Saturday, July 23, 2022

Stitching as Drawing with Susan Brandeis

Although it has been a couple of weeks now, I'm still coming down from the high of my time attending Susan Brandeis' class at Shakerag in Suwanee TN. In fact, I'm not sure where to begin this post.

my dorm - Watts - small, basic, just right

The material included in this class tapped into two creative paths - hand sewing, for sure, but also I was pulled back into drawing, sketching, painting. I work on the latter in fits and starts, whereas, stitching is something I do almost every day. Stitching is my daily practice. The days I miss out on sewing are often in danger of going sideways. I really really try to fit it in.

Some people run. Some people play a musical instrument. I sew. Or sketch.

Susan Brandeis is a seasoned and enthusiastic instructor. Her materials are meticulously organized. Her pacing is considered and measured. And her work, whether it's personal or commissioned, is deeply inspiring.

Susan with one of her pieces in the Shakerag gallery

I was wait-listed for this course and had just about given up. I purchased her wonderful book, The Intentional Thread, and told myself I'd just work through her carefully laid-out exercises on my own. Then I got a call from Claire, the Shakerag director. Halleluiah! 

Susan prefers teaching this class over two weeks. Though we had only one, I think it was just right for me. We did not follow the book strictly speaking, but I understand how the book works now. I feel like I can pick and choose some of the book's exercises more effectively now.

I left with just the right amount of information- and inspiration-overload. And, as she pointed out in correspondence with me, I'm realizing that my dual creative paths are more closely integrated than I had thought. That is, as I stitch, I can now see the sketching influence. Likewise, when I sketch, I see the stitching influence.

I don't want to say this class changed my life, but it was certainly life affirming in the creative sense. In some classes, I feel drawn to do exactly what the teacher does. Not so, in this class. Somehow, magically, Susan communicates techniques and creative process in a way that starts with where each student needs to start. She effectively presents material to the class as a whole and then individualizes it as we work.

For now, I continue my stitching practice, bringing my sketching bent into consciousness. And I have some very specific sketching *skills* I'm developing. This more technical direction stems directly from the individualized instruction I received from Susan.

detail of Whispered Words, by Susan Brandeis

What a gift it is to have a creative life. I feel so very lucky. Dear reader, if you ever have an opportunity to work under Susan's direction, do it! 

And a shout-out to the folks who work so hard to make the Shakerag workshops happen for 3 weeks each summer. For example, the food was fabulous. I had to have a little talk with myself mid-week: no, I do not NEED to have dessert at every meal. 

The gorgeous weather allowed for outdoor eating under the grand old trees. And what a great time that was, visiting with students from other classes. The students in my class were also delightful and interesting. 

And the nightly lectures by faculty were icing on an already rich cake of art. The Wednesday night *Open Mic* was impressively entertaining, including Marc Brandeis's piano performance as well as Sheryl St. Germain's reading of "Things My Mother Always Told Me" from her book, Let It Be a Dark Roux. The spontaneous dance performed by Claire and James was fun too!

I skipped swimming in the lake - the fish are attracted to my white-bread parts and bite me. I wish I had gone on the hike and done the yoga. But that's OK - I'm hoping for a next time. 

Now it's time to stitch and draw.