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Wednesday, September 28, 2011


My entry in the Keep It Simple Challenge

Recently, one of the on-line groups I belong to has been discussing challenges and whether or not they are a good thing, or a bad thing.  My response is: it depends.

I actually tend to do quite a few challenges.  I joined the Fast Friday Fabric Challenge in order to try to force me to work smaller (that's been successful) and to try to work more quickly and without as much thinking (this has not been successful....I still take a long time and tend to over-think things).

The major problem with challenges is that if you participate in too many of them, especially ones with lots of restrictions on materials, methods, or subject matter, then you might be working at the expense of your own "authentic" personal other words, doing what others say you should rather than working on your own art.  You can get caught up in the "busy-ness" and not develop your own style and body of work.

They can also cause you to mess around with materials or techniques which may or may not be yours...but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Exposure to new stuff helps you determine what is your "voice".  It also brings you a healthy appreciation for those people who do the technique and do it well.

However, I find that usually, I only enter challenges which fit in with an idea I have been banging around in my head.  Thus, the challenge gives me an opportunity to work and develop them, often on a smaller, prototype which can later be developed into a larger work....or thrown out.  AND (most importantly) it has a deadline.  I need deadlines.

I'd prefer to enter challenges which have the end result of having an actual show....but those seem to be few and far between.

However, I'm not above falling into a particular trap....well..hmm...situation? For instance, in April, when I was at the IQF show in Cincinnati, Liz Kettle buzzed by me and said "here, you need to do this," as she shoved a package into my hands...well...she said something like that, I don't remember what.  Did she probably mean it? Probably not...she was probably just desperate to off-load the package and I was the lucky one standing there....

The package was composed of three sets of fine suiting and shirting swatches from high end designers, a single grey necktie, and some buttons.  A little card said it was the Power Suit Challenge and was being put on by Artistic Artifacts.  We were to make an 18" square quilt using the materials and interpret the theme "Power Suit."  Hmmm..... I came up with several ideas, and while I was working on one of them, I decided to scrap it and do something entirely different.

Little did I know that since Liz had handed it to me, I was sort of off their radar.  I had the little tag and I finished mine and sent it in so it would supposedly get to Alexandria, VA on Aug. 31.  They had set up a yahoo group...and had other things to fill out which I didn't have.  So...I merely sent it in.  That show will open on Oct. 23 at the Artistic Artifacts Gallery.  I'm contemplating going.....after all, it's only 8 hours away and I have family there.

The other ideas I had actually fit into another challenge which is now going on with the Quiltart message list...the Unusual Materials signed up for that because I had already gathered the stuff to make the quilt and it fit the challenge.  Otherwise, I think the little bag of goodies would probably sit in my sewing room gathering threads.

Does it take away time from doing other "important work"?  Probably...especially dusting.  But on the other hand it fits in with the ideas I have and I am learning while I'm working on, challenges tend to be smaller.

So, rather than taking away from what I am doing, I see it as a great shove in the right direction....but you do have to be aware of what you're doing...which is why I am not going to participate in the crazy quilt challenge....I'm quite crazy enough already, thank you.

1 comment:

Pam Geisel - For Quilts Sake said...

I think that participating in challenges is helpful for me. Sometimes when you are "limited" in what you can use or how you have to use it you might be prompted to think "outside of the box" more.

20 years ago when I was working for a non-profit as a graphic designer I had 2 fonts (Times and Helvetica) and access to a copy machine. These limitations forced me to find other ways to make my layouts graphically interesting.

I also see challenges as a way to increase your body of work. When I participated in the Project Quilting challenge last winter, I came out of it with 6 good art quilts in a period of 3 months. Would I have made 6 completed quilts in those 3 months if I hadn't been doing the challenge? Probably not.

Most of the time I really like the work that I've done for a challenge, but there have been a few I wished I'd gone in a different direction.