Tuesday, February 19, 2008


"How long did it take?"...to which the only appropriate answer is "Who cares? I enjoyed every minute."

I must admit I've been struggling off and on with attitude for quite a few years. I think there was a time when I really did enjoy every minute spent on a quilting project. Then I entered a phase where almost every minute was enjoyable, and a few tasks just necessary evils. More recently I might be caught thinking "How long did it take? It took frickin' forever, a lot of which was just plain unenjoyable drudgery." I always wonder how I reach that point, and just as quickly wonder how I move back to the feeling of joy.

I'm in the joy zone at the moment. I'm still having to focus on paperwork, but I realized I couldn't do what I did last week - deny myself creative time every day in order to get it done. Instead, I'm determined to make time for the studio each day, and for me, the best way to do that is to put my studio time first. I have enjoyed my daily 2-1/2 hours, and am training myself to quit thinking - oh, I only spent 2-1/2 hours. No, I'm thinking instead, Wow, I got a whole 2-1/2 hours in today!

I've had a real need, a real drive to work on my current project It's that thing I read all the time about artists who can't wait to leap out of bed in the morning and go to the studio. I haven't felt that way in months. I've been very good at finding many other things to do before going in there. I've not looked forward to some of the things waiting for me in there. What makes this current project different?

It might be that I'm mostly in my comfort zone. I'm envisioning, solving, working my way through processes that I feel competent at and truly enjoy. Yet it's not all fun and games. It has been work, but not drudgery. I've kept a bit of challenge in it so as not to lose interest. I think that was the problem when I found myself disenchanted with the traditional quilting that I started with, that became my forte. I'd tried just about everything I wanted to, and found myself a bit bored and unchallenged with what I was working on. Everything about the art quilt was alluring and exciting and new. It was a reason to continue learning.

I've been able to bring a lot of my traditional background along with me into the art quilt world, but much of it I've had to jettison, or at least rethink. I went from confident and sure to questioning and unsure. My grandiose visions got slapped down enough times to make me gun shy. I've not been at this long enough to build up a string of successes to leave me self-assured. I'm ignoring how very long it took me to reach that sense of competence in my traditional quilting. I think I should be there now without having put in sufficient time and educating.

I picked up my knitting needles last fall for the first time in years, knitting prayer shawls in a pattern so simple I hardly need look at my hands. I found it surprisingly soothing, calming, the way hand quilting used to be. While journaling, I observed that rather than focusing on my art quilting, I'd been going off on tangents, like the knitting. I noted that the knitting "has absolutely nothing to do with anything - just pure enjoyment of the fiber, the pattern, the hand movement." Ouch! As quickly as I thought it, I realized this is what working with fabric and my quilting used to be. But lately it had become uncertainty, pressure, constant critiquing and criticizing. Great expectations and greater disappointments. No longer simple, but complex.

What I really want to do, I suppose, is meld the two worlds together, not start over. I've begun to to identify what parts of the process really do appeal, make me lose all sense of time when involved in them, and I'm figuring out how I can adapt my skills and strengths from the traditional side to this more contemporary one. I need to find a happy medium between simple and complex, continue to explore and learn and grow. But most of all, I need to find the joy again.

The joy has returned this week. Let's see if I can maintain it.

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