Friday, March 07, 2008

Worst Quilting Experience EVAH

I was sure I'd have some quilty goodness to post this morning. Linus and Bet gave me a quilting class as a present MONTHS ago. They wanted to hook me into the quilting community - get my art sparks going and help me meet creative folks. The original class didn't fill up so it was postponed (twice) and finally held yesterday. I was so looking forward to it! Improvisational art quilting. What could be better?

Well, a root canal for starters.

The people who work in the shop are fantastic. The fabrics are lovely. I had every reason to expect a high caliber teacher! I had a reasonable expectation of meeting pleasant, creative, quilt-artists (or at least wannabes!) I got there early. I was directed to a tiny room with about four women in it - boxes, lunch, machines cluttering up the little bit of table space. I was clearly there for the class but no one said anything to me as I walked in. They weren't saying much to each other either. There was no room for me or my purse (which is all I'd brought in until I scoped out the room). I went to the ladies room and came back. I tried to walk around the table and find space. No one moved their stuff or said a word. WEIRD!

I went back to the store front and asked if I was in the right place. The nice sales woman walked me back in to the room, pointed out the back door I could use to bring in my machine and then uncovered room for me at one of the tables. When I got back in the class room she was back out front - sadly. I set up my area in silence. Two other women came in and started setting up. I said hello to them as they came in and I guess that sparked something because the woman who turned out to be the teacher handed around a sheet of labels that had our names written on them. More silence but this time with the teacher schlepping some of her stuff here and there and then a minute or two of her ironing some ratty-looking scraps. Inspiring. (Not.) She eventually noticed that class was supposed to have started ten minutes earlier. She said, "I am _____ but I won't go into a long introduction. Here is some of my work. This framed piece is my most recent - about two years old. Here is my first quilt. I made it after seeing this book." She held up a Quilt National book - the cover of which featured a quilt just like the one she had made. She proceeded to show us five more quilts that looked the same only with uglier colors. She showed us a few small pieces and advised us to frame our work - otherwise people would only be willing to pay $5 or $10 for a pot holder size piece. She had a slow, whining, slightly huffing way of speaking. She sounded bored and ended every phrase in a dribbling off kind of way. She sat down and sewed a few strips of her fabric together - without saying what she was doing or why. She gave us random advice about "ironing" - it doesn't matter which side the seam is pressed to, keep your ironing pad close by, etc. She told us to work in larger pieces, not to worry about bias, or shape, or color other than to start with ten fabrics that "go" together. She told us not to waste our effort on cheapo fabrics and not to bother washing, "ironing", or folding fabrics because they would all get messy when we worked anyway. She sewed a few more seams. Then she said, "Ok. I wanted you to see how I worked. Let's get started." Then she stood up and stared at us. No instruction. No goal. No start point. No hints about design, balance, visual texture, color selection - nothing.

My classmates and I looked at each other and then back at her. The other ladies began tentatively pulling out the fabrics they had brought. One woman said she wasn't sure about colors or prints. The teacher said to use batiks because they were printed on both sides and had lots of colors. The lady blinked and waited for more. Receiving nothing, she was brave and asked specifically about the fabrics she had planned to use but now wasn't sure about. The teacher made a few bizarrely disparaging remarks like, "Well that orange isn't what I would ever use - but it goes well with this shiny fabric you brought. I stay away from shiny fabrics because they look cheap, but I guess you could go for a playful, juvenile look if you wanted to. It's up to you. It's your quilt." The teacher took another one of the students out front to "help" her pick out a few fabrics. I decided I could live without her help.

I almost just packed up and left right then and there. I talked myself into staying. I started randomly pressing, cutting and sewing together blocks of the fabrics I had brought. Fun enough. I like to play. At the very least - I'm spending time quilting with other women. I thought, "Maybe it won't be a total loss if I meet one even half-way pleasant fellow quilter." The woman on my right was older, stern, silent - except for her incredibly loud and numerous farts (OMG!), and had the ugliest collection of fabrics I have ever in my life seen. O-K. I turned to my other side. Reading her name tag, I struck up the following conversation:
Me: So Sherry, are you from here originally?
Her: Yes.
Me (after a pause to see if she'd say anything else): Do you belong to one of the guilds?
Her: No. I'm not a joiner. I'm not a social person.

So pleasant. Over the course of the next two hours, the only other conversation occurred when two of the ladies got in a fight over which scissors belonged to whom. "These are badly nicked. I take care of mine so these must be yours." "No, I keep mine sharpened and those are dull." "Well, I've never put tape on mine so these can't be mine. See this sticky spot here?" And so on. The next closest thing to conversation was when the teacher informed us all that she hadn't been able to make any money as a quilt artist and now sold plexi-glass clocks and worked in metal. Nice.

Absurdly, I kept thinking that surely once we got a few pieces together the teacher would discuss composition or design elements or embellishment techniques or SOMETHING. She didn't. With about a half an hour to go in the class, one woman asked what we'd be doing next week and the teacher said, "The same thing we are now." I just couldn't stand it any more. I lied and said I had to leave early to go get my children from school. I can't imagine going back next week. I have never been in a class before where I didn't learn anything. I kept waiting, hoping, desperately trying to get some tiny thing from the experience to make it worth the effort of having lugged my machine to and from the car - forget the $75 class fee. But it did not happen. Not even close.

The only speck of enjoyment I got out of the experience was talking to my kids about it afterwards. Havoc laughed so hard he almost fell off of his chair when I described the icky ladies at my table. The kids gave me sweet hugs and told me to look on the bright side. Next week I could stay home in my own studio and if the dogs started farting, at least I could make them go outside! Ah, the bright side.


St. Ann said...

Hey, remember that art center by my old house? The one with the interesting tree? I think you need to take a road trip up here soon to restore your faith in quilters.

Bella said...

so've gotta tell me where you live...I am having the most awful time trying to find creative play people here...I am becoming a hermit!

titan said...

you don't think the ladies would like chit-chat about zombie goats and razor-toothed squids rampaging for no reason and sharpie tag and homemade spleens?

hmmm, maybe they just need some provokshun. :)

sewsousme said...

that is so aweful, run from the toxic "quilters"...we fun quilt artists are out there...just harder to find. (do you blame us?) you might start your own fiber arts group...and you can direct the energy!! weeee!