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Friday, December 28, 2012

What makes a Good Challenge?

"Sun Fish", started 2006 completed 2008, Batty Binder's Quilt Guild Challenge, Lisa Broberg Quintana 36" square.
I am preparing to host a challenge for the Fast Friday Fabric Challenge, an online yahoo group I have belonged to for several years.  I struggle with the idea of challenges.

Don't get me wrong.  I have done a lot of challenges.   But I am sometimes beleaguered at present with the thought that perhaps I shouldn't do challenges anymore. You see, sometimes I think you can be wound up in doing challenges that you don't do more significant work, or do pieces which improve your body of work, or at least further it in some what.

In the quilting world, challenges are done among a group of quilters.  A challenge is issued to the group, based on any one or number of things: an idea, a word, a size, a shape,technique,  a particular infinitum.  Then, all the people who participate share their interpretation of the theme.

Challenges are particularly useful if you are having a dry period and can't seem to come up with anything on your own.  It is a great jump-starter.  It is also good if you want to experiment and explore other areas of quilting.  I also enjoy the camaraderie and love to see what others come up with.

Having said that, however, I also often run into challenges which make me balk, snarl and regret that I have ever said I would do it.  Most of the time, this is when you have a challenge which has too many rules.  As an art quilter, I tend to be a free spirit and while a few rules are OK, too many? Well, they're just stifling. Take for instance "Sun Fish."
"Sun Fish" started out as a Guild challenge with the Batty Binders.  The concept was great.  The chairman of the challenge issued us all a fat Quarter of the fabric, this fish print I think was by Hoffman.  Then, we played "Go Fish" to create the rest of the rules.  The rules specified how many borders, how many additional fabrics you could add, that you were supposed to use beads or buttons as an embellishment ...and I think there were a few more.

While I liked the "go fish" concept and thought it played into the theme quite well....I struggled as my stubbornness in people telling me what to do in my quilts just aggravated me.  I did learn on this piece...such as why you should use a foundation if you're making these little needle-like rayed borders (I didn't, they stretch and are easily misshapen!).  I was going to add beads...but when I started sewing them on, I just didn't like the look. So...I broke a rule.

"Scotties" 2008, Lisa Broberg Quintana 

This particular quilt was part of an "ugly fabric" challenge.  We were all given a fat quarter of fabric that the leaders deemed "ugly" and we were to use it in a quilt.  The "ugly" in this was the pink and green diagonally printed plaid fabric.  I saw this and immediately thought of the 1940s/50s scotties.  This, however, was the only rule involved.

The Fast Friday Fabric Challenge is a closed group of fiber artists who receive a challenge on the last Friday of the month and are given a week to complete a small piece based on the challenge. "Challenges will attempt to stretch members in their skills and creativity, encourage thinking outside the box, will teach new techniques and concepts. "

I asked the group, as well as the whole Quilt Art message board, what they thought composed the best challenges.  In the past year, the most popular, as well as the ones cited by members as being the best were ones which were rooted in traditional art--such as Gestalt, chiaroscuro, or J. M. W. Turner's use of light, or pieces which were to convey an emotion.   In general, members were looking for pieces which allowed them to express their own ideas and "excited their creativity."  Like me, they balked at challenges which required you to follow too many rules.  Syd Harper said "I need a challenge which is like a dare.  Something which says 'oh, you know you can't do it."  A number of members indicated that they liked challenges which explored different techniques.  

Kathy Loomis has been doing a series on "The Challenge of Challenges" which was a happy co-incidence to my posing the question.  She has several posts on her blog commencing with 12/3/2012.  If you go to her blog, you can see the other posts and click on the additional "Challenge of Challenges" to see where she goes with it.  One aspect that Kathy does is sort of interesting.  In essence, she sees the call for entries for quilt shows as often being challenges as they state the theme.  I have toyed with this concept and indeed have made pieces specifically to fit a show's theme although I am not sure if that is the best way for me to operate. I think that I would rather do pieces which fill my soul and explore areas I'm working on (that is a series) and if I find a show it fits, then put it in.  Sometimes I think I am spinning my wheels creating works just to go into a show.

"In Orchid Paradise," Lisa Broberg Quintana
A few pieces I have done for other challenges:  "In Orchid Paradise" was a challenge issued by the American Orchid Society in conjunction with a local quilt guild and shop.  I created this piece based on a poster by Alfonse Mucha.  It took a second place prize...the green fabric background, the orchid print (which I cut out and fused down) and a small pink polka-dot fabric were included in the challenge fabric packet.

Hoffman Fabrics issues a challenge every year, and while I entered that one once and created one which I didn't get done in time twice, I have never gotten into the show.  Robert Kaufman fabrics used to issue a challenge and I entered it twice, and got in twice (El Ritmo Flamenco and Tuscan Lady Bellingham both got in).  In addition, I also did another Much based piece and entered in Luanna Ruben/Robert Kaufman's " Life, Love and Hope" exhibition which was selected for the show.

I will probably continue doing challenges...but hopefully, I will be a lot more selective and make sure that they continue pushing me down a path rather than diverting me.

This is my post for Nina Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays."  You can see other participants here.


MulticoloredPieces said...

Interesting post and I really like your "sun fish" quilt, especially the spiky border--but yipes! no foundation must have made it tough!

I find your thoughts on challenges interesting. I have considered joining one occasionally, but I tend to challenge myself and so don't really feel the need to join one.

Wishing you a New Year with lots of stitching adventures.
best, nadia

Lisa Quintana said...

Thanks, Nadia. Yep. It was a real bugger and if you look closely you can see places which burpbled or didn't fit quite right.

I also agree with you...I usually find more challenge in myself and my ideas than I could get with any group, but I do so much like the camaraderie and seeing the different interpretations of the same theme.

bohemiannie! art said...

Please! Don't do anything that doesn't bring joy into your life. I've done and will continue to participate in challenges...but only, only for my own enjoyment. And really...I have so many things to do on my wise...that they take the front burner. Like it or not...Your pieces certainly are wonderful.

Vivien Zepf said...

So, what topic / criteria / rules did you decide on as "host" of the challenge?

Lisa Quintana said...

Stand by! I can't announce it until after I announce it to the FFFC group. :0