A Pandemic Treat

Well, this pandemic is turning out to be long term in effect, isn’t it? For some time to come, we seniors especially will be continuing to go out less and spend time in and around our home. Things are gradually loosening, but we’ll carefully think about and plan even the simplest outing, like a trip to a museum or exhibition, which we always took for granted. Instead of just wandering in during open hours, it’s likely we’d have to book a time to attend the Dreamtime Art exhibition I posted about march 9th last, just days before the first covid-19 cases were announced here in Uruguay, and the world as we knew it was changed for ever. We’ll be wearing masks and practising social distancing when we do go out for anything, and it seems the ability to travel is a long way off. Even when we can move again, I expect it will be much more difficult and complicated, though long distance travel’s never been for the faint hearted, anyway. And, most likely it will cost more.

In the last 40 years or so of my privileged life, every 4-6 years I’ve been able to tie in attendance at a top rate textile arts workshop to coincide with either a visit back to Australia, or up to the USA to visit our kids and grandchildren. I’ve found it a great mental health thing to have a refreshing few days in a workshop with a world-class teacher of my choice; and for just a while to be in the company of other like minded students has always been stimulating. I’ve always been prepared to live anywhere Mike’s work has required us to be – and these occasional sorties I see as equivalent to gold stars the teacher puts on my work book, in a manner of speaking.

For several years I’ve received the newsletter and occasionally accessed the archives of an organisation called TextileArtist.org “A place for textile and fiber artists to be inspired, learn from the best, promote their work & communicate with like-minded creatives“… As a response to help creativity in the sudden stay-at-home- or lock-down world of stitchers around the world, they held a 7-week challenge for stitchers they called ‘the community stitch challenge’. It was free, and it turned out to be very popular, with people saying they’d love more. I signed up but didn’t actually do any of the classes, but the workbook download was sent free to everyone who signed on.

Despite the demand for more, TextileArtist.org couldn’t keep doing this without funding, but came up with an ambitious idea which has caught the imagination of stitchers around the world, including yours truly. The information’s all on their website – but basically for a monthly fee, in 3 out of 4 weeks per month, top teachers will each present a one week workshop. Whether to do all three or pick and choose is up to you, but as a subscriber for that month you have all the class videos and materials plus critiques, the members-only FB page and feedback, and continued access to all that as long as you’re a member of The Stitch Club. If you leave the scheme, you can download everything you’ve paid for before you go – which sounds perfectly reasonable to me. I gather many people have signed on for the initial offering price, and to me it seems a great idea at just the right time. For all the reasons people attend workshops or symposiums, it offers much of what you’d expect at a fraction of the price you’d be forking out to travel to something like this, though we all know that nothing online is quite as good as being physically present in a classroom. A compensation is that we don’t have to haul fabric, threads and equipment through airports, we sleep in our own beds, wear whatever we feel most comfortable in and always have access to whatever fabrics and threads we already have in our sewing rooms or studio 🙂 I’m sure I have more than enough thread and fabric in my cupboard to keep me going for several years’ intense study, at least!

Detail, “Out Back of Bourke” 1986; from ‘Sunburnt Textures’ solo exhibition, 1987.

So I’ve signed on, and am looking forward to the first weekshop on Monday next, with a stitcher whose work I have long admired: Debbie Lyddon of UK. Her stitcheries emanate from intimate experience with the colour, shapes, lines and textures of landscape around her and it’s shifting, changing moods. I am looking forward to being reminded about taking inspiration from landscape and using hand stitch especially, to explore my own sense of place. I know this is going to be interesting and fun.

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