Saturday, July 26, 2014

To Be or To Do - That is the Question!

So I spent a few days doing exactly what I felt like doing, and may I say it was fabulous?  It was, really.  I ate or I didn’t eat, depending on whether I was hungry.  I read a book if I felt like it, I finished a quilt, I meditated…I also cleaned my car, inside and out (the weather was nice and I like it clean), I weeded the garden, cleaned the house from top to bottom, I took some stuff I’ve been meaning to get rid of to the Salvation Army, I wrote a little, watched a movie, took a few naps, exercised, and had a girls’ night with my friends (which was wicked fun!).  I sat on the front porch thinking and watching the grass grow, I played on the computer…All in all, I simply enjoyed myself being responsible for only me.  Now I’m ready to get back to real life.  Because while it is nice to take some time to just be, having responsibilities isn’t so bad, either.
 In fact, I am suddenly thinking that it’s doing all the things that need doing in life that helps me be creative.  The more I’m challenged by life, the more I’m exposed to other people and their thoughts, the more I see when I’m out and about, the more I do for others, the more inspired I get.  I’ve always felt my ideas don’t always just come directly through me – often they are sparked by something I see, hear or experience while I’m being productive, or other people’s ideas spark a new idea in me, or I build on something I’ve seen or heard. 
When I was teaching I was willing to try anyone’s idea if it worked for them, and I freely shared my stuff, too.  I love bouncing ideas off of other people, looking at other people’s creations to spark my own – not necessarily to copy them exactly; sometimes their ideas lead me in the direction of something I’m excited about.   
We’re all connected in a sort of collective way, even though we might not realize it.  I’ve noticed often that I might have a design thought and I might even make the thing, and then I find out someone else has the same or a very similar idea (usually there’s a much easier way to do it than the way I figured out).  Some people find that idea threatening, but I think it’s beautiful - and it’s okay, really.  I can’t get too fussed about being completely “original.”  I’m just happy that I get lots of ideas that I can’t wait to create. To me, creativity is a gift, and I am grateful for it.  I’m not worried that someone else is creative, too.  There’s plenty of creativity to go around, and many, many different forms of it, too.
Sure, creativity does just happen sometimes, but I don’t think it ever occurs in a vacuum.  We may not be able to directly attribute a new idea to anything consciously, but it comes from the connectedness and continuity of life, an openness to new and different ideas, and it leads to more new and innovative stuff  - wave after wave of creativity, all welling up from the same abundantly creative ocean that we all swim in.  It may show up completely differently in most of us, but it is the same soup, of that I’m certain. 
Getting back to my original point, after just being for a while, I find that I am more of an action-type person – I like to be pretty busy most of the time, and it seems when I’m active and interacting with others is when I find the most inspiration and ideas.   I also see the value of just being, on a regular basis – sitting, contemplating, meditating – those things help me get centered, calm me, keep me open, help me remain present.      It’s a balance.  For me, my fulcrum is more towards the “doing” side, but I now find that without the equalizer of just being, I can’t necessarily remember to enjoy the doing. 
 I’d be interested to hear from you if you find you need more of one than the other, and where you find your inspiration.   

WIP Report
So I finished and shipped the charity quilt, Down the Red Steps.  I did a little less quilting on it  and used a little thicker batting, and it resembles a comforter, a little.  I’m pleased with it, and I hope it makes some little boy very happy and warm!

I also finished the “Happy Quilt” and it makes me happy.  I hope it will make others feel that sunshine-y spring sky the way it does me.  

 I really love it, and it looks so simple but graphic.  I learned a lot from it, as i always do. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Little Bit of Nothing

Generally I’m a pretty active person.  I have many things to do and I enjoy the challenge of doing them.  For the last couple of days, however, I’ve been having a problem with motivation – or lack thereof.  Blame it on my knee that’s been bothering me, blame it on the recent discovery that my darling cousin is fighting Stage IV cancer, blame it on hormones - whatever, but there it is!   I feel all of a sudden, as though I’m having to force myself to do things:  exercise, clean out my filthy car, or the refrigerators, or my house (usually I enjoy doing such things, believe it or not – I sort of use them as a spiritual practice – to enjoy whatever it is that needs to be done at the moment, even if it’s spending three hours vacuuming out the car – it is a pleasant feeling of accomplishment and a helluva(n) arm workout!) But I don’t feel like doing right now. 
 I don’t want to just sit and vegetate though, not at all – nope, instead I’m thinking back to my youth when spending an entire afternoon reading a book somehow didn’t seem like a waste of time at all.  What I really feel like doing is being; I want to meditate, pray, read – books and blogs and poems,  I want to write- in my journals, on my blog, on my stories, and of course, I want to create (okay, that’s doing, but it’s also a little like breathing for me – can’t not do it!)
 Of course I’ve got a long list of to-do’s but I don’t feel like striking the iron, so to speak.  Maybe the summer heat has made me indolent, I don’t know.  But for the first time ever in my adult life, I think I might be in a unique position to give in to it.  I’m on my own for a few days – my husband and son are in California, and so I’m going to experiment, and just do only exactly what I feel like doing, whatever that is at the moment.   I realize it is a huge luxury, but I’m calling it a Soul Time.  So what if the house needs cleaning, so what if I have errands to do, phone calls to make, etc. – they can wait a couple of days, none of them is particularly urgent.  I’m going to do the some of the quiet things that I often put on the back burner until I’ve fulfilled all my other responsibilities (which rarely happens, of course!) 
I’m thinking this is a fine idea -  that allowing myself this time to sort of catch up on quiet time will allow me to go back into my regular life with renewed purpose, vigor, and joy.  I also think it will lead to more and new inspirations, as being quiet often does.   Who knows, if it works out, I may plan on doing it on a regular basis – once every so often just giving myself a day to do – nothing in particular.  Sounds pretty dreamy but also it reminds me of the Sirens in Odysseus  – don’t want to get lost in a vortex of not doing for too long!   I’ll let you know how it all works out, of course.  Just – if you don’t hear from me in a few days, send someone in after me, okay.

                                                                  WIP UPDATE:

 Been working on a quilt for charity – it’s the first patten quilt I’ve done in quite some time – lots of little squares!  But I finally got the top finished and am on to backing and quilting.  I admit I had to bring myself to presence several times; I found it a tiny bit irksome because it has been rather time-consuming – especially in my quest for perfection.  It’s been a good practice to remind myself that I want to infuse everything I do with joy, especially something like this which is going to someone who needs it, and I wanted it to be special enough to show the recipient how important he is (it’s a boy quilt).   Anyway, here’s a picture –

I'm calling it "Down the Red Steps."  It's a simple split rail pattern, but I still like to think up fun names as pieces are developing.  I’m pretty pumped because I really have gotten so much from these fabrics – and one purchase!  This is the third piece I’ve completed using this collection – I am so glad I bought it!  It’s a really inspiring line,  I must say – if I had any more of it – I might come up with some more ideas!  So kudos to Carrie Bloomston  for a job well done – I know she’s designed more fabrics for Windham – can’t wait to check them out! 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Deceptively Simple

My latest project has led me to once again, learn a new lesson - sometimes it's the things that look the easiest that prove the most challenging.  Take for example, straight lines.  Straight lines are not easy to make look crisp and clean, especially when dealing with fabric.  Even attempting to quilt in straight lines is not easy, as I am learning.  And woe be unto you if you mess up on the first line, because then you find out all the lines after have to be corrected, but not usually until you've done quite a few.  At least that's what has happened to me.  After ripping out several long rows in my quest for perfection, I finally found a strange little arm I could attach to my presser foot that I'm using to guide me, but even with it, I still have to do a fair amount of stitch pulling.  I'm using it as a way to remain calm and present.  If I can't be cheerful while working on the piece, I stop.  Once I read where some quilter said "Not every day is a good day to sew curves."  The same can be said for straight lines!

It made me realize that we tend to look at simple pieces of art and think that not much thought or effort went into them, but perhaps we are mistaken.  There is a quote that I have perhaps shared before about how any idiot can make things more complicated but it takes real genius to make it simpler, and I agree.  We might do well to remember that next time we look at a sculpture, for example, and say "Oh, anyone could do that!"  I hear it a lot, especially when people talk about modern art, and I couldn't disagree more.  To make an eloquent statement in a simple manner is not necessarily easy.  The sculptor Andy Goldsworthy comes to mind. Here is an example of an incredibly simple piece of his, but to me, it speaks volumes.

I love this kind of stuff, and after watching a documentary on Andy Goldsworthy, I know for certain that a great deal of thoughtfulness and effort goes into his art.  And that the creation of it is anything but easy.  Still, it has a kind of effortless simplicity that is absolutely elegant.  I find it quite inspiring.  

Here's another remarkable, yet simple Andy Goldsworthy piece - most of his are the epitome of the fact that 

simple isn't always easy, but it can often can be quite satisfying. And it can be very difficult to achieve.  So here's to simplicity; no matter how hard it is to achieve, it's well worth the effort. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Update on Quick Quilt-Fixer Upper!

Well, I got it fixed - the warbled edges in my piece- such a relief!  Here I am, with iced tea, music, seam ripper, and the piece:
.  Note the smile - I had a positive, can-do attitude!  Here's what I did:  First, I ripped out the seams in the middle of the quilt, except for the blue center strip.  Then I measured down the middle of the top to the middle of the quilt and carefully measured inch by inch along the yellow and white and cut it to the same length.  Then I flipped it over and did the same for the bottom half and viola! It zipped up quite nicely - no more gaping.  Now the thing is sandwiched and ready to quilt, and for once, I know exactly how I'm going to quilt it.  My only question to myself is whether I should stitch in the ditch to preserve the straightness of the lines or just do the overall design.
I know Weeks Ringle, my current guru, is against ditch-stitching, but I wonder if in this case it's necessary, again, to keep everything super straight and crisp....I need some research for this, I think.  I'm going to the Craftsy Class I took from her to see what she has to say.  I'm also going to have a look-see at what another currently hot quilting guru, Angela Walters, has to say about it in her book.  Naturally I'd rather take the lazy way and not do it, but I'm pretty attached to this piece and I want to do whatever will make it look the crispest (if that's a word).  Oh joy, she doesn't stitch in the ditch, either!  So I guess I'm not going to because why do it if you don't have to? 
So far I'm quite pleased with this piece, now that I've gotten it fixed..  It has been rather a challenge, which may be surprising, given that it looks so simple.  But it really wasn't.  I had to be quite vigilant about making sure it was sewn as straight as a  semi-blind girl who tends to fudge and who is also without a quarter inch foot can sew (which, lacking vigilance and discipline, can lead to much stitch pulling, which in turn can potentially lead to cursing and frustration, which is not allowable if one's goal is zen... and which I am zen to report did not happen!   For once, I kept my presence about me, believe it or not!) And any time there is bias involved, it is tricky. But I'm nearly there, and like I said, pleased.

Here it is before sandwiching, hanging flatly on the wall, like it's supposed to.   It's simple, graphic and I love the colors - I think I'm going to call it The Sunny Day, cause it's just so darn happy!