Seeking Change, Taking Risks, Moving On : Claire Benn 2020

Taking Risks 10.jpg
Taking Risks 10.jpg
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Seeking Change, Taking Risks, Moving On : Claire Benn 2020


Participants must be familiar with a reasonable number of surface design techniques and comfortable with using Mx dyes & wet processes.  They also need to be willing to take genuine risks, cope with failures and push through to finding their way forward. As such, a level of maturity, commitment and persistence will be needed. Experience level should be intermediate to advanced.  

 Dates:  August  19 - 23 2020

Course Fee: £450     Deposit £225 payable on booking

Material Fee for the Studio £ 40



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Information about Claire





No successful artist – regardless of their discipline – finds new ways forward without a level of risk-taking.   This involves letting go of the ‘finished product’ and learning from failure(s).  This retreat is for those who are ready and willing to seek change, take risks and push themselves in order to move their work on.  It is NOT for those who wish to stay put or work within their comfort zones.

As such, the workshop is not for the faint-hearted and a level of commitment, open-mindedness, resilience and even stubbornness will be needed to extract the learning.  Another way of putting it is to say that participants will learn to accept and cope with their ‘shadow side’ or ‘predator’ in order to find the gold. 

Claire’s role will be one of facilitator rather than tutor, drawing on her training in coaching and mentoring in order

  • Create a safe container in which to work, where the group has trust in each other and the process.

  • Drive question-led one-to-ones on what change means to each individual, the direction being sought in terms of moving on to a new style of work, how that might manifest in terms of what needs to be done and the risks involved. All of it aimed towards finding a new way forward.

  • Provide suggestions as to risky ways forward for starting new work or moving existing pieces forward. Students will also be introduced to a system where taking chances is unavoidable.

  • Undertake one-to-one and group discussions to help participants respond to the results of risk-taking, and plan next steps and further opportunities to take risks and be subject to chance. This will involve feedback and critique.

  • Encourage and if necessary, bully - but in a supportive and positive way!

Finally, participants must understand that they will need to let go of any desire to leave the workshop with a ‘finished’ piece of work – it might happen but there are no guarantees.


Change, Risk & Direction - prework

This is perhaps the most important things to think about, so please spend time responding to the following questions, some of which ask the same thing, but asked in a different way:

1.     What change do you want to see in your work.., and why?

2.     How do you want to move your work forward; describe what you’re aiming for, describe the style you’re seeking.

3.     What direction might you move towards? This might include colour schemes, size of work, marks, textures, use of specific media or tools and so forth.

4.     What references or source material are available to you?  What do you need to collect or research in order to help you see or clarify where you’re heading? (Note to self; remember to bring visual references with you, if you think that’ll help).

5.     What represents a risk for you, and why?

6.     Why do you want to take this risk?  For example, are you stuck in a rut in terms of style, size, process or imagery? Maybe you feel dictated to in terms of the ‘quilt police’ or similar and want to break free - somehow.

7.     How prepared are you to try, try and try again, and how committed are you to pushing through.

8.     Any level of change drives a level of fear as we all fear uncertainty, the unknowable.  Your ‘shadow side’ or internal predator will almost certainly rear its head in uncomfortable ways; “why can’t I make this work?  Why am I wasting my time on this? I’m fed up/angry/frustrated.  I’m a failure, a wimp, useless and will never be any good”.  Are you ready to deal with this?  What strategies can you put in place to help you deal with this?

9.     How prepared are you to handle the reaction of others to your desire to change, take risks and move on (often, other people won’t understand and even try to talk you out of change).

10.  If you take risks on this workshop and find new ways forward or a new direction, will you be able to continue working in this way?  For example, if your new way forward can’t be done at home, then how will you access suitable studio space and time?

11.  Whilst the workshop itself will provide a safe container, this may not be true at other times if working in a shared/public studio environment.  How can you create a safe container for yourself by communicating your goals with others and setting specific boundaries?

Take the time to answer as many of these questions as you can.  You may not be able to answer all of them and Claire will help you to find your way with those you might struggle with. The list isn’t exhaustive, so if you think of anything else, then write down your thoughts.  If possible, please email Clare with relevant information 2 weeks before the workshop as this will give me time to consider each individual and do some pre-planning.

The Cloth

Choose the fabric(s) you (think you) wish to work with and prepare it accordingly.  Whilst you may normally use Mx dyes, it’s possible that risk may involve using other media such as discharge or pigment (acrylic) media.  Think about where you might be heading and prepare the cloth accordingly.  If you’re pretty certain you want to stick with Mx dyes, then pre-prepare as much as you can – although a soda-soak vat will be available throughout the workshop.  If staring with new cloth and Mx dyes, scouring - even with cloth that is sold as PFD- is recommended.  Bring 10 to 15 metres of cloth in total but don’t cut it until you’re ready to work – you might be working small samples, you might be hurling paint at large pieces – you’ll know when the time comes.

 For dye paints, Claire prefers to work on soda-soaked cloth rather than putting soda ash into the dyes (the benefits of this approach will be explained).  As such, if you’re reasonably confident you’ll be working with dyes as paints, please ensure you sufficient scoured, soda-soaked and dried cloth ready for use on the first day: don’t iron it or fold it once soda-soaked – just stuff it into a bag once dry or or roll it onto a roll to minimise creases.  A soda vat will be available for on-going soda soaking throughout the workshop.  To soda soak scoured cloth:

  • Pre-scour it, then dry it or spin-dry it.

  • Create a soda vat large enough for your needs; the basic recipe is 3 tablespoons of soda ash to 1 litre of water. Dissolve sufficient soda ash for your needs in warm (not cold or hot) water and top up with the appropriate amount of cold water.

  • Place the scoured, dry (or spun-dried) cloth in to the soda vat and leave for 15 minutes.

  • Dry by drip-drying or spin the soda-soaked cloth before line drying (if you have a spin dryer, recycle the run off back into the soda vat). DO NOT TUMBLE DRY.

  • Once dry, stuff it into a bag or roll it onto a roll to minimise creases (don’t fold or iron).

Additional Media

If you wish to use media outside of that specified, please bring it with you.

If you are going to work with acrylics brought by Claire, and not studio supplies, dyes etc, let me know when I ask for your Balance of Payment and I will reduce the Studio Supplies fee.

General Supplies

  1. Two dropcloths: please bring dropcloths that are sturdy, such as drill cotton or denim. Old sheets are too thin and avoid heavy-weight muslin or canvas as it tends to hold wrinkles. Your dropcloths will need to measure 1.25 x 2.5 metres, once scoured and shrunk. Those travelling by plane or train need NOT bring dropcloths to enable them to use their baggage allowance for more exciting items.

  2. Rubber gloves (suggest 2 pairs).

  3. 1 x box of ball-headed or T pins.

  4. 1 x black Sharpie.

  5. Sketch book or white paper for on-going design work or notes to self.

  6. 1 roll of lining paper (available from any DIY shop).

  7. At least two pieces of sheet plastic measuring 1.25 x 2m (this will be used for batching and/or working on).

  8. Pen and pencil.

  9. Cloth apron (or wear the equivalent of gardening/decorating clothes).

  10. Comfortable, rubber-soled shoes (you may be standing a great deal and the floor is concrete).

  11. Notebook.

  12. Camera.

  13. An iPod and headphones if you like to work to music, or simply signal to others that you don’t want to chat.

Note: The studio stocks a wide range of cloth and media and a selection of tools such as silkscreens, squeegees and needle nose bottles. Participants are welcome to top up their supplies before leaving, but please note the studio does not mail order.


Re Acrylics:

Claire will bring: Acrylic paints & mediums;  matte, gloss & gel mediums (e.g. for use with paper lamination or other techniques requiring acrylic mediums) and a range of acrylic paints and fabric paints.  If you use these there will be a fee to pay her in cash at the end of the week.

Re Studio Supplies:

The supplies fee of £40 will cover use of the media listed below.

  • Procion Mx dyes; thickened and liquid.

  • Discharge - Formosul in paste or liquid format.

  • India ink; in black.

  • Resists; Soy Wax, flour paste, cover film, freezer paper, masking tape (for resist work on cloth or on-screen).

  • Chemicals; Urea, Ludigol, Calgon, Sodium Alginate (for making Chemical Water and Print Paste), Soda Ash, Salt.

Tools:   a selection of key tools will be provided, including:

  • silkscreens & squeegees

  • bristle decorators’ brushes and foam brushes in various widths

  • a selection of bristle & synthetic artists’ brushes

  • mono-printing plates; bench-sized (sheet acrylic and glassine) and small plates

  • tjantings & other soy wax tools

  • credit cards and scrapers

  • rollers

  • needle-nose bottles

  • sponges

An ample supply of thickened and liquid dye paints, discharge media, Chemical Water & Print Paste will be ready for use on the first day.  Thereafter, a rota will be established where 2 different people per day will be responsible for keeping stocks topped up.  Recipes will be posted to ensure consistency throughout the week.  Other media such as fabric paints, matte medium, soy wax etc. will be available for use at any time.


maybe you need to think about bringing some tools to work with that would represent a risk for you!  You might even think about making some tools.

Please contact Claire at if you have any queries.  In the meantime, I look forward to a week of commitment and courage.

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To encourage the sense of retreat, the following format will be followed:

On Wednesday, please arrive no later than 9.15am, ready to start at 9.30am.  General studio hours from Wednesday to Saturday will be 8.30am to 5.30, with teaching taking place between 9.30am to 5pm.  Be aware that whilst Claire & I will be around from 8.30am, they will be busy doing preparatory work and may not be able to engage!  On Sunday, there will be a closure/review session with the group immediately after lunch.  You’ll then have time to do a little more work, clear up and be ready for a prompt studio closure at 4pm.

Studio Information

Directions etc

Lunches, tea/coffee and nibbles and fruit will be provided.

See the Accommodation list, which comes with student feedback, if you need to stay locally.

Contact :

 Leslie Morgan

Leslie - 07720287860