After a hectic three days I’ve been thinking about the word “can” – not the one with beans in but the one in “I can do”. I didn’t think it was a verb because it’s not exactly a doing word and neither is it an adjective as it doesn’t quite describe anything, yet it’s such an important little word that describes the anticipation (or expectation) of doing! Apparently it’s an auxiliary verb, a verb used to add functional or grammatical meaning to the clause in which it appears! So without getting drawn further into semantics, I’ve had three uplifting days of “can”.
On Friday I went to a Craft Club training event at Manchester Art Gallery which I heard about through CAN (the Craft Action Network). The Craft Action Network is a national participation and learning network for contemporary crafters to share their different approaches to teaching and learning in craft, with a view to pushing boundaries and challenging preconceptions. Craft Club* is all about championing craft in schools, galleries, libraries, community centres, and anywhere else you can bring people together to pass on craft skills to adults and children, so there’s an obvious cross over.
The training day involved the logistics of setting up a Craft Club, and then the fun began! Under instruction from Amy Twigger Holroyd of “Keep and Share” we learned to finger knit (download instructions from here) in the morning and in the afternoon we learned about community knitting by participating in a knitting circle (knitting web would be a better name). This involved knitting very narrow strips then linking them onto a neighbour’s, so everyone in the room became joined together in a web of knitting. There are images of some of Amy’s knitting circles on her blog post knitting circles. What a good “can do” day!
On Saturday and Sunday John and I went to an activity at the Lowry called “Can Draw, Will Draw”. This was a follow up to a previous course we have been on called “Can’t Draw, Won’t Draw”. It was possibly a bit of a cheat for me to go on “Can’t Draw” because I do draw and am happy for people to see my drawings but I’ve never been formally taught. We both enjoyed the first course so much that we decided to book on this follow up having realised that although we have different interests, it’s really nice to do something like this together.
The course was taught by Julie Mosley, a textile artist and creative practitioner with an amazing ability to connect with people and draw out their confidence and abilities. After the first exercise she recognised that I engross myself in the patterns of what I see, concentrating on the minutiae rather than the whole. She very skilfully made suggestions that drew (no pun intended) me away from the micro into the macro!
I could feel my drawing progressing over the weekend, and was really pleased with my results on the Sunday. We used a matchbox to arrange some tiny personal possessions, and then drew them enlarged on A3 with a graphite stick. We then drew the matchbox actual size with a 2B pencil. I quite often redraw to enlarge my drawings to develop pattern, but I’ve never drawn large first. I found I was much more relaxed going from big to small; my small drawing was nowhere near as tight as it usually is and was much better for it.
In the afternoon there was the opportunity to do two types of still life. I spent so long trying to get the reflections right on a cheese grater that I only had 20 minutes to attack the traditional wine bottle, vase, lemons, oranges and flowers still life, so I concentrated on a rose and lemon. I’m really pleased with my rose, but didn’t have time to develop the lemon. This workshop has made me realise that I need less time to draw, rather than more!!!
John thoroughly enjoyed the weekend too and let me show his drawing so I can demonstrate how Julie’s techniques bring out different aspects in different people.
*Craft Club is delivered by the Crafts Council in partnership with the UK Hand Knitting association (UKHKA) and the National Federation of Women’s institutes (NFWI).