I’ve been working feverishly on a fairly large piece for the last three weeks. Large, in terms of the usual smaller size of my hand-stitched pieces and large for such intense hand-stitching. I’m stitching in every spare moment, when my fingers aren’t throbbing from pushing and pulling the needle through the heavy layers. The interaction with this piece has become an all-consuming, conversation with stitching and the story. And, I’m considering a particular quilt show.
I haven’t entered a quilt into a show in many years. That’s mostly because the work I’ve been doing has found no fitting category in a conventional quilt show where judges are trained to measure value by accuracy of stitches and finishes. But, it’s also because when I did enter a couple of quilts a while back, I was sadly disappointed in the process and the feedback. Not just an un-winner, but really feeling like a loser, hanging my head in a puddle of “they just don’t get it.” My quilts are outliers.
In recent years, more opportunities have been built into the judging prescription for “quilters” who wander outside the conventional lines. But tending to my fabric business, made it impossible for me to add personal competition to my list of must-do’s – one too many hats in the updraft to put my mind and needle to the test for a long time.
Time has taken a new shape in the last few months. It began with the no-time-to-think rush from our old house, and turned into twiddle-my-thumbs time on my hands. Oh, I was house hunting, teaching an online workshop and working on a new identity by stitching this chapter, but real deadlines consisted of a three-month rental window and making sure the dog was walked.
As things have settled, time is divided between a little job and tending to my stitching. But, stitching can be isolating, especially in a new place with few contacts. So I’m getting out again by completing the lifecycle of my art and showing it in public. I’m stitching.
Stitching leads to thinking and remembering and soul assessment. Even a few sleepless nights. As I gave the stitches space and found a comfortable rhythm, the story emerged. On my work table the cloth, now referred to as “Migration,” and the notebook sit together, capturing the story. And I’m remembering patience.
What else has emerged in the thought process that stirs while working on “Migration” were episodes in the past that relate to settling into a goal. Hopefully there’s a lesson here.
Question 1: Am I worthy?
While I believe in taking risks, looking failure in the eye, there remains that humbling question, “Am I good enough?” Lots of hard work and ideas seem to go nowhere when they are really the groundwork for the eventual right time. On occasion, I’ve had good outcomes and unexpected successes. The hard part is remembering they happened.
Question 2: What am I afraid of?
It’s different for every situation. When first asked this question it made me think, “What am I holding back?” This time, I was afraid my beautifully dyed cloth would be ruined by covering it with stitches. I had constructed the piece into it’s 40 by 52-inch rectangle in such an easy, organic way. The dye had migrated perfectly across cotton and linen. The vintage silks punctuated the composition with contrast and complementary color. I almost thought it was done six months ago. The first notion I had to release was the preciousness of my cloth. And…
Question 3: Where is the story?
When this question was asked, it wasn’t the first time I had been told I am “all over the place,” A project starts in the imagination with lots of space around it, but the story emerges by pinpointing the focus. As an artist, you may lose sleep over unsolved questions with no google search categories. You may have to wait out the answers until they are ready to reveal themselves. You will, without exception, have to have a dialog with your work to get to the end of it.
In the past weeks, I’ve stitched and looked, stitched and looked. As stitches went into the cloth, I could tell what needed to happen next. And sore fingers make for good places to rest and look some more.
Remember you successes.
Address your fears.
Get the story straight.
Because of this, I am learning that preparing for a show serves a greater purpose.