Saturday, November 11, 2017


This is the view I woke up to a week ago (November 3). It was forecasted, but still a bit of a shock as to just how much snow we got, how cold it got and how long it hung around with a few lesser repeats of flurries.

Not unheard of to get snow this early around here. This is a picture of me and fellow students on the college's intramural staff taken on November 4, 1973. There was to be an intramural football game that morning and we were totally surprised to wake up to a foot of snow. After some discussion, the games went on!

Because of the direction of the wind, snow blew in under my covered deck and blanketed my little container garden. I was amused at the way the snow formed balls around the daisy-like blooms of one of the plants.

Seeing this from every window instantly changed my mood and drew me into the studio. Suddenly there was no struggle to convince myself to be in there like I experience when the weather is nicer, warmer, inviting you to spend time out in it. Which is a good thing now that Inktober is over and I need to get back to my art quilts in preparation for a December exhibit. I remember hoping during last year's Inktober that the habit formed with the daily drawing would cross over to my textile work. I can't remember all that was going on then, but do remember that I did NOT get back to daily sessions in the studio. Then again, I don't think I had any exhibit to prepare for, although I did end up working on one small piece for a Christmas present.

So as I took a few days off to catch up on things I'd put aside to accommodate the daily drawing, I thought about why I can successfully commit to a daily challenge like Inktober but not commit to daily time in the studio. The excuse of not being able to find the time obviously does not hold. The sketches took anywhere from 45 minutes to almost 3 hours in one case. Think how much I could get done in the studio if I consistently got in there for even an hour each day. Why do I keep talking myself out of it? It really is a matter of mindset, I decided, and that is when I came up with the idea of creating my own month-long challenge that I am calling Stitchvember.

I started by reassessing the pieces in the leaf cluster series that are in various stages of completion and the frames I'd recently purchased for some of them. I settled on beginning my Stitchvember challenge with this one that I'd quilted back in July. I still had some thread tails to pull to the back and tie off and was unsure whether it needed more lines of stitching or not. I'd asked that question of the art group last month and they were as iffy as I about that, but agreed it probably needed something more. Now that I auditioned what it would look like in the intended frame, with more cropping than I remembered it would get, it looked like maybe it wouldn't need more stitching after all.

But when looking at a friend's blog and how she was using Photoshop to audition motifs and paint colors she might stamp or stencil over a pieced quilt, it dawned on me that I could use my own Paint Shop Pro to add stitching to that photo I'd taken with the frame, and get a better idea than I was getting by laying down lengths of thread. It convinced me that adding more stitching is the way to go.

One suggestion from the art group that really appealed to me was that if I could somehow add some loft to the leaves, it would help them to stand out from the busy background. Since I used felt and not batting under the top, I got no real dimension under those leaves and in fact, the fabric looked a bit loose in those areas. I'd considered maybe stitching in veins, but I liked the idea of padding them better, and knew just the method. It's a faux trapunto technique where you add acrylic yarn under the backing if you have sandwiched your top with batting and backing. In this case, I am using the needle to thread the yarn in between the felt and the top. When the area is filled in, the yarn tails are clipped close to the backing to slip fully inside.

Because acrylic yarn has spring, it will fluff up and add the desired dimension, which you can sort of see here. The first yarn I tried in this example though did not have the desired springiness, and I've replaced it and completed the other leaves' padding with a different yarn. Now all I need to do is stitch in those additional lines, trim to size, attach to poster board and pop into the frame.

I've not been as faithful to the Stitchvember as I was to Inktober, but I'm certainly doing better than I think I would otherwise without the catchy name of a challenge to spur me on. While threading the yarn under the leaves, I've had ample time to contemplate why I've been able to do daily sketching challenges but not daily studio time. One thought prevails: with the sketching, there is a subject and a definitive end. Pick a shoe, or a cup, or whatever, draw it and you are done. But with the textile work, it is not that straightforward and doesn't always result in an end product or quantifiable progress each session. So much of what I do is long-term and to get to the end is a succession of steps that can't always be completed in a single session. I think this plays on my mind when I think, do I have time to work in the studio today? I seldom think the opposite direction, as in, I have an hour, let's see how far I can get on something. Now that I am fresh out of the mindset of "I have to make time to complete a drawing" and know that I indeed have time to devote to something arty, I am suppressing that all or nothing part of my personality that often finds me turning myself away at the studio door because the "something" always seems to require a bigger chunk of time.

And sometimes, the "something" isn't even something that results in visible progress. My first Stitchvember day was just that, the reassessing of the leaf cluster pieces to determine which ones I should tackle for the exhibit, and the consideration of framing and seeing what I had on hand. Needed activity but difficult to quantify and one that initially left me thinking, I've done nothing today, even though I did. Another day it was that time on the computer adding the additional lines of stitching. No actual stitching but I almost didn't do it because of that, my mind saying I must be working with piece in hand for it to count, not time for visuals on the computer. It was quite exciting when I ditched that thought and realized I could indeed include this kind of valuable activity towards my Stitchvember challenge. Yes, my mind is and always has been my biggest enemy. But maybe by the end of my Stitchvember, I will have gently molded it into a new way of looking at studio time and into a new habit. 


Charlton Stitcher said...

I am, like you, always struggling to find the self-discipline to get in my studio everyday and work in a properly focused way on ideas. I have lots and lots of them buzzing about in my head but am not rigorous about trying those ideas out. I stitch most days in the evenings when I'm home or not busy but if I haven't had experimental studio time, that isn't possible as I run out of stuff to sew! it's just as well I don't have to earn a living at it!

The Idaho Beauty said...

You have made me feel better! After I make admissions like this, I envision my readers rolling their eyes and not understanding why I can't just get on with it! I think some of my frustration regarding my inability to work more consistently in the studio comes from the fact that I used to spend at least 3 hours in it nearly every day, then perhaps another several hours with handwork in front of the tv or sitting outside. This all changed when I moved out here to Idaho for reasons I still don't understand; I haven't been able to recapture that persistent drive to be in the studio or have something in my hands since. Additionally, some health blips in the last 5 years haven't help at all. Those not only kept me out of the studio but caused me to lose all sense of a routine in the rest of my life short of hanging on between doctor appointments. Now that things have settled down, I've discovered myself confronted with time I've forgotten how to manage. The daily challenge of any kind has helped me recapture some consistency in my days and the return of scheduling them rather than merely surviving them. I never would have dreamed I'd forget how I used to spend my days!

It's true, even when I'm not able or willing to get in the studio, the creative part of my brain often kicks in with ideas, like it or not. And yes, I am truly grateful that I don't have to support myself with my art. :-) Good luck with finding your own rhythm of self-discipline. I'm very happy you are back exploring and blogging about it again.