Tuesday, January 28, 2014

It's a Mod, Mod World

I love the modern quilt movement.  The designs, the fabrics – all of it are so fresh and cheerful and free.  I don’t know how long it’s been going on – I discovered it about two years ago.  There was this blog on the Modern Quilt Guild site –  the title was 100 Days of Modern Quilts.  I spent a lot of time on that blog, and still use it for inspiration.  The Modern Quilt Guild, or MQG even put on its first big quilt show, called QuiltCon, last year.  As it was in Austin, Texas  (right down the road) I not only went to the show, I volunteered, something I would highly recommend – it was really fun.  And the quilts – oooh -  I loved them ALL!
I volunteered mostly because I want to be a modern quilter and I don’t know how.  I mean, I think I understand it, but when I design, I can’t seem to come up with anything that fits the modern quilt sensibility.  I’m not so sure why, but I’m starting to suspect it’s because I’m just not cool enough.
The modern quilt movement seems to be pretty dominated by people in their twenties, thirties and forties although there are people of every age participating.   There was a definite hip vibe there – lots of funky glasses, mod haircuts, many body piercings and orange, purple, green and blue hair…I dug these people, they seemed like my own.  Afterwards people from the quilt show even shared their tattoos on the MQD blog – many of which were quilting, sewing, or creativity-related!   All I can say to that is “Well.”  I don’t think I have to go that far, do I?  I mean, I don’t have anything against piercings, but I don’t want to have to do it just to be able to quilt modern!  (Though the idea of having purple or pink hair is actually appealing to me, but at my age (49) it seems a little “wanna be.”)  But I do.  I do so wanna be -- a modern quilter! 
After seeing the art works in that show, I can say that modern quilts are absolutely a departure from the traditional way of making a quilt.  Very few of them use traditional quilt blocks (although some do) and there are definite specific types of fabrics that most modern quilters use.  Another thing I noticed was negative space – there seems to be a lot of that, too.  Okay, I get it…at least I think I do…but still, I can’t seem to come up with ideas that seem modern.  
I’ve been trying and trying to push myself in a certain direction, because I like what I see there.  But when I stop and think about it, I have to wonder why.  Does it really matter whether my art fits a certain description?  Of course not.  It is what it is, man.   
Oh well - I guess I can’t order up what kind of creativity I want to channel.  I’ll just have to make do with whatever ideas come my way, and be grateful for them.  It’s not as though I don’t like what I’m creating, so it seems silly to be so focused on trying to create in a certain “genre.”  I can still be inspired by and love modern quilts.  I can buy books and study them and make other people’s designs.  And I haven’t given up hope of coming up with some “modern” designs of my own.  It could still happen – I’m not dead yet.  I’m just not going to force it.  I’m just going to take what comes, and enjoy the ride.  Maybe I’m not cool, but I am


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

It Doesn't Hurt to Try...Does It?

To some, it might seem like a waste of time and resources to work on a project that might end up in the depths of the landfill.  While it is indeed a luxury to be able to potentially toss something if it doesn’t turn out (or turn it into a rag, or a doggy pillow, or whatever), it’s also an opportunity: to create without any expectations.  Now, I’ve never been afraid to try new techniques or crazy ideas, but one thing I’ve never done is just sit down and play, without a real idea or a sketch, or even the expectation of the outcome of a finished product.  It just seemed too self-indulgent a thing for "Practical Carrie" to do.  

To my mind, going blind into the foray of creation can have three possible outcomes – something totally crappy, something good, or something great.  (Maybe there is also a fourth possibility, which is something truly extraordinary.  One should never rule that out, I suppose.)  But for me, it’s a scary proposition because I am programmed: to NOT waste time, to NOT waste resources, to ALWAYS pursue excellence, and to ALWAYS have a finished product.  So if it didn't seem like a good idea, I simply didn't try it.  But as my husband put it the other day, “Every idea isn’t a genius one.”  So true.  Something else to remember, on the other hand, is that each idea - stupid, ugly or useless as it may seem, carries the potential to lead to something worthwhile. So it shouldn't hurt to try stuff...should it?

Last week I decided to go through my fabric scraps and leftovers and “organize” them.   As I did, I found some squares of fabric that were given to me at QUILTCON last year.  For once having the luxury of time, I decided to play a little.  I put like colors together and began cutting them up and re-sewing them, mixing the fabrics, etc. to create new squares.  I wasn’t exactly bowled over by the results, and since they were free and I didn’t really care about them, I felt perfectly at ease with the idea of just tossing them. So it was out of pure curiosity that  I stuck them on my design wall and played around a little, wondering if there was anything I could do to make them more interesting or likeable, thinking I might just toss them; trying different arrangements and not being one bit invested in actually producing a finished work…

And playing around with them off and on for a couple of days; I ended up with this (not quite finished yet, but wanted to share it anyway):

It’s small, and perhaps not too excitingly original, but in the end I think it’s cute and cheerful and I know I had fun making it.  And it’s made entirely from stuff I had on hand, and  lastly it's a surprise how much it appeals to me – I really like it!  Go figure.

I felt so pleased with Green Peace, as I call it, that last Friday I tried free creating again.   My niece and nephew (aged 6 and 10) were at my house and while my son Jonas and his cousin Karsten were playing video games, Aven and I went up to the sewing room.  She found some 2 ½ inch squares of really cute fabrics that were also freebies from QUILTCON and fell in love with them.   I told her to make any arrangement she wanted on the design wall, and I would show her how to sew them together.  She had so much fun with it!   (Her seams were pretty straight, too!)  And the result is well – so modern and I think, adorable! 

She decided to frame it in white, a result I love, and I’m trying to convince her to make it into a pillowcase, but she wants it to be a quilt, which is fine.  I guess I was just surprised by how much I liked this simple little rectangle made of squares. It’s really the fabric and colors that make it so cute.  At first I tried to stop Aven from putting white squares next to each other, but then I just decided to let her do it exactly the way she wanted, and it’s fine and I call it (appropos a six-year-old) "Missing Teeth."  

From my recent experiences I (as usual) learned some things.  First, not to always be so invested in trying to create something “new” and “original.”  It’s okay just to play with color or put things together in a simple way – one can still end up with something really keen and likeable.  And second, not to have to have an outcome in mind, meaning a finished piece.  If I try something, and it doesn’t look good or I don’t like it, I can always “scrap” it and move on to something else.  Especially when I’m literally using fabric pieces that are either free or leftover from previous projects. 

These two little experiences were so enjoyable, it made me change my mind about the scraps.  I was going to sell them for fifty cents at my spring garage sale, or donate them…but now I see their value.  I’m going to keep at least some of them - for futher experiments!  Maybe my little realization is my coming late to a party that many people have been enjoying for a long time – well, better late than never.  Now that I’m here, I’m stayin’ for a while!   Who knows, it could lead me to my best work yet!  One thing is certain – I’ll enjoy the ride wherever it takes me – whether it’s to the garbage can  - or someplace maybe a little less stinky.  

Saturday, January 4, 2014

And Now, Let Us Give Thanks

        Gratitude is the order of the day.  Life is full of challenges, and it’s our nature to dwell not on the good, but to focus upon the negative for whatever reason.   There's even a name for this phenomenon - it's called ruminating , and some psychologists believe there are valid reasons for it ( you can google it if you want).     Whatever it’s called, frankly, it reeks and I don't care to validate it.  But the truth is,  the older I get and the more pain, sadness and suffering I see, the more I realize how easy it is to be taken over by this destructive and useless “thinking.” 
       I’m in good company – look at  Mark Twain, a brilliant man who in his younger years possessed a sardonic, hilarious wit, and whose humorous and irreverent stories had the ability to entertain and poke fun at human beings (himself included) while simultaneously embracing and loving the very humanity of us.  He was able to make us laugh at our ridiculousness with a lovingkindness that was not only not threatening, but was often uproariously funny and even sometimes taught a lesson.  Sadly, he became quite cynical and depressed as he got older – a true curmudgeon in every sense of the word.   I understand how it can happen and I’m not judging you, Mark!  I just don’t want to suffer the same fate. 
          Which is why I’ve resolved to start and end each day with gratitude.   Today, for example, I’m flooded with a profound feeling of thanks which I’m going to take the time to express, enjoy, and hopefully pass on to you.  Don’t worry, I realize that often it can be boring to be subjected to someone else’s litany of thanks (even though it is undoubtedly helpful to remind oneself – often - of those specific people, ideas, and things for which we are thankful).
         Instead, I shall point out my gratitude for some things rather larger -  the infinite mystery of my individual existence, for one.  Think about it.  The fact that I exist at all is a miracle.  Despite our myriad differences, all our ancestors have one thing in common – they survived – at least long enough to reproduce – no mean task in the prehistoric, or even the civilized world.  And it led to each of us being here now.
       Too, all we know, all we have is built on the learning and knowledge even of our most distant ancestors – even Australopithicus had a hand in the invention of lasers, computers, and allergy pills (and in this season of cedar fever I give profound thanks for them!)  The deep understanding of plants and food sources which allows us to feed so many;  technology which has made the entire world instantly accessible; science and discovery that has made it possible for millions upon millions of people to survive infancy, all comes from millions of years of experimentation, luck, and knowledge passed down from generation to generation.  (And who knows how much we’ve lost, only to be re-discovered in the past/future!)
       The fact that I’m sitting here today, writing on this computer is a small miracle, to me.  I’m not going to analyze the reasons or to say something about justifying my existence - something that I’m often apt to do - not today.  Today I’m just going to let the gratitude for this realization flow through me and experience the joy of it.
        Then there’s creativity – an infinite amount of it - that exists in every one of us.  It expresses itself in an untold, immeasurable multitude of ways.  I’ve heard some people say that no idea is original; that everything that’s been said or created or made or done has already been thought of before.  It may be true, but to me that just illustrates the connectedness of all things – it’s a beautiful thought to know that somehow in this world of multiplicity, we’re each linked to each other through the same creative force.       
     And why such a premium on originality anyway, given the fact that we owe our very existence to constantly building upon the collective knowledge and experience of those who came before us?    Even if two people simultaneously come up with the very same idea on opposite sides of the universe, why does that compromise its usefulness, or the infinite number of ways it can be utilized, changed,  looked at - what difference does it make if it’s “new,” if it has the power to bring joy, comfort, connectedness or peace?
        I  have a knowing; a deep sense that each of us present on this planet comes from the same place, that we’re all connected to this creative, loving force that gives us all this richness and multiplicity.  Aside from all the interesting, exciting and deeply pleasurable opportunities it affords, it also makes me feel such an amazing feeling of joy. 
        And for the ability to feel that joy, I feel deeply, profoundly (Yep, you got it!)

                                                        Grateful. J