Friday, April 8, 2011

jumping off the high dive

I think we all have memories of our youth that come back to us over and over again and help us define our lives. One of mine is the hidden fear that I  felt standing on top of the high dive at the municipal swimming pool knowing that I had to jump even though the way down was long enough I could remember the descent and the shock of the cold cold water. Splat! A couple of times I dove like I was supposed to--Swish!!-- but usually I just walked off--held me nose and dropped. Splat!! Splat!! Swim quickly to the surface.  Standing there in the cold of the morning (us country kids had the 8 am slot--city kids got nice warm times like 10 and 11) I wanted to turn around and climb back down that steel ladder but  there was a long line behind me standing on that ladder and I didn't want to let them down so jump I would.  Then pull myself out of the pool and get in line again. Always looking at the clock--watching it creep up to 9 o'clock when the lessons would be over. Whew!!

Sometimes that same feeling comes to me when I start a new quilt. Now I have been working all month on new designs. Purses and pillows. Eyeglass cases in colors that sing. I am fascinated by the possibilities. So much to do. Such fun. Play. There is a here here--if you know what I mean. Indeed you can check them out HERE.

But I have orders to fill. One is terrifying me. A delightful woman who ordered a custom piece some 20 or was it 24 years ago. I don't remember the quilt but I do remember delivering it--bringing it to her office. Parking my car and carrying through long halls of light and glass to leave it with her secretary. Strange the things one remembers. Now she is retiring and wants to refresh her home. She has ordered a new quilt. What an honor I feel this is.

 The colors of autumn dawn are perfect. Lovely piece isn't it. I made it a couple years ago for a home in the Adirondacks.

You would think it would be easy, wouldn't you? After all I have already designed the quilt. The size needs slight modifications but nothing significant. Sure I don't have the same fabrics but there are new ones that should be close enough. The customer is kind and already loves my work. So why this terror?

Partly it is because the customer is so kind. I want the quilt to be just right for her.  After all, think of the trust she is putting in me. And if she enjoyed the last quilt for twenty some years, I know she will be enjoying this one for a long time too? This is the high dive and I have been procrastinating.

But start I must-- sometimes the only way through is through. To just jump right in. And so I start piecing. I tell myself to make what I know. Always a good place to begin. The first rows of golden yellow. Not too bright--is this too green? Too light? I am not sure. It is hard to tell until other blocks surround this row. The first row always looks so lonely by itself.

I stare at it for an entire day. That is what I do--how I absorb the quilt into my being. I could look at it even longer but I must keep moving forward. Jump in--swim to the side and keep building.  I make a block of the green. It is a dusty olive green. Not too bright. Not too harsh. The color of the leaves just waiting for the end of the season. Is this right? Or too dark? Maybe.

I am not sure. I adjust the fabrics of the palette--make another--slightly less intense in color. That may be better. Let me see. I keep piecing. Yes, isn't that one block standing out like a sore thumb--oh I do love my cliches.
I don't want to redo it--but if I have to.... I take more pictures. Yes, that first block is too dark. Time to take it out. I don't want to get off on the wrong foot so to speak. Gee--another good cliche.

That I can do--won't take that long. Then today I will do the brown at the bottom. Maybe even get the first row above done. I hope the quilt will take over. The colors will start to sing. It is so hard at first getting the colors to flow--the quilt to establish its own presence and being. But for now it is piece, jump, swim, create a new palette. And repeat.

Sometimes that is how an order gets done. And you--do you ever have this fear? Do you worry? What do you do? And have you ever jumped off the high dive before nine in the morning?


  1. Wow that was amazing, while it is always interesting to see your wonderful, colourful creations, getting a peek into your process was really lovely, Thank you for sharing your process :)I also love the way you deal with the anxiety of creating the perfect piece, that all of us artists experience!

  2. Thanks so much for your comments Nayna. It always helps to be able to share one's anxieties.