Monday, December 12, 2016

The Lure and Wisdom of Multiples

You may remember that in January of this year, I set myself a little project - to make a luggage tag each and every week of the year, using only the scraps I had popped in my small desktop garbage that week. Well, we're nearing the end of the year, and I have just a few left to make. The thing that I've learned, more than anything else, is that I find it easiest to work when I've set myself very specific limitations. Those limitations - in size, in materials, and in time - can be incredibly liberating! Doing one little thing every Monday morning has not been difficult, precisely because of those limitations, and yet it adds up to a "big something" in time. What I am going to do with 52 luggage tags I'm not quite sure yet, but I have loved committing myself to something small, and watching the results appear almost as if by magic.
These are the luggage tags from October and November - altogether different. Some work better than others as small compositions, but they all record what I was working on for one of the weeks of 2016. I'll be sure to share the whole collection with you at the end of the year.
"Turning 65" was another week by week project this year (with a few extra blocks thrown in along the way). And now I've begun hand-quilting it. The quilt itself is going to be quite large, but making one improvisational block at a time was not in the least overwhelming. Could it be that breaking down a project into smaller components makes it more do-able? You've probably known this for a long time, but I seem to be a slow learner, and have to keep reminding myself that doing a little bit every day, or every week, makes the seemingly impossible possible.
The same held true when I worked on my "African Proverbs". If I had decided to make twenty small pieces it would have seemed huge, but to make one tiny piece and then another was manageable. In fact,  it had the added bonus of giving me repeated injections of pleasure each time one of the pieces was finished.
"Indigo Tiles" is a quilt I made last year. I made one block but couldn't seem to stop there. I wanted to see what a whole quilt made up in this pattern in blues would like. The problem was that it was a fiddly block to make and I became disenchanted with the process early on. The only way I could figure out how to get it done was to make one block a day until I had twenty blocks made. I wrote out a list so I had a visual to go on as well, and each time I finished a block I crossed it out on my list - with red ink! And so this quilt too was finished by breaking it down into smaller steps.
A project that gave me much more pleasure to work on was my traveller's blanket. And yet it too was completed by working on one embroidered square at a time. Once again, I numbered and wrote about each leaf as I finished it. I'm wondering now if it's just me that thrives on this way of working, or if it's something other people experience too? I even find the finished work more pleasing when it is made up of many small things. And now I'm wondering about carrying this observation one step further, and have purchased tiny canvases on which I plan to mount tiny works. The trick will be giving myself other limitations or boundaries for what kind of works I will make, or I know I'll quickly be overwhelmed by the myriad possibilities and grind to a halt. Sometimes I consider myself the most fortunate of people in having so very many ideas of what to make, and I am, but getting these wild things corralled and into something I can handle ( a bit like hearing sheep, I would think), is sometimes problematic, and remembering the wisdom of working in multiples could go a long way to making it easier, don't you think?

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