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Out of the Comfort Zone

by | Aug 14, 2017

It can be easy to get stuck in a rut creatively.  As quilters and artisans we make project after project, and at least for me, there develops a safe zone. A type of work where things turn out pretty and sometimes even quite glorious, but the chance of failure is low.

For the last 2-3 years there are some ongoing themes that I have been playing with in my head, but not quite mustered the gumption to dig into.

  • Wabi-Sabi: This Japanese concept of beauty in all phases of an object’s life cycle has long interested me. Maybe best described in the “Book of Tea” and exemplified in the humble Japanese teahouse and the tea ceremony, I have gotten progressively more interested in translating this concept in quilts. There are certainly needleworkers out there who works within this concept. Claire Wellesley-Smith, who wrote Slow Stitch, is one of the more visible ones in my opinion. The movement could maybe also be categorized as contemplative stitching and the life of the materials use is an integral part of the completed work.
  • Original Artwork for sale: As many quilters and needleworkers can attest, getting payed a reasonable price for your art can be challenging. I won’t even bother trying to recount the horrified expressions on the people who have asked me what I charge for a custom quilt. Usually the price they find reasonable won’t even pay for the materials. Nevertheless, I would like to make more works that are simply original pieces of art and not necessarily meant to be a pattern. Maybe I need a different audience.
  • I am fascinated by words in quilts.  I have shared with you before that I sometimes receive inspiration in the middle of the night that feels like it is just delivered to me by some outside force. Frame this in whatever spiritual framework is comfortable to you. When this happens I usually wake up with a start and the work is already present, fully formed, in my head. All I do is try to draw it on paper and jot it down before the idea gets killed by my critical mind.  Virtually all these quilts have words in them in some form.

About a month ago now, another of these works came sailing into my head at 2am. The work was undeniable orange, with “Alchemy” stitched on it plus a couple of reflections around the word.

As ordered I slipped downstairs into my studio and sketched out the piece with the associated words. It is now a work in progress. Do I have the gumption to spend a week or two completing this? It could turn out to be a pretentious and miserable piece…or maybe it isn’t my job to judge?  It occurs to me that my authentic stitching path probably includes much more organic and abstract work than what I have created to share with the world so far.

So here you go, a picture of the Alchemy piece in progress.


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