I started teaching a variety of quilt related workshops in 1988. The focus of my first teaching efforts were traditional patchwork and applique techniques, mainly from patterns available in the public domain (as just about all the quilt teachers were doing at the time).
I joined a quilters Guild for the first time in 1989 and never looked back. Being part of the quilting family, has also brought much needed perspective in my responsibilities, vision and future as a quilt teacher in South Africa. One of the first topics of discussion after I joined the Guild, was the issue of copyright of quilting patterns - it really made me think! I started to feel uneasy using patterns from the public domain or books/magazines as I did not want to take money from students for work which was not entirely my own. At this stage (about 1989) I tentatively started designing patterns for patchwork quilts as well as candle-wicking patterns for cushions and quilts for my students. I really struggled, but persevered with the enthusiastic encouragement of my students in King William's Town. I knew that if I wanted to be successful as a quilt teacher, I had to put in the time and effort to create and teach my own body of work. I slowly developed my own style of quilting, firstly with Ndebele styled geometric quilts followed by the realistic themed quilts with the focus on the flora, fauna & bird life of South Africa and even historical buildings. After that phase, I progressed to art quilts which really touched my soul. Again the transition was difficult, but soon I lost my angst and started to enjoy the process wherever it took me. Most of my freestyle workshops were developed from quilts which I made. I might identify an interesting aspect or technique from a quilt and develop that further into a workshop.
The very first art quilt workshop which I taught, was a direct result from my very first attempt at making an art quilt, Transformation - Glow Beyond the Scorched Edge 2010. Making the quilt, was a process beyond difficult as I battled to let go of my very regimented way of working into a completely unplanned way into unknown territory (for me!). This quilt is a relatively small piece, but the time, effort and skill spent on it was enormous - I had to delve very deep. The process and success of the quilt set me free of my self imposed boundaries and brought the purest form of creative happiness and freedom. The starting point of this quilt was to choose a shape and develop that into an art piece. Somehow my chosen square of the main panel developed into a multi paneled wall hanging with different textures and elements.
Transformation - Glow Beyond the Scorched Edge 2010
Won BEST ON SHOW ART QUILTS at the 2011 National Quilt Festival in Stellenbosch, South Africa
After the initial battle to get started, I developed this quilt into a very successful workshop Explore Machine Stitching & More 2010 which I taught at the 2011 National Quilt Festival in Stellenbosch. I changed the square shape of the quilt to circles for the workshop, all drawn without any geometry tools. The aim of the workshop was to create a study in free form and to break every quilting rule! I always try to teach students as much as possible to give them value for money. I included a mixture of interesting techniques in the course for the benefit of the students, this definitely has been one of my most successful and fun workshops to date.
Explore Machine Stitching & More 2011
The circle as focal shape and embellished it with a variety of hand and machine stitching/embroidery and beading.
Made for 2013 Kaleidoscope National Quilt Festival in
Bloemfontein, South Africa
Won 1st Prize Masters Freestyle Category.
Two workshops developed from GLOW - Freestyle Ways 2012 and Bag-a-Square 2012.
The centre mosaic panel of GLOW inspired the background of Freestyle Ways as well as the upper section of the bag of the Bag-a-Square workshop. The fused small mosaic squares of fabric were set in a colourwash format for both workshops.
Freestyle Ways 2012 - Teaching Sample
Small mosaic squares on background, similar to Glow, embellished with handmade braids.
Bag-a-Square 2012 - Teaching Sample
Paper cut tiles (snowflakes) combined with small mosaic squares - aspects from Glow.
I could relate to the saying that the more you do something, the easier it becomes. Through the years, I've spent so much time auditioning fabric, designing, cutting, fusing, stitching (machine or hand) just to discard the experiment and restart with renewed energy and ideas as I don't like to give up... I have invested lots of time and effort exploring to give students a wonderful experience in my workshops and I love the interaction with them. It truly is a great feeling if I manage to inspire students to take up the challenge of a workshop and see how they flourish, to know that I ignited something in them and share their excitement. For me it is a wonderful feeling of achievement if I open an email with a photograph of a finished project from a student...
I took the conscious decision to offer new workshops at every National Festival I apply to teach. Our quilting population in South Africa who regularly attend festivals, is relatively small compared to that of other countries such as the USA, UK, Australia etc. Since I started teaching at National Festivals, I felt that if I did not continually present new work to keep students interested, my workshops would become stale and students would simply not be interested in my classes. Most of the workshops begin with a "light bulb" moment when I get an instant idea which I then develop further, sometimes an idea starts from doodling in my sketch book at Guild meetings! Developing new work, remains a battle, but I never stop trying as the feeling of getting it right far outweighs the laborious path.
As most of my workshops are intense and jam-packed, I compile notes with step by step images and instructions to assist students to finish their projects at home. The following notice is printed on each set of notes:
Unfortunately some people just don't care about a decent request! Twice now I had the unfortunate situation that some of my workshops were "poached" by people who attended my workshops... I'm not going to "name and shame" anybody, I just need to voice my displeasure as it leaves a bad taste in the mouth! It certainly makes me wonder why quilt teachers attend workshops offered by fellow teachers...? Quilt teachers in South Africa cannot copyright workshops and we rely on the ethical behavior of students... Going the legal route is just not possible as it is too expensive and income from teaching quilting cannot cover legal costs. Teachers who love to "borrow" from other quilt teachers must remember that the quilting community in South Africa is small and word gets round. To top it off, we have the ever popular social media - students love to post/share their latest achievements and quilts...! And this is where teachers who poach workshops from other teachers, are exposed...!