Getting to attend an Emily Sutton workshop at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park was an amazing highlight of my weekend. Not only was it very exciting to meet Emily, whose work I hugely admire and have been collecting for years, but I also felt I learnt so much from the day. I had so much fun, and my confidence in my own creativity has grown enormously.
I must admit, when I first turned up and realised I’d be printing onto fabric, designing my own ‘leaves’ and sewing and stuffing up a fabric bird, my heart sank a little. I had a horrid flashback to my Roehampton PGCE course, where I had to suffer through several art classes, which apparently were meant to teach us numerous wonderful techniques to use in the classroom, but in fact taught me very little and generally left me feeling panicked and inadequate. The teachers, I found, generally explained techniques rather sketchily, then left us to create a pot out of clay, or a print, or a woven rug out of plastic Tesco bags in about an hour, after which we had to grade our own work and state what we thought we did well and how we could have done better. It was a mind-numbingly boring process that only served to remind me why I hated art so much in school.
As soon as Emily started to speak, however, I relaxed and soon began to enjoy myself thoroughly. She has a wonderful attitude that puts everyone at ease and made us feel that, whatever we did, nothing was ‘wrong,’ just an expression of our own creativity. I was sitting with people who were infinitely more talented than myself, some of whom even designed their own textiles, but I didn’t care – I was having too much fun!
We started off printing onto fabric to create our own ‘leaves’ for the bird’s nest. We mixed acrylic paints straight onto dampened calico fabric to create the desired shades. I went for greens and autumnal oranges and yellows.
I added some texture (ooh don’t I sound arty!) to the colour by using a scrap of cloth in a contrasting colour (red, brown) and smudging it slightly over the fabric, using my fingernails, as well as dabbing at it with my paint brush.
Next, I outlined the leaves onto the leaf coloured fabric using the contrasting coloured calico.
As you can tell, I’m no artist but I was surprised by how fun I found this stage! After letting the fabric dry, we cut the leaves out, and I thought what a pretty table decoration they would make for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I’m quite tempted to make some more as holly leaves to scatter over the table for when we have our Christmas feast!
I then turned to the task of stuffing my adorably sweet bird and nest. This kit comes in the form of a tea towel Emily designed, which you can cut out out and sew up yourself should you wish!
And here’s the (nearly!) finished result. I still have some stitching to add to the bird and nest (Emily showed us how she used embroidery to add details to the printed material), but I’m planning on working at it over the next few weeks as a gift for my Mum for Christmas (er, sorry to spoil the surprise there, Mummy!).
After finishing the workshop, I didn’t have much time to explore the Yorkshire Sculpture Park itself, but as it was a rather damp, miserable day, I don’t think I would have seen it at its best anyway (I shall have to return sometime in the summer!). I did, however, scamper off to see Emily’s exhibition, which was truly breath-taking! Here are some highlights:
Emily’s exhibition is on until the 22nd of February, so if you’re in the area, I highly recommend stopping by! The majority of her work has already sold, but it’s lovely just to go and look at it all together. I especially adore her Parisian scenes.