Last week I spent an inspiring three days over at The Big Cat Textiles in Newburgh, north Fife doing a workshop with Matthew Harris whose work I have long admired. The three days were great fun – the studio space good, and the other students made excellent company. All that plus Alison produced lovely lunches each day so what’s not to enjoy.
In the list of requirements Matthew had asked us to bring some examples of hand writing, not our own, and led us through a series of exercises familiarising ourselves with the marks and accents of the chosen script. It quickly became clear why the samples had to be of writing by someone else as it was too easy to lapse back into known letter forms. I tried one or two phrases from a letter received from my friend Reyhan who lives in Delhi. I chose Reyhan’s writing because I know she always writes with a nib pen and so the marks her pen makes show lovely thicknesses and thin lines. For most of the first day I worked on one particular phrase but had something of an epiphany on Day 2 when I switched to a piece of script that means India but in a ‘Sanskritised’ form rather than Hindi. I will need to ask her at more length to explain this to me so please don’t question me about that.
Anyway I found that working with another, non Roman, language allowed me to see the lines purely as marks and I felt I progressed better, or at least in a way that I could translate into fabric. Other students used a variety of sources including a granny’s cookery book well thumbed and full of hand written recipes, a Sanscrit document and some old postcards dating from early 20th century. Anyway, I worked with Reyhan’s hand writing for the remaining time and started some experiments with fabric.
Each night I felt tired but excited about what I can do with these drawings. Hopefully, they will form part of my larger India series and move that work onward. There were areas of the long piece that could work individually but I would like to try to upscale a bit. Talking with Matthew was good, as it always is to have another perspective on one’s work and he suggested something that I want to think about and develop. Watch this space! Matthew was an excellent teacher and I would recommend any workshop of his if you can.
This is a photograph of our end of the studio with work by Chiara, Margaret and then my own at the far end. A very enjoyable few days in the company of a great group and inspiring tutor. Thank you Matthew, thank you Reyhan for providing me with the inspiration, and thank you also to Jeanette and Alison of The Big Cat Textiles