Creative Inspiration

Creative Inspiration: Just Cut Out the Bad Parts and Keep Going

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

20 thoughts on “Creative Inspiration: Just Cut Out the Bad Parts and Keep Going”

  1. Great post, Tierney!!… One to keep near and reread from time to time…
    (And, Abandoned Water Structure is *wonderful!*)
    Thank you!!
    Pat T.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is very inspiring, sometime when am sewing I make a lot of mistake that I just dump the clothes but its pays to work on the parts that are still workable if you can. This post one can apply to all sphere of lives in our day to day activities “… Just cut out the bad part” 👍

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You have given me words to live by. I find myself stuffing a project out of sight that isn’t working instead of maybe changing the plan. Would love to see a picture of the Abandoned Water Structure.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think you have done a wonderful job getting your point across. I whole heartedly agree with the philosophy. I use it in my quilting projects all the time. Only I learned it from Rayna Gillman.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I enjoyed the analogy and agree, most of it is usable somehow, even if it actually makes it to the compost pile! You might have seen my “current” UFO in a recent post. I’ve unstitched it back to blocks and will keep it on my design wall until the solution occurs to me. (or until it goes back in the drawer!)

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  6. Thanks for this wonderful post and message. I can very much relate to the ‘just throw it out’ feeling with my work, but it helps to remember that it can be resolved, and that real gems are often hidden in the form of ‘difficult projects.’ I like the idea of letting the project speak for itself –
    letting it be what it wants to be. This suggests that we’re not always in the driver’s seat, creatively, but that can be a good thing. Thank you for the uplift, Tierney. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awwww, thanks so much my dear for your comments, they made my evening. I am so glad you found this post meaningful! I figured it was really random ramblings and I appreciate anyone reading them – ha! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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