Tutor: Karen Dring


Karen is the tutor on the Wild Things course.

Hi there. I’ve been working for the WEA for 8 years. I started out teaching drawing, painting, arts and crafts courses, as my background is in textiles. For the last 3 years however  I’ve been teaching Basic Skills Numeracy. It’s so exciting to get back to my roots and to do something creative again. I have always been interested in surfaces and colour, particularly rusting metal and rotting wood. I  used to recycle old drawings and paintings and collage with them to create different surfaces and textures. My textile work took a similar line with fabric appliqué and free machining. I used the sewing machine like a pen and would draw over the top to give detail and texture. (see photos)

 For my degree show I produced tufted rugs and handmade felt samples, continuing the theme of colour and texture. After graduating I pursued the felting to produce bags and purses. Unfortunately I don’t do much painting or textile work these days but love the opportunity to get creative when I can.

This course includes a trip to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to see the work of Donna Wilson, a Scottish textile artist. The exhibition entitled ‘Endangered Species’ invites people to step into an enchanted garden of knitted trees, rugs, pouffes and unusual looking animals suspended and hiding amongst the woodland.

Other sessions and a workshop later in the course with Danielle Lowy will give learners a chance to create their own little creatures from recycled socks and gloves.

As well as the textiles there is also an element of research in the course and learners will be encouraged to investigate an endangered species, which will hopefully inspire their textile work.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this course develops and the work that is created from it.

My Course Diary

Wild Things – Session 1

Starting the course 2 weeks later than intended so the centre could advertise the course I was hoping for a good number of learners. Unfortunately only 6 came this first week. There were some confusions over what the course was about and what time the session started and finished. Some people arrived late thinking it was simply a drop in session to enrol. I guess there are always going to be some hitches but I hope we can iron out some of the problems and concentrate on the course.

We got the lap tops out and I used the Peripheral Vision website to introduce the project and the ‘Wild Things’ course. We then had a look at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park website and in particular the ‘Endangered Species’ exhibition that we are going to see next week. I then found the website of Danielle Lowy, the textile artist who will be leading a workshop later in the course. This helped to set the scene a little and to get the learners thinking about ideas. They seemed interested and excited about the course  and I was hopeful that it would be successful. I explained what was required of them as individuals; a biograpy for the website, an element of research into an endangered species and some textile samples of creatures and/or plants, inspired by their research.

Learners made a start on their biographies and I finished the session by going through the arrangements for next week’s trip to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I made sure they knew what time the minibus was going to leave and an approximate time we would be back. I encouraged them to tell friends about the course and to try and get new people involved.

I was filled with mixed emotions, disappointed with the lack of numbers but quite hopeful that those who came would get stuck in.

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Yorkshire Sculpture Park – Session 2

I was a little nervous about the fact that the weather forecast was snow for South Yorkshire. I hoped the learners would still be up for the trip.

I arrived at the centre in good time only to discover that Phil, who enrolled last week and who works at the centre was unable to come as they were short-staffed. Chris was there early and by 9.45am the minibus had arrived. I was gutted that nobody else had turned up and by 9.50am I started phoning round to see where people were. I had invited a few learners I had worked with on a previous course and I was hopeful that at least one of those would be joining us. Andrew came down the road while I was outside phoning people, followed by a new lady, a friend of someone who came last week. I decided to give it another 5 mins, waiting on Tricia who I knew wouldn’t let me down. She turned up and I made the decision to go, not anticipating anyone else would arrive. As we were leaving another two new learners were heading into the centre and I jokingly asked if they were coming on the trip. As it turned out they were there for the course but they didn’t know we were going on a trip and weren’t prepared. We briefly told them about the course and gave them the course dates and times, encourgaing them to come back the following session.

With just 5 learners and myself and the cheerful driver we set off. The journey there was so quick. We were chatting and admiring the views and before we knew it we were there. The snow didn’t affect the roads and just added to the lovely scenery.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park gardens

It was a little fresh, which was a shame as most of the sculptures were outside. The pond was frozen over and the ground slippery in places. The gardens were amazing and almost oriental looking -“bonsai trees in the mist”.

Architettura the horse by Mimmo Paladino





We spent the majority of the time inside looking at the ‘Endangered Species’ exhibition. I loved the way that the work took you on a journey round the small gallery and balcony area. We followed the knitted arrows up the stairs and were instantly in the world of Donna Wilson – surrounded by watercolour paintings, screenprints, knitted samples and painted plates and glass. The colourful yet rather strange knitted trees and cretaures formed an eccentric little world. A tactile world that ironically you couldn’t touch. I just wanted to drive in amongst the knitted rugs and pouffes – it just looked so inviting!

Donna Wilson's knitted textilesDonna Wilson's paintingsDonna Wilson's knitted textilesDonna Wilson's screen print owl
                        Donna Wilson’s knitted textiles, paintings and screen prints.
   Donna Wilson knitted creature                                                                                                                                         Donna Wilson's knitted creature - 'Charlie Monkey'                                                                                                                          Donna Wilson knitted creature - 'Rill'                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      





 Donna Wilson’s knitted creatures; Charlie Monkey and Rill.

We enjoyed a hot drink to warm ourselves up, had a good look round the shop and made tracks back to the mini bus. A really great day, just a shame more people hadn’t been able to experence it. I intend to come back when the weather is warmer so I can fully appreciate the sculptures and Bretton Estate.

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Westcroft – Session 3

I was keen to show the group what I had started to do with my web page to give them some ideas and to hopefully inspire them to do the same with theirs. I know that using a computer scared some of them and they were reluctant to give it a try. I encouraged individuals to have a go if their web pages were up and running or to at least start to think about and write down some ideas  for their biographies and course diaries in preparation for when they were.

We also spent some time researching endangered species and deciding which creature or plant we might choose. I had taken in some socks, gloves, a scarf, some buttons, needles, threads, scissors and other bits and bobs for people to just have a play and to explore ideas. Other members of the group had also remembered to bring in some things so we had quite a collection in the middle of the table for the group to use.

I had in my mind to make  a rhino and was convinced that I could do it using some gloves. I had picked up a pair of grey gloves from the pound shop and could envisage one of the gloves as the head. I proceded to cut off 3 of the fingers and to restitch 2 of them to the top for the ears. The remaining two fingers I reshaped with some stitching to make the horns and then stuffed the whole thing with wadding. It was starting to come alive already but needed a face. I had bought some buttons from one of the charity shops and they had been sold on a card; a pair of three buttons stacked up on top of one another – screaming out to be eyes. I simply  sewed them on, one each side, just the way they were. Yes it was a rhino head! The body for the next session.

Mirella was also busy making a creation out of some old white socks. She stitched something like black pom-poms on for ears and black buttons for eyes and already it was reminding me of a panda. Phil and Andrew were a little less sure about the sewing but started to play about with the materials and to explore what they might be able to make with them. I guess I was hoping that the workshop the following week would help to give them the confidence they needed to try it for themselves.

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Whitworth Art Gallery – Session 4

I was particularly looking forward to the workshop and I just hoped that there would be a good few of us to enjoy it. Mirella and Andrew came and Phil was able to make it this time, hooray! It seemed a shame to have such a big taxi for the four of us but we headed into Manchester. After a small problem over the venue we arrived at the Whitworth to be greeted by Danielle and her helper. She had an array of  toys and examples of her work for us to look at and touch and a table full of fabrics; old socks and jumpers, needles and threads, scissors and materials for stuffing our creations – wadding, lentils, rice and more besides. Danielle introduced herself and told us a bit about her business ‘Rubbish Revamped’ and the workshops that she runs. She gave us a choice of what we could do, either to make a doormouse, a squirrel/fox creature or to design and make something of our own choice. Andrew and I opted for the fox/squirrel creature and Mirella went for the doormouse. Phil was quite definite about what he wanted to make but wasn’t sure how to go about it. Danielle suggested he might make his own templates but adopt a similar style of construction. There were some basic templates for the doormouse and fox/squirrel so we set about choosing our fabrics and cutting out our pieces. Danielle was very encouraging and helpful throughout the session. She explained that it didn’t matter if the stitching wasn’t very neat and for those less familiar with sewing she gave a quick demonstration of a basic back stitch. I was really impressed with what we managed to create in the time we were there. Nobody was bothered about having a break and instead chose to work through to the end. Andrew had to leave early but still managed to finish his little creature. I managed to photograph him proudly holding his work before he left. I felt the workshop gave everyone the confidence and some skills to be able to continue making creatures when we got back to the centre. A positive experience and a good day, enjoyed by all!








                        Some of the little creatures we made during the workshop with Danielle.















               Phil and Mirella hard at work.                            Examples of Danielle Lowy’s little creatures.

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Westcroft – Sessions 5, 6 and 7

These last 3 sessions have been an opportunity for the group to make some more creatures from socks, gloves and scarves and to add more to their web page. Andrew has been busy writing his diary entries and creating a polar bear from an old pair of his sports socks and Phil has concentrated on making a sturgeon from a scarf and a pair of gloves. He has also been busy photographing the work. I have been very impressed with their efforts and enthusiasm and hope they have enjoyed doing the course.

I’ve finished making the rhinoserus that I started the 3rd week and am pleased with how it turned out, considering I didn’t have a pattern and I was making it up as I went along. I have also made a monkey from a pair of stripey socks, this time using some instructions I found on a website. Again it turned out quite well and it’s funny how sewing a couple of buttons for eyes and a stitched on mouth can really bring it to life. All the creatures we’ve made have their own little characters.

















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