Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Have Been Obsessed!

Last week I started a new piece, and I have literally been obsessed with it for seven days and nights.   I'm not exaggerating - I actually woke up in the middle of the night Sunday and couldn't sleep for thinking about it, so I got up and worked on it for three hours.  Last night I planned to go to bed early because I was so exhausted, but I went back to my studio after dinner at around 7:30 instead, thinking I just had two more rows to sew and then I  could rest happy in the knowledge that I had finished and I would still get to bed early.  I think I got it together by 8:30 or so - great!  I was still on track to go to bed early EXCEPT....I wasn't happy with the offset effect (unfortunately I was too delirious, so I didn't think to take a picture) but instead of a half-frame, which was what I wanted, I had a cross in the corner, which I didn't care for at all.  I asked my husband to come up and look at it, and expressed my dissatisfaction.  He said "I like it the way it is," but let's face it, he was lying because he just wanted me to GET OVER IT!  But I couldn't.  It just wasn't right.  So at 9:00, after getting prepped for bed, I went back into my studio.  I decided to just rip off the bottom rows (two of them), flip them and then I was certain I could relax and go to sleep.

But once I got there I couldn't stop  - I was too hyped up - I just knew I wouldn't be able to sleep if I went to bed then, I needed to see what it was going to look like...I decided to only figure out the changes I needed to make - what squares I needed to add or take off, etc.  Naturally, because I am spatially challenged, it took me over an hour. All that was left was to sew it all together.  I really, really wanted to, but it was 11:30 and I was cross-eyed tired and making pretty much a mistake every two minutes, so I grudgingly went to bed.  I was able to fall asleep serenely knowing that it was all laid out and all I had to do was put it together.

Of course I woke up in the middle of the night and guess what I couldn't stop thinking about?  I tried counting sheep, but they turned into rainbow colored squares!  I was awake at least two hours, during which time I really really wanted to get up and finish, but I didn't because I knew I was too tired to do a good job sewing.

At 6:00 am this morning, however, I popped up to pee, and the squares danced in my head, so I gave in and finally, finally got the thing put together.  Hooray.  I love it now and

I can't wait to start quilting it....

Friday, December 12, 2014

These are not my pillows....

But I wish they were....

They were made to go with a wall hanging and the bed runner that is behind them in the photo.  

I am not a pillow maker - especially round pillows. So when someone asked me to make round pillows with piping, I almost said no.  But I'm so glad I didn't, because I learned a lot, and I enjoyed making them, and they turned out great.  

It just goes to show, one should try new things sometimes. Because you never know what you can do until you try it. .

However, sometimes one should know when to quit!

This morning, I set a goal for myself.  Finish the fourth pillow (it didn't make the picture), exercise, go to town and run errands, complete five more rows on my current project and write at least one of the blogs that has been running around in my head all week before we go to a play tonight. (At the time, it seemed pretty doable).

It started out to be a great day.  I was humming along, making great progress.  Then I hit a little snag... I really, really lost my cool. Again.

 I won't go into my ridiculous behavior, but allow me to set the table:  I've been quite excited to get going on this piece.  I finally got all the pieces organized and was ready to start sewing on Thursday.  I had a few little hitches, and I was a little crabby, but I was able to calm down, figure it out, and get five whole rows done.  And I loved it - it was looking so fabulous!  I decided because it is kind of an intense project that I would only sew five rows a day together (there are 21 rows in all).  That way I would not get bored or frustrated.  

Today, after finishing the pillow, I could hardly wait to get started on my five more rows.  The first three rows went together like a dream.  I was really enjoying myself, and I really thought I had gotten the hang of the pattern.  So much so, that when I got to the fourth row, I didn't really look at my sketch, I just pulled the squares and started sewing. What a disaster.  I had sewn them all backwards (or so I thought). 

Looking at my phone and seeing time was running out and I hadn't met my five-row goal, I got pretty annoyed and started muttering (and let's be honest, cursing) and berating myself. I should have stopped sewing right then. I thought about it, but I didn't.  I tried to calm myself down while I ripped every single one apart, but I was getting more and more annoyed.  Still, I kept on sewing,making more mistakes, getting more and more upset.  In the back of my head I kept saying,"Just stop, just stop - so what if you don't meet your goal," but I didn't stop.  

Finally I was able to get the whole fourth row completed.  Hooray - I was going to make my goal after all!  Happy and calm again, I carefully matched up the seams and sewed it to my already completed three rows.   And yep, I had sewed it completely upside down!  All the squares I thought I had sewn wrong in the first place were actually right. I hadn't consulted my sketch and so I did it all wrong.  Needless to say, I was not a picture of calm happy quilter at this moment.  (I forgot my husband was downstairs, so please don't ask him what i said - PLEASE!)  Suddenly I realized how ridiculous I was being and I started to laugh.  Who cares if I don't meet my goal, really nothing matters that much.  In the calm after my storm I made myself take it all apart, and then I ironed the squares and put them on my machine for next time.

I admit, I feel pretty discouraged that I still lose my cool like that.  I have been striving and striving to NOT do it - meditating, praying, exercising but I still do, and it makes me feel so - deflated.  Maybe that's why I feel compelled to confess it so publicly on this blog.  I know no one is perfect, and believe me, I'm not striving for perfection.  I just want to NOT lose my temper.  I want to listen to the voice in the back of my head when it waves it arms and screams "WARNING! WARNING!"  

Alas, today's experience tells me I still have a quite far to go before I reach that goal.  If I ever do.  But I'm going to forgive myself; I'm not going to use the fact that I feel like I'm never going to be the way I want to be as an excuse to stop trying, even in the face of extreme frustration. I'm going to try again and again and again...and again, if I have to.  

Because I forgot for a few moments that it's all about the journey, not the destination. (Guess the universe thought I needed some reminding.)   

I heard this quote by Ariana Huffington.  She said "Mistakes are not the opposite of success. They are just steps along the way."  

I guess I should be grateful for what happened today - is was an opportunity.  I missed it, but thanks anyway, universe!  Hopefully I won't miss it next time...

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hey Jude - Let it Be!

Have no fear of perfection...you'll never reach it. 
                                                                     Salvador Dali

Just reading a blog by Amy Garro at 13 Spools talking about a mistake in a quilt.  It made me think,,,I don't believe there is a piece I've ever made that doesn't have a flaw in it somewhere! 

Not that I'm bragging, of course.  

My goal, absolutely, is perfection.  But so far, I've never been able to attain it.  And somewhere along the line I realized I would have to settle for the aspiration of perfection, but the reality of not-so perfect.

For example, yesterday I was finishing a commissioned piece that so far had gone really well.  I literally was putting the final touches on the quilting, and I could not get the thread to cooperate (metallic thread, enough said).  It didn't look horrible, but it wasn't - well, perfect.   After pulling out the stitching three times in one area, it was becoming clear to me that perhaps I was setting my standard too high.  I took a few deep breaths and decided that if the next time, if it was good enough, I would just leave it.  Unable to resist trying to fix it, I tweaked** it one more time, but (this is the key, here) I had already accepted that it wasn't going to be exactly the way I wanted it to be... as you may have guessed, this time, it worked just fine and it looked exactly the way I wanted! 

Wish I could say this happens all the time, but nope, it doesn't.  Sometimes, I really do have to live with imperfections in my work  -  because, Man! these things are handmade.  Most of the time I'm flying blind, I have an idea and a sketch and if there's a pattern I made it myself and well - I'm not a machine, I'm a person, and boy oh boy am I imperfect!

Don't get me wrong I still (desperately, intensely) want to make my quilts perfectly!  I mean, everyone else seems to, why can't I?  The answer, silly me, is that everyone else doesn't!  I just don't see their mistakes the way I see mine.  Or sometimes I do see mistakes, but it doesn't negate the beauty of the piece or even really impact it at all - they're just there. Or maybe they have made mistakes but have been able to "fix" them so they aren't noticeable. (I was absolutely liberated one time by my friend Karen Kemp telling me about some class she took where the lady, a reknowned artist, actually said she uses SHARPIE markers to correct mistakes.  Yep, your eyes are not deceiving you, I said SHARPIE!)  

Of course, my favorite mistakes are the ones that actually enhance the beauty, as in "Oops - I accidentally made this piece even better!"    It does happen on occasion, you know, what a boon!  That's one we pretend we did on purpose. ( wink, wink) "I meant to do that!". 

Having said this, I think everyone has a certain line of what is acceptable and what isn't. After re-doing the binding on one of my favorite pieces recently I somehow ended up with a bare spot where the batting wasn't covered on the back!  EEKS!  This is completely unacceptable.  I had to take the entire area of binding off (again) and add a piece of fabric to cover it.  Excellently, I don't think one could tell at all now where that happened, and I'm sure not telling, but the point is, it had to be fixed.  On a different piece, there is some very small quilting that didn't turn out quite the way I wanted it to, but I left it in.   It's white on white, and really not all that noticeable and it would damage the fabric to try to pull it out and I just don't want to, either.   Does it irk me?  I would be lying if I said it didn't, a little.  But the goal is to Let. It. Be.

I have a pact with myself that I will do everything I can possibly do to make my work as perfect as I possibly can. If there is something I think I can fix, I will try to do so. And - here's the challenge for me - I strive to be calm and positive while I do it, too, while I do it. It takes a lot of self talk sometimes.  It goes something like  this:

"OH &^#($@!  What the *&##%!?  How did that happen?"

"Remember Carrie, you are trying to do the best you can do - it's worth it to try to figure this out, now DON'T GET FRUSTRATED CARRIE!   If you are getting mad you have to stop NOW!"  

"But," whines my mind's I,  "I don't waaanna to stop!"

"Okay, then you will CALM DOWN!" (deep breath, deep breath) 

"Alright I'm calm, let's do this, bi-atch!"

As I've said before, I want to create with a happy, positive vibe with my art, and I believe that comes not just from the design, but from the attitude of the creator, too - to bring joy, it must be created with joy.  And that includes when something goes wrong, too.  (Which happens to me pretty much daily.)

So not only is my art a daily practice for being present, it's also a daily practice in tolerance. Because sometimes we can fix mistakes, sometimes we can cover them up and sometimes...well, sometimes, we just have to --


Here is a photo of the one with the bald spot - close up, even.  I think it's fine, except for the stuff sticking to the back of the quilt - need to get out my lint brush, methinks!

**I had been using clear monofilament as the bobbin thread, thinking it was the same consistency as the metallic, but I switched back to quilting thread and Viola!  Perfect stitches!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Schizophrenic Quilter?

Sometimes I wonder if I have a split personality.  If I look at my work, it doesn't seem to follow any sort of style at all.  For example, I just finished this quilt top:

It was inspired by a mid-century modern design I saw.  I used brighter modern fabrics, but interestingly, the result still fits in with the overall feel of the era.  I’m really crazy about mid-century art – there’s something about the colors and shapes and sensibility that really appeals to me.  They are optimistic, I think, and kind of space age-y too. 

Then there’s this piece, Aurora Borealis:

This piece has a completely different feel, to me.  It’s far less fussy.  But I love it too.  I blogged about it last week – it was inspired by some photos I saw of the Northern Lights in Iceland. 

Then too, there is this:

This one is an improvised piece that I call “Stones From the River. To me, it is completely different from the others in sensibility, color – it has a natural kind of feel to it.  I absolutely love it, and actually made it for myself – I’m nuts about that fabric that is in the border – wish I’d bought an entire bolt of it. 
Here’s yet another organic-type of piece:

They are inspired by Andy Goldsworthy’s art.  I guess these are similar, now that I look at them. 

Here’s one that has a different feel..  It’s called Glacier:

Finally, here are a couple that are sort of graphic:


One thing you might notice is that there are very few quilts (actually none in this gallery, come to think of it)  that have repeated blocks.  I’ve made a number of those, I must say - mostly other people’s patterns.  It’s not that I’m against them, but when I get inspired, it just doesn’t seem to come in blocks.  So be it.

This is a small sample of my work, of course. There are many more around including several that use African fabrics which I can't get to the pictures of at the moment (dead computer) but I think these illustrate my point.  I'd tell you to go check out my webpage, but I still don't have a web page complete (STILL!  And yes I still hate computer stuff and I just can’t figure out my site on godaddy.com.  I’m seriously considering just scrapping it and finding something a little more user-friendly…)  Once I do, I am hoping to have a photo of every piece I've ever made to look at, just for fun and to see if there is any progression at all.  I don't think there is, but maybe I just can't see it.

I designed and made them all, really I did.  But they all seem so very different from each other to me.  I have to wonder if a person would be able to tell, looking at my work, that it is mine.  If I didn't know they were made my one person, I don't know if I would believe it.  Not that I care, really.  It’s just interesting to explore.  I mean – who the hell am I?  I don’t know if you could tell by looking at my art – it seems to me like it’s all over the place.  One might think I’m a little nutty…but it’s like I said – I just like a lot of different stuff!  Surely that’s a good thing…and I don’t really mind that I don’t have a signature style, not where art is concerned.  I just sort of go with the flow.  So far I've really enjoyed where it takes me, so why not?   

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It's Simple, Really

Things are a little more back to normal around here, and I have finally gotten back to work. Last week I created a piece I'm calling Aurora Borealis. 

It's a ridiculously simple piece, inspired by some pictures of the Northern Lights in Iceland. Even though it isn't technically complicated, I feel like there is still a strong visual impact with the different shades of blue against the gray and the quilted wavy lines which represent the "bent" light. 

I really like it (although it isn't completed yet - I ran out of the gray so I'm waiting to get some more for the binding).  I could easily see this hanging in someone's office, kitchen, dining room, bedroom....for me it evokes a certain feeling - peaceful yet energized - that I like.  There's also, to me, a kind of "hip" vibe I get from it, which I also like.  But I must admit I feel a little defensive about it, because it is so simple.  I feel like I have to defend it, to point out that it is worthwhile, even though it wasn't difficult to construct, to justify its creation, as it were.

All of which makes me wonder a little bit.  What is it about art that makes it "good" art?  Is it the idea, the feelings or vibe it brings out or projects, or the technical skill behind the making?  I've been looking in different places for inspiration lately, and something I have noticed is that when something appeals to me, it isn't necessarily because I realize it was obviously a time-consuming, skill-developing, painstaking something to make (although I can certainly appreciate that about something).  It may be that I have a strong visceral response to it, or I can see the thought process that's behind it, or maybe it's the use of color, or a graphic element I appreciate.  Sometimes, there's just an elegance or simplicity to which I respond in it.  Or it's just, plain, beautiful!  To me, there are so many ways that not just a piece of art, but anything - even a beautiful line on a pot, or the movement of water as it flows from my refrigerator into my glass, or words strung together on a page can be breathtaking. mesmerizing...inspiring.  

Take Alexander Calder, for example.  He's definitely one of my favorite artists.  I pretty much love everything I see of his - paintings, wire art, sculpture...there's something about his sensibility that really speaks to me. Just looking at his mobiles makes me catch my breath with joy. But most of it is visually simple, really.  I'm not saying it was technically easy to make; I wouldn't know or presume, but there is a simple elegance about it - yes it makes a statement, but it's not yelling at you, it's dancing...whispering... singing...flying...ahhh - I'm swooning just thinking about it!

Here are some of my favorites for you to enjoy, too!

People have all sorts of reasons for creating art, I know - sometimes it's a social or cultural statement, sometimes the purpose is to expel personal demons, to wake people up, to express anger and frustration, to effect change, or just to document the beauty they see. Well, I know my purpose.  My art is created with breathless joy, excitement and anticipation which hopefully spills over into the creation itself and into everyone who sees it. At least, that's my goal.**

I know, it sounds almost putridly goody-goody, but I don't care!  I really want my art to spread joy to the people who see it.  I want them to get a positive, peaceful, happy, exhuberant or "cool" feeling whenever they look at it.  I want them to swoon with joy, too.  

Which leads me to this thought about myself as an artist:  While I like to push myself, skill-wise, (which I constantly do because I'm mostly self-taught and I don't know any of the shortcuts or simple ways to do things), I also sometimes just have a feeling I want to express, or colors I want to use together, or something really graphic I want to create just because it makes me happy to look at it.  It may not end up being a challenge to make, skill-wise, but still, it was my idea (in that it came from the universe through me), I  took the time to create it from my vision, and well, isn't that enough to make it worthy or "good?"

I realize that there are as many different ways to respond to creativity as there are people on the planet, and I'm not only cool with that, I think it's wonderful, fantastic, lovely. But -  I'm going to try not to feel like I have to justify my creations anymore, be they simple or nail-bitingly complicated.  They come to me from the creative universe, and I'm lucky enough to have the (overwhelming, really) urge and ability to turn them into something others can see and enjoy and respond to as well. I hope with all my being that's the result. It's that simple. Really.  

**In the spirit of full disclosure (especially for the people who live with me or know me well) - sometimes I find myself frustrated and cursing, etc. (as I've shared before) when I'm creating, but I truly strive to keep it to a minimum because I figure that negativity may creep its way into my art.  In fact, I've begun a little discipline with myself; if I'm feeling negative and frustrated I will tell myself I have to walk away right now or let go of it, because I will not create in a negative space.  Usually all I have to do is remind myself of this, because I don't really want to stop working, I just want what I'm doing to work, dammit!  And once I realize this and take a few deep breaths, I can go back to creating with the correct mindset.  If not - well - it's time to do the laundry or clean out the car or exercise or do something infinitely less appealing than creating art.)

Friday, October 31, 2014

One More for the Blogger's Quilt Festival...

Okay, I've been working a lot lately, so I have a number of finished pieces to share.  I'm going to add one more to the Blogger's Quilt Festival sponsored by Amy's Creative Side, just because...

This quilt is called "Read Between the Lines" and it is, as I'm sure many of you will recognize, made with Carrie Bloomston's amazing collection of fabrics called Collage.   I'm so crazy about these fabrics!  I think I could have designed ten (or more) quilts for them  - they are that cool!  The colors, the design - all fabulous!

This is a design I had a sketch of for a while - I'm entering it in the original design category.   
I really love it but warning - it involved a lot of math to figure out!   Luckily I figured it out so others don't have to.  Originally I wanted the lines to be longer/shorter, but the piece would have ended up being really, really long - about ten feet!  As it is, it's pretty large - about 68 (w) x 70 (l), so could be a throw, a bed coverlet or a wall hanging, depending on how one sees/needs it. 

Here is a close-up - love that newspaper fabric!

Stay tuned,  I think I'm going to do a tutorial on it  pretty soon.  It's deceptively simple looking... 

So excited to go look at the other entries now.   this is so exciting - I love seeing all the creativity.  And finding more blogs to follow.  And looking at all the sponsors' sites...Can't think of a downside to this unless it's too much time on my Big Ass Chair...too bad!  I've had strep this week and this is my compensation for not being able to attend the Houston Quilt Festival as planned.  Big butt be damned!  I'll exercise when I feel better...

Thanks Amy for your awesome idea and all your work.

                                                         Blogger's Quilt Festival - AmysCreativeSide.com

Post Script on Disaster Quilt

I don't know if I shared the final product of my almost-disaster quilt. It truly was one of those transformational moments.  I was sure it was just too wonky to save, and I now love it so much I'm entering it in the Blogger's Quilt Fesitval from Amy's Creative Side.

I'm calling it "Earth"  for perhaps obvious reasons:


I washed it (per the amazing Weeks Ringle's advice - not to me personally, but she does it and she is, well - amazing!)  and now it is all crinkly and even more earthy and I love it. 

What saved it was, I think, two things - first, trimming the heck out of the incredibly wonky blocks, and two, the sashing.  I'm not normally a sashing kind of girl, but I must admit I like not only that it saved the quilt - I think it adds something, too.

When I started this piece I admit I was a little arrogant because I figured I had done similar techniques and it would not be difficult.  Let me just say how wrong I was - it kicked my butt! But I'm so glad I persevered because these fabrics are so delicious - I think I want more!  

I'm entering this one in the art quilt category.  Even though it is throw or even bed-sized, it's pretty arty, I think.  I would probably hang it up on the wall because I love looking at it, but like I said, it could be a throw or even go on a bed - that's one of the really great things about quilts - they have so many functions!

Thanks Amy for the festival - it's sew fun and inspiring!

                                                          Blogger's Quilt Festival - AmysCreativeSide.com