Focus on Creativity by Larkin Jean Van Horn

4 01 2015
LarkinVanHorn_Chaos-Theory

Chaos Theory by Larkin Jean Van Horn

I have been involved with needle and thread for nearly 60 years now. I’ve been hanging out with fiber folks for about 35 years, including guilds and groups and working in a needlework shop for a few years. Every once in awhile, I have found it beneficial to dip my toes in other waters for a change of perspective, some new vocabulary and insight into how others think and talk about their art making.

There I was at the library, minding my own business, and the reader board announced something called “Focus on Creativity.” Intrigued, I decided to show up just to see what was what. It turns out this group was started by several people who met taking a painting class together, and kept meeting after the class was over. They opened the group up to any interested parties, and meet twice a week. On Thursday afternoons, when the weather is cooperative, they are out plein aire painting or drawing at some location on the island. When the weather is lousy, they work indoors on a still life, from memory, or from photographs. On Friday mornings they meet to show their latest work, drink coffee and talk art. At that first meeting there were several painters, a photographer, a poet, a stained glass artist, and me, the lone fabric artist.

Trial by Fire by Larkin Jean Van Horn

Trial by Fire by Larkin Jean Van Horn

The more I hang out with these folks, the better I get to know them and how their life path has influenced their art. There are engineers, architects, scientists, teachers, salesmen, graphic designers and more, all together because they love what they are doing and want to work and talk with other like-minded people. They have found their tribe. And I was instantly accepted as a member of that tribe. No business meetings, no dues, no officers or committees – just one person who sends out a reminder email every week with the location for Thursday. The camaraderie is wonderful, I am absorbing much about other art media, but I am also sharing my own work and am delighted that they are interested in learning about working with needle and thread. The fact that they expect everyone to bring some recent work to talk about helps to keep me productive every week.

My point in writing this is that I have found it invaluable to spend time with artists in other disciplines, and would encourage others to take a workshop in some unfamiliar art form, or join a small general art group that isn’t focused solely on one medium. It is enlightening, exciting, and helps keep my own work fresh. I love working in fiber and fabric and beads, and that isn’t going to change. But I am learning things that add depth and nuance to my continuing explorations.

Silent Night by Larkin Jean Van Horn

Silent Night by Larkin Jean Van Horn





Whidbey Artists Keep Taking Classes, Live and Online by Diane Reardon

1 10 2014
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Humpbacks Count (detail) by Diane Reardon

Many artists in our local Surface Design group refresh their creativity by taking a class. It can provide the jolt of learning a new technique, a review of design basics, or a chance to hone one’s personal vision. It’s also just fun to hang out with those who are just as bonkers as we are about making great stuff.

Live Classes

We’re very lucky to have three great ‘schools’ handy. Coupeville’s Pacific Northwest Art School brings international artists in photography, fiber, painting, and mixed media. Gail Harker continues to bring the quality of London’s City & Guilds series to LaConner, and Maiwa in Vancouver offers especially tempting textile skills.  Nothing like taking 4 or 5 days to immerse yourself in hand-dyeing fabric, learning to use oil sticks, or making your own paper.

Online Classes

Lately we also have the option of online courses. Gail Harker and Jane Dunnewold have begun offering sessions this way.

I’m currently in a 10-week online art class with Lisa Call that uses the tools of the internet so students can upload their weekly artwork, join in on live meetings with images, and connect with each other through a WordPress comment section. I’m working hard and learning a bunch. The benefits are that I’m working in my own studio and have choices about when to access the audio and email material.

Although this particular class focuses on the creative process of working in a series, there are many shorter technique courses. For example, I learned how to create the crackly seaweed in the image above from Linda Robertson’s encaustic demonstration class.  (See www.dianereardon.com for my whale art and www.dianereardonblog.com for info on whales.)

Choosing an Online Class

Courses vary in

  • How much audio, video, and written information is provided
  • How it’s delivered and how long it’s available
  • How much feedback teachers offer
  • How students are able to interact

And, of course, cost.

If you’re not an artist, other online courses are sprouting up all over the wild west of the internet. Google your favorite passion or check out www.coursera.com for a set of free university level courses to spice up your winter.





Textiles in India by Mary Burks

6 08 2014

This winter on a tour with Mawai to India I had the opportunity to experience textiles that were remarkable.

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It was amazing to see whole communities involved in some aspect of a particular process. We visited villages where weaving was king, where wood blocks were produced…

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Where fabric was dyed and laid out in the sun to dry…

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I saw embroidery work that was unimaginable in its detail…

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It was an overwhelming trip, rich in inspiration and content. It has left me so bewildered about where I go next with my own journey with textiles that I have had to step away from the studio for awhile and think. Looking at the magnificent work being done for generations makes me aware that I will never be able to do production work again and that the only way to honor what I have experienced is to truly do one of a kind pieces that reflect who I am and what matters to me, that I really have to listen to my own voice and project that voice through the textiles. Finally I have been able to go back to the studio and to begin to create. I was struck by the doors and windows and courtyards that I saw in India and I am looking at the concept of doors and windows as means to create boundaries, and as a means of traveling back and forth through them to other worlds. At least seven new pieces are awaiting stitching. I am excited…

– Mary Burks





Members’ Gallery

30 06 2014







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