Category: Being an Artist

Not to give up

The day the world changed.

My creative inspiration has been a little lacking lately. I can’t tell you the last time I powered up my sewing machine. Luckily, I always have meditative hand-stitching and knitting to work on.

The world seems heavy some days, but I’ve been collecting ideas. I’m starting to create again.

As a creative, I think it’s ok to expect times like this. Some days you need to collect ideas and process what you’re feeling. We need to ask ourselves, do I interpret what I’m thinking into art or go for a walk?

As a young person, I was never very athletic. No one encouraged that in me. I was always the last to be picked when teams were selected in gym class. However, I always had my art and my creativity was my asset.

Last month I took this photo on top of Hogback Mountain, MI. We hiked to the summit, a steep 1.5 mile walk up with a 564 foot elevation gain. As we neared the summit, I almost gave up because I didn’t realize how close we were to the top. Just a few more steps and we were above the trees. I had to conquer my age old fear of falling, but I made it. There in the horizon stretched “gichi-gami” (Gitche-Gummee), aka Lake Superior. I made it. However, later that day I heard news that rocked my core beliefs. Now, it has me questioning everything.

I’m home now and sifting through my photos, trying to decide what I’ll create next. I can look at this image and see many things. This day hike reminds me so much of my lifelong journey.  I see the luck I’ve had with my health and my determination to stay strong. I see beauty in nature which inspires my creativity and peace that comes from walking among the trees. There’s also a determination to fight for what I believe in and my stubbornness not to give up.

Inspire your creativity

For me creativity also means curiosity. I’m very curious about things. I love exploring a new area and learn about its history. When I go out of town, I don’t want to go to the same old chain restaurants that are dotted along the interstates. I want to eat what the locals eat.

I also like exploring the geographic regions and the local towns. I get inspired by these things. Maybe I won’t be creating new art specific to what I saw…but I do come back with ideas. And, of course photographs.

This year I planted a “wild flower” garden behind a retaining wall along our driveway. This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. Every few days I stop and look at what’s happening with it. Early in the summer, the bunnies visited trying to eat the new seedlings I planted. Now that the flowers are maturing, some of the flowers are going to seed. So its the goldfinches who are coming to play and of course the bees visit too. I could watch for hours. Of course, I’m documenting with my camera.

I’m curious what will happen next. After my morning walks its always a pleasure to stop and take a moment to just be present. See. Document the changes. Its truly inspiring me. This little “experiment” has my curiosity going and it will definitely generate new art. The ideas are flowing.

What makes you curious? Does this curiosity inspire your creativity?

Spiritual journey

Last night, I was notified that my quilt, “Goldfinch in My Garden” has sold. Great!! news! Since then, I’ve been overtaken by a flood of memories and want to share them with you.

I made this quilt in 2019 and haven’t seen it since early 2020 when I shipped it to Virginia to be part of the Sacred Threads Backyard Escapes traveling exhibit. It is always an honor to have your art selected for an exhibit. I knew it would end it’s journey this year and I knew it was for sale. However, sometimes with special pieces you send them off and hope they come home.

I took the inspiration photo during a trip in 2019. I traveled a lot in 2019, which was something I didn’t do much of in years prior. I was full of energy and hope, enjoying life. Once in Virginia, it was selected to travel to a quilt festival in California. I was super stoked about that opportunity! I felt like I was on a roll. Then, something happened … uhm, … covid. Need I say more? The tour dates for this exhibit were put on serious hold while the world scrambled to deal with a pandemic.

Later in the year, I and several other Backyard Escapes artists were commissioned to re-create our quilts for a permanent installation at Inova Schar Cancer Center in Virginia. Super exciting news and such an honor! So, I made the quilt again, this time square and titled it “Contemplation.”

Now, as the Backyard Escapes tour ends, it will hang one last time during the Sacred Threads exhibit in Herndon, Virginia. All remaining unsold quilts are currently on sale through their website (view the sale page here). 25% of the sale going to Schar Cancer Center fund for Arts and Healing. As part of the Sacred Threads exhibit, my red shouldered hawk quilt “The Messenger” will be hanging nearby. If you’re in the area and want to treat yourself to some art therapy, please visit this dual exhibit. It holds such meaning for me and all the other’s artists participating. I hope you find similar meaning in your own artistic practice:

Sacred Threads is an exhibition of quilts exploring themes of joy, inspiration, spirituality, healing, grief and peace/brotherhood. This biennial exhibition was established to provide a safe venue for quilters who see their work as a connection to the sacred and/or as an expression of their spiritual journey.


Sacred Theads  14-24, 2022.
Floris United Methodist Church: 13600 Frying Pan Road, Herndon, VA 20171
Hours for the exhibit:
Mondays – Saturdays: 10am – 5pm
Sundays: 1pm – 4pm

 

Faux-Float Frames

I received good news in my email today…I was notified that an article I wrote for Quilting Arts Magazine will be in their Summer edition and on newsstands June 14th, 2022.

Over the last few years, I’ve had a number of people asked me how I frame my smaller quilts. I explain it in this article called “Faux-Float Frames for Art Quilts” and now you can read all about my process.

If you don’t have a subscription or local newsstand that carries Quilting Arts Magazine, you can order it here (available mid-June) https://www.quiltingdaily.com/product-category/magazines-ebooks/quilting-arts/

If you read the article, please let me know what you think.

Enjoy!

 

What shall I call it?

Lately, my heart has been feeling heavy. There’s too much uncertainty and chaos in the world. Most of the worries are out of my control. I know I just have to be patient and watch it all play out.

So I step away from the news to find some peace. That’s what I’m trying to do anyway. My ever present comfort is the bird feeder in my backyard. I can see if from every window on the backside of my house.

I’ve been observing the summer birds arriving and hanging out again. They’ve been away for awhile. The red-headed woodpecker is back. And this morning, I saw a male and female pair of summer tanagers. The indigo bunting was here this week too. And, oh yes, the sweetness…this season’s first bluebird nestlings are almost fledged (ready to fly).

This is where to focus when you’re heart gets heavy. Stop, listen, and watch  the birds. Maybe even be inspired to make a new quilt. What shall I call it?

Fulfilling rewards

This morning I was listening to Macy Gray on a podcast. She said she caught her ideas for her songs when God and angels threw them at her. This isn’t as novel or “out there” as it may seem.  In “Big Magic,” Elizabeth Gilbert says basically the same thing, as does Phil Cousineau in his book “Stoking the Creative Fires.” (note: both books are good reads)

I find the concept fascinating. They’re all basically saying that there are moments when a creative idea comes to you. You can grab it and run with it…or let it pass. Gilbert goes as far to say if you let it pass, the idea might get tossed to someone else. I’ve had moments of “Oh wow! What if I do this?” I find it fascinating.

Creativity isn’t just about making a work of art. Creative expression could be starting a new business or non-profit, deciding to take a trip, inviting friends to start a support group or book club, coming up with an idea to teach a class, or… well you get the idea. The challenge is acting on the inspiration.

I come up with a lot of ideas, but grabbing them and acting on them is a different story. Reading these 2 books and, today, listening to Ms. Gray, I realized you can’t act on everything. You can easily forget an idea if you’re busy with something else or don’t write it down. Maybe you need time to percolate the reality of this creative spark. Maybe it was just an idea that passed by you, but was meant for someone else. If the idea is meant for you, hopefully it will return when you’re ready and bless you with many fulfilling rewards.

 

Back at you

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a “beach person,” but I do love the beach. I don’t like the beaches that are crowded with people. I like walking the beach early in the morning or in cold months when no one else wants to be there. I had some time this past week to stroll barefoot in the sand and I kept running into great blue herons. This one stood still along the coast and pretended not to notice me. I was acting like a Frozen Charlotte and I knew he was watching me. Whenever I made the slightest move, his gaze would change or his body would move to reposition. It was a stand-off of mutual respect.

Had I been with other people, I know this encounter wouldn’t have happened. They likely wouldn’t have been so patient or quiet in waiting. Watching. It was magic. I watched how they interacted with people and tried to survive with the 2-legged trespassers. I watched how they adapted their feeding, as they attempted to steal the fish reeled in by the people fishing the surf. No longer the independent hunter, just a well-adapted opportunistic thief. I walked away emotionally changed.

I knew in just a few hours of my walk, things would be different for them. Instead of an occasional morning walker, they would deal with a steady stream of people passing up and down the coastal sand. They did what they could to survive. One stolen fish at a time.

This is were creative inspiration comes from; Stopping. Observing. Witnessing life around you. Take the time to slow down. The inspiration will probably be there looking right back at you.

 

 

Allow space for things to happen

The past few months, I’ve been working in front of my computer. At times, it felt like slow movements; a nagging … “get it done, get it done.” At the same time, I was reading books and paying attention to how I felt. My feelings were: why the hurry? Give it time. Don’t rush it.

“Don’t rush anything. When the time is right, it’ll happen.” – Anonymous

I’ve been trying to give myself space. I didn’t make my mental deadlines public, because I wanted to work in a comfortable way (yes, those deadlines kept changing). I didn’t want the added burden of external expectations. I’ve done that before and failed. Creativity isn’t a place to rush. However, it is a place to attend to.

I could have literally spent 8-10 hours a day working on producing my next online class. Instead I gave it time to process. Since the time I started working on this (yes, its been awhile), I’ve run into technical and software issues. And, the online hosting platform I was using announced they were shutting down. (Stop. Re-group. Time to go down a rabbit hole of research.) Disappointment and hurdles can slow you down.

I didn’t give up though. I just gave myself patience and space. If it is meant to be, it will be. Breathe.

There have been times that I pushed myself to perform and found my health was affected by it. I’m older and don’t want to live like that. I think many people are feeling this way. Covid gave us all a time to really slow down. Now as things are returning to normal, many of us don’t want to go back to our old ways. It’s Ok. Its actually healthy to step off the treadmill and meditate.

Above all, it is important to be aware of how you feel toward what you are doing. Step back, check in, and reflect. Is it important to you? If yes, take time for it. If no, then let it go. Along the way, remember to be kind to yourself. It’s ok to allow space for things to happen.

Try and succeed

I’ve been reading “The Storyteller” by David Grohl (lead vocalist for Foo Fighters). If you followed the “grunge” scene of music, you might appreciate his story. Even if you don’t know about much about grunge, its a good read because it’s a story about David’s creative journey. If you’re reading this you are probably on your own creative journey.

As I’m working through the last few chapters, he’s spending a lot of time reflecting on the people he met along the way. He looks back in amazement that a young kid raised in Springfield, Virginia could be living the life he currently has. Many of his idols and inspiration growing up are now counted as friends. He’s humble about his journey and finds it difficult to believe that he stumbled his way to this success. He wasn’t discouraged because there was a challenge ahead. He frequently refers to his journey as “fake it until you make it.”


I know this sounds like a book review; not, something I usually do. But, I’m telling you this because I see something else in the chapters of his story. I see that he showed up!! He had self-doubt and lack of experience, but he looked at opportunities with courage and tried. That to me is the lesson.

How many times have you felt discouraged and gave up, maybe even before trying? Have you ever said, “I’m not good enough, so why bother?” I can remember a few times I did. I also remember a few times I thought it, then convinced myself to generate the courage and try anyway. It is easy to look back in hindsight at the opportunities where we said “yes.” I see that each one of my “say yes” moments placed me farther down the road. That’s especially true when the opportunity turned into a complete failure!! They taught me what worked and didn’t work, making it easier to move forward to the next challenge.

If we give up, we’ll never completely know what we missed. However, I’m confident that when we say “yes,” we will grow. Its scary to take chances, but if you really want something you should try. This is important step to making art. To learn, we must try and fail. If we accept that, then we’ll only be able to try and succeed.

Find our way

So tell me, what’s with that project in your closet? You know, the one that you started ages ago? The one that you want to finish but lost your mojo? Or is it the one that you forgot about and later discovered while you were looking for something else? You know the one I mean…YES! That one! Can you tell me why you haven’t finished it?

I think all creatives have them. And, I must confess, I have my own “healthy” stash of UFOs (UnFinished Objects). Knitting projects, pieced quilts, art quilts and countless fabric tidbits that were suppose to become something.

When I “find” mine in the closet, I think to myself, “I should really finish that.” Then, I proceed to move on to whatever I was initially doing. I occasionally grab them and say…”Now its your turn!” and happily get them completed.

I sometimes envy those that don’t have abandonment issues with their art. However, not so much lately, because I’ve discovered a different attitude to take … it isn’t time. I compare it to making bread, the idea or creative energy needs to rest before it can rise.

Our society is so full of productive hurry. Do more, be more, create more … Don’t stop, because you will fall behind!

Maybe art isn’t meant to be created like that. Sure, there are those who crank out new work like they have little mice helping them at night [e.g., Cinderella]. But, it’s tiring to keep up. What if the work needs rest too? If we’re stuck, the pause can bring new insight and inspiration. Giving the work a timeout might be all we need to get the courage and confidence to complete it. Or maybe, the intermission gives us time to learn new things and find our way.