A workshop with Susan Sorrell

Contemporary textile artist Susan Sorrell creates textile collages that incorporate beading and found objects in an over embellished and richly decorated style. I have written previously about Susan’s work. This heavy handed over embellishment takes more skill than it first looks and the news is that Susan Sorrell is offering a Workshop online titled Fiber Collage with Susan Sorrell

Before I go further I am not affiliated or stand to gain in any way from this review. Susan emailed me to let me know about the workshop and provided her lessons for me to review.

This technique is very much about using scraps of fabric, thread, beads and embellishments as a medium of self expression. This is not a class for anyone who is worried about neat mitred corners, knots, even stitches and is horrified at the idea of the odd dash of glue. If however, you are interested in breaking out and learning to trust your artistic instincts a little more this class would be advantageous.

What do you get for your $60.00 US? There are two components the lessons themselves and a forum. The main resource for students are the documents that are the lessons. These 6 lessons are delivered as a Adobe pdf document. Since lessons weigh in at between 10 –20 pages each they are effectively a small book. Once enrolled students are provided with a User ID and password and URL to the class webpage. Students go to the site to download each lesson. The expectation is that the students download each lesson weekly and progress through the steps outlined by the teacher.

Fiber Collage with Susan Sorrell is designed to be suitable for all skill levels, and no sewing machine is required. The materials list is not a burden financially. Nor are they difficult to source as most people would have the requirements to hand.

Imparting enthusiasm and inspiring self confidence in students is particularly difficult online. Lesson instructions are written with care but Susan’s zany personality comes through in a bright enthusiastic manner. Although written instructions do not replace the face to face contact of working with a good teacher they do explain the technique offered. The lessons are an illustrated step by step guide of the process which enables students to create a project. Photographs and diagrams are plentiful and appropriate.

One of the problems with online delivery is that much of what is learnt in face to face workshops are not easy to deliver online. This is because a percentage of learning is as a result of what I call side banter. Students learn from the formal delivery of materials but also from all the extra interactions that take place in a workshop. There is of course the interaction with the teacher when students ask questions. There are other nuances and interactions that take place in a workshop which I see as equally important. What many people forget is that teaching is a particular type of relationship or it is about facilitating a particular type of conversation that allows students to develop. Much of what is learnt is in facilitating conversation between students as often students will learn as much from other students as from the formal class. Teaching is a complex skill but this ability to inspire, facilitate conversation, pass on little tips and tricks, and being able to step in and assist at various points in the process are all reasons why people take workshops.

There is an online substitute for this however as both students are invited to register at the forums. As I have said teaching is about a particular type of relationship and these forums are where communication takes place. It is not in real time chat which is good for anyone in a different time zone. Students can post messages and instructors answer the questions and have the opportunity to interact with the group here. Although this may seem like a shallow substitute for a living breathing human being the advantage is that you can read the interaction in your own time at your own pace and if you want to, store the answers digitally in a file. This is the equivalent of taking notes which I see would be most advantageous. How many times have you been to a workshop and although you listened to the answer of a question got home and forgotten it? So for all its faults the online equivalent of class conversation and banter has some educational advantages. Each class has its own forum and they are private and safe. Participation in the forum is voluntary but I think I would encourage people to join in, as I am sure it would enhance the experience particularly with this type of class.

Judging the pace of a class is a fine art. The schedule for this series is well paced with enough content to make the lesson interesting and worthwhile but although written in an enthusiastic manner the pace will not overwhelm the students.

Design issues such as colour, composition and drawing are briefly touched on. This is not criticism because if you stop and think about it these areas are so large that they are all courses in their own right. Susan does introduce these elements briefly and offers some advice on keeping a visual journal. Stitch directions are illustrated with line drawings.

Joggles.com is responsible for the administrative and technical support. Questions that relate to the technology such as lost passwords or downloading problems is handled by them, leaving the instructor free to teach and pass on their skill and not get bogged down in dealing with technical problems of delivery.

Priced at $60.00 US I think Fiber Collage with Susan Sorrell looks to me to be good value for those interested in using textiles as a medium of self expression.

Image ‘Art Snob’ copyright Susan Sorrell

2 Comments

  1. This is an incredibly thoughtful critique and
    full of the information needed to make a
    decision about signing up for a class as well
    as good advice for those conducting classes
    on line.
    Great job! Thanks.
    Diane

    Diane

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