Making, Not Knowing

I was intrigued by the phrase Making, Not Knowing, when I read about the artist Ann Hamilton recently on the website BrainPickings, and learned of her essay with that title, adapted from her 2005 commencement address at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She writes:

One doesn’t arrive — in words or in art — by necessarily knowing where one is going. In every work of art something appears that does not previously exist, and so, by default, you work from what you know to what you don’t know….You have to be open to all possibilities and to all routes — circuitous or otherwise.

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But, she cautions, “Not knowing isn’t ignorance.”  It is a manifestation of a “willingness to trust, leaving knowing in suspension, trusting in possibility without result” much like pulling a stack of fabrics from our stash to make our next quilt is the epitomy of “knowing in suspension.”  Who knows how these colors will work? Sometimes we try to circumvent this process of Not Knowing, by following a pattern, using the fabrics that the designer specifies, ordering wads of fabrics we may not ever use in future quilts.  I am not opposed to this, as you know. But then this becomes more about checking off the boxes, and that idea of Making, Not Knowing is cut short, because I do know what it will be.

Sometimes I think we are hampered, as Maria Popova of BrainPickings notes, by social media: “In our own culture, obsessed with celebrity and panicked for instant approval, what begins as creative work too often ends up as flotsam on the stream of ego-gratification — the countless counterfeit crowns that come in the form of retweets and likes and best-seller lists, unmoored from any real measure of artistic value and longevity.”  Our eyes can glaze over from countless IG posts, or blogs (not this one, of course) and we forget what our real task is: a life of making.

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“A life of making isn’t a series of shows, or projects, or productions, or things; it is an everyday practice.  It is a practice of questions more than of answers, of waiting to find what you need more often than knowing what you need to do….Our culture has beheld with suspicion unproductive time, things not utilitarian, and daydreaming in general, but we live in a time when it is especially challenging to articulate the importance of experiences that don’t produce anything obvious, aren’t easily quantifiable, resist measurement, aren’t easily named, are categorically in-between.” (Hamilton)

Finally, Hamilton notes:

“Every act of making matters. How we make matters. I like to remember, and remark with regularity, that the word “making” occupies seventeen pages in the Oxford English Dictionary, so there are multiple possibilities for a lifetime of making: make a cup, a conversation, a building, an institution, make memory, make peace, make a poem, a song, a drawing, a play; make a metaphor that changes, enlarges, or inverts the way we understand or see something. Make something to change your mind — acts that amplify.”

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While this sounds like an improv challenge, I don’t work that way.  After many years of quilting, I know what makes me happiest, and my style is my sandbox, the edge of my picture frame.  But in cleaning out my sewing room yesterday, I found little bags of cut pieces of fabric — obviously even though I had an idea, it was the process of Making, Not Knowing which yielded discarded shapes, fabrics, designs, steps on the way to my art.

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So, get into your sewing room, your studio, or drag cartons out from under the bed, whatever, and pull out fabrics.  Sketch out a new pattern, go for a walk, go for a walk through a museum, capture what you see and let the making flow from your mind and your hands, even though you don’t yet know what it will be.

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Be open to all possibilities.

Art Muses/Art Musings

Everyonce in a while it’s good to leave your tribe and take a look at what other artists are doing.  It also helps to be in recovery from shoulder surgery so when that rabbit hole in Instagram opens up, you have too much time are free to follow where it leads.

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Photo: Polly Apfelbaum assembling “Mojo Jojo,” Pérez Art Museum Miami, 2013. (from DrawingCenter on IG)

I first followed the Polly Apfelbaum hashtag.  She is an artist about my age, and still producing interesting and thoughtful works of art, many which seem to intersect my world of quilting. I grabbed this screen shot from DrawingCenter, who also had a series of quotes from her, which I loved:

“Her interdisciplinary approach is most notable in her floor pieces that she refers to as “fallen paintings,” the series of work that she best known for. Laid on the floor in intricate and somewhat psychedelic patterns and forms, the paintings are made of fabrics that have been dyed brilliant hues. The striking use of color aligns her work with abstract expressionism, but rejects the hypermasculinity of the style through the use of fabric and horizontal orientation. Apfelbaum explains that “[the] floor was a place that was inclusive but I could also be reverent.” By installing on the floor, viewers are able to walk around the art making the piece more fluid and approachable.”

She goes on to say “that she wanted “a relaxed sense of form, a form that was more abstract, a form that could kind of be chameleon-like, it could go from talking about minimalism, but could also talk about maximalism…and to craft.” Indeed, the dialogues around her hybridized work are wide-ranging and include feminism, religion, outsider art, and domesticity.”

Loved the “hypermasculinity” idea, reminding me of when I proposed a show of quilts to my Art Professor in college.  “Over my dead body,” he said.  It was then I realized that quilts were essentially, in his mind, NOT art, but I daresay they might be called “hyperfeminine” with the use of fabric, of soft construction.

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Apfelbaum also works by creating shaped woodcuts, which are then inked in vibrant colors, then placed in a design.  Of course I think it looks like a quilt. More images, below:

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This last one is especially quilt-like, I think, in terms of the shapes.  Is the quilting world is having an impact on others?  They probably don’t know we exist, but I do believe in the idea of cross-pollination:

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These last two are by Luis Zerbini, a Brazilian artist.  The second one is definately an Orange Peel block, or a Wedding Ring variant, if you ask me.  Even housework can inspire art:

Lynn Aldrich‘s Coral Landscapes made from house cleaning items; the one on the left is titled Marine Preserve.  I wonder if the one on the right is a wannabe Lynn Aldrich?

Anyone for some Nine-Patch?  With pieced sashings? Start cutting up your solid scraps into squares.

The art world can also be an interesting way to learn about value, a classic part of creating an interesting quilt.  I’ve tried to include the sources so you can go and have a look:

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Bringing this to a workshop would certainly get everyone’s attention about the impact of using those light-to-dark values.

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I’m pretty sure she does this with make-up.

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A screen shot of my Saved images from this morning.  I’ve started making categories and put some of these in the Random Color/Art category of my saves.  Just after you hit that little ribbon to save, the prompt comes up: Save to Collection.  Tap that, and then either direct the save into a category, or make a new one.  It helps in finding things.

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You might want to try to what I call “focused browsing” if your eyes are glazing over after looking at three billion quilts in your feed, and you’ll scream if you see another heavily curated shot with threads and scissors everywhere where you feel like you are trapped in the Dungeon of Cute.

Color theory and effect

a screen shot of the #colortheoryandaffect hashtag on IG

Some of the hashtags I followed were #gridart, or #hardedgepainting, or the names of the artists themselves. @DurhamPress also had some interesting images. Sometimes I would go to an artist, click on the name of the gallery they were showing at, then look at what the gallery had.

Yes, a little focused browsing might just clear the mind a little.

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

Happy New Year 2019

That saying in the title is Welsh for Happy New Year, and one custom is that the children in old Welsh villages would “rush around the village visiting as many houses as possible to collect sweets and money. The visits had to be made before midday, so it was often a race against the clock!”  The gifts were called calennig, and often referred to a skewered apple that the children would carry around.

I have no gifts for you, other than myself.  But then you aren’t rushing around knocking on my door, either.

I have some new readers, and thought I’d re-introduce myself at this time of Happy Old Year Ending • Happy New Year.  (I first learned to say Happy Old Year ending from a well-traveled friend, who said it was from somewhere on the African continent, and although I’ve never been able to corroborate that, I still like the idea of being happy with an ending.)

I’m Elizabeth Eastmond and I am the sole writer of this blog.

 

I first began writing in 2007, sliding quilty posts in amongst my then regular blog, OccasionalPiece, which at this point, is resting (it’s been resting for several years).  The blog name, OccasionalPiece, morphed into OccasionalPiece~Quilt, then I dropped the tilde (~).  When I started trying to find a web address, I shortened it even further to OPQuilt, because who wants to try and spell Occasional or Piece?

Piece originated not in the term “piecing” but from the fact that at the time I started writing online, I was in Graduate School, getting my degree in Creative Writing.  We called our writings “pieces” as in a “short story piece” or “a piece of my novel.”  In my mind it expanded to include my cloth piecings, and any slice of my life–so that’s why you’ll see some travel, some family, current events, cooking, and yes, an occasional piece of writing.  Oh, and art.  We’ve got to have art!

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Sculpture on the High Line; the birds perched there, but they are not a part of this piece of art

I keep a listing of my quilts–or as we say in Creative Writing, a catalogue of the body of my work–up above on 100 Quilts, 200 Quilts, and am starting on the 300 Quilts list.  Everything is linked, but not illustrated, and I’m sorry about that.  I would like to have a listing of photos, but that’s in my Someday category.

While it’s traditional on this week to do a year-end round-up of Quilts I’ve Made or lists of Hope I Finish These This Year, and while I love other people’s inventory, this year I found my own lists and write-ups pretty boring (really, can we stand one more look at Frivols?) except, perhaps, for the lovely one below, gifted at a new baby shower:

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Personal stats: I have four lovely and clever children, eleven brilliant and handsome grandchildren, a perfectly amazing and wonderful husband. Our last family photo, since we are scatterered over four states was two years ago, and one was missing even then.  I like the word lovely and use it a lot. I’ve been divorced, remarried, had two major surgeries, a scattering of small ones, but consider myself healthy, and try always to follow my grandmother’s advice to keep my whines to myself, with the caveat that if something interrupts the output of quilting, I might put it up on this blog.  I make mistakes.  I cherish my faith and crave harmony.  I love going to quilt shows.  I like to sing, mostly to the stuff coming in off my playlist.  I am not totally in love with Smart Technology (still having fights with our new Christmas gift: “Siri, why are you singing in the middle of the night?”), but adore my mobile phone and its capabilities. I like to laugh, have a fairly honed capacity for snark, and cry in tender and emotional scenes in movies. In short, I am like you.  I am not like you.  But I hope to count myself as someone who writes something that you’d like to read.

But generally, this blog is about quilts.  Quilting.  Our quilting world.  Things that pertain to it.  It might be about a quilting personality, or quilting commerce.  It is not a newsletter.  It’s my calennig, my gift to you.

Happy Reading.

Happy New Year!

Frivols 8 • August 2018

 

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September’s box is Frivols #8 and is a tin from American Jane, with a whole host of fancy and fun prints.  The Moda blog notes that:

“There is a correction to the pattern – Background, Sashing, and Borders.  The first line should say 3 – 5 1/2″ x width of fabric strips.  From the strips, cut 18 – 5 1/2″ squares.”

Duly noted. I’ll figure it out when I get there.

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Here’s the layout of prints from their blog–colorful and charming. And I was happy to see that there are fewer half-square triangles in Sandy Klop’s quilt design.

The freebie for this Frivol is a sweet little tin with this month’s quilt design, that is just about the size of a charm square, perched up there by the bigger tin.  I also love the quote on this month’s card: “Be yourself.  Everyone else is already taken.”  While it is attributed to Oscar Wilde, this attribution — as in so many other quote attributions — is a little squishy.  For more discussion on this, visit the Quote Investigator.  In fact, if you read this article, it seems like Wilde was a bit more pessimistic about this whole idea of authenticity:

It is tragic how few people ever “possess their souls” before they die. “Nothing is more rare in any man,” says Emerson, “than an act of his own.” It is quite true. Most people are other people. Their thoughts are some one else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. (c. 1900)

I happen to like the Thomas Merton version:

“In an age where there is much talk about “being yourself” I reserve to myself the right to forget about being myself, since in any case there is very little chance of my being anybody else. Rather it seems to me that when one is too intent on “being himself” he runs the risk of impersonating a shadow.” (c. 1967)

I have to say my favorite instance of this idea is from Gordon B. Hinckley, an earlier president of my church.  He writes about discouragement when he was called on a church mission at age nineteen, feeling like he could never do what was required of him:

I wrote a letter to my father and said, “I’m wasting my time and your money. I don’t see any point in my staying here.” And in due time a letter came back from him in which he simply said: “Dear Gordon. I have your letter of [such and such a date]. I have only one suggestion: Forget yourself and go to work. With love, your father.” [from here]

So often we can focus too much on ourselves, and how we feel from moment to moment. While this aesthetic — to “forget yourself and get to work” — seems to hail from another era, I like to think about it sometimes, when I often can’t find the energy to finish up the chore, to get the work done, to complete the task.  I felt that way with Frivols #7, as you probably know.  And somedays I have to ask myself: “What do I want to have done by the end of this day?”

Perhaps all this seems so far from the supposed Wilde quote of “being yourself,” but for me they are linked.  Perhaps the work is me, the getting done is the shaping of who I am.  And hopefully, in forgetting myself and getting to work, I will become my best self.

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Onward!

 

Practice Makes Perfect • Frivols #6

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Practice Makes Perfect
Quilt #204  • June 2018
26″ by 31.5″

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The requisite shot of the X-ed out Frivols tins show that I’m now halfway done with my goal.  I try not to set goals, as they just give me angst, but there’s just this lingering expectation: finish all the Frivols.

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I call this Practice Makes Perfect, as I’ve been thinking about the nature of work, and how much of it is repetitive, boring even, but repetition appears to be a necessary step on the way to mastery.  I think I can handle churn dashes, but it was learning the finer points of free-motion quilting loops that needed my attention.  Frivols6_PracticeMakesPerfect3

The freebie for tin #6 was this strawberry label with barely any room for a person with two long names.  It would have been better if my name were Dot Smith or something.Frivols6_PracticeMakesPerfect1Mothers Luncheon

I had started on this quilt at the end of May, after a long month of travel and serving and caring for people in my life, culminating with an intimate luncheon celebrating my mother’s 90th birthday in Ogden, Utah.  We rented a small conference room at a local hotel, and had the hotel cater the meal.

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We’d done this two years earlier for my father’s birthday, and had only my brother and sisters and parents there, with no spouses or great-grandchildren.  We were worried then (I was wondering) if if it would work without the supporting members, but we did fine two years ago, and again this year too.  The feelings expressed to my mother were tender, kind, showing her (and my father’s) careful influence in our lives.  Because of them there are amazing individuals in my family: strong men and women, who are good men and women, too.

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Some of you know that I’d been up in Utah earlier that month caring for my sister for a week; it was good to see how much progress she’d made in getting around with her crutches and wheelchair.  From L to R, around the table: Mom, Dad, Susan (child #3), Scott (#6), David (#5), Cynthia (in gold jacket, child #2), Christine (#1), and Andy (#7).  I’m child #4, yes, that infamous “middle child.”

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I had little bottles of specialty olive oil etched with the saying “Olive you forever” and “Happy 90th Barbara” (my mother’s name).

We drove home and two days later I quilted this, finishing  it the next day.  I was still putting away what I’d gathered on my trip, but needed a break, and Practice Makes Perfect was the tonic for what ailed me.

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John Piper wrote: “Work is a glorious thing. And if you stop and think about it, the most enjoyable kinds of leisure are a kind of work. Both these facts are true because the essence of work, as God designed it before the Fall, was creativity — not aimless, random doing, but creative, productive doing….
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“If you are starting to grow lazy, I summon you back to joy. God made us to work. He formed our minds to think and our hands to make. He gave us strength—little or great—to be about the business of altering the way things are.

“That is what work is: seeing the world, thinking of how it could be better, and doing something—from the writing of a note to the building of a boat; from the sewing of what you wear to the praying of a prayer.
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“Come, leave off sloth and idleness. Become what you were made to be. Work.”

excerpted quote found on @TheSmallSeed