I have explored a variety of textile crafts before finally realising that patchwork and quilting was the area that I wanted to specialise into. Early on in my quilting explorations, in order for me to further my knowledge and gain inspiration, I began looking around to see what groups met in my local area and I am lucky enough to now belong to a number of them. I have found that through being a member of a group and sewing with friends my sewing life is much more productive.

One of the groups that I belong to is Thames Valley Contemporary Textiles, they meet four times a year in Bracknell, Berkshire and are open to everyone, whether you are a seasoned professional or at the start of your creative textile journey. I like this ethos, the group is very welcoming and there is always someone around who has been there and done it so if you have any questions they’ll always be answered. The group set challenges for all members to get involved in and at the meetings they often invite prominent textile artists to come and talk about their work and how they manage being a ‘textile artist’ as a profession. At their recent meeting they invited Hazel Ryder and Terry Donaldson to discuss how they had set up their business, Institches and to run a design workshop in the afternoon.

Hazel and Terry have worked together for a number of years and they provided us with a fascinating insight into the highs and lows of running your own business. For me it was interesting to hear about the amount of time it takes to promote your business, the social media effort that you need to put in but what really struck me was the way their partnership worked. Both take an active role in different aspects of the business working to each other’s strengths and it’s pleasing to see that this method of working is really effective as their business is growing from strength to strength.

Art Quilt, Terry Donaldson
Art Quilt, Terry Donaldson
Art Quilt, Hazel Ryder
Art Quilt, Hazel Ryder

During the afternoon Hazel and Terry took us through a design exercise which I thought you would find interesting so I’m going to share it with you. It all started with that very scary word – drawing. A variety of objects were placed on the table and Terry took us through an exercise, drawing without looking at the paper! The key to being successful she explained was to make sure you stared at the object you were wanting to draw, move your eyes slowly around the object and at the same time move your drawing implement around on your piece of paper. It took a while to get your eye in but I was really surprised with the results, see below.

Drawing without looking  at the paper

Once we had completed our drawings, we drew on each side of the paper, Hazel and Terry then got us to select out areas that we found interesting. Using L shapes cut out of card we placed them on our drawings until we found areas that we particularly liked, we were then asked to transfer the lines that we saw onto small pieces of polyprint. Polyprint is a thin polystyrene sheet that you can draw into with a sharp pencil and then use the image as a printing block. Artistic license came into play at this point, if you felt you had too many lines in your selected area you could leave some out. Once our polyprint was ready we then coated it in a thin layer of acrylic paint and printed them onto our drawings, it was quite nerve racking printing over the top of what you had just drawn but we were assured it would be of benefit in the long run. In some areas we printed with white acrylic and although this couldn’t necessarily be seen it would show up at the next stage.

Selecting out areas of interest with L shapes , creating polyprint board and printing with it using acrylic paint

Hairdryers at the ready we dried the acrylic prints and then used a brusho palette to colour our pages. Brusho is like a watercolour palette but the solid colours are made out of procion dyes, you normally buy them in a powder form and you use them for dyeing fabrics. The colours are really intense and if you like what you have produced it is then easier to recreate your results on fabric. You water the colours down and paint them onto your drawing work as if you were using watercolours.

Colouring  our drawings with Brusho palette

After another session with the hairdryers Hazel and Terry supplied us with waterproof black ink and some more unusual mark making tools, cotton buds, tongue depressers and lollipop sticks! We then added some final marks to our creations and left the pages to dry.

Adding marks with waterproof black ink and more unusual mark making tools

The final stage of our session involved cutting and folding our pages into a little booklet and that’s when the magic happened, little compositions started to appear everywhere you looked. I was pleasantly surprised with my booklet and I would like to do this exercise a few times, thinking in greater detail about my starting points, to see if I could create some compositions that I could work up into larger textile/art quilt pieces.

I never thought at the start of my Saturday I would have been returning home having undertaken some drawing, enjoying it and more importantly wanting to do some more. I would encourage you all to have a go, get out your equipment, don’t be scared and get drawing, its not such a scary word after all.

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