The Nancy Crow Experience

Many art quilters make a pilgrimage to the Crow barn outside Reynoldsburg, Ohio, to study with Nancy Crow for a week or two. Work by Crow and some of her students, as featured in an exhibit called Color Improvisations 2 that’s now touring, will give you an idea of Crow’s style.  I’ve not had the nerve, or cash, for the experience, but I think Julie Fei-Fan Balzer’s blog posts give me a good idea of what’s involved.

Julie is a whirling dervish of a multi-media artist. She paints, does art journaling, hosts the “Make It Artsy” show on PBS Create TV, designs stencils, shows how to make your own stamps, blogs copiously about her work and her trips, and has taken up quilting. She leans toward the modern style, no surprise.

Julie has graciously given me permission to reblog her two posts about her experiences. Please check out all her posts at Balzer Designs. Her week one post is below. You can also check out her five lessons from the Crow Barn here, and her “rear view mirror” view in her podcast. (It’s at the beginning.)

Now I’ll turn this over to Julie.

June 04, 2018


Filed under Art quilts, Commentary

11 responses to “The Nancy Crow Experience

  1. Fascinating. I haven’t taken any multi-day classes, and in truth, not many classes at all. Sounds like Crow is quite the task master but apparently also an effective teacher. I do love the advice to exaggerate — go BIG! Why not, right? Subtlety has its place but apparently not there. Thanks for sharing.

    • I think Nancy’s attitude is if you’re not serious about your work just go home. And she makes large pieces, so of course that’s what she wants her students to make, not counting the small studies.

  2. Thanks (to both of you) for sharing this post. I have heard/read for years about Nancy’s workshops… wouldn’t be for me. I want to learn but know under pressure doesn’t work for me. I wonder if participants learn as much about new techniques as they do about themselves in those two weeks!

    • I think some people sign up for her classes because they feel she’s a quilting legend and won’t be teaching that much longer. Nancy’s classes are design focused, though in some you spend a lot of time combining and recombining strip sets. And I think you’d learn your limits and your capabilities over 2 weeks.

  3. Chris Wheeler

    Thanks for sharing this! I really loved going to the retreat vicariously. It’s interesting that it is held in a barn. I’ve never been to a quilting retreat, but most of the ones more readily accessible seem to be held in generic places, like a holiday inn, not so appealing to me. The whole Nancy Crow experience does sound intense, and I too love it in theory. Most of my quilting is for relaxation/fun though and (having a somewhat competitive nature, even with myself), perhaps I’m just fine leaving it that way!

    • I know what you mean about retreats held at generic hotels/motels. The Crow Barn is on a farm owned by Nancy’s husband, and it has been completely renovated for workshops. One floor is set up for dyeing and the other for studio work. There’s also a caterer’s kitchen and dining area, plus other rooms. I think any competitiveness at the workshops is self-generated. As Julie noted, you can’t waste your time comparing your work to that of others.

  4. Rosemaryflower

    Reading this, I was impressed with the dedication expected from the student and a bit frightened. I could never work under pressure. It would be like art boot camp. I am too old for this haha I do appreciate the notes that Julie shared. Her result was rather nice. I confess, I do not always love abstract.

    I squeezed in as many art classes in my nursing school college years, mainly history and painting and drawing. I had wanted to go into graphic design (bad idea) but my dad said NO!. My older sister went that route and immediately turned to alcohol and drugs in university., so my dad had a good reason. My way of schooling was safer, I lived way off campus. I did get my RN degree.

    Anyway, I freely admit to have problems with color but I realize it is mostly over analysis and obsessiveness. Everyone has that, it is an exercise that needs to be practiced with what to do with that energy.

    I am curious if in the class room you are able to view others work? or are students partitioned off. Are they able to share, ask advice (probably not)
    Yeah, I think this is a good exercise, or uh experience with pushing out a corner in your life. Everything has to come together though, other parts, such as Julie stated she had to do work for her job. Not sure what that entailed depending on her profession but that is the #1 responsibility in all of our lives.
    Thank you for sharing. I really do enjoy your blog.

    • Rosemaryflower

      I should add, I could never do art camp under pressure.
      Actually, I did very well under pressure in my medical career, I actually enjoyed the triage mentality working in the ER, but that was not my chosen employment in the end, just a growing period

    • The classes are held in one huge room and each student has a design wall and tables. You can see everyone’s work. The dynamics among students probably vary from group to group. Julie noted that her fellow students were helpful.

      Yes, it would be a lot of pressure, both from perceived expectations and the desire to wring as much value as possible from the experience.

      And thanks so much for reading.

  5. This is so interesting! I recently read a similar set of posts from a women who went to a mini-immersion 6-week (!) course at Vavstuga Weaving School. She was every bit as exhausted and overwhelmed and learned so much. From reading, I learned that I was envious in theory but, in reality, happy not to be there! Crow’s workshop sounds intense! Do you wish you were there?

    • Yes, the Crow workshops are intense from what I’ve been told. People often begin at 7 a.m. and work until 11 p.m. I’ve taken a workshop at the Barn, but not from Nancy. I don’t think I’d be happy in one of Nancy’s workshops. She lets you know from the start that it’s her way or the highway. My body isn’t up to that intensity of cutting/sewing anymore. Plus, expenses are high as you have to buy about a hundred yards of solid fabrics plus a portable printer as you document your work.

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