Posted by Agnes Iley , Monday, July 23, 2012 8:32 AM

In my student profile form I wrote: I've been thinking about taking a course in Textiles for such a long time. But which one? I am not an embroiderer, I am not a quilter, I just work with textiles. So I have been tossing and turning between the various courses on offer and finally decided to sign up for OCA. I am hoping that this course will focus on the design element of textiles, without being limited to one specific technique or genre.

I had to dig deep to find this little note back and didn’t have a clue what I wrote at the time. But reading it back all I can think is “wow, did I pick the right course”, it offered everything I asked for and more. The funny thing is that the “everything I asked for” is what I felt comfortable with. The “more” was what made me feel downright uncomfortable at times and was what really pushed me and probably taught me the most. I had never worked with sketch books before the whole design process was just in my head. I may have jotted down a little note as to not forget something, but that was it! On top of this I am absolutely not a drawer, that talent has definitely surpassed me, so that side of things made me feel very uncomfortable at times. And I still need to develop and utilize this much more than I do know.

Another thing that took me right out of my comfort zone was strangely enough writing about and talking about the pieces I made. This was something that took me by surprise. For my day job I write a lot, give presentations and address large groups of people. So how did those things suddenly made me feel uncomfortable? It took me a little while but then I realized one is work and the other one is personal. I never had to explain any of my artwork before, never felt the need and frankly didn’t want to. I knew what I felt making it and what it meant to me and I didn’t particularly care what anyone else made of it. That had to change. So in the beginning I struggled writing about my inspirations, the design process and especially with the questions that started with “how do you feel”. But I think I made major strides in that field. The course has influenced my work in many ways. It has given me a much wider vocabulary to choose from. I don’t just look at my fabrics and threads anymore, it’s given me a broader outlook and many more options to solve any questions that might pop up.

It has also given me the confidence to speak about my work, so much so that when asked to give a presentation at a Fiber Conference in the United States about my soft sculptures I said yes. That’s a long way removed from the person who had difficulty to write down a few notes. And I guess it was a success, because they offered me a teaching contract for next year’s conference!

This course has drawn out of me what was already there and broadened my horizons, which I am absolutely grateful for. Which leaves me to thank my mentor Liz Smith, her very encouraging comments, nudged me in the right direction and despite never having met face to face she seemed to know exactly what I needed!

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