#Cottonandbourbon (Audrey Esarey) description of the Crow barn workshop experience perfectly matches my own. She says in a recent post on instagram (June 2022):
“People would often tell this place was magical, and it was difficult to know why until I saw it for myself. Located on 100 acres in Baltimore Ohio, there is no cell service (mobile phone), all meals are provided and you are surrounded with creative people and nature – the perfect amount of isolation to completely immerse yourself in the work.”
Another quilter, #anniehudnut said of a different Crow barn workshop:
” Will miss new friends, intensity of learning and working, Margaret’s wonderful food and being in a bubble for two weeks”.
I whole heartedly echo both of these sentiments.
My trip and experience
I set off from the UK to Columbus Ohio on the 29th of April 2022. Covid 19 travel restrictions had prevented me attending the previous January and October). Wow, it was so worth the wait and the experience far exceeded my expectations.
We had mixed weather. Wet and stormy with tornado warnings in the first week and a pleasant dry heat in the second. We had violent thunder storms when the sky turned black and we had to turn off our machines and wait for it to pass.
Set in countryside, the Barn is a rural idyll, surrounded by hundreds of mature trees which had been planted by the Crows. The converted barn/workshop building was decorated from floor to ceiling with aboriginal paintings and unusual objets d’art, collected during years of overseas travel. There was lots of visual stimulusand inspiration. Great care and attention also went on the nutritious tasty food cooked and served by wife/husband team Margaret and Dale, for snacks, lunch and supper.
There were 22 students in Nancy’s class, and they comfortably took over the generous workspace provided.
We worked hard, Nancy piled it on and there was hardly a chance to stop and breathe, but to hear the words “you’ve nailed it” after one of the first composition exercises, brought a smile to my face. There was no doubt in my mind that I “got” what Nancy was after.
The atmosphere was welcoming. The whole creative vibe was electric “be wild, be free!” … “ Don’t worry about cutting up all your expensive fabrics and failing” Nancy interjects to the group. “you have to be brave and work with your intuition and creative self “Let yourself go!”
I didn’t find this in the least bit scary. It was liberating. Yes it’s true we had to work hard and it’s certainly not for the faint hearted but I didn’t mind starting at 7.00 am and leaving at 9.00 pm in order to keep up. It was essential to work at pace. There was no chance to dither or procrastinate.
The workshop was structured. Nancy’s notes are brilliant,(no photographs, you have to handwrite them.) No showing other peoples’ work on social media unless you have their express written permission.
After each sections teaching brief, we got straight down to the task. During the day Nancy walked around the studio and ask the question, “pass or talk”, this enabled her to see how work was progressing and advise as required. The one time when I didn’t “pass” and decided to “talk”, the answer I got was “I don’t know, you’ll just have to try for yourself to see.” She was right!
Nancy imparted some tips and tricks about strip-piecing and restructuring; about shape, line and value; whether bright, glowing, relative or flat. Which grey did it match in terms of value? When is a line a figure or a shape? What comes forward, what goes to the back? How to create visual texture.
Nancy told me that prior to my arrival she had had the impression that I was a anxious, old lady, concerned about travel, so was pleased to find that this was not the case. She told me to tell the Quilters’ Guild who had generously given me a travel bursary that “they should consider it was money well spent.“
I’ve come back inspired to go on to build on what I learned. Less than a week after getting home. I have built a proper design wall 2.40 x 2.40 meters and reorganized my sewing space.
It’s true about what they say about needing lots of fabric, but she has a very good, reasonable fabric shop so you don’t have to ship it all! I went home with two extra suitcases as opposed to the one that I took on my way out.
I’ve learnt so much! I also enjoyed lots of laughs. At times, Nancy is hilarious. The workshop approach suited me and I have to send my thanks to everyone involved. Amongst many other things, I miss the energy, the singing birds and the delicious fresh spring water supply.