Filling the Well

Filling the Well

A modern quilt
Sylvia Schaefer and “The Disintegration of the Persistence of Artichokes”

I have just returned from the AQS Chattanooga Quilt Show, only 3 hours away and an overnight stay. I went with a friend, Sylvia Schaefer, who had a quilt in competition. We spent hours (and hours!) at the show. Visited the Tennessee Aquarium. Listened to the pretty wonderful local band entertaining on the square. Ate dinner at a very cute little restaurant beside the city park. Strolled across the Tennessee River on the restored pedestrian bridge. Had some truly inventive ice cream. Watched other people with their dogs, their partners, their babies. Took the electric trolley around town. All in all, a good time.

This year has seen a bit of a turnaround in my thinking about taking these little trips. I’ve been telling myself I have too much to do, I can’t afford it … when in actuality, I can’t afford NOT to go. There is so much inspiration in seeing actual art, not flat art in photos or online. My subsequent work takes off in new and sometimes unexpected directions. My energy levels are replenished. Friendships are made, or strengthened. It’s great to see what products are available. And it never, ever fails that I meet someone who inspires me in an unexpected way.

This year it was Sandi Suggs, the featured quilt artist at the show. I was just walking through, taking a deeper, final look at her quilt chronology, literally minutes before the closing of the show. All by myself, not even really conscious of what, if anything, I was thinking. And then, there she was. She introduced herself and we had a rather deep and surprisingly intimate conversation. Perhaps it was her charming way of being so unassuming. Perhaps I was caught so offguard that my usual defences were not in place.

Finding My Voice: Quilts by Sandi Suggs
Finding My Voice: Quilts by Sandi Suggs

Quilt shows can be tricky places. It’s so easy to get caught up in criticism, what quilters call acting as the “quilt police”. So hanging all of your quilts, from the first to the most recent, probably feels a little like standing in your underwear on stage. (I’ve never been brave enough to do this.) Everyone started somewhere, and I remember reading an article in a quilt magazine where very famous quilt artists shared photos of their first quilts, with the object being to match the quilt to the artist. Some, it was easy. Most, not so much. But the other side of that is that if the only quilts hanging in a show took someone 2 years to make from start to finish, with no indication of beginnings or experiments or trials, many MANY people would be so intimidated they’d never consider trying one. And so, I find that more and more I am drawn to the experiments, the ideas, sometimes the execution of which is less than perfect or spectacular. They give me a bit of an inside view, a window into their thinking and method. They give me the itch to try some things myself! And Sandi’s journey was interesting, and winding, covering many different styles, patterns, and fabrics, and it was so nice to see the progress, both in her choice of styles that seemed to suit her better, and the progression of the skill set necessary to get to the next levels. I suspect many of us are on this path ourselves.

So thank you, Ms. Suggs, for sharing. For smilingly opening up a window into your process, your work, and your heart. I hope your courage is contagious!

 

What’s It Worth To You?

What’s It Worth To You?

Lately, I’ve had a whole slew of folks telling me my product is “so much nicer than the one I saw at the big-box store, I’d certainly pay $10 more for this!”

This is flattering, but it is more than $10 more. Often they are disappointed.

digitally printed hemp electronic envelope
“Find” tablet envelope

But it’s progress. People are at least starting to be able to discern that there is a difference between handmade using quality products and the petroleum-based mass manufactured cheap stuff. We have so long wanted things for “free” that I think I should be glad they think it’s worth paying anything at all!

And then, the other day, I had the tables turned on me. I am so tired of hunting down any particular tool I need in my sewing space that I have finally sat down and sketched out a plan for a storage solution that makes sense for my space and will help me organize – and stay that way! (This may be a magic storage solution.  I’ll let you know.) A couple of years ago I was going into my space at the Chase Street Park Warehouses and there was a plumbing truck that was backed up to the loading dock, and I got a good peek inside. It was cleaner than my kitchen. There was a drawer for everything and everything was in its place. All wood and brass and gleaming and just beautiful. I got the name of the carpenter responsible for this bit of wonderful work and the other day I gave him a call.  I described what I wanted and he started telling me that he couldn’t make it for me because of the cost! And he never once asked me what I was willing to pay. He automatically assumed that his time was worth more than I thought. Surprised me a little, and made me a little sad. Because, really, at this point I am willing to pay probably what he would consider a lot to have exactly what I want.

I have to do better than this!
I have to do better than this!

How many wonderful artisans and craftspeople have given up making what they love, and at what they excel, because they are tired of defending their costs? Their time, expertise, tool investment. Classes they’ve taken. Prototypes made and tested out. Time spent planning, sketching, measuring, shopping for the right raw materials. This all counts! And if we don’t support it, it’s going to become impossible to get anything that doesn’t come out of the back of the UPS truck in a cardboard box.

I’m not exactly sure how to begin the conversation, but I’d like to call that young man back and somehow get to what he thinks would be a fair price for what I want. We may both be pleasantly surprised.

Back Door Friends

Back Door Friends

Come on in!
Come on in!

In the south, close friends and family always use the kitchen door to enter one’s house. The front door is reserved for those uppity neighbors, the preacher and his wife, and salesmen. In most of the houses of people I’ve known (well) in the south, the front door may not even really work from lack of use!

Lots goes on in that kitchen.  Meals are prepared, secrets shared, problems hammered out. Handwork is always handy for moments away from the stove. Sewing, knitting, knotting, one can get a lot done in the 15 minutes the food is simmering.

Creativity takes a lot of forms, and one of the basic tenets of creativity is that it is contagious.  Creativity tends to spark creativity; and the second tenet is that practicing creativity breeds more creativity.  (It’s like exercise in that the energy is renewed and amped up with repeated use.) Lately I’ve really enjoyed watching my daughter discover the joy of baking and how she takes such care arranging the food for maximum visual impact. She’s getting really good and more and more adventurous, and we are all enjoying  eating what she makes! And  the second “wave” is watching my son who is then inspired to take photos of these beautiful creations, and how much his work has improved with the practice. And the funny thing is that with all of the house within which to work, we are all huddled in the kitchen together where the energy seems to center. But in my history, we’ve always gathered in the kitchen, ever since I can remember, and in every house I can remember.

Love on a plate
Love on a plate

My studio is my kitchen. It’s always a bit of a mess (this may be an understatement – come and see for yourself!) and often I have to shake myself back into the world to be able to even talk. Nothing gives me more pleasure than welcoming visitors into my studio. Lately, though, I have found myself a bit protective about who comes in, and it’s made me think a little about “the company we keep”. I have become more aware of the energy that accompanies people, and of what can happen when those energies merge or collide. It can be magic!

Where does your magic happen?

Living Small(er)

Over the past few years, I’ve found myself downsizing, beginning in fits and starts, and lately more steadily. I no longer try to “organize” as I end up losing more than I can find (I KNOW that thing is here somewhere …) but I am trying to curate my possessions and maximize my negative space. I find this to be a very good way to increase my mental space as well, and frees me up to do things, instead of just moving things around in preparation for doing things (my code name for which is “housekeeping”).

Living Small(er)

Which had you rather carry?
Which had you rather carry?

Over the past few years, I’ve found myself downsizing, beginning in fits and starts, and lately more steadily. I no longer try to “organize” as I end up losing more than I can find (I KNOW that thing is here somewhere …) but I am trying to curate my possessions and maximize my negative space. I find this to be a very good way to increase my mental space as well, and frees me up to do things, instead of just moving things around in preparation for doing things (my code name for which is “housekeeping”).

Where I struggle with this concept, however, is fiber and reading material. Fiber is a tale for another day.

I love books. I’ve always loved books. I love the way they look, smell, feel, how they take up space, and how useful they are in blending with other things that take up space. My travel souvenirs were most often fibers, either in the form of fabrics, finished textile products, threads or yarns, and books, often on these fibers indigenous to an area. Art books are another favorite – museum collections, famous houses, famous gardens, city tours, odd collections, I’m a sucker for a pretty book. I have books in languages I cannot read (magazines too!) just because the text was so beautifully laid out.

After a while, this can be a problem, especially these days with decreased weight allowances on travel and increased postage rates. But now my biggest “problem” is storage space, as I am living in smaller and smaller spaces. And actually moving all these books now counts as weight-bearing exercise for me. I’m getting too old to haul them all around.

So about 3 years ago I caved and bought myself a tablet, telling myself I wasn’t going to really like it and I would probably return it. Much to my surprise, I actually really love my tablet. I love it too much, actually, in the evenings, and have had to put myself on a tablet diet lately. I love it for watching classes on YouTube, comedy clips, Ted Talks, and amazingly enough, reading. I didn’t think I would like it for reading but find that I am now quite happy to read books or (most) magazines on a screen. I guess it’s truly a matter of practice.

Of course, things couldn’t be too simple, and I ran into trouble trying to find something in which to store and transport my tablet. I hate the feel of the oily, sticky plastics and “rubber” things and there was just nothing else available that made my hands happy. That’s where the electronic envelopes were born – I wanted something that I liked the look and feel of to carry around my stuff. My books, my magazines.  Something beautiful to the eyes and hands, form and function.  I’m really quite pleased with my tablet cover – I’ve used mine for 3 years already and it still looks brand new.  It makes me smile every single time I pull my tablet out of it or put it back in – and that’s pretty good payback for all the time and energy I put into it.  Just like moving all those loads of books and arranging them on the new shelves …