Tag Archive for contemprary art quilts

Silencing Your Inner Critic

Nancy Smeltzer,art quilter and fiber artistI don’t know about you, but when I first started out in making art quilts as my way of expressing my creativity, I had a chorus of naysayers going off in my head. “That’s not good enough!”, “You’re never going to get in a show!”, “Who do you think you are trying to compete with X?” were some of the more popular tapes that played on and on in my head. I describe this onslaught of negativity as the “itty, bitty, shitty committee”. Don’t you just love that name? Go ahead; borrow it; I did.

However, what I came to realize through my spiritual work, is that these voices are of my own creation. These inner critics may have kept me safe when I was little, but playing small doesn’t feel very comfortable to me as an adult. I don’t need validation from a peer group any more like I did in high school. During that time in my life, it was hard enough just to survive the pressures placed on me. Now, I am comfortable in my own skin, so for the most part, those critics have been silenced.

Now, how did she do that, you might be asking? For me, it was through healing a specific pre-natal event in the spiritual work that I do that the voices were turned off. I had no idea the cacophony of self-doubt that was going off in my head until those voices were silent. However, if you don’t have a similar method in your own process, some self-examination can go a long ways towards giving you courage to put you and your art work out there in the public.

What are your own special strengths with regard to your own art form? Listen to what people repeatedly say about your work? For me, it was “Look at all of those little tiny beads!” and “How long does it take you to finish your work?” are some of the frequent comments that I hear. At first, I was a little insulted, as I wanted to be known as an ARTIST, and not the technician that I felt that those remarks implied. However, if you keep hearing the same responses over and over, then there must be a message there for you with regard as to how you’re being perceived. Then, capitalize on those aspects! I frequently interject that 1 square inch of heavy beading with size 10 beads is one hour’s work. People are impressed that in this day of planned obsolescence, someone would take that much time in the creation of a work of art. After reviewing my list, which at first took a while to generate, I could start the self-dialogue and say… “OK”, I thought, “I’m not a total loser!”

Now, look at what you feel are your weaknesses. which for me were the strongest voices. For me, one would be that it takes so long to finish a piece, (4-6 months for some of the larger ones), and thus I have to charge quite a lot to make the work economically viable. Now try and re-frame that perceived weakness as the positive, flip side of the two sided coin of your perceptions. Taking too long became look how long it takes to complete one of my art quilts, and how rare it is today to find someone who still does handwork with that much detail. This method of re-framing has worked well for me in how I present myself to others, and how I feel about myself and my work. It also keep the little inner chorus muffled when they try to resurface.

I would invite yourself to explore why those voices are still going off in your head. What are you trying to protect yourself from? In the spiritual healing work that I do with my clients, I find that no matter what the presenting symptom might be, there’s usually an underlying fear buried, perhaps many, many layers down. Here is when a peer review, a support group, or a trusted mentor can go a long way in helping to unearth those blind spots around ourselves that we all have. What may be totally out of your own awareness may be blatantly obvious to someone else. Blind spots aren’t called “vaguely fuzzy spots”. When it’s one of your core issues, I find that I’m incredibly good at keeping that aspect of myself “blind” to me.

So here’s to silencing that chorus in your head that’s keeping you from moving forward in your personal endeavors. I experienced such relief when my mind went silent. What had been there before was the constant drone of conversations that occasionally I would be aware of. I invite you to find your own path to do the same and live your artistic life the way you were intended to be, free and with a heart wide open.

What methods have worked for you to silence your inner critic?How do you feel that you’re being held back by your inner naysayers and what insights do you now have with regard to their nagging voices?

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute, fill out the form by clicking on the “comments/no comments link” at the top of the posting, and then share your ideas with the rest of us. We all grow when we share our thoughts and impressions, so why not join our growing community of those who appreciate art quilts and textile arts. We’d love to hear from you!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com

Lace is the Place

Lace is such an intricate fabric with a complicated structure. Originally, it was limited to ecclesiastical vestments and clothing for royalty because of the labor involved in its construction. Now, with much of it being made on machines, it is much more readily available for fiber artists to use in their work. For my art quilts, there are a number of lace pieces that I’ve used over the years.

Lace that simulates grape clustersLace circles used for clouds and filler circles on art quiltsHere are two examples of very different types of lace. The gold and navy version on the left may have originally been meant to be pebbles, but I’ve used it as grape clusters a number of times. It does need to be used against a plain, contrasting background, as the threads that make up the circles are thin, and would be lost against a print base fabric. In contrast, the white circles on the right are a much heavier weight thread. By carefully cutting away the connecting links between the circles, I have used them as clouds many times. Since my work has a lot of circles in the design elements, such as buttons,beads, and other acquisitions, I also sometimes slip one of these white circles partially behind another motif that doesn’t have enough contrast between itself and the fabric next to it. The white circle acts as a buffer between the two, creating a bridge between the other two motifs so that two similar colors or prints can be read as being separate from a distance.

Lace fans as a design element in an art quiltPart of the fun for me in choosing embellishments for my art quilts is really looking at the shapes of my materials and using them in different ways. The white lace finger projections sticking out from behind motifs in this detail shot were originally petals from a lace flower design. However, I felt they could be re-used as clouds in this composition, especially since the nearby green leaves, pulled from a silk flower fern, had similarly shaped lobed edges. They both serve to give a subtle, soft dreamy quality to the overall look of this art quilt.

Lace embellished with sequins used in an art quiltIn the middle left of this detail shot is a heavily sequined flower motif cut from some very expensive lace. For me, I felt it would make great, shiny clouds, so that was how iI used it. When I’m buying lace fabric, I’m looking for yardage that has individual motifs that are separate from each other and can be easily cut away from the rest. I then count how many motifs / yd or m and then figure out a cost/unit. If it comes out at around $1-2 US, then I go for the expenditure. In this photo, you can also see some of the white lace circles that were mentioned at the beginning of the article. Here, I wanted the white circle at the bottom middle to make a plain, flat transition from the ornate sequined surface to the flatter appearing, gold lame around it.

Blue lace drop motif filled in with seed beads in an art quiltThe photo on the left is almost life size and I draw your attention to the blue filigree that takes up most of the central area. Those blue lines are the thick threads in a length of lace motifs. Sometimes, lace, instead of being sold as yardage, is created as lengths of individual motifs so that you can add a row on clothing. This particular lace was made of lengths of wide “rain drop” shapes about 2.5″W (6.5 cm) X 3.5″ T (9 cm). The spaces in between were wide enough to fill in with various lengths of size 10 seed beads, ranging from 2-6 beads in length. I quickly tired of filling in all the spaces, but persevered, and love the subtle texture differences between the lace threads and the glass beads.

Heavily edged lace fabric motifs for use in an art quiltHere is another lace fabric with the heavily edged motifs that I like to use as there is enough space in the ground fabric that I can separate the individual pieces and use them where I want. Below is a detail of one of these motifs used in an undersea scene.

Heavily edged lace fabric motif used in an art quilt

For me, the motif used in this context, has the feel of fan coral, or perhaps wide sea weed fronds waving in the currents. While I’m not sure there are blue seaweeds, (I know there is blue-green algae), as an artist, you get to pick the colors of how you want to depict your worlds. For me, that’s half the fun of what I create, as the scenes can be “real”, from my imagination, or a combination of both. How cool is that to be able to create your worlds the way that you would like to see them?

While lace can often be expensive, I feel that many of them are worth the money because of the elegant feel and textures they can provide to an art quilt’s surface that is hard to obtain with other materials. Texture is a very important part of why I use fabric, buttons, and beads for my embellishments. Lace is probably one of the easiest materials to employ if you’re looking for a soft look in you images. I invite you to splurge on some and have a blast seeing how many ways you can employ that material. Creating art is all about having fun, right?

Have you ever used a “luxury” material in your art work?

What were some of your successes and “learning experiences”?

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute, fill out the form by clicking on the “comments/no comments link” at the top of the posting, and then share your ideas with the rest of us. We all grow when we share our thoughts and impressions, so why not join our growing community of those who appreciate art quilts and textile arts. We’d love to hear from you!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com