Creatives Talk

Iris van Herpen designs

Somewhere between the shock of a pandemic shutting the entire world down and its ripple effects, and this month’s realization that this quarantine stuff — if everyone plays nice — will probably go on for another year, I found an article where two creative forces, the designer Iris van Herpen and the choreographer Damien Jalet had a conversation.

It was May 2020, and after holding our breath since mid-March, we slowly began to exhale, wondering how we were going to get through this, would we ever get through this, and how to pick up the pieces of lives, covid-style. And then this article came into view (one in a series from The Big Ideas in the New York Times).

As you can see from van Herpen’s designs, she is not your average fashion designer. So this excerpt surprised me (Damien Jalet, asking the question):

Stanley Kubrick said that some of the artistic failures of the 20th century came from an obsession with total originality, and that innovation didn’t happen through abandoning the classical art form of your own discipline. . . Does the question “Is what I’m doing original?” ever come up in your creative process?

cotton quilt blocks from 1890, from here

At one point in our quilting world, we quilters spent a lot of time and spilled a lot of ink (figuratively speaking) over this issue. We were rabid with the question of who came up with this idea first? Who was the first one on the planet to draw a particular block, make a particular quilt, yada yada yada.

Scrappy Stars, from here

Ms. van Herpen replies:

Nothing comes out of nothing, so the craftsmanship that we master we can attribute to a long evolution of craftsmanship and innovation combined throughout so many centuries. And we are looking at that constantly. So in that sense, I don’t believe at all in originality. But at the same time we are combining it with technologies of today and newer techniques… Without the knowledge of the traditional craftsmanship, we would not be able to integrate these new techniques at all. So they really need each other.

Nothing comes out of nothing. This implies that we quilters, without the history of what has come before us, would not be able to create our designs and our quilts. In her words, “we really need each other.”

Log Cabin quilt, 1870

Back to Kubrick’s idea. I remember in my earlier days striving mightily to create something totally my own, something that had no origin from anything that we were familiar with. Anywhere. My early attempts were, as he says, “failures” as they “came from an obsession with total originality.”

D.C. Dots & Dithers, from here

Slowly I began to remember that when I was in college, in photography class, one of my professors noted that we don’t have to be original, that most of the best ideas are really only 10% new — anything more and they would be too far out of the mainstream to be accepted or enjoyed. An article on The Next Web reiterates this:

There is no such thing as a new idea. One of the most beautiful things about humanity is our ability to build on each other’s ideas, making small tweaks and giant leaps into new innovations. That doesn’t mean your ideas aren’t potentially interesting and even important — just don’t ever call them “original.”

The idea, that I don’t have to be original or new or startling or gee-whiz-bang, and that I can just make a solid quilt with good color choices and a somewhat fresh take, is a relief.

Criss-Cross Color

from Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Quilt patterns: a four-patch block known as a Lattice block

from here

This month’s Gridster Bee Block, chosen by Bette has its origins in a Churn Dash variation, known as Puss in the Corner, from Nancy Page in the 1920s:

I admit, sometimes I doodle around and then hit Barbara Brackman’s book to see what our early quilters did, and often what I think is something I’ve discovered, is actually on the pages of the Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. There’s a whimsical sort of — well, of course — that goes on, but also another link from me to those women long ago. I honor this connection to our “classical art form of [our] own discipline.”

Happy Stitching!

Halloween Banner

My niece-by-marriage, Stephanie, has decked out her house with spiders everywhere, along with Halloween decor.  She is a young mother with small children.  I, however, drape one thing around the house and call it done.  I am an old mother whose children have grown and gone, and there are no grandchildren around to witness my pathetic Halloween decorationing.

Halloween Pennant Banner_1

I started this in August, hoping to have it finished by October 1st.  I finished it last Monday, so just barely by the beginning of Halloween Month.

Halloween Pennant Banner_2

In the other post, you can read about how I put the striped fabric on the edges.  To finish it off, I cut five  1-1/2″ WOF strips of spooky fabric, and used a bias seam to join them all together.  Then I arranged my pennants how I liked the order, and sewed the binding right-sides-together, overlapping the corners of the pennants slightly, and sewed it on.

Halloween Pennant Banner_3

I decided to slip in some really narrow cording (used for pulling up blinds; you can find it at your local all-purpose fabric store) in the black binding, in order to strengthen it and so it wouldn’t stretch out.

Halloween Pennant Banner_5

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I folded the binding up and over the pennants, and pinned the edge.  It gaped slightly, so I used a stiletto to help coax the folded edge over.

Really, it’s a clay MudTool, specifically a Mudshark.  I saw it last week when we were in DC at Michael Sherrill’s exhibit.  I like how the needle tool folds up into the Mudshark: no stiletto caps to lose. Who says museum gift shops don’t have items for quilters?  You just have to think creatively.

P.S. I decided to mail it home via USPS because I didn’t know if it would clear airport security.

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You can see the backing fabric here, also by J. Wecker Frisch.  I left a tail of about 14″ and also added a loop of fabric (cut 5″ long) so I could tie it up somewhere, and call our house decorated.

If I can find the box in the garage, I also have some spooky crows that will work with this scene (more importantly:  IF I feel like getting it all out). Maybe if I stocked in the Halloween Candy early, I’d get into the season?

Maybe.

Below is a link to a video clip of Michael Sherrill talking about his work.  I found all the videos in the exhibit fascinating, as he is an artist who is also articulate, and can talk about the creative process.

Michael Sherrill.png

Link to video.