Thursday, July 12, 2007

Distant Stitch Summer school at Urchfont

In which I met a wonderful group of new friends, learnt some fabulous new techniques and ate more delicious food than is good for one person.

I arrived at Urchfont in not quite sunshine on Sunday afternoon to find the exhibition of students' work and the textiles masterclass in full swing. For those like me who have / had never been to Urchfont, it is a beautiful old Queen Anne style ? house set in some lovely grounds which has been turned (very successfully) into a residential centre by Wiltshire council. I had time to wander around and view all the exhibits, chat to a few of the makers, meet my Distant Stitch tutor, Sian Martin, spend another small fortune with Art Van Go - (see previous post to find out how much I didn't need to do that!) and Winifred Cottage, get a cuppa and then check in! By then I needed a lie down to recover.

The summer school started in the cellar bar before dinner, where we all introduced ourselves over a glass of wine. There were several summer school stalwarts, as well as a good sprinkling of new bods like me, but everyone, without exception, was so friendly. Just goes to show what a great bunch we textile peeps are. At 7 they rang a gong for dinner and we all trooped upstairs to the lovely old dining room, with views over the croquet lawn, and sat down for the first of the most delicious meals. 3 courses of it, plus cheese and fruit if you could manage it!!! fantastic!!! After dinner it was over to our classrooms in the converted stable block, where Sian kicked us off with some "easy" drawing exercises. ha ha! we all did have great fun, and what was even better was that there genuinely was no sense of competition. Obviously there will always be a few who can draw anything standing on their head, blindfold, and whistling dixie. I'm pleased to say Sian didn't quite put us through that much, but she certainly kept us up to the mark!

the following day we started a two day Metal Magic course with Maggie Grey. It was both huge fun and just so brilliant to meet and work with her. She is so full of energy and enthusiasm, generous with her time and knowledge, and hugely encouraging, whatever your ability level. We did of course do far more than work with metal;we played with paper pulp, tissue paper backgrounds, velvet backgounds, wrapping, expandaprint, spirit dyes, walnut ink moonshadow paints, and so much more. Oh, and we got to use an embellisher. (Now that was fatal. We all want one now.) We all even managed to create at least one resolved piece from all the disparate bits we had made, which is really impressive given none of us planned anything terribly carefully and had odd pieces in different colours. But it worked.

Our second evening found us turning our drawing exercises into a line drawing and then into Kantha. Again great fun, and just right for pace to sit and sew quietly as I'm not sure how much more we could have absorbed at that stage. The last evening we watched a film, which had won an award at last year's Cannes film festival, and which was about 2 women, in various stages of muddle in their individual lives, brought together by embroidery. Very gentle in the way only the French can manage, but rather lovely.

In between all this ferocious activity, Sian managed to pull us out at intervals for group tutorials. We were there after all because we are going through one or other C&G course! We are on different courses, at different stages of those courses, but the whole thing seemed to be remarkably calm and well organised. And goodness, there is some stunning work evolving.

And did I mention the food? A full cooked breakfast as well as cereal, fruit and toast every morning, home made biscuits at coffee time, a cooked meat and vegetarian option, jacket potatoes and salads, plus pudding at lunch time, home made cake at tea time and then the 4 course dinner. Just as well we didn't have far to waddle between our accommodation and the class room - although maybe it would have done us good if it was a bit further! We did manage a stroll down to the village duck pond, and had time to make a small piece for one lady who had been unable to come at the last minute. But when I finally left, and drove to my friend's house, I was pleasantly exhausted. It was a great feeling. I do so hope that I will be able to go again next year. here are a few pictures. sorry some of them are a little dark, but hopefully they will give you a taste of it.