Three Questions for Denise Labadie

Have you ever found yourself unable to find just the right fabric or materials for your creations? Take some inspiration from one of our 2019 fiber art workshop instructors, Denise Labadie, and create your own! Denise is constantly asked about the “stone”, landscape, and sky fabrics she uses in her quilts. There just isn’t much commercial fabric with the types of colors, textures, depth, and complexity that many quilters are looking for. So during Denise’s August 25-31 workshop, participants will create their own!

Q: How does your personal art practice fit into your life? Do you work on it every day? Block off certain time periods for it?

DL: I love sewing, and art quilting. I love working with fabric, even if just to hold it. My art is not separate from the rest of my life; it is fully complementary. I work on it when I can – which is usually daily, though not always – and often until late at night (or into the early morning), but it is not “work” per se. I love just being in my studio, and with my fabric. While my art Is a high priority in my life, I thus do not force myself into a highly structured, rigid work schedule. For me, creativity is not enhanced by a fixed and imposed work environment, but by a dedicated but balanced work ethic.

Q: How do you approach critiques in your workshops?

DL: My workshops are about quilt composition and construction “best practices”. I basically try to teach the “what, why, when, and how” of both new and (oftentimes repurposed) traditional fiber art and quilting techniques. My workshops are highly interactive, are very hands-on, and are focused more on the development of participant creativity, confidence, and experiential exploration and learning than on rigid, one-size-fits-all lesson plans or patterns. 

I therefore view critiques as, first of all, one-on-one opportunities to promote the above learning and creativity objectives – perhaps suggesting alternative approaches or techniques, but always while affirmatively and positively empowering the student, not using critiques to get them to do things the “right” way or, worse, “my” way (this is one of the key benefits of not teaching via the use of patterns or rigid “rules” that must be exactly copied). And, to me, “critique” does not mean “criticism”; it instead should represent positive and empowering feedback. I will also promote group feedback depending on my feeling about the group as a whole, i.e., that they have shown and demonstrated the above type of thoughtful co-participant caring and creative support. 

Q: How has your work evolved over time? 

DL: I no longer have to explicitly “think” about techniques; they are now just friends that I intuitively call on as the need arises. I am now – compared to earlier in my career – absolutely comfortable with the “what, why, when, and how” (as noted above) of quilt construction. I have come to similarly trust my design sense: a native and experienced-based understanding of what will likely, and not likely, work. I am also far more comfortable – based on lots of hard work, multiple complementary art classes, feedback from my treasured (multidiscipline) art critique group, and the like – with the many integrated nuances of composition, color, shadowing, and perspective (all of which are central to my “style – see next question). 

Because of the above, I am a much better problem-solver than earlier in my career, so with every new quilt I now purposefully take on compositions that I would never have previously attempted, applying my skills to the solving of ever more complex compositional and/or construction challenges.

Learn more about Denise’s workshop on our website.

Three Questions for Debora Stewart

This week we’re getting to know more about new-to-us instructor Debora Stewart and her work in abstract pastels & mixed media! Debora is the author of the best-selling Northlight book, Abstract Art Painting: Expressions in Mixed Media and a series of Northlight videos on abstract painting. She teaches workshops throughout the United States and has juried national competitions in pastel. Debora is a Master Pastelist with the Pastel Society of America and in the Master’s Circle of the International Association of Pastel Societies.

Debora will be joining us from July 7-13, 2019 for a 5-day workshop on Creating Expressive Abstracts in Soft Pastel.

Q: What are some of your favorite tools for creating your work?

DS: I like to use a mixed media approach to my soft pastel paintings. I really like to develop an abstract structure on which to develop the pastel painting. This underlying structure can be developed from a variety of materials including black gesso, fluid acrylics, inks, water soluble graphite and charcoal and other various mark making materials. I also build a textured surface with clear gesso. My favorite pastels are Unison and Girault but I use many others. One can never have too many pastels! 

Q: Tell us a bit about how you plan to conduct your workshop. Will it be more structured with specific tasks for students or will be it be more free form with students exploring their own work with your guidance?

DS: I do have a structure that I follow. Each day has a different focus from creating abstract compositions, color theory, use of underpainting and ground, developing a series, finding your style and evaluating your work. Each day includes power point discussion on the days objectives, short demonstrations of techniques, exercises to help artists learn techniques, individual working time to explore the technique and ending in individual and group processing of the day. Each day builds on the day before so that by the end of the workshop artists will have a thorough understanding of how to proceed on their own. 

Q: What influences your work? 

DS: Nature influences my work. Most of my work is a reaction to time spent in nature. Sometimes you can see the evidence of more observational drawings I have created from gardens. Other times my work is memory based from a specific place. The materials also influence my work. I love the act of drawing and the physicality of making marks on paper. I really try to absorb time spent quietly in nature and allow it to come out later on paper or canvas. 

Learn more about Debora’s workshop on our website.

Three Questions For Dani Ives

We’re thrilled to be expanding our line up of fiber art workshops into a new art form next year with Dani Ives teaching us how to paint with wool! In her workshop participants will explore the diversity of using wool fibers as a “painting” medium by diving into the world of two-dimensional needle felting.

Dani is a self-taught fiber artist and founder of Good Natured Art. Her enthusiasm for the natural world from an early age took her on a university and career path based in biology and conservation education, after which Dani worked as an educator at a zoo for ten years.  Over the course of a few years, Dani developed her distinct style of needle felting that she calls “painting with wool.”  With this style, instead of using paint and a brush, she uses wool fibers and a felting needle to create the effects of layering color, creating texture and depth.

Q: Tell us a bit about how you plan to conduct your workshop. Will it be more structured with specific tasks for students or will be it be more free form with students exploring their own work with your guidance?

DI: I hope my students come with a few ideas that they’d like to conquer. I find the best way to learn my style of needle felting is with a bit of guidance on technique and then some trial and error. There’s a bit of a learning curve for those that have never needle felted this way before, but I have all the tips and tricks ready to share. We will also have a few exercises to really practice a few techniques that will come in handy on most future projects. 

Q: How do you work through or get over the occasional creative block?

DI: Luckily, I haven’t encountered a creative block, but I think there’s a few reasons for that. I keep a running list of commissions, but I’m also constantly working on other projects. I think jumping back and forth between the two types of work helps to keep my mind from going blank on what to do next. I also keep a sketchbook that I work in every day. Often, these sketches/paintings have nothing to do with my current fiber art, and they’re a way for me to explore new mediums and subjects. Often, some of those pages end up influencing a fiber art piece in the future. Lastly, I go outside. My best ideas have come to me while I’m on a trail in the middle of the woods. I spend as much time as I can hiking and exploring. 

Q: What influences your work? 

DI: My science background tends to have the most impact on the work that I do. I’ve only been comfortably calling myself an artist for the past three years. Before that, I worked as a conservation educator at a zoo, and studied biology, chemistry and conservation education. I spent so much time learning about and observing animals and the natural world, so tending to details in my art is second nature and enjoyable. With that said, lately I’ve been challenging myself to use color rather than detail to portray subjects. It’s been difficult to let go of intricacy, but I’m having a great time learning and developing new processes and skills.