This post continues my series of posts on sources of Creative Inspiration.
One of my quilting mentors, Jean Wells Keenan, once said in a class (paraphrased): When you are really stuck on a piece and you want to give up, don’t give up. Just push through your discomfort or unhappiness with the piece; keep going and you will be surprised how it evolves.
So what does this have to do with my featured image for this post – a pile of sweet potatoes?
Well, at lunch today (I am a telecommuter), I pulled out the remains of a bag of several weeks old sweet potatoes. I forgot about them in the veggie drawer in my fridge and I hoped I could possibly use them (I hate wasting food) in a salad or veggie bowl if I boiled them.
As I washed the sweet potatoes, a first glance, they looked kind of icky and their only future was compost. However on closer inspection, I realized there were good viable parts to each sweet potato – all I had to do was cut out the bad parts.
While trimming each sweet potato to remove the “bad parts”, I thought how this relates to creating a piece of art. I have worked on several art quilting project when I wanted to just give up, crumple the piece into a ball (and burn it) and discard it.
Occasionally I did just this, throw away the piece and try to forgot the time I spent on expending my creativity on the piece. This was until I took a series of art quilting classes with Jean Wells Keenan and heard her statement about not giving up – it resonated with me.
I learned to work or rework what I have created already, cut the bad parts out, and keep going with creating the piece.
An example of an art quilt that I wanted to throw into the trash pile (or burn as an effigy of what-not-to-do-when-creating-an-art-quilt) was my piece Abandoned Water Structure. This piece, which was eventually sold to the City of Seattle/Seattle Public Utilities for their Portable Works Collection nearly made it to the trash or fabric recycling pile several times (or as potential kindling).
It began as an art quilt project based on a photo of a beach structure for a series of classes I was taking with Jean Wells Keenan, called Journey to Inspired Art Quilting. I absolutely hated the piece and it seemed like to would never go anywhere (I felt like I was stopped in my journey anywhere, much less to inspired art quilting).
The series of classes ended, and I took the unfinished piece back home with me to sit in the abandoned project pile (where projects go to die..).
Randomly rummaging through my abandoned project pile a couple months later, I rediscovered the piece and I was suddenly struck with the feeling that I was not using the correct inspiration for the piece. The piece WANTED TO BE SOMETHING ELSE.
I had a photo on my inspiration board of an abandoned/closed water power facility in Central Oregon and I knew this is what the piece was to become (or at least be inspired by)!
After reworking the piece for a couple hours, I was tempted to return it to the abandon project pile (or just soak it in lighter fluid) but luckily I heard Jean in the back of my head to “just push through, keep going“. I cut out the bad parts, the parts that were not working in the piece, and eventually it became the Abandoned Water Structure art quilt.
If I were to summarize my thoughts and advice from this experience (and my ramblings above) for my fellow crafters and artists, it would be:
Creating can be like working with a partially rotted sweet potato. You know there is yumminess still there but you don't want to eat "the bad parts". So cut out the "bad parts" and keep the good/viable parts! Keep going, don't give up, be patient with yourself and the piece. Let it become the yumminess it eventually wants to become.
Well I have stretched that analogy as far as it will stretch, thanks for reading to see where the heck I was going with my sweet potato story.
Oh and in case you were curious, my trimmed and boiled sweet potatoes were delicious (full of yumminess) in my salad at lunch!
Feature image credit: khongrithSV, free images.com