Thursday, May 23, 2024

Nature's Narrative Workshop and Free Motion Mavericks

Hi and welcome 😊. It's been an incredibly busy week filled with heat, gardening, learning and art. Except for the heat, it was great! I want to share with you some of my learning and art - through a wonderful speaker at Out of the Box (OOTB) Fibre Artists and a workshop the next day. 

Alice Vander Vennen 

Alice Vander Vennen is a "Canadian artist working in mixed media assemblage, primarily with textile, copper, and found objects, capturing stories of loss and hope; courage and strength." (from her website - see Related Links below). 

Her work is both organic and structural, made up of found objects, natural elements and almost always copper! She is also an incredibly lovely and generous person who always had something positive to say about her students' work!
Alice Vander Vennen - guest speaker
(please ignore the glare on her frame!)

In the workshop, our first exercise was to create a piece on card stock that could be affixed to a greeting card. We were encouraged to bring a bit of found objects or things that had meaning to us, and we're encouraged to chose fabric, as well as leaves, copper pieces and wire from Alice's stash.

My first exercise at the debrief

The image above was my piece at our first debrief. I later changed some of my piece by adding a bit of layering and stitching down the green fabric in bunches. I love the lace butterfly at the top. The copper works well with the fabric layered around the leaf. At home, I added the embroidery and the beads strung from a copper wire.

My first exercise, finished that evening

After an hour and a half, we had a debriefing with Alice. All of our pieces, finished or in progress, were placed on a black felt on the floor while we sat around them. Alice went through each piece, highlighting what was good about them. She talked about composition, colour, etc. It was fascinating and educational to hear how she saw each piece. 

At our first debriefing, our first exercise, finished or in progress

The second exercise focused on composition and we had to use the shadow box frame (which she provided from Ikea). We could use the piece from our first exercise, or we could create another. We could also keep the piece within the mat of the frame, or make it larger and place it over the mat.

I had picked up a piece of fabric with a lovely blue paisley flower from Alice's stash. I wanted that to be the focus. There was also a great hand-made stitched piece that I added. The background and the beautiful pink fabric comes from three scarves.

The beginning of the second exercise

Playing with the second exercise

The scarves were very slippery so I used the back of a canvas fabric to stitch everything on. I'm still struggling with the composition. During the workshop, Alice shared with us her methods for gluing stones and other things onto her pieces. I couldn't leave the workshop without trying it out 😊

Stones and broken pottery glued onto fabric under a layer of canvas

Trying out white borders around the piece

We had a second debrief at the end of the day. Some participants had finished their pieces while others were finishing up, or struggling like me. It was really great to see such different and lovely work. Here are a few of them. I'm afraid that I don't know the name of the artists who made each piece. I'll add them as I find out  

Alice during our 
second debriefing
Memorable objects in a
lovely composition

Dazzling jewelry in
and out of the frame

Fabric strips layered
with glittering circles

A knitted copper piece among
folds of fabric

A great landscape composition
by Kathy

Natural objects in a lovely 
composition by Katherine

A glowing simple composition
and layered card by Caroline

What I learned
  • I think that the debriefings were some of the best parts of the workshop. It was fascinating and educational to hear how Alice saw each piece. 
  • She talked about colour and composition in a way that wasn't intimidating and this sparked all kinds of ideas in my mind. It was after the first debriefing and looking at participants' work that I figured out what to do with my small piece.
  • It was great to see Alice put a piece together for our first exercise and then cut it up for the second!
  • I couldn't cut up my composition since the stitches wouldn't have stayed in place. Besides, I really wanted to do something with the blue paisley flower.
  • I'm really not happy with the piece, but I will let it simmer in a safe place and hopefully get back to it before our next OOTB meeting in June, where we will share our work. 
  • Alice offers various workshops in Ontario and elsewhere. If you're in that area, you may want to check these out! 
  • You may also want to check out more of her work, as seen on her website.
Tips for going to workshops
  • If you're supposed to bring fabric but don't know what you'll be doing with it, it's better to bring less than too much - too much choice can overwhelm the creativity process.
  • You can always trade scraps of fabric and things with other participants.
  • Remember to bring extra lighting if you need it!
  • Bring fabric scissors and another pair of scissors for paper and other things.
  • A cushion on a hard chair can make a huge difference.
  • If weather permits, take a few short breaks outside to clear your mind.
  • You can scrounge for found objects anywhere - including the parking lot!
  • Too much food and drinks is better than not enough 😋 since you can always take the extra home!
Related links
  • Alice Vander Vennen, website
  • Out of the Box (OOTB) Fibre Artists, website
Linking parties

Free Motion Mavericks

Welcome to week 483 of Free Motion Mavericks! It was a very productive week! Thanks for linking up. Here are the projects from last week that included FMQ, ruler work or walking foot quilting. 

Janine of Rainbow Hare made a harmonious piece for the Endeavourers. Here is the Elephant in the Room with lovely machine and hand quilting 😊!

The Elephant in the Room by Janine of Rainbow Hare

Frédérique of Quilting Patchwork Appliqué made a lovely baby quilt, Reine des prés/Queen of the Meadows, for the local hospital. The background is a disappearing 9-parch with lovely hints of colour. The bee in the centre with the quilting really looks great 😍 

Reine des prés/Queen of the Meadows, by Frédérique

Angie of A Quilting Reader's Garden was quilting this lovely quilt when she had a mishap! She's now OK and her quilt if finished👍!

Angie's finished quilt.

Gail of Quilting Gail has been busy making her Christmas tree skirt for the Island Batik Paper Pieced Celebrations Blog Hop. Daphne was impressed when she got to chill in the sun 😎

Gail's Christmas tree skirt with Daphne 
It's now your turn!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


  1. Looks like a whole lot of fun your group had being free and creative!

    1. Thanks Vicki, it really was fun and creative. It's just difficult to produce in such a short time.

  2. Your workshop looks like it was fun - I would flounder in one like that. Love your tips for attending a workshop. Thanks for the linkup to Tips/Tutorials, too!

    1. Thanks Kathleen, I didn't have much in the Learned section originally but then I thought of the pearls of wisdom that I was given. Thanks for the party!

  3. Andree, your project is awesome! Looks like so much fun. Thanks for sharing with us at Monday Musings!

    1. Thanks Brenda, it was a lot of fun. Glad that I found your party.

  4. What an excellent speaker! Sure loved the her works shown and all the ones y'all made. Great tips for getting the most out of workshops! And thanks for the link up, too. Blessings,

  5. That anonymous comment was from me. Did notice it was anon... till I hit publish.

  6. Sounds like a very interesting workshop. Both your pieces are really interesting, even if you feel like the second one needs more work.

    1. Thanks Kate. I guess that we are often hardest on ourselves. When I have the time, I'll figure out what I need to do. I'm not very good under time pressures.

  7. J'admire ton travail et ta créativité, bravo pour ces 2 pièces ! Merci pour le lien vers le site d'Alice, je vais aller voir.

    1. Merci beaucoup Frédérique. C'est difficile d'être créatif lorsqu'on a pas beaucoup de temps. Les oeuvres d'Alice sont vraiment spéciales.

  8. Sounds like that workshop was right up your alley- and you learned a lot. Such pretty pieces you have created!

    1. Thanks so much Alycia. Not easy to be creaive in such a short time but it was great!

  9. That was a great workshop. Thank you for sharing so much detail. Combining so many different materials makes for very interesting pieces and yours have turned out beautifully. Thank you for showing my elephant. I was very surprised to see him :)


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