We all run into bumps in the road. I feel I fell into a ditch and have had a time getting out of it. I think it started with a Mercury Retrograde. For those of you who don’t know what that is — it is very similar to Murphy’s Law: what can go wrong — will go wrong.
Usually it has to do with Mercury the Messenger in Astrology. This condition occurs four times throughout the year. I always mark my calendar in January so I know when it will occur. If you start a project during this time you can be pretty certain you won’t finish it.
It seems I started organizing my workroom space during a Mercury Retrograde. It has also occurred to me that is the only time I get back to working on organizing it.
Last organizational spurt a small piece of fabric (10″ x 20″) turned up on my work table. I kept shifting fabrics around still there it was. It kept coming up to the surface. So I thought there must be a message here — guess I am just a little slow sometimes. So I measured it and I could cut it into 4 1/2 inch squares. I thought it would be perfect in the center of some Sawtooth stars. It was one of the first patterns I fell in love with so many years ago.
I made TWO stars. It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon and just about dinner time. There is not need to rush this.
My TWO STARS:
It’s a beginning.
I had an idea back in the 1980s to make quilts using ideas from Tarot cards. I was in a study group with two astrologers, Charley King and Kym Dickey, at the time. There is something about a connection with the Universe when you are in a group of like minds. It was esoteric. Everyone has their own individual Tarot Card. I had drawn my card earlier but when Charley asked who I was and I told him, he said let’s see. I thought this was a test and a challenge. I shuffled the deck and fanned it out — 72 cards, 22 of the Major Arcana. I put my energy into the cards. I was sure who I was but would the cards agree. I picked a card and turned it over — there I was, the exact card I told Charley that I was.
I was also taking college classes with a teacher learning Egyptology, and the history of the Tarot, ancient Assyrians, and the destruction of libraries and it all came together. At the time I also took a quilt class from David Walker, who was also designing his own Deck of Cards. David said something, I wasn’t happy about. Apparently his words had to do with me not wanting my work to be on open display when there was an open walk-though during the conference. Too often had I seen people taking pictures of work then copying the work and getting it published.
So I made my first Tarot Card. Then I came home and made two more.
I started buying the Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine when it came out printed on a mimeograph machine. I collected them even though I was not a quilter. I was a seamstress, I made clothing, including wedding apparel. When we moved from the East Coast to San Jose a group of the ladies in the neighborhood, all from New York, formed a Tuesday night group. We brought whatever handy work we were doing at the time. I did Needlepoint, my own designs inspired by a picture I might see in a magazine. Sometimes it was from a kit, but kits were expensive. I designed an occasional canvas that my friend Sharon Maher would buy from me.
One of the ladies in the group who kept the shell of an old VW bug in her backyard decided that she alone would bring a renaissance of quilting. I admired that. I thought someday I might be a quilter. With two toddlers I was sure it wouldn’t be anytime soon. I couldn’t even afford to buy a quilt at a flea market. If one was on the side of the road, I might stop for it, but that would be the only way I would own one.
I did love fabric and occasionally for an outing as a family we would ride the train into San Mateo. There was a mall there and in one of the stores they had a bin with scraps of fabrics leftover from silk ties. I learned to make men’s ties. My mother made the boys cute little short sets out of seersucker to wear so any sewing I did was usually for myself.
When we moved from San Jose to San Diego it was small and quiet. There wasn’t much to do and I didn’t know anyone. It was a young neighborhood with a lot of young children. Cheryl Herr lived down the street and in her living room sat a quilting frame. She could make a whole cloth quilt in a week completely hand quilted. She’d shop at K-Mart and buy two twin-sized sheets and a roll of polyester batting. All the furniture would be pushed to the side until she finished the quilt. I was inspired. I was not interested in a quilt made from sheets although her quilts were beautiful. She told me I could do it. Funny thing, I believed her. You have to believe you can do something or it will never happen.
The only place to buy fabric was at Sears. We had two and neither one was close, both were approximately the same distance in opposite directions. One day I was out with my next door neighbor and shopping buddy Barbara Johnson. She acted as my welcome wagon. She would drive me around and show me how to get places. One day we ended up in Escondido at Sears approximately 20 miles north of us. There was a needlework shop to buy threads for my needlepoint and Sears. I had scrap fabrics and an idea. My first quilt almost became my last quilt. When you say, how hard could this be, you then find out. Putting the top together was not as difficult as sitting and hand quilting the top. It was summer and it was hot. I had a large embroidery hoop on a frame. I would quilt during the day in the sunlight while the boys napped. My quilting time could be very limited.
I limited my pallet which simplified the design process.
I still like this quilt, which belongs to my oldest son.
Ever ask yourself about your quilting goals? What do you think you want to accomplish? There are so many different answers possible here. Are you a project person or a process person. Do you want to sell your quilts? Do you want to keep your quilts or give them away?
A project person has a distinct goal in mind — a finished quilt. There is usually a beginning and of course an end. You have a pattern, you have colors in mind, maybe you even have a location designated for it.
I am a process person. I may have a stack of fabrics and an idea but I have no general purpose except to create. I may not create a quilt — I may create pieces or parts and then decide where to go from there. Or I may lay them aside and move on to something else until I decide what to do next. This often gets me in trouble.
My friend Stephanie is a project person. She is always making something with fabric to use in her décor. One year it was a quilt for her daughter’s room. Since I didn’t have a daughter I thought I would make the same blocks for fun and sometime in the future I may need a quilt for a little girl.
I made these Bow Blocks. Definitely for a girl. I made blocks until I got tired and them put them in a box, labeled it and set them aside. Then one year, many years later, I needed a Christmas present. It was late October. I don’t know about you but once it is October time flies that much faster to the holidays. It is not just normal life events but also all the unexpected happenings. I turned things upside down looking for the box of blocks — then how to set them, What colors to use? With little Abi being the predictable little girl that she was pink and purple were the perfect choices.
Being a process person who plans less with a project you may find yourself in a pickle. You may not have enough of what you need. You used fabric saved for this project on a different project. You have no clue what or where you put the pattern if you want to make more pieces. You have to be much more creative and open to new ideas and a change your plans.
What I have learned from times like this: Set up a box with all the supplies together. Keep them there until the project is completed. Keep the book or make a copy of the pattern and keep it in the box as well.
Are there days you find yourself circling looking for something you want?
I wrote on my morning pages all the things I could do today. My list involved things I could do in my workroom. Clear out empty boxes that are taking up space. I checked that off. Then my stair stepper was in the way. I always kept it under the sofa in the living room should the urge to exercise strike. When we put down a new rug in the living room the stair step was moved to my workroom — yeah like I am going to exercise there? It went back downstairs to live under the sofa again. I need all the floor space in my workroom. Moving the stair stepper opened up enough space to set up my ladder to put yarn bins back on the shelf.
If you have followed what I’ve written you may remember I started sorting, and then I sorted some more, and then more. It was like an obsession. I am not an obsessive person. I just got to a point where I couldn’t find what I wanted when I wanted it. It happened again.
Since I have been going around in circles I thought it might be better to stop making new work and go back to working in a series which is what I like to do. I have to follow my instinct and my intuition. I wanted to find the last piece of art that was almost finished, but where did I put it? I am to the point where I can find everything. I have separated my finished works from my unfinished works and labeled it all.
I looked everywhere that I thought it could be for three days. Then I told myself, it will turn up I am certain. I was lost for what I may have done with it. Where did I remember having it last? The living room next to my favorite chair where I do my hand quilting, yes I still hand quilt special pieces which will probably never know a washing machine. One morning I thought of the most obscure place I might put it. I was knitting pet blankets in December, but then company was coming, so I fast gathered. Under the stairs there was a basket with bulky yarn. On top of the basket was the lid to a box I was using to put donation books into. I lifted the lid covering the yarn. Almost completely covered by the yarn was a corner of the quilt — hiding. I found you, my Very Colorful Quilt, a reason to celebrate.
If you think you can’t think again.
- These are all oil paintings I created from photographs I took:
- the old wooden gate in the side yard,
- our cat Pepper sitting in the window,
- Jabba the Hippo at the San Diego Zoo,
- my beloved Kuma laying in the grass,
- my son Ian at an afternoon soccer game,
- a reflection of my husband in a store window,
- night photography at the park,
- a painting of a friend’s rare Honda motorcycle,
- theme award at the Faire.
Try, and if you fail — TRY AGAIN!
Years ago I sat at the Old Town Mexican café with Libby Leman talking about making quilts. She said so many times we thing we are really “in the groove” we are making quilts and having a good time. But are we in a groove or are we in a rut? There is a tendency when we are artists to make the same thing over and over, perhaps it’s a Log Cabin quilt. Years pass and we are still making the same quilt, just in a different color. Are we moving forward, or are we standing still?
I’ve found myself sorting and organizing but not doing much else. My motor is running and my wheels are spinning but I am getting no where fast. I tell myself, “Today I am going to . . . .” and I start shuffling fabric from here to there and there is no action behind my movements. At the end of the day all I have is a bigger pile and nothing accomplished.
I did make a list of all the work I have “in progress” truth is, seeing that on paper was very impressive. I have managed to finish a few of the smaller works, but not the quilts. It’s a rut when you find yourself annoying friends and frustrating yourself. The challenge isn’t there. You feel that the world is moving past you. You aren’t excited about getting up in the morning and working in your studio.
Did you start this project with all the best intentions and somewhere it lost its steam? Was it a bad idea to start to begin with? Maybe the timing was bad, you didn’t allow enough time to meet the deadline? Are circumstances conspiring against you? Maybe the rut is caused by being too technical, what you thought was a good idea and now it isn’t. This can happen in a lot of areas of our lives, not just with our artwork.
Maybe what you liked last year, five years ago, or more is not you today. Your color preferences are different. It’s time to change it up, go on a creative date with yours. Go to a botanical park, an art gallery, even a movie or buy some upbeat music. Buy a new box of 64 crayons. You may not be as prolific as you were 10 years ago and that is bothering you. Stamina does diminish. Try getting together with younger people, buy some blank paper and share your crayons. Don’t over analyze, don’t question your inability to get out of the rut. If you are in a rut question everything but the rut.
Best to you,