Posts Tagged ‘creative life’

What We Create

March 2, 2020

I read an article about the models we have used to help us explain brain function, and why thinking of the brain as a computer may not be ideal. You can read the article yourself here. This line caught my attention: “. . . the brain does not represent information: it constructs it.” The mad sci fi writer in me said, “Bwah-ha-ha! My world building is alive! It’s alive!” The quilter said, “See, your brain quilt series isn’t such a silly idea after all.”

The picture above was inspired by an article describing how language is stored in different parts of the brain. Neurosurgeons received permission from a bilingual woman to make a few tests while they were treating her, and discovered English words were stored in one place, Spanish in another. I’ve also read that the language we speak structures the way we think, so learning a new language can in effect rewire our brains. Now it appears that the very nature of what we consider real is created by our thoughts as we try to explain what we see. There’s a story in here somewhere, as well as several quilts.

Luck and wisdom!

Red Barns

February 26, 2020

It’s funny how chance encounters create life-long interests. My friend Ann Anastasio made several barn quilts because she liked how barn design differ from state to state. I barely noticed that barns had design, much less that they vary. Now I watch for barns (I also watch for big rigs since that long trip through Nevada with nothing to see but trucks, but that’s a story for another day). Suzi Parron has a redwork kit of barns that are darling, and when she spoke at AVQ I bought one on a lark.

These designs come from her travels on the barn quilt trail, which is different from the barn quilts Ann made. Suzi has written two books about quilt blocks painted on barns or other structures, which you can find on her website.

The block shown above has a horse peeking out the door. There’s something about a critter in a quilt that draws my attention, even if it is just an outline with a French Knot eye.

This next block has a lovely curve to the roof that reminds me of the lines to a boat. I also think of it as Dutch, but I couldn’t tell you why.

Somehow I managed to either use the floss in the kilt wastefully or mislay several strands, because I ran short for the last block. Rather than try to match the color, I decided to turn that bug into a feature. I stitched the outside edges of the barn, the ground, and the foliage in brown, stitched some of the slats in what was left of my red, stitched most of the rest in a dustier red, then stitched the remaining slats and quilt block in a variegated red and brown. Since I had always planned to make separate projects with the blocks, it doesn’t matter that this one is different from the other three.

Luck and wisdom!

Measured, Managed, or Mangled?

February 3, 2020

I’ve been given to understand that business programs teach the value of good data with the adage, “What is measured is managed.” If that’s the case, I should be a world-class expert on managing just about anything. I have rulers by the truckload in my sewing room, and so many handouts on tracking my writing progress that I am guilty of destroying a forest the size of Rhode Island. It isn’t that I’m incapable of meeting deadlines – I am, in fact, pathetic without them – but somehow the art of controlling my projects eludes me. The stories write themselves, or don’t write themselves because they aren’t ready. The quilts definitely rely on my hands to do the work, but the plans for the quilts sometimes dance around me in a cosmic game of keep-away. Perhaps if I used my tools more efficiently, harnessed the information more elegantly, or simply paid more attention I might be able to get my projects under control, but somehow I think the projects are becoming sentient and have their own agendas.

Luck and wisdom!

The Projects Strike Back

January 30, 2019

We all know pride cometh before a fall. I was so proud of myself for getting my projects sorted and ready to go that I forgot about the consequences. The projects are striking back, starting with this one.

I made the four blocks as part of a demonstration. Rather than stick them in the orphan block bin, I put them in a bag with some other fabric for a charity quilt. I envisioned a charming quilt for a little girl, what with the pink flamingos and all.

As I was unpacking the the bag, I found this.

This does not fit the theme of “charming quilt for a little girl” and is in fact not yardage but a panel for making boxer shorts. Don’t ask me where I got it, or why it found its way into my flamingo block bag. It just did.

The palm trees and pale fish fabric also found their way into the bag, and although they go with the theme, I’m coming to believe they want to be in an art quilt all on their own. So, instead of one project I’ve got two, and a shark panel. Oy.

                                                        Luck and wisdom!

Asking Questions

January 28, 2019

My copy of Wonderland, already flagged and tagged

Creating art usually starts with a question. What if I mixed these colors? What if I sewed these fabrics together? What if a stranger came to town with a mysterious gift? Then you bring out the paints, or the scissors, or sit at the computer and let the rest of the project flow logically from that question. Turns out writing history is the same. You start with a question, assemble your supplies – in this case, the documents, photographs, and artifacts of the era you’re studying – and let the story flow logically from the facts. Except that the interpretation of the facts is colored by the way you ask the question. Steven Johnson asked a question about fashion, recreation, entertainment, and the unknown masses and came up with a different take on history. The first chapter of Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World is called Fashion and Shopping. I’m not thin or rich enough to be a fashionista, but I certainly have experienced the benefits of retail therapy, especially at a quilt shop. How wonderful, then, to read Johnson’s discussion of the effect of cotton on Europe. Not only was cotton a revelation in texture to people accustomed to wool and linen, but the results of the dying techniques developed in India were irresistible. “When Vasco da Gama brought back a cargo full of textiles in 1498 from his landmark expedition around the Cape of Good Hope, he gave Europeans their first real experience of the vivid patterns and almost sensual textures of calico and chintz.” The next line is even better: “As fabrics, calico and chintz first made their way into the routine habits of Europeans through the gateway drug of interior decorating.”

My first thought on reading these paragraphs was about my next stories and novels. I could build my grand civilizations not on the bones of conquered peoples, but on the imagination of interior designers. My planets could be ruled not by emperors, but by fabric artists. Storytellers could be the most highly regarded in the population. The economies could work because they already have worked here. I’ve just begun the book and have already flagged a dozen pages with notes-to-self on world-building. All of which proves that asking questions is always valuable, and asking odd questions is even better.

Luck and wisdom!

Pour Art

September 26, 2018

I haven’t been able to do anything in the sewing room, what with a gimpy foot and all. Even handwork is out of the question since I have to keep the puffy little thing elevated (at the moment it looks like a watermelon), which keeps me at an odd angle on the couch, which means more beads fall on the floor than get captured by my needle. The only thing I have to look at is older work, such as this small canvas.

My art critique group held a play date where we all made two pieces by pouring paint over canvas. For once, I choose a restrained color scheme, and the results were much better than anything I’ve ever tried with paint.

The small canvas looks like an architectural detail to me, while the piece above reminds me of a satellite image, or perhaps a riverscape. I’m not sure what I will do with either canvas. For the moment, I’m reveling in the knowledge that less really can be more.

Luck and wisdom!

Discipline and Diligence

June 6, 2018

I wrote a blog for the Tri-Valley Writers website about discipline, diligence and productivity. Even as I was writing it, the snarky angel on my shoulder snorted. “Honey,” it said, “if you could actually be disciplined and diligent, you wouldn’t still have a messy sewing room.” So I decided to break down some of my tasks to help achieve my goals.

Four projects on the list, ready to be basted and quilted

I have finished the tops for several quilts on my Unfinished Quilt Challenge list. The number for the next project we need to complete will be drawn this week. I had a little extra time and decided to make backs for those quilts. I won’t layer them until their number is drawn, but when it comes up I can do that immediately.

I’m also working on one of the projects, a baby quilt. It’s small, but it’s also a traditional quilt, and I lose focus making the same block over and over. I’ve been sewing a few blocks here and there, and will be able to put the center together soon. The final border and back will be the same fabric.

Today is the anniversary of D-Day (6-6-44), and I’m taking that as a good omen. Diligence and discipline may not be my forte, but I can learn.

Luck and wisdom!

Graffiti Quilt – An Omen, Or Just Crankiness?

May 30, 2018

The latest Challenge Group project is to do something with graphics, graffiti, or lettering. At first I thought of doing an illuminated letter, but then I discovered fabric that looked like a concrete brick wall. “Self,” I said, “make something bright and cheerful on that.” It didn’t quite work out.

Not exactly cheerful

No matter how hard I tried, I could not come up with anything bright and cheerful. Even my message is a downer.

What if this is exactly the world you asked for?

The back is no better. It is a remnant of a piece I bought to make a series of World War I quilts. I’ve also used it for some fire quilts.

Good for explosions or fire

I suppose I’m in a dark mood because there’s an election coming up and my phone is ringing off the hook with campaign calls. We’ll see if my cheeriness returns after the results are announced.

Luck and wisdom!

At the Beginning

May 28, 2018

Whether I am writing or quilting, the first hurdle is always the same – the beginning. No matter how wonderful my idea is, until I get the first line of a story or the first fabric in the quilt established I flutter around like the butterflies in my backyard.

Ready for the first line to reveal itself

When the first line flows easily, I can convince myself that the rest of the story will spill out as if by magic. It rarely happens, but the joy of a good beginning can carry me through the hard work of creating a decent middle and respectable conclusion.

Even if the first line comes easily, it might not be what the story requires when I finally reach the end. The hardest thing about rewriting for me is reworking the beginning. I can gleefully slash whole pages in the middle, but cutting my first line is painful. That’s when I pull out the advice Mary Ellen Hopkins gave to quilters: “If your quilt isn’t working, take out the fabric you love the most.” When I find myself protecting that first line as if it were a cherished heirloom, then I know it is probably time to let it go.

Years In The Making

May 23, 2018

 

I found two quilts in that stack in the back of the closet (and I should really be singing that line to “There’s A Hole In The Bottom Of The Sea”) that were finished except for binding. I know they were there for ten years, maybe fifteen. Possibly twenty. Waiting for binding.

I have no memory of making this. It is heavily quilted, and even has back art.

The batting is 100% polyester, which I haven’t used in ages. I bound it in a solid black. I have no idea why I couldn’t make that decision twenty years ago.

I vaguely remember making this quilt. I have no idea why I left it to languish when all I had to do was bind it.

The good news is they are bound now. What happens to them next? Who knows. I will leave you with a song (yes, to the tune of “There’s A Hole In The Bottom Of The Sea”), and I hope with the sense that your own stack of UFOs isn’t really that disgraceful.

There’s a stack in the back of the closet

There’s a stack in the back of the closet

There’s a stack, there’s a stack

There’s a stack in the back of the closet

There’s a quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a quilt, there’s a quilt

There’s a quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a patch on the quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a patch on the quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a patch, there’s a patch

There’s a patch on the quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a bead on the patch on the quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a bead on the patch on the quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a bead, there’s a bead

There’s a bead on the patch on the quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

Luck and wisdom!