From June 6-10, 2016, I attended a workshop, Abstract Quilts in Solids, taught by Gwen Marston (Gwen Marston). The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) partially funded my participation with a Professional Development Minigrant of $900.00. Madeline Island School of the Arts (MISA) was the setting of the workshop, located in Wisconsin on Lake Superior. My art goals for the workshop included the potential for incorporating ideas from my mixed media collage into sewn fabric constructions. Plus, I had attended a one-day quilt workshop with Gwen in 2014 and loved her teaching style.
The trek to Madeline Island meant driving myself to Marquette, Michigan, on the 4th, continuing on to Madeline Island on the 5th. MISA hosted a wine and cheese reception in the late Sunday afternoon to meet fellow students and the two resident instructors. I shared a comfortable suite with one of the writing workshop students, who was delightful. Classes were held, 9AM-4PM, Monday-Thursday, while we finished up about 3pm on Friday. Then I drove to Marquette and stayed overnight before returning to Lansing on Saturday afternoon.
Gwen graciously shared her extensive knowledge of quilt construction and history, piecing techniques, and Beaver Island human interest stories. Each morning she would demonstrate concepts and processes; such as spikes, stars, inserts, triangles, bindings, log cabins, making bias tape. She encouraged us (thirteen students) to use solid colors in order to emphasize the fundamental shapes and colors involved. She provided an extensive collection of her own samples and quilts to illustrate and expand on the instructions. She stressed experimentation, freedom of expression, individual exploration and enjoying your work. Her liberated style of quiltmaking embraced a lack of patterns and perfection. I benefited greatly from creating various small fabric pieces as examples of Gwen’s teachings. The workshop oozed with creativity, inspiration and joy!
I am incredibly lucky to have participated in Gwen’s workshop—2016 is her final year of teaching before retirement. This most special experience will provide creative fodder for a long time. MISA is a gorgeous environment with friendly, helpful staff and beautiful accomodations. I appreciate the gift of the Professional Development Minigrant enabling learning so much at Abstract Quilts in Solids!