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Fabric Art Class: A Fun Way to Watch Paint Dry

Creating colorful samples is a hands-on experience for older students


By Barbara La Valleur

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Fabric Creation Class

Credit: Barbara LaValleur

Editor's Note: This story is part of the Vitality Arts Special Report.

During the 'Splash & Puddle' fabric painting class at the Textile Center in Minneapolis, instructor and textile artist Susan Stein spent a five-hour class period teaching students as many as a dozen techniques they could use to create beautiful painted fabric samples. (See the slideshow to learn more about the class.)

Stein started the class with a hint of humor. "We're going to watch paint dry," she said, eliciting chuckles from her students, all seasoned crafters.

Stein has more than 40 years of experience teaching fiber art; she has written six books on quilting and fabric arts and was named Minnesota Quilter of the Year in 2003.

Stein, pictured far right, gathered with students Susan Ploetz and Robyn Peterson to look at the work of fellow student Joey McLeister (seated).

Fabric Creation Class

Colorful Basics

Credit: Barbara LaValleur

Starting with the basics of a color wheel, Stein explained, "It's surprising how many people don't know what colors are created when you mix four primary colors."

And according to Stein, one of the advantages of the "splash & puddle" technique is that errors can be redeemed by simply painting over them either with the same color or a similar or entirely different one.

Fabric Creation Class

A Wealth of Options

Credit: Barbara LaValleur

In Stein's class, techniques covered included sun printing, bubble wrap patterning, plaid painting, wet on wet/dry on dry and the rubber band technique.

Damp fabric can also be scrunched into a cup and covered with paint, or an "accordion pleat" made with a fabric square can result in the "fold and dip" technique when the sides are dipped into a pan and unfolded to dry.

In the image above, salt patterning is used to create texture; coarse salt is sprinkled over wet paint and left to dry.

Fabric Creation Class

Unique Techniques

Credit: Barbara LaValleur

Student Robyn Peterson uses a handy tool for creating creases in the fabric; she found it at an estate sale.

"We are able to work hands-on for the entire session and all of the students come away with an extensive collection of sample pieces," she said.

Peterson came dressed for the class in a tie-dyed T-shirt and jean jacket, evidence of her experience in previous fabric art classes.

"I like the new skills, ideas and energy that I gain from each class I take at the Textile Center," she said.

Fabric Creation Class

Bright and Brilliant Fabrics

Credit: Barbara LaValleur

Joey McLeister said the class was both a "party with friends" and a learning experience.

"And at the end of the party, you had learned 12 fabric painting techniques and had a 'stash' of colorful samples [like the one shown above] to take home and play with some more," said McLeister. "Susan is a wonderful teacher. Her work is beautiful. She is very encouraging."

Fabric Creation Class

Fabric Adventures

Credit: Barbara LaValleur

As Susan Plotz, shown above, prepared to try another technique, she said, "In the Splash & Puddle class, I gained knowledge and skills about materials and techniques in fabric painting that I will be able to use to go forward on my own fabric creation adventures."

Plus, she added, "It was just a lot of fun!"

Fabric Creation Class

Finished Products

Credit: Barbara LaValleur

Beautiful and colorful fabrics, like these silk scarves, are made at the Textile Center and available for sale at their gift shop. The Center is also home to the Joan Mondale Gallery, which features an exhibit of colorful quilts.

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By Barbara La Valleur
Barbara La Valleur is an international photojournalist living in Minneapolis. Her current photo exhibit, ¡Hola,Cuba!, at First Universalist Church in Minneapolis runs through Oct. 14. On Oct. 11, she opens an exhibit called European Women in Traditional Male Professions and Trades at the Pearson Lakes Art Gallery, Lake Okoboji, Iowa.

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