One of the workshops at QuiltCon I was lucky to get into was Denyse Schmidt's Improv workshop. It was a hot commodity and I had just the right timing when doing my registration. To be honest, I took it out of curiosity more than anything. I'm quite comfortable with improv work, even teaching it myself! But I wanted to see how Denyse taught it and see how people responded.
Frankly, I really enjoyed the class. It may have been the opportunity of just free sewing/playtime after weeks of prep for my own classes at QuiltCon. But it was also a great environment. The other students ranged from improv virgins to the old hats at the technique like me. Denyse is a good teacher, clear on the approach, and extremely encouraging. For the students who'd never done improv it was a challenge at the beginning but they all seemed to really embrace things at the end.
Denyse's technique involves true randomness. Three bags of fabric bits in different sizes. Close your eyes and reach in! At home I do almost the same thing, but I keep my eyes open. Denyse's goal is to get the students to see the beauty in the randomness; beauty in seemingly clashing bits of fabric and blocks that don't lay flat. And it is most definitely there.
After each exercise we reviewed all the blocks and discussed our responses. I loved this part as too often in classes we don't get see what other people make or hear about what people experienced as they worked. The last part was a big eyeopener as a teacher. Well worth the class for me.
In the morning we worked solely with Denyse's scraps. In the afternoon we got to add our own fabric and a randomly chosen solid (Confession: my solid may have been placed in my hand by my very awesome Aussie volunteer and friend). Having seen reports of this class before I chose my fabric to bring with great intention. The blocks from one of these classes can start to all look the same so I chose my fabric to stand out a bit. Plus, it is one of my all-time favourite fabrics.
I didn't expect to care much for my blocks, I prefer a bit more control in my colour schemes. But I LOVE my blocks. So much so that I've got plans for a lot more and a finished quilt. I think I lucked out with the fabric I picked out of the bags and the colours that came up. Or it was just all serendipity... In the end I took a handful of orphan blocks from the morning exercises and I have another plan for them too.
Again, I was totally reminded that we need to remain open to experiences. I went into the class all cocky about my improv ability and thinking I wouldn't learn anything. And I came out with a bit of a gut check, new ideas, and an appreciation for the approach of others. Plus some rather cool quilt blocks.