A Crafter's Life, Books, Music, Podcasts, Farm Girl Vintage Blocks

Art & Fear, etc.

I am feeling stuck. I have two looming deadlines for art quilts for two upcoming shows and I have not started either pieces.

I am dealing with feeling stuck in two ways: 1) reading an inspirational book; and 2) sewing some traditional blocks.

Inspirational Book

At the January meeting of the art quilting group I belong to (Central Oregon SAQA) our group leader shared that she was reading Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (1993) by David Bayles and Ted Orland.

art & fear.jpg
Image credit: Amazon.com

After the meeting, I immediately reserved the book at my public library and just picked in up from the library on Friday. Diving into this awesome book I discovered a couple great quotes about the reality of creating/making art:

“Making art is dangerous and revealing. Making art precipitates self-doubt, stirring deep waters that lay between what you know you should be, and what you fear you might be.”

“…fears arise in those entirely appropriate (and frequently occurring) moments when vision races ahead of execution. Consider the story of a young student…who began piano studies with a Master. After a few months’ practice (the student) lamented to his teacher ‘but I can hear the music so much better in my head than I can get out of my fingers’. To which the Master replied, ‘What makes you think that ever changes?'”

“The materials of art…seduce us with their potential.”  

(This last quote made me think of stumbling upon that incredible textile that you know will be perfect in a future piece)

I am only on page 20 and so far there are many gems in this book. Currently I highly recommend it if you are struggling with creating art or moving forward on your artistic journey.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned I have not started two art quilts with looming deadlines. I have actually designed and mapped out both pieces on paper but have not begun to the process of transferring my vision to fabric. That is where I am stuck (likely because of fear).

Stitching Myself Unstuck

I knew I needed to do something to become “unstuck” but I could not force myself to start working on either art quilt when I am not feeling inspired. I could however get myself in a creating mood by sewing something.

So I pulled out my bag of scraps from working on Farm Girl Vintage blocks (see series of posts Farm Girl Vintage Blocks)


and made a couple more blocks:


These blocks are about as far as you can get from art quilting but they got me sewing again and it was fun to try to be limited by what was in the scrap bag (from Farm Girl Vintage blocks already made).

I will likely make a couple more blocks and then I will do a post showing all my completed Farm Girl Vintage blocks to date.

I will continue reading the Art & Fear book and look at starting my art quilts.

Have you ever felt creatively stuck and what do you do to get “unstuck”?


A follow up to my previous post Spinning the Homespuns with TTQH, Terry the Quilting Husband (TTQH) has moved into my sewing studio to work on his piece.

We have decided to sell his Baby Lock sewing machine and he is going to use my Bernina. I can better support him on technical issues if he is using the same brand of machine (I can trouble shoot my Bernina in my sleep).

Plus he likes working in my sewing area, it has a better set up with my latest room rearrangement.

Mike the Mini Schnauzer: “Now he will sew in here all the time?!?!?”
TTQH enjoying the small design wall on the closet door right behind the sewing area
TTQH working on his piece

Featured image: Dave Dyet, free images.com

46 thoughts on “Art & Fear, etc.”

  1. When I am “stuck” I sometimes just cut one or two pieces and put them on the design wall. I leave them up, move them around a bit and then get inspired to cut out a few more pieces. Then I add, subtract, readjust, etc. I usually cut as I go when creating. BTW, it’s nice that you share your space with TTQH and Mike, how sweet you are all quilting together!

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  2. Sounds like you are on the right path…getting stuck is all part of the circle of creating, ya know?

    For myself, when I ‘get stuck’ with my current and more pressing music projects, it is often the sewing machine (general term for digging through fabrics, sewing together bits, delving into a different creative endeavor without regard to outside demands) I turn to for an ‘unsticking’.

    BTW: I have 8 leftover fabric scraps out of the 17 featured in your two blocks at the beginning of this post…crazy!

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  3. I have a project with concept fairly well defined and fabrics pulled, and it is waiting. And waiting… I don’t have a solution for you, but I read an idea the other day that might help. It was to go ahead and start, maybe not on the deadline projects, but on something. And make that something as bad as you can. Like really creatively go after the bad. Push the bad!! And see what happens.

    I’ve read the book and thought it was pretty good, too. it’s been a while. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks Melanie, I appreciate you sharing your struggle on your piece that you even have the fabric pulled for – I know I am not alone. I think just sharing how I was feeling on that post is helping me move forward (oh no I am using my blog as my therapy session, ha!) ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. Thanks for sharing this book . I will be ordering it from the library. Iโ€™m stuck. Not as much as I felt stuck in January, but still in a โ€œDonโ€™t know what I Want to Doโ€ frame of mind. I just got busy doing simple crafts and a simple quilt, I also challenged myself with something different, like the basket. But, creatively, Iโ€™m still in a fog. Iโ€™ll keep watching different art fabric sketching tutorials, and read the book. Thanks again for sharing.

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    1. You are welcome and thanks for reading and your comments. I did not realize you were stuck as you seem to be constantly making things (I am in awe). Hope you like the book, I am working on finishing the book and getting to my deadlines!


  5. That is a great book! I read it many years ago and refer to it often. I find that I just have to jump in. Forge through it and as Nike says โ€œjust do it โ€œ!

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  6. I had a similar experience with knitting. For a couple months I was just blah about it. Then a friend of mine loaned me a book about Aran knitting and all the possibilities of cabling and making nubbly textures got my creative juices flowing again. Seeing other people’s creativity inspires my own. You can do it! Can’t wait to see what I know will be beautiful pieces! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  7. i am more likely to feel inertia than stuck, though it might be the same thing. My usual approach is to say,”It isn’t going to do itself,” and get up and start somewhere. (Now I can’t tell why sometimes I stay inert instead of using that tactic, or what makes it work when I do.)

    Beginning is my greatest area of inertness. I am either dissatisfied with a sketch or not sure how to execute it I love the vision beyond execution quotation above). If the former, I sketch some more; if the latter I try to start at some point where I have enough fabric to redo if I make a glaring error or at some point of the process that I know I can do. Pretty similar to your approach, to just start something.

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    1. Inertia! That sounds even more appropriate than stuck! I like your strategies on dealing with inertia. I am able to begin with the sketch but my inertia occurs with deciding on the fabric! Thanks for your comments ๐Ÿ™‚


  8. Isn’t the virtual quilting community wonderful!?!? All the responses are good and are good motivation. Right now, I have more projects than I know when or how to do, but I am in the loving it mode! Will I, perchance, see some of the works you need to start at the SOQS. Happy creating! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. It is, I appreciate the virtual community! Have fun with your more projects than you know what to do with; and I need to remember to have fun too! Thanks for your comments ๐Ÿ™‚


  9. Thanks for sharing the title, and your thoughts on it. It does indeed sound like a gem. Coincidentally, I happen to have just started Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.” I recommend it in case you’d like to read further! It can be hard to get unstuck – it’s encouraging (for me) to know that even gifted quilters who make stunning things such as yourself can actually face this from time to time! I wish you many muses for the art quilt projects – I think getting into a sewing rhythm will help the ideas to crystallize. And, nice to read that TTQH will be camping out in the work room for a while! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. I read Big Magic! That is an awesome book! I listened to the audiobook read by the author.
      Thanks so much for your comments and I hope you do a post on your thoughts on Gilbert’s awesome book (I love her discussion of how ideas/inspiration float around person to person until they land on the person they were meant for!)

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  10. Oh, awesome! It must have been fun to have this great book read by Gilbert herself! I really enjoy her funny, whimsical, and honest style. She makes talking about fear kind of fun. ๐Ÿ™‚ That discussion of ideas looking for the right person is one of my favourite parts, too. It’s as if she’s saying, “don’t fret, your ideas are out there and on the way!”

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