Friday, January 14, 2011

Work that matches your ambitions

Work is progressing, just not anything interesting to show. Once I got going on my leftovers, I realized I had 6 small pieces in various stages of completion and several different ways in which I plan to deal with edge finish/framing. So I've been doing a sort of assembly line process: cutting multiples of different sizes of Decor Bond for stabilizing, doing as much free motion quilting as I can before switching back to regular stitching, ditto with the black thread that will soon give way to something more colorful. It will be awhile before I have finished products to share. I'm trying out a new kind of needle per the recommendation of Ann Fahl - see her review of them here. Not the first time I've heard of these titanium coated needles, but since I started stitching through Peltex when making padfolios, I've noticed my regular needles gumming up. Even with the Decor Bond, I think I've had problems with skipped stitches due to the fusible. And of course, we all have trouble from time to time with shredding specialty threads. So far so good.

As I work away on these small pieces, thinking I am just repeating myself except for the fabric employed (and sometimes not even that), my memory has been jogged and I find myself adding variations I hadn't planned. Or seeing something new to do strictly by chance. I'm reminded of so many mentors who essentially insist, "just do the work" in order to raise your art from the mundane and ordinary and even derivative to something special. You don't get there by sitting around and thinking about it. These six little pieces, so very similar in design and not "great" art, are giving me first hand reinforcement of this idea of how important it is to keep making art, no matter the quality of what's before you or whether you think you have a good idea.

I was intrigued by a series of short videos by NPR's Ira Glass, recommended to me by my niece. The 4-part series is on storytelling, but as my niece assured me, merely substitute whatever your particular craft is and the message is as pertinent. She particularly thought I'd appreciate the part about the importance of abandoning crap! Oh yes, I thought. We all think our work is so very precious - well, maybe not all of us, but you have to admit there's plenty out there being touted as better than it really is. The clip below also references the importance of doing the work and lots of it:

Here's what really resonated with me in part 3 below: Ira thinks we have good taste, but it takes years of practice for our abilities to start matching our taste level. And that in the meantime, we know darn well, if we are honest with ourselves, when our work isn't good. This, I think, is what I butted up against most of last year. I've come far enough in my creative journey to recognize the weakness in my work when it crops up, and much of what I worked on really was riddled with problems I couldn't manage to correct to my "taste level." I felt like giving up but Ira says don't! Paraphrasing, you have to do a volume of work to close the gap, to create work as good as your ambition. This year may be my year to try to close that gap.

This link should get you to Part 1 of the series, and then it will automatically take you through the rest. Or search Ira Glass on YouTube and look for "on storytelling." I found all 4 parts really helpful. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Kathy Hodge said...

Thanks for sharing those videos. I love Ira Glass, his show is great to paint to. And as part of my day-job for a newspaper I've worked on a lot of audio and video interviews, it's not easy to get that "natural" feel, glad to hear it didn't come naturally to him either. Like painting, you have to make a mess before you make a masterpiece.
Here's a video I did on my own about printmaking, I think I'll stick to painting!