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- Crow Barn
I’ve been home from the Crow barn for three weeks. Because I went straight in to finishing up work for my solo show I am just now reflecting on my time at the barn.
This was my third time at the barn. My first two classes were exhausting. This time I promised myself I wouldn’t be so intense and would try to enjoy it a bit more. It helped that this time the barn closed firmly at 9pm and we were forced to stop working and leave. In the past, some nights, I had worked until 11pm.
If you begin Nancy’s classes at the beginning you go through with a group of students. Every time you go back to the barn it’s like seeing your summer camp friends. However, this time, I was out of my rotation and only knew 4 others. I was nervous about this heading in. But, I made a bunch more friends and now feel more part of the barn crew.
The class I took this time was more technical, focusing on lines, curves and circles. I did learn some (new to me) technical sewing skills, like setting in a circle. However mostly it felt like two weeks of art retreat style sewing.
I won’t go through each design exercise here because there were many. This time at the barn I made the most I had ever made and still didn’t complete every exercise. And I was ok with that.
The first week started with black and white design exercises using line. We then moved to creating color exercises exploring curves and circles. These were then assembled in to a “sampler”. I am not sure I like my sampler, but I did learn some technical skills which I will use at home.
At the end of the first week we made bullseye quilts. I fell back on my old standby… chaotic lines… which I regret a bit since I took the easy way. I think with this assignment the achievement for me was the color palette… which has been an issue with me.
The second week began with more black and white studies (I used probably 7-8 yards of both black and white kona cotton!) We then moved to a more complex exercise with eight panels using flat and glowing colors. I didn’t finish this assignment. But I did try something new and that was working with shapes.
At the final critique we were to answer 5 questions. One of the questions was “what sacrifices are/have you made to support your development [as an artist]?” I don’t have anyone depending on me financially, I don’t have a crazy busy day job, and I don’t have a bunch of drama in my life. Really the only sacrifice I make is financial. Attending a class at the Crow barn is not cheap. I will be direct and say I can’t afford it, but I make the sacrifice because I want my art to progress and this has helped more than anything else I have tried.
I am back at the barn in May 2019 and again in October 2019. I am looking forward to it!
Quilt Visions 2018
I am happy to announce that my piece, "Crossraods #8: Warp Speed" was selected for Quilt Visions at the Visions Art Museum in San Diego.
The show opened on 20 October and runs through 6 January.
Check out the show if you will be in the San Diego area.
Crow Barn, Wrap-up
The Crow barn is not for the faint of heart. However, both times I have gone to the Crow barn I have had huge breakthrough moments. The most recent trip was no exception. I had some huge ups and downs through the two weeks - one of which almost made me leave the barn so I could get a time out - which culminated in learning more about myself personally as well as my art practice.
The barn and classes are designed to push you... This isn’t a local quilt guild workshop where the instructor teaches his or her specific technique then tells everyone the work is fabulous. We’re at the barn to learn, be pushed beyond our first attempt, and grow as artists, which sometimes is uncomfortable.
Another major benefit of taking classes at the Crow Barn is who you meet while you are there. Some of the students I’ve met have been multiple Quilt National selectees and are well-known names in the quilt world. However, everyone is friendly and who is who doesn’t really matter as everyone is treated equally.
Both times I have been at the barn I have been the youngest (I’m in my mid-40s.) I wish that were different, but I can understand how taking two weeks off isn’t an option most non-retired people have.
I can barely make it work financially nor give up four weeks a year to study at the barn. However, I am willing to put in the time, stretch my tight budget, and commit to taking classes at the Crown Barn since I see it as an equivalent of getting an MFA... which I had been seriously considering. In the long run the Crow Barn option is much less expensive and less time commitment.
It has been five full weeks since I returned from the Crow barn and ten weeks until I return again. I’m excited to learn more as I’m scheduled for the next three ( ! ) sessions. I’m looking forward to learning more, spending time with friends, and meeting new people. Until the next time!
Crow Barn, Week Two
The second week began similarly to the first… we selected one our our linear motifs which we were to reproduce in 15 units using dark color and a glowing color producing a piece that resonates with lines.
Satisfied with what I produced for the first assignment, I was ready for the next. I was finished by Monday afternoon and was one of two students to get the notes for the second assignment.
I had a lot of momentum heading in to the second assignment. I selected my color palette, had it approved, and got to work laying out the design of the unit. We were to create 9 units in a complex color arrangement… I won’t go in to the detail of the assignment as it was fairly complex.
I loved what I was making. I had completed two of my units by mid-morning on Tuesday when Nancy was walking through the barn, saw my two completed units, and told me the color was too flat and to start over.
It felt like I was driving one of those 300 kph Japanese bullet trains and suddenly someone pulled the emergency brake. I was gutted and couldn’t concentrate after that. I had to find another color palette and fast. I got out my fabric stash and just pushed fabric around for an hour accomplishing nothing.
Eventually, it was clear I didn’t have a large enough fabric stash. I had to walk around the room and ask for fabric from the other students. Everyone was so generous with their fabric. At one point I had so much fabric from others that I didn’t even know which belonged to whom.
The combination of having to start over, not having a large enough fabric selection, and resorting to roaming around the room begging for fabric like a street urchin almost sent me over the edge. At one point I was planning on leaving the barn for lunch for a time out and to cool off.
I stayed through lunch and told myself to suck it up and get to work. I reluctantly began the project again, simplifying my design, and just kinda throwing fabric at the wall to get it done.
It wasn’t until the next morning that I began to feel better about what I was making. In the late morning I took a photo of my design wall, laid down my phone, and just happend to catch a glimpse of the piece turned 90 degrees on the screen... I got really excited. As my momentum picked back up I also realized it was my work and if I didn’t want to adhere to the assignment I didn’t have to. Once I had that breakthrough it was off to the races. I stayed past 11pm that night and finished the project.
Ultimately, because of what I learned, starting over paid off. I learned my fabric stash is inadequate and that I probably need to start dyeing my own (I have been avoiding that “D” word until now but I’m not sure I can anymore.) And, of course, that sticking it out can often lead to fantastic results.
Nancy left the last project of the week up to us; We could either go back and work on previous assignments or tackle the thrid assignment. Since I finished the second assignment late Wednesday evening I had an entire day to kill. I set the goal of completing the last assignment in one day. We were to combine everything we had learned in to one piece. I worked through Thursday and achieved my goal of completing the assignment in 12 hours. The piece isn’t the most amazing, but it was fun to challenge myself to complete it in one day.
Next blog post… wrap up and thoughts about the Crow barn.
Crow Barn, Week One
I’ve been home from the Crow barn for five days and I am just now caught up on my sleep and getting back in to real life. Because of the art retreat nature of the barn and the speed at which we move from project to project it really can suck you out of the real world and in to a time warp where everything moves at the speed of light.
As always it was an exhilarating and exhausting two weeks. I had a few 15 hour days… The barn opens at 7am and closes at 9pm. Although, sometimes we can stay until 11pm+ depending on who’s around to close the barn and tell us to leave.
I signed up for my first Nancy Crow class because I didn’t know where to go with my art. I almost gave up quilting as a medium because I was frustrated from not knowing how to get the results I wanted. That changed after my first class in June 2017 and I credit Nancy with giving me the feedback, technical knowledge, and an environment which I needed to kick my ass in to high gear.
For this year’s class we were to have many black and white motifs already sewn before we arrived at the barn. I had about 50. The first project was to take one of our motifs, scale it down to a 2.5” square and repeat in five color ways for a total of 200 squares. This was to be completed by 9am Wednesday morning before we were allowed to proceed to the second project. The goal of the exercise was to achieve visual texture.
At the time I wasn’t in love with this project. However, after finishing, I really love the version with brown. So much I think I will quilt it and figure out a way to stretch it on a frame and hang in our bedroom.
I finished the first exercise on time and moved on to the second… expanding a motif to a large quilt while working within a given color value system and playing with scale. I decided to change my motif, which in hindsight I regret.
I was exhausted from the tedious sewing from the first project (200+ two inch squares!!!) which made me a bit lazy and careless the second half of the week. In the end I was not happy with this piece because I just started throwing color in to get the quilt finished. I basted each section together anticipating that I will rip out the seams and only assemble the top left three modules since that’s the only part of it I like… that is if this piece ever sees the light of day again.
We were to have our design walls clear by 5pm on Friday when the barn closed for the weekend. I have the advantage of living (relatively) close to the barn, so I came home during the weekend and recharged a bit. Most of the other students stay in Columbus and explore the area, rest, etc. There were students from New Hampshire, up to Ontario, down to Texas, and out to California and everywhere in between.
Next blog post… week two frustration leads to some great results.All images copyright Andrew Steinbrecher / An icompendium Site