Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Is The Zen Quilter an Oxymoron?

When most people think of quilts, they picture of a bunch of sweet old ladies sitting around a giant quilting frame in a church room.  Glasses perched on their noses, they are contentedly bragging about their grandchildren, giggling over some silly shennanigans of their husbands or neighbors, and saying prayers for the less fortunate, all the while adding miniscule stitches to a scrappy quilt made with muted-toned calico fabrics in a traditional double wedding ring or Amish star pattern. 

I am not one of those grandmothers.. First of all, I'm nowhere near being a grandmother (my only son is fourteen).  I've never quilted by hand, I rarely follow a pattern exactly, and I would hardly describe myself as sweet.  Or old.

 But I am a quilter. Oh yes -  and I have the UFOs (unfinished objects), fabric stashes, gadgets, books, ideas and quilting room to prove it.
 However, there is rarely anything muted about the quilts I make - or me. In truth, I'm much more apt to curse than giggle or gossip while quilting. 

It began with a trip to the Houston International Quilt Festival.  I went for the first time as a novice quilter, and I have never been the same since.    As anyone who's ever attended the Houston Quilt show can attest, it's a magical journey into the realm of infinite inspiration. This place makes everyone who goes there want to go home and MAKE something - even if its just an exceptionally good sandwich! 

I had no idea you could do that with fabric!  It literally took my breath away, and I have never looked at "quilting" the same way.

So I make art quilts.  I still sometimes use a pattern, but now I'm at the point where more and more, I want to create my own designs.  I have a lot of ideas, too.  They usually come at the most odd and inopportune moments (like in the middle of my son's out-of-town football game, while having my molars drilled, or even in the middle of a heated discussion about healthcare) so I've learned to always carry paper and pencil everywhere I go.  But as I said, I have only been quilting for about ten years, so often my ideas and inspirations are way beyond my skill or knowledge level.

I don't let this stop me.

 Together with my endlessly suppportive mother and her enabling friends, I happily start my projects, having no real idea of  how - or if - I am going to pull them off.   Constantly pushing myself beyond my abilities can lead to - well- limitless frustration, and as I mentioned earlier, lots of bad, decidedly un-grandmotherly language and behavior. Sometimes I am downright obnoxious, even to the point of annoying myself!

 Don't get me wrong - I still get far more pleasure and excitement out of quilting than frustration, but sometimes I wonder if there is a way to be an artist and a calm, peaceful person at the same time.

So I'm creating this blog, dedicated to sharing my adventures as I learn, create, and try to be what I am decidedly not : Zen.  It's not so much about quilting but about balancing real life, art, and the need to create.  It's an attempt at finding peace in the process of creativity, not the outcome.  I promise that I will share nothing but the truth - at least as I see it.

Hopefully it will happen before I actually become a grandmother, but I'm not impatient about it at all - in fact I'm feeling quite...Zen.