Linda Whiting…Precision and an artistic heart

Touching the wheel

Touching the wheel

Linda has the mind of a scientist and the eye of a talented artist…blend this with an easy smile and a calm, wonderful demeanor and you have a pretty fair picture of why Linda has been a be-loved member of the Maine Fiber Art’s community for more than three decades. Personally, when I need to feel better about the challenges life keeps tossing my way, I know that I can count on Linda to put things in perspective and before very long I’m happily skipping along my path once again.

Linda has been on the Fiber College faculty since the first year and repeatedly pleases her students by the width and depth of her knowledge. When it comes to color, not only does she understand the blending from a physics level, she understands the chemistry and then mixes it all together with an artists appreciation that can’t be simply printed in a book. This year she’ll be teaching a full day class on Thursday, Red and Blue Don’t Make Purple…or Do They? on Friday there’s Creative Stitchery~ Painting with Stitches from 2:00PM to 6:00PM and on Sunday she’ll be teaching Kumihimo Braiding…a repeat offering by popular demand.    Visit her website for a peek into her Denmark Maine world.

Here are Linda’s responses to our interview questions:

1)  Teaching takes courage and experience…and so much extra time.  When you’re not teaching, what else do you like to do?

I like reading history, especially historical biography. I like being outside doing almost anything, especially around the water. As color is so important to what I do I enjoy seeing it large in the landscape as will as observing minute natural constructions and coloration. When at events I especially enjoy meeting people and sharing fiber experience.

whitingrainbow2)       Describe the perfect class that you’d like to take…

The idea of working with color in any way would be an important element – setting up like a mad scientist to develop color samples along several guidelines would be intriguing. Sharing the results and creating more avenues to explore would be great fun! Working with others who are passionate about color would make it a fantastic experience.

3)      We’d like a sense of your expertise and ability to teach the class you’re offering…so tell us how you came to feel confident about leading a group through your particular class.  How long have you been practicing?

Color has always been an integral part of my life. One of my early recollections is picking out clothes for my mother! That may sound bizarre but my eyes would scan the racks like a computer seeking what would look best on her. She came to trust those choices. My training in college was in art and theater but most of my color sense is intuitive. There are ‘rules’ but they are just a place to start. Whether in clothing, quilting, painting, weaving or dyeing – my effort has been directed more toward expanding people’s comfort with and understanding of color so that they feel more confident making color choices rather than staying within ‘safe’ parameters. Color is something I have worked with and shared all my life but I have only been teaching formal and informal classes for 30 years.

4)      If you make a knitting error (substitute your art form here) do you jump right in and frog it (rip it out) or do you call it a design feature and keep right on going?  Does the mistake cause you anxiety or do you feel like it’s just one more opportunity to make the project your own?

Ready to spin or felt

Ready to spin or felt

If I am knitting lace I will always make right an error. In some knitting I have made creative corrections when they would not show but mostly I would want something to be done right because I would always know what was not right and it might “bug” me. When weaving (tapestry) I have been known to unweave a particular color if I found one that I liked better for that area or detail, but in dyeing there are no mistakes. If a color or combination doesn’t work for me I always have the option of over-dyeing until the result is pleasing to me. It all depends on the project and the medium – for finite things I will always correct an error but for color work – there is always the opportunity to be creative – to readjust the combination – be it a piece of fabric in a quilt or a dye in the pan – my eye will tell me when it works.

5)      What techniques are in your bag of tricks for motivating a student to struggle through a difficult step…maybe something that’s just a bit out of his/her range…and come out the other side feeling successful?

Having samples and instructional handouts that may include pictures, diagrams, and hints are important. Not everyone can take notes or remember all that an instructor has said in a class. It is also important to let students know that I have made my own mistakes and still do, but that that is how one learns. It is through doing something that we learn and we all had to start some place. Stories that include warmth and humor regarding the learning process help put students at ease. It is more important give students the time to master single steps along the way than to expect perfection or finished products. I like to ask questions that get the students to make the decisions about something rather than tell them what they should do. I might make suggestions to shift the decisions one way or another but want the students to trust their own instincts as they work along stated guidelines of the class.

6)      I am an avid collector of:

Books and natural objects. There are never enough bookshelves. My books cover many subjects from art, history and color to children’s books and sailing…and much more. I pick up stones and feathers, press flowers and leaves, gather shells and colored glass. One of my favorite indoor places is a natural history museum. I don’t collect pollywogs but I love to watch their growth in the spring, to experience all kinds of natural phenomena in a variety of places and seasons. What I can’t collect I photograph. How else can you collect colors and textures?

7)      The best advice I have ever been given:

Don’t be afraid to follow what feels right to you. It is okay to ‘know the rules’, to follow guidelines, but you have to let go and trust what is inside you so that your creativity can flow.

Tapestry in Progress

Tapestry in Progress

8)       What do you like best about what you do?

The opportunity to use color in many ways is the most gratifying to me. I can teach a dye class miles the farm and be blown away on the drive home seeing colors that we created in that class in the sky, trees, flowers and rocks. I can be inspired by the smallest thing and use it in my work.

My books and photographs provide a wealth of inspiration for me. The tactile experiences of working with fiber and wood are so much a part of what I do. Creating color combinations in the dye pans, in fabric, and in yarn creations fills me up, gives me joy, and so much more. Sharing the joy of working with color in my classes and with others who enjoy working with color is really fulfilling. It is also very rewarding to have my color work appreciated by others.

9)       What do you mean when you say that a piece has turned out really well?

Many of the things I do involve a challenge. The success of a tapestry may be how well that challenge was answered – did the colors work to complete the image I had in mind? Did I learn from creating the piece? Has doing this work inspired another piece? Each medium has its own challenges and I look forward to finding out just what they may be. If I am working on a piece in public, whether it is spinning a certain fiber, or weaving, demonstrating a method of dyeing, or woodworking, or stitching – am I able to give people a good idea of the process or inspire them to learn more? If people show an interest can I engage them? Do people walk past my booth at an event or through it? Do they stop to see my colors or finished work and speak to each other about it and/or to me? If a piece is satisfying to work on and has engaged me throughout the process and is something I do not tire of looking at, is something I want to use myself, or is something appreciated by others – that is testament that ‘it turned out well’.

10)  If you could ask your students questions and class time wasn’t an issue, what sort of things would you like to know about the people sitting in front of you?

I like to know what inspires people, and to hear what they might do if they had the chance to follow their dreams – where would their creativity lead them?

One thought on “Linda Whiting…Precision and an artistic heart

  1. Pingback: Rudy Amman, Spinning with Precision « Fiber College on Penobscot Bay

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