THINK LIKE AN ARTIST- Instructor, Pamela Allen

Have you made the transition from traditionally designed quilts to ART quilts? Would you like to? Then this is the class for you.

There are two parts to every art is the technical expertise of stitching, applique, quilting, blocking, binding. And we all continue to improve in this category simply by making work . The other side ... the ART more ephemeral and esoteric perhaps, as it requires many years of questioning, risk taking and imagination to develop. Pamela has designed a three day program that will start the student along the road to that development. Students will hone in on the whole process of art making using a series of hands on exercises which focus on the important elements of creativity. Each morning and afternoon, the class will work on projects that address certain problems faced by every artist.

For instance, what about the tools of the trade...meaning the formal elements such as color, line, shape, space, scale? These are as necessary to art as are the machine, thread and scissors. As a warmup exercise, the class will make several quick fabric sketches in series to focus on each element. This is a fun and relaxing introduction and you will have several little postcards well underway by lunchtime.

Here's another question. How do artists decide upon their subject matter? We will talk about outside influences that often trigger an idea ; other artists' work, images gleaned from popular culture, written sources like poetry or literature, music, daily events in our lives. To help in the discussion, students will be asked to compile a folder containing any written or visual data that is appealing to them. A small quilt will be designed that uses these sources as inspiration.

Another challenge is how does the artist find her own personal means of expression? We can admire other artists in other media, we can absorb images from popular culture, we can be fascinated by the culture of other nations. But how can we translate that into a personal expression unlike no one else's? How do we avoid the dreaded word DERIVATIVE? Another small quilt will help address these issues.

And a related do we discover our own private symbolism? How do we go beyond a generic image into a unique and personal expression? This always generates a lively discussion in class as people defend or condemn certain images that may or may not be cliched and facile. A fun self portrait will help the class to confront these arguments.

Also, how can the machine quilting enhance the message of your work? Becoming expert at free motion quilting is a matter of practice and fearless playing. The playing involves abandoning any idea of a template or pattern and by converting the needle into a pencil metaphorically, just drawing what is relevant or irrelevant or irreverent or fun. Pamela will demonstrate her technique , but the proof is really in the doing so each student will make a free motion sampler .

And finally, how do you know when it's finished? The class will discuss the virtues ( or not) of embellishment, and how it can enhance the image. Students will have a chance to try gold leafing, decoupage techniques, Sculp. molding, copper tooling and Dremel tool use. Pamela will bring all the necessary equipment to class for those who have none. Supplies like gold leaf and size can be paid for as you use.

Some other topics that may arise:

To show or not to show? If art is your vocation, how to organize your time, your studio space, your inventory ? How to apply for a grant? How to network? Critiquing art.

Where to buy stuff.


Basic sewing gear-

-thread, needles ( I like large darning needles for applique), sharp scissors , pins, ordinary chalk, embroidery floss


-ordinary glue stick is perfect for workshop situation ( not so for exhibition work)

-if you are willing to go outside, a fabric spray baste is the easiest and fastest

Sewing Machine...with feed dog down capability and free motion foot.


- A selection of black, white and B&W printed fabrics

-A selection of fabric off cuts all types all colors, prints and plains. Include some fabrics with large bold prints and designs. No particular criteria is necessary...just fabrics that have eye and tactile appeal as well as special ones like sheers, velvets, corduroy, silk, rayon and voile for transparent and textural effects. Thrift shop finds are great too.


To save time, prepare several smallish quilt sandwiches (no bigger than fat quarter and about 4 of them postcard sized) Like so:

Choose any ol' fabric for the back, cut batting to size and choose several fabrics for the front of the composition to come . It's MUCH better to arrange a simple division of the space using colors you like, upon which to begin your design . Why? Because the single color only gives you a BACKDROP effect with no deep space or structure. Whereas several colors in a pleasing arrangement ( not necessarily horizontals and vertical either) will give you a much more interesting beginning for your composition. Just over lap the shapes upon each other and adhere with glue stick or spray baste.

These make very stable surfaces to work on and adds dimension to the appliqueing .

You might like to bring a small amount of backup Polyester or cotton batting. Faster even is fusible batting either cotton or poly.

Embellishments of all kinds. This means thinking about unlikely but interesting additions such as found objects, manufactured items and hand made items such as copper tooled shapes ( Pamela will demonstrate) etc. There is always a way of attaching such items either by drilling small holes ( Pamela will bring a Dremel tool) or by capturing the shape with floss. Of course more conventional beads, buttons, lace etc is also useful.

Pamela will provide a Dremel tool ( for piercing holes for embellishments), a sewing machine, and a selection of HER favorite doodads to share with the class. She can demonstrate her little tricks like gold leafing and decoupaging buttons for eyes as well. Copper sheeting and tools will also be made available. Students who have any of the above are encouraged to bring them. Students are encouraged to pool some of their fabrics as well, in order to offer a wide variety to all participants.