The first piece I received from my Foundation Studies professor Frances Dorsey, at my critique with her after my very first semester. I had created an embroidered wool blanket in very neutral colours; and though I can't remember her exact words, she told me that next time, I should consider using a fine thread of a bright colour in the design: not as a complement, or even an accent; not even meant to be seen. The purpose of the bright thread was to create a visual resonance, a sort of vibration that would stimulate the eye without necessarily triggering conscious perception.
Of course I politely declined; and of course, now I see how absolutely brilliant she is and I use her advice all the time.
The second piece of advice came indirectly from my Print and Dye professor Naoko Furue. I say 'indirectly' because I think I just happened to be in the print & dye studio while she was teaching another class, and so I overheard her. This time, I do remember her words:
"Don't make practical: practical comes from China!"
I was so devastated by this that I barely remember how she elaborated on it. I desperately wanted to make beautiful, functional work; I thought the only alternative to functional was cerebral visual commentary on abstract concepts, and I couldn't stomach that stuff! Thus, at the time I heard it, her statement seemed damning to my precious heart.
(This ties into another little lesson from Frances, taught through the chopping-up of belaboured paintings in gouache: 'don't get attached'.)
Naoko was my professor for my advanced studio work, in my final semester before graduation. I tried to make a lot of very functional work... and ironically, it all added up to a very cerebral visual commentary on abstract concepts.
Ever centred on survival (see my previous post), I had imagined myself to be leaving for a year to live alone in the wilderness, and had packed an edited collection of objects that I thought would be necessary to sustain me. Many of them were made by me, but not all: for instance, I had packed a beautiful bowl that my dad had given to me; and not all of the objects (or perhaps none of them) were purely functional: there was a big emotional component, too, in the level of embellishment and decoration. I tend to be a bit atavistic in my embellishment habits.
I sound very rational about this now, of course, but I was inarticulate at the time; and when none of my studio mates 'got it', I was helpless. I struggled to choke back tears.
They were polite and trying to be supportive, but they shifted uncomfortably in their seats. I could see they pitied me, the poor lost soul.
I think Naoko must have rescued me; she was a bit more in tune with what I was doing than I was at the time, and she gave me the benefit of the doubt.
Later, she said to me: "Rebecca, I feel you are on a mission. I don't know what that mission is, but I feel you are pursuing it with great intensity."
Now, how does this little story resolve? Cliffhanger!
You'll have to wait til at least tomorrow night to find out.