Friday, May 22, 2015

A True Orginal...?

You know how they say that if one has an idea, you can bet that it's already been thought of before.  There are so many people in the world and have been so many people before, that I imagine that's kind of true.  Then how can anything ever be original?

I've thought about this a great deal, because I know that I'm often inspired by other people's ideas, art, the design on a fence or wallpaper or whatever! I am often inspired by something I see in nature, too, Sometimes ideas that seem to come out of the blue are actually from somewhere I've been or something I've seen but I don't remember it consciously.  So when we talk about original design, I've come up with the following. Original design is something you didn't copy exactly from something else - a pattern, for example.  Although it may have been inspired in an obvious way by something else, you aren't just copying what's been done before in that you are creating it in a different medium, say from a painting to a quilt.

This piece, called "Magnetism," is an original design that came from an art deco design I saw.  I sketched the design, which was metallic against white, but as I started turning it into a quilt it morphed quickly into something quite different.  I actually blogged about this piece earlier, because I spent a lot of time getting it just right - I even had to take out a lot of the quilting I had done once I realized it didn't fit at all with the sensibility of the piece!  (See the blog titled "When is a Failure not a FAIL if you're interested.)

Anyway, the final result of all the planning, thinking, doing, ripping is this:

I definitely put a lot into this piece, but it was worth it, as I am so satisfied with the outcome now.  It's a testament to how much I wanted this piece to turn out that I was even rather zen during all the processes of changing and fiddling that needed to be done on it!  I made a table runner with the rejected squares that my little kitten Angus loves to sleep upon.

Good thing he matches, otherwise I don't know if I'd let him stay!

I'm entering it into Amy's Blogger's Quilt Festival  in - you guessed it - the original design category.

                                                   Blogger’s Quilt Festival – Housekeeping

.  My thanks to Amy of Amy's Creative Side for her hard work and willingness to take so much time to put this together.  Can't wait to see all the beautiful creativity in the festival!!

Almost Missed the Deadline!

Oh gosh, I've been so consumed with life that I almost missed the Blogger's Quilt Festival from Amy's Creative Side!  I even saved up a couple of quilts I wanted to enter, but if Amy hadn't sent that last chance notice, I would have missed it, and been so bummed.  Still, I can always look at and be inspired by all the entries even if I hadn't gotten
a chance to enter.  However, I'm going to throw a couple of entries in, just because.    Here's the first one:  It's called Drops of Jupiter.

This piece was inspired by a friend's child's Op art piece that he made in a summer camp last summer.  He was proudly showing me his piece and naturally I got an idea from it.  His piece was a drawing, with his hand, but naturally,  being the circular woman I am I turned to circles.  I had the drawing but it wasn't until I saw all these cool fabrics that I really got excited about the piece.

This reminds me of how drops of water magnify what is beneath them.  I quilted the spheres to look like Jupiter, and made parallel wavy lines over the rest of the piece.  I didn't want to add too much to the piece with the quilting, because I think the fabrics are what shines here, so I used white thread.   I so enjoyed doing this and I would like to make another at some point, using the same idea of displaced shapes, but with an entirely different fabric/style.

Sigh.  Now I just need some time to spend in my studio...

Once again, big thanks to Amy at Amy's Creative Side for conceiving of and doing all the work to make this fun, inspiring festival happen.

                                                 Blogger’s Quilt Festival – Housekeeping

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The 'War of the Thistles' and Other Distractions

I have the great fortune to live on a beautiful cattle ranch in the Texas Hill Country. 

Happy pastures full of grass means contented, happy cows!

  My father has spent forty-five years trying to return the land as much as possible to its natural state. This means that every spring we have the "War of the Thistles," where I go out daily through the fields with a special hoe (designed by dear old Dad) and seek out the lairs of the dreaded thistles that threaten to take over and infest our lands with more of their kind, crowding out the native grasses we so lovingly protect.  I actually really enjoy it because I love walking, I love being outside, and I prefer it to spraying chemicals all over the place. Now I realize the relative futility of the thing - there's no way we can beat the things entirely. However, we can keep them hidden in the dark labyrinths of uncut, ungrazed forests of trees like the evil hydras they are. 

You may see a beautiful, majestic plant, but to me it is evil Medusa and her monstrous sisters trying to take over my peaceful, pastoral world!

A friend of mine recently went to a ranch where she noted to the rancher that she didn't see any thistles.  He replied that he did have some, but he didn't worry about them; that if you have enough grass the thistles can't take over.  Now, we have a ton of grass and I'm not entirely convinced - those thistles are clever and extremely prolific.  I've fought with patches of  hundreds of them at a time (we'll call those battles a draw) and we've been warring with them for years and still they keep insinuating themselves back into the mix.  So I'm not gonna just sit back and take the chance that they might not actually take over my beautiful ranch, no siree - I've seen it happen to unwitting fools who don't pay attention to their land and it's NOT PRETTY!  It's devastation - I mean, acres and acres of them and not a lick of grass!  So I'm stickin' with my trusty hoe method as long as I can walk and swing, thank you very much.  I'm doing my best to keep the pastures - well, pastoral.  Happy grass means happy cows, goats, chickens, horses, geese, and of course, happy ranchers...

We've had a magnificent spring this year, too.  There's been lots of rain, bringing tons of breathtaking wildflowers...acres of grasses swaying in the wind...and also lots and lots of these evil, powerful, growing-genius, WEEDS!  Anyway, I try to spend only a couple hours per day on it, maximum, but it is definitely a daily time suck.

Another thing that has consumed a large amount of the last couple of months is that my husband and I have been working on some projects which  have involved not only a lot of computer and phone work, but a lot of driving around and meetings.  I'm quite excited about them, yes, but still, they only have allowed me a couple of hours here and there to create.

And finally, my son is graduating from high school this year, and there's always so much to do during the spring, school-wise, anyway.  But this year there are way more awards ceremonies, concerts, meetings, etc. than ever.  And I admit, I don't want to miss a thing, because he's going to school a thousand miles away next year. And I will miss him a great deal.

For the above reasons, I really haven't had much time in my studio in the last month, which is okay I suppose; I've been truly obsessed with creating for almost two years.  I've had idea after idea - last year I started and completed something like twenty-two (or more) projects , all my own designs, all completely done by yours truly.  I was a busy, busy bee.  And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

But since I've been away for a few weeks, with just a snatched hour here and there, I seem to have lost my Mojo.  I'm not feeling particularly creative, and I'm questioning the purpose of all this creative frenzy I've been in for two years.  I mean, yes, I certainly created a lot of stuff, but was it time well spent?  I'm wondering.

And I'm a little grouchy about it, too.  Yesterday, for example, I was most unproductive.  I actually could have been in my studio working, but I didn't do it. Instead I spent hours reading a book (which wasn't actually all that good although I got a kind of adolescent enjoyment out of it), I played with our new adorable kitten, Angus MacKitty, and, oh yes, I actually cooked dinner (a rare occurrence around here these days as I've discovered recently that after twenty five years of doing so, I'm just not all that into cooking dinner every single night anymore).  Those things - and running some errands -  are about the extent of my day's accomplishments.  

I wouldn't say I was depressed, but I was definitely un-motivated.   I mean, it's not as though I have a bunch of deadlines I need to meet, or people waiting for me to write my blog or to see what I've created.  I've been creating because I've been driven to do it by some big creative force coming through me; and yes, it's brought me joy and I've learned soo much. But, too -  I admit I have had hopes that something more will grow from it, too.  I almost feel arrogant admitting that - I follow lots of blogs, and I know how many incredibly talented, creative people are out there...but I've hoped and believed there is room for more.  So far, not much has happened on that front.

So suddenly I'm having a "crisis of creating."  I've really tried to create with no real outcome in mind, just let it flow through me and enjoy the moment, but admittedly there have always been goals lurking in the back of my mind.   I haven't really known how to pursue them, and I haven't been sure I should - I sort of figured if it was meant to be, it would happen.  I've been walking on this path, just letting it take me -  wherever.  And I've liked where it's taken me.  Until now.  Now I'm wondering if it's just going to meander around forever, never leading anywhere.   And if that's the case, do I need to continue on it, forge a new path, or get off the path entirely?

To my mind, this is a seriously spiritual question.   Whether I even should want this creative journey to go in a certain direction at all.  And if it's okay to want it to lead somewhere, should I set short and long term goals and list ideas of ways to reach them and then take actions to reach the goals?   Or should I just keep doing what I'm doing, letting the ideas flow, sharing thoughts and ideas on this blog whenever, and not worry about where it's leading at all?   

When I examine this question, I come up with the following.  

What I know for sure: 

  •  Creating brings me joy.  
  • I'm on a creative journey.  
  • I'm a teacher. 
  • I want to share it.  
  • I will continue to create.

What I would like to have happen: 

  •  I would like to teach quilting classes. 
  •  I would like to publish patterns. 
  •  I would like to write a quilting book (or books.).  

When I ask myself the question of why I want the above, in complete honesty I come up with these answers:

  •  I get so much joy from it and I believe other people would also get joy from it as well. 
  •  Because it's coming through me so strongly, because the drive is so great, I hope - I feel that it has a purpose other than self-discovery or self-actualization or my needing validation. 
  •  I think , I really do, that it wants to be shared.
  •  And (in the spirit of total honesty), I want all the time I spend on my art to be worthwhile, and not just for me.  

What I don't want is for it to be ego-driven.  I don't want to be striving too hard or feel disappointed if I don't reach those goals.  

So after exploring all this quite publicly and in writing, I guess this is how I will proceed.  I will gently try to go in a certain direction, and I will set aside time regularly to set goals and take steps toward reaching the goals.  I will continue to create as it comes to me but - and this is the challenge - I will NOT be focused on the outcomes.  I will be accepting of and contented with whatever does (or doesn't) happen.  It's not a particularly easy path, because I DO want those things to happen, I'm not gonna lie, but I know that I need to be just as joyful even if they don't, and not spend an entire day reading adolescent fiction or watching television and stuffing my face every time something doesn't happen.  

So, dear readers, stick with me while I'm on this ride, will ya?  I'm pretty sure I'm gonna need lots of advice, some reminding, and yes - an occasional kick in the ass.  

It'll be challenging, of that I'm certain.  I won't promise not to screw up,  but I can promise complete honesty and an open heart.  

Here goes nuthin'...

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Little Time to Sew, but Something to Show WIP Wednesday

In the past two weeks, I've only had an hour here or there to sew, which, I've discovered, I don't like.  But we've just been super busy with other stuff around here so that's the way it goes.  Still, I have a couple of projects to share today.  First I am almost finished with my Magnetism Table Runner.  I had made extra squares when making the original quilt and I decided to turn them into a table runner, or rather, if you like, a Skinny Magnetism Quilt.  I put it on my table, and I thought it was fun there:

and then I put it on the narrow wall by my stairs, and I also like it there (although the stairs are on the right and I didn't include them in the picture...oops):

It just needs a little tweaking and then it will be finished.

Second, I will share a project I'm really excited about - a new design I'm calling Triangle Jungle.  It features Black and Whites and Botanicals by Marcia Derse, and Poems from Pebbles from Malka Dubrowsky - two lines I'm gaga for and I almost think were created for each other.  It's only the top but I'm pretty jazzed with it:

I had an absolute blast making this, despite the challenges.  I'm planning to make a pattern for it soon. 

Finally, a finish - I'm done with the tree and here it is:  

I admit I'm quite please with this piece, too.  It turned out so well I plan to make a couple more using different tree shapes and backgrounds.  I'm crazy about that batik fabric I used to frame it - it comes in several different color palettes and I think it's perfect for this tree.  I didn't even quilt the frame, because I like that it looks like a frame...

That's it for me this week - can't wait to take a peek at what all ya'll are doing out there!  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Start and a Finish, of Sorts - WIP Wednesday

Wow - can't believe it's been an entire week since I last posted.  I've been immersed in a new design this week.  I got the idea on Friday and I already have a finished top!  But I'm not quite ready to share it, yet.  So here are a couple of other things I've been toying with in the last week or so:

First, none other than Lorna MacMahon's Zany Zebras!  

These are for a pillow I'm making for my cousin's daughter.  Obviously they are unfinished, but I enjoyed making them.  I have to say I'm pretty impressed with Lorna's designs - they are challenging!  And cleverly done.  I made them in pink as you can see.  I'm going to make a big floor pillow with Harper's name on it.  I think they're super cute!  Gonna do the elephants next, for her twin brother.  

Also, I made a throw pillow cover , too.  It was completely improv but I'm pretty happy with it. It features Marcia Derse and Malka Dubrawsky prints that I got at Quiltcon.  They are wicked cool prints that go together so well I almost think were made for each other...

The piece I finished also features both these fabrics, and I was originally going to put this on the back, but now I think it is perfect for a pillow.  It needs a little tweaking, too - as I accidentally flipped one of the borders and one of the corners is just a little too small (I wanted them wonky but this is a little bit much!) but even if I leave it the way it is, I like it. I'm trying to decide if I should quilt it or just add a back and make it a regular pillow.  I'm thinking that white space needs to be filled.  

Last, I've finally come back to visit my tree.  And I'm so glad I did.  I started experimenting with canopies and this is what I ended up with:

I  considered leaving it leaf-less, but I was staring out my studio window at one of the Post Oaks with its new green leaves and they looked like blobs of different colors as they danced in the wind.  Of course it's exaggerated, like the rest of the piece but I'm diggin' on those blobs of green and I think it adds a lot to the piece.  I'm just appliqueing them on.  I seriously love this tree - those aboriginal fabrics make me so darn happy.  I'm waiting for my next design inspiration for them - I adore working with them and I have a lot of it left!

So that's me for this Wednesday.  Can't wait to see what everyone else is doing - it's so fun, thanks Lorna at Sew Fresh and Lee at Freshly Pieced for doing the linkys!  

Oh and I wanted to add the finish of the hexie baby quilt I made for my temporary daughter's (my exchange student) new baby bro:

It's so fun!  and I have to say I'm pretty gaga about the binding - it turned out perfectly!  Don't have a photo of the back, but wish I did -it's super cool, super soft yellow and gray chevron MINKY!  I also want to keep it for myself...but I made if for the baby, so off it goes.  Boo hoo...NOT!  Because I have a bunch of hexies from the same line left, so I CAN make another.  Hooray, Huzzah and all that - lucky me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I'm working on it...WIP Wednesday

The fabric arrived Monday so I was able to complete the piece I've been working on - I'm calling it Criss Cross (for sadly obvious reason). 

 I'm not sure how much I love it.  I mean - I like it, but I'm not in love yet - I think it still needs something...but what?

I tried putting some items in the middle to see if they added the missing element - some small colored square,

 some x's..

but they weren't right.  I thought about slashing through the white with some pops of color, but that is wrong for the feel of the piece and it doesn't need any more thin lines - and no circles, more's the pity for this circle fiend...I'm not usually a fan of borders, but I'm seriously considering a border for this one.  I have an idea, but I'm not sure I have enough of the necessary fabric for it.  

One thing I'm kind of jazzed about and want to share is how I did the corners.  I wish I had taken pictures of it, because it was actually kind of silly, but by golly, it worked.  If you'll recall, I laid it out on the diagonal, and sewed it that way.  So I ended up with all these squares of fabric sticking out, and it was pretty shape-less.  I got out the old duct tape (cause I was out of the blue masking tape) and just taped a square around the piece where I wanted the edges to be.  Then I boldly drew around it with a pencil (there were some empty spots where the corners were of course) and I literally hacked off the extra, outside the duct tape - Crazy?  Yes!

But here's the part I really like:  the extra parts just happened to be rough triangles, so - yep, you guessed it - I used them for the corners that were missing!  I just sewed and flipped. And it worked!  Then I taped the thing to the floor and tried to mark it again, but I realized I was just going to have to use the rotary cutter and try to square it up.  And by darned - that worked, too!  It's kind of thrown up on the wall so it looks wonky, but it's actually, shockingly, STRAIGHT.  I was thrilled that I didn't have to use any more of the precious Crosshatch fabric (of which I've already used three yards and which I need for my son's college bound quilt) for the corners.  And I liked that it worked - made me kinda happy that doing such a nutty thing actually worked.   

So "Bully for me!"  on this crazy improv.  I'm just cutting and sewing and its coming together. However, it is kind of bias-y, so I have to be careful if I do add borders, but what the heck - I'm feeling lucky, so I'm just gonna continue to fly along and see what happens.  

Tally Ho! (oops, mixed those darn metaphors again - sorry.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Up a Creek, Without a Net

Oops - ran out of fabric today.  I guess that's what happens when one just starts cutting up and sewing fabric together.  The thing is, I had two yards and it wasn't enough.  Yikes that's a lot! I had originally bought it to use on a quilt I want to make for my son, Jonas, who is graduating and going to college this year, but then I decided to use it on my current project and like I said - I used it all up.  And dammit, I had plans for it! Well - I use the term plan loosely here because although I have some fabrics grouped together I don't actually have a PLAN plan, just a few idea plans.  

Which brings me to today's topic, improvisation.  I got the idea to write about this from the brilliant Marianne at The Quilting Edge, who shared (one of) her processes of improv creating which I found quite fascinating, especially given the development of the above project. (Which I shall expand upon, dear reader, momentarily.)  In fact, when I think about it I believe that most of what I do is improvisation, of a sort.  Here's the way it often works:  I get an idea (usually at some strange or inopportune time - often just as I'm drifting off to sleep) and I sketch it.  

Now you might wonder where I go to get my ideas. I guess I go to the usual place - 

Where is that?

The truth is, I don't really know all the time, specifically.  It's rather strange - It's happened before that I got a whole bunch of ideas all at once - like I'm channeling the universal creativity.  When that lightning strikes I spend a lot of time sketching crazily - can't get them on paper fast enough.  (By the way, they're not necessarily all GOOD ideas...I'm just sayin') 

Other times my brain's offline and I have to go looking - through books, magazines, or catalogs(all kinds), or staring at artwork (all kinds).  I've also gotten ideas from books I've read, dreams, graphics on a commercial, from hikes or trips I've taken, from songs - you name it. 

Sometimes inspiration or ideas actually come from the fabrics themselves.  If I have a group of fabrics I really like and I want to use I'll pin them up on the wall behind my computer. That way I spend a lot of time staring at them and if I'm lucky I might come up with something. 

I keep notebooks pretty much everywhere, just in case.  I'm thinking that for every eight or ten ideas only a few are worth pursuing.  But I do sketch most of them, because I've had it happen that a bad idea can turn into a good one with a little time and tweaking.

Here's how the one I'm currently working on developed: Last week while sewing with my friends I was a little at loose ends, so I began to willy-nilly cut a bunch of coordinating fabrics into one and a half inch strips.  I wanted to do something "architectural" and I thought I just might need some strips.   When I finished cutting all the fabrics up, I was like 'Oh crap!  I have no idea what I'm going to do with these things - have I just wasted a bunch of fabric?'   But it was time to go home, so I began to pack up all my stupid strips, rather annoyed at myself. I mean - what the hell was I going to do with them, really! 

All of a sudden, I got an idea.  But I had to hurry off to some deal I had to go to for some - thing - I don't remember what - but I do remember I all I wanted to do was go home and sketch my idea before I forgot it.  Luckily it lurked around in my brain so when I got home I could still remember it enough to make a sketch.  I don't know if it's actually architectural but I thought it was kind of cool.  

But geez - how to do it?  I had no measurements whatsoever - no idea how big the thing was going to be, no idea how to construct it...or if it was going to look good with the fabrics and ideas I had.  The only thing I did have was a design wall and lots of one and a half inch strips..  I thought "What the heck, I'll just start sewing."  So I did.  I cut up and sewed strips together and put them up in the general direction of the sketch on the wall, and then sewed some more, until I had this:

I kinda liked it.  But now O Shit I had to sew it together if I wanted to continue, which I did. The question was, how?  In what order? I did try to go back and measure, hence the numbers on the sketch,  but it really wasn't helpful at all so I gave up on it.  (You're starting to see the difficulties challenges of this type of creating, I'm guessing)  I went to bed at that point.  I was all 'figured' out.

Anyway, I managed to get a sort of rhythm going the next day, and I've been working on it enthusiastically for over a week.  Until today, that is, when I ran out of background fabric. 

'And why did this happen, Carrie?' asks my disapproving Auntie Superego.   'UH - DUH, Auntie Ego - it's because I had no idea how much fabric I would need...because I had no idea what I was going to do...because I HAD NO PLAN!  So what's your point?'  (Luckily I was able to order more of the background fabric; I say luckily because it is that popular Crosshatch pattern by Riley Blake which is getting difficult to come by. It really is a great background fabric...I do get rather attached; at times I've kind of wished I'd bought an entire bolt of of certain neutrals just so I can use them whenever I want...but I digress.)
Naturally, the piece is on hold until more fabric arrives.  I'm not entirely sure how it will end up at this point, but so far, I like it, and I'll stare at it until I can work on it again.  And while I wait, I'm going to start my next project.  And no, I don't have a plan for it, either - just a sketch.   

I guess it all comes down to the fact that I really just like the freedom of recklessly creating, even though it may be a path fraught with - well, I think of them as shit piles, like the cows constantly leave in the road right where the tires go, but let's be genteel instead and call them obstacles.   If some part (let's face it - a large part) of me didn't like it this way, I'm sure I would use the fabric calculators or computer drawing tools that others use with such amazing results.  I'm not saying I never will use them, by the way.  I think - no I KNOW - they are fabulous and I will learn to use them some day, I'm certain.

It's just that for now, I'm having so much fun up here dancing on the wire - despite the - er - obstacles below.