I began this journey of creating on fabric many years ago. It has been a joy! Along the way I have expanded. My desire to share the creative process started with Blogger. I added images and text to this simple site. Just before I retired in the summer of 2014, I created a website on wordpress. On that site I blogged. It gave me the ability to add an online gallery. Along the way I have added a newsletter, YouTube Channel, tried online teaching, a newsletter, and social media.
Last year I made the decision to make a shift. I dropped both my blog and my newsletter. The Metaphysical Quilter was retired. Now it’s Abramshe Arts at margaretabramshe.com. This major leap was a major commitment. Now I am ready to reemerge.
It’s time to once again, have a blog. To communicate more with a growing community of artists, like myself; who are on a journey.
Writing is one of many ways to share. Not everyone will read my blog, but I gain so much for putting down my thoughts on a page. I love a quote from Voltaire.
“Words create images in your head. Words written on a page encourage the kind of reflection that feeds creative energy in the studio. “
As artists, we must learn to be self nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources, as we draw on them. Julia Cameron “The Artists Way” page 21
In the spring I usually feel an abundance of new creative energy. In 2019, I had so much energy I made more than one art quilt a month. This year my creative energy is at a low. Perhaps it was the pandemic or the lack of exhibitions that has me in a creative slump. It might be that I am now dedicating more time to creating online courses and sharing consistently on social media.
There are many online resources outlining systems for boosting creativity. Suggestions like taking a walk, eating better, finding resources, collaborating with others, and setting specific goals were common in addressing a lack of creative energy. Some lists, like this one; were more general.
Although these sound like great ideas my approach was to listen to my inner artist and allow myself to slow down until my energy returned. There is no point to working simply to continue producing. It’s a quantity vs. quality dilemma. I want to make work that is worthy of my efforts, is inspiring, takes me to a new level of artistic expression, and builds on previous work. In order to make this kind of work, I needed to fill that creative well up again.
I have my own list to of interventions until I get back on track:
Read: I have started to read more books about art and artists.
Write: Each day I am going to write more in my journal.
New Skills: Using an app called Splice I am going to post more videos to YouTube.
Physical Activity: This morning an Introduction to Tai Chi class came to my attention as an option.
Create Small Scale: I have been working in a sketchbook and going out to paint occasionally
Rest & Relax: Everyday I do one thing in my studio. I do not have any looming deadlines. I will be taking a short trip with a visit to a spa, lunch with friends, and a visit with one of my kids
Although I am slow I have not completely stopped working. The current project on my design wall is an picture of red tug boats heading out of a harbor from my pre-pandemic trip to the Baltics. It will be hanging next to another quilt in of boats in my house. I have several projects already printed by Spoonflower and ready to be painted. One of them was inspired by a sketchbook drawing but none of these projects are for a specific exhibition. I am not feeling any pressure to get them done by a specific date.
Slowing down my production will reap rewards down the road. In the near term I will be working on other projects. My next course on creating vintage portraits is in the works .I have been making my daily Art Yoga creations (see the selection above) into little books and postcards just for fun.
I made a small quilt called “Everyday” that was juried to a SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) global exhibition called “Guns: Loaded Conversations”. The quilt was a picture of my dad and his brother taken around 1913. The two little boys are dressed up as rough riders. Each is standing at attention with toy rifles. Behind the figures is script on a yellow pad with the words every day repeated. The bold text is from the Brady Center which studies gun violence listing statistical average number of children affected by gun violence every day.
When I posted the quilt to my social media feeds after the mass shooting in Boulder, I thought it was an effective way to share how art can help provide understanding and be a catalyst for thoughtful dialog. I started my post with the words “My heart goes out to Boulder” and then explained my connection to the city. I had met my husband in Boulder. I went to college in Boulder and I still have many friends in the Boulder area. Although the quilt was made in 2017, the theme addressed what was topical.
I also had a connection to the shooter although I did not know him or his family. He lived and attended school in the community where I raised my children which is 30 minutes east of Boulder. He was a student in the district where I spent my career as an art teacher. This was the district that experienced the tragic shooting at Columbine high school in 1999. That was the year this young man was born.
I used the memory of Columbine when I made “Everyday”. My purpose was to make a thoughtful contribution to a visual conversation about gun violence in America that was the theme of the exhibition. I was addressing an issue which some people may over look by pointing out that mass shootings are only one aspect of gun violence. Each day gun violence affecting children is tragic and more deadly than the mass shootings getting so much attention.
Few of my art quilts that are political in nature. Each of these quilts was made as a response to a call for entry where I felt a personal connection . When this quilt was exhibited I didn’t receive specific feedback from anyone who saw my quilt so I did not anticipate my little post would receive a great deal of feedback. I was wrong.
There was a larger number of comments. Some were shocking to me.
Many comments were about a desire to gun control violence through legislation. Other people were focused on mental health. There was a great deal of back and forth on my page and on social media groups where I shared this post. Not everyone was respectful. There were individuals who wrote long comments that seemed to me, way over the top leading to that all too familiar online argument.
One group’s administrator took my post down and posted a rebuke of political art. Clearly political commentary in any form was not welcome. Latter the post was reinstated when members complained. The administrator was very nice and we exchanged a few messages. Many people across my social media feed reached out directly to me in support. A few fellow art quilters shared the image.
Throughout the day I attempted to model respectful interaction hoping to add a calming voice. It was a big hoopla.
In the end, I think that if you look at a piece of art and you feel uncomfortable,
Other parts of my life have been transformed. No longer am I teaching in person. Instead I reached out to the growing online communities of art quilters. I created two online courses. In the last two months I have lectured via Zoom three times and helped two fellow art quilters through an online coaching session. My social media presence is growing on Facebook and Instagram. I am dreaming of new avenues to explore in this post pandemic world.
One of these avenues is filming my process. Luckily as a creative person, I am not afraid of learning by doing and have been spending hours figuring out lighting, editing and creating files that can be uploaded in the correct format. I added a heavy duty tripod to my studio in order to use my camera in movie mode. The camera is currently directly above my work surface. As I work the camera captures more of the process than words could describe. I am liking the results.
As a retired teacher, I had my doubts about teaching without human contact. What turned my thinking around was taking some courses from quality teachers and reaching out to other artists teaching online. What I learned was the content doesn’t change, but the tools of instruction are different. A good teacher has mastered those tools and has matched content with the appropriate tool.
There are lots of methods for presentation online. Some learners are most comfortable with a combination of words spoken, written text and a visuals. Others may want to separate the visual from the written or spoken instructions. A smaller number want a very brief overview and then dive into making. This group often uses their mistakes as a form of learning. (I am in this group.) The teacher needs to create and deliver content in written, verbal and visual formats.
Online instruction gives each learner an opportunity to decide how they want their material delivered. The learner is in charge. This is why quality courses have handouts, verbal directions, slides with summary concepts presented in words and pictures; and video. My students can look at the video and ignore the handout. They can carefully read the handout, then watch the presentation three times before making anything.
My next course on painting on fabric for the art quilter should be out on or before mid March. I have experienced the ups and downs of learning how to segment instruction so that it makes sense and (the hardest part) can be uploaded smoothly onto the Teachable platform. I had to overcome the shock of seeing hands that looked like my mothers. Too much sun and too much work in the garden is showing up on film. The challenges have been worth the struggles.
I have been consistently posting on social media. Each morning I post an art quilt to my Facebook and Instagram accounts. (You can find these posts by following my hash tag #metaphysicalquilter ). Everyday I share one of my quilts on Facebook groups like Art Quilts or Textile Art. This morning as I was posting “Alamo Gate”, I saw an issue that needed to be resolved.
This quilt was accepted into very few juried shows. It was one of three quilts I made after a trip to San Antonio. Although rejection from a juror is not a final word on the success of a submission, I enter enough shows to know when something didn’t hit the mark. This is a key factor in my relative success in the world art quilting. Juried shows provide valuable feedback and have helped me improve over time. The jurors had told me that Alamo Gate needed more work.
Claude Monet, the impressionist Master, commented that the “finishing touches on a painting might seem insignificant, but to the painter they are much harder than one would suppose.”
Claude Monet was absolutely right. My finished projects are much better when I let them sit on my design wall for a period of time. I look, look again, take a picture with my camera and wait until I know. In the case of this quilt, I didn’t make those finishing touches. I rushed onto other projects and the result was an completed, but unfinished art quilt.
One reason I moved onto other work is because landscape is not my area of emphasis. The bulk of my work is figurative. Landscape quilts hold my interest as reminders of favorite places. Some I make to hang in my home like “At Dusk”. This quilt has been rejected in several juried exhibitions probably because of the lack of contrast. It hangs near my front door. I love it.
“Alamo Gate” is a quilt I finished without feeling it was done. It has been hung in storage until now. Today I know why it didn’t find a place to show off. I can fix the composition’s problem with paint. A little paint over the lantern and it becomes the stone wall.
The problem is the lamp as a center of interest. This composition is visually engaging because of the tree and its wild growth pattern. That’s why I selected the photograph. The gate is not a visual or thematic focal point. It’s the tree. The tree is amazing. It has lived in that spot for hundreds of years growing with twists and turns. Surviving through the twists and turns of history, this tree thrives in the courtyard of the old mission.
My quilts are stitched painted photographs. As artworks they float between defined categories. This gives me the freedom as a creative to ignore the rules of any discipline. So I am going to paint out the lamp and quilt the stone wall pattern. The back would confuse the quilt police. So what! I am also going to rename the quit “Live Oak”. It has a new life and possibly will find a new place to live.