Sunday, December 24, 2006

Insecurities and Turnarounds

So Wednesday started iffy and ended worse. I awoke Thursday morning ready to give life as a whole a huge raspberry, my self-esteem taking a major hit across the board. Surely this mood swing couldn't be totally the result of yesterday's struggles in the studio - but they sure hadn't helped. When I get like this, I know exactly what I need to do - find something that will make me feel successful, then ride that good feeling to overcome the negative feelings about the perceived failure. I couldn't think of anything in the studio that would guarantee me a feel-good experience. I didn't even want to open the door, let alone go in, sensing I'd just beat myself up some more. So that led me to the other thing I know I need to do when I get like this - Avoid any additional stabs at the confidence until the moment passes (and it DOES always pass). I had to do some shopping anyway, so Thursday became studio avoidance day.

I ended up talking to a friend on the phone later in the day - sharing my whine about how my little project had blown up in my face. Turns out THAT's exactly what I needed. Like journaling, talking out the problems helped me identify how I'd sabotaged myself, then let my perfectionist tendencies lead me down the path of dissatisfaction and eventually, insecurity.

Twyla Tharp in "The Creative Habit" says that she believes in starting each project with a stated goal. The goal (written on a 3 x 5 index card) can be as simple as "keep it simple" or "economy," just something to remind her of what she was thinking at the beginning if and when she loses her way. It's a good way to first determine why you're even running off in this direction, then a reference to help keep focus. I'd forgotten about this until I popped open those bins looking for thread earlier in the week. Stashed amongst the fabric, embellishments and books were 3 such index cards I'd filled out. One referenced the series I wanted to explore with willow leaves, and frankly, I'd totally forgotten what my goal was. So taking the time to jot down a goal or two is definitely a good thing.

And it's what I should have done with the leaf print sheer. Had I done so, I would not have been so frustrated when things started going amiss. In describing the sequence of events to my friend, I remembered that this quilt was primarily to find a use for that piece of fabric, period, and that I'd originally intended it to be a journal quilt. Now had I kept it to journal size, my subconscious would have put less importance on how well it turned out because I use the journal quilts exclusively to try out techniques or ideas. Yes, I still feel frustration when struggling to make an idea or technique work, and disappointment if they don't turn out as I envisioned, but it is not the crushing, "I'm no good, I'll never be good" beating up of myself that I do on bigger pieces. I know I am using them to learn, and that because of their uniform size, the finished product simply gets filed away for future reference (unless I'm very pleased with the end result, at which point it goes up in the studio).

As soon as I decided to increase the size of the piece to accommodate larger borders, I got lost. The piece went from experiment and practice to must get it right. Rather than doing it to learn what would happen "if," I got caught up in worrying about its shortcomings and how an outsider might rip it apart. No wonder I was feeling so pressured by the end of Wednesday when the what ifs weren't creating a masterpiece.

This little revelation allowed a shift in attitude so that by Friday morning my mental state had done a 360. I was upbeat and energized, ready to tackle my little quilt with a certain amount of confidence rather than avoid it. First things first - add a little more stitching to the center. Good enough to give me the information I need. Quit feeling sorry for myself that one round of couched thread wasn't enough and stitch another one. Make those final decisions on the binding and piping. Finish that project and call it good!

I did opt to add piping to the border. Since the only green in the piece are some of the leaves, the dark green piping helped them to look a true part of the piece. Once it was in place, I auditioned my final two choices for binding. Although I think either would have worked, I really liked the warmth that the yellow fabric gave the piece, and how it made the thread used for the grass stand out more. My apologies for the quality of the pictures - I took them hastily and tried to fix them on the computer which accounts for the variation in intensities here.

By the time the binding was stitched in place, I'd used most of my 3 hours for the day. I toyed with the idea of fusing or gluing the binding to the back, but decided not to use that shortcut. The hand stitching was a nice end to the day and the week, and assured a finish that wouldn't disappoint me. I'm still wondering if I should have stitched something out in the border, but have to remind myself that one of the reason I used the Decor Bond was so that I wouldn't feel obligated to stitch in the border just to have the piece hang right. I could add something later if the right thing comes to me, but for now I need to be done with this piece so I can move on. As they say, it's time to take the lessons learned into the next piece, not fuss more here. By the end of this day, the piece struck me as not too bad after all, reminding me that sometimes all I need to do is give my work a little space to gain a better perspective on it.

It still needs a hanging sleeve, but for all intents and purposes, it is done. (Finished size is about 13 x 15 inches.) And I think I will call it "Home Again." That friend who gave me the batik chose it because she thought it would remind me of Idaho and it sure does. I haven't seen any mountain sheep since I returned, but I have seen a bear, deer, ducks and geese.

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