Sunday, June 28, 2009
Shakerag Workshops 2009
Note: I actually published this blog on June 29, about 6:30 PM, because it took me over a day to make! I hope you have the time to read it! At least look at the pretty pictures! Here it is:
I went down to Sewanee, Tennessee last week, to teach at Shakerag Workshops at St Andrew's School, which is next to Sewanee - The University of the South, almost down to the Georgia border, about midway across TN. I was really curious, after over a year of emails and paperwork back and forth with Claire Reishman, the Shakerag director, who even sent pressed flowers in with snail mail sometimes!
Sewanee sits on The Cumberland Plateau, which they call the Mountaintop, and in the picture above, you can see how the land drops off - which it does all around the plateau. This is the spot called Shakerag, that our workshops got their name from. The legend is that you'd go here, if you wanted moonshine. You'd shake a rag at the moonshiner in the Shakerag Hollow, and you'd hide your money in a stump up here. You'd leave, the moonshiner would bring the whiskey and take your money. You'd return and get your white lightning.
Shakerag Workshops at St Andrew's had its sixth year this year, a two week program, for which I taught during the second week. My class was my usual Diary Paintings for Quilts, and mostly, we painted and wrote on our pieces, as well as sketching a lot. There were only six students, but we had a wonderful time together. There were about 65 people at the workshops in all, and here is our story.
On Saturday, June 20, Greg Pond, who teaches art at the University of the South, picked me up at the Nashville airport, along with Laura Splan, of Brooklyn, NY, who taught Computer Graphics this week at Shakerag with me, and Elizabeth, who is my student Diane's daughter. Greg would be assisting Greg Niemeyer, who was teaching a funky class in computer machines. I was starting to realize what an amazing experience this was going to be.
We got to the campus in an hour and a half, going south from Nashville. It was very, very hot - and it stayed super hot and dry all week. There was a lot of walking around to do, to go between activities, and at first all the buildings looked the same to me. This is Watts House, a dorm for the boarding students of St Andrew's. The Rincks' apartment (really a whole house) is stuck on the back of the dorm, and that's where I stayed, with Laura and another teacher, Jorie Johnson, who's an American living in Japan, who taught felting this week. Thanks for graciously sharing your house with us, Rincks!
Here's the view of the Dining Hall, as you come up from our house. The part on the right, with the big cross window, is the huge, tall diningroom itself, which looks very much like something from an old English boarding school. There are 250 students here during the school year, with 150 of them living here.
We got a wonderful tour of the St Andrew's campus with Claire Reishman, our director, who told us many amazing stories of the long history of the school, the monks and nuns, and how things evolved into the coed college preparatory school it is now. In the beautiful chapel at St Andrew's, she told us about some of the socio-political ties the school has had, and that made me feel more and more at home!
Meals are all buffet style, and during Shakerag, the food is mostly locally grown, mostly organic, and has a big emphasis on veggies. It's very delicious. Everything is marked with notes, telling you what's in it. The kitchen staff is big, and all the helpers did other tasks during Shakerag, too. Everyone's very, very friendly. Oh, and did I say, liberal? Sewanee is next to Monteagle, TN, which is where there used to be a big school to train people in civil disobedience and pacifism. Martin Luther King met Rosa Parks there. I, who knew nothing of the Episcopal religion, was so amazed to find this enclave of liberalism in the South. Yes, I'm an ignorant northerner!
In the Dining Hall, the cups are mostly made at St Andrew's, by Claire and her students, both teachers and school kids. They say every once in a while, Claire announces that it's time to make cups for the Dining Hall again, and off they go. You get to pick and choose among many fascinating shapes and colors, at every meal.
The main classroom building, Simmonds, is down at the end of this picture. This is viewed from near my house.
Almost there! And once inside, it took me and the others a while to learn where our rooms were, let alone the other rooms we needed to find. All the workshops were held in this one building, so we had a lot of interaction, which was very nice. It has wifi, too. :)
After exploring the large campus, we took the school's smaller bus and went to Claire Reishman's hosue for an elegant dinner, so the new teachers could meet the whole staff and their families. You could tell right away that these people are like family to each other, and they welcomed us with open arms. I heard the story of how people won the right to raise chickens in Sewanee, since Claire has a horse at her place. (These are homes on the big land trust that the University of the South is on. Very complicated. Just nod your head.)
Here we go, into Claire's house. On the way in, some of us stopped off to check out her new pottery. Claire is a wonderful potter, besides being an administrator at St Andrew's. She and her husband John and all the staff treated us so kindly that night, we were getting more and more revved for the workshops! During our week of Shakerag, Claire was not only directing, but also being the studio assistant for Kent McLaughlin's ceramics class. I know!
On Sunday all the staff and teachers got into the bus and headed to Monteagle, to Scott Bennett and Ginger Freeman's house for a stunning pizza party. In the 95º weather, Scott wood-fire baked 35 pizzas for us, varying the toppings with many organic treats, much to our delight. I stood in his oven hut and asked him lots of questions and took lots of pix. This made me realize I really do want to buy a little video camera. I've been afraid to, knowing it will suck me in! But I think I'm ready.
Scott and his wife Ginger Freeman own and run The Bread Peddler Bakery of Monteagle, supplying most of the area's citizenry with extremely tasty, organic, wood fired breads in many flavors and forms. At Shakerag, we had their breads all week ... I am spoiled now!
Here's Ginger relaxing for a minute, by her door. She's in charge of the kitchen during Shakerag, and she does an amazing job of keeping us healthily and happily fed. She and Scott also created the Tennessee Barbecue at the end of the week! Ginger is an artist, and she has a studio on the second floor of the building they built to house the bakery.
This is the solar system, according to Scott and Ginger. It's the diningroom "light," below which we gobbled our salads and pizza feast.
Then it was back to school. Jorie and Laura, my teacher-housemates, and behind them, Charissa Brock, of Portland, OR, the bamboo sculpture teacher. I didn't take any pictures at the evening faculty talks, but once Shakerag officially began to be the class week, we had two or three teachers in the group giving slide presentations (powerpoint) each night in the wonderful library of St Andrew's. On Wednesday night, June 24, we had Andrew Wagner, as a special guest speaker. He's the new editor of ReadyMade Magazine, and former editor of American Craft Magazine.
Also included in the faculty for our Shakerag week, but not in my blog photos, are Susan King, of Mt Vernon, KY, who taught Artists' Books; and Suze Lindsay and Kent McLaughlin, of Bakersville, NC, who each taught a separate ceramics class.
Christi Teasley, the Shakerag gallery director, is also one of the bus drivers, the assistant in Jorie's fleting class, and has several other hats to wear during the two weeks of adult art classes, which they call "Studio immersion on the Mountain."
That same afternoon, Sunday, Christi took us to tour the University of the South. Man, wiki this!
This place is 13,000 acres of land, the largest campus in the South, but it only has about 1,400 students. That's almost a hundred acres a student, isn't it???? Kids can just GRAZE here!
Seriously, the campus is stunning, with its Oxford classical style of architecture, mostly buildings made of sandstone quarried here on the mega-campus. The picture above is the cathedral, and when we were there, we heard a carillon concert. We went through skinny pathways, down spiral stairways, along turreted walls, and were just gasping at the architecture all around. One big thing has flying buttresses all over it! Oh, and there's a copper domed observatory!
Back at St Andrew's, this is a typical scene: kid, adult, dogs. Greg Pond and his daughter Ameila could be watching the great balancing act of one tiny St Andrew's dog riding on another dog's back. Something to tell mother Kinion about later! (Kinion teaches here, and Greg's at the University.) Amelia's as comfortable running around here as the doggies are! And there are other kids, and lots of other dogs, too! Check out the beautiful hand painted turquoise banner, just made for Shakerag. (Yes, it looks like it's coming out of the top of the smaller dog, I know.)
So now it's Monday, June 22, the first day of classes. We're in my Diary Paintings for Art Quilts class, and this is my trusty class assistant, Diane Getty, of both Baltimore and Sewanee, who's using the airpen for the first time since she had a class with me at Arrowmont in 2004. She was a great assistant, great friend, and made really good art.
I start the class with introductions of everyone, of course, and then we have "library time," when we're all quiet for ten minutes, drawing and writing, whatever comes into our heads. This really helps a person get centered, and usually leads to some great ideas for artmaking.
We made a list of suggestions for themes for our daily projects, and each day we nominated three themes from the list, and then voted them down to one. You could really get into the theme, or you could kinda ignore it, but give it some token symbol somewhere. For instance, the first theme for Monday was Eggs. You could just put a tiny egg in the drawing/painting somewhere, or you could really EGG OUT!
Once we have the theme for each day decided, we do some library time to get ready to work on the art. You can sketch all you want, but you have to put the sketches aside, when it's time to draw and paint right on your piece - NO erasing, tracing, copying. You can look at your favorite sketch, to get the idea of what you put where, but no copying, which would shove you right into your left brain's analytical thinking. In this class, you work intuitively, which is how you relax and get into your child (genius) zone. It works.
The paintings are done on kona cotton fabric with Jacquard Textile Colors fabric paint, and rub-a-dub markers and/or airpen to draw and write on them with. With only six students, I got done with my one-on-one airpen sessions pretty fast, so then students could come and use the three airpens whenever they wanted to. I love the sight of three airpens running at once! Several of the students learned to clean the airpen and refill it with black fabric paint. This was really good, as the manitenance needs to be learned while you're in my class, NOT when you're home, alone with a new airpen you've just bought from Silk Paint, its inventors.
Sometime during the week, you could sandwich and quilt one of your pieces, but if you'd rather, you could just keep on painting and drawing. I demonstrated my funky way of quilting early on, so you'd be able to jump in, whenever you wanted to.
This is Leslie Allen, aka Birdie, of Marietta, GA, who's painting on her piece about the South. This was the theme for our fourth day of class.
Violet Reid, of Sewanee, is a math teacher at St Andrew's, the only faculty person in my class. She hadn't drawn or painted for a long time, but look at her go! We were so thrilled, all of us, to see what she'd come up with next.
This is Violet's piece for the "Peace, Love, and Water" theme we had for Friday. It shows her vintage 1971 VW, which she longs to restore, but which is currently stored under a tarp on campus.
Peggy Solomon, also of Sewanee, is painting in her piece for the South theme, after working hard with the airpen.
Pat Doran, of Philadelphia, contemplates her piece for our Sin theme.
This waitress piece is Pat's take on the Egg theme.
Barbara Houshmand, aka Olivette, from Port Angeles, WA, had been in my class in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in April, so she came ready to continue her airpen and painting studies. I think she called this woman her Magnolia Wonan, in response to our Thursday theme, a long one, called "She hath done what she could" (aka "she done.") This odd theme came from a plaque in the chapel at the University, which Diane had noticed during our tour there.
Barbara's "Old Dogma" piece is for the Sin theme.
So now I'll show you what I did in this class. Since the class was small, I got a lot done there! This was also due to me deciding to be in the classroom all the time, regardless of class hours.
Above is my sketch for the Egg theme. I have President Obama cooking up wonderful and delicious egg dishes for all the issues of our current times. I try not to look at the sketch, when I'm drawing the painting. I want to have that same free-flowing joy of just drawing the lines, like I did when I was sketching. But I love having at least one sketch from which to psych out what I'll put where, and what the picture of the story will be in the piece. But that can easily change, if I get another brainstorm while drawing on the fabric.
I forgot to get a picture of my black marker line drawing of this piece, before I started painting. (At home this is often done by drawing with an airbrush, not a marker or airpen. The airbrush can give me thicker lines, which I really need in my big pieces.) This image is the beginning of my painting of the Egg piece on Kona cotton. I demonstrate the painting methods I use, and stay one step ahead of the students, so they can see how my work develops. I show them about four ways to apply the paint with a brush, and explain why each method is useful.
Here I've started to write on the dry and heatset painting, with my airpen.
At the end of the week, this piece still isn't done, and it doesn't have a title yet. But most of the writing is on, and I've sandwiched and started to machine quilt it. I still need to write in a few places, write on the border, finish the machine work, hand sew around the edge, and make my casing or sewn on D-rings, and do the label, probably with shrink art and Sharpies and a Rub-a-Dub.
One afternoon we took a field trip into Sewanee, and here are Violet, Diane, and Pat in a gallery in town, where many of the Shakerag staff have art on display, including Diane. We also saw a solo show of Diane's work in Stirling's Coffee Shop, and had a lovely snack at the home of Marleen Allen Varner, Bridie's mother-in-law and a College of Wooster alumna, like me. :)
This is my sketch for my Sin piece. It's about the sins of the Iranian government in brutalizing its citizens who protested the June 12 presidential election results. Neda Agha Soltani, 26 years old, was shot with one bullet, an isolated killing, about a mile away from the protest rally she was headed to. She has become the symbol of the uprising, like the man who stood up in front of the tank in China's Tiananmen Square 20 years ago. They're calling her the Angel of Iran, and there's a site called weareallneda.com, where I'm getting testimonies to her life and scarifice, to write on the piece, along with my own thoughts. I also joined Twitter, in support of the Iranian revolution of 2009, which was getting its news out only through Twitter for a long time, tho I think it's very, very hard to do that now.
Kinda of a bad image, because of the sunlight streaking over the painting here, but this is my start of Neda: Angel of Iran. I gave her wings, and I wanted to show her, where she fell to the ground, losing her life. I watched the cell phone video, which gave us the shocking reality upfront and personal. But I couldn't paint the blood coming out of her mouth and nose. The broken heart, also a wings shape, is my closest reference to her death, visually.
Neda is about 32"h x 31"w, and this is as far along as she got at Shakerag. I've got more quotes of tribute to write on her, as well as Obama's statements, but I ran out of time for now. I also got more work done on my Obamaland #2 piece at Shakerag, because I keep staying in the studio! But that piece isn't ready to sew yet, either. I have them both on the wall here by the computer, so I will keep trying to get back to them. (Only a camp starts Wednesday, so it'll be after that's over, I bet! They'll keep.)
Friday, the last morning at Sewanee, Violet offered to walk with me, out to the Res (the lake that was a reservoir for Sewanee, and is now a swimming lake.) We took one of her three dashhounds, Kobe, and started off. It was a little too irregular of a path for me, but we had a great time going there and back. We also walked down the road a while, to walk and sweat off some of the yummy St Andrew's food! It was SOOO hot all week there! Thanks for the really good walk, Violet!
Friday we chose one more theme "Peace, Love, and Water" (because Peace and Love tied with Water for the theme, so we decided to combine them ... ) I drew Violet, Kobe, and me going to the Res, and in the water I drew Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson wading together, under his umbrella, taking off on their spirit walk. Above you already saw Violet's piece for this theme, with her VW Bug in the fishbowl, but most of us didn't get very far Friday, and my work for the theme just stayed as a sketch on paper.
Relaxing in the lounge in the classroom building is Loretta Oliver, of Bloomfield Hills, MI. She was in Jorie's felting class, and was so friendly, I could have talked with her a lot more, but we were both in our respective studios most of the time. She's thinking about having me come up to Detroit to teach her art group. I'd like that. I lived in Mt Clemens for about a year, when I was young, and I really loved Michigan.
In mid afternoon on Friday, we got our classroom all set for the WalkAbuot. Here are paintings about the South theme. Going clockwise from the top left, they are by: me, Violet, Birdie, and Olivette.
Here are Egg pieces by Birdie and Diane, and Diane's multi-tasking all-in-one self piece, which was not for one of our themes, but then, Diane made MANY wonderful paintings this week!
Here's Claire, fresh from unloading a kiln, and enjoying the WalkAbout.
Christi was signing copies of the first edition (1996) of her book "A Field Guide to Hot Sauces: A Chilihead's Tour of More than 100 Blazing Brews," for which she'd done the amazing color illustrations all through. She said a new edition is coming out soon, so you can watch for that. The author is Todd Kaderabek, and Lark is the publisher. So it has over 100 of Christi's paintings in it! What a catalog!!!!!!!
After the WalkAbout, we all went to the new Performing Arts building and were treated to a concert by The Dishpan Hands Octette. This was Berkeley, CA artist Greg Niemeyer's computer class, called The Dream and the Machine. It was very Dada, all electronic, and reminded me of the Ferron (sp??), the machine I heard about recently on the Ira Glass show This American Life, on NPR.
Each artist designed and built their own computer music machine in their Shakerag class this week. It was delightful to watch and hear them perform.
Jack Ryan, of Eugene, OR, was the conductor, and Gabriel Hargrove, of Chicago, is on the right end. Note that they all wore one glove. This was their tribute to Michael Jackson, who had died the previous day.
After the concert, we headed to the Dining Hall, for Scott and Ginger's Tennessee Barbecue, and I got to meet Mayna, the wife of my fellow student, Walter Nance. Walter and I had struck up a conversation at lunch one day, and I was very interested in his thinking. He's a genetist, now only teaching parttime at Virginia Commonwealth, but his life of research into genetics is totally fascinating. He was in Laura's class, where they worked a lot with Photoshop, to produce beautiful art images.
Walter and Mayna met in China as children, and live now in Sewanee. I'm tellin' you, it's a happening place, up there on the Mountaintop!
This is most of my class, minus Pat, sadly. I left the picture uncropped, so you'd see how tall the Dining Hall is! It was, once again, super hot in there, but we're flashing the shaka! Hang loose, dudette! Be cool, fool!
Above is my painting in progress for the South theme. I remember very well, the sweet little song they played for my granddaughter Eva's first dance recital. She and about 14 other four year olds were dancing in a line onstage, to a song that had the catch line "Shake, shake, shake, shake it, Baby! ... Shake it on down to New Orleans!" So here is Eva in her first ballet costume, shaking a ragrug (for Shakerag, and because my mother wove ragrugs.) The fern logo for Shakerag is here, and the beautiful clay cup I bought from Claire, along with the ubiqutious golden retriever of St Andrew's campus. The asparagus is for the yummy foods we had all week, and on the right is the famous Gum Tree of St Andrew's School. The one in the woods, that all the kids have stuck their chewing gum on. Highly exotic and rare species.
When I get around to it, I'll do the diary writing on this painting. Oh, and add fringes to the ragrug, so it can really look like it's being shook!
Here we are, leaving on a full bus, for the Nashville airport Saturday morning, bright and early. I'm sitting with dear Olivette, and right behind her is Pat. Carlton, Christi's husband drove us down the Mountain, 90 minutes to the airport, and soon I was in the crowd, catching my flight home. I miss Sewanee and all of its charm. You can tell by the huge blog I just created!
If you're in this blog, and you don't want me to have your name in it, just email or call me, and I'll take it out. Sorry! But you sure are cute!
Jimmy will be home from his fly fishing trip to Grayling, MI, at about 8 PM. He had dropped me off at the Cleveland airport last Sat, the 20th, and drove on up to the big gathering of bamboo rodmakers and bamboo rod fishers. He and his buddy Doug Hall have had a blast all week with their chums up there.
Peace, Love, and Water - Lucky, supposed to be cleaning for camp. I've got a day and a half to pull that off! Looks like the weeding's pretty much on hold, again!