• Creative, Artistic, Original, Voice

    Dear fans and followers, a couple of weeks ago my website went bye bye. It’s a long story that I won’t bore you with here – suffice to say that it involved renewing my hosting plan and the learned tech support trying to guide a Luddite (me) to complete some of the steps and doing so was like trying to ask Lucy Ricardo to dock the starship Enterprise. It took hours for my son to restore/repair everything and ultimately involved using an old back-up that did not include my latest post so here is my last post which luckily I wrote in Microsoft Word so I still had it.

    This editorial is about creativity – or lack thereof. As a teacher and designer, I am constantly confronted by students who disparage themselves as not being ‘creative’. This is a notion I try hard to dispel for perceiving yourself as un-creative can paralyze and stunt your imagination.
    The creative process as pertains to art and design can be represented as a square; there are four facets to the process – creativity (or imagination if you prefer), artistry, originality and voice. In this essay, I will address each of the four aspects individually. Back in the 60’s the term ‘square’ had negative connotations; it meant you were inflexible, old-fashioned and unable to appreciate the unconventional; most young people did not want to be thought of as a square. Well guess what – as an artist it is ‘hip’ to be ‘square’.
    The first facet is creativity: let’s get one thing straight – we are all creative on some level. Creativity is a fundamental characteristic of being human. If mankind was not creative we would have died out long ago unable to compete with stronger, more durable creatures. Humans as a species are not exceptionally strong, especially when facing another being that is – like a bear, we are ‘smart’ however (most of the time). In hand to paw combat with a bear, we would lose. If we had to rely on physical strength alone to fell a tree, move the log and build a house we would still be living in caves. Not to get sidetracked but this brings to mind a very interesting book I read some time back – ‘At Home’ by Bill Bryson. It is a fascinating treatise on how our homes evolved from cave dwellings to modern structures, innovations such as chimneys, staircases, indoor plumbing and glass windows… when did they appear, who invented them and why.
    Back to the topic at hand, it is our creativity that allows us to tackle a problem and come up with the tools and processes to solve it. If you have ever had to make a substitution when you were cooking a meal and ran out of a specific ingredient (and jumping in the car to run to the store and buy more does not count my gentle readers), or if you needed a sewing stiletto you did not have and discovered that using a large needle pushed into a cork served the same purpose, or came up with an arrangement that allowed you to stack one more box of fabric in a closet or even used an empty tin can as a pencil holder… you were being creative. Have you ever improvised a bookshelf by laying planks across cinder blocks? Come on folks, raise your hands, I’m sure when you were a student in a dorm or a young adult living in your first apartment you had to improvise at least some piece of storage or furniture.
    This is creativity; setting out to accomplish a task or goal enlisting tools and materials to help us accomplish something we would otherwise not be able to do. So accept the fact that you, as a member of the human race, are intrinsically creative.
    Moving on to the next facet – when many people claim they are not ‘creative’ what they actually mean is they are not ‘artistic’ – there is a difference. Even then, what is Artistic? A dictionary might define it as someone or something that displays a skill or inclination in art which in turn begs the question – what is Art? Most people think of ‘art’ as something that is aesthetically pleasing but not all art is pleasant. Some art is jarring or disturbing; art often conveys a message and that message is not always agreeable, sometimes it is something we would rather not hear. Just because we don’t like the statement does not mean it is not art. So art is really an expression of one’s thoughts and soul; something that we all have, pleasant or not. Granted, some of us are more skilled at presenting our thoughts and ideas in a form that can be easily received and interpreted by others and that is where artistry comes into the equation.
    Art can be imitated. Just because one can reproduce a piece of artwork faithfully does not automatically make one artistic. Duplicating a work of art takes skill but a good technician can acquire the skill plus the technological tools we have at our fingertips can do that for us. You can open a photograph in a photo editing program such as Adobe Photoshop and apply a filter that will transform that photo into a skillfully rendered pencil drawing. Does this make you an artist? Perhaps on some level – having the vision and the expertise to use these tools signifies some level of talent but is it the same as another person picking up a pencil and using their hand and fingers to transfer to paper what their eye sees and brain interprets?
    This brings me to the third facet – Originality. This is perhaps what most people actually mean when they say they are not creative or artistic. We are all creative to some degree in our thoughts and souls but the question lies in our capability to express them for others to see. A writer can put pen to paper and record their thoughts but the artistry and skill of assembling those words into a composition that enthralls the reader makes the difference between a mundane scribe and a gifted author.
    We all take inspiration from everything that crosses our path; our minds are like stuffed filing cabinets full of all the experiences we’ve had and things we’ve seen. Some of the data lies buried so deep that we may not even remember the experience. Sometimes I get an idea, a design that just blossoms in my head and to tell the truth, I cannot swear if it is an original concept or a faint memory of something I saw, perhaps even as a child reawakened in my brain.
    Assimilating other’s ideas is not necessarily a bad thing (though copyright infringement is); take language for instance. A collection of people establish language one word at a time, naming things, sharing terms and the structure of words so as to communicate with each other. If, in pursuit of individuality, we all invented our own proprietary words for objects and ideas no one would be able to talk to anyone else. To digress from my topic again for just a moment, I highly recommend another book by Bill Bryson – ‘The Mother Tongue’ which is a fascinating dissertation on our language and how it evolved to what it is today.
    But back to my subject, what sets us apart even when speaking the same words is our ‘voice’. What makes it possible to hear a program narrated by James Earl Jones and know without seeing him or his name credited? It is the unique timbre and inflection of his voice. Artists also have a voice and this is the final facet of Creativity (with a capital ‘C’). When a artist explores and creates enough work, a unique pattern may start to emerge, some intangible thing that others can perceive, this is their voice and it may bridge across various mediums.
    In some cases, the artist may not even be aware of it. I think of my own work as varied, all over the map yet I had an experience once that proved that I must have an artistic voice. I brought a quilt to show at a guild meeting and hung it up on the display wall. I was standing and conversing with a group of people about 30 feet away from the display when a guild member I knew but only casually walked into the main door and I saw her scan the wall of quilts on display. It was a very large meeting room filled with over 100 people and she was at the opposite corner from me but I saw her eyes zero in on my quilt and she began making a beeline straight for it. She was scanning the room as she walked and when she saw me, still halfway across the room mind you, she pointed at the quilt and then at me with a questioning look; I nodded. When she arrived, I asked her how she knew it was mine, I thought it was so different than anything I had made at that point and she said ‘yes’ but it was different in a way that only I could have done.
    To summarize my essay, Creativity, Artistic Ability, Originality and Voice are an integral part of expressing ourselves in a manner that others can see and appreciate. If you look deep inside of yourself, you might find you are more creative and artistic than you thought. It might be hidden away in a small locked room, down the stairs, through the corridor, past the sign saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’ (homage to Douglas Adams); but it will be there, it’s just a matter of finding the key to unlock that door.


  • DO YOUR BACKUPS!!!

    Hello my faithful readers. I have been having website problems. Something came up where I could not see my own photos – though it sounds like other visitors could and in the course of trying to fix this, several things happened:

    First, I noticed that there was a new update from WordPress and I ran it thinking that might fix my gallery issue. What it did was suddenly display a flood of unread messages to my site, some dating back to June and forward. A few had been forwarded to my Gmail account as they are supposed to be but many had not. The update did not fix my gallery problem so I decided to contact Tech support at my server host and they found an issue that needed resolving that would take 24 hours and started the process; meanwhile I began replying to the messages starting with the oldest first. I made it up to late August when the whole site crashed. The next day they completed the process that needed to be done with the result that NOTHING on the site worked correctly anymore.

    My son went to work on trying to repair is and several hours later, he managed to get it up and running but he had to restore it from the most recent backup – which wasn’t recent enough. I lost my most recent blog, my updated class calendar and all my newer messages that came after my last backup.

    I managed to reply to some of the messages but not all so if you tried to reach me through the contact page on the site and never received a reply, please contact me again otherwise I have no record of your first attempt.

    It’s going to take me at least a few days to re-enter the lost data – update my calendar of classes and rewrite the last blog. Luckily, I had drafted it in a Word document before transferring it to the blog so I haven’t lost the entire article, my priority however is in replacing the information about upcoming classes. Please bear with me while I restore my site.

    And remember to DO YOUR BACKUPS!!!


  • Texture #4 – Pile it on!

    Texture #4– Pile it on!

    Now for the final chapter on texture; this is Texture with a capital ‘T’.  In this chapter we will explore embellishment to add texture to your quilt/ fiber projects.

    In bygone eras, embellishment was mainly the empire of the Crazy Quilt. Most of the time it was embroidery but beads and other artifacts were sometimes added. Years ago, my guild hosted a speaker on Crazy Quilts who spoke of a Victorian era crazy Quilt that was embellished with a stuffed squirrel – yuck!

    Now, we live in the era of embellishment and there are entire magazines devoted to this art form – Embellishment (a publication from Australia) is completely devoted to embellishment and other publications such as Cloth Paper Scissors, Quilting Arts, Threads and Stampington & Co. frequently feature articles about embellishment; the art of ‘adornment’ has broken free from the world of Crazy quilts.

    Though I had played a bit with embellishment early on – my second quilt incorporated an old mink coat pieced into the pattern – my first serious ‘conscious’ exploration into texture was a friendship quilt I made from blocks from my small quilt group. I had just finished a two and a half year project overseeing and making a somewhat traditional raffle quilt for my guild, and I was rebelling against flat and square. The theme was the beach retreat we took twice a year and after piecing the blocks together into an asymmetrical arrangement, I added a ‘fringe’ of seaweed made from Dupioni Silk along the top and bottom edges and a second ‘fringe’ along just the bottom made from drilled giant Sea Urchin spines, I also knotted some fishnet from Pearl Cotton and sewed seashells all over the quilt, The Sea Urchin spines add a particularly intriguing element as they clink musically if the quilt is moved.

    A friendship quilt made from blocks made by my small quilt group. Note the ‘seaweed’ dangling along the top and bottom, the fishnet along the bottom and the fringe of sea urchin spines that tinkle like wind chimes along the bottom. The quilt is also embellished with seashells stitched here and there.

    This gave me the idea to explore the idea of quilts that make sound and my next noisemaker art quilt was a Sashiko panel along the lines of Japanese Noren (ceremonial curtains that hang in a doorway) that has lengths of Bamboo segments in a fringe along the bottom edge. This panel, that I titled ‘Zen Wind Chimes’ also makes a lovely sound when the panel is stirred by a breeze if hung in an open window.

    Sashiko Komon (clan crest) stitched on antique Japanese indigo cloth with a fringe of bamboo ‘culms’ that clink against each other if the panel wafts in a light breeze.

    The genie is out of the bottle and there’s no putting him back; though I do still make more traditional ‘flat’ quilts, I am bolder about adding 3-dimensional embellishments to my art quilts. Buttons, beads, seashells… needle lace and fabric confetti  – there is no better way to create lacy foliage to a landscape quilt than with confetti , and my Garden Window Nature Scrolls often sport berries made from beads, 3-D leaves and even some Maple samaras (the seed cases children often call ‘helicopters’) made from heavyweight painted and inked watercolor paper. I am also exploring the sea life found in a tide pool starting with my dimensional bead and embroidery Sea Anemones.

    Thinking back, at first I thought I had not really done much tree dimensional work but when I started to contemplate what images I would like to include in the post, I realize I’ve used texture in my quilts far more often than I’d imagined

    And now for some shameless self promotion: if you are interested in learning a few of these 3-D techniques, I will be offering a couple of classes upcoming over the next few months and into next year at various venues shown below.

    Cedar Ridge Quilts Button Fantasia:

    Button Fantasia – Hand embroidered medallions frame buttons on a pieced background with wool applique

    a delightful way to showcase any solitary buttons you might have left over in your sewing box or, if you are a serious antique/decorative button collector, to display your treasures.

    Ocean Waves Quilt CampTwin Rocks Landscape:

    Twin Rocks – a strip pieced/appliqued landscape featuring lacy dimensional waves

    this is my strip-pieced/appliqué landscape technique with a new twist – creating three dimensional waves on a seascape using a variety of materials such as lace or confetti.

    Cedar Ridge QuiltsEmbroidered Folk Art Ornaments: these chubby stuffed little gems are made from hand embroidery on wool and are embellished with sequins and beads. Choose a cat, a peacock or a sweet little winged elephant.TIP: They need not be made into ornaments, they can also be used in wool applique projects.

    Montavilla Sewing Center (Gresham) – Reversible Appliqué Tide Pool:

    Reversible Applique Quilt ‘Rock Stars’ the ‘other’ front side.
    Reversible Applique Quilt ‘Rock Stars’ – front side.

    yes, you read that correctly – reversible, not reverse appliqué. This easy technique makes a two sided quilt that can be displayed from either side which in a way makes it 3-D in my opinion.

    Art & Soul Retreats – I will be offering several classes at this event:

    • March 12, 2019: 3-D Fabric Pebbles:
      3-D fabric Pebbles

      These are remarkably easy to make and with the right fabrics can look astoundingly real.

    • March 15, 2019: Stumpwork Sea Anemones:
      Tide Pool quilt – Stumpwork ‘Sea Anemones’

      Often called the flowers of the sea, these creatures come in many brilliant color combinations and the texture of these embroidered and beaded projects has to be felt to be believed; they are so wonderfully tactile you can’t resist running your hand over them.

    • March 16, 2019: 3-D Fabric Leaves:
      3-D Ginko Leaf

      Wonderfully ruffled and curled, these dimensional leaves can be used to embellish quilts, purses and bags, clothing and some artists even make jewelry from them.

    I am also teaching the Stumpwork Anemones class in Florence later this August but that is a private class to a small quilt group and not open to the public,

    And finally, my Art Journal Quilt classes held at three different locations – Pioneer Quilts (the first Friday of each month), Montavilla Sewing Center (the first Wednesday of each month at the Gresham location) and Sewn Loverly (the second Friday of each month). These classes vary from month to month and are not always on some sort of 3-D embellishment but those techniques are sometimes the focus of the classes.