Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Thoughtful

This is something I've been giving a lot of thought lately. Why I make quilts, why it's so important to me. And why other people have the same strange obsession as I do.

Some of my very favorite quilters out there quilt (what I consider) mindfully - they have amazing ideas and express them in the art-form that is quilting. Each quilt is loaded with meaning and significance, and they write amazingly thoughtful posts about their process and what the quilt is all about. I find these kinds of posts enormously rewarding to read, and end up hugely inspired and awed by the depth of thought they put into their work. As cliche as it sounds, they put so much of themselves into their work. And I end up wanting to grow up to be just like them. 

I think I struggle with the fact that I really don't do this at all - aside from Sunshine Through the Rain, I really don't put any meaning into my quilts. Yes, I feel an immense amount of joy when making quilts, but for me quilting is all about colour and geometry. To put it simply, I love making beautiful things and playing with colour. I am far more inspired by colour and geometry, and creating interesting designs using these elements, than by anything else. More often than not, I will be inspired to create a quilt using a particular quilt block, and to see what patterns emerge with different colour or value placement. Or be inspired by a particular combination of colours - I rarely use the same palette twice, and really love experimenting with different combinations of colours. That said, there is very little depth of meaning to my quilts beyond what you see. 

I guess I'm writing this post because I had a bit of an epiphany today. For a long time I've felt a bit strange that I don't quilt mindfully - not bad or guilty or anything, more that I wish I was a mindful quilter. I guess envious is the best description. But I was looking at some of my quilts today, and decided it doesn't really matter. I love that other people put loads of thought into their work, but it's okay to just make pretty things. I make what I love, and have fun doing it which is what it is all about (to me anyway.)   

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you quilt mindfully, or do you just make beautiful things? Do you think it's better to be a mindful quilter? Does it matter why you quilt, as long as it makes you happy?

xx Jess



32 comments:

SilverCat said...

I find quilts a great way of expressing my love of maths. Mostly my passions are creative and I don't use a lot of maths so quilting gives me a way to combine the two. As such I really enjoy designing my own quilts and working out dimensions etc. I like to think my quilts are an expression of my love for creativity and maths, if that makes sense?

Jess @ Scrappy n Happy said...

I think doing anything because it makes you happy is the whole point of having a hobby...everybody finds different aspects enjoyable, if that makes sense. I usually create out of necessity, if I think someone needs or would appreciate a quilt I make it with that person in mind, same with bags or softies....everything usually has a home to go to by the time I am finished making it!

Catherine said...

I think you always have to do your own thing! If you do what makes you happy, you'll produce things that you love. You can admire other people's work - many times I'm blown away by a quilt I would never have made whether it's just beautiful to look at, or thought provoking, but you don't have to be like anyone else. I'm still at the "trying things out" stage, but you are lucky to have found your creative voice, and I love your work:-)

Dianne Neale said...

Well there's no right or wrong is there? I make quilts because I enjoy the process - touching the fabrics, smelling them, sewing, pressing seams, hand sewing the binding. I love it all. I'm not a designer, so I like to follow other peoples patterns. I sometimes question whether this is creative, but at the end of it, I've created something beautiful, by hand so I guess that must be creative!

Dianne Neale said...

Well there's no right or wrong is there? I make quilts because I enjoy the process - touching the fabrics, smelling them, sewing, pressing seams, hand sewing the binding. I love it all. I'm not a designer, so I like to follow other peoples patterns. I sometimes question whether this is creative, but at the end of it, I've created something beautiful, by hand so I guess that must be creative!

Charlotte said...

I am glad you had that epiphany. Creating means different things to different people. My epiphany came when I went to QuiltCon - I was expecting to feel inspired to make a million things, but what happened was that I wanted to make less. I use quilting as a way to express myself (somewhat illiterately). If I could draw or paint I would probably do that instead, but somehow I work better with fabric. I think you make beautiful quilts and there doesn't need to be any other "reason" for it than that it gives you joy.

Wendy said...

I'm definitely in the making something pretty camp. I admire those who can make quilts or other textile-related objects that have meaning. Some do it very well but with a lot of them, I can't help looking at the finishing object and really not getting the meaning. I think it's up to the individual and there's definitely nothing wrong with quilting pretty things as opposed to being "an artist", the only problem I have is those artists looking down on quilters.

Michele Minehart said...

I am a new quilter and haven't quite found my voice yet. I also love reading the blogs of "mindful" quilters but I love that you have the clarity to see that quilting is simply a beautiful art on its own. Thanks for having the courage to speak up and say so!

dutchcomfort said...

Having a kind of artistic background as a graphic designer I often wondered why I would settle for making quilts from other people’s patterns.
As this idea kept on nagging me, I became a member of an art quilt group. I felt comfortable with the design process but not with translating my ideas into fabric and making so-called art quilts. Now I’m glad I did, as it has been an eye opener for me. After two years I called it a day and was really happy to go back to why I started quilting in the first place. To have a hobby that kept me sane, to enjoy the process of making a quilt, to learn new techniques, to choose a pattern and to play with colours and fabrics.
I hope you will stay true to yourself and continue to make what you love!

Karin said...

I spend hours pouring over pinterest until a quilt just "speaks" to me - I've found most of my quilts that way. I have the recipient in mind and eventually I just see the perfect project for them. I've only designed one quilt myself (a sampler), which I intended to give away, but is currently snuggled up in my bed so that's not happening! I just love making stuff, I'm not a designer, and for now I don't care.

needle and nest said...

This is a great post, because I think it really shows how each of us has our strengths in the quilty world, and that those different strengths are what makes the quilting community so vibrant. I'd be willing to bet that there are lots of quilters out there (like myself) to whom color, value and geometry don't come naturally. Those things are all very important parts of the quilting process, and without them quilts wouldn't be quilts!

I don't know what camp I fall in, I just like to make quilts. I don't use patterns, I choose colors on a whim based on what I think looks good, and I try to make things that the recipient will like. But I do admire quilters like you! You have a wonderful talent and should be very proud of your abilities.

xoxo

Renee said...

Every once in a while I quilt, as you call mindfully. They're quilts that come from raw emotions and NEED to be made. But a lot of my quilts come from an interest to see colors and patterns come together, to test out an idea or try a design. Both processes are quite rewarding and fun though, and that's good enough for me.

Chantal Thibodeau said...

I feel the same as you. I completely love quilting, but without giving it a passionate and deep artistic tought about it. I usually do quilt for a specific people in mind, stressing about the pattern, the fabric and the color choices. I defined myself as a crafter and not as an artist. And that is prefect (but envy still hides somewhere sometimes).

Rachel said...

What stands out the most for me is that you said quilting makes you happy! Do what you love! That's what matters most.

Jessica said...

Either or for me. Things end up meaningful in the end, often. Sometimes it's just fun to try something new. :)

knottygnome said...

i'm like you. i like to make things that are pretty and colorful. it makes me happy. i don't typically infuse my quilts with meaning and to be honest i find that sort of thing rather pretentious most of the time. to me there is nothing wrong with making something in order to bring beauty into the world.

Katy Cameron said...

I'm a bit tired after travelling halfway round the world, but, um, I just make shit ;o) Sometimes a quilt design has come to me in a fever induced illusion, but I'm not sure that counts as thought really lol

Gayle Fahrion said...

I am a bit floored when the people who insist on flaunting their individuality are also the same people who chastise and belittle others when they choose to express themselves through other means of motivation. What is wrong with having a big tent mentality. There is room for all. It would be an awfully uncomfortable world if all babies had to cuddle in socially motivated quilts. Can't you just picture the depressing baby pics.

Lucy @ Charm About You said...

Whatever makes you happy! My favourite quilts are the ones I've poured myself into, though I'm still finding my groove and am happier with the things I'm making as I learn more about my aesthetic. You pour yourself into your patterns and design, construction and quilting. Maybe what is 'you' about something is about the geometry and trying something different. Hope that makes sense and take it as a compliment because I can't do what you do!!

Willit Neverend said...

I never really thought about it it until now. I didn't realise you weren't a 'mindful' quilter and I didn't even think about what kind of quilter I am. I just like looking at what other people make, and either I like it or I don't. In your case I like it, that's why I follow your blog.

I have only made 3 quilts. I suppose I would call them mindful quilts, but 2 out of three of them turned out pretty ugly. I'm pretty sure that most quilt receipients would prefer a pretty quilt to a mindful one :)

Lynne Tilley said...

I admit to being envious of the creative quilters who come up with patterns, but I am like you! I just enjoy the process and the outcome. It makes me happy to just make a quilt.

Farm Quilter said...

I started quilting because I was bored being retired in my early 50s and needed something to keep my sanity! I began by making a quilt for my new granddaughter, then making wedding quilts for all my daughters. Nine months after piecing my first quilt, I bought a longarm and found my new love! Since then I have pieced quilts so I can have something to quilt when I am not busy with customer quilts. Now I get maybe one quilt a year of mine quilted and they are always gifts for someone!! I enjoy making something pretty and I don't think that there needs to be any other reason to make a quilt!

One Wee Bird said...

For meit's a mixture of both which is probably why I have so many quilts on the go at one time.
Some are just to try out an idea or get a current obsession out of my head and into fabric form others it's purely colour play with new lines or stashed bundles that suddenly need to become quilts...so fun and frivolous then sometimes all get pushed aside for a quickly needed gift.
Any excuse really LOL whatever makes you happy I say!

Dianne said...

You create beauty. It makes you happy, brings joy to your life and satisfies your creative side. Does it really matter what your motivation is? We all have a path. Yours is the one it is best for you to walk and is the very best way for you to let your light shine.

CitricSugar said...

The best thing is to get what you need out of it. If it's learning a new technique, playing with colour, representing an idea, sharing, or simply unwinding and enjoying your time at the machine, then it's worth it. Some quilt for money, some for love, some to avoid homicidal rages, and some for fun. All valid.

Each thing we make, too, has its own agenda. Some things want to be important on their own, some important to us alone and some make you want to tear your own hair out or break your sewing machine needles and stab you in the fingers. The projects tend to choose which one of these things they'll be.

Bottom line: If you like what you're doing, keep on keepin' on! More power to ya, sister. :-)

annieb said...

It's so individual....

This may sound silly, but our pets have added so much to our lives. I have made a twin size bed quilt, with each of them in mind, and dedicated the quilt to them. They use them sometimes but, we do too when we are lying on the couch while watching TV or taking a snooze.

On a bigger note, I just reviewed this book on my blog, and there is a chapter about that. It also comes up in other chapters in a more informal way. "Quilting with a Modern Slant; People, patters, and techniques inspiring the Modern Quilt Community," by Rachel May. Great book.

Anne

Rachel said...

I have thought about this topic too, and my take on this is that for me quilting is still in a hobby stage so I do what feels fun and exciting to do. I don't have to worry about the consequences of it. However if my livelihood depended on quilting my take on it would be very different. I would be way more focused and doing all the things that otherwise I wouldn't want to.

Annabella said...

I really enjoy the process and wonder at people who want to finish as soon as possible to get on to the next project lol. I just want to create something 'beautiful' and colourful. No deeper than that.

Erica said...

I agree that it doesn't really matter. We all quilt for different reasons and with different inspiration. Maybe there will be quilts that we will make mindfully, but there is nothing wrong with making pretty things!

Joanne said...

You have many thoughtful replies to your original thoughts. I am not a designer and I use a 60 year old machine for my quilting but I sure think about my quilts and quilting them. How to use colour, how to piece as accurately as possible, how to quilt the design using what I have available. As long as I continue to enjoy the process I will keep at it. I hope you continue to use your artistic gifts. The results bring much joy. Joanne

Aoife said...

I'm still tinkering with what I like best quilting-wise. I've found that I'm not very good at staying happy while following patterns, I'm finding I prefer to come up with an idea and see if I can find a way to make it happen.

It's funny, I started quilting after 25 straight years of learning at various levels, my brain was completely sick of having to think. But I've spent the last two years teaching myself to quilt - I guess it's different when there's no-one telling you the right way to do something. Or at least, I've steadily ignored those people and just made my own mistakes. I'm fierce stubborn.

I love reading the mindful quilters too, but I love to get inspired by both the pretty and the mindful. And up till now, I think I've not managed to come up with one idea for a 'mindful quilt'. I'm just happy doing things my way, and getting to see you do things yours!

ipatchandquilt said...

Not every piece of art has to have a deeper meaning. Art can be about pattern and colour. Just look at the impressionist painters; they strived to catch the light of that particular moment, no deeper symbolism, hidden meanings or such. Or for a modern example: the "minimal art" is about ( sometimes ) repeated basic shapes, colour, structure yes they have a thought behind them, but not like a hidden emotion or nostalgic story. Art comes in every shape and form, hidden meaning, or not!
Esther