Being present

This is a fun little quilt top that I created from leftovers from making several Aunties Two Bali Bags, and using my leftover corners for half square triangles.  :-)
This is a fun little quilt top that I created from leftovers from making several Aunties Two Bali Bags, and using my leftover corners for half square triangles. 🙂

I have been making a conscious effort to give myself permission to quilt more, to spend more time with people that quilt, and to spend more time with people that help “fill my well”.

THis is coming about for several reasons, the most significant one is that I want to be more “present”.  (I read something once that in being more present, you get your ego to take a backseat.)  I am generally a planner by nature – in my head at least – I plan how my day will go (and this can go askew, but it is a starting point).  If I am using a commercial quilt pattern to satisfy my quilting urges, I go through the directions, and quite often will “assembly line” this – I will do all of the cutting at first.  I then will often piece several different blocks, at once, and then do a group pressing, then back to the sewing machine, etc.  I rarely will try to complete one complete block at a time, but as a rule, am willing to wait to see the results.  And, in doing this planning, I am working towards my finished goal.  Am I necessarily “present” while I am doing all of the steps to the finished blocks?  Hmm- good question.  I tend to think I let my mind wander…..

I was speaking with a friend of mine yesterday, and encouraging her to take some time in her crazy schedule to see more of her new niece.  In essence, I was trying to tell myself more than anything that I need to spend more time with the people that matter.  To enjoy the moment here and now.

And, I am lucky that in many cases, the people that matter to me enjoy quilting or enjoy if I share my work, my process, my inspiration, or in general are amazing support systems, and have been throughout my life.

I spent a weekend in Vermilion this month, where the guild members of Vermilion’s quilt guild are amazingly welcoming.  I have known several of its members for years, and am so lucky that one member is always willing to let me bunk at her house when their guild has a “Quilt Till You Wilt” weekend.  It helps fill my well of creativity when I am surrounded by similar souls, and I can see their amazing work unfold through the weekend.

At the beginning of April, my mom came up to Edmonton and joined me for a Ricky Tims day of lectures and an evening concert.  My mom quilts too and I am hoping that she enjoyed the day, and the bit of the break from the farm, as much as I did.  And I think we both enjoyed being present and in the moment during Ricky’s stories, which were amazing.  (I will try to add links in later – please forgive me for not being good at this yet.)

on Easter weekend, I met my mom at the Red Deer Quilt Show, where she and a friend toured around the show with me.  I also met up with the Western Canadian SAQA Rep, who lent me SAQA Trunk Show F to share with fellow quilters in several venues.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Edmonton and District Quilt Guild meeting, where I shared this Trunk Show, as well as listened to a wonderful speaker as part of their evening program.

I have been actively filling up my well with wonderful inspiration, and support by quilty people.  And, when I am surrounded by fabric, and incredible designs, I have no choice but to be present and revel in the moment.

I wish everyone a chance to do some revelling of their own.  Be in the moment with something or someone you love.

Finding your voice

I was taking one of the classes through an Art Quilt Series that Cyndi Souder teaches, and in one of the classes, she discussed our voices.  What distinguishes us, what is our artistic voice.  

I have been brought back to this again and again many times.  I was very thankful while I was taking those classes from Cyndi, that I was able to explore different techniques, and the class exercises gave me an opportunity to expand and spread my art wings a little broader.

But I keep coming back to – what is my voice. When someone looks at my work, could they distinguish all of it as being part of the body of what encompasses my creations thus far?  

I often wonder – what do I want my work to speak on my behalf.  How is it reflective of who I am?  And, truthfully, because of the different techniques I have explored, who I am may be undiscernable at this point through these creations.

I keep trying to dig through what I want my work to show about who I am….  I like to be playful.  I like to have meaning to my work.  I want it to tell some sort of a story.  If there is a theme to my work – I want it to explore perhaps a little deeper into that.  I don’t expect that any of my work will ever be used in a philosophy class to further explore the meaning of life.  But I want it to reflect a part of my life at the time when I created it.

And, in thinking about this, I have realized something else.  That being able to be true to who you are, and have that apparent in your work as an artist is a scary thing.  Maybe I am finding comfort in that anonymyty I have in all sorts of different works masking what I truly want to be apparent as being my creation when someone looks at it. 

 Stay tuned…. time for some shedding of layers….  its going to be scary.  But I have some amazing teachers in front of me who have blazed a trail of authenticity and courage.

If i look at the selection of quilts below, all done for challenges, I don’t know if I would say that all of them were created by one person.  

How did you find your voice?  

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created for Art and Old Lace Challenge
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created for Power Suit Challenge
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created for Art and Old Lace challenge
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created for the Wicked Challenge but did not get sent in time.

Lament

I found this draft in my blog posts, and thought I would finally get around to posting it  I believe I started writing this several months ago. Most of my purging mentioned below is done, and I’m definitely more “in the moment.  

I am lamenting over the “what used to be”.  I’m reading this very fascinating book called “Turning Point”.  It is talking about change.  And I started waxing nostalgic.  I was thinking about what I miss about what was in my past, and why I missed it – it was because of how it made me feel!

I think about a collection of quilts I have in my basement in a bin – they are quilts that my grandmother made with her mother.  I was helping my grandmother clean up some things out of her home, when she was going to move into town.  (Thankfully, she has enjoyed fairly good health, and at the young age of 95, is still living by herself).  My mom and I were busy with different things, and then we looked over this pile of “old rags” that grandma was going to toss into the pit for burning – some of those were these old well worn quilts that she had worked on with her mother.  Well, my mom and I both said,”we’ll take these”, and we both have a few of these wonderful remnants of those lives past. (I posted a couple of pictures below.)

I am very thankful to be able to have a few things that were made by that woman who was still alive for a couple of years after I was born.  I have something that my grandmother helped work on when she was very young.  

It’s pretty cool to have something so generational.  

My lamenting will continue as I’m doing some more purging. At times I’ve allowed the chaos of my thoughts to engage my physical surroundings in a cloying way that has turned to suffocation.  And in turn constricting the creative process, the moving forward, the completing projects, and the freedom of just being present.  

Familiarity…..

I was asked about a month ago “Why do you watch movies over again that you have already watched?” I know that the question was meant in jest, but it also made me think. I find comfort in watching TV shows and movies that I have seen already. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to watch something new, but sometimes I want that blanket of “I know what is going to happen” and that security in confidence in the outcome.

Now some of that – yes, it can be compared with several other activities in life. For myself – it happens in my yoga practice, and in my quilting endeavors.

One of the movies that I have watched several times over this past winter is called “New in Town.” It features Renée Zelweger and Harry Connick Jr. The “Cole’s Notes” version of the storyline is a Miami businesswoman coming to a small Minnesota town to manage the local manufacturing plant, and how she settles into that life. Total romantic comedy. I have seen it several times. I PVR’d it so I could watch it again. I will admit – not an Emmy award winning movie, nor did the ratings come back as a “must see” when the movie was out in the theatres. Part of the movie’s charm for me is the familiarity of a northern winter (the movie was actually filmed partially in Manitoba), and the small town feel. Everyone knows everyone else. It resembles in some way the small town that I grew up by, and went to school in.

Watching the movie is kind of like being enveloped by a familiar blanket. It also allows me to drift in and out of paying attention, and having something on in the background while I am focussing on a task.

I find this need for a “security blanket” at times. To me I compare it to going to a yoga class with a familiar instructor. You know the basic practice that the teacher will guide you through. I can lose myself to being present and just following the instruction provided. I don’t have to worry about what pose comes next. And, I know that it is for a specified duration, and it gives me reassurance.

I find the same thing in my quilting journey. I don’t often make a quilt pattern more than once. And, I oscillate between my own design and following another’s pattern. Following someone else’s instruction enables me to focus on my technique. I know that the path to quilt completion has been “somewhat” laid out for me within the instructions on the page laying before me. It is up to me how I really choose to execute, but I can kind of meander along the path at my own pace, knowing that any turns in the path will be guided along through the words and illustrations provided.

When I embark on the more challenging journey – that of designing and producing something of my own creation – I have many more decisions to make. And, most of them do not guarantee a successful outcome. I have done challenge quilts (one of which I am currently trying to get completed while working full time, and putting a number of other self-imposed obstacles in my path), I have designed quilts as a result of art class instruction, and have also produced originals as gifts and commissions. One thing is common – I put myself in a much more “uncomfortable” position of not knowing the exact path the end result will take. My zone of security is not available. The starting point can be ascertained, but what the finale will be is sometimes a little more “fuzzy around the edges”.

However, in undergoing the process of my own design, I actually end up expanding my area of contentment. I believe we each do this with each situation we enter not knowing the outcome – the result is we make it through with our wealth of experience a bit larger. Now maybe that is taking it a little too far in going from watching a movie that we have seen several times, and comparing it to the creative process, but I think there is a level of putting yourself out there that we all need to do to grow.

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” C.S. Lewis

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2015. New Beginnings.

The start of a new year is a new beginning for many of us. It is a time for reflection of what we have accomplished and experienced for the past year, and what we are focussing on for the challenges of the year ahead.

What I would like to share with you and get your input on is the creative process, and relating many life experiences to my passion for quilting. I hope that this journey will help me learn more about my own process, and where I can stand to push my own limits. I also hope to learn from others about how they apply their own life experiences in their creative journeys.

This idea has been milling around for quilt a while, and while I have several other blog topics chosen, and even some written, I am choosing to start with this. I was waiting for my first hot yoga class of 2015 to start on Saturday morning. While I was laying there in savasana, listening to others enter the practice room and get settled, I let my mind wander, and wow! If I could have had a pen and paper, or a keyboard in front of me.

I lay there listening to many more students come into the class than what had been there at the end of 2014. It is, as many of us have experienced, typical for the beginning of a year for new students to join classes to fulfill their resolution ambition and the result is many classes being very full for the first couple of months.

One perspective is that for those who have consistently been going to classes, it puts a spin on the expectation of class size. It also brings along with the new faces, new ability levels in the class. For some, it is a point of waiting for the inevitable “thinning of the herd” in about the end of the second month, where those who have been brave enough to act on their resolutions, have chosen to then perhaps abandon or change their direction, and go onto other endeavors. Much can be the same when there are new quilt classes beginning in January, often many new students can be seen in the shiny faces of a student group.

I thought about this whole phenomenon from another view-point. I applaud people who make an intention to make a positive change in their lives, or within themselves. It takes a lot of courage to act on that intention. Many people were in my yoga class the other day who I had not seen before. And I thought – we all had to start somewhere. It does take guts to be in a class where there are all levels of experience. And the best thing we can do for each other is encourage each other.

I was thinking of the quilting classes I have taken through the years. It takes guts and enthusiasm to take a class. And, I have been in classes where experience levels varied. But the questions that were asked by some of the newer practitioners helped remind me of some things I should know, but maybe had forgotten, or I forget to ask that question because I assumed that I knew the answer. I am reminded that there are several ways to do the same thing.

So I had to remember where I started. For quilting – it was well over 20 years ago when the bug bit me. For yoga, it was actually not long after that. So I can say with certainty that I have been doing both for quite a while. And I started off not knowing exactly what I was doing, but many kind souls along the way have been patient with me, and chosen to share the knowledge they had to help me along my path.

I urge everyone to perhaps reflect on the beginning of this year that it is beginnings for many people in many things, and we can help that be a positive experience. I also urge reflection on what the past years have given us.

I am looking forward to hopefully spurring some conversation, and through this medium, expanding my base of teachers and friends whom I can learn from. And, if I give something back to those just starting out, then I can say I was successful.

Parfait Dyeing
Parfait Dyeing