Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I get by with a little art with my friends

When I sat down to write a post here this morning, I started in on how irritating my day was yesterday, and how many things went wrong. I wrote a few paragraphs, getting more irritated all over again as I wrote, and then it occurred to me: I wouldn't want to read that. I erased it all and went off to do errands.

Well, I came home after getting some things done and having lunch with friends and I feel much better. And instead, I'll tell you about the good part of yesterday.

In my art quilt group, the Pointless Sisters, we started our workshop with quilt artist Marilyn Felber. I wasn't sure what to expect, really, but I knew several things: She's highly respected by my friend and long-time quilter Janet Shore; some people I know who've taken classes with her rave about her and have produced amazing work in their workshops with her; and in her emails about what she planned to do, she said she would present the sort of master class she always wanted to find but never did.

Well, it was a wonderful afternoon. Marilyn is a calm, very pleasant woman who is great at asking questions, provoking ideas, and generating interesting thoughts. She had us go around the group and talk about why we were in quilting and what we wanted to get out of the workshop, and that was very instructive. Considering that we've been getting together for some time now, I learned stuff about others that I didn't know...It was very interesting to hear what others thought their strengths and weaknesses were as quilt artists. She looked at some work some of us had done, and her comments were kind and thoughtful.

The exercise she had us do was of interest to me not so much for the sewing exercise itself, but for the questions that she raised about the exercise afterwards. Here's what she had us do: We each chose a baggie of scrap fabric from an assortment Marilyn had brought with her. She told us to pick 9 pieces out of the baggie, and then with each of those, sew something to it from our scrap collections. We did that over and over, until we had 9 assembled pieces.

When we gathered together, she asked provocative questions:

Did you like sewing piece by piece, without knowing what the end was going to be? Do you prefer to know before you start what the end result will be?
Was it stressful having someone yell out directions to you while you were working?
Why did you sew the shapes you sewed?
Why did you choose what you picked out of the baggie? Did you choose for color, pattern, etc?
What made you add what you did to each piece? Were you driven by a desire to make symmetrical pieces? Different pieces? Did you pull fabrics at random or aim for something cohesive?

It was, for me, an exercise in noticing what drove me to do what I did. Interestingly, after we all put our pieces on the floor in front of us (we were sitting in a circle), I would have been able to identify who had done which pieces for over half of the groupings, I think.

Also, funnily, almost everyone had the feeling that they had done something "wrong," when one of the key points was that the exercise directions were so vague that there was not any "wrong" way at all. The sense that somehow there were unspoken "rules" we were violating was a very strong one in each of us! That alone was a light-bulb moment for me.

So, now the task -- if we choose to accept it -- is to take those pieces and make something bigger with it. We meet again in a month.

I think this will be a very productive series of workshops!


  1. Anonymous7:25 PM

    Thought provoking post, Diane. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I'd love to hear what your answers were to her questions!

  3. What a great exercise! Very thought provoking...I guess we all have expectations about "rules". I love the part about being able to recognize who made what. It's that facinating intangible...Jen

  4. Marilyn is so great! I'm glad you had the opportunity (have) to work with her! What a learning experience.