Beyond the Long Week

“In the middle of a difficulty lies opportunity.” ~Albert Einstein

A long week
(August 2023)

Life has a way of challenging any plan. This week and last I have been home with my husband taking care of him after knee replacement. Without going into detail, it’s been a week; a very long week. I thought I would be able to make small pieces, take some photographs of my work, do some writing, and generally be productive between putting on ice wraps. As it turned out, a lack of sleep and increased stress cannot be combined with productivity. 

The life of an artist is not a 9-5 gig. Making is a smaller portion of the artist’s task than one would imagine. At least half of the time an artist is spending marketing. There is also time creating other revenue streams, like teaching, writing articles, or paid lectures. On top of that is social media where you develop a brand. It’s a long to-do list. 

Yesterday I had to stop. Just stop everything and sit on the couch. The interruption forced me to think. Am I selling anything? No really. Not yet. Is that my goal? Do I have a goal? Why am I making stuff? The answer might be to keep my mind going into the  abyss or maybe just a simple distraction. 

The reason I am considering writing as my creative outlet is  that writing does not involve a physical object which has to be stored or exhibited or sold. The output of the process does not require an audience. 

Writing is not what I did in my working life. It’s a new direction without the trail of followers I have in the art quilt world. Becoming a writer that no one reads is me creating an alter ego. I can run away from reality on the page or, as I am doing now; reflect on my current situation. I may be completely naive to think I can just become a writer by declaration. Of course, anyone can be a bad writer……

8 weeks Later….

As I read this post, I am thinking of how quickly change happens and how little I realize the change until I reflect. 

When I wrote “A Long Week” I was in the middle of August when my husband was healing from knee surgery. This was after having a hip replacement earlier in the year. Clearly, I was exhausted.

I mentioned in the “long week”  that being an artist isn’t a 9-5 gig but it is a part of my everyday routine. I am always involved in a project whether it’s a large scale art quilt destined for an exhibition, small compositions stretched on canvas, working in a sketchbook, or greeting cards. That creative routine was interrupted for more than a month. 

Today I am looking forward to an exhibition at our museum. I have had two solo exhibitions. I approached the best gallery in the Kayenta Art Village. At first the gallery owner said that “textiles don’t sell”. Then “we are pretty full”. A few minutes after sharing my Instagram, I was bringing in two pieces for her to see. An appointment was set and I am now showing four pieces. This weekend is their big fall art festival which will bring in a crowd of potential buyers.

I have started submitting work to an artist association in a community 40 minutes south of my home. It’s a much more engaged group than my local art guild. Their building has a beautiful gallery, gift shop, and extended teaching space. I have sold several small pieces and have nine items for sale in the gift shop. In the future there is an opportunity to teach. The association allows me to keep 90% of the revenue. It’s another way for me to expand my revenue stream. 

My plan to write has not been realized, but it has not been forgotten. Writing has to find a home in my creative routine. Of course there is this blog on my website which helps me (and possibly you) reflect on my artistic practice. I want to go beyond that limited output. Over the next month I will be thinking about where I can create space and time for a larger project. 

I’ll keep you updated…. 


I am a visual artist known in the community of art quilters. Most people in this community (with notable exceptions) are dedicated hobbyists. Some are traditional quilters creating wall hangings. Others work as artists using the tools and materials found in functional quilts.  In the world of fine art the vast majority of art quilters are rightly labeled as crafters. The most obvious reason, to me, is the community clinging to the concept of a “quilt”. 

I came into this world by accident. I had been a public school art teacher with a BFA and a Master’s in art who could manage studio time on weekends and maybe six weeks in the summer. I came across an interview with Faith Ringold in a classroom video. It turned out she initially “quilted” her paintings to reduce shipping costs. The idea of a soft canvas intrigued me for two reasons. First it was a practical solution to reduce the costs I incurred when exhibiting my work. Secondarily it was a way for me to stand out in the sea of painters and mixed media artists. 

Serendipity played a role in my move into art quilts after a visit to a medical facility. I inquired about a piece of art made out of fabric in the lobby. It was not framed. It hung floating above the wall on a rod encased by plexiglass.  As it turned out, the Doctor I was visiting made that piece. She referred me to a group that called itself Contemporary Quilters. That was my starting point. 

When I first joined the group I saw members as crafters who were determined to move into the art world. I never found anyone there who had formal art training or anyone who did not place a high value on process and technique. This was strange to me coming from a world where the key question in the contemporary art studio was pushing the limits, questioning the norms, and rattling the cage of established artists.

I thought back on entry into this world when I ran across a post from an art quilter that made me question the community.  It was a picture of their sketchbook. The page was open with poorly executed circles of watercolor in muddy primary colors. As an art teacher, I would immediately think this was a three year old’s painting on copy paper. I would give it a smiley sticker knowing that this was the infancy in visual communication. Art quilter followers did not share my view. For these followers, this was what “real” artists do.

Being an artist is not a declaration, it’s hard work. It is not merely technical mastery, it involves digging deep into intellectual and emotional territory. Taking a minute to paint some circles and having the hubris to share these as an example of an artist’s sketchbook to your coaching clients, collectors, and many followers; is playing art theater. It is not being an artist. It makes me question the world of art quilters. 

The vast majority of art quilters are limited by not having an academic background in the visual arts. It is common for art quilters to attend a variety of workshops from people who create a style that is admired by others in the community who become mimics.   Many art quilters are attracted to working creatively after careers that are centered on productivity. They have plenty of money and time. The desire to make comes without the background knowledge found in art history and understanding contemporary art. I found many want to find a formula instead of authentically finding their own path. The resulting work is too frequently  an aesthetically pleasing object that misses the opportunity to push limits or challenge norms. 

Some move up the community’s  food chain into juried exhibitions and become teachers and coaches for other art quilters. Never having to take Art History classes, life drawing, painting, printmaking, or any other media is a deficit. The majority of top art quilters’ work is formulaic by design to create a path for teaching their technique and jurors tend to select these top makers that will attract people at quilt shows or other exhibition spaces.

The art quilt community is often offended by not being considered “real” artists. That is true on one level. Historically quilts and other textiles were not attributed to the maker, therefore their value was diminished. In addition to being a woman’s work, quilting was seen by art historians as low art: craft. The Bauhaus movement in the early 20th century began changing that paradigm, however their attempts to level the playing field for crafts expanded the opportunity to use materials like fabric.  

In contrast, artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Lukas Samaras used fabric. In Rauschenberg’s case a quilt in “Bed” created in 1955 is included the permanent collect at MOMA .  Contemporary artist Bisa Butler who creates portraits using fabric, is being shown in major exhibitions and art fairs. Her work is highly valued. The difference is that artist like Ms. Butler have formal training. She used fabric as a material, but did not use the term art quilt. Instead she placed her work in the context of portraiture.

My academic background taught me, as an artist; to create my own composition grounded in meaning. In the art quilt world this system seems topsy turvy. The typical entry in art quilt exhibitions has a theme which has the artist responding to meaning associated with that exhibition, and not the artist controlling the meaning of their own work. Art Quilts by definition must be layered and stitched which adds another point of control. 

These exhibitions are juried based on technique and addressing the theme. Awards are given with a check attached. At quilt shows exhibition awards are frequently sponsored by vendors who want to sell products. In juried exhibitions outside quilt shows the artist may get juried in, but assumes the cost of shipping, is paying to compete with hundreds of entries for a fraction of the slots, and the relationship with the exhibition has time limits. Your art might be on display for weeks or be committed for years. That one piece might be seen by large numbers of people; but your body of work is not. 

In art school there is a portfolio system. The artist produces a number of pieces that worked through an idea, solved a visual problem, and resulted in a group of related works of art. In my own studio practice I have found it natural to make a series or even to work on several series at once. After creating a portfolio an artist then finds a gallery or exhibition space to show their collection of work that will hopefully attract collectors. The artist’s work is seen in context.

Feeling discomfort is a good thing. It’s a sign that I need to continue on my own path. Although I admire the art quilt movement, I don’t think it’s fully my home and that’s OK. 

Monday Monday

Monday, Monday………

I love that song by the Mamas & the Papas. The lyrics can be an earwig like the song “Don’t worry. Be happy. “Monday Monday” is not a song of the hopes and possibilities for a new week. Nope. It’s about anxiety (Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day). Anxiety is still present in my own life even though I don’t have a work week anymore. It’s just not as present  by choice. 

Those of us who are driven to achieve a goal, whatever that goal is; are too often driven by achievement anxiety. When I retired from teaching eight years ago in my mid 50’s; I thought that anxiety was gone with the job. I was wrong. I found myself seeking out anxiety like an old friend.  I started making my life task oriented and goal oriented by getting on the artists’ “Call for Entry” treadmill. As a result, I was increasingly more successful in my community of art quilt exhibitions. The pressure of constant deadlines continued as I entered a large  number of exhibitions. Two things ended this cycle. 

The first was a pandemic. Everything stopped. Exhibitions were put on hold. Calls became online exhibitions and my pattern of making art to respond to calls  took a U-turn. I began to clean out closets and experiment with cutting up old work that would not be traveling in exhibits. This became a new material to use in a series of work that was not going to any exhibitions. Instead, I wrote an article about the process, got into a book, and created YouTube videos. Those videos led me to create online classes. Returning to teaching was time consuming but not challenging. It was familiar territory as a career educator. More projects. More deadlines. More anxiety.

When the world began opening up again, the calls for entry seemed to become more competitive. My enthusiasm ebbed. I started to enter without the spark of authentic inspiration. My run of acceptances had come to a conclusion. I had zero energy for making additional online classes or videos. That was a sign. I began to question going down the road of art quilting when I retired instead of returning to painting. (How I got to an art quilter is another post). 

Achievement anxiety was replaced by the blues. I dropped my membership in my local quilt guild and became a member of the art guild. It was then I made a shift in my thinking. My impression of the local art community was an issue. It seemed to me that in the first guild meeting everyone in the room was a landscape painter. Most used oils. A huge number gathered together to fight the heat, the cold, and insects to stand outdoors and paint the red hills here is Southern Utah. (Not my thing!) Instead of trying to fit in with the group, I decided to make friends, and share my own work.

People were curious. The first question was “What is that?” I brought one of the few landscapes I have in my portfolio to share. I felt it was bridge from textiles to painting. At each meeting I gained more acceptance of my work in  this traditional community. I began attending every art event, I entered local exhibitions, and gradually attained a network of connections. Currently  I exhibit  in a couple of local art galleries, teach the occasional in person class, a lecture coming up at a University, and make smaller pieces for gift shops. It’s a mix of activities. 

Looking for the important art quilt exhibition to pour all my energy into, has been replaced by being open to opportunities in my local community. 

Less pressure. More creative time. 

My First Post

“No One Is Going To Read This” was posted once as a short essay on Substack. Substack is a popular app that is a kind of social media for writers. It’s a place where you can read and write on a wide variety of topics. The system encourages readers to get a subscription for the writers they enjoy. It’s a chance for writers to earn income and for readers to support good writing. My possible  issue with Substack was a nonexistent email list. When I tried to post again, Substack’s software thought I hadn’t completed the process. Whatever the reason I returned to an old favorite: WordPress Blog. 

Writing a blog is a creative writing practice. The blog is going to have the same title as my one and only Substack read.  I think of it as  my sketchbook or my journal with more structure. Enough structure that if someone did manage to read my short essays they would make sense. As an artist I don’t always make large time consuming work. Some of my work (in fact the majority of my current work) is small enough to be completed in an afternoon.  These are warm ups for bigger projects. The blog isn’t a sketch. It’s more like an 8 x 10. 

Artists practice with an audience in mind. As a visual artist I pull out my paints, pencils, and markers in the morning when I work in my sketchbook. I usually have several possibilities for artwork which come from that practice. In my sketchbook I allow myself the freedom to never open them up to the public. They are for me. I pay zero attention to fixing a compositional problem. I can always make a note, mentally or in writing and start again on a new page. 

My journal is similar. I write in a moleskin journal without lines. I use a particular pen. (It’s a pilot gel pen with a comfort grip in pink. I have them on a three month Prime subscription purchase.) On the lower right side of the front cover, I write the date the journal was started. Almost everyday I write without any concern for grammar. I let my thoughts flow onto the pages. Recently I started using  a meditation timer and I write until the bell rings. If I have more to say I continue writing, if not I put my pen down and sit for a minute. Occasionally I reread entries. Some entry topics flow from day to day. Other entries are just weather reports or to-do lists.

As an artist I understand the value of constant improvement. Improvement requires time and repetitive practice. There is a place for failure. Failure is not an end, it’s a message. So if “No One’s Going To Read This” never gets an audience; then it’ s message. I am planning on writing with regularity over the course of a year as a creative practice. In my next post, I will examine my motivation for this project. 

Benefitting Art

Donating Art is a “Good Thing”

Every year there is an auction to benefit the Studio Art Quilt Associates. This is the largest organization representing artists, like myself; who work with textiles. The auction raises a substantial amount of money. That money supports their core mission is to promote the art quilt: They define the art quilt brodley as: “a creative visual work that is layered and stitched or that references this form of stitched layered structure.” 

Like all organizations they have a vision of when their mission will be complete. The vision is that the art quilt is universally respected as a fine art medium. SAQA’s core values are: excellence, innovation, integrity, and inclusion. It’s because of this organization, I have grown into and sustained being a textile artist. So each year I make something for the Auction. 

Candle Light – 12″ x 12″

“As a child, our dinner table always included candles. My mother and father were products of a bygone era. Each was raised by parents born in the 19th century. In an era where we can use a smart device to turn on lights or set lights to turn on with a program; I still love the gentle light of candle “

My small donation called “Candle Light” was submitted with this artist statement. The candlestick is one of a pair that I have kept from my family home. It seems that candle light is more of a romantic idea than actual practice in most homes. During the winter, when the sun sets early, I like having candles lit. In this warm climate of Southern Utah, a fire is rarely needed. Snow doesn’t fall often. Temperatures might be cool but rarely the kind of cold that I got used to in Colorado. The candle reminds me to be aware and to embrace the seasons that have less light.