The little pieces of batik fabric Trisha carefully lays out on the table is as colourful and exotic as the tattoo on her wrist. Orange and green overlaid with yellow and blue. “When I started here in February, I only worked with black, purple and red.” Trisha’s affection for all things goth is evident in her black clothing, tattoos and piercings. “Adding green, blue and orange is a big step for me,” she says.
She is one of textile students in the Certificate III in Visual Arts course at Marden Senior College. On the day I visited they were working on crazy-patch and Kantha embroidery. It forms part of the unit on embellishments.
The studio is warm and welcoming. Sunlight streams in through a wall of windows on one side, while the opposite wall is covered with a colourful collage of projects, photos and inspirational pictures. Two long tables in the centre of the room are filled with students’ work in progress, piles of fabric, thread and other stashes while the end table is piled high with samples of Kantha and crazy patchwork.
Suzanne Gummow, head of the textile course and lecturer, talks about the history, background and cultural context of each technique before giving links and references for further study and research. Students are expected to do a lot of self-study and exploration of each module of work. The emphasis is on doing, making and experiencing, backed up by thorough research and extensive theory work.
Maxine and Gaynor are both experienced quilters. They are familiar with working with textiles but felt traditional quilting was becoming too precise and restricting. They longed for freedom and new challenges and were ready to broaden their horizons. And that is exactly what they’ve found in this course. “We are looking with new eyes at familiar things.” They tell me. No longer restricted by straight lines and even seams, they play like children, experimenting with uneven edges, daring colour combinations and many exciting kinds of fabrics.
Suzanne obviously loves every minute of teaching and sharing information. An accomplished and awarded textile artist in her own right, Suzanne insists that she learns as much from her students as she teaches them. “The moment I stop learning, I will stop teaching.”
Students range in age from 16 to 73. Many students move on to become full-time textile artists, others move into fashion and costume design, but all agree that the Marden Textile course changed their lives and enriched their world.
Janine assures me that although she could sew in her ‘previous life’, she never considered herself artistic. “This course opened my eyes and mind to look at the world differently. I am learning how to transfer the things I see and collect into a picture and an artwork. The things I make are no longer flat and lifeless, but they pop. They breathe.”
“We learn from each other” Trisha adds as she works on her batik piece. “We find inspirations from each other. The vibe and atmosphere in the studio are creative and stimulating. I never want to leave!”
The course consists of a Cert III and Cert IV courses and can be done full time or part time. It involves practical work as well as theory. Although it is extremely stimulating and creative it is quite intensive and requires a big time commitment. This is not a hobby course but a full-on study course, but according to everybody involved, both student and teachers, worth every minute you devote to it.
To learn more about the course visit the Marden College website: http://www.msc.sa.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Textiles-3-4_MSC15.pdf
Visit Suzanne Gummow’s blog here: http://sgummow.blogspot.com.au/