Just Say “Yes”

Just Say Yes

Sketchbook cover, screenprinted, stamped, sewn and quilted
Sketchbook cover, screenprinted, stamped, sewn and quilted

In July I had a rather intimate conversation with a new acquaintance, a relative stranger, but someone whose work and work ethic I had witnessed and admired greatly from close quarters. I admitted that I had been asking the Universe for a feeling of safety, security, and that after talking with her for those two weeks I had begun to think that perhaps I should be asking for courage instead.

Well, be careful what you ask for.

Some time ago, I read somewhere about a practice Thich Nhat Hanh had when working with children. He was teaching his walking meditation but with children he encouraged them to say “Yes!” with every step. Every step. That’s a lot of “yes’s”, ya’ll. Since I’m such a baby with so many of these advanced methodologies, I thought maybe I’d start with the kids’ exercises.

What I found, to my surprise, was that after 3 or 4 minutes of a “yes” with every step, my mood would brighten, my step would lighten, and each “yes” would be more exuberant that the last, so that by the end of the exercise it was all I could do to contain myself to acceptable levels given the density of my household. I also found that “yes” came out of my mouth more readily than “no” when opportunities were made available, and as a result of that I have made some incredible new friends, been some incredible new places, and started some incredible new paths that I am so excited about that I almost leap out of bed every morning.

Dream Streams journal cover
Dream Streams journal cover

But perhaps the most exciting result of this change of attitude is to see it reflected in my recent work. I can see joy again. Playfulness, which I knew had to still be lurking somewhere. Humor. A little bit of rebellion, but hey, I can’t expect to change overnight. I’ve also been asked to participate in a few things that make me feel excited, and even to give a little talk about our choices in what we buy, wear, use, and gift to others, subjects very near and dear to my heart. Mindfulness in all things.

Try it for yourself. Brace yourself for the energy that comes. And then tell us about it! What puts a spring in your step these days?

Quilters Take The Art World

Quilters Take the Art World

Ann Loveless, of Loveless PhotoFiber from Frankfort, Michigan, won the $200,000 Public Vote Grand Prize from ArtPrize on October 9, 2015. Her work, Northwood Awakening, is a 60 by 300 inch quilt, made in several panels. This is made especially interesting since she also won in 2013, with ArtPrize 2013 Public Vote Grand Prize winner for Sleeping Bear Dune Lakeshore. 

According to the ArtPrize website, “ArtPrize voters have time and again elevated work that is technically difficult and masterfully created” as the winners of the competition. In another quote from their website:

“Once again, reverence for technical skill in two-dimensional work—this time in a stunning combination of large-scale photography and intricate textile—has captured the imagination of the voting public,” said Christian Gaines, ArtPrize Executive Director. “It’s a surprising and unexpected twist to have Northwood Awakenings represent our first-ever two-time public vote winner. We’re stunned and delighted, but we’re also reflecting on how this affects ArtPrize going forward.”

Now, this doesn’t actually surprise me as much as it seems to the organizers of ArtPrize. Anyone who has ever been to a quilt show knows that feeling one gets upon entering the venue, and hearing the gasps and sighs that seem to escape unnoticed by the viewing public. Anyone with a child knows the intrinsic attraction of a quilt. And anyone with a pet, be it dog or cat or anything else 4-footed, know that a quilt will be the spot-of-choice given any number of alternatives for that pet.

I’ve not posted a photo of Ann Loveless’ quilts, as I don’t have her permission to do so, but would highly recommend a quick trip to her website to see her revolving gallery of work.

Quilts rule.

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.