It was just a few days ago that I had my last day of teaching art at Sacopee Valley High School. The school needed a long term art sub. Since I lived in the area and was an artist with an MFA I decided to take the position. Really this was my first full time teaching job. I taught a course prior to this at the Maine College of Art in their Pre-College program. In my mind, this gave me some experience working with this age group, but really it was just a drop in the bucket. Learning how to manage the classroom while doing it, was one of the biggest challenges for me. Making sure I kept all of the students in the classroom, keeping them focused on their projects and not fighting with each other was a constant battle. A teacher is always on guard and has to be ready for any situation.
They worked on the usual high school art projects (learning perspective, drawing with a grid, printmaking techniques, etc.) As someone who loves to sew, I wanted to introduce this to some of the students as well (Home Economics is no longer offered). I wanted to show them how their art can have a positive influence in their community. So, I planned two things that were not already planned out. One class sewed a quilt together and I also created an Art Show for them at a local theater (Part two blog post coming soon).
1. The Quilt:
Personally, I have been sewing for seven years. I first started with garment construction for myself and then creating bags that I could sell. I went to school for painting, but there has been something about constructing with fabric that has really won me over. That being said, quilting wasn’t necessarily my thing. The hours involved cutting the same shape and following a pattern really didn’t interest me.
One of my classes was for the “Advanced Art” students. It was open for them to choose their own projects. One student learned that I sewed garments and wanted to make a skirt. Of course I was thrilled. We started the process of adjusting a pattern to fit, creating a muslin and I tried to explain to her how to sew it. I really needed a machine in the classroom. I came across a new Brother Sewing machine at a yard sale and bought it for $12. I was so excited for just this! I was able to then directly show her how to sew the skirt together.
So, at this point I had a sewing machine in the classroom. I had one class where a group of girls would combine two tables together and complain about things. It reminded me of a “bitch and stitch.” The looked like quilters sitting around a quilt hand stitching something together (All individual projects at this point).
This gave me an idea. There was a bag of fabric in the classroom and I remember liking the look of the Gee’s Bend Quilts. Their quilts were creating using clothing and scraps and not necessarily using a pattern. So, right before the start of spring break, I presented these students with a plastic bag of fabric and a slide show about the quilts. They
didn’t seem interested, but I knew that it was something that could really mean something to them later in life.
This spring break started with attending an Estate Sale. My sister loves them and shared with me that there was one in my town. There was a photo of large thread stand and I knew there would be more sewing material along with this. I ended up getting an incredible amount of tools, fabric, sewing books, thread, and another sewing machine.(Some purchased and some donated by the company for the students) My friend Patty who owns the Quilt shop in town donated her amazing scrap fabric from her sewing projects and another local Paul donated one of his unused sewing machines and even more fabric. I got another machine from a local thrift store. By the end of spring break, I had two carloads of fabric, four sewing machines, a small library and a thrill of being able to share this with the students.
One class I had the students set up a corner of the room, choose fabrics for the quilt and it all began. Oh, yeah, with all of this I also had to learn how to quilt before I taught them…They say that you teach what you want to learn. So, my friend Patty gave me some tips, I looked over my books, watched videos and realized that maybe quilting is for me as well. I love painting, but sewing has had a watch over me for years. Being able to combine colors, draw with thread by “free motion quilting” made so much sense for me.
The students worked on this and their individual projects. We still sewed pieces together in the crazy quilt style and then I sewed it together with traditional borders. Most of them had never threaded a needle, worked with fabric or even ironed. These are things that I feel everyone should have some experience with. It also gives them a possible skill when looking for work. They all used a sewing machine and may not be as scared to try it out later in life.
The last day of working on the quilt I had them combine the tables together and everyone hand stitched the binding edge together. Of course many of them complained about it and I laughed and shared that they inspired it. The class gave this quilt to a teacher in the school that is always making things for other people. She was thrilled to get it and made sure to hug each of the students. This meant that they were able to see how coming together to create this for someone else can really be powerful. Since the sewing machines were set up, other students were interested in creating projects. Here, one student created an amazing quilt of flags. She looked at photos of flags and came up with each piece
without a pattern. Excellent job Michala! A bunch of students also created pillows! It was a quick way of sewing something together and having the satisfaction of a great finished project!
I really enjoyed teaching with these students! Some days were a challenge, but overall I am very happy that I took the position! It was because Zoe wanted to make this skirt that the students got to learn how to sew and that one table of sassy girls brought quilting into my own life.
Today I thought it was the right time to switch things up a bit. My thinking right now is to call my blog and newsletter “Taking Your Time.” I have been focusing on homesteading but I realized that this wasn’t the real point for me. I do things slowly. I take my time with things in order to get the most out of something. This could be a fun journey that can be shared with photos, projects and interviews with like minded folks. I feel that we can learn so much from others with their own passions and this would be an amazing place to collect these.
Here are a few reasons to “Take Your Time.”
A higher quality product is created.
I started sewing by constructing garments. This was my first shirt that I sewed seven years ago (I had no idea how to do it but I have learned that you need to at least try something first before you can learn anything). I was instantly hooked on sewing and learned how long something actually takes to construct. With each project I have learned how to fit, work with different materials, construction techniques, pattern use, etc. The jacket photo to the right shows one of my more recent projects sewing with silk, multiple zippers, linings, fitting, etc. This jacket was lovingly and carefully constructed and I love wearing it! It is the best feeling in the world when someone compliments you on it and you get to say that you made it! The look of surprise makes all of it worth doing!
Better understanding of ingredients.
One of the reasons that I like to grow my own food is that I know the history behind the item. I grow organically and know that when I am eating the food it wasn’t laden with chemicals. I don’t eat a strictly organic diet (I would love to but financially it isn’t an easy option), but I try to make an effort to when I can.
When cooking it is also good to know all of the items that go into something that I am eating. The fast route these days is to buy something that can be stored easily and microwaved quickly. There is something lost in the building of flavors, timing and inspiration for these meals. That being said it can take a lot of energy to accomplish these meals. I want to start collecting quick tips for this and sharing these on the blog.
We want things now!
In many ways technology brings a lot into our lives. It offers information quickly to those who may not have been able to access it. It also makes it so that our brains don’t retain as much needed information. Do you notice that you always misspell the same word? Our computers will automatically change our misspellings and we move on. We get so used to having things come so quickly that we expect everything to follow. We can order something online in minutes and it is delivered the next day. In some ways it is hard for our brains to imagine the length of time that actually goes into learning, building or creating something. It takes an effort to really let go and allow something to develop over time. I want to focus on the reverse of this and focus on classic forms of entertainment and creating.
Take the slow road.
I am a slow walker. It is actually really weird. My sister joked with me recently that I walk like I am a lady on Downton Abbey. It is more of a casual stroll than a brisk “I-need-to-get-there” motion. To me, I am able to pace myself with my day and take in all that I need to. One of the things about having a dog is that you leave the house a few times a day and go for a stroll. It is a great way to get some air in your lungs, some sun on your face and change up what you are doing. Taking a slow stroll is a great way to reset your day.
I am also in the works with setting up weekly challenges and themes to follow along with. I miss that part of creating work for a show. I am going to use my blog as a platform for this. Do you have anything that you like to take your time with?
It is always so exciting when your creation appears in print! When I was asked to feature my Reshelly bags in GreenCraft magazine I was thrilled! I had been working on these upcycled bags for a little over a year. One of the Editors of the magazine found me through Etsy. (on a side note Abbey Glassenberg has a great post about the pros of being an Etsy Seller).
As an artist, you spend so much time alone in your studio creating something. There is a lot of time just spent in your own head trying to figure things out. There are a lot of tries, fails and wins. When you are able to share your wins like this, there is an awesome sense of accomplishment! You feel like all of your crazy time that you devote to the process of making can be inspirational for someone else as well!
One of the directions that I want to head with these bags are the hand made part of it when it comes to the pattern design. I created a stamp for this fabric and loved the process!
I miss drawing and designing imagery. I have loved the sewn process but I felt like I was missing a major part of my creative background. I studied painting when I went to art school and it will always remain a part of my creative process. This is a way of keeping that while developing these creations. I have a few of these bags left in my Etsy shop! Stay tuned because I will be creating new designs and actually printing out some designs using Spoonflower!
I am currently rebuilding my website! Very exciting! In the process I apparently deleted my blog that I had been writing for seven years! Wow! Well, I have to look at it as a new start and saying things in a different manner. I do have access to the old photos and I may do some new posts inspired by the old. I guess I am going to look at it as a way of “Making do and mend.” I am going to work with the scraps to bring in something new!