Getting the Work Done: Artist vs. Addict

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A recent reviewer of Steven Pressman’s book Turning Pro, pointed out that:
“What is distraction, if not self-sabotage, sabotage of one’s future self?”   Pressman, who wrote the War of Art, a must-read for creatives,  writes about about the difference between being an artist and being an addict, about the difference between being a professional (focused on the work) and an amateur (talking about the work, but not really doing it).

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Pressman has written three books, and as another reviewer described them:

The War of Art discusses the decision to start, while [his second book] Do the Work takes on the concept of sustaining the discipline it takes to finish a piece of work. Turning Pro takes things up a notch by insisting the artist must establish a rigid discipline and trust the Muse.”

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It’s easy to forget why we work at something.  There we are, putting our focus on our machines and in our sewing spaces, cutting and sewing, and all of a sudden, it’s oh wait a minute, let me check what my friends on Instagram are doing.

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According to Pressman, that doesn’t get the work done.  What it does do instead, is turn our work, our lives, our posts into an endless loop of sort of getting things done, but not really forging ahead into new places.

As Jocelyn K. Glei put it, “I was particularly struck by his distinction between “the artist” and “the addict,” wherein the former is living out a productive, creative career, while the latter is caught in an endless loop of aspiration and yearning that never gets backed up with meaningful action. Glei also noted that: “The amateur is an egotist. He takes the material of his personal pain and uses it to draw attention to himself. He creates a “life,” a “character,” a “personality.”  Using the term “shadow novel,” he draws out the life of a person is sort of working towards something, but not really.  Like I was after grad school: wanting to be an author, but not writing a word.

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I soon figured out that being a fiction writer was not the direction I was doing to go. I was able, however, to take my MFA training and love of the written word, combine it with sewing, in order to write about quilting — a completely unplanned, but incredibly satisfying endeavor.

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Frivols #7, in process

Cindy and I have talked more than once about the world of social media (namely Instagram) and how it sometimes interferes with getting the work done.  I love a good stroll through the posts as much as anyone, and I love to read blogs and see what creative juice is running through my community.

I recently watched the entire launch video of IGTV, that futzy little button in the top right of your screen.  As they went through all the scenes of creators (our new name, I guess), I realized that they were all barely older than my grandchildren…and with that realization came the understanding that IG “allowed” me to have my community, but what they were really about was the selling of “new media,” geared to “young influencers” gaining followers, gaining media attention and earning money.  Hence, the screwed up IG feed for the rest of us.

Chronology is out.  Connectiveness is in (which is different from “connections”).  Process is out.  Profits are in, including the data mining of all our click and taps and touches.

July 2018 Gridsters _ Leisa

Gridsters Bee Block for Leisa–July 2018

What does this have to do with artist/professional vs. addict/amateur?

As Pressman states, “The artist and the professional, on the other hand, have turned a corner in their minds. They have grown so bored with themselves…What were once their shadow symphonies become real symphonies. The color and drama that were once outside now move inside….When we [choose being an Artist], the energy that once went into the Shadow Novel goes into the real novel. What we once thought was real – “the world,” including its epicenter, ourselves – turns out to be only a shadow. And what had seemed to be only a dream, now, the reality of our lives.

It’s all about where you focus, where you put your attention.  Make use of the tools that help you, but don’t let them dominate allotted time, or dilute creative energy.

 

 

Frivols 7

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It’s the first of July, so you know what that means.

I pulled Frivols Tin #7 out of the closet, and about fell over.  There are a billion little triangles in this quilt, well, okay, maybe only a couple of a hundred, but they are teensy weensy (each HST measures 1 3/4″ square, unfinished).  Yes, I am beginning to question my sanity.  Especially since, when I was in Utah, I saw Frivols tins for sale:

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See that quilt there on the right?  I should have just bought it, and saved myself the trouble.  But making these Frivols experience is a learning experience, or so I keep telling myself.  I’m starting early this month, as it may take me a while.

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Luckily in the tin, they have included a sheet to copy so you can just sew through the lines and have perfect triangles, also available on their Moda blog.  Good thing I really like that lovely Lisa Bongean and her shop near me, Primitive Gatherings (also in Wisconsin).

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Here’s the cute freebie: a scissors “keep” with the polka dots on one side, and Moda’s name on the other.

[Note: I won those scissors last month while visiting Corn Wagon Quilt Company in Springville, Utah.  My husband, who is used to being in quilt shops, got a Hundred Grand Candy Bar, just for coming in (very nice of them).]

Okay, so if you are doing this Frivol, download Moda’s triangles sheet: Frivols7-songbird-triangle-papers  [NOTE: Please be sure to download first, print a test page, making sure the measurements agree with what is written on the pattern, and print at 100% (of course).] I’ve printed mine out on vellum, which is easier to rip off than regular paper.  Since we have to do eleven sheets worth of these triangles, I figure it’s four pages a week, in order to finish.  I’m just hoping that with the special stitch-and-sew technique, I won’t have to be truing them up.  That chore is right up there on the Hated Chores List with folding laundry and emptying the dishwasher.

Happy Fourth of July to you as well, a day to celebrate the birth of our nation.  Here are some photographs I took when we lived in Washington, D.C. for a (most memorable) year:

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Department of State, Star

Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial, with Declaration of Independence on the wall

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

USA Capitol Ceiling

from ceiling in the United States Capitol

Happy Sewing and Happy Fourth of July 2018!

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.”

Mothers Olive Oil

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

Frivols Tin 6 (and a few words about Value)

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It’s the first of June, so you know what that means.

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Cuteness, so cute, darling, adorbs, charming, majorly adorable.

Yep, that’s why I bought these things.  So by now you have figured out it’s time to sew up another Frivols, and now we are on Frivols Tin 6, which you can find on the Moda blog.  Here is the errata for this box:

Note:  After learning that a handful of customers had received rolls of pre-cut squares that were a bit scant, we decided to re-work the cutting to make the pieces a bit smaller and allow a little leeway.  The artwork and text for the tin had already been sent for manufacturing so it could not be changed.  However, the pattern has the correct sizes and instructions, and we apologize for the discrepancy.  It just needed to be done.

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After opening, I’m thinking: Still pretty cute, yes yes yes.

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I unrolled and pressed the squares.  Um.

(silence) Oh, please.  (rolls eyes)

Not another one of these pastel boxes! she moans to no one in particular.  Even my husband said “Another one?”

Frivols 1-5Here’s my Happy Barometer in working with my Frivols Tins so far:
Frivols #1  <happy> for it was a gift for a friend’s baby.
Frivols #2  <happy>
Frivols #3  <happy>
Frivols #4  <meh>  It was a test of will, but I’m keeping it around for gifiting to future babies.
Frivols #5  <not bad> once I got going
Frivols #6.  <——-extreme dismay——>  I know all the Bonnie and Camille fans out there are like, “Send it to me!!” but really, a deal with myself is a deal.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t change it up some.

The finished quilt measures 45″ x 54″ supposedly, but I don’t know if that is the before measurement, or the one they took after their changes.  I also took a look at the outside of the tin requirements, which is code for BUY MORE FABRIC, but since that fabric — Strawberry Fields Revisited — is long gone, given the current habit of our manufacturers of deluging us with fabric lines until we are overwhelmed, then taking them off the shelves forever.  (A personal pet peeve of mine.)

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And given the fact that one of my 7″ by 7″ squares was cut off at the knees, and another one skewed and shredded by the cutter, it’s time to hit my own stash and pull out some colors/shapes/fabrics that will coordinate.Frivols6_5

That piece in the upper left by 3 Sisters ought to be just fine with this group of toned florals and geometrics.  And given that I’m already flummoxed by the cutting instructions, we are definitely changing up this puppy.  And because I needed a project to do after Annularity’s completion, I charged on ahead (still moaning about these mushy-valued pastels).

Each Frivol has 7″ squares.  Even though they warned me not to trim off any bumps, after doing one as a trial, I found I could trim off the sides without any great disaster, then proceed to cut them as they asked.

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And by that night, I had One Grecian Urn.  Kidding.  I had one churn dash (you have to have seen the movie The Music Man to know the inside joke about Grecian Urns).

A Word About Value in Quilts.

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We need some.

Value is how light something is or how dark something is.  Quilts without value shifts tend to be mushy-looking, and sort of blah.  It’s the mushy ones we walk right by at quilt shows.  I see a lot of these, and have even made some myself (see Frivols #1 and #4).  But it is value that moves your eye around a quilt, makes it interesting to look at, gives it depth.  When I worked in the photo lab at University of California, the photography professor preached the same gospel: you need black as midnight and white as snow in the black and white photographs.  OF COURSE there are exceptions, but we are not always making exception-quilts.

Note the two flowers above.  Which one is more interesting?  Which one grabs your eye, pulls it around, as you notice things?  Of course you said the one of the right, a calla lilly by Robert Maplethorpe (the other one I greyed out to have only medium tones).

Same with our quilts.  So what can I do with a box full of medium to medium-light fabrics?  Smash them up against each other:

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Now that medium brown in the upper right corner can function effectively as a “dark.”  It’s still not wonderful, but I do think it’s better than the one they wanted me to do:

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Kidding.  Here’s theirs:

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I could tell from their description I was in trouble: Sun-washed.  It is a lovely little quilt, perfect for babies, and other people who don’t like contrast in their quilts, I guess.  But this is my blog and you are subjected to my bias, and I trend towards quilts with good light-to-dark values.

I also believe if you are going to sell me a tin of fabrics, I should be able to make a quilt with what’s in the tin.  (Right.)

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It needs some kind of borders, so I was going for the look of Frivol #2, but this is a Major Fail.  It has that baked potato problem.  So I ripped off the borders and pulled out nearly every fabric I had in my stash to find one that I though perked up this baby.

 

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A lovely tomatoey color of red with white dots will do nicely. I’m happy with it. Now I’ll get it quilted and bound and will show you the end product, at some later date.

What I learned from this tin of Frivols:

  • Don’t let your quilts be mushy.
  • Move beyond one manufacturer’s grouping of fabrics to avoid having your quilt be only a medium value quilt.
  • And some advice as well from my photography professor, given to us on the last day of class: keep your camera dry.

 

Child’s Play • Frivols 5

I am continuing with my determined goal to make all my Frivols tins this year.

Because this one was quite small, finishing up at 29″ by 32″ (different than what was measured on the tin), I finished it early, so I get to put an X on the circle of Frivols.

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Child’s Play • Quilt #202 • Frivols Quilt #5

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As mentioned in the last post, the fabric is by French General, and while it looked really dark in the tin, with the black and white four-patches added, it is fairly lively.  It reminded me of an extended game of checkers, and since the quilt is small, like a doll’s quilt, I titled it Child’s Play.

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I quilted it with a stylized flower.

ChildsPlay_Frivols5_4Every doll’s quilt needs some dolls, and I just happened to have my mother’s play tea set from when she was a little girl.  She’s celebrating her ninth decade this month, and because she’s turning ninety, she’s always saying things to me like “You’re not old.”

She’s right.  I’m not yet up to her age, but I am one lucky girl to still have a mom here to talk to when I need a cheering up.

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Because I’ve been thinking about my mother today, the chair above is an antique from “the farmhouse,” a place where my grandmother (my mother’s mother) moved when she married grandpa, a widower with a passel of children, and adopted — and adapted herself to — a life as a farm wife.  And then she had three more children, my mother being one of them.

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Mom, at age 12, holding her birthday cake

A photo of my mother when she was in college. My daughter, who is named for my mother, is with her on the left.  And below is a photo of my mother’s Magnum Opus, a quilt with cross-stitched designs, all hand done while we lived in Peru for two years.

Mom and her quilt

Since it is also Mother’s Day here in the United States, I hope you treasured some memories of your mother, and if she is still here — I hope you called her or visited her.

It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized that my mother (and father) gave me the greatest gift of all: a young life where I could pretend, and get dirty and dress up and have imaginary tea parties and fight with my younger brothers, and go to church, and roam the neighborhood, time to read books, and to hope to be like my older sisters.  While soon enough I would discover that there were real sticks and stones out there, she gave me a life sheltered from the world’s harsh realities.

She gave me Child’s Play, every day.

Happy Birthday, Mom, and Happy Mother’s Day!

tiny nine patches

Life’s Dilemma–Frivol 4 is Finished

Thank you to all who entered the giveaway for Simone’s stack of fabrics.  The info about that is at the end of this post.

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I finished up the quilt from Frivol Tin #4, and named it Life’s Dilemma.  It’s quilt #201, which means I started a new listing of quilts, above “300 Quilts.”  When I get that list filled up, I guess that means I retire? Go to the Caribbean or something, and lay on the beach?  (But can I sneak my sewing machine into the hut on that elusive beach?)

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Maybe I named it that because I forgot to put on the final 3″ plain white border, and only realized this after I finished the quilting (so now it only measures 45″ square).  Maybe I named it this because two people stopped me in the hallway at church to talk about their divorces (one just starting, one wrapping up), and the design of this quilt made me think of that type of a maze.  But maybe I just was thinking about how simple, yet complicated life’s choice can be… that way leads on to way, and this quilt reminded me of pathways, both obvious and hidden.

I decided to quilt this using my new circles rulers.

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I placed it in the middle and put my quilting needle INSIDE the circle, started it and kept going.  When I finished the circle, I pivoted it it somewhere else, working my way to the outer edges, trying for coverage, but also trying really hard not to make it feel like work.  I wanted to just play with this.

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Life’s Dilemma, quilt #301

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So now I have another X on my circle of tins: four down and eight to go.  Progress.  Which is the name of the game at my house.

 

 

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Congratulations, Ellie!  Ellie is a faithful reader of this blog, and I’ve appreciated all her nice notes, so it was great to see the Random Number Thingie pick her.  When I was running this at first, I was perplexed, because I show more comments than 80, but when I went back through to read all these interesting and wonderful comments about placemats, not all were “comments” for the giveaway.  Eighty unique and individual comments were left.

If you didn’t win, you can buy the stack of fat quarters directly.

The On Your Mark Create! blog hop is still going on.  You can enter to win every day at the following places:

Tuesday, April 17: Simone @simone.g.b  ; Simone Bradford
Wednesday, April 18: Elizabeth (me!)
Thursday, April 19: Stephanie @spontaneousthreadsSpontaneous Threads
Friday, April 20: Linda @quiltlady63
Saturday, April 21: Joan@alaskanquilter
Sunday, April 22: Carol @carolanngillen
Monday, April 23: Sarah @nohatsquilts
Tuesday, April 24: Afton @quiltingmodQuilting Mod
Wednesday, April 25: Alison @quiltstudio62
Thursday, April 26@pbstudiofabricsInspired by Fabric