A Design Workshop With Jan Mullen

As a prelude to the Ozquilt conference and AGM at the national Wool Museum in Geelong last month, I took a design workshop presented by well known Australian designer and textile artist Jan Mullen  We were asked to take along papers of all kinds plain and printed (but it was only a one-day w/s and I was travelling, so really did limit myself here, which was fine) We took along also our own choice of various kinds of mark makers like pens, crayons, pencils, water colour paints, felt tip pens and more.  I included some gorgeous glitter glue in 6 strong colours, some metallic pencils plus bronze silver and gold marker pens – all stuff I didn’t already have and had never tried – why not!  I added a couple of remaindered magazines for $1 each in case I needed them for cutting and pasting, and I did use bits from one.

Several objects from the Museum’s collection of things associated with the Australian Wool Industry and its history were laid out for us to use as the starting point for Jan’s design approach which formed the basis of this workshop.  We were reminded of the importance of getting to know an object and its characteristics via many ways of recording it – drawing and photographing from various angles, and the value of writing of lists of words and phrases to record our own thoughts and responses to the object – the back story – were all part of the study on how an object can be the starting point for a design.  Some of this approach was familiar to me as being part of the way I work, but other parts of the approach were new and thought provoking.

A spiral of canvas rubber and metal pins described as a carding strap was eye catching ( it was wound round a revolving drum and removed particulate matter from the raw wool fibres)  Photos were one way of recording it – however as we were able to handle these objects, there are lists of words and phrases too of how it felt in my hand.  It wasn’t as heavy as it looked.  To someone interested in line and shape, this was intriguing – carding strip - NWM geelong blog

The other object that really caught my eye was a huge book, essentially a catalogue or scrap book, containing snippets of the fabric samples produced by one woollen manufacturer over many years, revealing change in taste and fashion as they were glued in and annotated each year. These samples separated the pages out, producing some lovely linear patterns –   Wool samples file NWM geelong blog

The drawing and writing while really looking at these photo images suggest lots of things I could do with each of them. I may or may not use them directly in the future, but the whole exercise of the workshop – observing, recording and thinking about associations these objects suggested, did re-enforce and expand my ideas – such is the value of occasionally attending a design workshop.  Jan’s was fun and relaxing, her material was well organised and well presented – everyone had a great day – so take a workshop with her some time if you can!



2 Responses to “A Design Workshop With Jan Mullen”

  1. Margery Goodall says:

    Great that you enjoyed this, Alison – and doesn’t the National Wool Museum have a fascinating collection of objects.
    Jan is one of Australia’s lesser-known art quilt heroes; a superb designer and teacher better-known overseas. I’m really disappointed that I had to withdraw.

  2. So proud that Jan lives here in Western Australia and that she is a leading light in the Western Australian Fibre and Textile Association. We might get Jan to do her workshop with us perhaps if we are very very good?

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