So far, I can proudly say that I have been sticking to my goals of working for an hour and reading for 30 minutes a day!
I haven't made near the progress that I thought that I was going to make, but I think that I underestimated just how time intensive what I wanted to do was. My goals for January were to make 1 quilt top, create one collage piece, and experiment with sewing a shift dress. But, I realized the other day while I was working that those might be lofty goals for someone dedicating only an hour's worth of work a day to those projects and I think that I am going to have to make this bi-monthly.
Also, in order to hold myself accountable for meeting these goals, I have decided to keep a journal about what I do each day and some more general thoughts. I am going to transcribe them below. They may be interesting, they may not be, but at least they will all be in one spot.
Monday, Jan 8
Not feeling well. Read 30 minutes in "Green: A History of a Color" by Michel Pastoreau. Worked for an hour on quilt top. That's all I could manage today. Need to work on fixing my sewing machine. It's skipping stitches.
Tuesday, Jan 9
Feeling better. Read 30 minutes in "Green". It is interesting, but reads so much like "Red" that it's kind of frustrating. Worked for 1 hour on quilt top. Nearly halfway done. Need to work on collage piece I am calling "Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide".
Wednesday, Jan 10
Finally took a picture to use as reference for "Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide". Planned out a whole series of portraits with special symbols (crow, rose, egg). I'm kind of starting in the middle of my plan, but oh well. Cut out the rest of my white squares for my quilt top. Started on the navy squares, but I am about 1/4 yd too short. Washed more fabric for dyeing, which will have to wait for Monday. Did not read.
Thursday, Jan 11
Read 30 minutes in Hyperallergic's "Required Reading", since I didn't read yesterday. Printed out some crow reference images for "LYCBYG". Hope to have a final sketch tomorrow. Read another 30 minutes in "Green". Did not do any sewing. Just too tired. Will make up the time on Monday.
Friday, Jan 12
Worked on the sketch for "LYCBYG". I keep second guessing myself so I feel like I made no progress. I will continue on Monday. Read articles for 30 minutes.
Saturday, Jan 13
Did not work today. Spent the day with the boyfriend. Will make up the time on Monday since I have off. Did not read.
Sunday, Jan 14
Did not work today. Spent the day with the boyfriend and with my parents. Will make up the time tomorrow. Read for an hour and a half in "Green" to make up time. Technically, I over-read my daily goals and would not have to read tomorrow, but I still will. I am ready to finish this book.
Monday, Jan 15
Need to work for 4 hours today to make up time. Finished cutting up the blue fabric I have. Still need 11 more squares. Put more fabric in a dye bath. Beginning to think my goals are going to have to be 2 month goals. It's just a lot of work. Read 30 minutes in "Green". Working on drawing my sewing lines on quilt pieces. I mark and pin until I run out of pins and then repeat the process. Sewed 2 rows of the quilt together. I really struggle with this part. Had to take out stitching and resew several seams. Need to find a way to approach it differently. Thinking about how much time I've spent on the quilt compared to "LYCBYG". Thinking I'm going to alternate days to get it to be more equitable.
Before I left school for winter break, I finally finished the quilt that I have been working on. I think it turned out wonderfully and the person who asked me to make it, loved it.
Sorry the pictures are so terrible, but it is hard to photograph something so large flat and I had no place to hang it.
I am so proud of myself.
Now on to other things.
It's a new year, and I know that I say this every year, but I have big plans. I want to get back into making work and I am tired of making excuses for why I don't. One of my goals for this year (I'm not going to call it a resolution because I don't make those) is to work for an hour a day on anything at all: another quilt, a show piece, whatever. Just to get back into the swing of making things. Ideally I would like to do one piece a month, so I can start exhibiting again by March or April.
My other goals for the year are to read at least 30 minutes a day and to not take crap from anyone anymore. That may sound a little negative, but I realized after talking to my hair dresser the other week that at a certain point you just have to stand up for yourself. Be gracious, but make sure that you let them know how its going to be so you can live your life the way you want.
I thought it was good advice.
In other news, my plan was to get to work on my in progress piece "Fly Away Home" over the break. But, I have shelved that project for now. At least temporarily. I keep changing my mind on what I want to do with it, and even though I still like the idea, I'm too indecisive and I think I need to move on to something I am more decisive about.
I am planning on doing another self portrait, but I think that I am going to focus on very detailed embroidery. More information will come next post.
I turned 29 last week.
And thus began the last year of my 20's. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing, and the fact I will turning 30 next year is already weighing heavily on my mind.
As birthdays go, it was kind of underwhelming. Nothing special happened. That's the way it goes the older you get. But, it may sound selfish, I was kind of peeved that nobody seemed to to care. Most of the well wishes came through Facebook (which I find to be incredibly impersonal) and my dad didn't even call.
It didn't help either that I had to work. At this point in the semester, I just want to be done and try and just get from day to day. The kids were on my nerves and all I wanted to do was take an hour to myself and enjoy it, but when you live an hour away from where you work, and you work with kids, you don't get that.
Next year I'm taking off.
And by the time I got home and made dinner and showered, the day was over. Another one for the history books.
On a more positive note, the fact that the last year of my 20's has begun was a little bit motivating. There is a lot that I would like to accomplish in the next year to make it not seem like I totally wasted the last decade. I want to get back in the groove of producing work, and I want to sew some things for myself. I want to find another job and move and try to make a house a home. I want to travel and enjoy my life.
I feel like those are very lofty goals.
But I am desperately going to try.
I was able to meet my deadline and have the quilt finished by last Tuesday!
I was really worried for a little while that I was not going to make it. I spent all of the day on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Friday afterwards working, but did not manage to meet my daily goals. Part of it was that I was thoroughly exhausted and hit a point where I just could not physically sew anymore. That doesn't happen very often, by the way. But I was able to pull through and have it done that Sunday. So now it's off to my boyfriend's mom to quilt and when I get it back, I just have to do the binding.
I'll take pictures when the whole thing is finished.
I am tired. Every part of my being is tired: my mind, my heart, my spirit. I took a break from sewing for a couple of days last week to rest and relax when I got home from work, but it didn't do much good. I've been living off of caffeine and ibuprofen because I haven't been able to sleep well (Advil PM is my new best friend) and I've had massive headaches. I know it's from stress and I am so glad there are two weeks of school left so I can finally, hopefully get a break.
With the few brief moments I've had to think, I've been thinking about the revamp of my work in progress Fly Away Home. I've decided to go with an indigo and white color palette, and I have decided to embroider on top of the quilting. I've been really inspired lately by the ceramic work of Sonia Pulido and Red Weldon Sandlin and it's helping to influence my design decisions.
I'm hoping to refine the template I made for my house and start dyeing fabric in the coming weeks. That's probably all I will have time for before Christmas break, but it's a start.
My quilting adventures continue.
I am really in a groove now and producing the quilt blocks I need very quickly.
I really love the colors too.
I've been working on some quilt blocks for the wall and an actual quilt. The ones for the wall are mostly done. There is just one that is giving me fits. I think it is because one of the fabrics is a different weight than the rest and its stretching when I sew it. That block is going to have to be redone again (I've already done it twice), but I think this time I am going to starch the pieces and attach them to freezer paper to help keep them in place. This last one is going to have to wait though. I am on a strict deadline to get the quilt top done. It has to be complete by next Tuesday because my boyfriend's mom is going to do the actual quilting for me to save time. But the pieces have to be ready to go with him next Tuesday.
What's next after this? Back to the other quilt piece that I had started planning out back in August. I've done some thinking, even though I haven't been working, and I think that I am going to change it from a wall hanging to a sculptural piece. The basic shape will be a house, and I am toying with the idea of adding embroidery, but I haven't quite decided yet. The mock up for the house is complete, now I just have to decide how large the quilt squares are going to be. I am also thinking about changing the colors from black, white, and gray to indigo and white, although I haven't made up my mind about that yet or not either.
All of those decisions can be made later, because I don't think I will get to it before Christmas break, which is less than a month away. I am incredibly excited about that, and I think I can make it through the rest of the semester without completely losing my mind. I've been so stressed lately. I just have a lot that needs to be done and what feels like no time to get it done in.
In addition to being able to work on my own things, I'm also looking forward to being able to do some work around the house. I have several projects that are in need of my attention and I'm aching to get to them. I've been struggling to make my apartment to feel like some place I want to be, but I've finally figured out what I want and I just need the time to get it done.
I want to start by saying that I feel the more accomplished than I have in a while!
One of my co-workers asked me to make a baby quilt for her and even though I have relatively little experience with quilting, I agreed. What's nice about it is that I have a strict deadline of before Christmas break, so it has been forcing me to work a little each day in order to stay on task. I mentioned an entry or two ago that I wanted to start working an hour a week, but I've been forcing myself to work an hour a day and I must say I am enjoying this feeling.
I feel a lot more productive and seeing things come together has done wonders for my motivation. So, I am going to try and keep it going. It's also good practice for what I'm planning to do in my own work.
And that leads me to into how much of an adventure this has been.
I did some very basic quilting and piecing when I was in college. I mean very basic. And I wasn't particularly good at it. I struggle with cutting and sewing straight lines, despite my best attempts to use all kinds of rulers and cutting boards to ensure my lines are straight. So, even if the pieces were straight when they were cut out, they always ended up stitched together in all kinds of wonky ways. For most of what I do, this doesn't really matter (although I'm a little embarrassed to admit it).
But for this, it does. I spent way too much time this past weekend googling quilting, how to make sure your pieces are square, tricks of the trade, etc. It made me feel like a complete novice, researching such basic things, but it was helpful.
That, and I've been super careful when sewing and pinning: almost obnoxiously so. But, I've gotten about 3/4 the way through one block, and there is only one line that is slightly misaligned. It won't take me much to fix it either.
I am surprised and excited that things are going so well.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have been trying to find the time and the energy to make my own work since I graduated and started teaching public school.
I once read somewhere that it takes 3-5 years after graduation for artists to get their act together. I couldn't agree more. That struggle can be painful and demoralizing at times. There you are, having spent more money than you have ever spent in your life to earn a piece of paper with grand dreams of making work and having that work recognized in some fashion, and all of a sudden you find yourself with nothing.
I bring it up because I was deep in thought on the way home yesterday. In fact, it was one of those times where I am not even sure how I made it the hour home. My Art Club decided that they wanted to sponsor a school wide art competition. I am the only arts teacher with over 400 students to serve, and I can't (and don't) reach everyone the way that I would like to. But they wanted to get everyone involved in the art making process, so I let them run with it.
The theme was "black hole" and everyone, grades 6-12 were invited to make a work of art based on that theme. They could interpret it however they wanted, and could use whatever materials they wanted. While I only had 5 submissions, over 100 people voted, and I must say that I was thoroughly impressed with that.
But I was thinking about why I couldn't participate myself. Of course my work wouldn't be counted in the voting, but it would get me thinking and making and it would be good for those hard core students of mine to see my work. Plus, why should I ask them to do something when I'm not even doing it myself?
So I think I am going to try. I've been too busy to actually get work done on the quilt piece I want to make (that's going to have to wait until Christmas break unfortunately), but I could find time throughout the day to work on a piece that is "school-related". I'm a little late to the black hole party, but I still have time before the spring competition. So, why not?
So, I wasn't able to get done the last couple of weeks what I wanted to get done.
I was asked to make some decorations for the Homecoming Dance this weekend, and every free moment of my life the past two weeks has been consumed by that. But, it has kind of been a good thing, even though I am tired of looking at paper logs and leaves.
Having a firm deadline and an enormous task to complete has made me realize just how much I miss getting to do my own work. All through art school, I worked furiously to meet deadlines. Hell, the day before my thesis show, I still had roughly 100 portraits to finish and mount. Even though it was incredibly stressful, it was extremely gratifying and made me feel like I was accomplishing something with my life.
I miss it. I have been so stressed lately, but this one thing has kept me going. I've found myself thinking lately about what it would take to quit my job and just work on my art full time, even if I can't make a living by doing it. It is so very tempting.
I think to help me out a little bit, I am going to force myself to work, even if just for an hour to get things done. I think it will help ease some of my stress and help me not feel like an utter failure.
I'm so proud of myself. I actually did most of the sampling that I said I was going to do a couple of weeks ago!
My major focus was to experiment with different ways of joining my "quilt" blocks together. I don't want to use a traditional method of quilting, since I don't want to have to add a batting and a backing. Therefore, my seams have to appear finished from the back.
The first sample that I did was of a traditional method.
Mainly I did this one to get the hang of joining blocks together. I've never actually quilted anything. I've only ever done a couple of log cabin style samples for a fabric construction course I took once upon a time. The seams were not as visible from the front as I thought they would be (laminated paper can sometimes be quite transparent), but I am still going to rule out this option for the same reasons mentioned above.
For the second sample, I flat felled my seams after sewing them together. I like this method because my seams are finished and you can see a little bit of the stitching on the front (I thought this was an interesting detail). However, I don't like this method because not all of the seams will be able to go the same way, which means some square will visually look smaller than others. For this reason, I am ruling it out.
The third sample I did used the same method of stitching as traditional Korean pojagi, which is similar to sewing a French seam. I like this method because you can see the stitching on the front and the seams are distributed equally. However, because it was new technique, it took me a while to get the hang of it and there were some challenges with this method of construction. First, since the stitches are visible on the front and the back, they have to be very even, very neat, and you can't pull the stitches tight or it will pucker and the seams won't lie flat. After I did this sample, I wasn't ready to commit to this technique quite yet, so I did a couple more.
For the next sample, I painted the squares first with watercolor. If you read my last post, you know that I had not committed to a method of adding color to my materials. I knew I wouldn't be able to use dye since the laminated paper doesn't hold up well with the harshness of that process. I was fairly sure I wanted to use watercolors, but I was also toying with the idea of using acrylics. I decided to sample the watercolors first since I was almost certain that's what I wanted to use. I'm glad I did because I essentially ruled them out. No matter how many samples I did, I could not get the grays I wanted. They just kept coming out too blue.
This sample also uses the same method of stitching as the last one, but here I used a contrasting thread color. From what I've read, this is pretty common with pojagi, so I figured "why not?". I couldn't find my true red thread (go figure because I think I have every color), so I settled on this burgundy. I like the idea of the contrasting stitches, but I really need to work on my stitching if I'm going to make it a part of the piece.
Then I got a little frustrated with the pojagi style stitches. It was just not doing what I wanted it to do, I was still struggling with pulling the stitches too tight, and I was still mad that I couldn't find my thread. So I sewed the seams normally and then whipped down each side of the seam. Okay, the seams are evenly distributed, they are finished, and you can see the stitches on the front. But, it just seemed like so much extra work. So, I ruled this one out too.
By this time, I settled on the pojagi method. It was going to do what I wanted and look how I wanted, I would just need to do more samples (and get different red thread) to perfect my stitching before I actually start in on the piece. For this last sample, I was also experimenting with color, but this time I was using very watered down acrylic. I had to compromise some of the transparency, but I am much happier with the color. And my stitching is getting better!
These next couple weeks I want to continue my sampling. I need to go buy some more acrylic and I want to experiment with making textures on the paper (with tissue paper?). I have some sample blocks drawn out that I want to play around and make sure that when I sew them together they are square.
I also need to go ahead and make my paper and order materials if I need them. Like I said a couple of weeks ago, I am fairly sure that I will not have enough organza for the entire piece.
I'm feeling a little more motivated and productive, so hopefully this will get done quickly. I think once I get all of my sampling done, my goal will be to sew at least one square together a day.
I've been busy, but I did manage to get a little bit of work done over the past week.
This piece is based on the flying geese quilts that I love so much. Called "Fly Away Home", each of the geese is supposed to symbolize me heading towards the idea of 'home'. Therein lies the problem.
I feel like I don't know what 'home' is or where it is. Initially, all of the 'geese' were supposed to point in the same direction, but now I feel like I need to change that in order to convey that uneasiness. I sketched a small sample where the columns alternate and upward and downward direction, but I have already cut each block out of paper and drawn it out, and that seems like it would take a lot of time and effort to change, especially since I want the 'geese' to kind of line up.
So now I'm thinking that I might break this piece down into three pieces and have the first one point up, the second one point to the sides, and the last one point down. I think I would achieve the effect and reduce the amount of time I'd have to spend drawing out two separate additional pieces or changing this one.
This week I want to play with how I want to put this piece together and what materials I want to use. I know that I do not want to stitch the blocks together with traditional quilting techniques because I don't want to have to add batting and backing. I want the piece to be semi-transparent and convey a sense of lightness. I think that I want to experiment with the traditional way of sewing Korean pojagi, because then all my seams will be contained and finished neatly.
I also want to play with how I am going to add colors. I know I want it to have a monochromatic black, white, and gray color scheme and I'm thinking I'm going to use watercolors to add color. I've done a lot of dye samples recently, but I know that the silk laminated paper cannot stand up to the dye process very well. I also toyed around with using acrylics, but I think that will also take away from that sense of transparency.
If all goes well, and I find the time (and motivation) to get those samples done, I want to go ahead and start laminating the paper for this project. I am almost positive that I do not have enough organza to complete this. If I'm remembering correctly, I have a yard or so and some scraps left. If that is going to be the case, I want to go ahead and get it ordered so I'm not waiting too long on materials. I'll need it for other plans as well.