In the creative zone
Artist offers ‘Connecting with the Flow’ workshops

Allison Goss, left, and Niara Isley begin painting during a recent workshop./Photo by Todd Newcomer

by Jules Masterjohn

It seems as if almost everyone I meet, when prodded, has some story to tell about being art-injured as a child. Usually these people are my age and older, having “come up” in the ’50s and early ’60s. America was wriggling out of the “Father Knows Best” era, and many art teachers echoed that paternal correctness. There was a “right” way to make a drawing.

Some of us were lucky enough to have our creativity recognized at an early age by a teacher who sparked our inspiration, and we connected with our artist self. I remember losing track of time during the art hour in fifth grade while making a wall hanging. I can still feel the cool fall breeze wafting in the window next to my desk as I cut hot pink, indigo blue and white felt into small pieces that, when arranged and glued onto the black burlap background, would form a lion with a large mane. My teacher, Miss Lyons, saw the intensity of my experience and allowed me to keep working through the lunch period, uninterrupted. She understood that I was in “the flow.” For those who were not so fortunate, and still carry a wounded or frustrated artist inside of them, there is hope. Internationally known fiber artist Alison Goss knows well the merits of immersion into creativity. Each month she opens her home studio to anyone who wants to drop by to play with many different “no fail” ways of painting and collaging fabrics. The open studio sessions, which are called “Connecting With the Flow,” are designed for the total novice as well as the experienced artist. Goss, assisted by certified life coach Niara Isley, says it’s ALL about play. These two are serious about the play part. They each believe that the creative zone is about being in the present moment. Often when we are playing a sport or game, or playing at art, our concentration is so intense that we are totally engrossed in whatever is before us. Goss explains, “A playful attitude allows us to improvise, to say ‘yes’ to whatever is happening, even when it is not at all what we intended to create. If we combine ‘yes-and’ with the attitude of unattached curiosity, we find creativity leading us into all sorts of unexpected discoveries,” she says. “Art practiced in this way takes us deeply into the experience of the present moment, to a dimension that is deeper than thought.”

Goss frequently shares ideas from mystic Eckhart Tolle with her students, believing that the ability to be fully present is the most powerful tool we have in creating the lives and world we want to live in. Goss, who has been teaching art for more than 25 years, got the inspiration for the open studio from simple observation. She explained, “This is a natural evolution. More and more, I’ve been seeing that the students who come to a lot of my classes don’t need any more ‘teaching.’ What they need is a place and time to play with what they already know. I’ve also found that newcomers need very little instruction to get started and are quite likely to discover new ways of using the materials if I haven’t created a ‘correct box’ for them to fit into. Actually, I keep finding that once the painting starts, it goes way beyond any techniques I may have demonstrated.” What you could expect to find at the

open studio is a space filled with art materials and books – everywhere. I counted more than 200 bottles of paint and hundreds of books lining the studio walls. In the center of the rooms, tables are set up for different technical processes. Designed to be a fairly self-serve art experience, Goss has posted step-by-step instructions at each table and also gives demonstrations. “I have developed lots of painting techniques for fabrics that lead to unexpected ways of combining color and texture, and that do not require any drawing ability. This seems to be a big roadblock for manyhesitant artists,” Goss told me as we perused the examples of the technical processes offered.

One particularly intricate example was a fabric sun print. Sun-sensitive paints were applied to fabric stretched onto a cardboard easel, then torn paper was randomly placed over the surface, and the whole composition placed in the sun. When the paper was removed, an interesting pattern of shapes emerged. Over this, more paint was applied to create textures made with scrunched up plastic wrap. Goss offers an array of rubber and sponge stamps, as well as oil paint sticks, that add more layers to the fabric’s complex look. “The techniques work best if one doesn’t try for too much control, and they lend themselves to ‘happy accidents.’” It’s clearly about the process. The daughter of a physics professor, Goss’ understanding of the creative process is informed by science. “Quantum physics is now proving what ancient myth and spiritual traditions have always believed: that on a fundamental level, we are all part of a unified field of awareness, that we are all connected, and what we do to any part of the web of life affects us all.” Goss sees the technical processes as doorways into a world of deeper significance. She muses, “What if creativity is the key to meaningful human experience? What if, when we allow the creative process to open us to a dimension that is deeper than thought, we are participating in an evolutionary process that has profound implications for the future of life on earth?” These are just a few of the thoughts that motivate her to pick up the paintbrush every day and open her house to allow others to do so as well. •

The “Connecting With the Flow” open studio will be held on June 17 from 1 to 5 p.m. A donation is accepted for art supplies; no fee is charged. For more information and future open studio dates, call Alison at 970-385-0315.