Claire Benn surface design classes
Claire Benn surface design classes
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 2-week class

  • • September 26-October 1 & October 3-8, 2021 | Planting the Bulb - Exploring Abstract & Intentional Work: Parts I & II

    Open or Close
    Planting the Bulb - Exploring Abstract & Intentional Work: Parts I & II
    • Note: Class begins on Sunday, September 26 at 4 pm
    • Class size limited to 14 participants.
    • Level: Intermediate to advanced - participants MUST have a reasonable level of experience with their chosen media.
    • Zig zag sewing machine: No
    • Materials fee:
    • Facility usage fee: $60

    • SORRY, class is full To be placed on waiting list, please send in registration & deposit ($500). If space does not become available, a full refund will be issued.

    Tuition & Meal plan for this special 2-week class with Claire (limited to 14 students):
    $2880 | paid in full before June 1, 2021 | 10-day Tuition ($2350) & Meal plan ($530)
    Claire Benn surface design

    Planting the Bulb - Exploring Abstract & Intentional Work: Parts I & II

    ABSTRACT REPRESENTATION, a term used by the artist Mark Bradford, to express visually what one sees, thinks, and feels intensely, will be the focus of this 2-week ‘Planting the Bulb’ workshop.

    So what does the word ‘abstract’ mean? If we look it up in a good dictionary, the following definitions are provided … and all apply:
    • To do with existing in thought rather than matter.
    • Not tangible or concrete.
    • Denoting a quality, condition or intangible thing rather than a concrete object.
    • Achieving its effect by grouping shapes and colors in satisfying arrangements rather than by the recognizable representation of physical reality.

    As such, the workshop aims to help students who wish to start building a body of work in an abstract ‘style’ and with good composition (‘satisfying arrangements’!) as without good composition, abstract work can become a visual and potentially chaotic mess.

    Working in this way can be difficult and you’ll need to give serious thought in advance of the class as to your subject matter, idea or inspiration … and STICK TO IT.

    I will be providing you with a set of questions in advance of the workshop to help you to clarify your thinking and try to get to the heart of what it is you want to visually communicate. You’ll be asked to share a 5-minute presentation with the group the afternoon before the start of the workshop, which can (if you wish) be supported with no more than five visual references printed no smaller than US letter-size and of good quality (NOT via digital projector).

    On the first day I will encourage you to start making initial explorations in terms of color, value, texture, line and shape, with consideration given to composition at all times - even when experimenting. I will also be making suggestions as to tool choice, approach and methodology. Be prepared to ‘waste’ cloth. Depending on subject matter, I will also be suggesting you undertake various ‘exercises’ (which may include drawing, sketching, collaging or further writing). This may happen as a group, on an individual basis … or both.

    Across the two weeks we will spend time in some group reviews:
    • Progress update; afternoon of Wednesday 7th, 5 minutes per person
    • Progress review: 1-5pm on Friday 9th, 15 minutes per person
    • Progress update: afternoon of 14th, 5 minutes per person
    • Conclusions and ways forward: 2:45-5pm, Friday 16th, 10 mins per person

    A quote by Dr. Martin Shaw provided the title for this workshop:
    “The denial of discipline, struggle and sometimes flat-out boredom is why some modern art is so unconvincing; it lacks life resonance. The artist plucks the flower but has never planted the bulb, and somehow we sense that”.

    You will be planting your bulbs deep … and it’s likely be a struggle. Don’t expect a bunch of flowers by the end of the workshop! I have deliberately designed this as a two-week event as I’m aware that most participants find it is in the second week that bulbs can start to flower and results begin to emerge.

    if your work is driven by process (e.g., breakdown printing, mono printing, etc.) you may wonder if the workshop is relevant to you. However, if we acknowledge that all studio work generally begins with a desire or intention to achieve a good composition of some description, the workshop will still be valid.

    ON-SITE SUPPLIES provided by materials fee
    The materials fee provides for media and a selection of tools but you need to give consideration to personal tools you may wish to work with.
    • Mx dyes: 11 key colors for thickened and liquid dyes, or immersion.
    • Discharge: Thiox will be used as the discharging medium. It can be used in paste or liquid format. (I prefer to soda soak the fabric rather then put the soda ash in to the Thiox mix - it lasts MUCH longer).
    • Fabric Paints: A range of key colors plus extender base.
    • Acrylic mediums: Fluid matte & gel mediums, white & black acrylic paint. Note: if acrylics are your chosen media, you must supply the colors you anticipate using - the range is to vast to attempt to stock it on your behalf.
    • India/China ink: For use on paper and cloth.
    • Resists: Soy wax, string, freezer paper and masking tape (for resist work on cloth or on-screen).
    • Chemicals: Everything needed for dye and discharge work.
    • Tools:
    - 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 Idea/Subject Matter/Inspiration
    Give this serious though as I’ll be rigorous in getting you to stick with it! Three months before the workshop I’ll be providing you with a series of questions … as the answers lie in the questions. As you begin engaging in a dialogue with yourself, more questions of your own will surface. Your response to this pre-planning will be shared with the group the Sunday afternoon before the workshop starts (5 minutes per person). Again, please don’t worry if your preference is to be process-based, the workshop will still be valid.

    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. If possible, decide on a format/size and stick to it.

    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 four yards ready soaked and dried.

    General Supplies
    • Silkscreen: If you think you’re going to use a silkscreen, bring what you need although there are a couple of general-use screens at the studio.
    • Squeegee/spreader/scrapers: If bringing a screen, thermofaxes or are likely to scrape media, bring suitable squeegees/scrapers.
    • Tools: You’ll see that some tools are provided but if you have specific tools you wish to use, then bring them.
    • Two drop cloths: 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’ and 3’6” x 9’).
    • 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.
    • Notebook or sketchbook: I will email handouts on recipes in advance and provide some notes of a general nature during the class. I will encourage you to record your process and thoughts on works-in-progress.
    • Pen and pencil.
    • Cloth apron (or wear the equivalent of gardening/decorating clothes).
    • Comfortable, rubber-soled shoes (you’ll be standing a great deal - the floor is concrete but does have rubber or carpet ‘buffers’ in most places).
    • A camera as it’s useful to record work-in-progress.
    • An iPod and headphones if you like to work to music.
    • Re-fillable water bottle with a good non-leaking cap (let’s stop using so much plastic!).
    • Your own mug - I’d suggest an insulated one with a good, non-leaking lid (if you’re like me, coffee in a mug gets forgotten and then goes cold - with an insulated cup you might manage to enjoy it hot and it’ll save using plastic-lined paper cups!).
    • 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.

  • • 2021 Fall Art Retreats | Tuition and Meal Plan
    Tuition & Meal plan for 2-week class with Claire Benn: (Note: Only 14 students accepted so that each participant will have their own work table for wet work)
    Both weeks (10-day class) of this special workshop are to be taken back-to-back. No registrations accepted for only one week.
    • $2880 | paid in full before June 1, 2021 | 10-day Tuition ($2350) & Meal plan ($530)
    + $110 materials & dye facility usage fee

    Tuition & Meal plan for 2-week classes with Nancy Crow:
    Both weeks (10-day class) of these special workshops are to be taken back-to-back. No registrations accepted for only one week.
    • $2180 | paid in full before June 1, 2021 | 10-day Tuition ($1650) & Meal plan ($530)
    + $150 professional presenters fee for Master Composition

    Tuition & Meal plan for 2-week classes with David Hornung:

    Both weeks (10-day class) of these special workshops are to be taken back-to-back. No registrations accepted for only one week.
    • $2180 | paid in full before June 1, 2021 | 10-day Tuition ($1650) & Meal plan ($530)
    + $105 materials & dye facility usage fee

    Tuition & Meal plan for 1-week classes with Carol Soderlund:
    • Sign up for one or both weeks of Carol’s workshops.
    • $1090 | paid in full before June 1, 2021 | 5-day Tuition ($825) & Meal plan ($265)
    + $90 materials & dye facility usage fee for Color Mixing for Dyers 3
    + $80 materials & dye facility usage fee for Neutral Territory

    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
    If booking online, please use the corporate ID code: 786931270

    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.
    John Glenn Columbus International Airport (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 or $150 per 10-day class.
    • Cutting mats are available for $15 per 5-day class or $30 per 10-day class.
    • Lamps are available for $15 per 5-day class or $30 per 10-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