Gathering Moss

If you’ve been following me for awhile you know I’ve been pretty busy the past 1.5 years (probably longer than that). At the end of April, I completed the last of my “big” events for awhile. Things are settling down. I filmed 4 segments of Quilting Arts TV in early April, but those won’t air until this fall. I also have another article getting published, but that won’t come out until October. Today, I spent my day doing the final prep on some new classes I will be offering soon. Those will be scheduled for later this summer.

One of the things I’ve noticed about life, is we frequently put ourselves in positions where we are crazy busy planning and preparing for things. For example, over the past couple years,  I’ve been taking on a lot of art and career opportunities which take lots of time. However, once an exhibit is open, article is written, or tv show is filmed, there’s a down time. This happens in everyone’s life, there’s getting married, going on vacation, or finding a new job. After all the excitement and planning, the event is over and there’s that little bit of a let down where you wonder “what’s next.”

I found it interesting that this past week I listened to 2 different podcasts where they expressed the same thing.  One was an interview with super talented, Academy Award winner, Viola Davis (Sunday Sitdown with Willy Geist podcast). Viola spoke of the excitement of filming a movie/tv show. After winning the Oscar, she put the award on a shelf. Soon, she started coming down from the high and found herself asking … “Now What?” It was comforting to hear, I wasn’t alone.

It’s important for me to continue working toward the next thing…whatever that may be. Whether it’s a project I want to do or another way to professionally challenge myself, I have to keep striving for the next thing. If not, I begin to feel restless or bored. It’s like the saying “a rolling stone, gathers no moss.” The phrase implies the person who stays active will avoid stagnation (modern meaning). That’s me, alright! How about you? Are you gathering moss?

Doesn’t hurt to try

Boro stitching

Do you ever wonder what’s the point in trying?

Recently I had a conversation with someone who mentioned that she was exploring so many things that it felt like she had an attention deficit disorder. I wondered if there is anything really wrong with being attracted to new ideas and creative outlets. Do you have to stick with just one? What if you try something and you don’t like it? Is it a failure if you don’t want to continue with a project?

From a young age, I was exposed to all sorts of creative outlets. I loved the diversity of it all. Crochet, needlepoint and counted cross-stitch were big things in my life when I was a child. Loved them all! Then forget all that when I found knitting in my 20’s….my passion! Then in my 40’s, there was quilting…the traditional (piecing fabric blocks) kind. Oh boy! I was hooked…until I wasn’t. Seriously, I really hated it and ran away from it all. I was too much of a perfectionist. Those matchy-matchy seams drove me Cr@Zy!

So, then I moved on to mixed-media and started exploring polymer clay, stamp carving, surface design, paper mache, collage, needle felting, weaving, et.al. Was I going insane? No. Eventually all this creative play brought me to where I am today. I have things I started and will never finish. I frequently donate my unloved supplies to school art supply drives or charity-based thrift shops.

But hey…I’m still trying new things…I always will! Why? because I love the thrill of trying! And as an art quilter, every so often those old skills come in handy. I love having this overflowing toolbox of resources!

Currently I’m exploring boro stitching, which is a Japanese method of hand-stitching used to mend fabrics. I’ve always hated my hand stitching, but I’m allowing myself to embrace my imperfection. It’s such a meditative process to mindlessly run stitches through cloth. The finished results are so intriguing.

In trying new things, you’re figuring out what works for you (sometimes it will and sometimes it won’t). It’s OK, if you decide you don’t like to do something, then just let it go. If you hate it, toss it in the trash and donate the supplies to a friend or charity. Just remember, it doesn’t hurt to try.

Inspired to seize the day

I’ve been anticipating for this day for several months. It’s May 1. When I was a child, the teachers would get a construction paper basket placed on their classroom doorknob. Each May 1st, or May Day, flowers were left in the paper basket. I don’t hear much about May Day anymore. Maybe that’s because I live in the south and spring arrives earlier than in Illinois where I grew up.

However, it wasn’t May Day that I was anticipating. It was actually the end of April. I have been in overdrive for many months. As of this week, the crazy-busy is over. I traveled a lot this year; Florida, Bahamas, Ohio and just returned from California. Now it’s time to get focused…no major events to distract me for awhile. It’s time to attack that “to-do” list I started. Now I’m faced with being accountable only to myself. No outside sources to drag me down a rabbit hole. (Well, that’s the plan anyhow!)

While I was in California, I spent time with my beloved Aunt and with 200 like-minded creatives at the SAQA conference. Inspiration was all around me. I laughed, I cried, and I contemplated. It is amazing how much positive energy you can receive being with kindred spirits.

Now that I’m home I must find the inspiration within myself. It’s easy to get distracted by all the noise. It takes focus to find inspiration alongside the clutter of every day life. What inspires you? Have you ever thought about it?

I find inspiration on a day like today. It’s May 1st and spring is here. The sun is shining. My windows are open. It’s warm, but not too warm. I hear the birds out the window. And, feel the breeze in the air. Days like this make me feel at peace and inspired to seize the day.

Have you ever thought why?

I’ve been noticing lately that I tend to re-create certain themes. Over the past few years, I’ve created a number of pieces that contain butterflies, bees, birds and trees. For example, I’ve created art using this little koi fish at least three times.

Koi fish have a powerful life force which is demonstrated by their ability to swim upstream. In some cultures, koi are associated with good fortune, success, longevity, courage, ambition and perseverance. I like to think that there’s some underlying symbolism in what I do.  But, maybe there’s not. Maybe I just have fond memories of watching these fish swim. They have such a playful way of gliding through the water, interacting with each other. Whatever the reason, I enjoy finding new ways to use these fish in my art.

When you’re creating, do you find yourself attracted to certain designs or colors? Have you ever thought why?

You won’t regret it

I’m so happy to see nice weather. These past few months have been a challenge in North Carolina. Today makes 3 continuous days of sunshine. I think this is a record for this year. My windows are open and birds are singing. Spring marks a time of renewal and growth.

Do you ever take time to think about your own growth? Do you ever feel stuck? Sometimes I do. That’s usually when I want to try new things. It could be all I need is to take a class or read a new book. I just find it important to keep trying, keep being involved and keep learning.

I’m approaching an age when most people start to settle down. Their kids are grown and they retire from their jobs. People handle this change of life in different ways. Some look forward to sitting home and some seek travel. Creative people frequently look forward to more free time for their artistic endeavors.

I guess as we age, we find more time for our interests. We’re less wrapped into the drudgery of being a money-making machine or raising a family. I hope whatever age you are, you seek what you love. Many of us face health issues later in life. So, waiting until you retire to enjoy life may add limitations to what you can do.

As we move from spring into summer, no matter what you’re age, I hope you stop a minute to think of what brings you joy. Then, find time for yourself and your passion, you won’t regret it.

One step at a time

A week ago today, I was in Cleveland, Ohio. Although I grew up in Chicago, I don’t remember ever visiting Cleveland. I’ve heard it is a fabulous city, great art museums, restaurants, hotels and, of course, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On this trip, I didn’t get to see any of it. I was escorted directly from the airport to a outlying suburb for a visit K & S Productions studios.

This trip was the apex of the past 6 weeks where I’ve been preparing to film 4 segments of the Quilting Arts TV (QATV). I shipped my quilts ahead and carried 2 suitcases on the flight. One was full of clothes…4 segments means 4 changes of clothes. The other was filled with supplies to demonstrate my techniques.

I’ve been watching QATV since it started. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every episode. So you can imagine my excitement when they asked me to be be part of the series. It was surreal to walk on set to see all the familiar props juxtaposed with all the filming equipment. I had no idea there were so many moving parts. In order to save time, they want us to film in one take…which isn’t always possible, but that’s the goal. You plan your segment to be no more than 12 minutes.

I arrived a day early so I could get comfortable with everything. I’m glad I did because I really got to enjoy the company of everyone there. They were so professional, kind and supportive. They all were dedicated to making the “guests” look good. Of course there was the host, Susan Brubaker-Knapp, and Vivika DeNegre, editor of Quilting Arts Magazine. There was also Kristine, associate editor of Quilting Arts and Jeanne from Bernina who helped us prepare. Besides the film/editing crew from K&S there was also Kathie, producer and Katherine, production coordinator. It was a smoothly operated production that made this newbie feel at ease. I have only been on TV once before…with all their help, I was much better prepared this time.

The morning of the filming was make-up time. This was another first for me. I have never had my make-up done by anyone. Looking at myself in the mirror, I looked like I had a face-lift. I could get use to this…

My first segment had me a bit shaky…but all went well without any “major” glitches. The other 3 have become a somewhat of a blur in my memory. But I do have the memories of being in the “greenroom” with the other guests on the show. I have found new friends among these talented textile artists, Julie Basseches Booth, Patty Kennedy-Zafred, Deborah

Fell, and Sherry Lipman McCauley. It’s fun how you connect with people when sharing similar experiences.

Three of my segments will air on PBS (or Create TV) this fall (2019) and one will air next spring (2020). I look forward to seeing the episodes. They tell me I didn’t appear nervous…so I’m banking on that outcome. For now, I’m preparing for what comes next; I have some plans I’ll share with you soon!

Reflecting on this journey I’m reminded: How do you climb that mountain?… One step at a time.

 

You’ve got this

Last week in my blog, I remembered the little girl I used to be. Part of my reason for looking back in time is because I continue to move forward. Today I am opening up a new chapter in creative my life. I don’t know where this will lead me, but I know I am doing something that I often thought about doing (I’ll tell you more next week).

In the past I wondered, why can’t I do this? Maybe it wasn’t the right time, maybe I really wasn’t ready. Anyway I look at it, I realize it’s been a long journey since that little girl was finger painting in kindergarten. What’s next? I have some ideas but what’s the rush?

I want to take some time and reflect on my journey. Sometimes we set milestones, but when we reach them we don’t take the time to appreciate where we are or how we got here. We always seem to rush onto the next step. But, really, how did I get here? I didn’t roll out of bed yesterday and suddenly make this decision. I realize it’s been a very long road full of trial, error and learning. Sure there’s been some set-backs along the way, but even on my darkest days, I was always moving forward.

Think about where you are in life. Even if there are things in life that you’re wanting, I bet there are plenty of things you can appreciate about where you are right now. I say congratulations!! because you made it to today. Nothing has stopped you from moving forward. I bet you had days that were worse than today and some that were better. You’ve worked hard to get here and there’s more to come. Don’t give up now. You’ve got this!

Play day

Since you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you are a creative spirit. You may not create your own things, but I’m sure you at least admire the creative process in others. Maybe you’re trying to be more creative on your journey or maybe you’re a professional trying to make a living with your art. Since, I don’t know for sure, I’m just going to believe that you have that creative spark.

I speak of being creative, not just making “art.” Art is often interpreted as a final product; a painting, photograph, music, or prose. A lot of people are intimidated about producing, but would still consider themselves creative. Maybe you doodle, sketch, knit/crochet/embroider, or simply have a good eye for home decor. You have a creative spirit.

What does it mean to be creative? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I’ve realized it is the core of my being. I am at my best when I’m making. Through some self-evaluation, I also realized that this creative energy I have is not something I just developed. It is something I was born with. What is your earliest creative memory?

My earliest creative memory was when I was in preschool (back then it was called “Head Start” and Kindergarten). I remember the school, I remember the day the teacher pulled out the easels. I remember when we (see photo) were allowed to finger paint on the “big” paper tablets. I chose red and yellow paint and did my finest abstract rendition. I remember being proud. I remember saying, “I’m going to call it Ketchup and Mustard!” I remember that little girl, who didn’t always have it so easy. I realize my creativity has gotten me through alot and continues to drive me today.

I think of you today. You’re also creative, right? Do you remember the young creative you? Do you allow the creative you to come out and play? Just thinking…maybe it’s time we let the kid inside have a play day.

Listen, learn, be kind and connect.

I gave a presentation yesterday using a SAQA Trunk Show to guide the participants in understanding/appreciating art. There were 57 mini art quilts in this show and nearly 80 people in the room. From table to table, we passed stacks of 5 or 6 around the room. The participants were instructed to closely look at each quilt and critique them.

To critique doesn’t mean criticize. When we look at art we should make it a challenge NOT to make quick value judgment of “good” or “bad.” We should be specific about what we see or feel. General terms like “pretty,”  “busy,” or “I don’t like it,” don’t explain what’s really happening. When viewing art, if we find a point of connection we can better explain how we’re reacting to it. Some questions to ask are:

  • How does it make you think or feel?
  • What does it remind you of?
  • What draws you in or pushes you away?
  • Are you attracted to or turned-off by the concept the artist is trying to portray?
  • Are you attracted to or turned-off by their method of execution (how they created it)?

We also need to be generous and empathetic when we make our comments. Even though the artists may not be in the room with us, try to find what’s good about the art. Always remember that it takes courage to put your artwork out there for others to see.

The best way to learn about art is to take time to look closely at it. I instructed the participant to really study each piece for awhile, then flip it over to read the artist’s statement on the back. You can learn a lot about the artist’s vision by reading the artist’s statement. After they read the statements, I asked them to look again at the quilt to see if their opinion changed. After they viewed each one in the stack, I asked them to share their thoughts: What was their favorite or least favorite and why? Did they find connection?

I enjoyed hearing their feedback. Art is subjective. Something I like may not appeal to you, but either way I can connect to it when I take time to understand what I’m looking at. I can also connect to the people I’m with by listening to their opinions of what they see. Sounds like a lesson for life: listen, learn, be kind and connect.

 

Tomorrow offers new opportunity

I’ve been riding a mix of feelings the last couple weeks and I’m wondering, how do you judge a good day from a bad one? Does any one event crush you to a point of writing the entire day off as bad? I’m know there are instances that could be that bad, but for the most part I try to focus on what’s good (operative word: “try”). This is what helps me get through difficult days.

Earlier this year, I entered 2 different juried art exhibits and heard from both this past week. The first one was a win. My artwork was accepted into the Sacred Threads 2019 exhibit. This exhibit is about textiles artists of all faiths connecting to the sacred and/or sharing their expression of the spiritual journey. Two years ago, I also was selected to be in this biennial exhibit and had the opportunity to go see it. This entire exhibit speaks to me. I’m extremely happy to be in this show.

Yesterday, I received the other notification which wasn’t so rewarding. This exhibit spoke to me from all levels of my journey of being an artist and sharing my connection with nature. All 3-pieces I entered were rejected. I was quite worried about entering this one, because acceptance would place me on another level of professionalism. I was extremely anxious about making sure the entry was spot-on and I didn’t make any mistakes (which could potentially get me eliminated). You know what? Even with all that anxiety about entering, I’m very OK that I didn’t get accepted. This rejection isn’t about me personally. It is about a pool of fabulous artists all trying to get their shot. Someone has to sit on the sidelines in this “game.”

Some days it’s difficult to reflect on what’s positive in our lives, but there always is something. I think putting the best that you have into an entry, then receiving a rejection can be difficult. I’ve been there, but I remind myself there’s something else down the road. This moment of disappointment is only temporary. When I feel myself in a pity party, I remind myself that tomorrow offers new opportunity.

 

See my artwork at:

Sacred Threads July 11-28, 2019, Herndon, VA