Photo Friday – Flowers

Here’s the last of my homework from the sketching and watercolor class with Jane LaFazio. This was due weeks ago, but I hadn’t gotten to it.  But, my tardiness gave me the great opportunity to paint some flowers for a dear friend’s birthday card and then have it do double duty as my homework. So, here are the calla lilies I painted for my friend:

Julie Neu watercolor painting of purple calla lilies

Creative Play Newsletter (Vol.1: Issue 9) – Play Time

What is Creative Play and why do I keep talking about it?  Well, I keep talking about it because after many, many years of fighting it, I have finally realized how very important it is. I stopped playing at about oh, two years of age.  That’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, but not much of one. My mom has told me that I was the most mature five year-old she had ever met (and I think she really means “serious” when she says “mature”).  My sister can vouch for what a stick-in-the-mud I was as a kid. Needless to say, I carried that into adulthood too. I love reading, but I read mostly non-fiction or classic, serious fiction.  I took up quilting as a hobby initially because it resulted in something useful and was something that I could do while watching TV and thus otherwise “wasting” time. Honestly, it’s amazing people wanted to spend time with me!

I started playing in 2008, at the ripe old age of 33. That’s when I started my “Creative Play” blog and I went into the studio each week with the sole purpose of playing. During that time, I tried out many new techniques and I learned a lot. The most important thing that I learned from that experience, however, was how play feeds creativity. That period was one of the most creative times in my life, precisely because I was leaving room for creativity. I was just playing around to see what happened and what happened was some of my best work.

Fast forward to today, when after a hiatus from playing and after having fallen back into my old pattern, I am again leaving some time for creativity. A few weeks ago, I decided on a Friday to not make a To Do list. I decided that I wouldn’t work on any of the projects on my work table (unless I really felt moved to) and that I would just see what the day brought. I had barely finished my first cup of tea when I started thinking about the BirdZeed challenge word for the month. It was the 27th of January, four days from the end of the month, and I had had no intention whatsoever of doing the challenge. The word was “line” and I had not been inspired.  But, on that day that I had left open, I decided to take up the challenge.  An idea came very quickly to me and I made a good start on the piece. After buying some supplies, I finished it up before the end of the month. I had no plan to create this work, but because I gave myself some play time, my creativity flourished and I created one of my most heartfelt pieces to date. Read more about what it means to me in my blog post.

Line in the Sand art quilt piece. Women's March protest

Line in the Sand, 2017. 8″ x 10″

Read last month’s newsletter article.

Talking with Pat Sloan Today!

Remember last week when I told you that Pat Sloan would have a special guest on her American Patchwork & Quilting podcast?  Well, it’s me! I’ll be on live at 4PM ET today talking about “Ravaging Rio and the Ghost in the Library.”  If you can’t listen today, the show will be available as a podcast.  See the show page for more information about listening.

Image for Julie Neu on American Patchwork and Quilting podcast

Photo Friday – Woman Made

This week’s assignment in my sketching and watercolor class was to draw a machine-made object. I spent some time noodling over what object had meaning to me that I wanted to draw when I looked down on my work table and the answer became obvious:

watercolor painting of purple rotary cutter

Because this month’s BirdZeed challenge word was “pink,” I chose a pink color for the “fabric” in the background.

What I’m Listening To

I’ve been doing a lot of hand sewing lately. I decided to do a quilt-as-you-go technique on the Victims Quilt so that I didn’t have to put a king-size quilt under the machine and I’ve been hand sewing the seams closed on the back. It’s time-consuming work (each of the long seams is taking over 2 hours) and I know that glue would be more efficient because I am machine sewing later, but this is the route I chose.  The great upside of all of this hand sewing time is that I am blowing through a lot of interesting podcasts.  Here’s what I am listening to:

Pat Sloan’s American Patchwork & Quilting Podcast  – She’s having a very special guest next Monday!

Tara Gentile’s Profit. Power. Pursuit Podcast – Covers the details of running a small business, particularly a creative business.

Melissa Dinwiddie’s  Live Creative Now! Podcast – About creativity and living a creative life. I find myself nodding in agreement with all that she’s saying.

So, if you’re finding yourself with some time on your hands and are looking for a few good podcasts, I recommend the above. If you’ve got others that you love, please share!

#APQResolution Project for February

I’m happy to say that this month’s UFO for the American Patchwork & Quilting UFO Challenge has only been a UFO for a year (or maybe two?) and even better yet, it’s something that I made for myself. It’s a travel sewing kit from the tutorial on the “lots of pink here” blog.

quilted travel sewing kit in purple batik fabrics

Now that I am ready to travel, where should I go?

Photo Friday: Shoes

I was really looking forward to this week’s lesson for the Jane LaFazio sketching class. This week: shoes!  I chose to sketch the Electric Purple Chucks that I bought myself as part of my 40th birthday presents. They’ve become my favorites. But, they are not as dirty as they look in the painting; I just got a little carried away with the brown paint.

Julie Neu, watercolor painting of purple Chuck Taylor sneaker

UFOs: Great Creativity Challenges

Many years ago, I was the charity quilt coordinator for my guild. In that role, I was the recipient of many, many donated UFOs.  What absolutely surprised me was how much I loved dealing with other people’s UFOs. I have rarely felt as creative as I did when staring at a stack of blocks and trying to decide what to do with them. Since they were not my UFOs (of which I have plenty!), I was completely freed from any preconceived notions of what the blocks were supposed to be and could instead look at them as a challenge: what is the easiest/ fastest useful quilt I can make, either with what I have here or with just a few additions? It was a much greater challenge than starting with a blank sheet of paper and a well-loaded quilt shop and it led to some of the most creative solutions.

I started each UFO project by asking myself a series of questions to ascertain the situation. “How many blocks did I have? How big were they? What could I create with them?”  If the answer was “nothing good,” then I thought about whether I could add a little more fabric in sashing, alternate blocks or borders and come up with something of the right size.

I encourage you to look at your UFOs with fresh eyes and see what creative solutions you find. Tackling one may be just the challenge to get your creative juices really flowing and it has the added benefit of dispatching with a UFO!  I’ve created a two-page worksheet to download that steps through those questions I asked myself as a free gift for subscribers to my Creative Play Newsletter. Click here if you are interested.  I’d love to hear about ways UFOs spurred your creativity so please feel free to post a comment here on the blog or over on my Facebook page.  Happy Finishing!

The Making of Alternative Facts

Work on my unexpected protest series continued this week with a new piece called “Alternative Facts.”  I first created the letter blocks, sewed them together, and then slashed the top and resewed it over and over again. I captured the in-process pictures and created a 33 second video of them; if you’d like to see the steps along the way, here’s the video: Making of Alternative Facts. I quilted the piece in gray threads to reflect that “alternative facts” take something that should be clear in black and white and changes it to gray. I left the quilting thread tails loose to emphasize the messiness this creates when facts become distorted and disputed.

Alternative Facts art quilt in black and white

Alternative Facts, 2017. 15″ x 24″

What this piece means to me: 

I have not been able to get over my shock over the mere idea that there could be such a thing as “alternative facts.”  I can see how deeply divided our country is and it is a division that I want us to fix and believe we need to, but if we cannot even agree on what the facts are, how can we? I accept that people can look at the same facts and reach different conclusions. I accept that there will be differences of opinion. But, if the facts themselves are under dispute and the Administration actually believes there is something called “alternative facts” where can the constructive dialogue that we need to have to heal these divisions begin? I’m afraid that it can’t and that we will be left with just loose threads.