11 June 2014

A Joyful Teaching Experience - Penny Berens, Granville Ferry, Nova Scotia

I have just returned to the quiet woods of the Annapolis valley after a busy and energizing trip to Ontario.  My first stop was a teaching engagement for Fibreworks in Kingston.  Fibreworks is run by the extraordinary Bethany Garner.  Every year Bethany organizes a series of workshops taking great care with every detail in order to maximize both the teacher's and student's experience.

First thing on the agenda was a Friday night talk and slide show.  When I started getting ready for said talk imagine my horror when my suitcase would not open.  A few of us tried and tried to no avail, eventually wire cutters saved the day and destroyed my luggage!  That evening was another first...I gave my talk with the assistance of my iPad.  Sooo easy and the ability to zoom into details allowed me to react to questions on the spot making for a more interactive talk.

The next two days were devoted to my approach to designing from nature.  Over the last few years I have been working at making my work more personal, more of a reflection of myself.  So we started the process with exercises aimed at recognizing and honouring our own individuality.  This was followed with lots of sketchbook work aimed at really (and I mean really!) studying our photographs getting to know our subject matter.  On the second day I gave everyone the option of carrying on working in sketchbooks or starting a small piece.  Being textile artists we are such tactile people....most chose to get into their fabric and thread stashes!

In between classroom time we frequented restaurants all over town and took several trips.  One evening we caught the ferry to Wolf Island which to my amazement is now covered with wind turbines.  A longer trip was taken with old friends up to the beautiful Thousand Islands area. When relaxing of an evening with my hosts I not only enjoyed the human company but also that of an adorable dachshund and his two feline companions.

Our final two days together in Kingston were spent at the fairgrounds marking fabric with discharge.  So many beautiful pieces were made; so much exploring; so many discoveries.  I for one really enjoyed myself.  At one point most of us descended on Fabricland where we bought out all the best linen colours!  What else would a group of fabric lovers do after a long tiring day of work!

It was an exciting and stimulating week for me.  I have always loved sharing and always go away hoping that I might have inspired everyone to a new way of looking at the world, a new way of processing ideas and a greater confidence in their voice and the art they create.

The icing on the cake for me was the trip Bethany Garner, Hilary Scanlon and I took to the Art Gallery of Peterborough where we walked in awe around Dorothy Caldwell’s show ‘Silent Ice/Deep Patience’.

My son Mark met up with us outside the gallery and whisked me off to Collingwood for the next stage of my lovely visit to Ontario.

Here is a link to the next Fibreworks workshop to be given by Maggie Vanderweit.

Penny Berens

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