Back in November of last year, which seems like a very long time ago now, I spent a week commuting through to Glasgow*. Given that it's not a desperately exciting trip, and that in order to catch all my various forms of transport (bus-train-bus) I had to be up and out of the house well before I would normally be out of bed, I think it's fairly safe to conclude that I was making the trip for something fairly special. That special thing was a week-long course with Joanna Kinnersly-Taylor, a Glasgow-based textile artist and designer.
I'd been wanting to take a course with Joanna for quite a while. At the end of my very first screen printing course, I had mentioned to the head of textiles at the ECA (the lovely and utterly enthusiastic Lindy Richardson, who tutored us for a couple of days in the middle of the course) that I'd really like to try to take my screen printing further. Lindy had suggested I get in touch with Joanna, who runs small, intensive dying and printing courses from her studio.
I did send an email to Joanna, but for a few years my life and work and finances and all of those fun things kept intervening and stopping me from actually taking a course. Then a few things happened. First, my husband gave me Joanna's book for Christmas, which brought the courses back to the front of my mind. Second, my research hours were drastically cut back, leaving me both with some spare time, and with a pressing need to investigate an alternative means of making a living. And last but not least I got an email from Joanna saying that she was going to be running one of her courses again soon, and would I like to take part.
And so, back in November, I bussed-trained-bussed my way each day between Edinburgh and Glasgow to spend the most delightful week in Joanna's spacious WASPS studio in Dennistoun. Over the course of the week we designed, refined and selected our images for printing, burned them onto screens, dyed our fabric, and then screen printed our images onto the dyed fabric. But that really only scratches the surface of what we did.
There were four of us in the studio that week. We had two crew, as it were: Joanna, who is gentle and generous, with - we discovered - a deadpan humour that she deploys with the most accurate timing and the straightest of faces, and Jasmine, an amazingly thoughtful student from Heriot-Watt School of Textile and Design who was acting as Joanna's assistant for the week. And there were two students: me (loud, brightly coloured, Canadian), and my amazing classmate Susan (elegant, adventurous, a truly gifted storyteller) who had travelled up from Surrey especially for Joanna's course.
And over the course of the week all four of us talked. We talked about textiles, of course, and our designs, and our favourite fabrics from other designers. We talked about our art backgrounds and our non-art backgrounds, and the other creative and non-creative things we like to do. We talked about our kids, and our holidays, and our home renovations. We drank tea and talked, and shared chocolate and talked, and printed and talked.
And here's what I think we were doing as we talked, the thing that was more than learning as much as we possibly could from Joanna in a really short amount of time: we were building a mini-community. We were listening to each other, and learning from each other, and bouncing ideas off each other, and encouraging each other.
And like these things do, this community became part of the story of the things we made that week. Having that community, that group of like-minded individuals all thinking about the same stuff, gave us the safety-net-cheerleading-team combination that allowed us to dive in and try things that we might not have tried before, all of which then ended up in our art. It's something I need to remember as I try to build up this business: a good community can really galvanise your creativity.
* That's what you say: through to Glasgow. It's one of those phrases, like "Where do you stay?" meaning "Where do you live?" or "The dishes want washing", meaning "Are you going to wash the dishes or just let them sit and fester you mucky person?" that throws newcomers, but that rapidly becomes part of your vocabulary just by dint of living in Scotland. Except "Back of nine," which I have never managed to sort out. It appears to mean one of "Just before nine," or "Just after nine," or "Just before ten.": in my case it invariably means I'm going to be wrong, and late.