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My Class with Rosalie Dace

I had the privilege of taking a workshop with Rosalie Dace this past month and it has left my mind whirling with questions, thoughts, ideas, musings and inspiration.  I found images of her quilts in a book of art quilts my daughter gave me for Christmas and jumped at the chance to take a class with her.  The only problem was that all the classes in the Eastern US were full by the time I discovered them.  I did find one with openings at the famous Stitchin’ Post in Sisters, OR and immediately asked Rod if he was up for another trip to Oregon this summer.  Of course, the answer was “yes”, because we go to Oregon almost every summer.  It turns out this class was also full by the time I signed up but they had so many requests they added another week and I was in.  This woman is in huge demand:  there was a 20 person wait list for the class by the time it was running.

The name of the class was “Kandinsky Quilts” and we were encouraged to study the colors and line and life of this painter.  His life and influence on art was truly remarkable but I had to search very hard to find any paintings by him which moved me in the way of Rosalie’s work.

Night Flight by Rosalie Dace
Night Flight by Rosalie Dace
An example of Kandinsky's work
An example of Kandinsky’s work

The first day we had to make three small studies after doing multiple sketches using Kandinsky ideas.  These were relatively easy for me even though I wasn’t crazy about them.

My three small studies. The top one with two yellow rectangles and the black squiggly over it was especially commended by Rosalie and the class.
My three small studies. The top one with two yellow rectangles and the black squiggly over it was especially commended by Rosalie and the class.

 

The second day we were to spend the morning finishing one of these studies on the machine and quilting them after the morning lecture.  That was when my biggest challenge presented itself.  I had asked to borrow a loaner machine from the quilt shop since I was flying to the class.  This machine was obviously not a top model but it seemed fine.  When I began to stitch the tension was very off and I couldn’t find the tension adjustment.  It also came with no knee lift, no walking foot and no manual.  All of these are essential for quilting circles and piecing silk.  When I asked store employees about all of the above the response was always, “sorry, there isn’t one.”  As the day progressed my tension and frustration mounted.  Rosalie did her best to calm me down and try to problem solve but I left that day, feeling very low.  I had brought my most precious fabrics with me to make a fantastic quilt under Rosalie’s instruction only to be given a super dud of a machine on which to sew it.

The next morning I got the bright idea to go to the manufacturer’s website and download the owner’s manual.  That solved many problems including the tension adjustment.  Nancy, the woman across from me who was also a store employee brought her own knee lift from home for me to use.  Three cheers for Nancy!  I never got a walking foot so all my seams on the nearly 100% silk quilt were puckered and I knew I’d need to redo them upon returning home to my machine.

On the afternoon of the second day we began work on our “big” quilt.   I had brought my most precious silk ikat purchased from Mekong River Textiles for a hefty price imported from Thailand.  It was a large scale plaid style ikat in gorgeous purples and yellows.  Rosalie stopped in her tracks and exclaimed, “Be still me beating heart!” when she saw the beauty of this silk.  The quilt had to be big to match the scale of the fabric.  I was somewhat limited in the other fabrics I brought for the class since I flew but two classmates, Vera and Grace, saved the day and were very generous with their hand dyed cotton and dupioni silk.

My pieced background with silks and the deep purple hand dyed cotton from Vera
My pieced background with silks and the deep purple hand dyed cotton from Vera

 

Once my background was done I had a major problem.   I could not picture any of the Kandinsky squiggly lines, triangles, squares, imposed on this fabric.  It already was very angular with the squares and lines of the ikat so my only option was circles.  Of course, that’s my favorite shape so that was easy.   I proceeded to find vases, bowls and cups in the kitchen of the shop with which to cut my various sizes of circles.  Grace’s gold silk with a hint of orange was the perfect fabric to provide the little bit of orange pop which I needed in a mostly two colored quilt.  Kandinsky believed that orange and purple were important contrasting colors.  The circles cut out of organza provided an intriguing transparency and hint of color.

My big class quilt with circles added
My big class quilt with circles added

 

Rosalie encouraged us to try twin needle stitching and discouraged us from fusing the organza so it would be more dimensional.  I resorted to my trusty online manual and felt quite triumphant to learn the twin needle technique!

An example of Rosalie's twin needle stitching
An example of Rosalie’s twin needle stitching

As I looked around at the work of my classmates I knew I was in the company of some very talented artists.  They were all very brave in their use of Kandinsky’s style and used it with great flare.  I confessed to Rosalie that I wasn’t crazy about much of Kandinsky’s work and she agreed that this quilt already made so much of a statement with the fabric that one shouldn’t cover it too much with distracting extras.

Barbara's critique
Barbara’s critique
Jillian talking about her work. Also, the work of Pat and Joan can be seen to the left and partial work of Linda to the right
Jillian talking about her work. Also, the work of Pat and Joan can be seen to the left and partial work of Linda to the right

Rosalie had so much for us to think about at the start of every day.  Many quotes and many relevant questions for us.

One example:  “Art enables us to find ourselves, and lose ourselves at the same time” – Thomas Merton

Another:  Maya Angelou famously said, “When people tell you who they are, believe them.  But even more importantly, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them.”

Another: “How do you usually start your work?  From a piece of fabric, a color, an idea, anatural form, a piece of music, a poem, or seeing someone else’s work? Could you try another starting point?

As we went around the room for the critique on the last day I felt intimidated by how different my work was compared to those who employed so many Kandinsky ideas.  Granted, circles were very much a part of his work but it was the one and only thing I had used in my large piece.  Rosalie encouraged me to use some of his ideas in the quilting when I got home.  Long sweeping curved lines, starting thin and growing larger in the middle would add movement.  More circles in the quilting would echo the existing circles.  She and the others were particularly positive about the pale orchid study with the two yellow rectangles and the bold black squiggly line.  The simplicity and contrast were stated as strong points.   They all loved the careful choice of color for my big piece and the elegance of the silk.  Rosalie stated, “Can one ever go wrong with silk?”

Survived my critique!
Survived my critique!

I’m astounded when I look at the list of class topics offered by Rosalie Dace.  Check it out at http://www.rosaliedace.co.za/teaching.html   It goes on and on.  This woman travels for months at a time teaching all over the world.  She is just a wealth of knowledge and delivers it with so much humor, wisdom, and respect for her students.

Rosalie Dace showing us facing techniques
Rosalie Dace showing us facing techniques

She runs a tight ship.  We were told to NEVER leave our rotary cutters lying on the table with the blade open and NEVER to hold pins in our mouths.  Safety first!  Whenever we got too chatty we were told to focus on our work and respect the concentration of others in the class.  We were also pushed out of our comfort zones and encouraged to try new ideas, colors, and how to balance our designs in new ways.  Some of us needed to be more bold.  Some of us needed to simplify.  She was not afraid to challenge us.  This class was worth every penny and I hope to study with this master teacher again.   … and I will never travel to a class without my own machine again.

 

 

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