OK, so it's still really windy and cold; this is not a complaint, because I love winter. This particular windy and cold seems to be not fading away, so I'm taking the weekend to recover from teaching rather than launching into clearing and painting my garage in preparation for the studio move, which is mostly next on my To Do list, along with a trip to Sydney next weekend and preparing for my rapidly approaching residency.
My week at the Sturt Winter School in Mittagong was wonderful. We had the best class you can have (this is not competing with my past fab classes, just an observation): engaged, creative, and generous with each other. I make sure that everyone knows that it's not a competition, and that we are all learning together, because everyone has hidden skills that come out through the week.
Take Jennie, who introduced herself on the first day as being 'just a retail worker, not arty at all' and then proceeded to demonstrate a fabulous personal aesthetic and amazing sewing skills. Later in the week she brought in this:
It's a brooch that she'd made of a christmas beetle, sewn using stumpwork and leather... and the wings open up! Clever lady.
And Kim, a maths teacher and calligrapher, who invented her own versions of everything I taught and wowed the rest of the class.
I took them on a book-making journey from simple concertina structures through Asian stab binding, a basic coptic and culminated in a longstitch sewing onto kangaroo leather. They built up their skills and options, so that by the end of the week they could transform a good idea into an interesting book, rather than only knowing one way to make a book.
They worked really hard, often arriving early and staying late to play, and I did have a heavy emphasis on play, because play is what makes ideas progress into objects. They also, as you can see above, organised the space/s we were given to maximise both room and warmth and light.
Along the way we had scary winds outside the window, and we all worked out how to walk from our little Agriculture Studies Cottage to the dining room without walking under big trees, not an easy feat in a tree-heavy campus like Frensham School.
One night a few of us went out to dinner and gorged ourselves on yummy Indian food as a break from the (actually quite nice) food at the school.
At the end, as usual, every class out on a display of their work, and I think our class really shone, mainly because they produced such an interesting array of pieces.
If you'd like to see more images, I've made a flickr set here.
Big thanks to all my students, and to everyone else who I had interesting conversations with over breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and to everyone who sat through my talk about my time in NZ :) Also big thanks to Dale and Mark, who pulled off another great school, and I highly encourage anyone who is interested to check out the website for the Summer School, and eventually the next Winter School.