By Melodie Bankers
Lorraine Torrence, speaker at CQA’s August meeting, is well-known as a quilting and creative clothing teacher and was one of the earliest members of CQA. Her students can quote at the drop of a hat her most frequent sayings: “Make visual decisions visually” and “Color gets all the credit but value does all the work.”
Lorraine offered the following advice on how to find your own voice as a fiber artist:
1. Do what interests you and what feels right. No one else has your same perspective. There is no absolute answer – we all bring our unique perspectives to art.
2. Do something more than once rather than just dabbling with this and that. You need to try a technique or design several times to discover if it is your voice. Stay true to your own creative spirit.
3. Look at your work critically and from a distance (example: use a reducing glass).
4. Don’t get hung up with details. Start with a skeleton.
5. Don’t get easily discouraged if things don’t work the first time – keep trying. Learn how to “fail well.” Use each non-success as an opportunity to lean. Remember that for a baseball player, batting 300 is excellent – that means the ball player hits 30% of the time.
6. Experiment with different styles. Lorraine demonstrated that she has worked in different styles and with different techniques throughout her career with a trunk show of numerous quilts featured in her various books and garments made for several international fashion shows.
7. Sketch! Keep a visual journal - record words and keep pictures that inspire you. Go back to these when you get stuck. Your journal can be the source of inspiration even years later.
8. There is value in the work of different people. Learn to be the best you can be using your own voice.
Lorraine concluded by reading “The Bedspread,” by Sylvia Fair, her favorite book. Two sisters with equally valid approaches to quilting create their shared bedspread. Maude is careful and precise while Amelia’s style is liberated and joyous. The end product reflects both voices.
Showcase continued the theme with: “What makes you You?” Some highlights of the comments of the various pieces shown include:
- Try to find a technique that supports your vision.
- Look at other sources of inspiration, not just fine art – for example, an iron gate, or the book, “Earth from Above."
- Take being a beginner seriously.
- There is art in roadside rubbish.
- Learning from others’ comments is OK – students have copied art in museums to learn from the masters for centuries.
- Be intentional in your work.
- Do the unexpected.
- Backgrounds should be critically important to the piece.
- Evaluate what cloth does that paint doesn’t do.
- Let go and have fun.