The value of creative sputtering

So I returned a couple weeks ago from an emotional, even grueling experience…I participated in a week-long art quilt workshop. It was intense and the hours were long…I sewed each day from 7am until nearly 10pm each night. There were moments when I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish, and was certain that I couldn’t keep up with the pace. I didn’t love what I was making…the design exercises were akin to a pianist playing scales. Not beautiful music, but necessary skill builders. At the end of the week, the instructor was kind to me…given my lack of formal art training, her one-word critique was “practice.”

Now at home after 10 days, I can see that my subconscious took the message to heart: I am indeed practicing.


Flirty Girl

The first time I returned to the sewing machine at home, I just made some strip sets to practice free cutting (no straight edge! oh dear…) and
constructing curvy forms.

After looking at it for a few days, I’m starting to see a girl in a flirty dress, from the shoulders down, striding off to the right. Girlish, feminine forms have found their way into my spontaneous work before, especially in dolls and beading.

Milk Crate Slipcover

I’m also settling into a new home and new studio right now. My last environment had large built-in book cases and I miss them. I’m desperately casting around for storage, so I found some milk crates in the garage and decided to see if a slipcover would make them acceptable storage in my office.

A project like this would have taken me much longer in the past. After the workshop, I am sewing much faster, and better able to move through all the stages of constructing something
without taking breaks at each step to figure out what to do next. I used some of the strip set ideas picked up at the workshop. The back panel is the most interesting, as I was running out of fabric and had to add more “shims” to get the panel up to size. Another lesson learned from the workshop…a piece cut too short is an opportunity to make something more interesting.

 

Painting with Danny

I made this small painting after Danny and I finished painting golf balls he found in the woods behind our house.

(Have you ever seen a gold metallic golf ball? I don’t know why they aren’t marketed in pro shops.) I hate throwing away paints, so I had to do just a bit more with them before rinsing out the palette. Maybe it could be the color basis for a single motif quilt? Certainly not high art, but it was fun to make and took five minutes. And my grandson thinks I’m awesome…”Grandma, you’re good!”

 

Red upholstery piecing

Another way to find more storage in my studio is to get rid of some of the stuff I’m storing. I’ve stored these scraps from an upholstery sample book for a long time…I decided to play with them last night to
a) use them up, and b) perhaps make more panels to cover another milk crate. I quilted the first milk crate slip cover with batting, but it made the corners bulky. Plan B was to use heavier fabrics to begin with
and skip the batting. (Another lesson learned from the workshop: work in a series.)

I was really pleased by the combination of orangey-reds and pinky-reds. I brought my photo of the work into Photoshop last night to experiment.

My first idea is interesting to me, but I’d like to try a version that is less rigid.

Looking back over the 10 days since I returned home, I’m really surprised at how much has bubbled out of me creatively. And it is not as though I’ve done nothing but sew…it’s just been worked in around the edges of my usual multi-priority life.

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