This summer Denyse Schmidt came to Portland to teach at PNCA. The class filled up quickly so I put my name on the waiting list. I had all but resigned to waiting for next time when my number came up. It caught me by surprise and I did what any logical grown-up would do, I called my mother and asked for her permission to take the class. Well, sort of... I had given her an envelope of 'emergency cash' and I asked to redeem it.

The workshop was excellent, but I have to admit that it was hard! I had barely dabbled in improv anything and was reluctant to let go of my recently acquired rotary-ruler skills. Denyse was so articulate in design and process I trusted that I would discover something incredible just by participating. I discovered that I had alot to learn!

My first faux pas was that my palette was too flat. One of the requirements for the class was to bring 1-5 yards of solid fabrics. A few of us gals who were taking the class had gotten together and shopped over at Cool Cottons for our solids. Denyse went through my selections and pointed out that there was no variation in value - I had chosen all mid tones. She grabbed a few colors from solids she brought and gave my palette some depth.
We all did an improvisational exercise which we selected random scraps blindly from bags marked 'small, medium and large.' The reluctance to use what you pulled was a common theme with my classmates, but I stuck to the rules and used what I got. As we finished our blocks, we put them up on the design wall and Denyse arranged them. It was the 'discovery' we had all been waiting for: we were all geniuses!

The second part of the class was to then create a more intentional design using our own fabrics inspired by the improv blocks on the wall. I felt like I was on Project Runway (and I suggested to Denyse that she give Tim Gunn a call!) I sketched about 25 different ideas in my book and was the last to conference with Denyse. She didn't seem crazy about any of my ideas, which wasn't much of a boost to my already low confidence.

I decided on a block that broke up the positive and negative space with a row of colors. I planned to pull this a bit randomly so I started to chop (and I do mean chop and not cut!) up pieces and add them to piles. Halfway through making my blocks I realized I had not been consistent with my layout, but I stuck with what I was doing just to see what would happen.

You can see my finished blocks from class on the right side of the photo (and thanks to Susan for sending me the pic!) I am not sure what I am going to do with these blocks or even when I will get to them again, but I am sure that I am interested in learning more about improv. So much more that I have a few plans up my sleeve so please stay tuned!


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