Sabbaticals are usually a reason to avoid classes and focus on one’s scholarship, perhaps traveling to do research. I tend to use them to recalibrate my courses, read widely, and try new technologies that I can use in my teaching. Also catching up on sleep, if truth be told.
The first thing I did in my present sabbatical, however, was go back tocollege–a different sort of school, though. The Fiber College of Maine attracts a wide variety of artists, crafters and local vendors to Searsport Shores Ocean Camp on Penobscot Bay, Maine, for the week after Labor Day every year. I first heard about it from Gale Zucker, a professional photographer who taught a photography class I took at Juniper Moon Farm several years ago. I’d always wanted to take one of the Maine Fiber College classes she’s taught, but their scheduling conflicted with the start of fall semester, when I’m usually knee deep in Add/Drop requests and my students’ first writing. I vowed that the first sabbatical chance I got I was going, which I finally did this year.
It was an especially interesting year to go because of the classes offered. Gale joined writing expert Beverly Army Williams to lead a full day class on sharpening the photography and writing skills that can sustain blog writing. They gave those of us in the class just the right mixture of content and guided learning to help us revive or launch blogs that we can manage with minimal stress. I had just gotten a new DSLR camera that I learned more about from Gale’s very practical tips, and had lots of fun photographing triangles that I found around camp (her first exercise)
and a willing fellow camper modeling a beautiful shawl designed by another fellow camper in various settings (Gale’s second exercise).
That’s Gail on the right above, urging us to boss the model around to get the best possible picture.
Beverly’s advice and activities matched my deficits as an online writer perfectly by proving to me that I could actually mind map,
a skill I tend to avoid because I’m convinced I’m a linear thinker, except when it comes to planning, which she also addressed by having us sketch out calendars to help us fit regular posts into the rest of our busy lives. I’m still working out the details, but I have a much stronger sense of what’s possible for me to do in this blog as a result of taking their class.
I had a great time applying some of what I had just learned about photography at a morning class I took the following day. Gee’s Bend Quilters from Alabama taught a lot at the Fiber College this year. Years ago I saw an exhibition of their work at the Cleveland Museum of Art and was impressed by how much their sewing techniques differed from the quilts one usually sees in the American south or midwest. I am a disaster at anything involving sewing, but I signed up for a shorter session with them to learn about their approach to quilting.
Unfortunately, after I registered for class last April I completely forgot that I’d signed up the class (there were so many cool things to choose from it boggled me as much as any first year student). So I neglected to bring any of the equipment necessarily to participate in the class–scraps of cloth, needles, good quilting thread, and portable sewing machine. I felt a little queasy walking to the class that morning, but I’d been around enough fiber events to know that most fiber folks are easy going enough not to shame someone who is so ill prepared. I decided to just ignore the things knitters say about quilters’ pickiness, and try to wing it. It happened to be such a bright morning and the tent enclosing the class was so jam packed with fascinating sewing machines, fabrics, and obsessed female artists, I quickly realized it was the perfect opportunity to fill my camera’s memory card with everything going on around me.
Here are some of the results.
I also took two other classes, but this post is getting so long I think I’ll save those descriptions for another time. Suffice it to say that I was a happy first year student at Fiber College last week.
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Newbie note: After looking at the photos I’ve posted here, I’m convinced I’m either losing my eyesight or I’ve made a mistake in the editing/posting process (perhaps photoshopping before collaging in Picmonkey.com is not the best idea). But I’m just going to leave them as they are so you, Dear Reader, as well as I will have a record of how much my blogging improves, the more I play with it. In the meantime, I beg your patience.