Given that my friend and all-around inspirational person Melody and I have discovered that we have so much in common that we must be long-lost sisters, it comes as no surprise to me that the very topic on my mind for blogging this morning is the one she has posted about today, too. It's the little matter of finding one's own voice in art, and how easily it is to get distracted from the work required to do so.
I'm guilty of this, to be sure. I do not have confidence in myself as an artist, especially in the art quilt arena. I mean, I'm not making art to sell, I'm not trained as an artist, I do this for my own joy and satisfaction and sanity. I don't have a clear, specific direction in mind. I don't have any vision of what I want to create. I don't have any specific concept I want to communicate through art. I only know that working with fabric and color makes me happy, and that the process of creating feeds me in a way that is absolutely essential to my well-being. I'm exploring, playing, learning...and I'm getting a glimmer of a feeling that I'm on the way to finding my style. But it's just a glimmer.
So, it's easy for me to find myself agreeing to participate in projects. A guild challenge? Sure, that'd be fun. A few more workshops? Sure, those would be fun. But what's more, they provide me more opportunities to learn new techniques, work with different images and styles, and they force me to be creative in a way I might not otherwise make time to do on my own. So, there's good there... but suddenly, I have a host of projects to finish and deadlines to meet that get in the way of my exploring the artistic whims that strike me.
I'm quite torn about whether these things help, or hinder. Actually, I think they do both. There isn't any reason that the circumstance of a challenge can't be used to explore an idea or theme or technique that I want to explore for my own purposes. That's my internal rule, in fact: I'll only participate in a challenge or "externally imposed" project if it allows me to follow something I want to do anyway.
And I find that having to come up with ideas and images for a challenge project (as with these Pointless Sister blocks I'm finishing) lead me to areas I want to explore further, for myself. For example, I've been stuck on this one block...a butterfly, in blue and yellow. Ug, I thought, how trite. But as I struggled to come up with something that I wanted to make, and that would express something about me or my vision, I came up with a block I love. The project pushed me to find something I wouldn't have found, otherwise. And I'm planning on turning it into a larger piece, to work it further.
But yes, it's so easy to lose sight of why doing this is important to ME. I love the frienship and community and commraderie of quilting...but I've ventured this far because I'm yearning to create original work that only I can make.
I had an interesting experience a while ago. Through my guild, I met a woman whose art work just bowls me over. She's not a traditional quilter...doesn't even call her pieces quilts, even. But she does interesting things with fabric collage, and I arranged to have some one-on-one workshop time with her to find out more about her process. As we talked, she honed in on one photograph that I'd taken some years ago, and that happened to be among the pictures I had when I was showing her the sort of idea I wanted to work on. It wasn't at all anything I want to work with, and I went in another direction and worked on a piece I like a lot. But now, every time I see her, she says something like "I really want to see you do that other picture..." SHE has this vision of where SHE wants me to go, but I don't want to go there.
So... here is my promise to myself: I'll work on work that fills and enriches me, and helps me grow. I won't sign onto projects unless I truly believe that they'll help me go in the direction *I* want to go. I'll pay close attention to moving myself forward as an artist and to doing work that expresses my own vision. I'll make time to work on MY work, for me.