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


Blogging for Quilters

The Invitation to Speak

I was invited to speak on Blogging for Art Quilters at our October SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) meeting, as the featured presenter.

In my “pay the bills” career in the health care industry, for the past 20+ years I have done numerous training and workshops for those in staff and in leadership positions. So my first thought when accepting the invitation to speak was: “No problem, I have done like a zillion presentations and I can give any group ‘Death by PowerPoint'”. 

I once even did a presentation for “the dead”. Or people I thought were dead (I mean a long time dead, they just hadn’t started to smell yet). I was the head of Medical Management for a Worker’s Compensation carrier and I had to do a presentation for the management group of a large retail organization.

When I got up to the podium and saw a sea of very blank and disengaged faces (basically they all looked “dead inside”), instead of having stage fright,  I thought “Screw it, I am going to have fun”!

I removed the microphone from the podium, walked into the glassy-eyed audience and began to work the crowd with my presentation like I was a nightclub act.  They suddenly came back to life and I had a blast (and maybe they did too) giving the presentation!

So I have little fear of public speaking as I have overcome some challenging audiences…that is, little fear in the health care industry

Fear Creeps In…

So our local SAQA group contains nationally and internationally known quilters, teachers, published book authors, and some seriously talented (like mind blowing-ly talented) art quilters. This was my first time ever presenting/speaking in the art quilting industry (I am usually thinking at each SAQA meeting “so what I am doing here with these people?”).

One of my friends in the health care industry said to me when I told her about the upcoming presentation: “Well Tierney, if you lose them you during your talk on blogging for art quilters, you could always start wowing them with your knowledge of medical cost management!”

Additionally I am no expert on blogging. I started in 2013 and I have been learning as I go and continually reading tips from other bloggers. My only saving grace was I knew I could put together a nice “Death by PowerPoint” for the group!

The Actual Speaking Engagement

The SAQA group was wonderful and it was easy to engage them, I had no need to be worried.

Highlights from my presentation “Blogging for Art Quilters”:

WHY BLOG? To have an online presence; to showcase your art; to connect with other quilters & artists; to connect with potential customers.


Kristin Shields ( introduced the group to an incredible website and blog option for art quilters: Square Space, This platform also allows artists to directly sell their art to customers (

WRTING BLOGGING CONTENT: Engage your readers and get them coming back with interesting posts, “cliff-hangers”, and ongoing series; learn the blog hosting platform’s tips to make navigate your site easy for readers; brainstorm on ideas for posts and keep a journal of ideas; find your own voice and be true to yourself.

BLOGGING ETIQUETTE: (adapted from Idiot’s Guide Blogging Rules & Etiquette): Respond to and appreciate your readers they took the time to read your posts and comment; stay away from “hard sales” and controversial topics (religion, politics, etc.) unless that is the purpose of your blog; respect copyright laws.

SPELL CHECKING IS IMPORTANT (okay so sometimes I fail at this…but it is still important…): A tip I use (or try to use) is to read aloud my posts before posting to see if they are close to resembling standard English usage!  (So Tierney, are you actually a “native English speaker” or did you just recently learn via online instruction?)

PUBLICATIONS: Before I started blogging or starting my tierneycreates Etsy shop I did a lot of reading. Here are some of my favorites and I thank all the wonderful authors who wrote either the books or articles I enjoyed!

•  Artful Blogging Magazine, Stampington

  • Blogging for Creatives: How Designers, Artists, Crafters and Writers Can Blog to Make Contacts, Win Business, and Build Success (Robin Houghton, 2012)
  • Writers Can Blog to Make Contacts, Win Business, and Build Success (Robin Houghton, 2012)
  • Blogging for Dummies (Susannah Gardner, 2011)
  • How to Sell Your Crafts Online(Derrick Sutton, 2011)
  • The Handmade Marketplace (Kari Chapin, 2010)
  • Grow Your Handmade Business (Kari Chapin, 2012)

The Real Reason I Blog

At the end of my presentation, I shared why personally I blog: Connection.

At first my blog was to be a vehicle to gain potential customers for my Etsy shop, but then it became more than that – it became a vehicle to connect with other individuals with shared interests and discover other blogger and their blogs.

I so appreciate my readers and I now follow many blogs myself (trying to keep up with them all as best I can).  I love reading the life adventures of other individuals and the experiences and lessons their share!

“Death by PowerPoint” – only 23 slides, I did not torture the audience too badly…

Resources, Resources, Resources!

A coworker recently asked me: “I would like to start a blog about my crafts, how do I do it…where do I start?”

I began with that same question a couple months ago before starting mine. To find the answers, I turned to my local library Deschutes Public Library. Since childhood, I have thought of the library as a magical place filled with ideas, inspirations, and imagination! All for free!!!

So a simple search for “blogging” on my library’s website  led to my borrowing the following wonderful books from my library:

  • Houghton, Robin. (2012). Blogging for creatives: how designers, artists, crafters and writers can blog to make contacts and win. Cincinnati, Ohio: How Books.
  • Frey, Tara. (2009). Blogging for bliss: crafting your own online journal: a guide for crafters, artists & creatives of all kinds. New York: Lark Books.
  • Gardner, Susannah. (2011). Blogging for Dummies. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley

After looking through these resources, and checking out the various blog sites, I decided to go with WordPress. Then I looked for free WordPress specific resources. I did a search on the iTunes App Store and discovered a free “learning WordPress” app for the iPad. The WordPress site itself offers excellent free tutorials for new users, so I went through most of those.  I found WordPress to be fairly user friendly with a short learning curve. Several things were intimidating at first – like which free blog page design to select but WordPress let’s you experiment with many and change your format.

When it came time to start up my Etsy shop (my next step after getting my blog established) I turned to the library again and found excellent resources on starting an online craft business. My favorites were:

  • Sutton, Derrik. (2011). How to sell your crafts online: a step-by-step guide to successful sales on Etsy and beyond. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.
  • Gatski, Kate. (2013). Starting an Etsy business for dummies. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley
  • Turner, Marcia Layton, (2013).  The complete idiot’s guide to selling your crafts on Etsy. Indianapolis, IN: Alpha.  (This book was such an excellent resource, that I bought the kindle version on so I could always have access to it on my iPad.)

I also wandered the shelves at the library in the craft book section and came upon these wonderful books:

  • Chapin, Kari. (2010). The handmade marketplace. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub.
  • Chapin, Kari. (2012). Grow your handmade business: how to envision, develop, and sustain a successful creative business. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub.

I live in a smallish-medium size town and if you live in a larger town/metropolitan area, your library may have even more wonderful resources. All free! You can buy the books you want to keep as ongoing resources later, but you can start your research with no investment, except your time to browse!   Enjoy the resources, resources, resources!