Saturday, January 30, 2016


Okay. So I have to admit that I, like so many other people, am reading Brene Brown's Daring Greatly. I am not sure why I feel a bit guilty about admitting that, other than I was worried when I put it on hold at the library that it was yet another overpopularized and underresearched rah-rah self-help book, telling you that you are wonderful just the way you are if only you would believe in yourself. While there are a few echoes of that attitude in the book, it does say a number of things that I need to hear, particularly about perfectionism and how it is different from striving for excellence.

And I discovered another aha! moment. I had been getting frustrated that I was not spending enough time in my studio and had always been impressed with those artists/quilters who start working at the crack of dawn before breakfast, perhaps break for a piece of toast and then keep on going. These are the people who seem to have the great blogs, the full teaching schedules, the prize-winning work.

But I, slug that I am, often don't get to my studio until 10 am and my plan had been to sit down with my husband at dinner that night and talk about how I could get to my studio earlier. Then I read Brown's description of the two alternatives to handling anxiety and stress: those who tried to assuage the anxiety by, for example, wedging more work into the day (making phone calls while waiting at red lights or while checking out at a store) or those who addressed anxiety "at the root by aligning their lives with their values and setting boundaries."

So I began to look at what I valued. Aside from getting work done, whether that is stitching, planning, or dyeing, I do value sleep but I am usually up before 7 (sorry, 5 AM is not going to work for me), and I also value healthy food, time with my husband and my crazy Goldendoodle, and yoga stretches that keep my joints moving and my shoulders and hands able to do hand stitching. Getting to my studio earlier would mean giving up a long walk with Terra, some fruit-filled hot oatmeal shared with Tom, and those vital stretches. I was beginning to think this was not worth it but decided to give it a try, shifting the walk to the afternoon, the stretches to before lunch,and the breakfast eaten after I had worked for a while.

The afternoon walk was fine on this day but there would have been time for only a short walk, and I realized as I got ready for bed that I had gotten so involved in my work that I never took time for the stretches. This morning I went back to the old schedule, but I did not begin working  (at 10:30 am! because of an extra long walk) berating myself about getting to work so late. I felt energized by my morning tasks--and actually got more work done by lunchtime than I had with the extra hour or so on my experimental morning. Just as my work doesn't need to look like all those big name quilters, my schedule doesn't need to either.

And, while I am not sure why anyone would still be reading this long post, if you are, thanks for the company.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Word Play

Last week was full of art. Well, every week is full of art, but this was other  people's art--at the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. And both have set my mind moving is a variety of directions that I want to record--so you will be hearing about those directions as well.

Black Mountain College in North Carolina was the scene of an incredible stew of artistic talent in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s that included Rauschenberg, Twombly, the de Koonings, Merce Cunningham, and Buckminster Fuller. An exhibit at the ICA does an admirable job of recreating that feeling of so many people pushing the limits of their art and gaining inspiration from all the ideas and works in progress surrounding them.

I went to the exhibit expecting to see a lot of abstract paintings but didn't realize that one of the major artists there was Anni Albers, a weaver, who just happened to be married to Josef Albers. Unfortunately, her beautiful textiles were displayed under glass so that the textures were not as exposed and photos were exercises in frustration as reflections were always part of the picture. But I will share a few anyway.

Large weaving based on ancient Mexican ruins

Detail of weaving on left

Nigel's Weaving (small)
Cityscape (small)

An exquisite untitled watercolor by Ray Johnson shows how he used both Anni's weavings and the color theory taught by Josef. (The white dots are, alas, reflections of lights across the room.)

On one of the walls of the exhibit in large letters was the word "Haptic." Now this was a word I discovered a number of years ago and was planning a blog post about that must have never gotten itself completed. Here is the description the ICA provided:

      . . .If any description can encompass the whole of the Black Mountain aesthetic, it might the
      haptic, as opposed to the purely optical. Defined as "relating to the sense of touch," the
      haptic in art refers to works that appeal to touch through the selection of materials,
      the process of making, and the bodily engagement of the maker. Haptic objects
      intertwine visuality and tactility so thoroughly that they are inseparable.

And there you have a description of textile art. I like that idea of intertwining the visual and the tactile--and hope I can remember it when I am called upon to say something wise about the work I do.

And thanks for the company!