The Power of Limitations
Setting idea goals and thinking about limitations seems a good way to spur creativity. For me, I like how it stimulates serendipity, as when I’m working on something and decide to use only fabrics I can see in front of me. Or when working on a digital design and deciding to simply use images next to one another in the same folder. This exercise actually motivated me to clear off one of my worktables—with a goal of keeping it clear so I can easily work on it. I’ve enjoyed the lack of clutter for the last few days—we’ll see how long it lasts!
Limitations in my “studio” are difficult for me, as I’m sure they can be for other lovers of color and fabric. I say studio, but the room doubles as an office I keep for my freelance writing and editing business. Space is limited, although I’ve tried to maximize it. I like the idea of if something comes in something must leave. We once did that with my son and his toys. He was left with making the decision. How well did that work out? So-so, because he never liked making decisions so I think it was stressful for him.
Because my studio is small, I made an effort lately to limit the items in it but recently “subdivided,” and moved my printing equipment and dyeing supplies to a space in my garage just off my utility room. It has worked well, and although I may have only fooled myself into thinking I’m more organized, at least I have a better handle on my sewing space. There is only so much room there and although when I’m working on something I’m okay with the clutter, at other times I do tend to need it somewhat straight. I keep my fabric stash in cubbies made for shoes and limit myself to the space I have. But “fabric creep” is a definite issue.
I am trying to slowly divest myself of sewing and quilting fabrics I no longer need as well as piecing projects I once found appealing yet did not complete because I moved onto to some other project or technique—a quilter’s version of shiny objects, I suppose. A lot of that fabric and project creep occurred while I was working full time and primarily interested in experimenting with techniques or designs. Now that I am retired and primarily make art quilts, the scope of my fabrics has changed. Last year I went through my stash and got rid of fabrics I was confident I’d never use—but then again, once they are gone, they are gone! I’m in the process of going through partially completed quilt projects and plan to donate them to a group. As an aside, I do not have a problem putting down a project if I get bored with it or don’t like it—completion can be overrated and if someone you might be living with (as I once had) hassles me about not completing something before starting something new, I believe it’s their problem and not mine.
Maximization of color and line is generally my goal. I love to design intuitively and generally just have some broad goal in mind. I like to challenge myself with new techniques or goals when I do digital designs or art quilts. A lot of times I work with ideas and once I conquer an idea or accomplish the project, I like to move on. I am lousy at series work because I do not like feeling as though I’m repeating myself and have not yet found an effective way of coping with that artistically. I hope that means lots of variety, but I feel comfortable working improvisationally and keep returning to it.
For my digital fabric design work, I like to select images randomly. I consider myself a generalist (my real term is “lumper”) when it comes to organizing—especially with my computer files. A lot of images simply get dumped into one folder. That has worked out well when I am in the mood to create a new fabric image because I often just take an image that is close to another. Not like using a randomizer, but close enough for my purposes. That method has allowed me to create some interesting designs using some pretty disparate photos, giving the designs interesting layered effects.
As the saying goes—“Life is a journey and not a destination”—this particular exercise was helpful in looking a little deeper into the design process. For me, creating art quilts is the journey rather than simply a destination or duplicating a quilt I saw in a magazine, and although I am usually glad when the piece is finished, I love the design process the most. The colors, the feel of the fabric, that sense of what was once disjointed and disparate now being a completed piece, and even the decision-making process, are the things that excite me most about making quilts.