Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Keeping on Doing the Work

"The only way to become a better artist is to keep on doing the work". So I wrote last week in thinking over what I learned during my online class with Lisa Call. I've been pondering those words a little more in the last week. I think that somewhere deep down, I thought (hoped?) that if only I chose the "right" series to work on, the "right" subject matter, the best techniques and the absolutely most perfect fabrics, that then my work would stand out, and be the best that I could achieve. But the truth is that there is no magic formula that will guarantee success, but only the realization that I need to keep on making, and in time, with a string of both successes and failures behind me, I will get closer and closer to making work that is authentically mine. The 100 Day Challenge is a proving to be a practical-hands-on experience of that very truth.
Before I made the first leaf, I agonized about what the 100 pieces should be - should they all be leaves, or all windows, or all trees, or all abstract? I finally settled on leaves, because I wanted to figure out how to make them using piecing and adding hand-stitching, and because the shapes and varieties and uniqueness of each one are endlessly fascinating to me.
I used different colour combinations, and added log cabin borders to them all. Some leaves were more successful than others. I liked the rounded shapes of these better than the skinnier leaves, for example.
One day I thought I'd make a tree or two to add to the collection. After all, I thought, leaves and trees are related. And I liked the result, so added more of them from time to time.
 Sometimes I chose more improbable colours for my leaves, or at least different colours.
One day I wondered what would happen if I used a darker background instead of the light background I had used up until then, and then a couple of days later, what would happen if I pieces the trees, rather than using one solid fabric.
 One day I wondered if I could make tree trunks and branches with a gentle curve to them.
And somewhere along the way I introduced windows, wondering to myself what it would be like looking out at the forest through the windows, or coming home after a walk through the woods. I realized that I was adding my own stories to each little work.
And somewhere along the way I started making little houses. Windows and doors and houses find their way into my work over and over again. As someone who moved 23 times by the time she was 21, the longing for home and for roots is a huge part of who I am, and here it was appearing in this series of small works. 
The little house piece also brought me back to my favourite colour palette again. And a few pieces were made then that were abstract play with colour. After all, I reasoned, why not do something a little different, just because it pleased me? Surely that is reason enough.
Abstract leaves appeared too. And grey borders - a brief respite from the intense colours I'd been working with for several days.
Along with the occasional landscape. And so it goes. One small 5" x 7" is made and suggests another. Even as I'm making one, I'm wondering to myself, "what if I . . .?" What if I used analogous colours? What if I used a dark background and a light-coloured leaf? What is I added more or different stitching? What if I used the scraps left from one piece in the next piece? The possibilities are presenting themselves day after day. And so far (Day 58), I haven't run out of ideas. And so the Challenge is proving a wonderful exercise in "Keeping on Doing the Work" - the realization that I don't have to know where all of this is taking me, I just need to keep turning up in the studio and making. Or to put it another way, the process is what matters, and it's OK that I don't know where it will take me. So there is magic in it after all, just not the kind I had been looking for. 


  1. Your writing and images always make me feel a bit more peaceful and a bit more blessed. You can add that to the list of accomplishments too.

  2. What a lovely comment to receive, Jaimie. Thank you.