Suzanne L.

I have spent much of the week reading and re-reading this week’s lesson on alignment. There was so much content packed into the pages, so many “gems” to contemplate and consider. After first appearing relatively straight forward, the assignment became challenging. It seemed that there were two tasks that we were to work on and it took me a while to see how they were related. 

     I began by generating the list of things that I’m good at, then I rated them, with E being “enjoy,  NSM being “not so much”, NAA being “not at all”. The first problem I identified was that all but one were E’s. I love all the things that I do, so I love the time I spend doing them...even the menial tasks like washing and ironing fabric or weeding and watering the garden. Maybe this doesn’t seem problematic, but it never seems that there is enough time to do them all and that leads to my feeling frustrated and dissatisfied. Then there are the skills that I would like to learn, like drawing or to practice, like machine quilting. I have struggled continually with how to find a balance and to accept that I can’t “do it all”. Rather than trying to eliminate something, I came to the realization that everything on my list was in some way related to art, a thread that linked them all.  I recognized the role each of them play in enhancing my life and how each help me in some way towards achieving my goals. For me, it seems like this could be the beginning of a significant change in my attitude about trying to do so much. I need to find a balance, that hasn’t changed, but I also need to embrace the pure pleasure I get from everything that I choose to spend time doing. 

    The next part of the lesson was even more challenging, sitting with a finished piece and studying it dispassionately. I’ve never been comfortable showing my work. I don’t enter juried shows and mostly, rely on family and friends for opinions and critiques. I never questioned why I’ve isolated myself, reasoning that I do what pleases me and whether it pleases a broader audience just isn’t all that important to me. But I can’t deny that I yearn for meaningful feedback from other artists. Recently, I have been wondering is it fear or lack of self-confidence that is holding me back? It was a big step for me to register for this class, but I trust Jane and she gave me a gentle push. It’s been an even bigger step to post my writing. I decided early on to commit to posting every week, without concern whether it was clever enough or intelligent sounding or fun to read. I have tried to stay true to myself as I explore my thoughts, struggles and goals. 

    On to the assignment....the piece I chose to study is my “Japanese Triptych”, because it has always been one of my favorite quilts. It’s a wall-hanging, each panel measures 22” by 35”. So I hung it on the design wall, sat across from it, took a good hard look at it and thought, “It’s a hot mess!”  What a shock....wait, I love this quilt, what am I seeing??? Was this reaction because I was about to share it and put myself out there for criticism?  After my initial response to the quilt, I took a deep breath and kept sitting, kept studying, until the quilt came back into “focus” for me and I could find the language to describe the strengths and weaknesses that I was seeing. It seemed “busy”, I mean honestly, there’s “a lot going on”. Where do you look first?  There didn’t seem to be places that your eye could rest and many of the fabric choices, while interesting, were distracting. I have never been comfortable working with high contrast, I work mostly with darks and mediums, low contrast. I remember wanting to put more contrast into this piece, but I’m not sure if it was successful or not. Eventually, as I sat with the quilt, I began to appreciate the work that I put into it. How the design lines in the fabric flowed into lines created by the piecing. How the appliqued circles found perfect placement on the pieced background. How I chose fabrics with personal symbols, like swallows, my favorite birds, ocean waves, flowers and leaves and tiny “hits” of purple, my favorite color.  How I incorporated leftover log cabin blocks representing my roots in traditional quilting. How each panel has a design connection to the adjacent panel. Something that I strive for in my quilts is “shelf life”, designs or patterns that you never get tired of looking at or of seeing something new. As I studied this quilt, I felt that, yes, it’s visually complex and holds my interest. So I came full circle, and decided that I was still satisfied and happy with the piece. I spent a good deal of time and energy on this quilt, designing, piecing, appliqueing, fabric placement, hand-quilting....I even pieced the back! I wonder if this is one of the reasons I feel strongly about this piece, but I don’t think so. I don’t have a history of sticking with something that I’m not feeling positive about. 

Here is “Japanese Triptych”.... 

And a close up...

And the back...

What an interesting journey this week!