It’s hard to believe that this artist’s residency is coming to a close. I have just four more days here before returning to Paris. So I thought I’d do a pictorial recap of my time here so far. It’s been beyond anything I could have imagined or hoped for. Just amazing.
Gare de l’est
On the train heading toward Orquevaux!
My Studio! I can’t believe it!!
Some of the art work in the Chateau left by other artists in residence
And so it begins… getting the work up on the wall.
but now I have all of this space… I can go much bigger!
The view from my studio
Taking a morning walk with fellow artist in residence, Kevin Ford
Throwing some paint around
Working and adding
Playing with shapes, getting in the blues…
Lichen always inspires
Taking a walk to clear my head and get some perspective on the challenges I’m seeing in the piece now that I’ve doubled its size.
The sheer beauty and magnitude of this place…
The boat house
The blue alien is now an ever present “issue” that I work hard to resolve…
Deciding that I have to stitch stuff down anyway…
Boldly stitching the blue insect/alien even though I have misgivings… maybe it’ll look better once it’s stitched down.
Nope it doesn’t. Annotating the work, before adding more blue, because if the blue bits are the problem, let’s throw more on there and see what happens.
The blue rabbit hole continues. I’m so deep in it I can’t see my way out.
Still I can appreciate the fabulous art all around me that covers the walls of this amazing place.
Raclette night and the fabulous Beulah van Rensburg: artistic director
The. blue continues to prove problematic.
But I’m determined…
and when all else fails, start another piece…
Fellow artists put on a puppet show for all of us, to great hilarity and fun!
and then I return to my studio to finish my little study inspired by the lichen I’ve seen on my many walks.
And on it goes… the creative process continues.
The big take away from all of this is that the process of creating is often bumpy, but if you don’t give into despair and just meet it head on matter-of-factly, the process is actually very instructive and can be wonderfully fun. It so mirrors life. Some of the things I tell myself: Don’t take it personally. You got this. It’s a momentary hiccup, what can you learn? This feels uncomfortable, but it’s okay. I’ve been here before and gotten through, I’ll get through this too. Breathe. Be patient and honor the process.
The ups and downs, the unexpected road blocks, the work arounds, it’s all there, just as in life, but making the decision to find the joy, to be present, even when I’d rather not be, that’s the trick. Right now I still haven’t resolved some of the issues I have with this piece, but I know I’ll get there eventually. It’s all part of creating and creating is always wonderful! Hard, but wonderful!
This is one of those questions that guarantees the page will remain blank, the canvas untouched, the design wall bare. This is a question best left unasked. It’s like asking, “Do I look fat?” Whatever the answer, it will do nothing to placate the nagging doubt. Ask 100 people how they define “art” and you will receive 100 different answers, and anyway their definition likely is not yours. Getting caught up in what is and isn’t “art” is pointless and ultimately not helpful when it comes to creating. Or so I keep reminding myself. Still, these are the kinds of questions that lurk in my mind, sullying my ideas before they’ve even made it out onto the wall or page.
Yesterday I returned home from a week in Ohio where I was lucky enough to be with a terrific group of women all there for a workshop with Sue Spargo. Sue developed an original way of working with hand dyed felted wool; creating layers using other fabrics, ribbons, velvets, cotton, linen, wools and then applying embellishments and stitching to create yet another layer, before machine quilting. Her work is exquisite and unique, and while many have taken her techniques to use in their own creations, her layering and designs are easily identified as “Sue Spargo”. So much so that I began using her name as a verb and noun, as in – “this needs to be Spargoed up” or “I’ll just add a little Spargo to it,” or “once I’ve Spargoized it, I think it will be finished.” All of which meant that whatever it was, it needed layering, embellishing, more, more, more!
My dilemma has been that because Sue’s style is so utterly unique, it is difficult to use her techniques and do anything that doesn’t feel to me like something she’s already done and done much better than I ever could. As a designer/artist, I don’t want my work to look like someone else’s. When I began designing jewelry, my cousin’s wife, who had started a jewelry business and was designing stunning pieces, had a huge influence on me and in the beginning the things I designed, looked a lot like her work. However, over time, I began to find my own voice and my work became more and more unique to me and my vision. This is what I hope will continue to happen with the things I am designing, using fabric and stitching. I have to trust that over time, just as with my jewelry, I will create things that look more and more like my own creations and unlike anyone else’s.
Last week’s workshop began with the idea of a landscape. As I thought about what I wanted to create, I incorporated some of Sue’s son, Jason Spargo’s gorgeous hand dyed wools, for the sky, moving into more sunset like colors, to greens and earth tones. But first I began with a very rough sketch.
As I developed my idea, I added to the large shapes…
And finally when I felt I had what I wanted, I began appliquéing everything down…
Now I will begin stitching using a variety of threads and stitches. As I look at it, I am thinking I need to add something to the right hand side as it’s looking a bit claustrophobic. It is likely that this will become quite a bit larger than its current 18″ x 26″. This piece is still very much in its adolescence. But is it art? I don’t know and I don’t care. It is in the beginning stages of a much longer, wonderful, and thoroughly enjoyable process that I have only begun to explore. Asking that question ruins the process and makes me want to tear everything down in an effort to pursue some elusive enigmatic goal that I may never realize. Someone once said to me – “Start where you are.” And so I am.
In January I had the opportunity to go to one of Sue Spargo‘s fabulous workshops in Tucson, Arizona, a place I’d never been. While there I met some lovely people, one of whom was Anna Bates, who has a blog, Woolie Mammoth, a YouTube channel – Quilt Roadies, and blogs for The Quilt Show once a week under the heading – Anna and G on the Road. During the course of our five days together, Anna interviewed me and wrote a lovely post about me and my work. Though I realized afterward that while I sent her photographs of my early designs in fashion and knitting, even a photo of one of my hand thrown and hand painted pots, I didn’t send photos of my jewelry! (insert wide eyed emoji). So here are a few additions to her post…
Because of my conversation with Anna, I reflected on the past (almost) forty years now, when I began my studies at Parsons School of Design and now, when I am learning everything I can about quilting, quilts, dyeing, and manipulating fabric in different ways to create an image, a feeling, an idea…
All of which led me to a recurring topic – finding one’s artistic voice. How does one find it? How can it be nurtured, cultivated, encouraged?
While listening to a podcast a few weeks ago, two musicians were discussing this very idea and one of them repeated something they’d been told by another artist friend, who basically said – the only way to find your voice is by doing, and in the doing, you will not only find your voice, but it will make itself heard.
I love that! And it aligns with what I have learned through my experiences designing, whether that was fashion, knits, jewelry or quilts and fabric art.
A few months ago I decided I needed to learn how to piece. In quilting terms this is the ability to make something that looks like this: (This hen block was designed by Janet Nesbitt of One Sister.)
I have had a number of design ideas, such as combining pieced blocks with appliqué blocks and overlapping design elements that I cannot realize because there are some pretty basic things I do not know how to do. Piecing was one of them. I’m working on two quilts at the moment that cover all of these things, but in order to do them, and do them well, I need to learn how and then to practice, practice, practice.