Expectations. 1, Process

Altar : found polystyrene. Temporary. Disassembled… and what I’m learning from them.

I expected to make a huge body of cohesive, location-influenced work to bring home and exhibit.

–instead, scraps and snippets, very little of which will come home. Some of it is too organic to make it through the bio security cordon at home. Some pieces have been temporary : made, unmade, recycled.

Lesson: I have always loathed the idea of it being “all about the process” – it’s seemed like art/craft making as a filler of time, an amusing alternative to boredom. To consciousness even. It’s never that way for me. When i make, or even think about making, i always have a Big Idea, something inside me burning to get out and connect with others.

Now, I’ve had over 2 months intensive tinkering with no specific idea in mind. My Gallipoli/Çanakkale memorial work is a long way off. It deserves a really decent level of attention and engagement.

Here I have experimented with a new medium (watercolour) simply because I couldn’t think how else to get colour in the absence of my usual textile resources.

Knowing nothing of how to use them I’ve surrendered to the process of experiment and found I quite enjoy it.

The pleasant discovery is that the process-generated works are settling gently into conceptual groups, just as they would be had I begun with an Idea. They look like ‘my work’ too. Surprisingly, they don’t much look like ‘here’ Cappadocia, but perhaps I’ll see that later.

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Peak experiences, post-peak experiences

Sometimes you have an experience so wonderful that you know it can never be equalled or bettered. Or, at least, you’re pretty sure it’s the Best Ever.

What do you do after that?

Especially when you’ve got a tendency to see the glass half empty. And an overdeveloped talent for harsh comparison.  Do you decide to opt out of repeats because they are guaranteed to disappoint?

I say not. Do it again!

Last year I was privileged to sing in an amazing performance of the Brahms Requiem in Carnegie Hall. This isn’t unique – there were nearly 200 of us! But by every measure a chorus singer can use, it was a supreme peak experience.

This year I was also privileged to be invited to sing (almost) the same music with a couple of suburban community choirs. After sorting a few logistics questions, I leapt at the opportunity.

It was not New York. By a wide margin. By turns, that difference was painful, frustrating, funny. I also discovered the difference was also irrelevant. So what, if this time round the experience is not going to be equal or better than last time?

That “can’t match the peak” experience had its own unique and valuable qualities. I had a chance to sing again with some old friends, to build some new friendships, to see the challenges of the music resolved in a different way. It was a privilege. I was singing the Brahms Requiem for the 3rd time in 3 years! We never know when these chances will come again

And when we clambered up the scaffolding in one venue, and squeezed into the church pews in another, we were all motivated with the same love of the music, love of the audience, love of the conductor, love of each other as collaborators in creating the beautiful fleeting magic that is live music.

It’s ALWAYS a Peak Experience if you do it with passion and joy

Floating cubes comes together…at last

Floating Cubes has had a long slow development.

The cube-top fabric came first – bought at a quilt show in Sydney, perhaps 2006. I knew I would use it for some variation of Stack’n’Whack but I didn’t want to just make blocks & a border with it.

Then, I read Quilts of Illusion (again) and saw a most amazing variation of the classic Tumbling Blocks pattern. Immediately I knew I would use the interesting blocks from the special print as the “top” of cubes. I made dozens of these, and enjoyed the process of selecting complementary colours from the scraps stash.

Later came the idea to have a “macro-cube” background for all my little cubes to float above.

I’m still playing with the arrangement of the small cubes, but I’m thinking this current arrangement with a large-to-small layout gives a sense of distance that is very pleasing.
There are more photos of the build of this quilt in this Picasa Gallery and at the foot of this page for a while

Next questions – how to attach the little cubes to the ground, and what sort of quilting?

What to do when you’re burned out…

…Chill out! Don’t push it – there’s no hurry. We’re doing this because we want to, remember? It’s not a Production Environment where some pre-specified level of performance is mandatory.

And when it’s been long enough, back-to-basics is a great plan: stroke some fabric, do a little mending, go look at art. Give yourself some easy points on the board.

Today I’m making a bias-cut skirt out of silk velvet. This fabric has been waiting patiently in the stash for maybe 5 years. It’s my simplest and perhaps most successful pattern, enhanced this time with an invisible zip in the side seam. Love those things! It’s going great, and I know that tomorrow, as well as having a great addition to my winter wardrobe, I’m going to be back in the Zone, and ready to make something more original.

The empress’s old clothes

Between losing some weight and deciding that “baggier isn’t better” lots of my earlier garments just weren’t wearable. What to do?

Answer: re-fashioning… taking the favourites and cutting them down to size. What have I learned through this exercise?

  • It can be worth spending $45/meter on printed tulle. At the time I couldn’t believe I paid so much for jungle print mesh. At least 10 years later the fabric retains its original colour and texture – the refashioned top literally looks like new.
  • My colour taste has changed a lot – now I’m brighter and more confident in combination
  • I’ve learned a lot! my construction techniques and fabric handling skills are streets ahead of where they were 10 years ago
  • It’s still easier to do old things than new ones…sigh…

Taking up the needle again

The 4 quilts were finished on time. I was pleased to have the opportunity to photograph them – I like to work LARGE and it’s rare for me to see my finished work spread out

After all the rush to finish I couldn’t look at quilting for weeks. My lovely sister-in-law faithfully sent me our joint project ahead of schedule… and it waited over a month to even be layered and basted. Talk about “give away your contingency” because I couldn’t face going back to that pressure. Funny how we set ourselves up to repeat problems time after time.

Now I’ve finally started it and it’s going OK. It’s going to be a very pretty, classic quilt and after the great unveiling I may even post a picture.

But some days I despair of finding my own vision and voice… there is always something conventional or at least pre-planned that I could work on and know how it was going to turn out. Once again setting myself up to repeat my earlier experience of not stretching out to the most original work I can do.

Repetition must be the theme for this month – because there are some really good repeats along with making the same old mistakes. I picked up my hand weights and blew off a year’s dust. Who dusts anyway. Then I took off all but the smallest disc… and I’ve used them every weekday since. What an amazing difference it has made to the start of each work day – to force the bloodflow and count. I’ve even re-started making a simple list at work each day. Another amazing difference to what happens, a simple reminder of what my earlier, smarter self decided was the most worthwhile thing to do for the day. Like getting a time capsule from myself.

So I can learn, even if it is the same things over and over again. We are what we do – I was thinking of Aristotle “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.” but look what I found http://www.wearewhatwedo.org/ Cute!