Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Taking a Step

I got a preview of the art quilt exhibit today when I dropped off my quilts. They'd already started hanging, so there I was, surrounded by some pretty spectacular quilts, and having to unveil my offerings. In my exhibiting career, I've rarely been able to deliver my work in person, so have missed seeing the reaction on the receiving end. I'd forgotten how much that first unguarded response to a quilt can tell you about the piece. The intake of breath followed by whatever comment is the first clue the work is successful on some level. In this case, Pathways was lying on top of Off the Grid. As the woman removed Pathways to see the one underneath, I heard that intake of breath, followed by several very positive comments. Then, almost as if she was embarrassed at having said nothing about the first one, she added, "That one's nice too, but THIS one is so different, unusual." This made me smile, because it meant I'd succeeded in making work meeting some of the criteria on my "Embrace/Avoid" list: Embrace interesting work and avoid cliche and predictable work.

I've been struggling these last few weeks to maintain studio time. Even when I squeeze it in, I have been distracted or adrift in some way. Seeing these quilts even briefly gave me renewed incentive to start making real progress in output again while reminding me how much further I could be taking my work. The current challenge I'm working on is a slow go requiring much pondering between steps, and I didn't feel up to thinking anything through today. But I recognized that nervous energy building that indicates I need to be doing something in the studio, regardless of how little time I may have. In fact, I've suspected that I needed to work on something else for awhile rather than force myself to finish the challenge first, that a break from it might rejuvenate my thoughts about it. But what quick, straightforward thing do I have ready to go?

Well, among other things, the quilt I started in response to a challenge from a friend to interpret a Chinese poem. I'd stopped at the point where I needed to decide its final size and cut/sew the borders on. It's been on my mind since the first of the year, one of several "small" UFO's I know would take me minimal time to finish, which is probably why I keep putting them off. This one got put off no more. It's not a huge amount of progress, but it is the first step towards completing it, and every journey, after all, begins with the first step. Below you see the center cut to size and the border strips laid around it. They may come down in width a bit but better to start wide and trim later. That batik has been notoriously difficult to photograph accurately and the gold paint reflects back much stronger than in real life. I'm hoping to squeeze in time tomorrow to actually sew those borders on.

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