Friday, August 08, 2008

Gloucester Summer School 21-25 July

From the limit of an hour and a half at the Art in Action workshops, I was positively basking in luxury with the prospect of a 5-day workshop. And it was something I had been looking forward to, for over a year.
This week-long event has been held annually for 28 years and was another ‘first time’ for me. It should have been my 'second time' doing this event, as I was to tutor here last year, but the awful floods in Gloucestershire at the time, meant the whole event had to be cancelled for the first time in all the years it has been run. Thankfully, despite not having a great summer weather-wise so far, the rain did not fall like the deluge of 2007 and everything went ahead as planned this year.

Having 5 days meant I could take time to go through the basics with the students, which was an unbelievably lovely feeling and would benefit them enormously. Rather than trying to rush people through the preliminary stages, so that they could get on with their finished piece, I could set a series of exercises to familiarize them with working with the melted wax, brushes, tjantings and colour over the first 2 days. On Day 3 they had moved onto trying their hand at 'flying solo' on their first ‘proper’ image, and then once they had done that, they were free to do whatever they liked.

I had a lovely bunch of 7 ladies to start with, two of which had been to previous workshops of mine. As was usual for this event, throughout the week, students from all the workshops tended to wander around in their tea/coffee breaks and lunchtimes to see what everyone else was doing and perhaps to decide what they might like to try the following year. As a result of this, another lady joined my group on Day 2; she had decided to swap workshops to have a go at batik.

‘My ladies’ were a fantastic group, of whom it was a pleasure to meet. They were great fun and coped with my sense of humour and teasing admirably. As several of them have been regular participants for numerous years, they also looked after me very well for my first time at the event.

Doing workshops such as these I find I get much enjoyment out of seeing them progress and achieve and always find I end up learning something too. The results, of having such a wonderous amount of time to spend as one workshop, showed in the work produced and those that were not picking up the concept straight away had time to go at their own pace rather than having to rush. And those that were getting on well could try a bit of experimenting, which was great to see.

Though it was a relatively relaxed week for me, it was quite a heavy week for them - doing batik in a more pictorial style demands a lot of concentration and planning and I did feel for 'my ladies' when they compared how tired they had felt at the end of each day. But their enthusiasm and eagerness rallied them through and I hope they felt it was worth it.

Towards the end of the week, as I started putting their work up on the wall for all to see, I found I was smiling a lot. There were some fantastic images produced and I was really proud of what they had done and I hope ‘my ladies’ got as much fun, enjoyment and benefit from the week as I did. Several of the designs could be made into very nice cushions and, indeed, one lady in the group demonstrated how great they could look by spending two of her evenings turning two of her batiks into lovely cushions. I think this was a great inspiration for the rest of the group.

The event is held at a school in Gloucester, which is taken over for the week and 25 workshops were held there, either as 5 days or 2/3 days, this year; covering a diverse range of arts and crafts including whittling, botanical art, calligraphy, chair making, glass
engraving, stained glass, mosaics and lace making. I had been told that this was the first time that batik had been one of the workshops offered. Or perhaps they meant that it has been a long while, as I find it hard to imagine in 28 years no-one has done batik there before. Anyway, I hope to be able to go back and do another workshop at this event next year; signs are good that I may be able to, as there seemed to be a lot of interest generated and enquiries made for another batik workshop.

Whilst I had looked forward to this event, I also had a fair amount of trepidation of how I would fair over 5 days, knowing how exhausting a 2-day batik workshop can be. But I found having the week meant the pressure was reduced to get them through everything and produce a finished piece of batik, so the experience was a lot more enjoyable and almost relaxed. I thoroughly enjoyed the week and I'd like to thank my friend who told me about this event - opening up this opportunity for me, the organiser for taking the chance and booking me as a tutor and lastly, my lovely group of ladies who made the week so very enjoyable.

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