Author Archives: julieneu

Creative Play Newsletter Vol.2; Issue 11 – Perseverance

I wanted to write about perseverance this month because it’s so important for creativity and for art, but also because it’s what I am struggling with right now. I’m struggling to persevere at working as an artist and promoter of creative play because though I know it to be my calling (and just knowing that feels like a huge accomplishment!), I have no income from it and I’m not sure how much longer I can persist under those circumstances. But, thinking about what it takes to keep moving forward against all odds has me thinking about how persistence is often necessary in creating.
 
It’s so easy to postpone our creative time because it’s only a priority for us and not for anyone else in our lives. It’s so easy to give up on a difficult piece of art when we’re working alone in our studios and we become fearful about how the work will be received. But, “unexpressed creativity is not benign,” to quote Brené Brown. Making time for your creativity keeps negative emotions like rage, grief, and sadness at bay and is tremendously important for your emotional well-being. And, art plays a vital role in our society. Art illuminates what is hidden to others; it comforts others who recognize shared experience; it expresses beauty and it inspires. Keep on.

Follow Your Leadings

This week, I felt very strongly the need to finish the blocks I have been making to remember the victims of the shooting in Las Vegas. It wasn’t on my To Do List this week and I’ve let the blocks sit for weeks on end without picking them up so they could have sat another week. But, when I stilled myself and questioned “What should I work on?” “The Vegas blocks” was the answer. As I worked on them, I still thought, “Gee, I really should do some of the things on my list” and I heard the answering thought, “No, you’re so close. Keep going.” So I did. I kept going, finished putting together the rows, and posted the picture of the finished blocks on Instagram:

I received a comment on my post from someone who lost her friend that day that it was the anniversary of her death. I didn’t realize. I wasn’t paying attention to what day it was or the fact that the anniversary was coming up, I was just responding to that feeling that there was nothing more important for me to do than to finish those blocks. And though I didn’t realize the significance, it was important that I finish them so that I could convey to a grieving friend that her loved one was not forgotten on a day that she may have been feeling her pain more intensely. I didn’t question where I was being led. I just followed and now I know why.

Women’s Words Fabric Added to Spoonflower

https://www.spoonflower.com/fabric/7518924-women-s-words-portrait-by-julieneuWomen's Words Fabric designed by Julie Brown Neu

I created this fabric to be the background of an upcoming project and have made it available on Spoonflower if anyone else would like some. It’s in 50 pt gray Sans Serif font on a white background. This one prints Portrait style, which means that the words will be right-side up when the fabric is 36″ x 42″ long. I made a Landscape version as well, but have not yet gotten a proof yard of it so it is not yet available for purchase. Please let me know if you are interested.

The words were used on signs during the Women’s Marches in 2017.

 

Creative Play Newsletter Vol. 2: Issue 10 – Time of One’s Own

Time of One’s Own

Virginia Woolf 1927

In 1929, Virginia Woolf published her essay A Room of One’s Own, in which she argues that for women to write, to exercise their creativity, they need a room of their own and financial support. For today’s women, a room of one’s own may seem like a luxury; what would really be needed is TIME of one’s own. So many of us are moving non-stop – working outside the home; working inside the home; taking care of families, both the younger generation and the older; and still doing so much of the other unpaid work on which our society depends through volunteering. Even when retirement removes outside work and the younger generation becomes grandchildren rather than children, time remains a precious commodity. Part of the benefit then of Creative Play™ is allocating just a little bit of time each day for one’s creativity, carving out some time of one’s own to allow creativity to flourish. You may not have a room of your own, but time of your own is a necessity and no home renovations are required to get it.

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#The100DayProject

I’m a few days late for the official start, but I have joined into #The100DayProject and will be posting photos of my projects each day to Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/juliebneu/ 

The idea behind the project, which fits so perfectly with Creative Play, is to do a creative project every day for 100 days. I’ve been itching to do some improv piecing, to just sit down each day and do a little sewing without a plan, so that’s what I have decided to do for my project. Here’s the first one:

It’s not too late to join in!

Creative Play Newsletter Vol 2: Issue 9 – Why Find Your Voice?

Last month, I wrote about how Creative Play™ can be helpful in finding your voice as an artist. What I didn’t discuss was why you would want to do that. I always hear so much talk about “finding your voice” and it used to really confuse me. I mean, if I created it, wasn’t it already in my voice? And, did it really make any difference if my work was particularly distinctive? Now that I am farther along in my journey, I have a better understanding.

For me, finding my voice was more about believing that I had something to say that was worth sharing than about creating work in signature colors. It was more about giving myself permission to speak than having a distinctive style. I think that is what confused me so much about “finding my voice.” I didn’t have to find anything. My voice didn’t need to be created. I just needed to be willing to speak through my art and that is scary.

Getting comfortable with my voice is a journey that I am still definitely on, but I took the leap (and even created a piece of art that reflects that experience.)

Julie Neu_blue circle on black background art quilt

New, 2017. Represents the feeling of standing on the brink, ready to jump into the abyss.

Now that I have taken that leap, I am creating art that is personal and meaningful. I feel like I am creating art from my soul and the experience of making it is so much more powerful than what I was doing before. I feel like Dorothy stepping into Oz and it’s exhilarating.

 

Thanks to the Cornerstone Quilt Guild

Yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity to present my “Quilts in U.S. History” lecture to the Cornerstone Quilt Guild in Charlton, Mass. Not only did I see some stunning quilts during Show and Tell but one guild member also brought a top from 1876 from her collection to share.

I mentioned a few things during my lecture that I wanted to follow up on and provide links for:

  • Nancy Kirk of The Quilt Collection is a tremendous resource to learn how to care for and restore antique quilts. Books and DVDs are available from her website: http://kirkcollection.com/
  • Mood Fabrics in NYC is where I found cotton velvets to use in restoring crazy quilts – now available online! https://www.moodfabrics.com/fashion-fabrics/cotton/velvet
  • A quick eBay search for feed sacks shows that they are bringing $10 – $20 apiece so using them to make something wouldn’t be crazy. I would still recommend trying to find a feed sack expert to take a look at the collection first just in case there’s a rare feed sack worth hundreds of dollars among them.

Thanks to the Quinobequin Quilters

Last night, I had the wonderful opportunity to deliver my “Quilts in U.S. History” lecture to the Quinobequin Quilters in Needham, MA.  The guild members asked some great questions and there were a few that I wasn’t able to fully answer in the moment that I wanted to follow up on:

  1. What led to the 1971 Whitney Museum quilt exhibit? 

Last night, I said that I thought Jonathan Holstein and Gail van der Hoof were driving forces behind the exhibit and, according to the International Quilt Study Center, that was indeed the case. They began to see the quilts in their collection as examples of abstract art. I also said that I thought there had been some earlier quilt exhibits that encouraged the Whitney to consider the “Abstract Design in American Quilts” show and that does seem to be the case as well. According to a post by the International Quilt Study Center, the changing perception of craft and ideas of what constituted art also set the groundwork for the Whitney to consider such an exhibit.

2. What innovations in the sewing machine were happening in Europe in the mid 1850s?

According to Wikipedia, there were numerous advances in sewing machine technology, starting with a patent awarded to a German man working in England in 1755. Also according to Wikipedia, the first modern sewing machine design that brought together the advances of the earlier models was invented by an Englishman in 1844, but the patent application was botched. American Elias Howe invented a similar machine in 1845, that Singer improved upon in 1851. Howe won the patent in 1846, according to this article from 1860 in The New York Times. 

It seems that the European companies of the quality sewing machines that we are enjoying today as quilters began in the following decades:

Pfaff – founded in Germany in 1862

Bernina – founded in Switzerland in 1893

Elna, a Swiss brand now owned by Janome, was founded much later in 1940.

There may have been other questions that I missed so if you were there last night and have further questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Thanks again to the Quinobequin Quilters.

2017 Year in Review

I started a new tradition last year of writing a year-in-review blog post after I ran across some others doing it.  I find the process of taking stock of the entire year to be a good reminder of just how much I actually did accomplish.

American Patchwork & Quilting UFO Challenge – I tackled the challenge again this year, realizing that I had far more UFOs (often more intended-but-not-started projects) than I knew. This year, I managed to complete all 12 projects, which means a grand total of:

  • 3 tops quilted and bound
  • 4 kits completed
  • 4 placemats made
  • 10 pillows sewn (okay, two are still waiting for backs)
  • 1 travel sewing kit made for myself

I’ll be taking up the challenge again this year because I am sure that I can find 12 more projects waiting to be made.

Personal Quilts – 2017 marked my 20th year of quilting and I ended the year by finishing my 100th quilt. (I just counted and realized that I made a total of 13 of those quilts this year, which makes me a little triskaidekaphobic and if I’d realized, I would have pushed to finish one more!) In addition to the three quilts I finished as part of the UFO challenge, I also finally made a quilt for my own bed.

Protest Series – At the end of 2016, I had no idea that I would start a series of protest quilts. But, in the beginning of 2017, I found myself inspired to create politically-motivated works. For the first time, I had quilts that needed to be made and was making quilts that I really felt were pieces of art. I made seven of them this year.

Art Quilts – In addition to the Protest Series, I made one additional art piece and a commissioned piece.

It’s been an exciting year, not just because I got so much done, but because 2017 was the year that I really came into my own as an artist. I’m looking forward to 2018!