Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hey - What's the Big Idea Anyway?

About a year ago I took a Craftsy class on quilt design from Weeks Ringle, an artist whom I greatly admire.  I loved the class for many different reasons and I learned a lot and highly recommend it to anyone, not just quilt artists.   But watcher beware: this incredibly gifted, brilliant, well-thought out and just plain deep artist can be hazardous to one’s ego (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) and a wee bit intimidating (although NOT on purpose; she’s really very open, accessible and friendly; she just can’t help it if she’s amazing and the stuff she creates is fantastic).  I feel the same way about Weeks as I do about Jo Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books:  They deserve every bit of their success!   And it’s really nice of her, I think, to be willing to share with us – I know I’m a much better artist because of it.  I’ll watch the series over and over, too (It’s that good,  and so rich!)  I love it!
During one of the composition sessions, Weeks talks about starting a design from what she called a Big Idea.  That really got me thinking – I want that!  Alas, I can’t say in all honesty that any of my designs so far have consciously come from a big idea.  A few times after I finished a piece I suddenly realized the idea or inspiration behind it…but that’s about as close as I’ve come.  I don’t feel like I have a shortage of ideas, mind you, but what can I say – I was inspired by Weeks’s thoughtfulness to be more thoughtful in my own design process!
As time went by it began to bother me that I can’t really say where my designs come from, specifically – they just seem to pop into my head, often at inopportune moments.  Suddenly I began to feel my designs are inadequate and maybe not as good or meaningful as they could be if they had a Big Idea behind them. (Don’t worry, Weeks, I don’t blame you – I just want to be like you!)  Also, inspiration rarely comes to me on demand – most of the time when I’ve tried to “think” about design, I’ve pretty much come up with exactly nil
Nonetheless, this notion of a big idea still quite appealed to me, so I’ve been searching for some big ideas of my own to inspire me and...so far it’s been an empty big idea year. But - in the past three weeks I’ve been on three different trips for various reasons ranging from spiritual to practical - the Bay Area in California, on a cruise with the high school band to Cozumel, Mexico, and to Prescott, Arizona on a trip to visit a college for my son.  Each trip has been great for different reasons, and in the back of my mind the whole time I’ve been searching for big idea inspiration.
 In California I experienced the joy of consciousness and my inner being and the peaceful, deep beauty of the spiritual journey. In Cozumel I looked at the endless ocean, the contrast of the azure water against the stark white sand.  In Arizona I saw the Grand Canyon, snow-covered pine trees, the high desert, and I experienced the sad gladness a mother feels when her child is preparing to leap into a life of his own, away from her.  Man, talk about a lot of big idea opportunity!   But so far, not an ounce of specific inspiration has come from any of it!   So naturally, being my quick-to-condemn-myself self, I begin to panic. “Oh my god,” I think, “I’m too shallow to be inspired by a big idea…all my ideas are meaningless...I’ll never be able to create anything truly worthwhile…ACK!  I suck!” 
Then what I learned in California surfaces and I have to laugh at myself.  “Oh Carrie,” I think “there you go again!”  Of course I’m inspired by my recent experiences - or I will be.  Because (as I constantly tell my son when he complains about having to learn useless stuff he’ll never USE in his life) every single thing you learn or do matters, because it becomes a part of you and you use it ways you oft-times don’t even realize(yes, even Pre-Cal, Jonas)!  So just because I haven’t made a conscious connection yet doesn’t mean the big idea’s not lurking in there somewhere
Now I get it - we all have our different pathways to inspiration, and just because I can’t call it up on demand doesn’t mean it’s any less worthy or meaningful.  That’s just the way it works for me - it will probably come to me the way it usually does – in the middle of a pap smear, or waiting in line at the DMV, or as I write this blog…and does it really matter whether I make the connection before or after the thing is done?  Of course not!  As usual, I’m being ridiculous, or as Napolean Dynamite would say, “Gosh!  WHAT an IDIOT!”
All Weeks is trying to do is share some of the ways she gets inspiration.  I don’t have to be like her (although I admit I still want to, a little).  What I do have to do is simply be grateful - for getting inspiration any way I can get it, period.  And so I am, and very.

But just in case, I’m going to make a list of big ideas that have suddenly popped up in the back of my mind as I’ve been writing.  Like I said, take it wherever you can get it…

(Added March 24th)
I just realized that my latest project actually comes from a "big idea," if you can call it that!  It's called 'Pink Doesn't Stink!'  I'm pretty sure you can figure out the idea...here's a photo of the pieced top...