Saturday, March 23, 2013

pamela allen...


Pamela Allen "Tooth Fairy"

This week I was thrilled to take a workshop with the renowned Pamela Allen. Pamela is a widely internationally exhibited and awarded textile artist who after 3 nominations was also elected Teacher Of The Year in 2012 by the International Association for Professional Quilters. She was a painter for years before switching to fabric to create her highly distinctive works.

The course I took is her introductory "Fantastic Fabric Faces". Here is the workshop description:

"Here’s a unique way to use those fabrics with large prints in small art quilts. Pamela will demonstrate a fabric collage technique that uses the shapes in large prints....such as those from sarong batiks, large linear prints or floral fantasy fabrics....as components of a portrait face.  A curling vine becomes an eye, a circle becomes a chin. Emphasis in this class will be on the creative process with less fussing about sewing techniques and traditional quilting methods."


Below is my quilt in progress. Pamela made us work very fast, improvisationally and let our subconscious dictate the imagery. Our friend Karen aptly described the process as very Jungian. My figure ended up being a woman holding a bouquet of flowers and snakes. Am not sure what it means...



We used a variety of fabrics and prints to create a head and shoulder image using the scissors as a drawing tool. We combed through our fabric scraps to look for prints that were reminiscent of facial features. When pleased with the arrangement of the fabrics we used school glue sticks to adhere the shapes to the background although in a home setting I would definitely use re-positional spray adhesive. 

My quilt is not remotely finished. There is too much orange showing in the figure and she needs some clothing to break that up. I have to finish the bouquet, work on the hair and something needs to be happening to the left of her. When happy with the design, I'll sew down down all the shapes with embroidery floss using a simple ladder or zig zag stitch. Pamela uses three strands and chooses colors that complement or contrast with the fabrics. Her technique adds a really graphic texture to the work.

Once all the shapes are attached and the embroidery is finished, the quilt will be machine quilted and then embellished with to quote Pamela "anything and everything that may add decorative qualities or augment the theme that has developed".   She is a big fan of the Dremel rotary tool and uses it to drill holes in the most unimaginable and unlikely objects to adorn her quilts. The effect is playful rather than tacky. Pamela dislikes echo type quilting or stippling. She recommends that you quilt images into the work that are related to the subject matter. In her own pieces, this complex quilting personalizes the quilts and offers hidden symbolism and depth. Below are a few finds from the dollar store that may find their way into my quilt... 





It was a super day on many levels made more special by the fact that my husband decided to take his first ever quilt class with me! M. works in film and television so is a very visual person but is decidedly not a sewer. Since there was no machine and just scissors and glue he felt confident to give art quilting a try. Here is his piece and of course it too is nowhere finished. Apparently there is going to be an abstract collection of musical instruments next to the figure. I'm pretty impressed with his effort. While often maddening M is never boring and he is always open to trying new things. I am though a little worried that in the interest of shared activities, he will now expect me to learn to skate and play hockey...



One of the most interesting parts of the Pamela Allen workshop was this design exercise to explore narrative and line. We were given a fragment of a classical painting and had to expand it to fill a smallish space in only 20 minutes. You had to work very quickly and intuitively. My battery died which is a shame because it was fascinating to see how different interpretations of the same fragment looked made by different students.


Here is my experiment:





and M's...



His fragment from Matisse's "Woman With A Veil"... 




If you ever get the opportunity you must take a class with Pamela Allen. She is teaching mainly in Europe this year but her online classes are supposed to be amazing. We'll definitely be looking into taking at least one of them. She also produced a few years ago a DVD called "Think Like An Artist" which is a reasonable substitute for taking a workshop with her. Can't express how great a day we had. Have you ever met someone truly and infectiously happy? This woman glows with vitality and joy. She is so much fun and we can all only hope to grow up to be just a bit like her...

I leave you with my favorite Pamela Allen motto of the day:

"In all you do, be fearless!"



"Fish and Chips"

12 comments:

  1. Wow! What an experience! You two are quite the team!I think it's so special that you both took the class together. I love them both.
    I think her work and what she teaches does portray what she is.. Colorful and fearless.

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  2. Pictures don't do her work justice... As for M it was strangely romantic of him to join me... Sujata I'd love to see what you would make in an art quilt!

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  3. It looks like a wonderful and stretching kind of class, outside of the box.Your piece is great!

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    1. Thanks Kelly! That is a great description- very stretching...

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  4. How cool that your husband also dived right in!

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    1. It may be a one shot deal but it was fun to do together!

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  5. Fascinating. How cool that your husband went with you. I love the idea of completing a piece from a fragment of a painting.

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    1. He'll try anything once... I loved the fragment exercise too. I thought it would make a great online challenge! It was such a stimulating class...

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  6. What a great class you did and thanks for sharing your experiences. I love the textiles you and your husband made, what wonderful colours you both used. I'm off to read more about Pamela Allen now.

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    1. Thanks so much Sheila! It was a wonderful day...

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  7. Love both of your pieces. Sounds like you had a fun day together. I don't think I would worry about having to learn to play hockey. I would be more worried that M. might get a little too interested in your fabric stash. Ha ha !!

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