Sunday, March 29, 2009

It's Show Time!

My husband and I just returned from installing some of my pieces at the Upstate Artists Guild on Lark Street in Albany for their upcoming exhibit, "Loose Threads: A Fiber Art National Show."  I am honored to be the featured artist at this show, which means: (1) my quilts are displayed in a room of their own, and (2) I will be asked to say a few words about my work during Albany's First Friday celebration on April 3, between 6 and 9 PM.  Having taught high school students for 25 years, I should be very accustomed to public speaking without developing sweaty palms, but I always get butterflies when I do something like this, and I've finally realized the reason for my anxiety (my "Aha!" moment): It's because the audience at an event such as this one will actually be listening to what I say. . .

I finished several new pieces for the show, one of which is "Wallflowers: #5," pictured above; I posted a sneak preview of this quilt on March 15, and here's the final version.  There is nothing happier to me than a yellow flower in full bloom, so I began with a beautiful piece of Judy Robertson's hand-dyed fabric as my background and filled it to the margins with yellow petals.  Since I don't have much of a green thumb, this is the closest I could come to growing one of Mother Nature's beauties without over-watering it.

I hope you'll stop in to see the show; please check future posts for more information and more previews of the works on display.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Trust the Process (The Sequel)

Ornamentals: #8
(available through my web site)

"In order to realize our creative powers, we have to believe that we have the ability to make something significant."
Shaun McNiff

In my last post, I wrote about the book I've been reading, "Trust the Process: An Artist's Guide to Letting Go," by Shaun McNiff, and his discussion of the practice which he calls "emanation: a process of one thing emerging from another."  He offers this exercise as a means of enabling an artist's style to emerge.

Dr. McNiff suggests making a series of images on small cards, trying to maintain connections from one image to the next and watching how ideas for a new picture emerge from previous pictures.  We are, in effect, working in a series, and doing it in a small format that should fit into the context of our busy lives.  The cards are highly portable, and a sketch can be done in a matter of moments while waiting in a doctor's office or during the seventh inning stretch at a baseball game.

What a great idea for someone like me, since I'm trying to pull myself away from my lengthy left-brained preparation tactics.  The underlying theme in this exercise is to concentrate on a whole body of little works and to not become overly involved in one picture.  This will take practice on my part; my epitaph will likely include the words "overly involved."  But I'm ready to go -- I've got my cards and my favorite pen, and I can feel the muse knocking on the door.

Do you have a favorite technique for igniting the creativity in your work?  Please share!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Trust the Process"

Ornamentals: #7
(available through my web site)

"Trusting the process is based on a belief that something valuable will emerge when we step into the unknown."

Shaun McNiff

I've been reading a book by author and artist Shaun McNiff entitled "Trust the Process: An Artist's Guide to Letting Go," and I'm finding that it is, indeed, helping me to approach my fiber art from a more relaxed perspective.  With chapters such as "Stepping Into the Unknown," "Mistakes and Distortions," and "Play and Ornamentation," Dr. McNiff encourages the reader to embrace the miscues and failures that are an inevitable part of the creative process.  He suggests emptying one's self of preconceptions and viewing the "repetitious rituals and patterns of expression" as new elements that are occurring in the moment.

When it comes to my creative process, I find that I have to work at not working so hard; I'm not always successful in my efforts, but I'm improving.  I'll be honest here (we're all friends, aren't we??): I've thrown out several of my attempts at fiber art along my journey.  But I'm also taking more of my perceived mistakes to their conclusion -- with surprisingly pleasing results.  It's very freeing, isn't it?  

Dr. McNiff has a wonderful idea for promoting what he refers to as "emanation: a process of one thing emerging from another."  Many artists already practice this when they work in a series.  In order to describe this idea adequately, I'll share it with you in the next post.  Until then, may we all remember that "failed expressions close some doors and open others."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Wonderful Discovery . . .

I love reading quilt artist Frieda Anderson's blog -- her creative use of color and her whimsical designs truly speak to my soul, and she often has wonderful products and techniques to share.  One of her recent posts included photos of a piece she had completed using Madeira 30-weight rayon thread for the quilting, and I fell in love.  The thread had such a brilliant shine, the stitching created an immediate impact, and the colors beckoned to me.  So I ordered the palette of 10 shades offered on her web site and eagerly awaited the chance to play with them.

 I tried them out on my latest piece, and I was thrilled with the result; the petals of the flower pictured above were quilted with color #1065 (click on the photo for a really good close-up).  I used a size 80 universal needle and 50-weight cotton in the bobbin, and the rayon glided through the quilt sandwich like . . . well, like butter.  Can't wait to try all the colors.  I'll share the entire piece with you as soon as it's competed.

Spring is just around the corner, and as much as I enjoyed winter after I adopted my new attitude towards it, I'm still glad to see the snow melt . . . aren't you?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What Inspires Us To Create? (Part Deux)

"Canadian Sunset" (Collection of Jeff Gritsavage)

I took a class from Caryl Bryer Fallert in which she taught us as many techniques as she could squeeze into four days.  One of the mornings was devoted to creating a fabric image from a picture in a magazine.  The twist was that we were to take strips of fabric and rotary-cut them into little bits and then use these small pieces to compose at least part of the image.  I chose a photograph of a beautiful sunset along a shore and produced the quilt you see above (I no longer have the inspirational picture, which is a good thing, because then I won't have to reveal just how much I deviated from the original).  

The important thing, however, (I tell myself) is that I had fun.  Thanks to the generosity of my tablemates at the workshop, I was able to borrow nylon tulle to hold the bits of sky in place, and I experimented with 30-weight rayon to secure the parts as I quilted over the tulle.  I left some of the edges of the appliqued elements slightly frayed, and there is free-motion quilting in the border using a wonderful variegated rayon thread by Sulky that contains all the colors of the piece.  Talk about enjoying the process as much as the product!  I'm looking forward to trying this again soon.

The ever-so-slightly warmer weather is returning -- may it re-ignite the creativity in all of us.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Eye-Candy, For Certain!

Aren't these fabrics luscious??!!  I just received them in the mail from talented quilter and dye-artist Linda Salitrynski who lives in Rome, Pennsylvania.  I have had a quilt design in my head for some time now; the idea has even made it to the drawing stage, where I used colored pencils to help me decide on a palette of periwinkles and greens.  I then set out on an impossible search for a gradation of periwinkle blues; I found violets, lavenders, purples, and denims, but nothing that matched the color I had in my head -- or in my pencil case.  So I called Linda, who is a true mixologist, and who persevered until she developed the perfect recipe for the gorgeous gradation you see here.  She told me she was so pleased with the results that she plans to offer this colorway in her store.  The green fabrics are hers as well, an eight-step gradation called Lime Green and available on her web site, along with many other beautiful fabrics.  Do visit her site -- it's a feast for the eyes.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


                            "Masquerade" (private collection)

Janet Tanguay, creative director of Art-N-Soul, writes the following in her artist's commentary:

"The Japanese have a concept they call wabi-sabi that speaks to the art of imperfection and/or the willingness to accept things as they are.  Wabi-sabi is really about process, not the end result.  (It) requires that we take time to pay attention to imperfections.  To practice wabi-sabi means to accept nature's process, including impermanence."

Since reading Janet's narrative, I've given a great deal of thought to the way I approach my art.  Because I am essentially a left-brained, mathematically-saturated person, I've addressed my creative endeavors with my focus on the product: How well did it come out?  Did I achieve what I set out to do?  Did I waste very little time discovering how to do it?

One of my goals for this year is to embrace the process of creating fiber art and to accept the fact that the end result may not be what I envisioned . . . it may be, however, what was envisioned for me.

The quilt pictured above, "Masquerade", was begun in a class taught by Laura Wasilowski and departed quite dramatically from the piece I had originally imagined.  Its imperfections are there for all to see . . . and I have learned to love every one of them.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Genius In Us All

" If you never happened to believe that the most extraordinary aspects of your being came from you . . . just believe that they are on loan to you."  
                               Elizabeth Gilbert

 I watched a video of a lecture given recently by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the immensely popular book, "Eat, Pray, Love."  She presented her thoughts on redefining the idea of "genius" as it relates to creativity.  She suggested that, instead of concerning ourselves with the question of whether or not any of us is a genius, we should think of ourselves as having a genius who chooses to visit us from time to time.  Perhaps we need to simply do the work that we do best and, every day, say to the genius who is assigned to our case, "I showed up for my part of the job today; if you want to show up,  then that's terrific."

I think that I can probably look back at pieces I've created and know instinctively whether or not the genius showed up that day to work with me.  I do know that, after listening to this lecture, I'll try harder to at least put in my time each day, even if he (or she) does not accompany me. 

May your genius visit you often. 

Pictured above is a work entitled Notebook Series: #6.  Since I'm proud enough to display its picture in my blog for all to see, I'd like to imagine that I was not alone on the day it came into being . . . 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...