July 9, 2016

Practice Does NOT Make Perfect (yet)

The last few weeks were disastrous for trying to get any artwork done or even going back to my beading class.   I knew I wouldn't make the next class because of family birthday plans, but was thrown for a loop when my father died that night, having only learned from a Facebook post by his family member that he was in serious trouble medically.  After weeks of drama, there were the additional distractions of a failed irrigation system in a drought (we cut back a lot, but are trying to keep trees alive), finding that we had a leak in our pool that could have resulted in the electrocution of my future son-in-law and then a bee hive and swarm that showed up right after (thank goodness!) our July 4th barbecue and fireworks show, along with working on a destination wedding just four months away.  The plumber did as much as he could to fix our irrigation problem before the bees got too grumpy, I managed to get a bee guy out within the hour, and postponed all of the repairs to the pool and yard until next week.  Harrumph.  I am totally buzzer-phobic, so I'm glad this was resolved quickly.

Too scared to go outside for another day or two (the suggested time to avoid the angry bee area by the bee dude), I figured I'd take advantage of the fact that the husband is out of town and have the house alone.  Time to start cutting out that quilt he wants!

It shouldn't be this hard or confusing.  I've been sewing garments and stuff for the house since I was a kid, plus I have made quilts before.  Not many, but I figured I'm experienced enough as long as it doesn't have curves or require crazy piece work.  Alas, I have been away from it long enough that it is NOT going well.  The directions are a little squirelly.  I love Kaffe Fasset, but someone did not do a thorough job of writing the instructions.  Some steps are left out, including one bit of information about how may pieces of a particular color of fabric to cut.  Yikes!

I made things worse by going on the internet and surfing videos for advice and finding a "shortcut."  The "shortcut" wasn't well executed by me, and so I made some costly errors.  The pattern calls for cutting about a trillion triangles and piecing them together to look like pinwheels, and then putting those pinwheels together to form the quilt top.  The shortcut showed how easy it was to just cut bigger squares instead of a bunch of little triangles, put the two bigger squares right sides together, sew around all four sides, then make two diagonal cuts and voila!  You open each of the four pieces and have four sets of the triangles together!  I did a lot of math to figure out the proper size of the squares.  OK, I thought I figured out the right size.  I was wrong.  Over and over again.  I have used all of the bad words in the bad word bank and wasted about a half mile of fabric.  I even practiced with ugly older fabric to test the process.  And test it again.  And tweak the needle position on my machine.  And trim the squares, sometimes ending up with a rectangle.  Or ending up with a square the wrong size.  Sigh. 

Time to crank on some good music, whip out the rotary cutter and start trimming the already cut pieces to make them workable.  At least I'm not just watching TV or having long, drawn out discussions with the cats.  And I'm glad to be doing something creative, even if I started out doing a bad job of it.  With practice, maybe I can perfect the pinwheel.

June 5, 2016

Another Step Outside the Comfort Zone

After more than three years of living in a town where I have yet to make any real friends (or much art, for that matter), I knew I had reached a point where I had to actually DO something to break out of this rut.  I found a little garden shop in a neighboring town that offers crafty classes.  Some of the classes are for the type of project I wouldn't normally be attracted to make, but I remembered an article by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer where she wrote about the value of taking a class like this, breaking out of the same old mold and pattern of redundant creativity. 

Making the call to sign up for the class and actually going was much more nerve-wracking than I expected.  Even after all these years, I still think back to the horribly critical art instructor I had in one of my first college classes, the beast who grabbed my sketch pad from my hands on the first day of class and wrote a big, fat red "F" on it.  Then there was the "beginner" classes I took with an established local artist, only to find that some of the others taking the class had REAL studios and shows...huh?  Not beginning, but very intimidating.  The day before I was to attend the first session, I really clobbered my foot and did some serious damage to a toe enough that I couldn't put on a shoe for a couple of days.  I was relieved that I had an excuse to put off attending for another week.  What a chicken!

This week, I butched up, packed up the supplies I thought I might need for this weekly one-hour beading class and marched right in.  What a wonderful, pleasant afternoon!  The class topic is "Beading Basics."  The course description included instruction in stringing, wire wrapping, crimping and other basic beading skills.  If nothing else, I'd learn how to repair a lot of broken jewelry.  After a little chatting, I learned that the instructor as well as another class instructor live in the city that I live in but, unlike my experience meeting residents so far, were warm, wonderful and welcoming.  I had a great time meeting these ladies, completely losing track of time.  Not that my verbosity distracted anyone from the clock, nope, nope, nope!  We worked until almost 2:30, an hour and a half longer than anticipated.  At the end of it, I had a fine beaded bracelet that I was proud to have finished.  Better yet, I feel like I've met some people with whom I could become friends.  After this class, I'm eager to try another, maybe the art quilts and fiber arts class.  Finally, like-minded souls in my neighborhood! 

Stepping out of my comfort zone and taking this class might seem like a small task for some, but my fear of failure and ridicule have held me back for so very long.  This was a big deal for me and I'm happy I made the move, eagerly anticipating the next gathering.  Thank you, Beth and Libby and classmate Crystal for renewing my faith in friendship.

May 15, 2016

When Bad Instructions Lead to Bad Improv

When the creative juices have slowed to a snail's pace, I have no problem resorting to the use of a pattern to make something, anything, instead of just staring at my studio desk.  Over the past couple of years, I have added a few patterns for sewn and stuffed creations for help with my stifled creativity.  Tired of a blank brain on the art front,  I finally opened one of the patterns to look over the materials list and read through the instructions.  Just a few steps into the instructions, I noticed things like materials listed appeared nowhere in the actual instructions.  Then there were the confusing directions to do things like cut two pieces of ribbon followed by instructions about what to do with the middle piece.  Middle?  Of two pieces?  Huh?

The distraction of the obvious errors, including conflicting instructions and missing information, made me think that I should just move on to a different pattern.  Maybe these errors were an anomaly.  I opened the next pattern and began reading through those instructions as well.  They were worse.  I can't silence the my mental red pen and felt compelled to let the author know, without being impolite, that there were issues with the instructions that needed clarification before I got started.  It was hard to find a functioning means of communication with the creator, but we finally connected via email.  One of my questions lead to the creator realizing this was a big error in the years-old pattern, and the "clarification" for a different step that was still just wrong: 5+3+5 is never going to add up to 8.  Sigh.  At least I have years of sewing experience and figured most of it out by myself.

I got to drawing, sewing, cutting and stuffing and found myself enjoying getting messy with this silly project.  I question some of the steps, thinking that this just doesn't look right or thinking that I could save myself a messy task by doing some things out of order.  At least I'm doing something creative, even if it is editing instructions and poking myself in the fingers until I bleed.

I've done stuff like this a million times, so I just put on my smarty-pants and improvised on some of the instructions.  Bad idea.  Pants were not so smart.  The most thing to remember for future similar projects   (and should have remembered!) is not to gesso fabric that requires being hand-stitch later to avoid having to paint in nooks and crannies.  It's like trying to poke a needle through a sheet of plastic.  So I have the body of a bird on wire legs too flimsy to support its weight (even though I used wire one gauge thicker than the pattern called for) so it looks like a drunk on the sidewalk.  Do I bother to finish?  Throw it out and start over?  Or do I challenge my inner-Tim Gunn and figure out how to just make it work?

I say, "Start another project and hide the mess!"  Yup, I'll come back to this fiasco leter.

February 25, 2016

Trying To Get Back In The Game

I've been on jury duty for a few weeks now, almost grateful to have an excuse for all of the things I'm not getting done at home.  One of my new juror friends told me about her artwork, sharing photographs of the beautiful greeting cards she makes.  Looking at her work made me think about all of the supplies I have and am not using.  Again.  She asked about any web site I might have and so I confessed I had a blog, sharing the URL with her and almost hoping she never looks.  When I looked online myself to be sure I had it right, I was startled to see that it had been more than a year since I last posted.  Has it been more than a year since I sat in the studio?  No, but close to it.  As we walked to our cars at the end of the day, I committed to doing something creative over this long weekend (long for us, no court on Thursday and Friday).  Now to figure out what to do.

So I've cleaned out the litter box that is at the far end of the room, got two loads of laundry going and am about to sit at the desk and see what happens.  I need some good creative juju.  Artist John Whipple's assemblage speaks volumes to me.  That darned artsy block feels like such a burden.  Time to get my hands a little dirty and try to shake it off.

Addendum: When my brain doesn't cooperate on the creative side, I make business/calling cards.  I was reminded of steps I'd forgotten since it has been a long while (like using an extender with acrylic paints before using a brayer).  Listening to loud music and messing around with paints and papers and scissors was fun again.  While it is hard for me to avoid making comments both in my head and on my blog about how lacking my artistic skills are when I share, I am going to make an effort.  While I don't fancy myself much of an artist, I have found it handy to have cards with my name and contact information when someone asks for it.  So this is the extent of my creative session today.