Category: Success & Failure

Bee-kind to yourself

As I posted last week, I resolved my hexagon challenges on this new art quilt. With the edition of my latest design element, I hope it is obvious where I’m going with this. The little buddy needs some wings and the background (honeycomb) needs quilting. I’m almost there.

I feel like I’m moving in slow motion. I’m juggling many things “behind the scenes.” Unfortunately, they are things that aren’t really tangible items. I’m doing a lot of computer work, scheduling classes and prep work for the June exhibit. This upcoming week, I’ll be sharing some news that is a major new direction for me. I’ve been producing pre-recorded, on-demand classes. Now I’m ready to take the next step and do some live instruction on-line. More soon…

The thing is, I realize I’m still in this covid-funk. As much as I try to accept the current normal, the things I use to do aren’t the same. I have no desire to teach machine sewing classes in-person right now. It’s not that I don’t want to teach in-person … I am teaching locally, just not machine sewing. Moving forward with live Zoom-based classes will help me work through my mental process of changing focus. I’m looking forward to seeing where this leads.

Creative professionals are a silent statistic in this pandemic economy. Musicians, artists, and actors alike are grappling with their forward momentum. The gigs aren’t there and it’s uncertain when they will be. To stay viable, we have to find innovative ways to share and sell our art. The current “normal” is giving all of us a pause to self-reflect and possibly change direction. The momentum can sometimes feel slow, but there’s always that light inside that reminds us everything is going to be alright. Just remember “Bee-Kind” to yourself.

Stuck when creating

As I mentioned last week, I don’t work with a real “plan.” Maybe that’s good, maybe not. I have a vision or idea, and start working with stops and starts along the way. The following description is an insight to my creative process.

Over the past week, I attached the hexis to my background fabric and created an applique element that will go on top (you’ll see that next week). When I auditioned the applique on the hexis, it looked flat. There was no pop or interest and the applique didn’t stand out.

So, I auditioned some fabrics that I could lay in the center of the hexagons to give it a dimensional appearance. I found a loosely woven material in my stash, laid it on top of the design and stitched around each hexi shape. Then, I cut away the excess material. Tedious.

While I was stitching I noticed the there was a little pocket between the two layers of fabrics. I didn’t like that. I thought, I “should have!!” put Mystifuse on the back of the woven fabric. Then after stitching, I could iron it to adhere it in place. The problem … I didn’t use Mystifuse. Grumbling to myself, I kept on going.

As I continued to work, I thought about … “matte mediums.” I think of mediums as akin to Mod Podge but of higher quality. Mediums are acrylic liquids that can be used by artists to adhere collage material or used to thin acrylic paints. The word matte means there’s no sheen. If you wanted a shine, you would use a gloss medium.

Once the woven cloth was stitched in place and the excess removed, I then “painted” it with matte medium. This not only adheres the 2 layers of cloth, but also stops the woven cloth from unraveling. I succeeded with my vision and I’m ready for the next steps.

Although some people map out their plan, I like the challenge of not knowing. The vision drives me. Most of the time I can work around the obstacles. Usually what saves me is my arsenal of ideas. Mediums are not something quilters usually keep on hand, but other artists do. Because I have exposed myself to many different art techniques, my “toolbox of ideas” is full. And, my stash of supplies is diverse. Classes are a great way to learn new things.

I encourage you to take classes and experiment. Don’t be disheartened if you take a class and find you’re not good at it. You will likely always learn something new when you take a class. Understanding what you like and don’t like is part of the learning process. The more you learn, the more options you have. The bigger the tool box, the less likely you’ll ever truly feel stuck when creating.

What happens next

From teaching people how to make things, to creating my own designs to sell, I am one of those lucky people who’s work is art. It’s a constant juggle to find studio time to create. Having external deadlines does help get me in the studio. (How do you prioritize time for making your art?)

I’m trying to get better at setting priorities and time for different tasks. I have a bunch of videos ready to be turned into YouTube clips. My on-demand “Photo to Applique” class is waiting for my attention and I need to be working on a few final pieces for an exhibit I’m participating in this June. Time management will definitely be priority these next few months.

Today I’m working on an art piece that will consist of many hexagons. There are several ways to make a hexagon. Templates are an easy way to cut them, but what if you don’t have the right size template?  This video shows how to cut one using a straight quilters ruler (YouTube is awesome!). So you can quickly and easily cut any size hexi that you want. I cut a bunch of them last night.

(Can you tell I don’t work with a real plan?  —  The idea drives me and I figure out the process as I go along. )

Then I had to decide how to attach them to my base fabric. I thought of several different approaches … I decided to sew 2 hexi’s together; cut a slit in one; then, turn it right side out. This is going to give them a bit more dimension (relief) than a single layer of fabric. I’ll sew these, slightly puffy, shapes onto the background fabric to create my design and then proceed from there. I like where this is going, but let’s see what happens next.

Rest in Peace

My life is starting to normalize into this new groundhog day style of normalcy. In December things were in upheaval and in January it slowly started to return to it’s daily drumbeat routine. I am actually catching up on things.

Yesterday I mailed this 23″ x 26″ (finished size 20″ x 24″) block to Social Justice Sewing Academy’s (SJSA) Remembrance Project. Rashiya Melton was an 18 year old woman who was killed at a Halloween party on Oct 28, 2018 in Cedar Grove, NC. She was with her twin sister, doing what young people do: have fun. An innocent victim of gun fire.

The morning after the shooting, I remember hearing the story in the local news. I volunteered to make a Remembrance block and I was honored when SJSA asked me to memorialize Rashiya. They warned me going into this that it may be emotional. All I had was a name, it was up to me to find out the details.

I found very little information about Rashiya, just a few pictures of a beautiful young woman and a couple news articles. Her twin (who also was dealing with the death of a younger brother 6 months earlier) expressed her deep loss and said, “she was the funniest person I knew.” All I thought was I had to do this well!

This style of tonal applique is pretty common these days in textile portraits. The photo I had was very grainy and I struggled trying to make it work. In December I came close to finishing the portrait. When I was nearly done, I said “no way!” There were details that I thought didn’t show her beauty and the fabric colors weren’t working. I mean “really” weren’t working. I have never tried anything like this before and I needed to take a break. There was too much going on and having me rush to finish this wasn’t going to give Rashiya the respect she deserved.

About a week later, I received an email from the Pixeladies. Their newsletters frequently include tips and tricks for using Photoshop Elements. This particular edition included directions on how to render a photo into comic strip style illustration. I was inspired to try their method with Rashiya’s photo and I was able to create a pattern that was more user-friendly than my first attempt. It also proved to make a more elegant portrait of Rashiya.

Lately my blog posts have been about learning by experimenting. That’s true in this block, but it’s also is true how important perseverance is. I shredded my first attempt and am ever so grateful SJSA gave me time to recover. I could have given up, but I didn’t. I’ve learned. I’ve grown. And I hope my efforts honor Rashiya and her family. My heart is full, may she rest in peace.

As a new person

The last few days, I’ve been digging through my digital photos and I’m flooded with ideas. I love birds and I’m not in any short supply of inspiration. I can easily set up my camera and take pictures of my backyard (yes…every spring, the red-headed woodpeckers visit my feeders).

Where do you find inspiration? I think it’s important to look around you. I take a lot of pictures that inspire me. Looking back, I’m not always sure why I took a photo, but I knew the scene held my interest for awhile and I had to capture it.

Digging through my photos was a reflective practice. I was able to see where I’ve been and who I am now. What interested me 10 years ago is not the same as what interests me now. There are definitely common threads that have carried along through the years (e.g., birds). However, I noticed that there’s a certain level of refinement that has occurred.

We change with each new thing we learn and experience. These changes may be subtle, but over time the cumulative effects can be significant. Your source of inspiration is very likely to be changing over-time too.

It’s important to reflect on these changes, because they say something about what you like to do. If you’re doing something because you’ve always done it, that doesn’t mean that you enjoy doing it. It’s important to reflect on the balance between what you love to do and what you’re good at. I like to think with each new revolution around the sun, we are traveling as a new person.

 

Take care of you!

For a good portion of my adult life, I’ve worked at home. So you would think that working from home last year would be a piece of cake. It wasn’t. Everything I envisioned was altered and I had to find the energy to keep moving, which included frequently changing plans (I know you can relate to this). Toward the end of the year, I found some motivation to work on online classes and YouTube videos. I’m making plans for more. The techie nerd in me enjoys playing with the technology. I am inspired by this new direction.

Dear husband and I were spending so much time at home, we began seeing what needed fixing around the house. Since our schedule was going to be slow during December, we decided to replace the flooring in our offices (aka spare bedrooms). We had to pack everything up and move it out so all the rooms were completely empty. It felt like we were moving out. Of course while the rooms were empty — might as well paint, right? Six weeks later, I’m still unpacking. I’m re-staging my rooms to start fresh for 2021 and letting go of the old. I’m donating my unwanted items to charity. It feels good to let go of the extra baggage.

I’m also paying attention to how I feel. I love the idea of starting over, it’s exciting. But, I also realize it makes me a bit anxious too, mostly because things aren’t in their usually place. Things aren’t “normal.” This seems odd, because I’m not a very tidy person. What I’m realizing is I like order in my chaos. It drives me crazy when I can’t find something I need. So even if my desk looks a bit messy … I know where everything is! Well, until half of my stuff is still packed in boxes. ARGH!!

The good news is I’m slowly finding order again. In the “cleansing,” I’ve discovered that I need to spend more time enjoying life and focus on short term goals. There’s too much that can happen between now and anything too far out. Shoot, even plans for tomorrow can easily be disrupted. I’ve also realized my anxiety about things not being normal, isn’t just about my house. It’s about the world.

The pandemic has changed things. The things we once took for normal, aren’t. The things we thought were in a certain place are misplaced or missing (e.g, family, work, school, health, etc.). If you are feeling anxious, know that you aren’t alone. Reach out to friends, family or find an online community (Zoom has been a savior for many of us). Spend time with your thoughts, less time on social media and do something you love. Focus on today, walk in the sunshine, dance to your favorite music, make art!  Just hang in there and remember to take care of you.

Just keep going, no feeling is final

Today is the last day of 2020 … tomorrow it will all be hindsight (pun intended).

It’s been a challenging year and more so, a challenging month. Forgive my absence. I took some much needed time off to address a few issues in my home and now I’m slowing returning to normal daily operations. But, it’s still not normal… is it?

This year truly has taken a toll on all of us. Some more seriously than others. This time of year I usually reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m heading — but this time it seems more weighted than most. My next moves are being taken with caution. I can’t easily express my emotions and concerns, but I know I have to continue moving. I suspect you feel this too.

The 1st day of January, 2020, I was on a plane heading to an out of state wedding. I had 2 more trips before everything shut down in March. I’m fortunate for the good fortunes in my life, but I’m also sad for all that I’ve lost. I plan to do more self-reflection in 2021. This quote by Rainier Maria Rilke, reflects my feelings best:

“Let Everything Happen to you: Beauty and Terror.
Just keep going, No feeling is Final.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Stay well and have a happy New Year!

Count my blessings

Sometimes life is like a pile of scraps. A heap of bits and pieces. Tiny shards of bigger projects or dreams.

My studio is a mess. We’re taking time this month to do some much needed renovations around the house. Although my life feels a bit chaotic right now, I keep the vision that things will be better when we move past this.

My studio space (a spare bedroom) is a mess. Everything is getting packed up in boxes and moved out. I’ve delivered 2 carloads of stuff to the local Restore and there will be more visits to come. I’m not a minimalist, but when you don’t move in 14 years, stuff starts piling up.  I think it’s a genetic trait because my siblings are collectors too.

Most of what I keep are treasures to me. The bits and bobs may be packed away in a box…but when I find them, I’m flooded with happy memories. Some things find there way out of my life via trips to the donation centers. Then other things, the box gets shut and put away until our next encounter.

Not to be forgotten in all of this is my art/textile supplies! These items are treasures at a much different level. If you’re reading this maybe you can relate to this type of — shall we say — “curating.” Patterns, books, yarn, fabric, paints, markers, rulers, threads and scissors!! I may not use some of these items for a few years, but when I need them I’m happy to know I don’t have to go shopping. For example, the “I’m over it” fabric became useful making masks this year. And… all the wool I’ve collected found itself resurrected as a felting class! My former years as an avid cross stitcher paid off when I discovered slow stitching and mindful mending. I have plenty of floss to keep me busy.

As I reflect on all that I have, I’m reminded, as always,  to count my blessings.

 


 

Be thankful for all of it

Happy Thanksgiving!
This holiday is a reminder that we’re almost finished with this crazy year. YES!

Have you tried to look through your photos from last year? This photo was taken a year ago at a quilt guild were I was lecturing and teaching. Looking at it I realize this was the last time I did an in-person lecture.

I look back at my photos and feel bombarded with emotions. I was appearing on Quilting Arts TV and published in their magazine. I had work in an art gallery that was selling. I was teaching classes and lecturing. I was also feeling emotionally fit and physically strong. I was enjoying life traveling, going on vacation and seeing family (something I haven’t done very much in my life). Life was good.

If I could go back in time a year ago, what would I tell myself about the future. Although I’m sad about all the disappointments that happened this year, I can only think to say “be thankful.” I’m thankful for my health and a loving supportive husband. I’m thankful for my talents and passion for textile arts, because sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps me moving. I’m thankful I can continue to laugh, sing (not well…but that’s not the point!) and I can adapt to new situations. I’m also thankful for you! Thank you for continuing to read these posts and support my art. I appreciate you!!

As we reflect on what has been and what is yet to come, let’s be thankful for all of it.

 

 

Be kind to you!

Tenacity…is my word for today. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “the determination to continue what you are doing.” With just a few more weeks left, I think most of us could use this word to describe how we got through this year.

Over the last 8 months, I’ve had many conversations with creative friends about how we are surviving these times. Tenacious describes each of us. Sometimes it is as basic as the having motivation to get out of bed. Other times it is having the chutzpah to change direction, move out of our comfort level or learn new skills.

I can honestly say, I have many levels of motivation this year. I find the solution is self-care. It is OK to have a bad day, week or month. You’re not alone, we all have them. The tenacity comes from recognizing how you feel and, at your own pace, continue to move toward a goal.

What do you want? How do you get there? Even simple tasks can be broken down into manageable pieces and accomplished in steps to challenge yourself to move forward. Keep in mind, if it doesn’t go as planned, just start over again tomorrow. It’s OK if you move slow, you’re still moving. And, remember along the way to always be kind to you!

 

 

Want to learn more about me? Check out my latest YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/YK8XDXuBwQk