Wednesday, March 9, 2011

change change change

OK--finally the seasons are turning. The snow pack is shrinking. There is even one tiny place in the lawn where I can see dirt. Wow--spring will come.

I have been thinking a lot about change recently. There are new quilts haunting me that I need to figure out how to make. For me this is not unfamiliar territory. After all I started making traditional quilts, then began making the piecing more intricate and varied until I got tired of the technical aspects and switched to simple works in silk. I wearied of hearing that my seams were not straight and I began making tiny curved seams--got lots of great awards but few sales. Again the technique began controlling the quilts and I wanted to simplify and work larger.

I switched back to cotton--oh the fabrics were gorgeous by then. Had to practice my techniques to work in the cottons which did not manipulate as easily as the silk. Finally I began my abstract landscapes. Indeed yesterday I posted quilt images on Do check it out. It reminded me how much I love endless fields and moonlight. I had forgotten light on the ocean.

Now I am most proud of the fact that throughout these subtle changes my quilts have always been identifiable. There is something about the colors I use and the look I am creating that I know is distinctly mine. But--and this is a big but--I have been thinking about making more refined, simpler work again.

And I worry that my work may be looking a little too ordinary. After all there were four other quiltmakers at the Baltimore show who used commercial cottons. Nice people. Their designs were much more traditional than mine. Most of them used quilting machines. Yes, my work is very distinct from them--but is it sufficiently different. One browser even suggested I used a pattern that she had seen published in a magazine. OMG!!!!! Is the quilt world catching up to me again? This happened to me before when many assumed that I was using the techniques for water color quilts to create my much more intricate color progressions. Been there. Done that.

So what is the solution? It is something I have been pondering for some time.  Last summer I tried to make a quilt with very tiny strips of fabric to enter into a certain major quilt show. That quilt had some significant problems--the techniques were harder than I had anticipated. I was not a master of the effect of the tiny strips and did not understand how to manipulate them.  Time to practice, practice, practice. (Isn't that how one gets to Carnegie Hall after all?)

Luckily I can see wonderful squares of color adjacent to each other. I see subtle movements and designs in my mind. Oh why is it so hard to take these vague images and actually create a quilt? There are so many steps there. Don't you just love that question--how long does it take you to make a quilt? This is the time that they are not counting? Argh!!!

OK--I have done this before--it is much much harder than you would think. And I do love my wonderful large quilts that envelop the viewer. But there is something about a challenge, isn't there? And who knows--after Paradise City and CraftBoston I may be singing a different tune. After all, they are smaller more intimate shows.

And you--do you ever want to change how your work looks? I would love to hear your choices, the challenges that you have faced and any tips that you might have? I have a feeling this is a topic I will explore more.


  1. Ah yes, the big question - to stay with the techniques one has mastered and which have found buyers - or move to something new.

    I'm in the midst of that and struggling. I see that I find many excuses to prioritize other things. Having noticed that, I am trying to push through it and accept that even with huge amounts of time and effort the first few attempts might have to be characterized as "practice".

  2. Isn't it interesting, the journey that our work takes us on? About the time I've mastered one thing is the time I'm itching to try something else. I remember clearly the day at a show (back in the 90's) when a longtime buyer stopped in my booth and looked around. "Wow. You're really changing as an artist," she said. Not in a good way. Then she walked away.

    But only machines are happy making the same things in the same way -- artists are inherently work in progress! So I can't wait to see where your journey takes you next, Ann. Good luck at your upcoming shows.

  3. Thanks Pam and Susan--Oh how true your statements are. I would love to hear even more. Thanks.

  4. Hi Ann. I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now, and I love how you approach the problems that most of us face in our creative journey. I am way behind you in my development - still trying to find that first voice - but the issues are still the same. Thank you for you willingness to share your thoughts and your beautiful work.

  5. Thanks so much for the kind words Lotta. I just went to your blog and followed it. I love that mystery quilt and the great images.

  6. Just as Susan said, "About the time I've mastered one thing is the time I'm itching to try something else."

    I believe that if we ignore the call to change from within us, it can only lead to stagnation or creative block. Besides, nothing on our trajectory is lost. Along the road, we discard colours, techniques, media, only to pick them up again later and work them in some new way.

    Perhaps the call towards something more simple you are experiencing, is nothing more than the impulse to start afresh, to begin asking the basic questions again...undoubtedly it will be from a new standpoint as you will have grown and matured since the last time you made a similar stop :)