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Teacher Spotlight: Jennifer Cook

Teacher Spotlight: Jennifer Cook

Any Time, Any Space: On Opening The Window To Creative Possibilities

By Jennifer Cook

When I first encountered fiber arts while studying abroad in Italy, I loved it for the tactile qualities it offered. Studying silk painting, batik, and felting, I found that fiber arts offered a sensuousness of fine art creation in color, pattern, texture and form. But it also bridged the practical: the functional design of the piece as apparel, accessory, or décor.

And how I loved the practicality of the professional studio I was studying under as well: large tables, ventilations systems, art sinks you could bathe in, huge tubs of dye with wall hoses, and forgiving drains in concrete floors. Everything was designed for optimal ease of use in the professional methods I was learning. When I returned to the States and eventually wanted to return to a fiber arts practice, things became so much more complicated. How do I work in a small apartment without ventilation for alcohol burners, without large spaces and expensive equipment for block printing and silk painting? And making resist-dyed batiks? My lease-protected cream carpeting in my apartment just stared up and mocked me.

Time was also a precious issue. I was now a working K-12 teacher without the luxuries of time for art practice afforded a full-time student. As I redeveloped a home-friendly version of fiber arts for the hobbyist and cottage-industry artist, I looked for three things: quick, practical and cheap. Four actually, because there’s no point in doing it if you don’t feel the outcomes are successful. And I truly feel that we can be freed up for more successful creative work when we can get away from those first whiny impediments of “I still need this” or “I don’t have that” and instead focus on the positives of “but I have this” or “I can use that!”

My students learn to use quick, practical and cheap combinations of materials, techniques and processes to make successful work happen well within small space, time and budgets. Purism goes out the window, and with the fresh air of thinking blows in a quicker, more practical, and less costly success. My classes are fun and productive. We don’t turn our noses up at making block prints from craft foam or using direct application “faux batik” methods because it works. We allow that open thinking and comfort with experimentation to blow away the stifling atmosphere of apprehension, rigidity and doubt.

After all, who has time to wait to make their art until the perfect studio facilities come along? Who wants to bet their creative potential away on a set of idealistic conditions that may never come along at all? The fiber arts I now practice and teach allow for successful work that can be unique and beautiful without sacrificing the possible, and finding creative possibility within your own constraints of your life is a tremendously beautiful thing! How can you try to practice “any time, any space?”

Jennifer will be teaching "Setting Yourself Free: Reflective Art Journaling" on Sunday, April 7th from 1-4pm. Check it out here!

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