Saturday, September 19, 2009

Just Have Fun!

Since leaving my lowly part-time page job at the library, I've sought to do a few things just for me. One was to take a fabric painting class through Quilt University.

The instructor, Lyric Kinard gave easy to follow instructions, so I quickly picked up on the techniques. Thankfully they are simple and more like child's play. And that's exactly what we did in the class -- play.

Several other things I learned from that class:

1. Use the right tools and materials. The class was relatively inexpensive; the tools and materials a bit more. Getting the recommended fabric paints, brushes, fabrics, etc. I learned a long time ago when decorating cakes as a cottage industry while my kids were young, having the right tools are essential. It was no different this time. And, to my surprise I could even use my cake decorating tools to make a flour resist. You'll see an example of it at my Subversive Stitcher site more than halfway down the right column. It works the same with any creative endeavor -- come armed with the right tools.

2. Get to know the tools and materials -- what they will do and what they won't. This is a step I often overlook. And it requires something I thought ended with childhood: play. Play with the tools. Use them up, buy some more and do it all again until you're comfortable with them and know all of the various ways to use them. For example I didn't realize that fabric paints work well when mixed with quite a bit of water, so those little containers can last quite a long way. I didn't know that the sun and wet painted fabric can work magic -- sun printing is the most fun! Leaves and wind chime decorations and even buttons and safety pins make wonderful designs. I didn't know that my food grater would make such wonderful textures for rubbings or my rolling pin....

3. Learn the rules that guide the use of those tools. Paints and brushes and fabrics and textures and moisture and color and even a bit of Newtonian law comes to play in fabric painting. Its important to understand what will definitely happen so it can be manipulated.

4. In play, there is only success -- no failures. Failures become experiences to learn from. Truly. Part of the class project is to make your own journal and include swatches of the fabric produced, what was done to produce it and whether it worked or didn't and why. An excellent reference tool.

5. Beauty can come out of ignorance, but more often out of choice. The first day was pure happenstance. The second day became 'what if.' The third day combined experience with what if and pleasing creations began to appear.

6. What we think we are creating can take unexpected (and rewarding) detours into something totally different. When manipulating the fabric and trying various ways to apply the colors to it, we were repeatedly surprised at results and depths and the way the colors ranged within one cloth. I'm sure the laws of the universe, if we had known them, would explain what we were seeing, yet there was the angel that turned out to look more like a happy monster and had everyone in the class chiming in with what they saw as if it were a Roschard Test.
I see how the lessons learned in this fabric painting class transfers readily to writing. The most important perhaps: Play. Give yourself permission to play and try new things and ask 'what if.' Timed writings are my play time when I take the censor's restraints off of my brain and fingers and give them free reign. Some of my best work came from a tiny nugget found within the pages of these free writings. Why don't I do it more often?

But for me there's the downside of enjoying my writing -- it feels like play --especially with fiction. Then my 'grown up' role models (the ones that reside in my mind) step forward and slather me with guilt. I really must learn to play again and get rid of those damn role models!

Perhaps the most unexpected epiphany of this class was a reminder of the return I get for investing in myself.