I’ve been working on something totally outlandish and I have decided that the most important guideline for making art and doing original work in your quilting or any creative field is this:
Have No Fear
You can’t be afraid to make something that nobody else has ever made.
You can’t be afraid to make something ugly.
You can’t be afraid to waste fabric or time or effort.
You just can’t be afraid of anything.
I started out with a simple idea of making a few more samples for a class I’m teaching at Vermont Quilt Festival this summer. It’s all about improvisationally-pieced curves.
It was innocent enough as I began. Pull, cut, sew, press, audition. Repeat.
One key is to have enough contrast between the fabrics in each block. And you want them to do different things. Curvy looks good with straight lines, or geometric looks nice with floral. You want a bit of tension between them.
As soon as this went up for its audition, my heart skipped a beat. Remember that for any audition you always want to stand WAY back across the room. You don’t get a good perspective if you are too close.
I ask a lot of questions: What would happen if I put in a very bold and graphic fabric like the blue and white above?
What would happen if I started mixing up the pairs? Could I put a center patch in that hole above with a partial seam? (Answer, yes you could!)
I cut and sew and add more blocks. I stand across the room. I fret. I thrill.
A color story starts to emerge and the quilt seems to be pink, red, orange and yellow. Very analagous. I decide that I should add more blue and blue-green and also some very darks.
I learned long ago from Mary Mashuta and Roberta Horton that if something sticks out like a sore thumb, you should add more of it. That’s right! If it resides in more than one place, your eye will move around the quilt instead of going straight to that one place. It’s absolutely true.
It was around this time that I panicked and thought the whole thing was just too bizarre. I made two sets with this stripe and dot, above. Would I be smarter to just make blocks in one size with two fabrics each? Maybe that would be better. But honestly.
If you look at these two blocks side by side, which one is more interesting? I decide to
Stay the Course.
I make a few smaller blocks so that I can fill in awkward spaces as needed. After each finish, I walk across the studio for the best possible view. It does you no good to stand close by.
At one point I shoot a text to a good quilting friend.
Her response is measured.
But I carry on.
At some point you have to start thinking about how you’re going to sew it all together. I decide where I can add fillers and coping strips and I start to think about sections and partial seams.
I make decisions about repeating fabrics to help tie the whole mess together. I trim and skootch and trim some more. I hope to high heaven that it will lie flat.
After about three days, it comes together! Just below is the final version, 68″ x 83″. I had free time to spend and this is how I spent it. My husband did laundry and meals while I hunkered down and didn’t talk to him very much. He’s a very good sport!
When he came in to the studio and saw it on the design wall, he crossed his arms over his chest and thought. He wasn’t sure.
“That is really different.”
His answer did not bother me. And I think that is when I realized that for three days, I had been forging ahead without fear.
When fear crept in, I batted it down.
When it threatened to derail me, I swatted it away.
When I was tired of risking and wondering and deciding, I pressed on.
And that is exactly what you will need to do in order to make art, to create something original no matter what your medium is.
The payoff is that you will have something that has never been made before in all the history of humankind. Nor will it ever be made again. It is yours and yours alone.