Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What I've Been Meaning to Write: SAQA's New Mentorship Program

Thanks to Chris Nielsen, whose post on the Atlantic Canada blog is very timely!  Somewhat red-faced, I've been spending less time on my computer during our lovely summer, so have not explored the SAQA Mentorship Program.  Instead, I've let thoughts of it tickle my brain from time to time, and have posted nothing!

However, I recognize (as Chris does) that not all of our SAQA Western Canada members participate in the general SAQA Yahoo Group, a repository for all kinds of information and a source of lively discussions.

SO...with that in mind, I'll take a page from Chris' book, and post this latest message from Sue Bleiweiss, who is coordinating this program (emphases mine):

Now that the mentorship program has been underway for several weeks I thought I would post an update on how it's going and provide some statistics and other information about it. 

So far 12 matches have been made and all the mentees have met with their mentors at least once via Skype, FaceTime or telephone to talk about their objectives and goals and to set up a regular communication schedule with each other. Everyone is very excited about their new partnerships and I couldn't be happier about that. 

You might be wondering who these mentors are so I am going to tell you! I'm sharing their names with their permission of course and they are: 

Pamela Allen 
Sue Bleiweiss 
Lisa Call 
Jenny Bowker 
Sherri Culver 
Kathleen Loomis 
Alison Schwabe 
Pamela Druhen 
Carol Ann Waugh 
Susan Polansky 
Phylis Cullen 

Each of them have signed on to work with at least one mentee and a couple are working with more than one. I am grateful for their willingness to sign on to be a part of this program because the success of the program really hinges on having enough mentors. And that brings me to my next statistic... 

I have 9 mentees on the waiting list waiting to be matched up with a mentor. I need more mentors

So I am once again putting out the call for mentors. Now I know that being a mentor isn't for everyone and I absolutely understand and respect that but I'm guessing that there are some of you out there that are thinking you might be interested but your not sure about it because you are not sure how to be a mentor or what areas or categories you can mentor someone in. To answer those questions, just pop over to the SAQA website here: http://www.saqa.com/memberArt.php?ID=3369   All the information about the program is there and if you take a look at both the mentor and the mentee applications (regardless of which you want to apply for) those will also help answer your questions. If you still have questions or your unsure, then write to me at sue@suebleiweiss.com. I will be happy to talk with you about the program and how you can be a part of it. 

The mentorship program is just one of the programs brought to you by the SAQA membership committee. The committee is chaired by Diane Wright and is made up of volunteers Clara Nartey (Secretary), Sue Bleiweiss, Paula Huffman Brown, Sharon Buck, Christine Hager-Braun, Candice Phelan, Allison Reker, Desi Vaughn, and Martha Wolfe. We meet once a month to discuss, brainstorm and develop programs and initiatives related to areas of membership. Watch for updates about the committees other programs and initiatives in future emails. 

By the way - if you're curious about what other commitees that SAQA has you'll find that information on the SAQA website here:

Sue Bleiweiss 
MA/RI regional co-rep 
Membership committee volunteer 
Mentorship program coordinator 

Note Sue's call for more mentors!  If you would like to participate as a mentor, Sue would love to talk to you!

Chris is starting with a mentor in the next week or so.  If being mentored (a 'mentee') is of interest to you, again, Sue would love to connect with you and answer your questions.  Don't be intimidated by the fact there is a waiting list.  Having a mentor for a particular period of your artistic life might just be what you need to overcome a block, focus your process or your voice...And its another way to build relationships in an organization so large and far-flung.

I for one am curious about the process, and will be following Chris' posts about it as she and her mentor work together.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Fiberlandia Highlights III: The Panels - Part A

For your summer reading pleasure...

The Panels at the SAQA conferences are, for this attendee, a major highlight -- and the three presentations in Portland did not disappoint.

Rosalie Dace
The first of these was a panel of International Artists, moderated by Rosalie Dace (South Africa).

The Panel members were:
Maggie Vanderweit (Canada)

Hsin-Chen Lin (Taiwan)

Sue Dennis (Australia)
Gul Laporte (France)
Rosalie, as moderator, titled their presentation " Dancing on a Tightrope".  From my notes -- taken during her intro -- defining the 'tightrope' artists walk these days:
  • In this time of changing views of art and beauty, how do we keep our balance between the buzz of the new and the security of what we already know?
  • How do we know what to keep and what to dismiss as a trend?
  • Looking at how the world changes...no matter how technological things become, it's still about the human hand.
  • Our views of people change...as do aesthetics.
Then each panel member spoke.  First up, Maggie Vanderweit, a SAQA Central Canada member whose work took a prize in the National Juried Show at Quilt Canada this year.  Again from my notes:
  • All of us are walking on the tightrope -- "hands off!" -- learning to let go. An example? Parenting...and then,,,the empty nest,
  • We are on journeys.  Going from here to there, we may feel safe, but there's always a risk.
  • Sometimes we are sitting still, waiting for things to come to us.  It will be safe, for there's a 'net' -- a community.
  • Making takes courage, vision.
  • Cited: Kandinsky - considering the spirituality in art.
Second, Gul Laporte, a SAQA Board member and textile art consultant, writer, teacher and curator.  She is fascinated by the way artists interpret so differently the same thing. Her observation: it is important to be open to others and what other artists are doing.

Third, Sue Dennis, an artist and tutor from Australia, and a SAQA Co-Rep (Oceania):
Image from The Galipoli Quilt
  • For her, the tightrope is walked by artists engaging with the environment and the landscape.
  • She uses strong oranges and colours drawn from the Australian Outback.
  • New Zealand, on the other hand, is very green due to its landscape and vegetation.
  • The relative isolation of the Oceania region means that artists there don't necessarily follow American trends.
  • Cited: Down Under Quilts and Down Under Textiles - two magazines specific to Australia and environs.
  • Cited: the work of Dianne Firth - torn strips, net and felt landscape art and architecture; and the Galipoli Quilt, the inspiration for which was drawn from what the artist knows.
Lastly, Hsin-Chen Lin - who, unable to speak English well, presented a video of her work which is inspired by nature and the environment.  She is the current curator for the Taiwan International Quilt Exhibition 2016.  You can see more of her work in that of the international artist groups 15 x 15 and Viewpoints 9.

Below: the YouTube video she prepared for us.  Enjoy!

Coming up on the blog: Fiberlandia Highlights III: The Panels - Part B - the Local Artist Panel.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fiberlandia Highlights II: The Breakout Sessions - Part B

Lyric Montgomery Kinnard
The second session I attended at the Portland Conference was presented by Lyric Kinnard.  Her topic was one that swirls around artists with great regularity, and shows up in a variety of guises on SAQA's General Yahoo Group...like it did this past week, in response to this question from member Roxanne in North Carolina:

Hi Everyone,
This question applies to all you.  If you are new to art quilting, what is your biggest question about making/designing art quilts?  If you have been around a while, what was your biggest question when you were getting started?  Any and all replies are appreciated!

It wasn't long before member Cathi Nelson wrote this:

As a new Art Quilter the thing I struggle with the most is confidence.  Having no formal art training I question my designs.  I compare my beginnings to others who have been on this journey awhile.    I have a multitude of ideas swirling around in my head and in my sketch books but struggle to commit to fabric.  In the six months I have been working on art quilts I think the key to developing my skills will come through continual trial and error, study, and time.  

I struggle with "Voice" but it is probably too early to  discover what that is.  I struggle with validation, can I really do this? I have come to a point in my life where this is not just something to do.  It is a passion.  I feel like it is taking a long time to get where I want to go.  I use my own hand dyed fabrics which is a time consuming process in its own right and could probably have a lot more work finished if I used commercial fabric but then this partly defeats my purpose and passion.

... Struggles are with confidence, the need for validation, voice, and direction.

I'll venture that every single one of us -- new to art quilting or not -- struggles with this (or something very like it; the language around this issue is as individual as each artist) from time to time.

Enter Lyric Kinnard, with her breakout topic, "Failure is an Option: Why Making Bad Art is Vital to Your Success".

Her point?  Right up front: acknowledge the fact that "To be a good artist, you have to make bad art on a regular basis."

Then she asked her audience, "What is FAILURE?"  To which we replied...

  • Not meeting expectations (our own or other people's)
  • Not doing art
  • Making ugly work that is irretrievable (can't be fixed)
  • Can't get started
  • Hesitation/procrastination
  • Disappointment
  • It can't get worse!
  • Rejection
  • Fear -- of failure
  • Fear -- of success
  • Being stuck
And she asked..."What are the consequences of failure...in the Real World? Are there any?"


"Failure" is more about a learning process than the outcome of that process.

The artist's job is to make art.  The artist is a human that is doing a project.  Part of the process is to figure out what does and doesn't work.

We need to give ourselves time to be imperfect, time to learn.

"Talk back to the Voice in your head!"  Be aware of it, forgive it for it's bad behaviour -- and forgive yourself.  Let go of your mistakes/"bad" work.
Don't worry about what you've no control over. 
Your work (what you produce) is NOT part of your self identity.

How do you turn failure into something positive?   This too is a process:
  • Stop what you're doing;
  • Analyze what you're doing;
  • Tweak it;
  • Do it again.
"There are always parts of the [artistic] process that I don't love."

What stops us?
  • An unexpected outcome;
  • Not being able to achieve our goals;
  • Boredom;
  • Fear of ruining the piece.
There is often a gap between our taste and our ability (skill level).  It takes time and work to shrink/close that gap.  
  • Give yourself that time.
  • Do that work.
  • Reign in your imagination.
  • Focus on the goal in front of you.
Then Lyric turned to us to answer our own questions, thus:
  • What do I want as an artist?
    • Who do I want to be?
    • What do I want to create?
  • Why do I have this goal?
  • Am I wandering from my goal(s)?
    • If yes...what is happening now that's an expected outcome?
From there...
  • Gather your tools;
  • Gather your techniques;
  • Give yourself space;
  • Do something different.
When does the Muse show up?  When you are in the midst of doing the work.

If you fear wasting time/money/materials/opportunities...Give yourself 15 minutes of "bad art time" and then get going!

How do you keep the work going?
  • Make lists;
  • Leave the last thing to do undone;
  • Clean your studio - clear your space;
  • Touch the fabric;
  • Set boundaries (limited palette, limited time to work, limited subject matter...);
  • Jump in over your head;
  • Don't compare your inside to someone else's outside.
Who do you think YOU are?