During the last week of August, I had the incredible opportunity to spend a week at Chateau Dumas in southern France, attending a textile art workshop taught by Mandy Pattullo. The class was centered around Mandy’s “thread and thrift” approach to textile art, where vintage and often threadbare quilts and fabrics are sourced to create collages embellished with embroidery and appliqué. Chateaus, France, sewing, and vintage fabrics are among my favorite things, so it was as close to the perfect vacation as I could ever hope for.
I’d brought some fabrics from home, but I also had the opportunity to purchase some locally because on the very first full day of my séjour, there was a flea market a mere five minutes walk from the château! A French Flea Market!
In point of fact, French people sell a lot of the same junk that Americans do at their flea markets. But I did find some quintessentially french linens (damaged) that I’m looking forward to hacking up and sewing into something new. And it was heartening to learn that my French is still good enough to negotiate a bargain.
Later that afternoon my classmates, a few stray husbands, and I went to the Sunday market in the village of Saint Antonin Noble Val, where fresh produce, cheeses, antiques, and little dogs carried in arms or stuffed into handbags abounded.
Frankly, I was kind of overwhelmed by everything that was on offer and left with very little in my shopping bag. “Thread and Thrift”, I reminded myself, was the name of the workshop I was there for. Had I come to France just to return home with a suitcase full of even more dusty vintage rags I’d have to hide in places where my husband wouldn’t find them?
Even though I was staying at a château overlooking the rolling hills of the southern French countryside and even though all of my meals were prepared for me using only the freshest locally sourced ingredients, I worked very diligently all week. In fact, I sewed with such intensity (by hand, mind you), that one day I got a sewing headache which forced me to temporarily retreat to the patio sitting area for a cuppa. (The château is owned by an Englishwoman and the workshop was sponsored by the London-based Selvedge magazine, so there were many friendly English people there and we drank lots of cuppas.)
Mandy Pattullo cites Louise Bourgeois as one of the artists by which she has been inspired, but in fact Mandy is like a Louise Bourgeois to me. I’ve been impressed and inspired by her work for so long, I still can’t believe I had the chance to meet her and work alongside of her all week. I’ve participated in a few “continuing adult education” type courses where no one ever gives you constructive criticism and your assignments are kind of a joke. Not so Mandy Pattullo. She challenged me, kept me very busy, and was as liberal with her knowledge as she was with her constructive criticism.
Here are a few photos of work-in-progress by students in the class:
And here’s a little peek at some things I made:
The cloth book is supposed to be a kind of memento of my trip, so each page depicts something of significance to me.
It was an amazing trip. To be able to do something I love so much in a beautiful setting, surrounded by generous, like minded people, was an incredible gift. l hope to blog a bit more about this trip later, if I can tear myself away from the sewing.Subscribe to the blog. (It's free!)