I’m in a transition state this week. Last month, I completed a couple of projects and now it is time to move forward with creating some new artwork. I started flipping through photos and found this tree quilt, “Solitude,” which I made in 2011. It is one of the first art quilts I ever made. I really like how I completed the background. It is a quilted whole-cloth design with an appliqued tree. After quilting, the fabric was painted with gesso, then layers of paint colors were applied with paint rollers.
I’m looking at how I handled the background and I’m still fascinated by the technique. I need to revisit this process. It was pretty intense to create. I used regular craft paint, so this quilt is stiff. I need to try it with fabric paint.
My brain is flooded with all sorts of stories about it. I remember creating it, exhibiting it, selling it and now I’m inspired by it again.
There was a time I didn’t like looking back at the pieces I made. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can be overly-critical about my art. That’s the perfectionist taking charge. A fun way to re-direct this thinking is to image the thoughts are coming from a mischievous little pixie who whisper in your ears. You could believe them or you can just ignore what they have to say. This is part of the journey. To overcome negative self-talk, we first need to recognize it is there then decide to ignore it.
I’ve come a long way since I made this quilt. I realize now that they all can’t be master pieces. Each is made by my hands and nothing hand-made can be perfect in every way. So it is important to let go and accept where you are. As humans we are forever metamorphosing, so we can value each step along the way as a learning process. It is all part of moving to the next higher plane.
There’s a line in the Avett Brothers song “Head Full of Doubt” that says “Decide what to be and go be it.”
That always has been a powerful line for me. There are so many options in this world. How do you decide? It is not as easy as saying I want to be an astronaut and “poof” tomorrow you’re flying rockets. It takes commitment. And, I’m also realizing it takes a lot of time.
We all have gifts and talents, part of finding our personal direction is tuning into them. When we share these skills we can cultivate a sense of meaning and purpose. It is important to recognize which of our attributes provide us with joy.
For me my art is what brings me joy, but sharing my art is what brings me purpose and meaning. It is easy to get caught up with the day to day minutia and forget about what makes our hearts feel full. When life gets like that, it is important to stop and reconnect. If you love creating, find time to create. Set aside time and commit to making it a regular habit. If life is super fast, find bits of time to squeeze in creativity:
Maybe have a sketchbook handy to write or draw your idea.
Take five minutes to sit in your creative space and breathe.
Go to an art show or gallery.
Or, maybe commit to taking a class.
Even flipping through pages of creative magazine or book can lovingly fill the empty space in your heart.
It does take commitment and time, but when are you more happy? Do you find joy, running super fast through life? Or, is it more joyful to fill you soul with what you love?
If you’re a creative person, here’s an interesting question to ask yourself: Why you do what you do? Is there a reason you create?
I don’t know if I can clearly answer that…but it is something worth thinking about. For me, its almost like I have to. I’ve been doing it all my life. I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t mentally gravitating toward art. As a kid it was crayons, paper mache, drawing … oh goodness, let’s be real … I was into anything I could get my hands on. I just loved making things.
As an introvert, I find comfort in the creative process. I can escape and entertain myself for hours. I know my mom encouraged it when I was a kid, maybe because I would keep occupied and out of her way.
I also think of the generations before me. The one’s I knew were also creative … sewing, crocheting, wood working, drawing, writing, etc. My siblings also have the “bug” but haven’t pursued it like I have. Maybe for my family it is just a genetic trait? But, aren’t we all born creative at some level? As we grow older that’s when our creativity starts getting squashed. Life gets too busy or we have self-doubt.
I guess if I ponder the question, I believe my creativity is some sort of magic. I get an idea, say “what if…” and then watch what happens. When the project is complete, I’m in awe that an idea manifested into something tangible. The results aren’t always what I expected … good or bad. Sometimes it needs to tucked away for later renewed inspiration. Other times it needs to be cut into pieces, repurposed or scrapped.
But, I’m always thinking “what if…” and ultimately, I don’t know how to be anything else.
My wildflower garden continues to bring me entertainment. Over the past month, I’ve seen a variety of winged beauties visit the withering flowers. After walking the dog or taking out the trash, I stop and look for movement among the overgrown collection of flower heads. Lately there has been an interesting collection of butterflies and moths showing up.
You know it!! These photos are generating textile inspiration!
My mind is wandering with ideas and I’m thinking about changing things up. I wonder if I should try something different? Its an energizing feeling, which also feels a bit stifling. Not because I’m stuck, but because I’m not sure about moving forward. I’m on a known road, safe to travel and less likely to find failure. Coasting is so much more relaxing, then pedaling uphill.
Unfortunately, coasting isn’t energizing. Am I excited about working with the same techniques? Well, I enjoy it… but my brain keeps telling me, “try it, you’ll like it.”
If you’ve been following me awhile, you know that many years ago I ran away from quilting. I was so fed up with my own personal negativity, so I stopped making quilts. I said, “this is suppose to be fun, but it isn’t.” I was tired of the quilt police nagging me every step of the way. So I ran off and explored mixed-media art which, interestingly, inspired be to come back to textile art with new energy. Because of this journey, I know that sometimes we have to push ourselves to find inspiration. Other times we find it by walking through open doors and exploring new ideas. And, then there are times where the ideas pop into our heads and we’re driven to give it a try.
footnote: Have some fun! There are two possible outcomes to my “try it, you’ll like it” dilemma.
Pick one of these two YouTube video links to choose the outcome: Option #1 and Option #2 ]
I openly admit I’m a “recovery perfectionist.” We start learning our behaviors when we are babies. Its been a long journey for me and it is hard to learn new things. In my life and my art, I’m constantly seeking new insight. I realize I will always be “recovering.” Growing. I love learning new things!!
I started reading “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown. (I like her casual writing style.) Brene talks about the feeling of being enough which is letting go of what other people think and owning our story. Are we enough? Oh…don’t we all wonder about that?
Accepting who you are as an artist takes courage. We have to believe we are worthy. It is challenge for most of us to stand proud next to our art; to believe that what we create is good enough. People can be cruel and criticize, but we have to believe we are worthy. Believe in ourselves. This is so true even as we learn new skills… and, aren’t we always learning?
Before social media, I use to hide what I created. I can look back at things I made which might have been viewed as “failures.” They weren’t, they were actually learning opportunities. I kept trying. I think that is where it is important to have confidence to say it is “enough.” It is the confidence to say “its enough because I’m still learning” or “its enough because I’m still here willing to try.” Believing it is enough, is believing you are worthy!
I believe you are worthy and if you want to create, you should find a way. Our creative talents are gifts that are meant to be shared.
This past weekend I took a road trip to see the Sacred Threads art quilt exhibit in Herndon, Virginia. This exhibit was originally scheduled for July 2021 and was postponed until this year (we all know what was going on then).
The Sacred Threads exhibit is a biennial exhibition which was established as a way “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.” For the past 3 events, I’ve had the honor of having my art selected to be apart of this exhibition. It is an extremely special event. What I didn’t know driving there was how important this year’s event was going to be.
The art quilt community is unique. We are kindred souls. We understand how important it is to create our art in a society that may only recognize our talents as common craft. Many of us have deep messaging behind what we create. Sacred Threads honors all of that. (Note: sadly, as I write this, it is uncertain if there will be another.)
As artists, we create because we are called to. And at gatherings like this, we are collectively understood by each other. No need to explain what we do, or why we do it. There are no quilt police looking at stitches per inch or accurate piecing. There are no critics making judgements on what is or isn’t good art. None of that matters, because we are purely expressing ourselves with textiles.
What struck me most was how good it felt to be among my peers. For many of us, it’s been a long time since we have gathered like this. I’ve missed them. Its been more than 2 years since the start of the pandemic. Meaning it is more than 2 years of being isolated on our journeys. Sure many of us have turned to video conferencing and social media to connect, but there’s nothing like seeing textile art in person. There is nothing like hugging a long time friend and seeing their smiling face looking back at you. And, there is nothing like knowing you’re not alone on this creative journey.
As I write this, most of the world is under extreme summer heat conditions. This year is truly a scorcher. Every day, I count my blessing that I have air conditioning that works and I don’t have to work outside. There are plenty of creative activities stashed in my studio waiting for my attention. I’m grateful I have lots to keep me occupied — inside!
Earlier this year I planted a “wild flower” garden along a retaining wall outside my garage. It has truly been a lovely distraction from the heat. I started with seeds, planted the seedlings and I’ve watched them grow (some now over 6 feet tall). Every couple of days the mini-ecosystem changes. First it was the bunnies that visited to dine on the young seedlings. Then, the bees came to pollinate the flowers. Now, its the goldfinches harvesting the seeds and the humming birds and butterflies gathering nectar. I look forward to what will happen after the sunflowers seeds mature. What will visit then?
I’ve seen more variety of activity in my yard this year than I ever have before. If you’ve been following me awhile, you already know that I’ve been taking tons of photos, too! The creative inspiration is overflowing. I love the fact that I can take these photos and render them into applique patterns. New art quilts are in progress!
The garden reminds me that we don’t have to go very far from home to find inspiration. Most people carry cell phones. If we find something interesting we can capture the image for future reference. Maybe its the colors of a sunset that we can use to select fabrics for a bed quilt. Or a building under construction that inspires an abstract design. So much potential everywhere we look. Its so nice to have these photos available, because when the creative energy strikes we have the inspiration to guide us.
________________________ Join me LIVE – July 31, 2022 – during Global Quilt Connections Sampler platter
I’ll be presenting a 15 minute demo on how to use placement guides when working with fusible applique. Click here to learn more
The Messenger is on another road trip. He arrived in Herndon, VA last week ready to be hung in the Sacred Threads exhibit July 14 – 24, 2002 (just 2 short weeks).
This is the 3rd time my work has been accepted into this very special show. You’ll understand why when you read the description from their website:
“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.
The objective is to create a dignified exhibition of artwork that touches on both spiritual and personal levels all those who view it. We want to share with others the experiences of quilters whose stories may be a source of healing and strength.
Entries to Sacred Thread Exhibitions are juried in by images for purposes of space and suitability of theme only. Works are not judged.”
I want to thank all the volunteers who make this wonderful exhibit happen, without you this exhibit would never be. To have my work selected, is truly a special honor.
If you’re in the area, please find some time to visit: Sacred Threads will be July 14-24, 2022.
Floris United Methodist Church, 13600 Frying Pan Road, Herndon, VA 20171
Mondays – Saturdays: 10am – 5pm
Sundays: 1pm – 4pm
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.
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?