Tag Archives: creative process

Scraps and surprises

What happens when you turn it sideways and you like the subtle form visible there more than the intended (and obvious) one?

And while spritzing, pulling and pinning will correct bumps on this one, it won’t turn an unhappy experiment into something worthy of my time.

That’s how it goes sometimes.

I have no recollection of taking this picture. Should I be worried? I don’t even know where this house is.

I like all the lines and recesses and the walkway coming straight at you.

What if the photo inspires the next small cloth? It might be a fun challenge to try and capture shadow, railings, and rooflines.

What if we don’t know the purpose of our lives — not out of superficial disregard for what matters but because it is unknowable? Would that change anything? Would it strip away some layer of reflection and free those thoughts for other things?

We had rain yesterday. It’s still grey and humid and blessedly quiet. After days of porch construction next door and “Carnival Week” at the camp out back, how welcome the quiet is! The whir of fans. A dripping faucet.

Hope you all are having a good weekend! Much to share about writing retreat. It was productive. Interesting. And mostly — wonderful to be out in the rolling hills of my birth (not to be too dramatic!)

Palm sky house



Too much blue? Added more today including at rooflines. Those are the pieces I’m considering taking off.

The bottom dark blue floral strip came from a pair of rayon pants I bought a couple of weeks ago.

More progress shots, just for fun.


Another rainy day here. Spent part of the morning at a program for the 21st Annual Mother’s Day Walk for Peace.

the FREEDOM to tell a story

Each Thursday, I sit with a group of women and spill out writing under the tutelage of a teacher trained in the Amherst Writing Method as developed by Pat Schneider.

One of the key elements of this method is that all comments must refer to the ‘narrator’.  Even if a participant writes in the first person — the rule holds.  Is this a reliable narrator? A sympathetic character? Is she holding back, or giving us lots of details?  If a participant strays, and refers to ‘you’ or directs queries suggestive of the assumption that the writer is the narrator, our fearless leader corrects course.  “You mean the narrator…”

Why so important, you might ask?

Freedom, pure and simple.  Afterall, our writing session is not therapy and it is not a support group.  Not that we are impersonal with one another — not at all.  But it is nevertheless the case that even with pledged confidentiality, the protection of writing as a narrator is essential for creative flow.  It is actually a profound freedom.

In that spirit, I am working on letting cloth tell a dark story.

Here, where there IS no confidentiality, I am trusting my readers to hold the story of the cloth as if we were all trained in the Amherst Method.  In other words, I hope you ask yourself, “is this quilt successfully depicting trauma?” rather than, “good lord, what happened to you?!!”

At the ripe age of 55, I have come to believe that although we are each born with certain gifts and certain curses, and that they shape our thoughts and feelings in profound ways, on some level the details REALLY DON’T MATTER.

And so, I begin a house quilt where the symbol is not Security, Safety, and Solace, but rather a place of upset and fear.  I started with a simple muslin construct.  I pieced it to a ground and sky, because I wanted it to retain some sense of place once I started cutting it up.  I free-pieced some red fabrics that would be revealed when I cut open ‘windows’ and ‘doors’ in the house structure.This all happened in the span of an afternoon.  A very sunny day before Thanksgiving.
It was hard to stay the course on cutting, and in retrospect, I wish I had left the rest of the roof intact.
Even though I wanted the idea to include that the outer and the inner are severely mismatched, I like the way the red trunk points downward to the linen/green branch of the foreground.
I used a dark green thread to baste the house, the red under sections, and a swath of grey linen together, and the minute I started doing more detailed stitching, I regretted that.  The threads get in the way and I am spending a lot of time cutting and removing them.  Not sure, now, why I opted NOT to use Jude Hill‘s invisible basting method.
I had gotten a little lost for awhile with THIS detour (above)… and forced myself to return back to basics, then making the muslin house of the other photos.  Funny thing, though, when I laid the above-scrap over the basted quilt-in-progress, I found I liked it a lot more.
Not sure what I will do about that – if anything.  I plan to keep stitching the existing layers together, and then I’ll see.  The other little surprise, which goes to content here, is the appearance of an Indigo Angel.  I had absolutely no plan to address healing or grace or serendipity with the piece, and yet, as is so often the case, the quilt had other ideas.
There she is, clear as clear can be (she even has feet, which you can’t see in this picture) – fluttering her wings next to a heart-shaped face!

boundaries

“a path through the trees” in Chilmark, shot with the Sketchbook Project in mind (I missed the deadline! Wasn’t thinking about it at all!  And I don’t care!!!)…

Since being back from a weekend on the Vineyard, where the senses were feted by sea and rock and trees and food and friends, where the clutching concerns of daily life had a chance to relax, I am feeling things in my gut.  Tending to one’s gut can be instructive.  If I feel a little sick, as I have many times the last three mornings, I adjust what is right before me until I don’t.  This may be a faint bug asserting itself, but I more than half-wish it weren’t – I could use a feedback loop this insistent and obvious!

I’ve slowed a bit here.  Hurried other places.  Quilting a lot.  Working on creating new teaching gig, selling gig, and also tending to parental responsibilities.

Today, a two-man crew fixed our picket fence, and installed a gate where there had been none – in between the house and garage.  Now, the fence makes a ring around the backyard.  An enclosure.  Come spring, I will be able to garden out back with Jack and not worry about where he has trotted off to.  The renovation/repair echoes weekend discussions about boundaries.  Here is a novel way to view boundaries:

A boundary is a region, not a line.  It has the effect of defining what is included, as well as what is excluded.  In fact, it is a place of meeting and connection, for it’s where your edges meet mine… We don’t know much about boundaries.  Most of us have been taught to withhold ourselves behind invisible barriers… what we need to do is to find our edges and expand our awareness, to go deeper into our bodies.  This doesn’t mean shutting someone else out.  It means letting your needs in…

From, “No Enemies Within — A Creative Process for Discovering What’s Right about What’s Wrong” by Dawna Markova.

I love the idea that tending one’s boundary is about discovering one’s needs and including them, and not necessarily about keeping others out!  Going deeper into the body is a challenge, and one I feel ready to embrace.  I take a quote off the wall from the chiropractor’s office visited on Tuesday as further inspiration.  The article pointed out that  ‘even 10 minute bursts of activity provide the benefits of exercise’.

So, 10 minute bursts, here I come!  Stomach geiger-counter, I’m listening! Sketchbook Project – you will stay home this year!

Chop chop, Fizz Fizz, Oh What a Relief it is!

A little ruthlessness can go a long way, particularly with little pieces that seem to be going nowhere.  This chunk was the bottom of a piece roughly four times as big.  It started as pure abstraction.  It started as another lap-size piece that would accommodate my need to work upstairs, without my machine.  It was a continuation of a new-found love of handquilting with buttery layers.

I then thought I saw a figure in the shapes and started to turn the blue shape into the dress  of an angel (the little green tip of embroidery, upper right, was a foot).  I kept stitching, kept adding thread and time, and the result was getting further and further away from anything that I could stand to look at.

At first I was going to chuck it.  Something I plan to do more of in the future.  Just chuck it.

But then I cut it up and now I have some pieces that I want to play with.  I have a drawer full of cut-up-quilt chunks.  The new thing here is — What if I created something specifically for cutting up (as opposed to cutting up rejects, only?)  We shall see.  We shall see.

I also cut up a piece that had used a lovely, transferred image of an angel from a notecard as its centrepoint.   Even though the image had been cut out, incorporated into a collage, then transferred to clear acetate and then sewn onto a quilt…  everytime I looked at it my heart said, “Copyright violation.  Copyright violation” (think of the ‘land shark’ from Saturday Night Live in the late 70’s to get the voice right).  Even when I considered finishing the piece as a gift or for my own wall, I felt the drag of the copyright violation.  So, I chopped up THAT angel too (jeez, this is starting to sound like a nasty theme).

The upper left teeny bit shows just a corner of the acetate collage.

I am reveling in the process of letting go of objects that feel negative and seem destined to continue provoking a negative response.

(This is NOT like the difficult part of constructing a quilt where design problems need to be resolved… where you are INVESTED in the process, you CAN’T WAIT to see how it turns out, where you feel ONTO SOMETHING).

In the case of the Acetate Angel (sounds like a name Craig Ferguson might have danced under — you’d have to watch his show to get this reference), I was dreading the prospect of spending many hours to quilt and bind a project that screamed ‘copyright violation’ everytime I looked at it, even if I was never going to put it near the public’s eye.

Not so long ago, I would have done so, out of a kind of compulsion.  I suppose that’s why it feels very liberating NOT TO.

Earthwatch plus Gloom = Earthgloom

earthwatch

Another cheery set of images — but I am soooooo excited about what I’m learning, that it somewhat counters the content.

Making SoulCollage® cards (or anything, for that matter) depends to some degree on synchronicity.  I suppose this element of creativity is heightened with SoulCollage® because your palette is comprised of magazine images.  It stands to reason, in other words, that your collages will serendipitously depend on what images you can lay your hands on.

Well, that’s obvious, right?

THIS card started out as the sherpa from National Geographic, an EARTHWATCH magazine cover, with a few blooming baptisia from a gardening journal thrown in.  If I were a reader of Vogue, People, and Harpers, this would not have emerged.  (The red script on the right side is a snippet of another card — “Intuition”).

Lately, I have not been adhering the collages, necessarily, to a foundation.  So, when I flipped this collage over, I found the beginnings of another collage on the other side!! This clearly is less consciously designed, i.e. more synchronous, than the reverse (Sherpa) side.

It was almost spooky to see how the feelings evoked by the flip side very much correlated to the other side.  I call this one “Gloom”.

gloom

The oppressive issues of Global Warming as well as our seeming incapacity as a species to truly rally around them as challenges in need of direct, urgent attention induce a very deep gloom, indeed.

Standing at the color copier, I wondered what would happen if I integrated the images.

earthgloom

I may not be utterly pleased with the integrated version, but it certainly introduces a whole new element into this process that I find exciting.  What, for example, would happen (both visually, but more importantly, psychologically) if the front and back sides were totally dissonant with each other?

My collages are bigger than the 8×5 size of my cards and sometimes I want to frame different sections for separate cards.  I officially give myself permission to do so — even if I include the entire image in the deck as well!

PS  The EarthWatch card was an example of a time when the words were so much a part of what emerged that I felt that keeping them in the final product enhanced rather than limited its meaning.

To learn about this remarkable process, go to SoulCollage.com, where you can find out about Seena Frost, who developed SoulCollage®. Or, dive into the amazing work and teaching of Anne Marie Bennett on her website, KaleidoSoul.  Anne Marie’s passion for this work is evident on her site.

Gratitude List #2

cabbages-and-calendar

Chinese New Year, collage, 2.5" x 2.5"

I am grateful for:

another snow day, a long walk with Jack in the quiet and snow,
the patterns that strewn salt makes on fresh-fallen snow,
a fixed furnace and the funds to pay for it, a fixed bath valve,
and the thought of a hot bath later, Trader Joe’s Summer Curry Sauce
(dinner in a jar), dinners in front of the TV, messes that can be cleaned up,
dreams, boiling water for coffee, C.’s new haircut and the memory of his very first
haircut at age 4, food in the fridge, food in general, plans for lunch with friends,
emails from friends, phone calls from friends, dinner invites from friends,
winter robins eating holly berries near the side stoop,
Graph II finally done (7th grade science), and
the first tug toward gardening (which during the early parts of the winter,
I never expect to feel again).

I am also grateful for the little piece shown above.  It is about 2.5″ square and excites me because of the newness of the direction.  It is two photo-shopped digital images of cabbages, sandwiched together with a zigzag stitch, with a Chinese flash card in between.  The back cabbages were printed onto cotton fed through my inkjet printer and the top cabbages were printed onto a sheet of transparency fed through my printer.  The cabbages were photographed at Angino Farm, Newton’s CSA.  (The yellow border is not a part of the collage).

I also love this two and half inch square because it came together by way of some of the best parts of the creative process, and they are:

  • Scavenging/collecting
  • Resurrection
  • Serendipity.

The gathering of things is a big part of what artists do.  It is part-shopping, part scavenging, part receiving of gifts. I have no idea who gave me the Chinese flashcards and I have nearly given them away a half dozen times because they lived next to the Pledge and rags in the front closet, instead of somewhere more accessible and logical like with my rubber stamps and decorative papers.

The piece (by its mere existence) speaks to redemption (it is just some scraps stitched together, I know!).  It was cut off an earlier failed attempt at something along these lines.  Often the attempts to make something work are marked by struggle and frustration, and ultimately you may produce something semi-worthwhile, or even very worthwhile, but the process is heavy.  Perhaps too much about the desire to makegood on a failure… too much about the refusal to let something go, instead of the upswing of invention.  But when a snippet becomes a pleasing visual treat just by being in the right place at the right time, one can celebrate.  It doesn’t happen that often.

Lastly, whenever and wherever serendipity pokes its playful head, it is worth taking note.  In this case, the flipping calendar with Chinese words on the side found its way into this collage a few days before Chinese New Year (today!!) and on the day I wrote my check for this year’s farm share.  Can I parse any particular meaning from this? Not really. Not this time. But that doesn’t make it any less delightful.

The collage does seem to resonate with my friend J., who is alive and well, blessedly, although probably not up to making the several dozen dumplings she usually makes this time of year.  Perhaps this little collage should make its way to her house as a New Year greeting!!  Happy New Year J, M & M and adopted Chinese daughters everywhere!!!