It’s clear to me that this new-normal is affecting many of us. I definitely feel a different level of anxiety. Things are clearly different than they were 2 years ago. It’s not just about my physical and mental health, there’s also external stressors like access to supplies. I can’t tell you how many things I normally use which have become difficult to find/purchase. Where I live, I frequently find empty shelves and it requires extra diligence to track down that thing I’m looking for. [Honestly, how many stores do I have to go to find my cat’s favorite food?]
Add to all this, the constantly changing procedures. As a teacher/artist, I regularly have to adapt to new policies. All the little things start to add up. Sometimes it’s easier to stay put, than venture out. For some (namely introverts), this might sound like a glorious opportunity to have more creative time alone.
Last week, I was battling this scenario. Do I cancel my trip and stay home or walk through the fire to travel. It took a lot of courage to convince myself that I must face the beast in my mind. I also had to make some modifications on what I was doing to allow myself some down time while I was away. It’s important to listen to what your body/mind needs.
I’m home now. While away, I put myself in situations that felt a bit out of my comfort zone. It’s been almost 2 years since I traveled out of state. I survived. In retrospect, being in a different environment was a healthy change for me. I was able to come home with a new perspective and appreciation. I saw what I could have had and realize the fortunes I’ve created by taking chances along my life’s journey.
I realized that sometimes you have to step out of the box to see the jewels inside. When you get stuck, go somewhere else. It doesn’t have to be far. When you get there, stop. Listen. Be. Observe. Take mental notes. Sometimes that’s all we need to find a new perspective.
In December, I was given a pile of old quilt blocks which were reportedly created by my mother’s mother (my Grandma). I showed them to a friend who has studied old quilts and vintage fabrics. She told me that a majority of the fabrics are from the turn of the 20th century (early 1900’s). She pointed out that some of the black-patterned fabrics (seen in the pinwheel block pictured) where probably “mourning” fabrics used to make clothes after a loved one died.
The other week, I took some time to gently wash the blocks removing decades of crud that accumulates. I’m concerned about the blocks because the fabrics may be dry-rot. I’m going to try to work with them anyway. Hopefully, I’ll be able to assemble them into a usable sized quilt.
What amazes me about these blocks is the resourcefulness of the maker. A lot of them use re-purposed “shirting” fabrics, but look closely. These small blocks (4″ to 6″) are made of smaller units. Many of these small units are pieced together with even smaller scraps to achieve the size necessary for assembly.
I know during (and after) the depression my family was quite poor, doing the best they could to survive unemployment. I wonder if my grandmother in her creative desire was trying to use the blocks to memorialize her family in a quilt. Did the mourning fabrics belong to her mother, who lost her husband when my grandma was so young? Where the shirtings from her father or other male relatives? I’ll never know, but it is obvious she did her best to avoid wasting the precious sampling of fabrics.
While investigating these blocks, I wonder about my wastefulness and the wastefulness of this entire generation I’m living in. I make dog beds from scraps of fabric and clothing which are twice as big as the entire blocks my ancestors made. I can’t be bothered with hanging on to tiny little scraps. It almost annoys me to think about it. I’m grateful that I don’t have to worry about it. I have access and the financial means to purchase the yardage I need.
Thinking of these blocks and the woman who created them gives me a better understanding of who I am. I have a creative streak that runs through many generations. Understanding how difficult their lives were, gives me compassion for my family members. I am spoiled. Yet, I am a product of their hardships. Therefore, I must honor them and all they gave. I must be strong and live the dream for them.
Zip another month has passed by, summer is finally here in the south. I truly loved our mild spring. The windows were open for quite a few weeks, but now the hum of the AC keeps me company instead of the birds singing in the yard.
During May, I enjoyed the company of several talented women who joined me in a Mixed Media Surface Design class at The Artist League. Once a week, for 3 weeks, we met for playful experimenting with surface design. During each class, I showed them some techniques to add color and design to white surfaces (cloth or paper) and then they played.
I knew going into this class that I could never predict the final results. This wasn’t a project class; I didn’t want them to copy me. I wanted them to take a technique, then find something within themselves to create their own designs. Their results proved me right. I never would have been able to predict what they did. Each session I was blown away by the talent in the class. Master works of modern art were created from their spontaneous whimsy. If they wanted to try something different, I said “Why not?” or “Try it and see.”
I have 2 favorite parts of teaching. The first is watching the “ah ha!” moment happen, when the student realizes they can do something which once intimidated them. The second is when “I” learn something. In all the years I have taught, I cannot remember a time when I didn’t learn something during one of my classes. As the ladies in this class experimented, I learned with them. It was so exciting to watch how things developed. So here’s to learning, its so much fun, I never want to stop!
If you think this class sounds interesting, then join me for:
Fiber Collage: Adding Depth and Texture with Textiles
July 23, 2011 from 9:30 to 4:30
$40 member/$50 non member
Location: The Artist League of the Sandhills
For more information, contact The Artist League at 910-944-3979.