Tonight, I was up in the art studio working on Sheri’s quilt. I’d been at it for a few hours when that nagging annoying little voice in my head said loudly “you’re doing it wrong— just look at that square….”
Ugh. You’re right. Take a break.
And so, I padded down to the house, made an espresso, and returned to the studio with the dog and cat in tow. I felt frustrated — I really felt I’d been making progress. Sigh. Resigned to spending some quality time with the seam ripper, I picked up the quilt, laid it across my lap and felt the quilted fabric between my fingers. I looked at the design, trying to find the “errant” blocks. I got up, placed it on the studio bed. Hmmm…. where are they?
I only saw squares with blue-stitched sun-ish doodles, red and green swirly blocks. Looks like the doodles you’ve been doing for years, I said to myself. And then, I chuckled. There were no errant blocks.
So often, that voice in our heads, urging us along, is wrong. Often, we are not confident enough to tell it thank you, now be quiet. Before you call me whacked, consider this. Not always, not for every medium, but certainly most of the time, the analytical side of the brain should step lightly when offering advice during the creative process. How many times have you been undone by that nagging voice? How many times have you ripped up, cut out, and started over on your labour of love because of that nagging voice?
I know there are exceptions; certainly not everyone follows the same path in the creative process, and sometimes we want/need our creation (or an aspect of it) to be exact. But that’s not art, that’s craftsmanship. The creativity of a craftsperson (in my opinion) occurs during the design phase of the object while that person’s skill executes the design.
This quilt is the product of craftsmanship and creativity. The parts have been carefully sewn, pressed, and when completed, will function as a quilt duvet cover. It will be square and plume (to use a carpenter’s analogy) and it shall last if not a lifetime, certainly several decades, keeping my dear friend warm during the cold Michigan winters. It’s a fairly common vintage quilt block configuration. Once constructed, I could have followed the blocks’ lines and stitched triangles, squares, etc.
But I didn’t do that— I didn’t want to do that. Instead, I let my mind wander, inspired by my friend, and the different coloured thread has become my pencil as I free-form sketch designs. This is creativity in action. My friend will find the swirls, meandering designs, and odd graphics (which litter the piece, irregularly) whimsical— and she will recognize them. They’ve littered my letters, cards, sketch pad, and batiks since I was 19—and while I develop new designs quite frequently, they all have the same look to them.
Certainly, these little doodles of mine, I’ve never stitched a quilt with them. That’s not the point—or perhaps, it is the point. I’m taking Ezra Pound up on his challenge of “make it new.” So, after my the internal banter with analytical self, I returned to quilting with a new zeal and comfort. The designs came easily, the quilt was not quite so heavy on my lap as I worked to manuever it between my hands. My sewing machine wasn’t jamming and I wasn’t stopping every few minutes to re-align the bobbin.
And I began to hum, as I always do when I’m happy, lost in this universe that is my art studio. This studio (which is the physical residence of my creative self) should not also serve as an office. I worked from home today, up here in the studio. I wonder–is that why I had a bit of a tussle with my analytical self when I switched tasks later in the afternoon?
But this—- making something that expresses who I am, making a gift for my friend, stitching out my memories and dreams—that cannot be done wrong. It simply IS.
Okay. Charlie Rose is on. The pets are gathered at my feet. A cold wind has rolled into Sacramento with a bit of rain and lightening. Fall, thank you for showing up tonight with an East Coast flare. I’ve missed you. Welcome back.
Time to pad back down into the house, curl up into bed, and dream. Sleep well. Dream better. Night. JIG