Passing Hours in the Age of Automation

Passing the Hours in the Age of Automation

Bill Gates said something astonishing in January. Many have commented on it and I’m not interested (right now) in giving an opinion about what he said. Just the fact that he SAID it has given me pause.

Are you Rusty?

Bill Gates suggested that robots be taxed at the rate human workers are taxed, because so many of them are doing human work instead of humans.

If robots are answering phones, driving, delivering parcels, and taking orders, manufacturing items, stocking warehouses, writing contracts, managing banking … if you didn’t have to work, what would you do with your time?

We humans today have more disposable time than any time in history, and I am not encouraged by how we seem to be choosing to spend it. TV. YouTube cat videos. Pornography online has soared. So have video games. We seem to be just checking out as a society.

What if we did have all that free time and could just make stuff? Hone a craft? Learn to play an instrument? Decorate cakes? My goodness, what a gift that time could be!

What would you teach someone to do? What would you like to learn? The mind boggles. I will never have enough time to learn everything I want to learn how to do, and do well. I will never read everything I want to read. I never did learn to play a banjo (maybe that’s a good thing). I still don’t know how to crochet.

Can you even imagine what we could make if everyone had the time and access to do what moved them? People are so very clever. Let’s start planning…

Quilt Show and Museum, Paducah KY

Quilt Show and Museum, Paducah KY

Downtown Paducah Kentucky
Downtown Paducah Kentucky

It was time for a big shot of inspiration, time to get away from the unpacking and shifting and sorting and get a new perspective. So it must be time for the big quilt show in Paducah!

My first time here, and I must say I was impressed by some things. First, the town of Paducah is effectively doubled by the influx of quilters and quilt enthusiasts and vendors, and it seemed that every single person from the town rose to the occasion. Seemed that absolutely everyone pitched in and helped. Everyone appeared to be fed, watered and housed in style! And better yet, with good humor. It was impossible not to see how tired the people at Hancock’s of Paducah were, and yet they could still talk and laugh with their customers. And find fabric, no matter how displaced.

The downtown area, which is where the main activities of the show take place, is very much human scale, and very walkable. Like so many of our smaller towns the older buildings had been repurposed with great style and imagination. And of course, quilts everywhere.

The museum was much smaller than I expected, and so, of course, I asked. The museum was designed to be inviting, not intimidating, to beckon people in, not push them away. It is unimposing, unassuming, without grand landscaping but with picnic tables and plenty of parking. This limits the number of quilts that can be displayed at one time, which is actually probably better for the textiles themselves and opens up the possibility of seeing something one might not have noticed if overwhelmed. Many quilts I had wanted to see weren’t displayed, and yet I felt completely satisfied by what I did see. Satiated. I had time to linger and really, really look at them. No photos allowed, and no program that I could find, so I must rely on my not-always-trustworthy memory.

The National Quilt Museum, Paducah KY
The National Quilt Museum, Paducah KY

One special exhibition was titled “The Gala of the Unexpected” and several of the exhibiting artists had certainly risen to the occasion. One “quilt” was made from chicken wire and flattened beer cans, but I can’t remember the artist’s statement. One was made from items from the artist’s house, sparked by the idea of “feedsacks” and using modern flour sacks, trash bags, shopping bags and other interesting materials, items that were on hand. My favorite was a take on a traditional block quilt made entirely from duct tape. Quilts have definitely left the bed and assumed a place on the wall!

The miniatures were amazing. Really amazing.

The antique New York Beauties exhibit was almost emotional as much as visual. There’s just something about antique quilts that grabs me by the heart. Maybe because they are often so imperfect. Maybe the spirit of the maker is embedded in the materials, so touched and handled by human hands. Several of them made me just take a deep breath …

Sylvia Schaeffer and Celestial Orbs, AQS Paducah, 2016
Sylvia Schaeffer and Celestial Orbs, Honorable Mention Modern Category, AQS Paducah 2016

The show was the gargantuan event we have come to expect from the national shows, and the winners were the usual suspects. A notable exception is fellow Athenian and modern quilter Sylvia Schaeffer, who won yet another ribbon in a major show, this time for “Celestial Orbs”. It’s always fun to see what people are doing, and some of it is quite impressive indeed. But none of it warmed my heart like the imperfect old quilts by anonymous makers, and so that’s what I’m going to hold close for this show.


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.