Creating images of giant particles of pollen – together!
First I had to clear my head of the déjà vu. There I was, in the drawing classroom of Sampson Hall, looking at the same plaster busts I had drawn as an undergrad forty two years ago. (I believe the drawing benches are the same ones too!)
Along with six other textile artists, I was part of a three-day workshop in screen printing under the guidance of Stetson’s visiting teacher/scholar Madison Creech. Madison taught us a registration system using a pinned thread grid, and printing techniques using thickened dyes. Our studio practice allowed us time to work on individual projects for a full day, learning the feel of the squeegee and the peculiarities of the printing medium.
But collaboration was our primary project. It began on workshop day two. Artist Jessica Rath will be visiting Stetson in late January with an exhibit that will submerge visitors in the life of bees. “A Better Nectar” will be a multisensory installation exploring the subject of buzz pollinators. The project bridges the worlds of art and science and will have displays in the Hand Art Center, the Gillespie Mineral Museum and the Science Department in Sage Hall.
Our task was to create three floor-to-ceiling banners depicting an explosion of pollen. We printed beautiful panels of deep purple silk with a discharge (bleaching) medium that removed the purple dye, creating images in white. Working outdoors to disperse the strong fumes from the discharge paste, our group learned these lessons:
Group work is fundamentally different from solo work
It felt like a switch in a different part of my brain was turned on. My regular studio practice is completely self-directed. This process involved listening, allowing ideas to evolve as a group, being open in different ways.
Group work becomes a dance
As we worked our way around long printing tables, we literally weaved in and out of one another, reaching into a space to print, stepping over electric cords, pulling back to wait for a space, all while keeping an eye on one another and the image being created.
Group work creates momentum
Things began to build. One idea led to another in an organic way.
Group work is exhilarating
There’s not much chance for high-fiving or saying “way to go!” when working alone. Encouraging the input of each other as we printed created a natural sense of enthusiasm.
Group work creates bonds of respect and friendship
The other artists thought of images I would not have thought of on my own. We grew in appreciation of each other’s ideas and enjoyed the shared creative experience.
Going back to school provided great lessons.
More about Rath’s bumblebee-inspired work here:
More about the upcoming Jessica Rath exhibits at Stetson: