creative block

(Yes.  Lower case title, just to reclaim some of my quirkiness.)

I recently posted about taking a break from the creative world, from the quilty world, from whatever and while I was gone, I had some to time to think about how I’d gotten to that non-creative place.

irons in a fire

I’d say, for me it was a factor of four: Time, Health, and Mental/Physical Fatigue, as well as a Too Much to Do.  My Dad used to say “Too many irons in the fire put out the flame.”  While a reference to the bars of iron that blacksmiths use, I did have too much going on.

creative block_99U

from here

I was intrigued with the idea of Creative Block, and one article “7 Types of Creative Block and What to Do About Them,” from my favorite place online (99U) discussed this issue, that apparently is a very-much-real thing.  In that piece, I liked the sub-topic of  Work habits that don’t work, as I have been struggling to (re)learn three new computer programs: EQ7 (I learn it, then forget it, and there’s so many hurdles with the design of this software…but then that’s another post), Affinity Photo (to replace Photoshop) and Affinity Designer (to replace Illustrator).  Three more irons in that proverbial fire.

99U’s advice to “[s]tep back and take a good look at how you’re working, and where the pain points are….If you don’t have enough energy, are you working at the right time of day? If you feel paralyzed by freedom, introduce more structure and order into your day. If you feel constrained by routine, find room for improvisation” felt like it was just for me.

I always love the Brain Pickings articles, and the review on a book from Danielle Krysa (Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas. Advice & Projects from 50 Successful Artists) seems to hit some of those stuck spots:

Creative Block_Alex Cornell

Jessica Bell noted that “When I can’t make progress, it is often because I am mentally scattered; this happens when I am overcommitted or have a schedule without any breathing room in it. I have to have a lot of space and quiet in my head to think my best thoughts. An artist I admire told me a few years ago that “you can’t make art in the cracks.” Carving out a block of time devoted to nothing else but the pursuit of new work has never steered me wrong.”

So,  Miss Gasoline Station stepped aside and made space for some creative time.  I’ll be posting a few projects in the next post, but since it’s summer and it’s time to play, it’s good to keep a balance between working and quilting and cooking and playing and family and friends…

Family Reunion_stone house

Eastmond Family Reunion, atop Brian Head Peak (11,000+ feet)

Thanks to all of you who wrote and left comments on my last post.  We headed out that day for a family reunion and I left the keyboard behind, but I read them all and appreciated your encouragement.  I’m slipping back into the creative life, one stitch at a time.

7 Magic MountainsThe block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping stone in the pathway of the strong. –Thomas Carlyle

Each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass and a book of rules;
And each must make, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.

–R. L. Sharpe

Giveaway Banner

Because who knows what might spur your creativity, I’ve got some books to give away.  If what I’m giving away (this will go on, erratically, for several posts) tickles your fancy or appeals to you in some way, if you leave a comment, please let me know you’d like to enter the giveaway.  Some of the books are ones I’ve purchased and read, and no longer need; others were publisher giveaways at Quilt Market, and it’s time to pass them on.

Grifka Book1

The first one is Lines by Design by Debbie Grifka, a lovely book on how to make elegant modern quilts.  Good luck!  Giveaway will close in a few days and I’ll contact the winner by email and get it sent out.

 

One Life • Many Lives

ESE twoyrold

This has to do with quilting, but it doesn’t start out that way.  It starts out this way, with a two-year old girl posed on her family’s front lawn.

Then all of a sudden, I was a young mother, then a mother of three-soon-to-be-four children, then a grandmother.  When I was that young mother, I took a class on how to make a quilt.  I was a Clothing and Textile major in college, so I knew how to sew, but I thought there was something extra you had to know to make a quilt.  And with one young child at home, I had absolutely no extra time (or so I thought then) but figured I could squeeze it in somewhere.  Between then and when the fourth child was born, I made about eight quilts: each child had a baby quilt, I had a quilt for the bed, and I’d even made a baby quilt for my sister and one I sold in a consignment shop.

Mothering was that life.  That was what I chose and on balance, the kids seem to have turned out all right. But somewhere in that life as mother, I also chose a life as a Mary Kay Lady and a seamstress– I was always sewing, making all the outfits the children and I wore.  And somewhere after I finished my undergraduate education (I was on the 28-year plan), the number of quilts I made took off like a rocket, blogging happened, rotary cutting happened; things just changed.  Again.

I’ve been thinking about this because of two experiences:

ESE at Trunk Show

The first was the presenting of my quilts at a trunk show at my local guild.  I reviewed all my quilts, and each represented some life I lived at the time of the making of that quilt, from the simplest beginning quilt (a small whole cloth quilt with the knots on top) to the recent finish of The Circles Quilt, with all the blocks I designed.  It was a satisfying evening and I was happy to share some of my life’s work.

The second was when I flew home last week after visiting my mother for her birthday, and I stitched improv appliqué blocks while on the plane.  The young man next to me was reading DeLillo’s White Noise, a book I had read in grad school.  The title fit the book perfectly, and that was about the only comment I could make when he and I visited.  I realized he saw this grandma-person stitching away and that was the only life of mine he could see.  But, I wanted to say, I’ve had so many other lives!

So if all my lives were strung together as pearls on a necklace, what might I see?  Would I see only the failures, the quilts I gave away, the moment I lost it and yelled at a child?  Would I see the classes I had to drop, the cosmetic saleslady I could never be?  Or would I focus more on the pearls burnished from the striving and from the use: a creative life, a life with laughter, traveling and family. A life with happiness, because in addition to all that, I get to walk into my sewing room every day, thread a needle and get to making.

tiny nine patches

Quilting System

System_1

Some time ago, Oliver Burkeman, writing in the Guardian newspaper, discussed the idea of implementing “systems” rather than using goals when we are striving toward a new frontier, whether it be in quilting, or better exercise.  He starts by quoting the Dilbert creator, Scott Adams:

“when you’re trying to get better at something – a creative skill, such as cartooning, or a habit, such as regular exercise – think in terms of systems, not goals” for “when you approach life as a sequence of milestones to be achieved, you exist “in a state of near-continuous failure.” Almost all the time, by definition, you’re not at the place you’ve defined as embodying accomplishment or success. And should you get there, you’ll find you’ve lost the very thing that gave you a sense of purpose – so you’ll formulate a new goal and start again.”

Systems ideas mean that if you are a person who walks in the morning, you’ll strive to change one small thing about your stride, or improve your time slightly, and incorporate that into your exercise.  The trick is to keep it simple and small, much like the kaizen idea formulated in Japan, which means continuous change for the better.

Adams notes that working in a system is “something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run,” regardless of immediate outcome. Burkeman goes on to say that “drawing one cartoon a day is a system; so is resolving to take some kind of exercise daily – rather than setting a goal, like being able to run a marathon in four hours. One system that’s currently popular online goes by the name “No Zero Days”: the idea is simply not to let a single day pass without doing something, however tiny, towards some important project.”

Keagan_6

So how does this apply to quilting?

If you think of all our words for unfinished goals (e.g.: WIP, UFO, etc.) and look at the number of online “finishing” blogs that give away prizes if you finish quilts on your list, you can see that we in the quilting world might need the idea of a system.

What IF you approached it as having no zero days…or…continuously making one small change for the better (kaizen) by sewing for small increments at a regular basis, rather than trying to do a blitz over a weekend?  Certainly how your time is managed for you has an impact, for I recognize that small children, spouses, bosses and health issues can indeed interrupt the time available to you.  But what if you had a idea of doing a small part of your project, but doing it daily? Soon your system would bring you to a completed quilt project.

goals

from Here

It’s hard to grasp the idea of process, especially if you’ve spent your life thinking in terms of product. We’re very good at beating ourselves up over our procrastination or lack of motivation or our inability to get that quilt done.   But I like the idea of leaving behind a “state of near-continuous failure,” exchanging that instead for a series of small, manageable tasks that become a part of my day.

shine-block_quilting

I leave with you a little saying on my bookshelf from a past leader in my church, which, when I’ve overwhelmed myself, helps keeps me centered:

The Grid, the Gridsters (and a wee bit of news)

usa-grid

When I say the grid, you probably think of something like the image above: a rendition of the electrical grid in the United States.

dc-street-grid

Or you might think of a street grid, or the computer grid, or any other type of connected web.

Is it This? Or That?

I also think of the grid we use in making our quilts.  Above is my example of a regular grid, using a 9-patch variant.  This style of quilt — that of using repeated blocks set in a grid — didn’t become popular until the 1840s, as earlier quilts were more whole-cloth, medallion, or broderie perse styles.

gridsters-250-buttonx

The name of our Gridster Bee is a nod to the idea of the grid, and since I’ve had some non-sewing time, I did some research about the grid, finding its origin in the way that text was laid out on the printed page.  (Note: Where the quotes are unattributed, I could find no source for them.)

grid-quote1

grid-page-frame2

This method of intersecting lines and angles, known as the Van de Graaf canon and used medievally, was popularized by Jan Tschichold in his books discussing classical book design, and became the standard for book layout.  You can see the proportions at work in the magazine layout (above) on the right.

grid-quote-2

Some myths about the grid:

  • Grids are a design trend
  • Grids impede creativity
  • Grids are confining, and can only be used for certain designs
  • The grid is a static, even, regular subdivision of the surface both vertically and horizontally

types-of-grids

grid-radial-triangle

There are all types of recognizable grids, such as those above, and in the images below:

grid-quilt1

Patricia Walker Rusk’s Sunset Gardens

grid-quilt1b_pencils

pencil cubbies in a shop in Switzerland

grid-quilt2

Bullseye by Vicki Ruebel

grid-quilt3

Upward Modbility by Stephanie Ruyle

grid-quilt4

Christa Watson’s Square in a Square

grid-quilt5_tile

Lisbon Subway Tiles

delta-breeze_wiens

Cindy Wiens’ Delta Breeze

grid-quilt7

Three versions of my Neighborhood Quilt, by my students

grid-quilt8_umana

grid-quilt9_tile

grid-quilt10_tile

(more designs from Spain and Lisbon)

grid-quote-4

grid-quilt11

Velda Bowen’s Fractured Rainbow

(circular grid used, both above and in combo with a regular grid, just below)

shinecirclesquilt_frontl

Shine: The Circles Quilt

golden-spiral(Golden Spiral • from here)

grid-quote-5

(A diagonal grid, both in Shutty’s and Van Orman’s quilts) )

grid-quilt14

Tesselation by Jenn Van Orman

grid-quilt15

Stephanie Ruyle’s Embers

I love the grid, as ultimately, the function of the grid is to help determine and define proportion, such as the last two quilts, which seem to have some unseen glue holding them together. That’s why some quilts that seem to use no grid at all can either make us shake our heads in confusion, or can capture our gaze.

gridsters-250-buttonx

And that’s why we’re the Gridsters — not just those in the bee — but all of us in the quilt world.

tiny nine patches

And a little bit of news.

I wake up everyday and see this:

sweetsixteen-in-hiatusOn some of my harder days, it has crossed my mind that I won’t ever sit there again, happily stitching away, and I feel so far away from the quilting world that I love.  Cue the tears and the Sturm und Drang.  And then I received this:

quilt-entry-announce2017Pineapples and Crowns_front iphoneGuess the universe doesn’t want me to give up yet.  (If you’ll be there at Quilt Festival-Chicago, please take a photo of my quilt, and tag me on IG [occasionalpiecequilt].) And I was also asked by our guild, The Raincross Quilt Guild, to present a Trunk Show on May 16th.  I’m pretty excited about this, and have been working on my program notes.

So…guess I’ll be a good girl and keep all my Physical Therapy appointments so I can get back to quilting.

sewing-valentine_8

About the Refugees

I don’t ordinarily post on this site news of a controversial nature, so if you don’t want see this, please click on by.  This video was produced by my church and is about the least political statement I could find regarding why the world’s refugee crisis is something that affects us all.

Regular quilting content comes again on Wednesday, with the Four-in-Art Challenge Reveals, but I felt my blog would be a superficial place to visit if you did not know of how the events of this week’s news has affected me as a quilter, as a human.  My husband and I have donated to a couple of places; International Rescue is one.  Many of you are already helping in so many ways: I honor you as you all make this world a better, a more loving place to live.