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Taking a Quilt Class: Paying Attention, Letting Go and a Giveaway

I enjoy being on the other side of the table and learning new skills that I can add to my toolbox for future projects. Every so often I am fortunate enough to take a class from one of the many talented quilt teachers offering instruction these days.

Little did I know when I signed up to take Lura Schwarz Smith’s five-day class, Imagery and Imagination: Inks, Paints, Pencils and Fun, at the Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar in California, that there would be many more unexpected and valuable lessons awaiting me.


In preparation for class, I was asked to bring either a portrait of a person or pet. I chose this sweet image of my adorable great nephew Eli. Thinking I would be piecing and appliqueing, I purchased a variety of flesh-colored fabrics, as well as stripes and other textural fabrics to use for his hair.


The first morning of class was spent working through a series of helpful lessons in perspective drawing and shading.  I calmly completed the lessons, determined to soak up as much as I could. Next Lura walked us step-by-step through an exercise that would lead to drawing a face. I have never taken any formal art classes and can’t remember the last time I tried drawing faces–probably around third grade or so. This was quite a stretch for me, and definitely a humbling experience; we all laughed a lot at seeing our finished faces. I just can’t take these things too seriously. With Lura’s excellent instruction, patience and gentle encouragement, every student successfully accomplished the lesson. I was impressed at how well we all did.

Don't these look like fun?

Don’t these look like fun?

Next Lura demonstrated how to use the variety of inks, pens, pencils, and markers that she brought for us to experiment with. Again, this felt like being back in grade school. It was so much fun.

The next step was to trace the main lines onto a piece of transparency. This was the first step before transferring the image onto fabric.

The first step is to mark the main lines onto transparency.

The first step is to mark the main lines onto transparency.

After I transferred Eli’s shape onto my background fabric, I innocently asked Lura which techniques she preferred for appliqueing fabric pieces onto the background. She calmly replied that no applique was necessary. We would ONLY be using the paints, inks, pencils, and so on for our projects. Why did I think I would be piecing and appliqueing? Did I not accurately read the class description? Oh my goodness! I can still feel the anxiety coursing through my body at the thought of stepping way out of my comfort zone. What was I going to do? This was Day 1 and I’m feeling “Yikes! I don’t/can’t paint or draw. I have no experience with this. How am I ever going to get through the next four days?”

I was silent and dumbfounded. I remember leaving the classroom and returning to my room in an effort to calm my nerves. I had a choice to make and decided to let go of all the unrealistic expectations.

I returned the next morning with a good attitude and willingness to give this my best shot. After a few hours of playing with inks and colored pens I was pleasantly surprised to feel how relaxing and enjoyable the process had become. I worked slowly for several days, watching the evolution of my piece. Certainly it has more work to be done, but I must say I am quite pleased with the results, especially since this was brand new to me.

Enough rambling for now. Here’s what I accomplished by the end of the class. So what do you think? Not so bad for beginner. Lura has inspired me to purchase a sketchbook and try my hand at drawing. The possibilities are endless and I’m excited to do more.


Being primarily a traditional quiltmaker, I had decided that if I ever wanted to take a step into the art quilt world, I would like Lura to guide me. She is truly one of the most patient, kind, encouraging, inspirational, gentle (you understand what I am saying!) teacher I have ever had.

Please visit Lura’s website to see her beautiful work, as well as the Gallery of student work she has included. (Jennifer featured Lura in a past post here.) She travels extensively, so be sure to check out her teaching schedule. If you ever have the opportunity, I encourage you to take one of her classes. I promise you will love it and may even open up many doors to new forms of creativity.

Here is just a sampling of her work to whet your appetites.

Seams A Lot Like Degas by Lura Schwarz Smith

Seams A Lot Like Degas by Lura Schwarz Smith

Dancing Peace by Lura Schwarz Smith

Dancing Peace by Lura Schwarz Smith

Granite Shadows by Lura Schwarz Smith

Granite Shadows by Lura Schwarz Smith

Universal Language Dreams by Lura Schwarz Smith

Universal Language Dreams by Lura Schwarz Smith

Together with her talented husband, Kerby C. Smith, they have written Secrets of Digital Quilting: From Camera to Quilt, published by C & T Publishing. In addition to Lura’s instructions on inking, painting, and drawing on fabric, their book teaches you to easily create your own richly colored, unique fabric by printing your on photos on fabric. Lura and Kerby are generously donating a signed copy of their book for one of our lucky readers. Simply post a comment telling us why you would like to receive a copy by end of day April 19th and I will announce the winner in my April 23rd post.

Lura tells me that she has a newsletter coming out the same day that this post goes live. Be sure to check it out for updates on her teaching schedule.

That’s all for this time. Happy quilting, drawing, or pursuing whatever creative outlet you choose.

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