Thursday, February 10, 2011

Crossing the same river twice

OK--today I am working on a new challenge. You see, I have these potential customers who have kept a postcard of my quilt autumn afternoon for a couple of years. They think it would look great in their new family room and their interior decorator agrees. So what's the problem you might ask?

Well of course the original autumn afternoon has been sold for some time now. I tried making another one--it came out a different from the original although it also has a happy home. And the potential customers  do want to see the quilt at the Baltimore Craft Show before they order it. OK--so what's the problem?

Let me refresh your memory. This is the quilt autumn afternoon as it appears on the postcard. Note how the black makes it pop.

And this is the image of autumn afternoon as it appears on my website. See how different it looks here. Almost unrecognizable with the white background.

So different is the effect that I had to point out the quilt to the customer. OK--but how did I make it? I study the quilt. Look at the fabrics that I used. The colors of the fabrics that I do have are a bit brighter than the images of the quilt. Will the customers like it if it brighter?  I have to try to get into the mindset I had when I was making the quilt.  The color palette is actually quite eccentric.  An interesting combination of rust and magenta with gold highlights. Lots of specific colors and fabrics that dominate the quilt.

And of course I no longer have most of these fabrics. Sigh.

Now I know there are "artists" who claim one should never remake a piece. Indeed there was a long discussion about just this topic on the SAQA forum several months ago. Their argument is that each piece should be unique. Quite frankly, I disagree with them. I think it is much harder to replicate the feeling and look of a piece. Moreover I don't think you genuinely know a piece until you have made it more than once. If I were in charge I would probably have everyone remake pieces until you have learned all that a piece of art work has to teach you.

I think of Georgia O'Keefe. How many times did she paint the jack-in-the-pulpit before she got it right? Although I do think she destroyed many of these earlier works. But what about Monet--so many water lilies, so many bales of straw--each one slightly different? Or Josef Albers--the colors changed but the design remained the same. There are lots of examples out there.

I do a bit of thinking about the phrase "crossing the same river twice". Interesting expression. Apparently it was actually used in the Disney movie Pocohantas in which she sings:

"What I love most about rivers is you can't step in the same river twice; The water's always changing, always flowing"

I always read in a blog post by a writer named Rosemary Hannah who notes that when she is asked to revisit a style of writing that she used to do she wonders if her experiences with her newer style will help her make it fresh or will she just be repeating herself. You can read it here. An interesting question that I associate with since I too will be adding my experiences in making this quilt.

But now enough procrastinating. What do you think? Do you ever try to cross the same river twice?


  1. I love it! I agree. I have some prairie scenes I could make again and again - each subtly different, and i always learn more. I thought it would feel boring and redundant. But no - the experience of making it is different each time.

  2. There's a distinct difference between making another piece in a series...or making similar piece, and duplicating a piece, which I think is impossible -- without a mass printer! An artist can dip into the same river of inspiration twice -- or more often -- but each piece will definitely be unique. I think your clients need to understand that they didn't buy the piece in the postcard; thus, the piece they are buying now may be the same in spirit but not in execution. :-)