Off to a Good Start

January is not even close to over yet and I already have my UFO completed for the American Patchwork & Quilting UFO Challenge. #apqresolution

I had one of these place mats made already so I only needed to finish three. And, it’s only January and I already have an item ready for my guild’s show boutique in October.

 

Hello World!

Remember last week in my Creative Play Newsletter when I talked about how the Universe doesn’t always work from the same project plan? Boy, is the Universe having a good laugh at my expense this week!  My husband is away this week for work so I had an ambitious To Do List full of energetic things like heavy duty cleaning and  closet organizing but I have had to revise my plans. Just as my husband was packing his suitcase, I came down with a cold (his cold, thank you very much!). I was so walloped by it that the only times I moved from the bed yesterday were to take my daughter to school and pick her up and to make myself some tea and toast. Otherwise, I was completely horizontal.  I’m happy to report that I am sitting upright today!  That closet organizing may have to wait and the heavy duty cleaning absolutely will. Sometimes the Universe just laughs in the face of the plans we humans make and there’s nothing to do but roll with it.

Speaking of plans…I’ve scheduled another Creative Play Date for tomorrow. Now, when I scheduled it, I didn’t realize that it coincided with the Inauguration, but it occurs to me that playing in my studio is really a perfect way to spend the day. So, I hope that you can join me for a little play time at some point tomorrow. I’ll check in and let you know what I am working on.

New Year, New Project

Yeah, I do have enough to do but I felt like doing something new and taking a class so I signed up for one. It’s with Jane LaFazio (Jane is a watercolor, mixed media and quilt artist..) and it’s called Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style.  Neither sketching nor watercolor painting are things that I am any good at, but she swears that she can teach complete beginners so I decided to trust her and see what happens. The class starts on Monday with the first lesson being posted on Friday.  If I am not too embarrassed by my work, I’ll share it here.

Creative Play Newsletter (Vol. 1: Issue 7) – Know When to Walk Away

I am stubborn. (I can hear the people who know me well chuckling at that. “Yeah, a little!” they are thinking sarcastically.) In a lot of ways, that stubbornness has served me well in life, but it doesn’t always serve me well in the studio. I like to get things done and I like to get them done on time, according to MY plan.  But, what I have had to learn over the last few years is that art doesn’t work that way. The Muses aren’t consulting a gigantic project plan and saying, “Ah yes, today Julie is scheduled to complete the quilting on her current piece.” My plan for the day and their plan for the day don’t always align and I hate that.

In my other life, I am a great project manager and am really good at getting things done. When things get hard, I roll up my sleeves and work harder. When a task is taking longer than expected, I make a cup of tea and I work longer.  That does not work in art. Yes, there are times when things are really working well and you do just need a little more time or a little more effort, but there are also a lot of times when more time and effort are just counterproductive. In those moments in the past, I stubbornly tried to work through it. I would just keep sewing even after my thread broke for the fourth time AFTER changing the needle, rethreading the machine, and giving it a good cleaning. I would press on and sew a seam again after having sewn it and taken it out six times already. I would just keep getting more and more frustrated and my language got worse and worse, but I would keep at it. I’d square my stubborn shoulders and just try to work through it. I failed and finally, dawn broke over Marblehead and I realized that unlike PowerPoint slides, art cannot be forced.  Thus, one of the greatest lessons I have learned recently is that sometimes when creating art, you just have to walk away.

I have just learned that there is a name for this action, for walking away when your art is screaming at you that it just is not going to get done today. Tom and David Kelley in their 2013 book called “Creative Confidence; Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All,” call this activity “Relaxed Attention.”  “Relaxed Attention” certainly has a more positive spin than spewing a string of expletives, throwing up your hands and stomping out of the studio while muttering “I GIVE UP!” (which is usually how it happens for me).  Instead, cultivate some relaxed attention by doing something else. Take a “thought walk,” as they call it. Go out for coffee. Sleep on it. Throw your project plan out the window.  In this month of goals and resolutions, know that sometimes you have to just give it time and take a break.

Read the December Creative Play Newsletter

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Design Wall Tuesday in Provence

Here’s what’s on my design wall today:

Is it a little busy? Yes. Do I care? No. Why not?

  1.  It’s for a back.
  2.  It’s for the back of a quilt that I am making for myself. It’s going to be the back of The Quilt Show 2016 BOM that I did.)
  3.  The fabrics are precious ones, purchased in Provence on a bike trip for the Tour de France in 2004.

You know the story – I’d been holding onto these fabrics for years, loving them, but afraid to cut them. I finally found the perfect place for them in big blocks on a quilt for me where I will get to enjoy them every day.  And, I’ve even come up a with a great new project for the scraps.

2016 Year in Review

I’ve seen a few “Year in Review” blog posts lately and decided that it is a great idea.  I have long done that in my personal life and it seems like a good practice for my quilting work too so here goes:

  • One of my biggest quilting accomplishments this year has to be publishing “Ravaging Rio and the Ghost in the Library.” This project had been on my mind for years and this year, I finally finished all of the quilts for the pages, photographed them (learning how to take good photos of quilts in the process), and self-published the book. While a graphic designer and professional book publisher could have done more with it, there is nothing like having a book that you created in your hands and it was great to bring it to fruition.
  • I made 10 other quilts this year, in addition to the Rio ones. Most of them were wall hangings and many were created as small projects for the monthly BirdZeed challenges, but 10 completed projects is pretty exciting.
  • I also began publishing my Creative Play Newsletter this year, which has legitimized all of the time that I spend reading and thinking about creativity and has given me a good excuse to buy more books on the topic.
  • Lastly, I re-energized my teaching by participating in the New England Quilt Museum’s Meet the Teachers day in October. Self-promotion is not my strong suit, but I had a wonderful day meeting with guild reps and talking about the workshops that I offer. Actually enjoying that day reinforced for me that a quilting  career is indeed the right path because I’ve never had that much fun talking about consulting.

So, what’s up for 2017?  Well, 2017 represents my 20th year of quilting. I feel like I should have a celebration. I don’t know what that will be yet, but it gives me something to think about. Otherwise, here are my goals for the year:

  • I’m hoping that my sister finishes another Rio book and I can start working on some new illustrations.
  • I have several Arabesques quilts in mind so I would like to continue work on that series.
  • I would like to teach more locally and get back into teaching online. If you know of anyone looking for a quilting workshop, send them my way!

Beginning to Look Like Christmas

Next week, I plan to be completely on vacation and I am using this week to ease into that. Instead of working on my Victims quilt this week, I am finishing up some projects for Christmas. I made a wall hanging from a McKenna Ryan pattern (and sent an identical one to my sister).

I also made two sets of winter napkins for my holiday table. (My daughter is responsible for the gingerbread house. Not all of the piping is hers, but you could have bowled me over with a feather when my 4 1/2 year old took the piping bag from me and went to town.)