The cold weather and holiday season are upon us. Although, I’d rather be out in the sunshine, I’m happy to hunker down this time of year. There’s not enough daylight hours, so finding projects to do inside helps pass the time when darkness settles in. I am motivated with my inside projects, because there are fewer external activities to grab my attention (e.g., yard work). One project I’m working on involves quilted leftovers.
When I create my quilts, I start them larger than I need. Shrinkage happens as you stitch a quilt. Making them larger, makes it easy to cut them to an exact finished size. Sometimes when I start a project I don’t know what size the finished design will be. By starting larger, I can let the finished composition determine the dimensions I need to trim. I save all these trimmings as “leftovers.”
This year I gathered a few larger completed projects that weren’t working for me. These quilts have also been delegated to my sacrificial pile of leftovers.
I trim the scraps and sew them together in a serendipitous process. I then cut them into 4″ x 6″ pieces to use as the background for my fabric postcards. With the addition of the larger quilted pieces, this year I have more (and larger) assemblages. As I’ve been working with the scraps, I’m thinking of other things I can do with some of these random compositions. I have an idea (or two), but I need to play with the concepts a little (hint: imagine some surface design experiments). With or without sunshine, this winter I’m ready to play. This should be fun.
I am reminded of when I made this piece in the early part of 2019. I created it for an art exhibit called Eye Contact which was developed by the Sacred Threads leadership team as a bonus to their biennial exhibit that year.
Participants were asked to make a rectangular panel showing just a person’s eyes. In her inspiration statement, the curator, Barbara Hollinger, wrote “We walk through the world with our heads down and our attention focused on daily tasks and distractions.” read more
The irony of this exhibit was that a year after we created our pieces, the world shut down. We were all encouraged to mask our faces which left only our eyes showing. We had to re-learn how to interpret the people we met. No longer could you see their smile or read their lips. We discovered that our eyes have much more expression than we imagined. Our eyes are “the window to our soul.” Sadness and worry lingers there. Happiness and laughter sparkles there.
This small quilt traveled far during the last 3 years and is finally home with me. I wish I could peer back through it and see the faces that looked into my fabric eyes. While the quilt traveled the last few years, I’ve learned that looking at someone’s eyes and smiling makes them smile in return. And, as Barbara noted, “That momentary connection when eyes meet reignites the spark of humanity that connects us all.”
I was up early yesterday and was able to see the blood moon eclipse. I don’t take enough time to watch the sky, but I love it when I do. To me, the moon usually looks like a flat disc. However, during the eclipse it looked like a pink marble I could pluck from the sky. I’ve tried many times to capture the brilliance of the night sky with my camera. I always seem to just get a round white blurry spot for the moon.
It frustrates me that as much as I try I always seem to get the same results. And then, on the socials, there’s someone I know who’s captured the same scene and it is perfectly brilliant. I realize it is the cell phone I’m using. I’ve always been an Android user (well , at least since my short Blackberry stage) and I’ve found my friends are using I-phones. At times like these I debate, “do I switch?” The expense stops me…cell phones aren’t cheap. The learning curve stops me too. Twenty-plus years of using a cell phone, it isn’t going to be easy to change. Is it really worth it for the quality of photography it produces? I have a good DSLR camera I could use. Ahh… the internal debate. The envy of what other’s have and I don’t.
I think our society raises us to compare. Who got the gold star on their homework? Who ran the fastest in gym? Who drives the fancier car? Who got into the better college? Social media with all the “influencers” seem to thrive on who got the most “likes.”
I’ve thought about this a lot. Comparison seems hard to ignore when it comes to art. Yet, comparing can make us think…am I good enough? But…what are we really asking? Are we good enough for what? I’ve met many people who said I’m not an artist because I’m not “good enough.”
Maybe you want to be an influencer or maybe you dream of having your art hanging in a National gallery. Well…yes, there are standards you’ll have to rise to. But, I don’t think most people create to reach these high levels of achievement. Most of us create, because we love to create. There is joy in the creative process and if we only want to create, then why must we compare? Why can’t we accept and embrace who we are and what we make?
So back to my moon shot… I can’t capture it with the tools I have on hand. If I want better, I know I have ways to change things. However, until then I’m ok accepting what I have. Either way the image is still etched on my brain.
This week, I’m still playing with wool. It’s crazy because all it is, is fluff. When I open the storage totes it is like opening Pandora’s box. The contents explode with colorful bits of fibers. I’m having plenty of “ah-ha” moments. I’m learning how various fibers behave. I’m learning which colors work best together. I’m also taking a simple technique that I’ve used many times and re-inventing the process.
The good thing about all of this is that it is fun for me; it is play time. Don’t worry, I’m not giving up on my art quilting, I’m just exploring. My brain is actively processing how I can incorporate this felting process into 2-D wall art. I’m learning how colors play together. There are some palettes that I love. There are some that don’t seem to do anything for me. There are others that seem like duds but crave something else to give them a pop. I’m engaging my brain in a very active way.
I realize from all this that I was needing to explore something new. Each day, I’m excited to go play. The good thing about the process is I can create in small increments of time. I use it as a break period during the day. I make a bowl, then go back to other tasks. I will eventually have to put all this wool and silk away. There are other projects that need my attention and the space I’m using.
I just want you to know…it is ok to try something new. It is ok to make things even if it may not make sense to other people. It is ok to explore. Remember that your muse can be like a small child demanding your attention. There’s a reason for that ….because it does need your attention.
My blog post last week had me thinking that I’m in need of some creative play. I’ve been doing a lot of techie stuff the last few months and I really needed to get back to my art. I’ve been feeling a bit stuck. I think it is mostly because of the “have to do” attitude I have about many of my projects. Some of the things I “should” do and some I “have to,” but what about the “want to” projects?
I was thinking about when I started on this journey in the late 1990’s. I’ve always created (learned to sew and crochet when I was 10). I loved art and my mom encouraged me. She loved creating too, so I think maybe she found a kindred soul in me. Anyway in the 90’s, I finished grad school and started working. I had plenty of free time outside of my work hours. So I really picked up on my “crafts.” Sewing, knitting, crocheting…I was prolific. Then, I was introduced to traditional quilting in 2001 and I went bonkers with it. Whatever I wanted to make, I made. I was like an addict with a “give me more” desire. I wanted to learn more. During this time I took a class to learn needle felting by machine. Super fun and yes! I acquired all the supplies … including the felting machine.
Now, with the direction I’ve taken the last few years, time seems more limited. There are plenty of have to and shoulds. I love doing what I do, but I wasn’t exploring as much. I wasn’t pushing the envelope of “what if…”
So with a little bit of down time this week, I decided to pull out my wool supplies and play. I started making bowls and small wallets last year, but I never really gave myself permission to play with the materials. This week, I’m playing with the fibers. What happens when I use different types or colors of wool? What happens if I add other bits of material (yarn, silk, cheesecloth, etc) into the felting process? What else can I do with the felted wool? My brain is happily engaged and I’m greatly inspired to create. Since everything is set up, I can pop-in during the day and play for a little while, then go back to the have to do lists. Creative play is important, so I’m giving you the nudge… What creative project do you “want” to do?
I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend. She and I were talking about “playing.” You remember how you use to play as an 8 year old? There was reckless abandon in our actions. Who cared if we made things up? Did we notice that our clothes got messy? In the moment, we weren’t worried about what others would think about our behavior? At 8, I don’t think we cared. Mostly, we were focused on having fun.
Of course, as adults, we now know that someone might get upset if we make a mess. If we appear too silly another person might call us odd. We understand that there are rules to be followed. And, sometimes there are consequences.
But, the question is, do we need to be this uptight when it comes to our art? What will happen if we “break the rules?” Will we be OK if our artwork gets “messy?” Does it really matter? What’s the worse that can happen? Maybe we won’t like what we created. So what? Can we just play and accept it as a learning process?
On the other hand, our worst fears may not come true. There’s this potential that our play time creates something new and exciting. And, there’s a possibility that we will find renewed excitement in our art.
I admit, I don’t play with my art supplies as often as I’d like to. There’s always something else that needs attention. Maybe even another project that needs to be completed. So many UFOs (UnFinished Objects) in my closet, do I really need to start something new? The answer is YES! Creative play is important. It breaks the cycle and adds renewed energy to our art practice. Give it a try, because when was the last time you played?
I spent the past week putting the finishing touches on the re-launch of my “Paint with Thread” course. Last year, I had this online course hosted with a company that decided to shut down the early part of this year. This was one of the first online courses I made and a class I love to teach.
When the hosting site shut down, I debated about what to do next with this course. I wasn’t happy with the way it was…mainly because I had more experience with the software I was using and knew I could make it better. On the other hand, I didn’t want to start from scratch and re-film everything. Instead over the past several months, I’ve been working with what I had, editing videos and revamping the course to fit my new platform “Teachable.com.”
Now, I’m ready to publicly re-lauch the class and I wanted to let you know. Here’s an insider’s tip: I always offer new classes to my newsletter subscribers first and… I give them a discount too.
The NewZletter is a “casual” monthly email packed with info about what I’m doing. You’ll find news about publications and exhibits I’m involved with and online or in-person classes I’m teaching. I also have a separate option for subscribers to receive these weekly blog posts straight to their inbox. So, you can choose how often you hear from me. (click her to subscribe)
For me, re-launching this class has demonstrated a personal level of perseverance. I was disappointed the other company shut down, but I understood their circumstances. Did those circumstances have to stop me? Sometimes it feels that way, doesn’t it? Yet perseverance tells us to keep moving forward. Although it may feel hard, it is important to find the energy to stand up, dust ourselves off and keep walking — no matter how slow the steps may be. We are still making progress towards our goals. Remember, you’re still here and the journey is not over.
Why is it we all seem so busy? I know I’m not alone in feeling like there’s little time to just sit and enjoy the day. This year I’ve been feeling stressed, because there’s always one more thing I should do before I allow myself time to sit. Computers were suppose to make things easier, but it seems life is now faster and harder to grab onto. We purchased our first Personal Computer (PC) in the late 1980s. I was resistant to the change. I remember the dial tone and obnoxious sound of the modem when we “connected” to the phone line. My reservations with this big, tan, square box, quickly vanished as I learned enough that I found myself teaching computer technology in the early 1990s.
Things seemed slower then…I don’t remember feeling as rushed. I guess things seemed easier because we only had a limited number of websites to visit, only one password for all our accounts, and there was no such thing as 2-factor authentication (that sure is a time hog!).
My mind is on computers, because this year I’ve been working on producing online classes. I just finished updating one that will launch very soon. I have tons of hard drive space to store all my videos, source files, software and photographs. But, compared to many years ago, this is now harder to manage as well. Especially true, if you’re like me, using the same filing system you had in the mid-1990s. (It takes me a lot of time to find that image I was looking for.)
On the other hand, computers are amazing. Because of them, I have been able to work from home for almost 30 years. I also stay in contact with you, and my family and friends who live far away. Life is traveling too fast.
What I’m learning is to better respect the way I use time. I’m learning to honor that things might take me longer than I anticipated in my brain. I’m respecting time to enjoy activities instead of feeling rushed to move on to the next thing. I’m appreciating that what I do is enough. And, I’m monitoring (limiting) the amount screen time I have. When I look at my schedule in this perspective, I find I have more time to enjoy life.
(Note: If you’re interested, here’s an interesting podcast to get some perspective on the scarcity of time. Hidden Brain– Taking Control of Your Time)
Over the past several months I’ve been taking lots of photos (birds, flowers, butterflies, etc.) I’m now tasked with sorting through them to decide which will be inspiration for my art. I have several ideas of where I’m going with this, but it is a chore to sort them and decide which are clear enough to use.
Birds move constantly, so you have to take lots of photos and hope to get a couple good ones. This new camera I have (thank you NC Arts Council for the grant to purchase it) is very technical. Technology is an awesome tool, but the learning curve is steep. Once I figure it out I can take lots more photos in quick succession. Which means, more opportunities to get a good image to work with. My challenge is figuring out the technology.
There are days I wish everything was simpler. I wish I didn’t have to keep learning new skills (or re-learning updated software). Its the sign of the times. I feel I either keep up with technology or fall behind.
Learning takes time. Whether we’re learning new art techniques or just keeping up with technology, we have to be patient with the process. I’m struggling with that a right now. I want to move faster, see results quicker, and not have to return to fix things that I didn’t do right in the first place.
I know that it is worth the time to learn something new. I’ll be quicker and more proficient when I do. I will also feel more confident as I move forward. I just must remember to have patience.
This week the sun reached its fall equinox; the equal daylight and darkness. I’m ready for the shift out of summer. Even if it means shorter days. It has been a long hot summer with too much time indoors. The past two weeks I’ve been supervising home improvement projects and it’s been hard to get into the studio to play. Whenever there was a break, I sat at the computer working on an update for my Paint with Thread class.
I understand a lot more about video editing than when I first created this course. It has been sitting idle since the other platform I was using announced their closure. I had to decide: do I start all over or update it? I decided to do some updating. I’m very close to being done. And, I have lots of ideas for other classes, too. I’m looking forward to getting new online classes available. It’s creative work in a “techy” kind of way.
So until our paths cross again, remember the words of Emily Dickinson:
‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
I couldn’t say it better myself. Until next time, don’t lose hope…