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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Doing a Group Class on the Art Quilt Workbook

Mindy Marik, a member of the Miami Valley Art Quilt Network recently finished leading a group of quilters through Jane D'Avila and Elin Waterston's Art Quilt Workbook. I started with the
group and got bogged down. So much so that I skipped two of the classes. Here you see three of the members looking at the pieces which have been completed as "homework" and sharing.
The group discussed the projects and each of the member's pieces which were brought in. You can sort of see one of the member's, Carroll Schleppi's "Framed Peas" in the foreground.

One of the things you had to do was to pick a topic or theme for all the projects. Each project was to be 9" x 12" and oriented vertically. Carroll's was "beans", mine was things with feathers (although most of what I did were actually birds, I was thinking anything with feathers---horses, angels...whatever), another did feathers, Lori Gravley did "circles" .

I found it difficult and extremely frustrating, although others in the group did some really neat pieces. I found that I balked at the restrictions. I was frustrated because it always seemed like life was pushing in and I just had too much to do to complete them...which seems like all of the "projects" I've been working on lately for the various groups I'm in.

It is a question of balance although most people say it's commitment. I have a huge garden which is weedy or in need at present, I'm pulled by my very social non-driving teenager and her activities, I'm often a single parent because of business responsibilities and I also have an in-home business selling used books on Amazon. I also am very stupid and often find myself doing things for other people that perhaps I shouldn't. In with the pots and pans, books and trowels, cars and appointments, I flit from one project to another.

The Art Quilt Workbook has you do several exercises on composition and design as well as ones which focus on a technique. I found it daunting as I felt I needed to be able to produce something worthwhile which stood up to the work of my colleagues. I also found that there is something in the way I think that when I see an example in the book, I get stuck and create something along the same lines...I can't get the example out of my head in order to get my own original juices flowing.

Instead of being inspiring, it has left me with a sense of doom and even more partially completed projects. This isn't to say that what others were doing wasn't great. It was. Mine just stunk and that just leaves me feeling even more ambivalent about the projects.

Mindy put in a lot of work and did a great job of facilitating. The group has decided to continue, but to explore different techniques or artists led by volunteers. The one book which will be used for "inspiration" is Masters: Art Quilts: Major Works by Leading Artists (The Masters) by Martha Sielman.

I'm still debating if I am going to continue or just do my own work on completing partially finished projects.


Elin said...


Don't be frustrated, just keep trying. Don't focus on "product", focus on the process and what you can learn. Throw away what you don't like and don't regret it. Eventually you'll find what you like and don't like and then you'll come out of the funk.

Michigoose said...

Thanks Elin,I certainly didn't expect to find you here! lol.

The problem isn't with your book, it's with me. As I pointed out, many did great pieces and I wish I could show Carroll's "beans" but it's on it's way to a show right now.

I did find out about myself, which is always valuable. I can't believe that the visual side of me was so overpowered by what you put in the book, it was as if all the original ideas were sucked out of my head and Elin Waterstona and Jane D'Avila were living in there instead!

The "competition" end of it (i.e. feeling I had to produce material on a par with my "classmates)also threw me for a loop. I will go back and finish the sections I didn't do (and the pieces which are half completed) on my own.

As I pointed out to others in the group, the book is a good way to make you try other methods. I do portraits, but painted ones, not the kind where you cut out segments of shading (pear and portrait examples). I forced myself to do a bird in that style, and it's ok. :)

The frustration predates the book, and it is a worthwhile one, especially for people who want to try art quilting and have never thought about composition.