CREATing with Natalya Aikens

18 Jul 2010

Taking classes is one of the most rewarding and eye-opening aspects of the artistic process, exposing you to new processes, materials, and fellow artists. While tracking down a single class every now and then is easy to do,  it isn’t often that one has the opportunity to pick and choose from a wide array of teachers, workshops, and techniques all in one location, which is why CREATE, the first ever annul Cloth Paper Scissors Retreat, is a unique and valuable opportunity--and you can still register today! For four days, from August 25-29, 2010, attendees will be able to select from 60 classes on a wide array of mixed media and art quilting techniques, from gelatin printing to fabric collage. Many talented instructors will be leading the way, one of whom is the well-known fiber artist Natalya Aikens, who here discusses the classes she will be teaching and the value of artistic collaboration.

Tell us a little bit about your CREATE classes.

I will be teaching two classes for CREATE: one called Mix Your Media With Photoshop, where the artists will see how easy it is to play with Photoshop for enhancement of their artwork. Artists will learn how to size and alter their own photographs using a myriad of different fabulous tools that are available in the program, print those photos on a variety of media and incorporate them into their artwork.


In the second class, called Jump Start Your Journal, artists will learn how to start turning a blank book into the beginnings of a beautiful journal. We will explore a variety of techniques that will help take the fear out of starting a journal, like collage, acrylic paints, markers, and pens. I will also explain and demonstrate my favorite journaling methods and materials.

When did you begin incorporating digital imagery into your fiber art? What does this enable you to achieve in your work?

I started incorporating digital imagery in my art a few years ago. I had been trying to think of a way to use my photographs in my work for a while, but could not come up with what seemed a natural way to do so. Everything I had tried before had seemed forced. I had used Photoshop in my previous (fashion) career and it occurred to me that I can alter the photographs to my liking before and after printing. So I started playing around in the program and making discoveries for myself.

I think that using digital imagery in my art lets me bring another layer of mystery and texture to my work.I love to be able to do a lot of that on the computer screen and not worry about drying paints and spoiling dyes (which I enjoy working with also). It's a completely different way of working on art quilts, a great technique to have in your repertoire.

 You have past teaching/workshop experience. What do you enjoy about teaching and the collaborative environment?

I really enjoy the creative back and forth that happens in a collaborative and a teaching environment. Making art is mostly an experience in solitude, sort of a stewing in your own juices process. I think it's wonderful to step out of that setting and mingle with others. When teaching, I always listen to what the student has to say, because sometimes even a small comment will spark an idea, it may just be a realization of how to explain something better or a whole new idea of how to execute a technique. You just never know!

Will you be taking any classes by your fellow CREATE instructors?

I want to take all the classes; my head is just spinning with the possibilities. Thank goodness that I have time limitations and will just have to choose from the classes available in my free time. There are so many inspiring teachers and wonderful learning opportunities!

Images (from top to bottom)

  • "Piterskoie Kruzhevo" (St. Pete Lace): The black lace imagery in this piece was created using Photoshop.
  • A piece of Natalya's art journal paper

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