Online textile art workshops: Not just for lockdown
How we’ve missed the joy of in-person textile art workshops. The calm expertise of the tutor. The thrill of shared making. Connecting with real people in real time in the real world. There’s nothing quite like it.
It’s time to celebrate that these experiences are once again possible.
But before you delete your social media accounts and donate your iPad to charity, pause a second.
Haven’t there been more than a few positives to the world of stitch and mixed media being forced to go virtual?
A portal to creative possibilities
During the pandemic, we’ve been exposed to a whole range of new and exciting ways to engage with our creativity that don’t exist ‘in-person’.
The internet has become a direct line to the studios of textile artists on the other side of the earth. We’ve learned weird and wonderful techniques and processes we hadn’t considered, or even heard of, before. And, despite not being in the same room as the people we’ve been communicating with, we’ve been inspired by fellow stitchers we’d never get the chance to meet offline.
Maybe you’re thinking, “OK. I can see how an online textile art workshop might be a nice add-on to in-person classes.”
But what if it were the other way round?
After all, even when the world resumes regular service, there are times when in-person workshops and courses just don’t fit.
When in-person isn’t possible
Sometimes cost can be a barrier. Not everyone has a couple of hundred quid to stump up on a regular basis, or can afford travel and accommodation for a special workshop.
“I live in a remote part of the UK and I recently paid 450 pounds for an art week, plus travel and accommodation. It’s a lot of money. Doing workshops online gives such value for money. I’m getting to choose things that wouldn’t possibly be available in such abundance.”Judith Sutherland, Stitch Club member
Sometimes you can be constrained by what’s available in your area. If you’re passionate about building your toolkit of exciting techniques and processes and developing your visual vocabulary with textiles, the local Knit’n’Natter in the library on Thursday afternoons might not cut it.
Maybe the only artist group near you is by invitation only, and you don’t have the confidence to call yourself a textile artist (yet).
Perhaps you feel that you don’t belong anywhere.
Sometimes it’s flexibility. You just can’t make Tuesday nights, because of work or family commitments. Sometimes your health lets you down, and you can’t predict when you’ll have a bad day. What’s the point of committing to something you might not be able to attend?
“I have a ‘health hiccup’. Some days I have absolutely no energy. If that happens to be a workshop day, then it’s not easy to really take the workshop on board. But with pre-recorded workshops online, I’m not restricted to a given day. I can do it when it’s convenient for me.”Sarah Edwards, Stitch Club member
When in-person feels uncomfortable
If you’re at the beginning of your creative journey, the thought of being in a room filled with experienced, creative stitchers can be daunting.
Maybe you’ve been to workshops where you’ve felt intimidated by your fellow students who all seemed so confident and technically accomplished. You might have been wary of asking a “stupid” question. Or maybe the loudest person in the room never stopped hoovering up the tutor’s attention.
And with so many stitchers of varying levels of experience, it’s easy to feel rushed. You might have found yourself falling further and further behind, ending the day with nothing much to show for your efforts.
Or conversely, you might have become frustrated that the workshop was plodding along too slowly to accommodate the one person who never learned to do running stitch as a child.
How online learning can become a key part of your creative practice
It’s true that in-person workshops DO offer something you can’t get online.
And the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly thrown a whole load of death-by-Zoom stuff at us: disorganised, unfocused online meetings where everyone is talking over each other, the tutor is mumbling and the demonstration is unclear and uninspiring.
But that’s not what we’re talking about here.
Well organised and properly put together online workshops have a whole host of benefits that aren’t always possible with the in-person experience.
- Expert guidance from world-renowned textile artists who take you through a creative process, but encourage you to express yourself personally, so that what you make is distinctively ‘you’ (not a copycat of their own work)
- A rich resource of on-tap video tutorials available 24/7 that you can dip in and out of at your own pace, on your own schedule, depending on your wiggly life and your own specific interests
- A range of supporting materials to enhance and clarify your experience, like step by step workbooks and inspirational ebooks
- A forum to ask your workshop leaders questions and get feedback
- A private online community of supportive people from all over the world who share your passion and understand your journey
- An atmosphere of kindness and support
- Real humans behind the scenes to guide you and help you if technical gremlins rear their ugly heads (it happens to the best of us)
Because it’s more affordable, more flexible and can fit around your other commitments, online learning can act as the backbone of your creative development and go hand-in-hand with the occasional in-person workshop.
1 Online learning is flexible so you don’t need to be
Whatever your constraints, your workshop is there for you 24/7, rather than once a week on Thursdays.
Choose a schedule that suits your time and responsibilities, whether that’s five minutes a day for stitching practice, or a week-long textile art staycation set aside for layering and embroidering a panel. Your workshop won’t disappear if you don’t use it for six months.
“Online workshops help me break things into manageable chunks. If I don’t have four hours to work on a piece, I can get something done in 30 minutes, and then tomorrow, I can spend 30 more minutes. And at the end of the week, I’m going to have something I’m proud of to show for it.”Laura Otten, Stitch Club participant.
Online learning makes it easier for you to go at your own pace.
This is becoming even more important in a post-Covid world, where your life might be getting back to the days of ‘normal’ time pressures. With no course deadlines, you can’t fall behind, but there’s always a structure to follow, so you can never lose your way.
2 Online learning supports your style
Some of us are action learners in the extreme, learning better by stash diving and riding our creativity on a wave of playtime.
Some of us are reflectors: we like to carefully watch, reflect, and watch again before we try out something new.
Some of us like to revisit or repeat previous workshops to reinforce our learning.
Online workshops have the flexibility and content that caters for the way you learn best.
3 Online learning widens your artistic horizon
“The artists come from many places, many different backgrounds, many different parts of the world, and that expands my vision immensely. I’m doing things I never would have done and meeting artists I never would have met and my practice is evolving because of that.”Wanda Moon, Stitch Club member
A good online workshop is your portal to learning from a global community of expert tutors.
Online workshops aren’t limited by geography, and this means that you can learn skills and techniques from artists from anywhere. It’s your window on the world of textile art, giving you different perspectives and enhancing your vision for your own practice.
4 Online learning offers a diverse, supportive community
“It’s a safe haven, with a nurturing feeling where I can learn and grow and socialise with people from all over the world with a common passion. These are my people.”Lee Thermaenius, Stitch Club
Enjoy the freedom to connect with people from across the world who want the same thing as you – to have a creative outlet, to stitch joyfully, to learn and develop confidence as textile artists.
It’s a real meeting of enthusiasts, and a place that makes you feel you belong. Be inspired by other people’s stories, by their differences and by your similarities. It’s your global community from the comforts of your own home. It’s a safe space to share ideas, struggles, solutions and finished pieces with supportive, creative people.
“I get more than just sitting there watching somebody teaching me to stitch. I get a whole emotional support for my hobby.”Judith Sutherland, Stitch Club member
With online textile art workshops, you have time and space to give and receive constructive feedback and suggestions. But only if you want to. That’s the beauty of online. You can lurk in the background, enjoying the learning and gaining confidence and skills from a structured learning journey. You can show your work (or not). You can ask questions (or not).
Stitching a new normal for textile art
So perhaps the way you develop your creative practice going forward looks a bit different to the pre-pandemic normal? Maybe it’s not a case of either/or? Perhaps in-person and online can go hand-in-hand to help you build a more meaningful and rounded approach to making textile art?
Why not tell us about your positive online experiences with textile art workshops in the comments below?