Thursday, October 27, 2011

Refreshing My Inspiration and Learning new Skills

When I decided that if I was going to ‘cross the pond’ I wanted to stay for a good bit of time, my conscience – and perhaps my seemingly incessant urge to keep learning - made me look for workshops in Holland;  I tried this just two years ago when I first thought I was going to get to make this trip – and found pretty much nothing, so when during our Skype chat to make plans this time, within seconds of Googling, my sister Liz turned up a jewelry course in English …I was pretty surprised…but not as surprised as I was during the following hour or so when I also found Ceramics and Glass courses in English too. It’s been a whirl so far and I’m only half way through my stay!

The three places that I’m taking classes are completely different in their approaches; each with their own charm.
Glass Classes
I started out with a one day course at Van Tetterode, a big workshop in an industrial area. Van Tetterode is known for big architectural glass installations and the owner Louis La Rooy has been making glass installations since the 70s. Louis was the one running this class in Glass Applique and Fusing; the intro is in Dutch – though Louis does speak English pretty well, he’s much more comfortable giving this mile-a-minute intro to glass history and technical stuff in Nederlands, so my sister came to translate (she did a fantastic job) and take part, but you could get by without a translator – you’d have to ask questions when you move on to the practical side and I’d advise taking a look at the site before you go – they have lots of ‘how-to’ tutorials there.
Louis La Rooy with our Applique Glass work
This class – and it would seem all classes at Van Tetterode – is an intensive 9-5(ish) day. You learn to cut glass and cut pieces to match to create a patchwork of glass to be fused or appliqued…and in that process you learn to forget any fear of being cut that you may’ve had…you don’t have time to think about it! And you have Hildo, the very capable assistant helping you get the right stance and pull and getting you to recognize that glass has a memory so you have to break fast; wait, and you’ll be looking at a broken break so to speak :-)

By the end of the day – after a hearty Dutch lunch of cold meat, cheese and filet americain (raw meat) sandwiches washed down with Karnemelk (buttermilk) – you’ll have a sandblasted piece to take home and 3 other pieces to pick up in a few days…and perhaps one or two badges of glass-cutting honour (plasters on those little cuts). It’s a whirlwind day and full of info and no shortage of materials here; a generous learning experience for sure!
A few of Liz n my finished pieces in the window

Jewelry Course
My second lesson was in basic metal-smithing techniques; I sort-of learnt this stuff in College 20-odd years ago, but the degree I did was, to put it mildly, short on technical skills, so I was glad to just pretend I knew nothing and open myself up to learning it all again. It was a good approach to take I think as Marleen Hengeveld, the teacher and owner of the business, workshop located in De Jordaan, has lots of good little ‘tricks’ for getting it right. I learnt to saw again, learnt to solder again and learnt to polish for the first time. Now I’m continuing to make a simple pendant with a bevel set stone. Marleen classes are small – not more than 3 people each day and sometimes only 2. You get different people each lesson and that’s lovely cos you see a variety of styles and get to know the people they belong to.

Your evenings of learning are peppered with lots of tea or coffee and little biscuits and lots of interesting chats about jewelry, styles, life, cultures…it’s a lovely way to spend a couple of hours once a week – some of her students keep coming back year after year and have made all sorts of interesting pieces. No pics post! Ok, ok, one of Marleen's beautiful work - call her to make you something!
Amma Sieraden - Marleen Hengeveld Jewelry

My third step into learning is at Art Ceramics Studio with Gillian Smith, a Brit who’s been living in Holland for 25 years or so; she runs a studio 3 stories up overlooking one of Amsterdams lovely canals; it’s a short walk from Leidseplein so very easy to get to. The steps up (and down) include an original steep set, so be prepared to get into experiencing a wee bit of authentic Amsterdam here :-)

Classes here are quite relaxed, and are usually about 6-8 people or so – and coffee and tea flows here too :-) as does light chat about all sorts of subjects. Many of the students seem to be repeaters and so there’s a lovely friendly atmosphere and Gill makes sure everyone’s introduced. You pretty much choose what you’d like to learn and then Gill spends the sessions going from one student to the next demonstrating, advising, admiring, encouraging, helping work out, sharing a joke…So far I learnt the basics of throwing – just enough to get me going so I can practice at home; and now I’m working on a 3-part mould for a hummingbird that’s supposed to eventually be a handle for a cup…that’s the plan; it might end up being a lesson in what doesn’t work, but going through the process is what’s most important and I’d’ve had a much harder time trying to work it out on my own…I very much doubt I would’ve been able to actually!
The Class at Ceramics Art Studio, Amsterdam
Kiln Casting Glass

My last class (at this point) is another Van Tetterode one; Kiln Casting, taught by the lovely, very sharing and full of energy EffieHalkidis of Greek-Aussie extraction. She’s been making glass art for ages…lol, probably 20-odd years; lots of experience and she shares it all with you in lots of stories of catastrophes and successes as she works you through two super-intense days. Well, really it starts with your preparation; making 5-7 models in clay for casting. Now you don’t really know what shapes will or won’t work of course, so you make them 90% and finish them in class and then start making plaster moulds for them …. That part of the studio is COLD!!! Yikes! For a Caribbean ppl like me, I had to take a deep breath and ignore it…but really, your mind is kept off it as you work like mad to get your models cast. Then…you go home to pick out the clay from the molds – and be prepared – it ain’t gonna come out fast! We were up till 1am and back at class for 9am the next morning where we continued our furious pace to reach our goal of having all our moulds filled with glass and in the kiln.
Effie Halkidis at Van Tetterode giving us instruction on kiln casting glass
model for an open glass mould

model for a difficult to complete mould! More on my Explore Arts blog next week

Me filling a mould with glass
 I was treated to being invited back the next day to take a peek in the kiln – pretty ‘cool’ (at 850C). All seemed pretty ok – it’s sometimes hard to tell if the glass has ‘gone down’ into the moulds, and the cool down cycle is super super long compared to a ceramic cool down, so we don’t see our pieces for a while yet – 5th Nov is the ‘Ta-Da!’ (we hope – and not Boo-hoo) date.

Inside the Kiln - Baking Hot 850C
So that’s it for my account of my workshops so far. I am yet to get round to spending some time designing, but I’ve signed up for an email course called ‘Mixed Media and Journal Art Boot Camp’ at - run by a lovely lady with Saint Lucian connections, Jeanette House and her friend Effy Wild.  And I hope to get round to finally reading all the lessons and info from Lateral Action’s ‘Money for Creative People’ course…and then maybe I’ll start picking off some of those e-books I’ve got stashed on my Hard Drive…
Ahhh…learning– may the day never come when I get tired of it! Are any of you taking interesting courses or do you have courses to offer??? Please post in the comments! (or if you post on FB, I’ll copy it here so the max number of people can benefit, ok?)