Friday, December 2, 2011

Working on Being an Artist

At the end of September (2011), I attended my first meeting of a group (called an "Advanced Independent Study" group) with Jane Dunnewold and a group of really talented fiber artists. We met for three and a half days at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft in Louisville, Kentucky. Each artist in the group has what we in education call an "individualized education plan." I can share my plan with you.

I have done traditional quilts using a pattern for most of my life, so I am pretty good at most traditional techniques. Because of that, I just didn't feel challenged any more and felt like something was missing. I needed to make a change. Then in the last couple of years, I made a few original pieces--very few. Some were traditional and some would be considered "fiber art." I worked through Lyric Kinard's book, "Art + Quilt," and posted the results here on my blog. I learned a lot by doing this, but when it came time to move from doing lessons and taking workshops to actually producing original work I was paralyzed. (It is a scary thing to venture out on your own.) I had real trouble starting to work on new pieces, because I couldn't focus on one theme, method, or technique. I admit I am a "technique junkie." I am like a "kid in a candy store;" I like everything about fiber art--traditional, non-traditional, primitive, contemporary, surface design, embellishment, beading, dyeing, painting, etc. There just isn't any part of it I DON'T like. This makes it VERY difficult for me to find a focus to my work.

This AIS Group really fit the bill for me. In this group, I was required to define my artistic strengths, weaknesses, and what I like to do. Jane then told me that to get started I have to align my strengths with what I want to accomplish. For now, that means I must narrow my focus--I have to make some decisions. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually have a style along with the beginning of a series of work. I showed three pieces and, to my amazement, Jane saw a distinctive style within them. She (and the group) helped me see what I wasn't able to see myself.

So...I'm embarking on a new, scary adventure. I'm making original "art." (I won't totally give up making things that aren't my own original designs. Sometimes I NEED the repetition of following a pattern to calm me. It serves as sort of a meditation to me--much like hand quilting, well any kind of hand work, does for me.) It is much harder and more time consuming than I thought it would be. It is tremendously hard to "put myself out there," but I think doing this scary thing is good for me. I'll keep you posted on my progress.


Laura McGrath said...

How interesting this process seems. I think too many quilters end up being technique junkies, always wanting to try the newest thing, or take just one more workshop or buy just one more book. Luckily for me, since I don't have the money to do this, and also have to work 40+ hours every week, I've had to focus on just a few things that I really enjoy. It does make a difference! But I would like to be retired like you are so that I could spend more TIME on it. Good luck in your artistic journey! Hope to see more of your work on your blog soon, too!

Kathleen Loomis said...

go od for you, Beth!! can't wait to see what you are making.

Karoda said...

Beth, I wrestle with working so incredibly slow and my head rumbles way ahead of what I'm doing. What helps me stay on track when I'd like to jump off is knowing those techniques will be there when I'm ready and I don't have to use them all at once or the latest. It was suggested to me to select a technique or two and work with just those to see how far I can push them for like a month or 3 months or 6 months, etc depending on your speed of completing art.

I'm looking forward to this turn in your perspective :)

Quilt or Dye said...

I think you have been on this path longer than you realize and further along than you know.