Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

The Kid’s Quilt That Could

December 4, 2019

Rain returned to my part of the world, making it safe from fires. This includes the fire inside that gets me into the studio to create. It didn’t help that I no longer loved the piece on the design wall. It has a bunch of animal and forest prints, and will be given away to a charity. Then I got my own little Christmas miracle when I walked into the studio and the green strips started to sing through the gloom.

This is the reason I chose that green, because it adds a little zing to whatever fabric is next to it. Well, I think it does, and I know small children like bright colors, so it stays. Anything that keeps me sewing when it is cold and rainy is okay by me.

Luck and wisdom!

Titles and Where to Find Them

December 2, 2019

I have a file box of quilt, story, and title ideas. When inspiration strikes, I’ll write the idea on whatever scrap of paper is closest to hand. The trick is to keep an open mind for the odd turn of phrase, have something to make notes at all times, and be prepared to give your conversation partners fair warning when you intend to steal something they said.

If I don’t use the idea immediately, I’ll keep the scrap in a pile. After a few months or years, if the idea still appeals to me, I’ll write it on a 3×5 card and put it in the box. I’ve actually used those cards, although there are more ideas than I’ll ever have time to use. Nevertheless, it is comforting to know if a good title doesn’t reveal itself immediately, I have a resource. Even if none of my backup titles fit the project, they will often lead me to the proper one.

Luck and wisdom!

What Is Forward?

November 4, 2019

Although I write fiction, I mostly read nonfiction. The latest book – that I found at the library, the best invention ever – is Joseph LeDoux‘s The Deep History of Ourselves: The Four-Billion-Year Story of How We Got Conscious Brains. Without weighing in on LeDoux’s theory, I will share one tidbit that may inspire a poem, a quilt, and/or a character. LeDoux writes, “What is forward? Forward is a direction that emerges from the shape of a bilateral body.”

So, forward is where I’m looking.

Okay, that’s simplistic to the point of inaccuracy, but still there are creative possibilities in those two sentences. Quilters who make double-sided pieces know what I mean. When both sides are beautiful, which is the front? I’m not sure where my pondering will take me, but I have given myself permission to explore. After all, if I don’t like the view I can always change direction and still be going forward.

Luck and wisdom!

Where The Stories Are

September 16, 2019

I’m reading The Bastard Brigade by Sam Kean. The book is about the creation of the atomic bomb, and the efforts by each side in World War II to stop the other from getting there first. I’ve read some of that history from the Allied side, but not so much from the Nazi side. Kean is an engaging writer, and gives the reader a wonderful grounding in the people involved in the events. He starts his book with a character I first read about in a short story by Rick Wilber in Asimov’s Science Fiction. Moe Berg was a baseball player, polyglot, and spy. Wilber used him in several alternate history short stories (he now has a book, The Moe Berg Episodes).

I vaguely remembered that Berg was a real person whose history inspired Wilber, which I can understand now that I’ve read Kean’s book. It reinforces the advice I’ve read (and give!) that stories are everywhere. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, life will bring you treasures if you take the time to look. Little known characters from history can make fabulous protagonists; snatches of overheard conversation can give you the opening line to a new short story; the kerfuffle in the supermarket check-out line can be the springboard for the plot of a 3-volume novel. Keep your eyes and ears open, because the stories are out there, waiting for you.

Luck and wisdom!

What I Missed and How I Found It

June 24, 2019

 

How did I miss Good Omens? Okay, so I often have to ask myself a similar question when I come across something that everyone else knew about (the young Gary Cooper comes to mind). My husband and I watched the Amazon miniseries made from the novel after our son recommended it, then our daughter reminded us she owned a copy of the book and had left it when she went to graduate school. Even if you see the miniseries first, it is well worth your time to read the book. Aside from being darn good entertainment, the writing is fabulous. It’s the kind of book you read and say, “Self, this is what you should be doing with your story.” I was particularly impressed with how Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman wove in physical details about their characters throughout the story. I thought I had a good grasp of that technique, but I was wrong. This is the way it should be done. Read it for yourself and see.

Luck and wisdom!

Good Times at Art Quilt Santa Fe

May 29, 2019

For the last ten years, I have gone to Santa Fe every spring to help out with Art Quilt Santa Fe. This year was the last session, and what a wonderful time it was. Although I was there as a classroom assistant, not a student, I still got to experiment when there was a lull in class.

Metallic blue and eggplant, using a faux-mori folding technique

Betty Busby has been the teacher almost every year. Her silk painting techniques are fabulous. Although Art Quilt Santa Fe may be no more, Betty teaches all over the world, so check out her schedule and see where she’ll be next. You’ll thank me later.

Soft greens – perhaps for an embroidered forest?

The hidden treasure about taking workshops is the chance to meet other students who can inspire you. Two of the other students noticed some embroidery I was doing when the students and Betty didn’t need my help, and brought out their own hand stitching projects to show me. Since both of them are far more advanced than I could ever hope to be, it was a gift from the thread goddess to see their work. I was so inspired, I actually finished a piece I had been working on for several years.

Inspired by a Montana pine forest

I will miss my annual trip to the Southwest, but will treasure what I learned there – especially about taking advantage of every opportunity I possibly can to gain new skills.

Luck and wisdom!

The Wonder of Workshops

February 4, 2019

Tri-Valley Writers, a branch of the California Writers Club, is putting on its third writers conference on April 13. I’m president of the branch this year, so naturally I’m biased in favor of the event, but even so the day is going to be pretty special (shameless promotion alert, here’s the website link). I’m telling everyone I know to consider attending because there is nothing like gathering with a group of like-minded people pursing a shared passion to ignite creative bonfires.

You would think, given my last statement, that I would always be searching for workshops and conferences. Not so. Luckily, I have friends who point out the treasure I’ve overlooked, like the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco, which holds workshops and classes on just about everything. I attended a wonderful writing workshop on sentences presented by Nina Schulyer. We spent three hours reviewing sentence structure, and playing with different forms to create amazing emotional effects (For you art quilters, imagine the fun of spending three hours experimenting with different embroidery techniques to enhance the overall artistic vision and impact of your piece.).

Schulyer has written a great book called How To Write Stunning Sentences. Still, there’s something magical about being in the same room with creative minds. You learn from each other almost as much as you learn from the presenter. So, look for those hidden gems around you – the adult learning annexes, small conferences, extension courses – and register for as many classes as time and your budget allow. You’ll thank me later.

Luck and wisdom!

Thrift and Character Development

July 23, 2018

Noah Longshore, my dad’s father, supported a wife and four sons as a coal miner during the Depression. What he didn’t know about thrift from being the youngest of twelve children, he learned in the ’30s, and the lesson stuck. He journaled throughout his life, but would be mindful of the paper.

Lani Longshore Noah's diary

Noah’s diary

This page contains entries from four different years. Noah would use the same journal until most of the pages were full. Reading his diary was a completely new experience for me, since I am used to seeing only one year at a time. I wondered how much of what he wrote on any given day was shaped by what he had written the year before, or the year before that.

Then I wondered if this might not be a fabulous technique for character development. What does it tell you about your character if he saves paper as if it were a treasure (which, of course, it is)? What does it tell you about your character that he can review his life in chunks if he so chooses? What questions would it answer about your character if you put together three (or more) events spaced over several years on one page? Let me know if you find the idea intriguing.

Chiura Obata and My Fabric Stash

July 18, 2018

I have no problem choosing a book by its cover, such as Chiura Obata: An American Modern by ShiPu Wang. The cover is a watercolor of the Grand Canyon. It spoke to me because I have fabric in my stash that matches those colors and textures.

Art doesn’t have to match my fabric collection to intrigue me, but it certainly helps. Here is another watercolor that I adore.

This piece cries out to be translated into beads and embroidery.

Obata was born in Japan in 1885 and moved to California as a young man. He died in Berkeley in 1975, having lived through two world wars and the Japanese internment in this country. Neither his fame as a graphic artist nor his teaching position in Berkeley spared Obata from three years imprisonment in a camp in Utah. He set up art classes while in the camp, continuing to produce drawings and paintings despite the injustice of his circumstances. His art is poignant, soothing, and – when you know his story – incredibly optimistic. He is just the role model I could use when life becomes overwhelming.

Luck and wisdom!

Inspiration Prompt #4

July 16, 2018

Neither my computer nor any of my electronic devices are working today. I am writing on a borrowed device, which is always scary. My prompt today is to describe fear. When I was training for my first black belt test, I wrote terror haiku. If poetry doesn’t work for you, use what does (except for scribbling on the wall with permanent marker – that creates a whole other level of anxiety).

Lani Longshore nail file

When I finish chewing my nails, I will need this file.