Wednesday, January 29, 2020

How Long Did It Take You To Make That?

People often ask how long it takes me to create a piece of work. In this case I have a pretty good idea -- about 10 to 12 hours. I know because I made it in about a day and a half.

Planted Perception, 20x20 inches

It was a learning experience. A few thoughts about how it came together.

My friend Brenda Gael Smith is an amazing artist and excellent curator. I was honored to be included in two of her previous traveling exhibitions. The organization, marketing, professionalism, exposure and good spirit in her exhibitions is unmatched. 

This piece, Rising Resting, was a part of Brenda's Matter of Time Textile Exhibition.

When she announced her Vision 2020 Textile Exhibition, I considered entering, but I wasn't excited by the theme and wasn't motivated to set aside time to make something to enter.

As the deadline neared,  I began to wish I had made something to enter. The feeling kept nagging. But I was busy with lots of other things -- some important things, some things probably less important than the attention I'd given them.

Coincidentally, a friend was visiting while she went through coaching training. I told her about my nagging feelings and she practiced her new coaching skills by asking just a few very specific questions that helped clarify what I should do. I should make a quilt to enter.

After a discussion with her on Tuesday night, I decided I'd give it a go. Wednesday was entirely free. I was busy from from 9 to 4 on Thursday. The deadline was Friday morning at 7 am. Very tight to create a 20x20 inch quilt from scratch.

I made some notes about the theme and the potential design. Leaning into a composition that I've explored regularly would give me a jump in the creative process. I decided to continue with my constructed cruciform series. It's a collection of fabrics in mostly rectangular shapes in a loose cruciform composition.

This piece, Shifting Shelter, uses this "constructed cruciform" composition.

This one too. It's Green Bowl (and features the same red stripe that shows up in this new quilt).

I planned to include an embroidered outline of a set of eye glasses. Part of me felt that was too easy and obvious, but another part of me thought it was an interesting shape and would lend itself to a variety of symbolic interpretations. 

I spent an hour or so on Wednesday morning painting a piece of cloth that would (maybe) become an interesting focus. I thought I had a plan. Then I began to pull together additional fabrics palette to go with the painted piece. 

Then this old fabric with vegetables jumped out at me. But but but... what doesn't it have to do with Vision? I kept trying to set it aside and it kept returning.

The majority of the day on Wednesday was spent fussing with the composition. The painted fabric was entirely rejected. I swapped out various fabrics. I kept slashing, slicing and cutting shapes that felt unique and said interesting things to each other. Eventually, I had to settle on a design and fuse. 

I felt rushed, but also satisfied that it was coming together. I didn't feel the design was fully refined, but I liked it. 

Then I added hand embroidery. Again -- leaning into my favorite stitches and not exploring anything new. Just the outlined eyeglasses, a few lines of Ys and a scattering of stars. 

Before the end of the day on Wednesday the design was fused and the embroidery was finished. I fused on a backing and would leave Thursday evening for all the quilting, photography and entry. Still tight, but I was too far along not to finish.

Quilting came together quickly. Thankfully, it's a small piece so I didn't even have to move my machine out into the dining room which I have to do with larger pieces. I outlined the vegetables and did simple stacked lines in most of the other areas. Not exciting at all -- it hardly adds any interest to the quilt. Some interesting motifs in a contrasting color in the background might have been a better choice. 

Lastly, I squared it up and zigged the edges. (That's actually one of my favorite edge treatments -- especially for small pieces. So, I didn't have to compromise on time with that choice.) I used my iPhone to take a picture. Not ideal, but generally adequate for entries (though not for print publication).

I wanted to come up with a title that would point toward the idea of different kinds of vision. But I also wanted to try to connect those ridiculous vegetables in some way. 

Some ideas...

I settled on Planted Perception. Plant... you know, like vegetables are plants?! But also you might plant a seed of an idea? A perception? 

For the brief artist statement, I came up this: 
The things and ideas we see, notice and perceive help tell the story of how we relate to the world and to each other.

It's a little esoteric and may or may not give a viewer any insight into the quilt, but it does express a concept I really believe.

It was not accepted into the exhibition. Sigh. I was sort of disappointed, but not entirely surprised. This piece of work is fine. I think it's odd and interesting. It would have been better if I'd given myself more time. That doesn't mean it would have been selected. Brenda has written about the selection process. If you're interested in that kind of thing, it's very insightful.

I learned a lot through this specific creative process. 
  • It's ok to be obvious. (The glasses are fine.)
  • It's ok to return to proven designs, motifs, palettes and techniques.
  • Plain background is boring. (Using just the tan fabric for the background flattens everything.)
  • I must make time for making art. I'm an artist first -- teacher and businesswoman after that. The art drives everything else.
  • Figure out what questions I need to answer to move forward. Or hire a coach.
  • I get to decide what's important. Try not to let too many outside influences impact my own priorities.
  • Too many hours of just creating with no time for managing stuff around the house and taking time to relax makes me irritable.
  • Planning and executing the free motion quilting in a way that compliments the design and adds something to the overall visual impact is an area I need to work on.
  • Deadlines are excellent motivators.
  • I can squeeze out more productive time during the day than I usually do.
  • Radishes are cool looking.


Gayle from MI said...

Love the story of your painted fabric. I once spent an entire weekend stamping 2 yards of fabric just to use for thie one project. It just didn't work. Haven't used it in anything yet biput I still love it! I love when you learn new things from your own work. Thanks for sharing your process!

LafingFrog said...

Thank you for sharing your process. This gave me ideas to think about my creative process which is pretty hap hazard. Very inspirational.
Love all your work!

Carolyn Higgins said...

Deborah, thanks for generously sharing your thoughts and process. I’ve been through the same should I/shouldn’t I dilemma and found myself responding just as you did. Notably, my first attempt to make a SAQA auction small piece went just as you described - I couldn’t quite make the deadline though. Still, I worked hard to finish it and then ended up keeping it. The dimensions for pieces changed the next year, and then I just got attached to the thing. I learned a lot from making it - it’s like a notebook now. Your use of a sort of template for composition is brilliant, but for me the biggest takeaway from this post is about how to sort out the perpetual conflict between nurturing the creativity that drives everything else while still making space for the other parts of art and life.