Go Figure

OK, a question for you:

Think about your favourite art quilt.

Now think about your favourite painting.

Is the quilt abstract and the painting figurative? Is the love of the quilt mixed up in technique and materials, but the love of the painting all down to the image, the way it lifts your spirit or punches you in the stomach?

It's important to me that the work I make now is judged as an image, not as a quilt. I don't want you to care if it's laboriously hand drawn or painted, or printed digitally in minutes. It doesn't matter how many pieces there are in it, how many metres of thread, it doesn't matter how long the darn thing took.

The quilt world seems at times concerned mostly with the abstract. I read a blog recently by a quilt artist who stated that now there are few artists to be found who work with the figurative. I'm not sure if she meant the art world in general or the quilt world specifically. I'm presuming quilts only, surely. I've been thinking about the direction of my own work, the way that I've veered from figurative through abstraction and back again. Which has been the most 'successful' and which has been overlooked, by potential purchasers and competition judges. For now my quilts seem to be unfashionably figurative in a world of surface decoration, layering of print and pattern and little emphasis on drawing and painting, the two things that always underpin what I do.

So what? I keep wondering if I'm on the right track. I look back at older work and wonder if I've lost my way. Strange to feel these insecurities. I know it's the result of too much time thinking and not enough time doing. I need to get back to the blistering pace that I used to work at. Stop questioning, stop worrying about what everyone else is doing, stop being concerned that people won't like it/buy it. A lot has changed since I made one quilt, well a painting in the first instance, 'Don't Go'. A painting of a dead swallow held in my hands. I've been told on two separate occasions that 'if I made work with a cheerier subject matter' that I'd 'do much better'. Those throwaway remarks have played on my mind, and yes, of course I still have the quilt and no, I probably don't expect to ever sell it. But then I think back to the two other people who came to me after seeing that quilt and told me that it made them cry, that they stood in front of it and wept. Not because it didn't hang straight, or that there were a few untidy thread ends, but because it had punched them in the stomach. And then I know, I'm confident that I'm on the right path, that I need to keep on doing what I do, because even if it's not fashionable, even if it's not chosen as a winner, or accompanied with a red dot, I know that of all the quilts I am glad that it's the one that I made.

Enough over-thinking, enough procrastination.

I just read a much more inspiring blog. One that said that in spite of everything you must never give up on The Thing. The Thing? The Thing is the thing that makes you get up in the morning, the smell of paint, the rush of making the first marks on white paper, the exhilaration when you have one of those days when everything just works, the thing is the reason I am who I am.

Onwards.

Comments

  1. I always love your work. Glad you are staying true to who you are.

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  2. I always consider your work to be at the leading edge.... please keep doing "your Thing"....

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  3. Its all about the "thing". And very simply you can't do or be what you are not. It took me a long time to work out and accept, I'd like to be Constable, but actually I'm Picasso. I fought an inner battle for years berating myself because I can't do realistic imagery. I simply don't understand why people get so so wound up over one genre being 'better' than another. Its different. Same bugbear applies to hand work versus machine. I certainly don't think one is quicker than another, more skilled than another... they are different requiring a switch in method of thinking and doing.
    Keep doing what your doing, cos I'm a non quilter, but regularly read, for inspiration.

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  4. A post that makes one think. What is "do much better"? I think you are doing quite well and doing much better might mean you would be ditching the Thing or turning to profits and commercial looks.

    I love your quilts and read your blog regularly.

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  5. A post that is dear to my heart. I am always drawn to your quilts and paintings. You pick subjects that interest me and the execution is always amazing. Interesting about the swallow piece. Your poppy series has long been my favorite until "Don't Go". It brought tears to my eyes, but warmth to my heart. I think you could make yourself quite mad trying to keep up with the quilt world. I tried, but found that it didn't bring me the joy I sought. That is why I create, it makes me happy. I exercise the creative muscle by trying out new techniques and learning (DMTV is a lifesaver for those of us in rural areas). That is what keeps things fun and interesting, yet I always come back to hand stitch. Keep doing what makes your heart sing and your feet dance. Life is too short to do otherwise. :)

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  6. Don't listen to anyone but what your heart tells you. We don't know why we are ompelled to create a specific style/subject matter. It occurs because it is necessary in the journey. I love your work and your book The Painted Quilt is my most go to inspiration piece. I look forward to watching you on your journey and quilting/painting what makes you feel most passionate!

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  7. Laura, this is such a great post. Thank you for putting into words something that I think we all struggle with at one point or another. I have been having the same sort of thoughts/doubts lately. Do I paint/quilt for other people's pleasure...i.e., do I do the thing that I think will sell? Or do I create what speaks to me, regardless of whether it is popular at the moment? There is so much abstraction in the art world right now...it seems that this is all anyone wants. Or is it just what is put before us by print media and the internet? As a decorative artist (who loves fiber art and quilting, too), I am drawn to more of the old world style of anything. I've been struggling with trying to make myself work these concepts into more abstract compositions so that I don't fall behind in this dynamic world of art. And yet, as I try to breathe life into these things I keep asking myself "Why?" And I suspect that just as soon as I get my head and arms around abstraction, there will be a sea change in the art world back to the realistic format. We could make ourselves crazy trying to keep up with the whims of others; it seems the only option is to stay true to yourself.

    Anyway - like others said, keep doing what you are doing...The Painted Quilt is my go to reference for any fiber art project...always a good place to start. You and Linda are an inspiration to so many of us - you remind us of what is possible with fabric, paint and thread.

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  8. Laura I loved this post. I had written a post on my blog similar to this a couple of weeks ago...questioning the same thing - am I "on track", have I "lost my way" and all manner of questions that we could ask on a continual basis and come up with different answers. I loved "Don't Go" personally. And why? The subject matter, the emotion behind (or inside of) it.
    I do sincerely believe that as artists, as creators, we have to follow our hearts or we do lose our way. I also think that, if you're looking to make a living from your creations, you can keep that in the back of your head as you create. Give a nod to what sells but also allow your heart to lead the larger part of it. Thanks for sharing your feelings!

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  9. I've just read your blog - it was very touching, reflective on your work, which is great - we should all reflect on and be mindful in our work, whether it is a 9-5 job or a piece of creative work. When you completed you piece with the dead swallow I commented on Facebook and I repeat again - it made me cry and reminded me of the 'Happy Prince' by Oscar Wilde (which also makes me cry every time I read it). The compassionate way the bird is held, even the title - very touching plus the work that went into printing it, adding colour, quilting, etc. Amazing. Your work is very distinctive and very inspirational and if I was anywhere near talented as you and Linda are, and I had made a career out of this like you have, I would much rather prefer to remain true to myself and my work than produce an art quilt that I knew might win prizes due to its commercial nature because it was more mainstream but I hated it....unless I was absolutely desperate and in dire financial straits. Ask yourself - do we need any more Sunbonnet Sue quilts? To me, I like art/quilts that appeal to me because of colour or design but I also like art/quilts that create debate and thought about the subject matter, the mood of the piece, etc. That's why I love DMTV and the Creative Quilting Course - I've tried techniques that I thought I'd never ever be able to do and that I'd never even thought about, I've been able to create work in a sketchbook and in fabric that I never would have done if it wasn't for you & Linda and what you have created.

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