Saturday, February 26, 2011

Feeling Headless

So I'm in this funny phase.  It's one I go through from time to time.  You'd think I'd figure it out eventually.  But it's about this:  What am I doing with this quilting stuff?  I feel like I am all over the place, doing a bit of everything, without ever focusing on any one technique or style or direction.

Do I have a style?  I can't see that I do, in any definite way.  I so admire some of my friends whose pieces have a strong voice and style and a distinctive cohesion. They do what they do, and they do it beautifully, and they push themselves into new places, but their work looks like it belongs to them.  And it looks like they have a path that they know they are on, and they are moving purposefully on that path.

I don't seem to have a path.  I feel more like Gemma at the dog park, rushing in all directions at once and running in circles until her tongue is hanging out.  And I feel like my work looks like a collection of random stuff.  And I'm often dissatisfied at how stiff it seems to me.  I have this idea of what I WANT my work to be -- looser, freer, more spontaneous and joyful ... but how to get there eludes me.

So, you're thinking: "JUST DO IT."  Yeah, I think that's right.  I need to just let myself play.

One of my favorite artists wrote in a book that she posted a list of seven words on the wall in her studio, to remind her of what she wants her work to be.  She has her list of adjectives, like "serene."  "Clear."  That sort of thing.  And with each piece, she runs down her list to see if she has met each of her seven words, and if not, why not.

It's a great idea, isn't it?  But me, I can't even decide on the seven words.

I think this is the mood that drives me to piecing.  Just letting fabric slide through my fingers, pulled along by the feed dogs, allows me to meditate on all of this.  Piecing, at least what I'm doing these days, requires very little brain power or decision making.  It feels good to assemble pieces of fabric and create blocks of color and pattern.  It makes me feel like I'm DOING something and, in fact, I'm getting things made and finished and that feels good.

So I need to choose a path.  For now, not forever. And maybe think about some adjectives to help me stay on that path.  And I need to give myself time to play.

If you had to pick 5-7 adjectives that describe the work you do, what would your list be?


  1. Oh, Diane, I know how you feel. Even though I think I do have a kind of recognizable style, I still waffle and waver and wish for something different. I love Elizabeth Barton's blog because as accomplished and recognizable as her work is, she still questions herself and wishes to be looser and more spontaneous. And I'm not sure you need to choose a path. I feel you are on a good path and sometimes it is better when the path finds you.

    My adjectives:
    -tight (not good, but I'm working on it)
    -subdued (good or bad? I'm not sure)

  2. Right now I am working out of my comfort zone because I feel I need to for the piece I am doing. I question myself daily about why I am doing this. I really need to get back to the surface design work that I love so much and feel comfort with. But, I think it is good that I am currently pushing myself to try other thins. I think those with a "style" must get bored sometimes doing the same thing over and over. JMHO!! I will have to think about those words.

  3. Such thoughtful wonderings. I totally understand. As Dory says in Finding Nemo, "Just keep swimming swimming swimming."

    Sometimes when you have a recognizable style (as I suppose I do) it becomes a crutch. Or I wonder if I'm not growing because I am returning to so many of the same images, techniques and colors.

    We could spend all our time raising questions about why we do what we do and if we're doing it as well as we could be. Ug. That would get so tiresome.

    It might also be interesting to ask other people to list the adjective that describe a person's work in additional to describing it themselves. (For instance, I'm not sure I would have chosen any of the same adjectives as Terry's listed in describing her work.)

  4. "frugal" was the first word that came into my mind! Wow, that's punch in the face to "creative", isn't it? Tho' some people say that limiting your resources can be freeing.

    What I think that means to me is that I feel guilty when I buy new fabric when I already have sooo much. I tell myself I have to use what I have.

    You have suggested a very hard task for me. I guess I don't think I have a vision, or clarity about what I want to be doing. Therefore I fall back into doing what "someone" else will like in a charity/gift quilt.

    Hmm, what would I myself like? ? ?
    Thanks for asking.

  5. Oh boy, did you read my mind? This was the conversation going on in my head all week. I have a hummingbird mind and approach to creating. Sometimes I think, ok, go back to traditional quilting. You like it, you know how to do it, and it will use up the armoire full of fabrics. Then I read/see/hear about a new technique or I see something I want to express and I am back to a fledgling artist trying to find her way. Agh! I drive myself nuts! When you figure it out, let me know the steps. LOL!

  6. I think that your question is why I do BOMs. I like to try new things in my quilting but I just want to put my toe it to see if it is a fit for me. If so, I will do more of that. I also accepted a Journal Quilt challenge. The challenge was a 8 1/2 x 11" quilt a week: I chose one a month because "art" quilting is way out of my comfort zone. But it is allowing me to try expanding my art form and making me think outside of it. I love the feel of strip piecing. It is calming and makes me happy. But I also like to attempt forms that are not easy for me and if it turns out that I like it (notice I didn't say good) then I feel I have accomplished something. If not, I move on to something else. I succeed more often than not.

  7. Why does it have to be under control... sometimes you find the most wonderful things when you are just wandering. I hand quilt for customers and always want more time for myself. But then feel rushed if I only have an afternoon to work on my own pieces. Remember summers as a kid? Nothing to do and plenty of time to do it. It is part of finding something later either by process or enjoyment. Things have a tendency to fall into place as we go. If you are making things the way you are comfortable, try adding something extra to the top. Make the edges uneven. Change a small thing and see where it leads. Sometimes taking the side roads lead you to a beautiful place. Or at least you had a nice trip. We all have plenty of fabrics to play with. It will take you to the next "level" or way of designing when you least expect it.

  8. I think we have been programmed to think we need to have a style. When I see the 12's on reveal day-I know who made what. Isn't that enough?

    I have tried limiting the supplies I use, not buying fabric, only using fabric I paint myself, only using scraps from the wastebasket. Doesn't matter, my work always looks like I made it.

    Pieced work never looks like the maker, in my opinion. Yes, the fabric choices will change the finished product but the design is something we have seen many times before. Even Nancy Crow is boring these days. We have seen too much of everything.