Friday, April 16, 2010

Fiber Arts Certificate Program, second quarter wrapup

Despite having knee surgery in early February, I was still pretty productive in the second quarter of the Fiber Arts Certificate program. The focus for this quarter was concept driven art and how to produce it. We started out the quarter with an assignment to do 50 collages in one week. That was a tremendous learning experience, and I'm looking forward to being back in the studio and using the lessons I learned in daily practice. Right now, the knee is only allowing a couple of hours at a desk at a time, so I have to be patient. Not one of my best skills but I'm working on it.

To do those collages, I had to work smaller than I have before. This was an excellent exercise as it allowed me to try out variations visually rather than attempting to edit my ideas in my head. I learned that things don't look the way I expect them to and that my design ideas are greatly improved by trying them out visually.

This insight led to my really grasping the point of working in a series. I'd heard others talking about series work, but hadn't really gotten the why of it before now. Now, I do. I can try out the variations, see what works best, and then do that in a bigger format. A big plus is that I get to feel incredibly productive and have smaller pieces that will sell at a more affordable price. I'm not seeing a downside here which is really nice.

The third big lesson is that thinking over what to do is futile. Do one, see if I like it, if not, do another idea. Experiment! I suppose this is what is meant by the phrase "make visual decisions visually". Spending a couple of hours going back and forth in my head turns out to be a waste of time. In the same time, I can do 2 or 3 variations in a small size and SEE which one comes closest to evoking the emotion I'm aiming for.

And fourth, I learned to have a clear concept underlying a piece and make sure that every part of the piece contributes to that. If not, toss it aside and let it wait for a piece that it does fit.

The other big part of this quarter was producing a clear philosophical artists statement. I found this to be very useful, especially the class we spent doing quick written feedback on our fellow classmates' statements. Having to put into words why I produce the work that I do was a good way to clarify the concepts that I want to focus on. I've written artist statements before, for pieces going out to exhibits, but this time was more productive because of the feedback from others and the questions raised by our teacher.

The last big lesson I learned is the usefulness of a regular critique group. Having a supportive and knowledgeable group to ask focused questions is a very useful way for me to get clear on the underlying conceptual basis for my work.

To sum up: an incredibly powerful quarter, and I only hope I can apply the lessons I've learned once I'm back in the studio full-time.