Sunday, November 4, 2012

Another fun Blogger's Quilt Festival Event!

So I almost missed a chance to take part in another blogger's Quilt Festival, sponsored by Amy's Creative Side - always such an inspiring thing.  So happy that I didn't miss my chance.  The quilt I've decided to enter is here, called, oddly enough, "Waiting at the DMV." 
 Let me explain.  My son turned 15 this year, and he completed his driver's ed packet and wanted to get his learner's permit.  This monumental  milestone caused me to wake up in the middle of the night in tears because a) my baby is growing up and would be gone soon and b) my baby is growing up and it's very scary to think of him out there in the big world on his own...DRIVING!  But something else came of it as well - this quilt!

You see, we went to our local, small-town DMV only to find that the computer was down and we had to drive to the DMV in the next small town.  No problem - it was only 22 miles away.  But when we got there, there was a line.  A long line.  A very long line, in fact.  So long that after 35 minutes in line we had not moved a whit.  Also not a problem, thanks to my practice of being in the moment, zen-like.  But soon it was an hour and still no movement!  The people were friendly in line, and we struck up several conversations that were pleasant, but it was clearly going to be a long afternoon.  My mind began to wander, and all of a sudden, I got an idea.  This idea was so compelling that I wanted to sketch it, but having no paper on me, I had to run to the car.  Half an hour later, Jonas had his driver's permit, and I had a new idea for a quilt!  This is pretty much exactly the vision that came into my head, give or take a few holes. 

I realize that it doesn't have a thing to do with cars or driving, but there you have it.  I think it's pretty fun anyway.

Thanks to Amy for letting me feature it in the Blogger's film festival.
Stats:  This finished quilt measures 28" x 28"
It is made with applipiecing and applique.
It was designed, pieced, and quilted by myself.
Best category for it is "Art Quilt."

Amy's Creative Side

<div align="center"><a href="" title="Amy's Creative Side"><img src="" alt="Amy's Creative Side"

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Round and Round and Round and Round I Go

I wonder how many people out there would define themselves as “driven.”  Personally I’ve never considered myself particularly ambitious.  I always thought my serious, athletic older sister was the driven one.  No one, I mean no one, could stop her when she was going for the basket, not even a six-foot-three, 220 pounder.  She was equally determined to succeed in her professional life, and she has, as well as having two terrific kids and a 25+ year marriage!  None of this has ever surprised me – to me, she’s always been the boss; I’ve never questioned it. (And I admit I’m sort of scared of what she would do to me if I did…not really, but sort of.)
As for me, I always felt I was the mellow, go-with-the-flow type.  I too played hoops – I did well enough and had loads of fun, but I was no killer.  I went to college and grad school and did well academically, but I never felt particularly ambitious in a boss-y, business, money-making kind of way.  I leaned toward social work or teaching, and ended up teaching and that was all good.  In essence I sort of saw myself as a hippie-cool chick, not entirely in the mainstream, but still doing some good for my family and society and earning a decent, if secondary income.

HA!  I’m laughing because now I realize I am totally and completely driven, and always have been.   It’s just that my drive is my overwhelming urge to create - how else can you explain me working all day yesterday through a splitting headache to finish a piece of art? How else do you explain the fact that I don’t even want to stop to take care of my house, work, animals, my family (whom I dearly love; really -  I’d give either of them my heart if they needed it), or even go to the bathroom when I’m working?   How else can you explain the fact that I’m totally psyched to start on the next one the second I’m done with the last one?  I told my husband last night that I almost feel crazed with ideas – it’s like I’m a gerbil on an exercise wheel of creativity and I can’t stop turning it! 

Looking back at my teaching career, I see the same kind of - I was going to say insanity, but let’s call it motivation.   I remember a conversation I once had with a like-minded teacher.  We were laughingly saying we wished we wouldn’t think of so many great ideas because whenever did we felt compelled to make it happen no matter how exhausting it was - we just couldn’t stop ourselves!   I would twist myself in knots trying to teach such fascinating concepts as pronouns, for example in some motivating, interesting, meaningful way.  I’d work weekends and nights trying to come up with the perfect way to get an idea or knowledge across to students.  I’d do crazy things like dressing up as a Greek goddess, or wearing question marks all over my clothes and face to encourage kids to ask questions.  Whatever it took, I would do it, because, as it turns out, I AM driven.  I just didn’t realize what that thing was that was compelling me to pour so much energy into my teaching, and now, my art. 
The difference is, of course, with teaching, I got a regular paycheck, and with art – well, that’s another story... In some cases, art does pay, though.  I was looking at some art by Gerhard Richter the other day (his stuff makes my breath catch!) and I was amazed not only by his work, but by its sheer volume.   Hundreds and hundreds of incandescent and dazzling works of art - and in different mediums, too - painting, glass and photography as well.  How the hell does he do it all?  I suppose one might even describe him as driven...YA THINK?!  Even now at age eighty-four he’s still painting and having a blast with it…awesome.  And did I mention, inspiring?  When I told my husband about him, he cleverly read his biography (naturally I skipped the bio part and went straight for the art) and it turns out that as well as being brilliant he’s also the most successful living artist - his works pull in millions of dollars! Now I’d call that a decent living. 
Make no mistake here, please.  I’m NOT - no I’m not in any way - comparing myself to Gerhard Richter in the artistic sense (although I wish, how I wish, I could), and I realize that for me, making even a modest living off this drive to create art with fabric is probably not to be. That’s okay, though, I’m not going to lament it and I’m not going to let it stop me from creating.  At the moment, I’m going to ride this crazy wheel I’m on while I can as fast as it will turn. 

Yes, it’s true, I may have to curb the impulse a little and go back to a “real” job soon, but that’s okay, too, because now I realize I’ll just take my tiny little "crazy wheel " of creation with me and use it there.  And it will come right back home with me, so in between work and life I can still “do” art.  Yippee!

I guess the truth is that I was always scared to be seen as ambitious, because I didn't have confidence that I could succeed in the same way my wonderful sister could, and perhaps I couldn't. But I get now that that's okay - we are different people with different goals.  And now, older and, well - more experienced, I see that "SUCCESS!" can be defined on many different levels and that we each have to figure out what that definition means for ourself. And that just makes me feel excited and maybe a little bit lucky, too. Because as nutty as it is, I kinda like my drive, after all. 

So go ahead, embrace your ambition- just don't let anybody else tell you what it looks like!


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Friend with (Creative) Benefits

So many of my friends are creative types.   Take my friend Cindy – the decorating ideas she comes up with are nothing short of genius!  It’s as if she walks into a room and ideas just start flowing.  One day I asked her about some of the inspiring things she’s done in her own house and she said that most people would be too scared to do them in their homes because it’s too permanent.  This is a sentiment I highly disagree with on many levels – one, NOTHING is permanent - everything changes.  Anyone with children knows the furniture doesn’t last more than a couple of years – unless it’s a) really ugly or b) covered with plastic (a practice I simply cannot fathom). Two, I realize people are paying a lot of money to decorate, but on the other hand, why not do what really makes you happy in your own space?  Why take it so seriously?  I think decor should be fun and make you look around your house and feel happy, peaceful, joyful.  (Which reminds me of the time I glued farm animals to the top of my television.   Oddly enough, many people thought I was crazy but I really liked it, thought it added a whimsical touch of color.  I guess that might be where the inspiration came for these farm animals which dot the walls and cranny's of the room with the tv in it - I think I may be the only person who likes them in there, but so what?!)  I realize that farm animals are not for everyone, but who are you decorating your house for if not yourself – you spend the most time there.  But I'm totally digressing - back to my creative friends...In addition to her decorating skills, Cindy also makes the most amazing stained glass art – very original.   Hope to have some of it my house someday really soon.

I have two friends who are writers.  Stephanie writes poetry.  She’d love to do it for a living, but living on words – even beautiful ones, is a sparse diet.  She doesn’t let that daunt her – she and several other artists have created a forum and share their creations with the community, and she’s part of a writing group that meets regularly.  Tamara just finished a novel, has written several screenplays, and also sculpts.  Karen and Diane are both quilters extraordinaire.  Maria paints and makes goat soap; my other buddy, Hartley also makes soap and does hypnosis.  My lifelong friend, Theresa, used to cut my hair before she actually went to school and learned how to do it (and it looked good, I might add).  Oh my gosh – there’s Amy - a wickedly creative teacher…Judy is a gourmet cook…my husband and son are two of the most out-of-the-box thinkers I’ve ever encountered...I could go on, but lists are boring so I’ll stop – you get the idea.
Being friends with all these people is quite beneficial.  Like a sucker-fish on a shark I feed off of each and every one of them.  They inspire me…push me…their ideas give me ideas.  It’s exhilarating to be around them.   But looking at my (could be longer) list, I realize something.   It’s not that I only surround myself with creative-types - in fact, some of these people might dare to argue that they aren’t creative types at all.  But we all do have something in common – in some way, we’ve given ourselves over to our creativity.   Granted, some of us are just standing on the precipice and dip our toes in occasionally while others have completely opened our veins to the creative juices, but I’ll make no value statements here about that.  It's immaterial, really. 

It makes me feel so lucky to live in modern times when we have time to pursue these passions and explore our creativity.  Thinking about that, however, I suppose that many people throughout history have used all the creativity  they had just to survive!   I guess we are just lucky that we are able to be creative as a species.   There are so many ways for it to manifest itself we probably don't even recognize it sometimes.   And it's probably a use it or lose it kind of deal, so we should all work our creative bone every chance we get.   Oh, and it doesn't hurt to hang out with wildly creative people, either. 


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Got Fervor?

So from where does inspiration come?  It seems to come from everywhere, actually.  One can be inspired in the most unexpected ways and places, sometimes it’s inconvenient and sometimes kind of funny – like having to make a sketch of some idea in the dark theater in the middle of a movie - but I subscribe to the belief that it’s all out there coming from the one source, and we just have to be present and aware and it flows in.  Not that it matters, I’m just thrilled to be channeling all this creativity from the universe.   

At least, I think I am.

 I mean, I have so many ideas and plans right now, I don’t know how I can possibly get them all done - ever.  And yet I’m constantly bombarded by a barrage of inspiration…I dutifully sketch them, (not just because I don’t want to lose the vision but because I’m actually sort of an organized sort – not that you could tell that by my studio) add them to my list, and sometimes I’m so excited I abandon whatever I’m currently working on to begin something else because I’m totally compelled by it.  It’s both exhilarating and exhausting…naturally I love it!

But once again, I find myself questioning this drive to create and what it’s all about.  It’s by no means a secure investment of my time or money, but for some reason I just can’t seem to care, which naturally scares the stuffing out of my practical, responsible side.   Let’s be honest – it is a bit scary/ridiculous that I resent having to work at my part-time job because it interferes with my art. It’s only three days a week, for goodness sake!  But there you have it - I think I might need an intervention…

And BAM! Once again my examination of my own insanity leads to a new revelation. It seems I have to have a passion in my life, something that is almost – oh, who am I kidding - completely consuming.  Looking back I realize I was that way as a teacher too – couldn’t stop the ideas, had trouble walking away and if I had an idea, no matter how much work it was, I had to pursue it.  So why would it surprise me that I’m this way about art?  I guess because as I’ve already pointed out, I’m actually rather a practical gal (or at least there’s a practical element to my personality) and this particular passion is far from a sure thing, whereas a teaching career is mostly secure – at least it’s a regular paycheck one can count upon while it lasts.  Art is decidedly not, hence the fear factor.

I guess letting go of teaching allowed a new channel to open up, like the old saying of closing the door and opening a window.  Maybe it’s that way with everything, not just creativity.  Truly letting go of something – anger, hurt, resentment, fear – even security - will and can let something else in, and my guess is that whatever comes is going to be just fine. 

What if it really is all about accepting what is here and now?  Just being where one is and not looking for – anything, really.  It sounds good, but is it practical?  Perhaps it is, because whatever is, well -  is - and not accepting it won’t necessarily change it, it will just make the moment unpleasant.  So instead of fretting, I’m going to worry less and just do this  – pour all my energy into this moment, but be accepting of the (so rude!) interruptions of life, work and family.  That doesn’t mean I won’t take action or make changes, but hopefully it will come from the same place as the creativity instead of some ego-driven, anxiety-based, needy drive for fulfillment.

Whew – it sure sounds simple, but in all honesty, I’m not entirely sure I know what true acceptance feels like because I’m not sure I’ve ever truly experienced it.  I know I’ve seen it – most recently through my excellent mother’s example, and it looks – peaceful and lovely…like something worth pouring one’s energy into.  So here I go…check up with me later and see if I’m doing it, would you?  (Although you probably won’t need to as the universe seems to do a pretty good job of reminding me…)


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Back at It

So I haven't posted all summer. Obviously.  Believe me, I haven't run out of things to say.  As if that were possible - there are far too many angles to creativity, not to mention my brain just never shuts up...nor, those who know me well might be thinking, do I. 
Once this was so, but it's no longer true, actually.  I have learned in the past year to ignore my shouting brain a great deal, and just be present.  It takes practice and discipline for me to do this, and I don't always succeed, but what a difference it's made in me and in my life - all good. 
Furthermore, what's interesting is the result: A marathon of ideas and creating.  I haven't been writing, but believe me, I've been busy.  It's quite distracting, really, the way I'm being constantly bombarded with ideas - I shut my eyes to go to sleep and pop, INCOMING!  I'm staring at a bunch of fabric which I would never normally be attracted to (almost finished with that one) night I stayed up half the night sketching half a dozen ideas that simply would not let me rest until I got them on paper, then went to my studio and picked out the fabric.   While waiting in a two-hour line with my son to get his learner's permit (Yikes!) I simply allowed the moment(s) to be. Suddenly into my head popped a design for a quilt. It was so powerful that I had to run outside to the 100+ degree car and sketch it immediately.
It's rather lovely, really, although I do find that I need to learn some moderation.  I now have a super long idea list. (Yeah, I make lists of future projects - what about it?!)  But the moderation part is difficult.  I was actually not excited to go on vacation this summer because I knew I wouldn't be able to create for a few weeks  (I got over it, but still -that's SICK!)   And when my son was away at band camp a week or so ago, I literally created all day every day - I mean sixteen, eighteen hour days, and I only stopped when I was cross-eyed from fatigue.   
I really don't want to stop working - it's so odd, really.  I mean, I love my family, and I do need desperately to clean my windows and yes, there are crunchy things under my feet when I walk around the house, not to mention the sever layers of dust in/on my car...(heavy sigh)how tedious.
It makes me wonder why.  Why am I so driven by this need to be constantly creating?  Why is this urge so strong that I literally resent having to go to the bathroom?  Surely it simply cannot sustain itself at this level.  (I'm not altogether sure I want it to, anyway - my house might be condemned, not to mention I might lose my family...all my friends...)  The irony is that it isn't at all a practical thing upon which to spend so much time and energy - I mean, by no means is there any assured return on my investment of time, but on the other hand -  it makes me feel so alive, so excited, so free.   Just thinking about it makes me want to go upstairs and get to work... 
I've tried to make myself a schedule, and I do force myself to drive to town and pick my son up from band practice (So demanding!), and I'm still fixing meals (occasionally) and doing laundry (half-assedly). I'm even planning a last summer fling for my family to float down the river this week, but beneath it all I still hear the siren call of my studio, my ideas, and my art, beckoning.  
I'm just going with it for the moment, allowing it to be what it is - a glorious cacophony of inventiveness and productivity.  And I do think in time it will even itself out, because after all I do have a practical, mature, realistic side, and I'm not entirely selfish and self-centered (I think).  But I must say, I do understand Jackson Pollack a lot better now. 

Here are some of the fruits of my summer labor:


Color Block II

Dreaming in African II



Friday, June 8, 2012

Examination Time

Ever just not been satisfied with the way something turned out?  Just slghtly bummed?  Well, I've felt that way about a couple of recent creations, and I've decided to examine each of them, just for the hell of it, and see what conclusions I reach.

My measure of success on a piece of art is that I like to sit and look at it; it makes me smile or gives me that "happy" feeling every time I walk by it.  If it's something I've created, then I might get a feeling of "Yeah, that's it - that's what it was supposed to do."  And I just don't feel it with these two quilts. 

Actually, let me amend that - there's a third quilt, the Glacier quilt that I shared previously, that I've actually decided to scrap - the first one I've given up on ever - it just wasn't working.  I still like the idea, but I just didn't execute it very well, and I don't want to spend any more time on it - I want to move on.  I'll start with this one. 

The idea was inspired by Alaska, where my excellent brother spends the summers guiding hikes in Denali, heli-hikes in the tundra, and hiking/rafting trips in the rivers near the park.  I've been lucky enough to visit him a couple of times up there and once we went on a boat ride to see glaciers.  These glaciers are achingly beautiful, and even though they are mostly frozen water, they are anything but colorless.  I was hoping to capture the spirit of these glaciers with quilting rather than color, so I bought a few different kinds of white fabric, cut them into jagged pieces, sewed them together and started quilting them heavily.  I tried to add some thread shadows for depth.  Here's what I did:

As you can probably see, it didn't work.  It's boring and messy.  If I examine why, I think in this case I just don't know how do do thread painting, for one, and maybe that wasn't the optimum way to try to convey the shadows, either.  And even though I used beautiful, almost iridescent white thread for the quilting, you can't really see it, so the many hours I spend on it simply didn't produce the beautiful representation of ice I was going for. Humph. 

So what can I learn from this? I mean, the sketch looked pretty cool - of course it was done in pencil which I smudged to look like shadows.  I guess I need to research and maybe take some classes on creating shadows or thread painting...I'd still like to try it again sometime, but I'm not going to work on this piece anymore, there's no saving it.  And that's okay.  I greatly improved my quilting skills and control on this piece, so it's not a total loss.

The second piece I'm disappointed in is the Colorful Blocks quilt I shared recently in  my ":Lessons Learned" post. Here's what it looks like:

 I'm not sure why this one leaves me cold, either, but it does.  I don't like where I put the colors in the binding; it's too uniform and I meant for it to be more random.  It bugs me. 

I do like the effect of the lines radiating across the quilt in different directions, though.  That seems to work. And I love the colors...but it's just not right, somehow, can't put my finger on it.  I will say it does look better in person - I'm a poor photographer.  Still, I just don't like it much, don't even know why.  I already shared a couple of blogs (Lessons Learned) ago what I learned from it, so I won't repeat, but again, a good learning experience. 

Last one to examine is the one I'm just finishing up. I call it "Different Paths."   I was really excited about the design of this one, as I thought it had some good ideas and was an appropriate way to use some of the fabrics I got from the Marcia Derse collection of fabrics I got at the Houston Quilt Festival in November of 2011.  But this one is a disappointment, too.  Here's what it looks like:

My critique of this piece:  First of all, I do like it a lot, really.  But there are just some things that I think I could have done better.  I chose the wrong fabric to frame the squares. ( I know, I know!)  It's a beautiful fabric, but it's too much and it really takes away from the squares, which are supposed to be the focal points.  Originally I was thinking of using one of the gold fabrics for the sashing, but when I tried it, that definitely didn't work.  I didn't want to use brown, but I probably should have done, because I think the red really swallows them up.  Shoot.  Also, I messed up on some of the applique.  I won't tell you what I did, see if you can figure it out.  But that surely ticked me off.  And I should not have outlined that damn circle in gold fabric- it annoys me, too!

I do like the stones and the feet, though.  And I love the squares - they're cool, if I do say so myself.  And lastly, I like the quilting I've done on it - it's subtle but it adds to the overall effect.  I think "Different Paths" has some decent value but overall it just doesn't give me that know, the one I'm going for. 

My husband thinks I'm too critical, and that it's bad juju to publicly point out what I don't like about my creations.  But I disagree.  It doesn't hurt, because I'm learning from my mistakes.  And  while I know that every single thing I make isn't going to be 100% perfect, and I'm probabaly never going to be completely satisfied with anything I create, if I can learn something - even humility, then it's worth it. 

So there they are, hanging out like some hole-y underwear, my foul-ups, for everyone to see.  And oddly, it doesn't feel too badly to show my intimates - it's just another part of the journey.   I don't know exactly where I'm going, but at least I realize when I've taken a wrong turn or a detour, and knowing that - even though it might add a little time to the trip - makes it all the more interesting. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Individuality Bites" Or "No Artist is an Island"

I've always been a sort of unconscious rebel.  I realized this when I was in my thirties.  Wherever I am, I seem to gravitate away from the established norm.  I don't do this purposefully, it just seems to happen.  It doesn't hurt that I've lived in two very extreme places in my adult life, Berkeley, California and Texas, where I attended one of the top ten conservative universities in the U.S., Texas A&M.  And when I say extreme, I mean complete opposite extremes. 
 Both places have influenced me, naturally, but what I noticed when I lived in California was that I had my own ideas about things - I didn't automatically follow the sheep who all think they are wolves there in pretty much any way - politically, morally, philosophically.  And in Texas, I rarely am part of the herd, either. 
This led me to believe that I am simply a contrarian - a word I'm not sure exactly exists, but which seems an apt description for my inability to fit in completely, no matter where I am.  I'm okay with it, but it certainly doesn't make my life any simpler.  Oh well.
I bring this up because I'm finding that with my art, I seem to be this way, too.  For example, the two major trends right now in quilting are to quilt heavily, to cover every square milimeter of the piece with thread, and to make "pictures" with fabric - taking a photograph and turning it into a quilt with small specs of fabric and again, thread painting - to awe-ful, gasp-inducing  effect., I might add.  I appreciate it greatly - I love the amazing beauty I see created by all the prize-winning quilters...but I don't want to make them. I see them and they are gorgeous, and I appreciate the amazing skill that goes into them, but my fingers don't itch to do it. Not at all.  Is there something wrong with me, I wonder?  Why am I not inspired by these amazing works of art?
Now, if it makes it any better, I am wondering if it's just due to laziness - not wanting to spend that much time on a piece, or if it's lack of confidence...admittedly quilting is my weakest skill (I'm working on it!) But if I'm honest, I really don't think that's it.  I just don't feel like it.
In fact, at the moment, for whatever reasons, I find myself wanting to create more graphic images, which naturally require more graphic quilting, and less of it. (Again, I'm not doing this on purpose, I swear - it's like an autonomic response or something!)  It's just what's coming out of me right now - I can't help it. 
So what I'm getting excited about is pretty much the opposite of the trends right now, but is it because I'm trying too hard to be different, or is it because it is?  I mean, I can't necessarily control the creativity that flows through me, and if it's what makes me excited, isn't that alright?  "Of course," said my lovely sister-in-law, Katerina when I brought up my concerns to her the other day, "you don't want to be like everyone else, do you?" (Contrarianism seems to be a trend in the entire family.)
Actually, I just want to be myself - whatever that is. At the same time, I strongly believe I'm connected to the people and the world around me on a molecular level, and I don't kid myself that I'm not part of the collective consciousness wherever I am, even if I seem to be different. 
So my conclusion is this:  First of all, I may not be obviously directly influenced to create precisely what I'm seeing are the trends, but I am being influenced by them nonetheless.  And if I am truly just being me - not looking at what everyone else is doing and poo-poohing it, not trying too hard to be 'an individual', but just letting it flow, however it does, then whatever comes out is true...real...not trying to be anything, just be-ing. 
 And that, I know is okay.  
So I'm just going to let the creativity flow - in any direction it wants to. I'm giving free rein to it.  I'm going to stay open to everything, to learn from and be influenced by everyone - and then whatever happens, happens. 
And I certainly don't need to take any of it too seriously or to fret or worry that I'm not doing "the right thing."  I'm not doing it really, to win any prizes (although recognition is not a bad thing).  I'm just doing it.  And it's not the outcome, but the doing and the spirit of it that matters, anyway.
 So - everything - and nothing - are right.  They just "are."  And that makes me feel so - so -FREE!  Like a paper-winged butterfly floating on the breezes from one breathtaking batch of flowers to the next.  Totally refreshing and ready to land, well - just about anywhere.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In Memorium

Since today is Memorial day, I'm sitting here remembering.  I'm thinking about the first quilt I ever made, which, miraculously, I still have, although I admit it's rather shabby and faded.  I haven't gotten rid of it only because - well, I'm not sure why.  I suppose I'm sort of still using it to cover up a couch that's even worse off than the quilt (a colorful flannel "throw" quilts that was all in vogue back then).  It's pretty simple, but I was instantly smitten with the quilting arts - even though my mother did most of the work and my fingers developed serious cramps from snipping the edges of the squares, I couldn't wait to make my next one.    
 Later that year I attended the Houston Quilt Festival.  This was what really solidified my interest in quilting.  Not only was I amazingly inspired by the incredible talent I saw, I was freed, too.  Because once I saw what other people were doing with fabric, I realized that there truly are no limits to what can be created with fibers, textiles and some crazy imagination.  If I thought I was enthusiastic before, at this point I became a wee bit obsessed. 

Now I'm at a point in my creative life where I can no longer remember all of the quilts I've made since I started quilting only ten years ago.  If I think hard, I  can picture a few of them that I've given away, but I'm sure I can't possibly remember all of them. Some of my friends and family are constantly exhorting me to take pictures of the quilts I make, but I've forgotten to do so often. 

Recently a friend of mine asked me how I could sell or give away my quilts when I spend so much time and energy on them - it's not an issue with me at all. Once I'm finished with something, I can enjoy it, and I've kept a few for my own house, but really, what I've realized is that it's the act of creating that I love so much, not necessarily the piece itself.

Which is completely fine with me because even though I may not specifically recall each one, they're all a part of me.  With each new endeavor I attempt, I most certainly use something I learned from a previous one; I build on skills I already have, and even when I learn to do something new or I "invent" a new technique, it's all coming from that very first quilt I made. 

I feel like any creativity that flows through me runs into, around, over or under something that I've experienced before and is influenced by all that to come out as it does.  Even when I don't consciously "channel"  something I've created in the past, it's probably there, if even in a small way. 

It's like any life experience, I suppose.  We carry everything we've learned from our lives with us always, and luckily we possess good enough memories to be able to use that knowledge to build new experiences - it's quite excellent, really.  Even the things that haven't turned out the way I intended have taught me things that I can and do use all the time - lucky me..

\So I guess that with every thing that I (or you, or anyone else) create, I'm remembering the things I've made in the past, all the people who helped, encouraged and influenced me, and those whose creations inspired me, too, even if it's only subconscious.  The memories are in my cells, and with every stitch I'm honoring them.  It's that good old circle of life again, creating connections that just expand exponentially in a good way. 

 Lovely, lovely thought.   

Also, a superb reason to get out there and just keep on creating

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Evolution of an Idea

In the last year since my wonderful mother died, I've been in a frenzy of creativity.  Grieving seems to have unleashed in me a sense of fearlessness and a freedom to create and try things I've never tried before - I consider it a parting gift from Mother, who was always so positive, encouraging, and enthusiastic about my efforts. 
 I'm sharing the evolution of a quilt which, I am just now understanding, evolved from both my my feelings of grief at losing Mother and my job at the same time, and also from learning the brilliant Carol Bryer Fallert's appli-piecing technique, (What an amazing gift is this technique! It allows me to create whatever I want in my head and gaves me a tool to be able to make it real!  My sincere gratitude to CBF for sharing it.)  
At this time  last year I felt pretty bruised, as if my life's trajectory had been pretty straight with minimal impacts and suddenly I was being bounced randomly as if by caprice, hitting something or someone in every direction and being uncontrollably hurled into places I never even conceived of for myself.  Even the backdrop of my life, which I thought was pretty orderly, was constantly and randomly changing.  Literally, I was out of control and I could not stop the spinning.
One night I was sitting on my bed and I drew a sketch.  I didn't know where it was coming from at the time, but as I write this I understand it completely - I was drawing my life!  The result is "Bounced Around."
What I've come to believe in the last year is this:  My life, regardless of what I thought, has always been a series of random bounces - everyone's is.  We are all little spheres careening around, bumping into life's barriers and obstacles and into each other, spinning in directions untold.  Any illusions we have of control are just that - illusions.  And those illusions are what tends to create unhappiness in us.  They block our acceptance of life as it is.
 I've also realized that whatever obstacles we meet are just that, something to simply accept, or to crawl right over...under...around...through - and are not to be taken so seriously, even if they hurt.  Really, in some ways these bumps are gifts, because they offer us opportunities to grow. 
There's something far more vital about "Bounced Around," however, than even the amazing way it has revealed such a deep truth regarding life and how it works - the most significant thing to notice is that there is deep love and uncontained joy that stands out in this quilt, even though it depicts an incredibly sad and confusing time in my life.  This piece is no depressing, maudlin, colorless piece filled with the stale air of defeat.  It's colorful, hopeful - even cheerful.  Which to me shows that even in the midst of living our deepest darkest fears, there is beauty and elation in life that will not be contained or shadowed by anything, no matter how painful.  And that's what we need to focus on and hold onto.  That's what makes this whole, dancing, spinning, bouncing orbit worthwhile.

**Just a note.  When I started writing this it was in response to a contest for bloggers who quilt from.   But as always, the original intent ended up illuminating something much deeper and more meaningful - just another little bounce.  Thanks to Amy for giving me a little nudge!

<div align="center"><a href="" title="Amy's Creative Side"><img src="" alt="Amy's Creative Side" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lessons Learned

A couple of interesting lessons for me this week that I want to share:  First, on the link between creativity and being in the moment:  I just finished a wall hanging inspired by my week long foray into the tunnel of the Modern Quilt Guild website.  (I loved it in there – only my love for my family and need to work pulled me out, otherwise I might still be wandering around in there ooohing and aahhhing and getting generally very excited but accomplishing exactly nothing.  It’s a good place to visit for short periods, though – lots of inspiration.) 
I was pretty excited about the wall hanging - it was much more minimalistic than other things I’ve been working on, but it had possibilities.  Then one day I sold two of my art pieces.  I was glad about this, but I quickly reminded myself that while helpful, that isn’t the reason I create and to keep being present and not focus on what may or may not happen in the future with it.  (Good discipline, Carrie!  Good job being present!)  I was not being externally motivated – good for me. 
Well…I told  myself not to be external, but secretly (even I didn’t realize it) I was, and here’s how I know:  I fussed and cursed and got frustrated while I was working - much more than I have in a long time.  I felt impatient to be finished and my mind kept wandering to the next quilt I wanted to begin.  So there was little joy in the moment or presence while I worked – I wasn’t having much fun.

Secondly, when I did finish it, I felt – well, nothing.  I didn’t have a sense of peace or “rightness” or accomplishment I often feel when I finish something.  That feeling of ‘Yes, that’s it!’ never happened.  It just left me cold.  There’s nothing wrong with it – it’s fine technically, but I don’t like it that much, and I’m sure it’s because I lost touch with that creative vibe and became too wrapped up in the idea that I need to get more stuff out there as soon as possible because it might just sell.  In other words, I was focused on the outcome, not the doing, and the result is that I just don’t like this piece.  It’s too bad, too, because I spent a lot of time on it. 

It wasn’t a total loss, though.  The good news is that I learned a little something   I realized how important it is to true creativity to not think too much – about anything, in fact, but especially about a possible outcome that may or may not ever happen again.  I realize that often in the past when I was trying to create I missed a lot of the fun, although I didn’t realize it at the time.  I was always so focused on the outcome – I wanted to finish too much - hence the cursing and fussing and gnashing of teeth.  (Well I’ll be damned -  here I thought I was just a naturally impatient, ill-tempered guttersnipe, and it was all just a matter of focus…although I still blame a little of it on hormones….there’s no getting around the fact that menopause completely sucks!)
So it turns out that being truly creative is actually a discipline !  (And here so many people think artists are un-disciplined.)  Yep, it takes a lot of discipline to actually do the work, but the more important discipline is to be fully awake to each thing you do while you are doing it – that’s where the enjoyment comes in, that’s where the fun comes in - and now I know for certain - it’s where the beauty comes in as well.

 And no, I haven’t forgotten the other thing I was going to share – the first one was just rather long-winded. The second thought is that the universe is truly miraculous at giving one exactly what one needs exactly in the moment one needs it.  If not for the fact that one hour after I made some money on my art I went to the dentist and found out I have to have a root canal (to the tune of precisely the same amount I made on the sales), who knows how long it might have taken me to make the first realization?  I can only feel deeply grateful that a) it was an even trade, and b) for the time I’ve already saved in the future on things I might have wasted my time on because I was thinking too much about possible outcomes -Thanks, Karma!  J

(And while I may sound just the teensiest bit like I’m being ironic, I actually really am and do feel grateful – but still, it is  a little ironic, isn’t it?)

And just to keep myself honest, here is a picture of the quilt, called not-so-originally "Blocks of Color."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Are we there yet?

What I'm wondering at the moment is why?  Why is it that some projects come together so quickly while others hang on the design board for ages, half-finished or even nearly finished?  And still others are doomed to lie, inert and ignored until one day when I'm looking for something and I find them and think "Man I love this thing; I really need to finish it!"  After which I promptly fold it up and store it until the next time I look at it and exclaim over its loveliness and put it right back in the bin!
  Is it because some are easier than others?  Does it have to do with size?  Or is it the whim of my attention?  Because I started my latest piece about three weeks ago, and I'm already finished with it; while the piece I began in October, called Glacier, is still pinned to the design board waiting for even one hour of my attention to complete it.  And forget about the one that's three plus years old...  
The thing is, I like all three of them, and I really like to finish what I start, because then I feel like I haven't wasted my time, but still - why is it that I cannot seem to bring myself to complete some tasks, while others are done almost before I even realize it? 
I'm guessing that art, like everything else in my life, has its moods.  Anyway, one thing to point out, if I'm honest, is that the lack of completion usually centers, for me, around the actually quilting process; one which I feel is my weakest link as far as skill goes.  I can't afford to have someone else do the quilting for me (besides, if I'm being completely honest, to me it doesn't feel like it's truly mine if someone else works on it), and other ideas are always beckoning to me, singing their siren calls of novelty. 
So I've decided to give myself permission to have projects in various stages (I used to think I had to completely finish one project before I started another -  that practical German side of me rearing its hard, square head again) but only if I don't carry it too far and have more than three at any one time that I'm working on.  But if I'm totally honest, I will admit that currently it's more like I have five in various stages, and I've already done sketches for two more and begun cutting one of them out - oh crap, it's getting out of hand - I need to stop starting...and start finishing!
On the flip side, however, (because there's always a flip side, isn't there -gotta love that about life!) maybe art is all about inspiration, and you have to follow the thread of it when it strikes you.  Maybe that's how artists get their reputation for capriciousness - because sometimes when it hits it's all I can do to stop myself from getting up in the middle of the night so I can get started NOW (although often I just go with it, but I do try to be quiet so as not to wake up the entire house). 
And, too, I know myself well enough to see that at some point, I am actually going to want to finish those three/four/five-year old pieces and I will do so, just as someday I will finish all the pieces that my dearest mother started and didn't finish - whenever doing it will remind me of her and the special quilting days we shared with a smile, not tears.   It will all be done eventually, I know it will.  Or not - whatever. 
But not right now; at the moment I'm busy working on this little flash. 

Life is Beautiful

It’s in the eye of the beholder, right?  In other words, there is a basic loveliness in everything, you just have to see it.  It’s in a cracked bowl, a fallen leaf, even in a fencepost or a smelly chicken coop.  It’s in the air that we breathe!  Culturally our concepts of beauty are often quite narrow, and I think that’s what causes a lot of problems in our world – we’re only seeing a minute particle  of the multitude of beauty that truly exists.
There’s a beautiful thought, given to me by my teacher (although it’s common scientific knowledge, but until one truly realizes the magnitude of it, it’s just a fact) that gives me chills and makes my insides smile every time I think it.  Here is my personal happy thought:
 I am billions of years old.
Why, you might ask, does this thought make me so happy (especially considering the fact that I spend hundreds of dollars on wrinkle cream on a regular basis)?  It makes me happy because what it really means is that we’re all deeply connected.  Every single atom that makes up the earth - you, me, the air, the soil, the lamp in your living room, the bug you squashed with your shoe yesterday, the art in the Sistene Chapel, everything, be it alive or not- has been present since the earth began.  Everything is just a bunch of atoms (or smaller particles, but the matter doesn’t really matter) rearranging themselves in different patterns, over and over again. 
So we’re all billions of years old!    
And right now, we’re all (those of us reading this blog, that is) human beings, and something gave us the ability to be conscious.  We have a special ability to recognize consciousness in ourselves and in each other, and to see all the vast ways we are connected to each other and to the universe.  We get to experience the universe as sentient beings – lucky us! 
This isn’t to say that we’re all arranged the same – clearly there’s an infinity of arrangements; my guess is that we as a species have only personally experienced a fraction of a fraction of them.  But numbers aren’t the point.  The point is that we’re here now, in this current form, experiencing the universe as we are and even in our puny, miniscule way (compared to say, galaxies and stars forming), we’re able to manipulate this matter into an astounding number of permutations – to create on a material level all the truly astounding things we have created since we first experienced consciousness.  How cool is that?
"Lovely thoughts, Carrie," you may be thinking, "but what does it have to do with art - isn't this a blog about creativity?"  
Yes indeed.

 So creativity abounds – it’s inherent in everything – it’s in a line of ants dragging leaves down to its tunnel, it’s in a row of numbers that line up perfectly to balance a budget, it’s in a well-turned phrase, a light switch, it’s even in a rock sitting there, supposedly doing absolutely nothing (but its atoms are constantly in motion!) All we, the “artists”  have to do is open ourselves to it, tap into it, and see what comes pouring out.
And knowing this gives us ultimate freedom of creation.  To me, it seems like the more we realize that, the more beauty we can create of ourselves and the world around us. 
And it’s all just temporary, so while the creation is enjoyable and even maybe brings joy to someone else, ultimately it’s not something we have to take too seriously.  It’s not who we are, it’s just a reflection of the glorious creativity that is – well, EVERYWHERE!  Because some day all this stuff we’ve created (and us, too) will all be arranged into some-things - completely different - a hyena, a cloud, a wing of a butterfly, or even a pile of poo (which while it stinks, has a life force, and yes, in a cosmic sense, beauty of its own.)  
So go ahead and see the loveliness that is.  Appreciate the wonderous variety of ways that atoms can arrange themselves in people, places and things.   And create - whatever it is you create – and relax in the knowledge that it is all – so -


Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Walk in the Clouds

I see how easy it is to get addicted to internet sites.   I sometimes feel like I could literally spend entire days searching through sites for information, inspiration…take Pinterest, for example – I can’t wait to check it and see what people have put on there – it’s an entire world of ideas, just waiting for me to point and click!  Often those ideas lead to new discoveries – websites, idea sites, etc.  People are doing so much every day!  It’s amazing any of us get anything done! Take laundry, for example  – that reminds of a funny adage I saw on Pinterest:  “As I do more laundry, nudists look less crazy.”  Ha!-larious! 
        There’s another really funny one about Target with a mom going into the shop saying “We only need ONE thing.” Then it shows the Target symbol saying “Look deeply into my eye,” and the woman’s eye turns into a little target and she says “Yes, yes – I do need curtains…”  So true – love it!  I could go on and on (or you could go to Pinterest and see for yourself – just finish reading this first, please.)
        Through Pinterest I discovered Houzz – another really cool website where people show work they are doing on their properties and you can even get contractors through it – really neat – I could spend an hour or two, easy, on there, even though I’m don’t need any work on my house and I’m married to a brilliant contractor!  It’s just really interesting…
        But all the time I spend on the internet being inspired has a price – mostly paid by my house, but also by my posterior, which gets sat upon too much, and too, by my creativity.  Yes, there is inspiration everywhere on the magical clouds in the computer, and I’m not saying it’s a bad thing by any means – anything that makes people feel more connected to each other cannot be bad – we need to remember we are all the same, regardless of our stories  - it makes it harder for us to treat each other badly.
         For me, however, I perceive a danger of being swallowed whole by the behemoth and becoming so stuck in there that I can’t find my way out to actually create something from all the ideas that I’m floating on, air-like.  It’s almost like the Borg in Star Trek – I am becoming part of the collective and losing my own ability to make decisions and do things, and while it’s good to feel connected to perfect strangers through mutual interests, I know it’s not the right path for me to only reflect and not take action.   I am most definitely not a ‘frequency holder,’ as Eckhart Tolle puts it -  I do - that’s where my zen comes from.
         And as pleasant as all these websites, social media, inspirations are – ultimately for me, it’s just not that gratifying – it’s only pseudo-satisfaction.  It seems in the moment like it might be, but when I wake up from my computer coma with a sore backside and googly eyes, I realize it’s two-dimensional, and I like to live in three dimensions. 
        I’m not saying I won’t go on there and look around – maybe even on a daily basis – but I want strive to keep it in its rightful place – on the periphery.   The cool thing is that it will be there when I need it, and it will keep, but my time is finite, and I need to be mindful of how it’s spent – there needs to be a balance, and I’m trying to walk my line.
        Now...I think I'll go check my email and see what's going on with my friends on Facebook.  (Just kidding!)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Super Woman?

            I won’t say I think I can do anything but - ever since I made my first simple little quilt (any quilter knows the one I’m talking about –they were brightly colored squares of flannel that were sandwiched and sewn individually – the hardest thing about them was cutting the raggedy edges – my hands got cramps!) I have been feeling more and more confident.  Now, ten years later, I find myself thinking I can create pretty much anything I can imagine.  In short, I feel – well – rather invincible.  Here’s a recent example:
            A week or so ago, I was thumbing through an advertisement magazine and I saw the coolest, colorful, most elegant little poufs for the living room – priced at a mere $400 - and that was before shipping!  I thought to myself how nice it would be to have them, but I didn't really need one and couldn't really justify the expense...suddenly I got a wild idea - why not make them myself!  I mean - look at the other things I've made - surely I could do this myself - for way less money, too.   My goal was to make them for about $150.  Time was irrelevant because my boys were gone for a week to California and I had no responsibilities – no dinners, no housecleaning, no pick-ups, no laundry – for a full week.  (Yeah I missed them, but still – no cooking for a full week – Yippee!!!)
              I had no idea how to make a pouf, but that didn’t stop me.  I started out the way all quilters do – by picking out fabric!  I also got some two inch foam I happened to see because I figured it might come in handy, too.  And some cording to make piping, too, of course. I decided I would build a wooden frame and cover it with the foam, then sew a fabric cover, complete with stylish piping, to finish it off.  Simple!  Easy!  No problemo - I can do this!
            Aside from taking shop in middle school (umpteen years ago), I really didn’t have the slightest idea how to use power tools – or which ones I needed for that matter.  At least, I though, not yet. So I went to my brother (Why not my ever-supportive, helpful  husband, you ask?  Well, for one, he was out of town when the inspiration hit me, and for two – he would have been a little too helpful –as in doing it for me, and by golly, I wanted to do it myself!) for advice on what to get for the frame.  He told me ¼ inch plywood and 1x2 lumber, wood screws, and glue.  Sounded ever so simple  - now I knew I could do this!
            I blithely went to the lumber store and although I had to search the entire store three times to find it all (While I’m very familiar with Target, the grocery store, Wal-Mart, and Costco, I was like an ant out of line in the lumber store.  And besides - those aisles need to be marked better!)  Once I finally got the plywood on the rack and transferred all the other stuff to those funky lumber carts, I made my way carefully to the checkout, only knocking a few items off the shelves as I passed by (nothing broke, by the way).  Just as I was about to check out, I realized the plywood sheet was far too big to fit into the back of my car.  Oops!  Well, at least I realized it before I bought it.  Still confident and determined… 
            But what to do?   I was on a mission, and not about to leave that store without plywood.  So I thought for a moment, and then I did what anyone would do – I called my daddy.  He was full of good advice, but while I was talking to him I came across some plywood sheets that had already been cut – Eureka!  I realized that if I bought a couple of those, I could still leave the store with the lumber I needed and better yet – they would fit into the car!  Crisis averted - so clever and good at problem-solving am I!
            Once I got all the stuff home, I went to Jeff’s (my bro) house and he helped me measure and cut with a circular saw – not as easy as it looks, by the way.  Everything has to be so precise – luckily he had some extra lumber and lots of patience, because I made a few mistakes (just a few, tiny mistakes…really!)  We made a box so sturdy one can sit on it!  We even rounded the corners so it wouldn’t be too sharp!  I felt so empowered!  Next time I’ll really be able to do it myself! (Oh yes - there will be a next time!)
            Afterwards, we had a beer, and Jeffrey laughed when I said “Hey that was harder than I thought it was going to be, but it was fun.”  “ Ha!” he said, “that was the easy part.  The next part is going to be much tougher – making the cover.” It was my turn to laugh - I guess it’s all a matter of perspective, because  I knew making the cover was going to be a snap.
             Tired but confident from my bout with power tools, I glued the foam on that night before I went to bed, because I was so excited.  Hmm - the pouf was now a bit larger than I had anticipated – I had measured and cut the wood based on my desired finished size, not counting the foam. Originally I was going to put casters on it to make it move easily, but then it would have been almost twenty inches high – too high for a footrest for sure, but no problem – I just wouldn’t add the casters!  True - it was big, but still, I was undaunted!  It was excellent!
            As I predicted, making the cover was a snap!  Okay, not exactly – it turns out that piping is not so easy to get straight as I thought, and I ran out of cord for it (perhaps because the thing was so big) and had to run to town for more. (Thank heavens I had over-bought the fabric!)  But these were minor hiccups and did not deter me in the slightest – I wasn’t even crabby about them!  Why?  Because I was so capable, of course!
            Then there was the (minor!) problem of how to get the bottom covered.  I had decided to make the cover like a couch cushion cover with a split in the middle, but I ended up cutting it and stapling it to the bottom – no amount of grunting, pulling or cursing could make it  stretch enough to go over wood and still be tight.  Not so pretty – oh well – no one will ever know (except of course, now they will because I’m telling everyone!   No matter, it doesn’t show so who cares – the thing looks great, even if it is a bit large and is basically now a coffee table rather than the small, elegant pouf I originally designed.    The thing is, I love it, and I made it myself (well - mostly)! 
 I am a seriously Can-Do Girl!  And I can’t wait to think of the next thing I’m gonna make!