonderful effects. There are countless books to inform and inspire. In fact, the choice and range of possibilities can almost be overwhelming.

And that’s where I come in. If you come to one of my classes, I will absolutely show you how to work a range of different embroidery stitches. And we will often look at all sorts of interesting techniques to complement those embroidery fundamentals – painting or colouring the base fabric first, manipulating layers of fabric, playing with colour choices and thread textures, adding embellishments, etc. But my main job is to make sure that the voice inside your head is saying “I’ve got this!”.
When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things. Joe Namath

Free stitching over silk paper layered on painted Congress canvas (by Helen)

 

In my classes, there is no “right” or “wrong” – rather there is learning, exploring, playfulness, and creativity. I want you to come away from my classes feeling confident to keep working on your own. I want you to be inspired to keep learning more. I want you to find a new idea in a book or online and say to yourself “I can stitch that!”

“It’s All About the Pants” includes surface embroidery, applique and beading (by Julie)

 

Last year I taught a workshop that ran over 5 mornings at the Albany Summer School. At the start of Day 2, one of my students said to me that she was finding the class almost too challenging. She didn’t have much experience in embroidery and the class was feeling like a very steep learning curve. I encouraged her to stick with it and give herself a chance to develop her skills so that she could start feeling more confident. At the end of Day 5 she gave me a lovely card with the following message:
Thankyou Ann-Marie for an enjoyable week of colour, beauty and challenge. Though not your best student, I have enjoyed the start of my journey into embroidery. You have been so patient with me. I now find myself counting more. The stitches make more sense as I find my rhythm. It will take me a long time to finish, but I will. You have given all of us the joy of colour, texture and creativity.

I cannot tell you how happy this made me. Because for me this is what it is all about. This is why I started Beautiful Stitches in the first place, and this is why I am excited to keep working on it every single day.

And I promise you that there is just a little bit of magic in this process. When you start to develop confidence, it has a tendency to grow. And the more it grows, the harder it is for external forces to dent it. And then you discover that it is contagious. What started out as confidence in your creative pursuits, finds its way into other parts of your life. Before you know it, you are scaling Mt Everest (figuratively speaking at least!) 😊

Through my education, I didn’t just develop skills, I didn’t just develop the ability to learn, but I developed confidence. Michelle Obama

 

In a few weeks time, I will be starting a new year of classes at Tresillian Arts Centre in Nedlands. If what I have written here feels like a good fit for you, I would love you to join us. In Term 1, I am offering two options:

Creative Embroidery in Colour, Friday mornings from 9.30am to 12.30pm, 7 sessions starting February 15: This class is for anyone who wants to play with embroidery. If you are a beginner, I will absolutely get you started with some basic techniques and simple projects. The “Creative” part can be as simple as taking an existing embroidery design that you like but making it your own by working it in different colours. For those with more experience, you can work on projects of your own choice. We will explore together a range of resources and ideas that will give you the confidence to start creating your own embroidery designs.

Introduction to Embroidery, Wednesday mornings from 9.30am to 12.30pm, 4 sessions starting March 13: This class is for anyone who wants to learn or refresh their knowledge of basic embroidery stitches. We will work on both evenweave and surface stitches so that you have some experience in these two main branches of embroidery. By the end of the four week programme you will be armed with the knowledge and confidence to tackle your next embroidery project.

You can find further details and how to book here.

If you want to find out where else I will be teaching this year, then you can find all the details on my Classes page. And if you would like me to come and teach a workshop to your group, then send me an email and I’ll be very happy to see what we can organise.
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Is the creative life fundamentally selfish?

I have a new favourite blog – The Textile Blog by John Hopper. I only had to read one post and I knew that I would find the kind of material that I love to read. The reason I like it is because it does more than leave me with a “That’s nice” or “Huh, interesting” kind of feeling. Instead it leaves me thinking – really thinking – about this creative life I have chosen to pursue.

And the question I found myself pondering today was, “Is the creative life fundamentally selfish?”. Now there’s a question for you. Does my choice to live a creative life mean that I am selfish or self-absorbed?

The obvious answer to that is,”I hope not!”. “So why pose the question?”, I hear you ask.

Well, it was triggered by this article entitled “Creative Art as the Sharing of Personal Insight”. It opens with the idea that being involved in the creative arts is sometimes judged as being a form of selfishness, or hedonism, or self-absorption. This really struck a chord with me because I sometimes find it hard to explain to people why I chose this fork in the road. Why am I not the career scientist everyone thought I would be when I was younger? Why have I chosen instead to pick up fabric, needle and thread? And indeed isn’t this latter path somehow “a bit frivolous”, and perhaps even “worthless” when compared to a scientific career? And the natural outcome of all those questions is that sometimes I do feel a bit selfish as a gleefully follow my passion every day and have the joy of absolutely loving what I do.

Thankfully, John provided me with the perfect antidote to these doubts. He explains that “creative art…is about the cycle of absorption and exhalation”. This is the idea that all creatives absorb inspiration from a myriad of sources (both conciously and unconciously), pass it through the lens of their own unique experience, personality and skills, and then exhale something new. And why is this a good thing?

“You are making available to the human condition, the journey that you took from inspirational wonder, through the flow of absorption in work, to the resulting piece, which is to be experienced and enjoyed by others….Creative artists are the practitioners of endless possibilities, guides to the wonder of the world around us, and revealers of the complexity of the human condition”. John Hopper, The Textile Blog

In my humble little corner of the creative world I will gladly take on this philosophy.

But I think it goes a little further than that…. at least for me.

In my weekly patchwork group we have built a very strong community of women who came together originally because of a shared passion for quilting and patchwork. But the ties are now much more than that. We take care of each other when life throws up problems and obstacles; we share joy and excitement in new achievements or milestones; we share the fruits of our labours with family and friends; and we have developed a strong community culture of giving back. Our main community project is to make quilts for foster children. Twice a year we deliver upwards of 30 quilts for children in foster care. The idea is to make sure that each child has a special quilt which is just for them to keep. It is not going to solve the big underlying problems that have put them into foster care, but it hopefully brings a little bit of love and comfort to otherwise pretty tough times for them.

A simple quilt made for foster children from donated squares of fabric.

A simple quilt made for foster children from donated squares of fabric.

There are countless groups, just like ours, all around the world. They serve a very important purpose beyond the obvious one of providing a venue for a creative craft to be practiced and shared. These groups become communities where participants (generally speaking) take care of each other. It might just be a warm hug on a down day or the offer of real assistance when illness or family crisis strikes. And in many groups, that caring is soon extended to some sort of charitable endeavour. Just imagine how much poorer our world be without the contributions of this everyday creative work.

So do I really feel selfish as I pursue this creative life? No. Rather I feel lucky and privileged to be a small part of a worldwide movement that does a whole lot more than just “play” with craft. Sometimes, it is all about the pure wonder and inspiration that John Hopper describes in the creative process. At other times, it is just about sharing some love and compassion with a little generous creativity in an otherwise busy world.

Sharing a little piece of everyday creativity - an A5 journal cover embroidered for a friend.

Sharing a little piece of everyday creativity – an A5 journal cover embroidered for a friend.

 

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Why do I blog?

Starting a blog is a pretty daunting thing. I find myself wondering, will anyone ever read this and why? Am I making it interesting enough? What could I be doing to make a better job of it? And on bad days, why am I even doing this – no one will ever read it.

Why blogIf like me you have a tendency to Pollyanna-ism (the eternal optimism of Eleanor H. Porter’s delightful character), a bad day is usually followed by a day where you take yourself in hand and start searching for people who can help. People who have “been there, done that” and can pass on the wisdom of their experience. And then, if you are a lucky, a flash of insight follows and you add yet another little piece to the beautiful jigsaw that is your life.

I have been writing my blog for almost five months now, and I went in pretty raw. I didn’t want to “follow a formula” or write according to “somebody else’s ideas”. I just wanted to write for myself about the things that inspire me. As it turns out, my inspiration comes from a pretty diverse range of sources: a tidy sewing room, gorgeous ethnic textiles, thoughts on philosophy, or just a sunny autumn day. I have only written blog posts about things I really wanted to write about. But even then, I have held myself on a pretty tight rein – writing “carefully” and taking care to write “right” (it is hard to shake off the habits of a former life as editor of a science magazine).

Last year I found April Bowles-Olin of Blacksburg Belle and I have been following her ever since. April’s mission in life is “to help creative entrepeneurs build successful businesses around the lives they truly want to live”. The thing that stands out about April is that she writes with her heart – you feel like what she is saying is real and meaningful to her, and thus it rings true for you, the reader. In fact, often as I read her posts I feel like she could be writing just for me!

Last month, April ran a fabulous course called Build A Successful Creative Blog on CreativeLive. I don’t think it is overstating the case to say that her course came at the absolute perfect time for me. I had been writing my blog for a few months and was ready to find out all the things I could be doing so much better! Two things really stood out for me.

First, I am not writing this blog for me,

I AM WRITING IT FOR YOU.

Sorry – I shouted that bit, but it is pretty important! Why? Because I believe passionately that every single one of you has the capacity to be creative. I want you to read my posts and think to yourself, “I can do that”. If I had a dollar for every person who has told me “I can’t create my own embroidery designs”, I wouldn’t need to run this creative business at all – the money would be rolling in.

But I am here to tell you that you can create your own embroidery designs (or whatever else takes your fancy). And the purpose of this blog is to show you how I do it, where I find inspiration, and why I absolutely know from the deepest part of my heart and soul that

YOU ARE CREATIVE TOO.

(I wasn’t shouting that bit – just singing it out loud so that you will start singing with me 🙂 )

The second lesson from April’s course is that blogging is quite different to writing for print media. Blogging is all about community. When I shared this insight with my 14 year old son, he thought it was hilarious – “Yeah Mum – of course”. As a digital native it is absolutely obvious to him that the Internet is all about connections. But I was raised on a diet of books and hours spent in libraries, and it just hadn’t sunk in before that writing for a blog is quite different.

Henry Mosler (American genre artist, 1841-1920)  Quilting Bee. Women have been working together creatively for centuries.

Quilting Bee by Henry Mosler (American genre artist, 1841-1920) . Women have been working together creatively for centuries. It just so happens that our kitchen table now extends around the globe.

So whilst I sit here every week, writing about embroidery and creativity, I really want you to join me on the journey. A blog grows just one reader at time, into a thriving creative community sharing ideas and passions. So please, leave a comment to say “hello” and tell me what lights your creative fire. If you have friends who might be interested, then please share this post so that they can come and say “Hi” too. And if you haven’t done so already, subscribe to my blog using the form in the sidebar.

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