Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Choices, or You Can't Do It All

This week I've been thinking about choices, about how there isn't just one right direction to go in, much as there's not one right partner for you or one right friend for you. It's more about reaching a crossroads - in relationships, in careers, in adventures, in artistic direction - and having to make a choice. I can go this way or that way. The only thing that's certain, is that I can't stay exactly where I am. Or if I do, I'm going to have the most boring, but safe life ever. I think that's why I like this small work above - The Red Door - there are nine possible doors, and which door am I going to choose. I really have no idea where any of these doors are going to take me, but must still make a choice. And then I must walk through the door (this is where courage is needed!) and see what happens.
I have often included both doors and windows in my quilts - they are such a wonderful metaphor for the path to discovery and adventure. Which door indeed?
Back in my twenties, I spent the better part of a year back-packing around Europe. I didn't have a list of places I must go, destinations that I needed to check off on a list, although I had some notion of what might appeal to me. I headed off from New York city on a Greek freighter, only because I wanted to experience first-hand how big the ocean is. And the only reservation I made for myself in that year was the very first one, in Athens. After that, I chose where I went depending on who I met, and what they told me, and what I discovered on my own. It was a wonderful, wonderful time. Sometimes I stayed in the same place for 2-3 weeks at a time.
Yes, this is me, on the ferry to Mykonos. Where I soon met a fellow Canadian and a Kiwi, who became my travelling companions for a month or so. Where I learned about ancient history for the first time - touching stones that had been carried into place three thousand years before. Where I felt what it's like to run across a bed of sea urchins with bare feet, and then have the caretaker at the youth hostel painstakingly remove them one by one. Where I first tasted baklava. None of these things would have happened if I hadn't chosen the Greek freighter door. I couldn't possibly have guessed at all that would follow that, but that choice, the first of many, led to so many amazing experiences. And so it is, perhaps, with the creative life. We need to make choices about which direction we'll go in. We need to take that risk. And then we can open up to see what happens. How marvelous!

Monday, July 17, 2017

My Studio in the Woods

 I am only just home from a week of camping. 
Beautiful sunshine, and life pared down to its essentials -
a comfy bed, good food, and good company.
 Looking through the trees to the lake,
watching the squirrels and listening to the birdsong.
 And looking way, way up to the trees whispering overhead.
 Collecting new leaves to press, and later to print,
 Noticing the dappled light on alders along the shore,
Marvelling at the unique shape, not only of each leaf, but also of each branch.  
 Taking a little time to hand-stitch an indigo piece in progress,
And to jot down some of my ideas for possible future work, as well as getting back to my early morning journalling practice.
Sometimes I forget how important it is to get outdoors and live amongst the trees for a time.
So sweet. Such a gift. So thankful.

Monday, July 10, 2017

What Makes Me Happy?

The review that started with last week's blog has come about as part of Lisa Call's Masterclass (which is most excellent, by the way), and continues in a slightly different direction this week. Last week I chose some of the work I've made that I am most pleased with I should be concentrating on, based on those pieces.  I was really looking at what subjects they were about. Since then, though, I've realized that although the subject matter may change from one piece to the next, the story I am telling with my work remains the same. I remember hearing Valerie Hearder say some years ago, that we all really only have one story to tell. At the time, I mulled that over, and wasn't sure I agreed with her but now I think I understand the wisdom in her words a little better. So I re-visited my own work, those pieces that please me the most, and this time I asked myself if there are commonalities in the way they're constructed, or in what materials are used. This is what I came up with:
I love working with bright, saturated colours - mostly commercial fabrics, although I do add hand-dyes to the mix when it seems right.
I am happiest when I am stitching random strips of brightly colored fabrics together, making a new "something" from scraps, watching to see how it evolves.
I am attracted to multiples of shapes.
It makes me happy when I find a way to add hand-stitching to my work.
So although the subject matter may be different in each of these pieces, there is a common thread running through them all. Both the story behind the pieces, and the process by which I made my story known, are the same in each piece. Now I feel I'm really getting somewhere, in deciding on the direction for my work. Each time I contemplate embarking on a new project, I might ask myself these three questions:
1. Is this piece telling the story I have in me?
2. Am I going to be able to use the fabrics and the techniques that I most love to work with in making it?
3. Does it make me happy to think about making this?
If I can answer "yes" to all three questions, then I will carry on with the work at hand. If, on the other hand, I'm making it because it's something I "should do", or something that I'm only undertaking because I've signed up to be part of a challenge/ an exhibit/ a group show that is planned by one of the organizations I belong to - well that simply isn't going to cut it. I want to be a little bit more discerning in what I spend my life working on. And at this point in my life, I want to to make what makes me happy by intention, and not just by happy accident (or not). There's no time to lose!

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Value of Review

Sometimes those of us who are creative types are so busy following up on new and exciting ideas we have, that we forget to take the time to review what we've already made. OK, I confess - I fall into this category. This has come to my attention again this week. Before I know the way forward, I want to spend a little time reviewing what has gone before. Specifically I am asking myself - "Which of the quilts you've already made resonates with you as being most true, most pleasing, most heart-felt, most 'I don't care what the rest of the world thinks of this, I am happy with it'?" These are some of the ones I chose that fit this description:
"A New Beginning"
 "Conversations with Kente"
 "In the Presence of the Elders"
Detail (sideways) of "The Night Garden"
"Rosetta's Hope"
"Windows on my World"
 "There's an Elephant in My Garden"
"Abundant Life"
In reviewing these, the overwhelming thing they have in common is their use of colour. But after that it's less clear. One has to do with trees, two are inspired by Africa, two are Art Deco inspired, and one is abstract. Clearly I've got several subject areas that I'm interested in. Are any of them worth re-visiting? Well, the one that shouts out loudest to me is Art Deco. I felt I was only just beginning to touch the surface of this, before I veered off mid-stream to do something totally different. But trees and leaves (this would include my traveller's blanket) have sustained my interest for a very long time. And African experiences continue to provide me with untold material. Wisdom from experienced artists is that one has to choose one focus, and then stick with it. Does anyone else out there find this very, very hard to do? Perhaps I need to pose another question - "If I only have time to make one or two more quilts, what would they say?" Ah, this cuts to the meat of things. It helps me narrow my options. And it might be something that I haven't explored yet, that I have only touched on here or there, and which would be a culmination of all the attributes of favourite quilts from the past. Time to do a little more journalling and see where it takes me . . .