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.

 

Popsicles in My Way

All Popsicles in My Way

This morning, I drove the car down to our local park, walked one mile with my husband by my side, and drove home.  Not a big deal for most people, but it was the first time I’d driven a round trip and walked that far in one swoop since the surgery nearly five weeks ago.  Maybe all the post-surgery obstacles are now, after five weeks, becoming more like popsicles: little humps of fun to celebrate with song and a leap into the old swimming hole.

Mary's Blocks for August 2015

So even though this feels like a lost summer, this past week I had another first: I operated my sewing machine, sewing up the Bee blocks for Mary’s turn at bat.  And the world didn’t end. Tutorial is *here* or you can find it on the tab above under Tutorials, where I keep links to all of the tutorials on this blog.

Granite Flats

We’ve watched nearly all three seasons of Granite Flats (only 2 more episodes to go) and I’m continually amazed at how much freedom children in the sixties were given to roam around on their bikes and get into scrapes and generally explore.  While it can be at times cheesy, it’s a fun show that has allowed me to sit and stitch, fully entertained.

Rainbow Kaffe laid out

Earlier I was able, over the course of several days, to put this together on my pin wall, then went to bed for nearly two days to recover, paying for my creative burst of energy.  During recovery I was confining my sewing to handwork, and was hoping to get this stitched up for the Kaffe Mini Swap I’m in, but I saw the writing on the wall, and switched to a different project that involved the sewing machine.

Kaffe, Two

I was able to put this one on the wall (only took two days this time), and will now tweak it and stitch it together and quilt it–all tasks that will probably take me oodles longer than usual.   (Working title: Kaffe’s Rainbow Block.)  But that is the good news!  That I am actually quilting, working with the cloth, however slowly, and participating once again.

The Road Not Taken Book

And to further prove that I’m into Popsicle Territory, I have started reading a book, a task unthinkable two weeks ago with my fuzzed-out brain cells.  David Orr’s book is a fascinating look at Robert Frost’s well-known poem, and while I find myself arguing with Orr’s analysis every once in a while, he wins me over as he progresses, teaching me about Frost, perception, decision making and the “deciders.”

Little steps, but definitely progress.

Really? It’s Wednesday?

I’m not yet “jammified” (in my p.j.’s) but I could be, for how energetic I (don’t) feel.  Bob Hope noted that “You never get tired unless you stop and take time for it.”  So I’ve taken some time for it this week, after my Ta DA! post of earlier.  I also heard Joyce Carol Oates once talk about how, after a novel was newly finished, she took her time to coming back from working–she read poetry until she felt sufficiently ready to start work again.

I was asked to teach a class on the Lollypop Tree quilt, as I’ve noted before, I made up my own pattern, and thought I should get going on the class sample.  It was intended to be a Kaffe-fabricked Christmasy design on Kona red.  What it ended up becoming was a whimsical Kaffe-fabricked design on aqua polkadots.  The red one is still in my future. . . perhaps tomorrow, after I grade some of the late essays and finish up prep for class.

Leaf Progression LollypopI became stuck on this one leaf.  You can see the progression, of trying desperately to become unstuck, and I just noticed I put two of the same in the photo.  Ignore that.

Lollypop Tree Wallhanging ESE

I finally got to this point, and although I’m still not happy with parts of it, most of it is coming together.

Eric Maisel said that “If, because of anxiety and self-doubt, you procrastinate and only think about working, you’ll feel more exhausted than if you’d created for hours.” I certainly had a lot of that going on today, but I think it was also because I was listening to the end of a Graham Greene novel, which was driving me a bit batty.  Then I switched to This American Life and listened to the two-part episode about Harper High School, which starts *here* and ends *here,* which I’m still thinking about, and which should be required listening for every American, no matter where you stand on the gun-control debate.  It was sad, frustrating, illuminating and it got me working through my puny problems of how different pinks should go where.  Perspective is always a valuable thing.

Then I went downstairs to the kitchen and made two dinners: tonight’s and tomorrow’s, as I don’t get home from class until later and my husband and I just aren’t up for cooking, or for going out.

Leon Golden Egg

After dishes, I finished off a good book–the latest Guido Brunetti mystery–and then traced off and cut out another Lollypop Tree, ESE-style, to begin again tomorrow with a red background, for my  shop sample for the class.

I was talking to a biologist friend once, describing how sometimes I felt as there was nothing creative coming forward (this was when I was an undergrad in Creative Writing) and yet the deadlines didn’t seem to go away.  “Ah,” she said.  “You’re in lag phase.”  I didn’t know exactly what it meant, but the gist of it was that while I felt like I was doing nothing, my ideas were percolating, growing, or “metabolically active” as a biologist would say, before I entered a time of real growth (log phase, if you must know).  I’ve experienced this more than once.  During that time, I feel unfocused, blasé, wiped out, or just plain stupid, if you must know the truth.  I ingest vast amounts of silly internet videos, or lollygag through quilt images online, or read blogs without commenting.  Then slowly, something shifts, I become truly bored with being bored and I get back to work.

“If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all the time who eventually catch on to things.” –Sister Corita Kent

WIP new button

 

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.

Creativity and the Web

I’m thinking about all those affected by the horrific storm on the East Coast.  I have several quilty/blogger friends, as well as quite a few family members who have been affected and hope that they and their families are through the worst of it.  I’ve been on a blogging break this week from the computer (I wrote this post earlier) but I just wanted to jump in and send my thoughts to those who are dealing with this “Frankenstorm” and its aftermath.  Take care, everyone.

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In my class at school, we just completed a unit that was based on this book by Nicholas Carr, titled, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing To Our Brains.  We had our Discussion Panels last Wednesday, and it was fascinating that the students were fairly perceptive and able to discuss how the Internet has impacted their lives, for better or for worse.  One young man is fairly sanguine about the whole thing, saying, “Well, it’s here.  We just have to deal.”  Another pair of young women took opposite positions on the question of whether print was dead.  The internet’s main impact, that of re-wiring our brains due to neuroplasticity, was skirted around, but acknowledged when they all complained of the inability to finish a book before distractedly checking their phones for texts or messages.

And I think it’s rewired my brain as well.  Carr goes through the history of civilization’s adding of new technologies, from writing to moveable print to the typewriter and onward to clocks and the internet.  I was interested in his discussion on tools: “The tight bonds we form with our tools go both ways.  Even as our technologies become extensions of ourselves, we become extensions of our technologies.”

 I thought about how quilting has changed from the time when I used to trace a pattern onto cardboard, carefully cut it out and tape the edges for stability.  Then I’d trace it about a bazillion times in order to make a quilt, following along the pencil line for the seam.  I did use a machine for piecing, but hand-quilting was the only way to finish a quilt.  That’s why my list of 100 Quilts took so long to grow: our tools were more primitive before the advent of rulers and rotary cutters.

He also references Frederick Taylor’s Time-Motion studies and how it has changed how workers do their jobs (above: a golfer takes a swing).  Before Taylor came along, “the individual laborer, drawaing on his training, knowledge and experience, would make his own decisions about how he did his work.  He would write his own script” (218).

I think of us at work.  Some of us spread all our fabric out into a lovely mess (like mine, above).  Others fold and organize continually throughout the day.  I like to doodle around with my computer when thinking up a new quilt. Some like to start cutting, throwing the cloth up on the pin wall to see what’s going on.  Carr notes that with Taylor’s regimentation of industry’s messiness, something was lost.  “What was lost along with the messiness was personal initiative, creativity, and whim.  Conscious craft turned into unconscious routine.”

I hope I never become such a slave to a pattern or a ruler or a system of making a quilt that I can’t make  a creative and conscious detour into creativity.  But sometimes I wonder when I make a copy of another’s quilt, using one line of fabric if I’m not caught in a type of quilt-machine using Taylor’s demands for proscribed motion.   Is this creativity?  Am I being creative, or just following someone else’s script and benefitting from their decisions?

And like many of you, I’ve been following #quiltmarket on Instagram.  Carr said more than once, and I’m paraphrasing here, that trying to control the flow of information from the internet is like trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant at full blast.  The internet caters to the new! unique! amazing! as we all know.

I also have Pinterest boards full of ideas, most are quilts which I’ll never make, but pin them up there nonetheless.   Can we be creative 24/7, or is that too exhausting?  Has the Internet made better quilting possible?  More interesting quilting?  Given us an access to a wider range of styles and types?

I don’t know the answers to these questions.  I only know that sometimes the Internet affects us quilters, too.

So my question now, is how has the Internet affected you?  And has it been for better. . . or for worse?

Polaroid Blocks

Woo-hoo!  All the little Polaroid blocks arrived from the Polaroid Block Swap.  I laid them out and looked at them all, and really thought some lovely quilters somewhere had done a fine job making little bits of fabric in a frame.

On the left is one of my favorites, a series of matryoshka dolls (Russian nesting dolls) of which I have a small collection, and the small bit of cloth that Debbie sent along with the batch of blocks: a Polaroid image on a 2″ square, which can be either a label on the back, or made into a block to go with the others.  I had a great time participating in this and appreciate Debbie’s efforts.

And from those pictures, to another kind — the old-fashioned kind — taken at local quilt shows.  I used to take a few rolls of film (remember film?) in my bag along with my camera, come home and get them developed, then put them into little photo books to look at in between shows.  At one time, we traded photos, made our own little books, bought magazines in order to get our ideas for quilts.

This is my friend’s quilt, hanging in Road to California, with another friend standing beside it.  These are all in the pre-internet days, but even so, it’s kind of hard to remember what we did before we could just pop onto a series of blogs, or to Pinterest, or even Instagram.

I have six of these little books, tucked away.  On the left in that picture are Dave and I standing by my quilt that was hanging in Road to California (a different year than Lisa’s quilt).  And yes, I’m wearing a quilted jacket.  (Boy, do I look like an early quilter.)  Even though quilt styles change and the modern quilt movement has influenced a lot of our designs, I still like looking through these when I come across them occasionally.

Last book-y thing: I shopped C & T’s clearance sale and came up with these fun books.  While not all the books are new, and even some are sort of “vintage” it is enjoyable to browse through them when you’ve only paid a pittance for them.  You really should get on C & T’s mailing list, if you aren’t already.

So, now I’m off to sew sew sew before reality will hit and I’ll have to grade the Argument Terms Test that I gave in class on Wednesday.

You can bet that I’m putting off reality as long as I can.