As a block of time, a week is most suited to building, developing, progressing. It is long enough to see forward movement, yet large progress tends to happen on the scale of months or years. Most weeks blend together with those on either side of them, more marked by variations to routine than by anything truly out of the ordinary.
But what about the rare, uncommon week? For Jackie Dering and Paisley Holloway, a 1-week workshop at Penland this fall was the ideal opportunity to step away from the general flow of life and immerse themselves in a week of something totally different. The result was more than just a set of new craft skills.
Jackie and Paisley work at Valdese Weavers, a North Carolina company that has created jacquard fabrics for over 100 years. When the opportunity arose for two of the company’s employees to take a Penland workshop thanks to the generous support of Penland friend Laura Levinson, Jackie says, “We both jumped at the chance!”
The workshop, taught in October by textile artist Carol LeBaron, focused on shibori techniques with acid dyes. “Carol really brought a new perspective to the class,” Paisley explained. “It wasn’t traditional shibori, and she really let us go wild with what kind of techniques we wanted to use.”
At Valdese Weavers, Jackie works with patterns as a designer, and Paisley is a colorist. “It was funny,” Paisley tells me, “she and I went in different directions that were very related to our jobs, but we didn’t do it on purpose.” Paisley focused on the play of colors on fabric, experimenting with color mixing and overdyeing in her pieces. Jackie, meanwhile, found herself exploring patterns and design techniques. She tells me how she got excited about clothespins as a way to create resist patterns: “I thought I knew what they would look like before I prepared the fabric, but it came out totally different from what I expected. It was a cool, happy accident, and so exciting!”
Both Paisley and Jackie returned to Valdese Weavers the next week with lots of samples to pin on their walls. “I have some really cool patterns that I want to try as woven fabric,” Jackie says. Paisley adds, “I look at my pieces all the time for inspiration.”
A wealth of inspiration is a solid result from a week’s work, but I was surprised to hear just how much more both Jackie and Paisley got out of their workshop. Both of them commented on how creatively rejuvenated and refreshed they felt by Friday afternoon. “When you’re designing for a client every day, you can start to feel a little stagnant,” Jackie explained. “It was great to feel so engaged in something new and to know that I’m still a creative individual.”
The class quickly developed a sense of community, too. “There were so many people from different backgrounds who were there for different reasons,” notes Paisley. Jackie commented on how rare that feeling of rapid community can be. “By the end of the week, you feel like you’ve made all these friends. As you get farther along in your career, that doesn’t happen as much,” she explained. “For me, that was a really nice reminder, just feeling like ‘I’m still a human being; I can still make a new friend who’s older than me, who’s different than me.’”
It’s a tall order for one week to serve up personal connections, intense focus, new skills, freedom to experiment, and creative validation. But on those rare weeks when the pieces all come together, surely the only thing to do is to embrace it all.