Claire Benn surface design classes
Claire Benn surface design classes
Claire Benn surface design classes
Claire Benn surface design classes

Claire Benn

Claire stitched a bit at college, dropped out, stopped stitching and started working … finally re-engaging with textiles after seeing a Mennonite quilt in 1994. What can be done to a piece of cloth still amazes her.

In 2001 she teamed up with Leslie Morgan to form ‘Committed to Cloth’ which became one of the foremost textile teaching practices in the U.K., with seven great books published during the partnership. In 2014 Claire retired from the partnership (but not completely from teaching) in order to focus more on her own work. Working with students in a community of like-minded people is a continued joy as teaching provides such a positive feedback loop; everyone learns. Her focus as a tutor is to enable; she presents clear demonstrations and instruction, believes in straight-talking, offers guidance, pulling and encouragement.

Her own work is currently focused on two streams; intensive hand stitching of naturally dyed linen and mixed media (earth pigments, acrylic and thread) on heavy cotton. Her work is abstract, reductive and meditative.

• For more information about Claire and her work, visit her
• For more information about Committed to Cloth, visit their

Claire’s class

  • • September 24-29, 2017 | Working with Intent

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    Working with Intent
    • Note: Class begins on Sunday, September 24 at 4 pm
    • Only 14 students accepted (each participant will have their own work table for wet work)
    • Level: Intermediate to advanced - Students must be familiar and comfortable with working with thickened Mx dyes or their media of choice, and using a range of techniques/processes. NOT suitable for beginners.
    • Zig zag sewing machine: No
    • Materials fee:
    • Dye facility usage fee: $30

    • SORRY, class is full To be placed on waiting list, please send in registration & deposit. If space does not become available, a full refund will be issued.

    Tuition & Meal plan for this special 5-day class with Claire (limited to 14 students):
    • $1025 - Tuition ($785) & Meal plan ($240)
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    A workshop for students who wish to ‘work with intent’, in terms of either:
    • Bringing alive ideas and realizing specific pieces of work in terms of whole cloth as art, and/or whole cloth to be developed with stitch.
    • Building a palette of cloth for cutting and restructuring purposes.
    • Mastering a specific process or tool.
    • Getting to grips with progressive layering of process.
    • Developing knowledge of color mixing, or color values.

    There will be a specific focus on composition, with group discussions every day and individual one-to-ones to review works in progress.

    Claire’s main focus will be to:
    • Understand individual goals in terms of what each student wishes to achieve.
    To help with this, each student will be asked to share their intent with Claire and the rest of the group. This activity will happen the evening before the class.
    • Provide advice and guidance on the best choice of tools to generate the imagery sought (e.g., use of the silk screen, rollers, scrapers, bottles and so forth)
    • Provide advice and guidance on the order of process; pre-dyeing, working with dye paints, discharge, fabric paints etc. and where appropriate, refining technique.
    • Engage in one-to-one and group discussions to help students respond to the cloth as it evolves, review and consider progress of the palette and/or the composition, and plan next steps.

    As such, whilst this is a hands-on class, the goal is not to teach specific technique. Instead, students will be working to the beat of their own drum to generate the work they wish to create. The class will encourage the evaluation of work-in-progress and the discussion of ideas, concepts, design and composition on an on-going basis. The workshop fee will cover use of the media, although exactly what any student will use will be dependent on individual goals. The following supplies of wet media will be provided:

    In addition to supplying the media, we provide access to a selection of tools but students will need to bring a selection of personal tools to work with. The supplies fee of $30 will include use of the following media and materials:

    • Procion Mx dyes: 11 key colors for thickened and liquid dyes, or immersion.
    • Discharge: as Formosul is no longer available, Thiox will be used as the discharging medium. It can be used in paste or liquid format.
    • Fabric Paints: a range of key colors plus extender base.
    • Acrylic mediums: fluid matte & gel mediums for making laminated stencils and mark-making directly on to the cloth.
    • India/China ink: for use on paper and cloth.
    • Resists: Soy wax, freezer paper and masking tape (for resist work on cloth or on-screen).
    • Chemicals: everything needed for dye and discharge work.
    • Tools: a selection of key tools will be provided, including:
    • bristle decorators’ brushes and foam brushes in various widths
    • a selection of bristle & synthetic artists’ brushes
    • various rollers
    • mono printing plates (large & small)
    • scrapers (e.g., old credit cards and small squeegees)
    • needle-nose bottles and some ‘Montana’ markers
    • tjantings & other soy wax tools

    An ample supply of thickened and liquid dye paints, discharge media, Chemical Water & Print Paste will be ready for use on the first day. A rota will then be established so the group takes responsibility for keeping stocks topped up. Recipes will be posted to ensure consistency throughout the week. Other media such as fabric paints, matte medium, soy wax, etc. will be available for use at any time.

    The Intention
    Perhaps the most important element to bring with you. Please undertake planning work in advance of the class, including:

    • Specific purpose: what are you trying to achieve in terms of specific works?
    • Personal imagery: giving thought to the marks, lines, shapes and texture you wish to see come alive in your cloth, assembling any reference materials.
    • Specific tools: give thought to preparing or assembling specific tools in advance.
    • Journaling, notes, references: any written work or references that may be important to the overall plan.

    An iPad can be a good transportation tool and paper is fine too!

    The Cloth
    Choose the fabric(s) you wish to work with and prepare it accordingly. How much you bring is up to you; you know your own work rate and racing is to be avoided, whereas thoughtful consideration will be encouraged.

    For dye paints and Thiox paste/liquid, I prefer to work on soda-soaked cloth rather than putting soda ash into the media. A soda vat will be available for on-going soda soaking throughout the workshop but please bring at least two yards ready soaked and dried.

    General Supplies
    • Silkscreen: if you think you’re going to use a silkscreen, then bring one as there are no general-use screens at the studio.
    • Squeegee/spreader/scrapers: if bringing a screen or Thermofaxes, bring suitable squeegees. Grouting tools/spreaders or pastry scrapers are also useful in a range of sizes, as are a couple of old credit cards.
    • Tools: you’ll see that some tools are provided but if you have specific tools you wish to use, then bring them.
    • Thermofax screens: the barn has a Thermofax machine (kindly donated by a student) and Claire will organize mesh and frames at cost. Please note that your imagery will need to be in laser print or photocopy format (not inkjet). You can photocopy in Pickerington or Lancaster and Staples in Pickerington has proved to give the best copies for a good burn (now the screen mesh has changed).
    • Two dropcloths: please bring drop cloths that are sturdy: drill cotton, denim or something similar in a neutral color are best as they are sturdy enough to flip over and use both sides before washing is needed. Old sheets are too thin and avoid heavy-weight muslin or canvas as it tends to hold wrinkles. Please also avoid the plastic-backed decorators’ cloths. Your drop cloths need to measure 4’6” x 9’, once scoured and shrunk (the worktables measure 4’ x 8’).
    • Rubber gloves (suggest 2 pairs).
    • 1 x box of ball-headed or T pins (please don’t bring the very heavy/thick T pins).
    • 1 x black Sharpie.
    • A small cutting mat – just large enough to cut stencils or similar.
    • Craft knife (preferably with a nice, pointy, sharp blade – such as an Exacto knife).
    • Notebook or sketchbook: handouts on recipes and some process will be provided, but it can be useful to record your order of process on individual pieces, or make notes during general discussions.
    • Pen and pencil.
    • Cloth apron (or wear the equivalent of gardening/decorating clothes).
    • Comfortable, rubber-soled shoes (you’ll be standing a great deal and the floor is concrete).
    • A camera as it’s useful to record work-in-progress.
    • an iPod and headphones if you like to work to music.
    • Anything else you can think of that you’re likely to need!

    Please contact Claire if you have any queries about the class content or supplies.

  • • 2017 Fall class tuition and Meal plan
    Tuition & Meal plan per 5-day class for Fall 2017 (except Claire Benn’s Working with Intent class - see info below):
    • $915 - Tuition ($675) & Meal plan ($240) | paid in full as soon as possible

    Tuition & Meal plan for
    Claire Benn’s Working with Intent class (limited to 14 participants):
    • $1025 - Tuition ($785) & Meal plan ($240) | paid in full as soon as possible

    • Note: Some of the workshops have an additional fee for materials & facility usage. Each class description indicates whether there is an additional fee. Material/facility fees are due with the final payment.

    Meal plan
    During the art retreats, Margaret Wolf, will prepare fabulous gourmet lunches and dinners plus a coffee/snack break daily during each week of class. The meal plan is provided so participants may concentrate fully on their work without being bothered by the interruption and inconvenience of cooking for themselves. The break times present a great opportunity to get to know your fellow students, share ideas, and just relax together in this wonderful environment.

    The meal plan includes an opening night welcome dinner, five lunches, five afternoon coffee/pastry breaks, and four more dinners during the duration of the workshop. Coffee, tea and water will be served during these break times. Participants are responsible for any other beverage choices, such as soda pop, beer, wine, milk or bottled water.

    Please keep in mind that if anyone chooses not to participate in the meal plan, they are solely responsible for all of their meals, snacks, coffee, tea, and other beverages. The kitchen facilities are reserved for the resident chef. There is a microwave and a refrigerator in the wet studio for student use. Most restaurants are at least a 20 minute drive away from the barn.

    Please note: Due to facility limitations, meal plans are available only for workshop participants.
  • • Accommodations
    Recommended accommodations & offering special rates:

    Hampton Inn, Pickerington, Ohio (15-20 minute drive to the Crow Timber Frame Barn)
    This clean, comfortable hotel is offering reduced rates. Please ask for "Nancy Crow Workshop" special rate (includes breakfast) using the local phone number 614-864-8383 or book online

    Best Western, Pickerington, Ohio (15-20 minute drive to the Crow Timber Frame Barn)
    All suites hotel with separate living area and bedroom. Offers complimentary full hot breakfast, free wifi, heated indoor pool, exercise room, & business center. Call 614-860-9804 to book and ask for “Nancy Crow Workshop” special rate.

    Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Reynoldsburg (15-20 minute drive to the Crow Timber Frame Barn)
    Please ask for "Crow Barn Workshop" special rate (includes breakfast) using the local phone number 614-861-8888 or Email the manager

    The Morgan Theater Home, Baltimore, Ohio (5 minute drive to the Crow Timber Frame Barn, mention Crow Barn)
    Former silent movie theater converted into a private residence. Three rooms for rent include free cable TV & free high speed internet access. Kitchen/refrigerator/stove & all "kitchen stuff" available. Phone: 740-862-4765 or Email

    Rosabella B & B, Millersport, Ohio (10 minute drive to the Crow Timber Frame Barn; mention Crow Barn)
    Beautifully restored 1850s Italianate farmhouse is surrounded by farm fields. Breakfast included. The grounds include a wrap-around porch, hammock, patio, pool, hot tub, and fire pit. Phone: 740-467-3580

    Other accommodations, please negotiate your own weekly rates:

    AirBnB options in the area near the Crow Timber Frame Barn

    City of Lancaster, Ohio (15-20 minute drive to the Crow Timber Frame Barn)
    • Hampton Inn, 740-654-2999, clean and quiet
    City of Reynoldsburg, Ohio (15-20 minute drive to the Crow Timber Frame Barn)
    • Fairfield Inn, 614-864-4555

    Campgrounds near the Crow Timber Frame Barn
    Rippling Stream Campground, Baltimore, OH, 740-862-6065, (5 minute drive to the Crow Timber Frame Barn)
    KOA Campground, Buckeye Lake, OH, 740-928-0706, (15-20 minute drive to the Crow Timber Frame Barn)
  • • Miscellaneous information
    • Please let us know if you would like a roommate. We will try to match you with another participant to share accommodations.

    Travel to and from the Crow Timber Frame Barn
    • The Barn is located near Baltimore, Ohio (southeast of Columbus, Ohio)
    • Please keep in mind that there is not a shuttle service to and from the motels to the farm, therefore please arrange a rental car or carpool with another participant.
    • Port Columbus (CMH) in Columbus, Ohio, is the major airport serving the area (30 minute drive to the Barn)

    Rental sewing machines, cutting mats & lamps
    • Bernina sewing machines are available for $75 per 5-day class.
    • Cutting mats are available for $15 per 5-day class.
    • Lamps are available for $15 per 5-day class.

    Formal class hours
    • Monday-Friday: 9-12 and 2-5 daily
    (Classrooms are open 7 am-9 pm Monday-Thursday, 7 am-5 pm Friday)

    Professional facilities
    Each student is provided with a large work table, an 8’ x 8’ work wall, and a comfortable chair. Classrooms are well illuminated and are open from early morning until late in the evening, plus the classrooms have air conditioning & heating. The surface design/dye studio at the Crow Timber Frame Barn includes large padded tables, lots of light (natural and color-corrected bulbs), 3 commercial stainless steel sinks, & washer/dryer. All facilities are non-smoking.

    Mailing list
    If you would like to be placed on a mailing list for information about upcoming art retreats, please send your contact info.

    Questions? Email
Images of Claire Benn, student work and classes at the Crow Timber Frame Barn