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.  Ir 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 

An End (or is it a beginning?) to the Blues...

So happy to find out I didn't miss the deadline for Amy's Creative Side's Blogger's Quilt Festival!  I have been so busy with my son's fall activities, visiting family, etc. I saw the email but just didn't even have time to process it.

  Of course, I am supposed to be at the Houston Quilt Festival this week, but got sick and had to cancel - didn't care at first because I was so ill, but today I'm feeling better but am now bummed to be here and not there.  Woe is me...the quilts...the fabric...the fun...the fabric...the inspiration....the fabric I am missing - it's just so so tragic. 

Luckily the Blogger's quilt festival is an awesome way to distract myself from what I am missing.  Loads and loads of amazing, creative and beautiful quilts to be inspired by...new blogs to add to my already pretty long list of blogs...shops to peruse from the comfort of my Big Ass chair....something I can do without expending too much energy (although I must say I do LOVE antibiotics - they are quite miraculous, aren't they? I'm feeling much more like myself...) 

The first quilt I am showing is my quilt called Constellation.  It is a modern quilt (says Mrs. Obvious); my own design.  I had this one in my head for a while before I made it - never even made a sketch, just started cutting and sewing and Viola! Here she is.

 I think I may be going through a Blue period - I almost never used blue before but lately it keeps inspiring me...Made with the amazing Cherrywood fabrics - I love them so much.  

At first I didn't want to quilt it - I loved how clean it looked, but I knew I must so I just did lines and really, I'm so glad I did - far from taking away from the piece, it really added depth. 

So thanks so much to Amy for this chance to be at a quilt festival after all.  Can't wait to dive in!

                                                     Blogger's Quilt Festival - AmysCreativeSide.com

Thursday, October 16, 2014


The nature of creativity is so fascinating.  I, for example, love to create – just about anything.  When I’m in a meeting with a piece of paper, I doodle.  If one of my nieces or nephews is playing with Playdoh or Legos I happily join in.  I like to paint – well, anything, really.   I love origami and have made hundreds of paper airplanes with my son (and students) over the years.  I love to cook and bake fancy food for my friends…Then there are the things I’ve thought over the years I would like to learn – to weld, for example (so I can make metal sculptures), how to cut and style hair, woodworking….they all seem interesting and full of possibility.  Oh – and I love to write, too. 

But I’m not serious about any of it.

Right now I’m mostly focused on my textile art and writing, because the reality is, one can only do so much, and I would rather be excellent at a couple of things than be constantly flitting from one thing to another even though they are all so tempting.  And excellence is elusive.  It takes lots and lots of practice.  I want my art to be as good as I can make it, and I’m willing to spend a great deal of time and energy to make it so.

But I’m not serious about it.

So why is it, if the theme of my life seems to be that I’m driven to create, that I don’t consider myself to be a serious creator?  Mostly fear, I suppose.  I don't want to be serious about it because I want it to continue to be completely joy-filled and endlessly amusing, the way it is now. I’m scared that if I take it too seriously all this incredible exhuberance and enthusiasm will go away.   

Too, I’ve rarely been able to force creativity to hit me with an idea on demand.  Instead I just let it happen when it happens, and so far, it’s been working.  I'm a seat-of-the-pants creator; I never know when inspiration is going to hit. Sometimes I’m struck by a bunch of (seemingly unrelated) ideas at once, and I have a marathon “creation” session where I wear all my colored pencils to a nub and use reams and reams of paper and sketch till my fingers ache.  Other times everything I see seems to have the kernel of an idea in it, and I walk around with a sketchbook jotting down sketches and talking to myself like a nutter.  It always seems to just occur. Except when I try to make it happen.  Then, it seems I'm completely pant-less. 

But I admit I’m a little leery of my kind of creating – what if the well runs dry?    I know there are infinite ideas out there, but what if I suddenly lose my ability to channel them?  Is it even possible to dial up an idea on demand?  

Often I’ve read about or heard writers talking about how they force themselves to write every day – whether they feel particularly inspired or not.  It’s the disciplined, serious part of the equation – they aren’t necessarily going to use everything they write, some days the river flows, some days it doesn’t.  But it forces them to at least open up to the creative muse on a daily basis and I’m guessing that just the action of sitting down to the pencil and paper (or whatever tool) can trigger a creative response often enough to keep them pretty rigorous about it.   But can it work with other types of creativity? 

It would seem so.

Recently I discovered a really cool Facebook page developed by brilliant creator Anne Sullivan called “Quilt Design a Day.”  Each day there’s a photo with all its colors separated out - a seed of inspiration.  I love it because it provides regular opportunities to create.   Naturally, not all pictures or colors are going to speak to everyone, and some days you might be too tired or distracted or busy or crabby, and nothing comes or you hate what does, but that’s okay, of course.  The goal isn’t necessarily to actually design something you want to or will make necessarily – it’s just to flex (or develop) your creative muscles.  Another really excellent benefit of this type of forum is that you get to see other people’s creative takes on the design seed, too, which of course can provide further inspiration – a creative Lallapalooza – LOVE it! It seems creativity actually feeds on itself  - the more opportunities it has to express itself, the more it creates!

What this does for me is help me realize now that one doesn’t have to sit (or wander around) waiting to be lit up by a bolt of inspiration; ideas can (and do) come in a more routine, disciplined way, too.  Yeah, they most likely will continue to come at strange and sometimes inopportune moments, too, but I don't have to be afraid to be a little more disciplined in my approach to creating - it's okay to be serious about it - it won't go away or suddenly become UN-fun if I work at it, it actually can and will develop even more - hooray!

That’s what I mean about creativity being so fascinating – not only are its possibilities endless, it can occur in literally infinite ways!  How very wonderful, exciting, lovely and of course, seriously creative.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Does It Really Matter THAT Much?

Just realized I haven't written in a couple of weeks - been too busy working on projects and doing other stuff - you know, life.  I've also been struggling a little with a dilemma; it's rather a good problem to have, but still, there's a decision required at some point soon... and I just haven't been able to make a choice.

Here's the issue: I decided to enter a fabric challenge for Quiltcon 2015, and I have too many ideas!  What I mean is, (and it's a little difficult to admit to this) I'm sort of caught up in the "Which one is most likely to be chosen for the show?" thing.  I've already made one piece and am working on a second, and I even have a third idea I like, but that seems like overkill, doesn't it?   

I don't think it is so good to be fussing over this decision - it's giving it too much importance and focusing too much on the outcome rather than the doing.  In fact, as I write I'm getting the little niggling reminder in my head that nothing matters that much, and I should just make whatever comes to mind and whatever I have time for, and go with my gut and definitely not create with those thoughts in my mind.  In fact, I should be thrilled to have such a boatload of inspiration - it shouldn't be turned into a problem!    (Thanks for that little insight, universe - dilemma dissolved!  Another reason I love writing this blog, I almost always end up with some little kernel of wisdom that has been eluding me.)

This is, apparently, an eternal lesson for me - I definitely enjoy the entire process of creating but near the end of a project I tend to make more stupid mistakes (which makes me irritable) because I'm so anxious to see the finished product.  For example, yesterday I was sewing the binding on a piece and I was so excited to see what it looked like I did a terrible job and ended up having to resew practically the entire thing!   With that in mind I've recently made a little rule for myself that if I am getting crabby I have to walk away because I don't want negative energy to flow into my work - only positive, happy me can work in the studio. It might seem a little woo woo (to quote Carrie Bloomston), but I have seen how one person's negative energy can affect an entire room full of people, and I really want my art to bring joy and pleasure to people.  I think that anger, frustration, and anxiety can literally be transferred to the finished product if the creator is in a bad space.  And I know I don't want anything with that kind of bad juju hanging on the walls of my house or covering my bed - sounds a bit ominous, doesn't it?  

So when I feel this annoyance coming on I start with the self talk: "Okay, Carrie, if you can't enjoy this, just stop right now and go do something else," or "Is it really important to finish this right now?"  or "STOP! NOW."  If that doesn't work, I leave and come back later.  That's what I did yesterday with the binding - I made myself stop even though I really didn't want to, and I came back later and did it calmly and with joy and it was fun and I am really pleased with the outcome.  

Here's what I am thinking: Since creativity is basically a gift, it shouldn't be forced or have too much stress associated with it. That's not to say there are deadlines or other people to please, but they shouldn't cause anxiety and negativity.  Challenges are a part of life, period. They are never going to go away, no matter how good we have it.   It's the attitude with which we approach them - acceptance, calm, even the joy of being alive and having the problem - that's what matters.  I guess I just needed a little reminder of that.