Thursday, June 10, 2010

I Had A Dream

At some point I realized that what was holding me back from doing something significant in quilts was the fact that I was always trying to do something beautiful. It is not so much the striving for beauty that was messing me up as the fact that I was trying to please others thereby, and it is not by pleasing others that you find a way to do something powerful and individual.

Subsequently I found myself going off into directions that, far from pleasing others, seem to be alienating them. I don't know where this path is going to lead me eventually, but in the short run it is taking me away from the pleasing place.

I think it started a few years ago when I had a dream of a graffiti quilt, an ugly pink field with the word "QUILT" across the bottom in big, spray painted letters. I actually talked to a graffiti artist about painting a apiece of fabric for me, but he was repelled by the idea. He seemed disgusted that I had suggested it. Now, that is funny: the idea of putting graffiti on a quilt disgusts quilters and graffiti artists alike, because the worst possible thing is for them to be associated with each other.

This spring I ran across this idea in an old notebook and realized that it would be perfect for a bias tape quilt. Graffiti, I figured, would so obscure whatever was in the background that it would not matter what the background consisted of. So I just assembled an abstract field of scraps upon which I could scribble. The day I started sewing it, I received in the mail a package of bias tape from a woman who had seen my lecture in Seattle the week before. It was all various shades of pink. Obviously, fate wanted me to execute my pink graffiti in a sort of mirror image of the one in my dream.

As my friend Barbara Brackman said when she saw some of my new quilts, "Sometimes you can be TOO abstract." Maybe so, but at least I am no longer being a people pleaser--that's for sure.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

New Quilt

I made this quilt top when I was the artist in residence at the de Young museum during the month of March. It was just about the most fun I ever had, the residency, that is. But making this was a treat as well. When I started, all I knew was that I wanted to sew a bunch of this aqua blue bias, so I picked these orange fabrics to set it off. The stuff on the left came from a garage sale--the maker was selling this "failure" from a dye class, perfect for my purposes. After a while I realized I was making a river, so I ended up adding some tributaries and mountains and etc., then quilted it all over with crazy salmon.

My only real disappointment came when I took the last stitch on the binding and hung it up on the wall of my studio: the edges looked like the edge of a potato chip. There was nothing to do but to tear it off and figure some way to make it lay flatter. What I ended up doing was just folding the top and back together and whip stitching them--no binding at all. Now it hangs pretty flat and behaves pretty well.

The thing is, it is all enjoyable. Sewing the strips on, quilting it, binding it--I never get tired of taking some simple materials and turning them into something I like to look at. It is, as they say, a hoot. This one is called "Up The River of Good Intentions."

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Unknown Block

Here's a pattern you don't see every day. I thought it was a Maltese Cross variation, which I suppose it could be. I found it in a stack of quilts owned by Connie Davidson when she showed me her collection last week in Hilton Head. Anyway, it seems to be a sort of floral design, a tuilp, I guess, made of a Maltese Cross style block. What I like about it is how logical, even inevitable it looks. Of course you would make a tulip like that!

Of course the other thing I like is that women have always invented patterns, anyone who could make a quilt could make it her own way, or could invent her own pattern. Any signs of this creative impulse make me happy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Looks Like A Mess

It does not look like much at the moment but it will look better when I get it done tomorrow. When I started this all I knew was that I had this green and white pinstripe that I wanted to cut up and piece back together. So I started cutting and sewing, not knowing and not caring what it was going to look like at the end. Then I saw the picture at the top of persimmons in the snow by my friend Gail Anderson of Oxford, England. Yes! I could make a bunch of small orange things and scatter them around and end up with something sort of like that. But from the minute I started trying to make the persimmons, my judgemental side took off and went crazy: "Nope, that's not orange enough...wrong...not over there...looks stupid..." and etc. So I spent a whole day trying to make little orange things I could fit in here somehow.

I finally figured out that I was never going to be happy with it, because I was trying to compete with the image of perfection I had in my mind. I can't work that way, so I quit.

The next day I was idly sipping at my coffee when I noticed that I had originally pulled out this golden African fabric, and had a feeling that it would go well with the pinstripe. So I laid it on the piecework I had created and just loved the combination. Then I could start cutting and sewing again, and waiting for something to develop. At the last minute of my third day sewing, I saw something that made the whole thing come into focus for me. Then I knew how to continue, what kind of effect I was looking for, how to proceed.

"Sewing Without Knowing" is hard to follow.