Tag Archive for how artists think

Planning is not my thing!

A basketry sculpture "Cross Country in a Honda"Planning a piece before I begin is not my thing. While many artists make detailed sketches and samples, I usually just plunge right in and start creating on the fly. I developed this way of working pretty early on right after grad school when I was developing my professional art career. I quickly learned that the bottom line for me is to let the piece have its say as to how it wants to look.

The piece of basketry sculpture in the photo above was the turning point when I learned I could either fight with the piece or let it tell me how it wanted to appear. This work was done during the stage when I was doing “off-loom weaving”. I was using the same techniques that basket weavers had been using for centuries, except that I was utilizing paper welting core as the base, and yarn to cover it and to stitch the sculpture together.It took a cross country trip to convince me that I might as well give in to what the piece was wanting to be. Otherwise, the piece and I were going to be at frustrating odds for the duration of its construction.

“Cross Country in a Honda” (21″ total width x 19″ total height or 53.5cm W x 48.25 cm T) was created in 1977 while riding in the passenger seat of a very small Honda Civic. I was stitching away as my ex-husband was driving, and during the four weeks we were on the road, the sculpture got bigger and bigger. Since I had no table to rest it on as I worked to stabilize it, the edges of the piece began to flop around and not want to go in the directions I had in mind. The more I tried to force it to be a certain way, the more the work rebelled, which led to a great deal of frustration on my part.

Finally I had the good sense to surrender and let the sculpture have its way. “OK”, I thought, “bend as you will”. From that point on, I sank into quite a deal of peace and the stitching proceeded effortlessly. I began to hum a repetitive 8 note “song”, which became my working mantra when I’m creating art work. (I think that the toning that I’m hearing is the same as some bell tower that I heard once, but I haven’t been able to locate the pattern. I know it’s not Big Ben in London.)That rhythm I seem to use consistently, no matter what the medium is that I’m working in. I also know that I’m channeling energy through my fingers into the piece as I work on it. In effect, the piece and I are “talking” to each other. We share the excitement of how the work will turn out, as neither one of us know what the finished product will look like.

When I do a commission piece, I tell the prospective owner that I have no problem working within a color, size, and price range but if they want the best work possible out of me, then let me do “my thing”. I do keep the person advised as the work progresses via photos so that they can approve before I progress to the next stage. However, planning ahead, while I know that’s true for others and is part of the fun of their creative process,is just not for me. Let me wander and play with my materials, as I delight in the joy of the unexpected.

For more information on how I handle commissions, please go to…


Do you plan your art work ahead of time, or do you allow it to just flow? What are the advantages and disadvantages of your working style?

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

Being an Artistic Tourist – Lines and Shadows

Each artist has their own unique way of viewing the world. For me, sometimes it’s a visual image that gets my “need” to create flowing. Other times, it’s a phrase or concept that inspires me. I love it when connections are made between both realms in my mind. Today’s posting is about a happy intersection that happened recently.

Some time in the past few days, I read the phrase “artistic tourist”, and I wish I could remember who said it so that I could credit her. The concept, or at least the way it came across for me, was to be a tourist in your own environs. I interpreted it to mean we should look at familiar things with “baby fresh” eyes, and see what’s around us in new ways.

The second half of this connection between the written and the visual realms for me was seeing this photo of shadows on the snow by my friend, Robert Vibert…


He’s a fantastic photographer who really has an eye for the atmospheric qualities of light in his pics. He’s also brilliant seeing things that others don’t see. Add to that the fact that he’s also the dear soul who helps me with the technical details to keep this blog up and running, so I count him as part of my Heart Tribe. What I honed in on in this stark photo was the dark lines in the snow with the hint of what had made them at the top of the photo. (“Things half hidden” will be the topic of an upcoming blog.) So, I began looking at lines and things around my house, and the edict came from within….”Go forth and take pictures and give my readers some insight as to how I see things.” Here’s what happened along those lines, in the order that it came to me.

I began wandering around the house, trying to look for something simple that had to do with lines. I came across a brass match holder. The long, thin sticks of wood contained lots of lines but  getting them to spill outwards and separate so that they would show up as individual elements was difficult. (On retrospect, I guess I could have put something in the holder to separate them, but hindsight is so intensely accurate!) However, as I turned to the opposite side of the room, there was a bottle of scent diffuser, with lots of splayed lines made by the wicks. “Perfect item to add to the shoot”, I thought. Then, as I was carrying them both upstairs to get better light for the photograph, I saw sitting on a bureau downstairs, a wire wine bottle holder that begged to be included in the composition. I sat all three in front of a sunny window and the results are in the above photo.

As I was taking that first photo, I happened to look outside and saw the view in the photo on the left. “Cool!” I thought, “more lines and shadows”. I braved the cold and went outside and quickly captured this photo. I liked the way the weathered boards, the “window frame” plant holders that I put on the wall of the garage to resemble an outdoor room, and the shadows, both curved and straight cast by the various metal pieces on the frame combined in this pic. Not quite as stark a contrast as Robert’s inspirational photo, but I liked the result.

I hurried back inside and then, as I looked around my house for some more lines, I wandered into my big bathroom. Years ago, I had painted a mural on the wall of an outdoor scene, and I thought the metal candle holder frame in the corner of the tub contrasted nicely with the stenciled gates I had added to the woodland scene.

There weren’t any shadows in the bathroom, but I was thinking lines compared to other lines at this point. (My thinking, in case you hadn’t noticed, when I’m in this artistic flow, is not always consistent or linear, as I let my ideas go where they will.)

I took the bathroom photo, and then wandered out into the dining room and saw lots of shadows on the wall created by potted plants that are overwintering in a southern window. However, most of the shadows weren’t particularly linear so I began looking around for something to shoot in front of the white wall. I picked up a metal sculpture of palm leaves that I liked.

I set up the camera and shot what is my favorite pic from this two hour photo shoot. The thickened midribs of the palm leaves become quite linear as they extend to the outside of the frond. Then the mid-ground of the outline of the chair backs is a nice blur of soft lines. Finally, the background has subtle suggestions of lines from the aforementioned plants. I haven’t yet learned to see all the possibilities of composition in a prospective shot unless I look through the lens of the camera and see it boxed in for me. So for me, this was a happy accident of composition. I feel, it came about because I was allowing myself to play and just let my artistic sensibilities free rein.

This posting is the first in what I hope will be a series of postings on being an artistic tourist in my own environs. More thoughts will appear as I get the photos to support the story. How I’ll use them in my own arena of art quilts, I don’t know yet,  but I find that I often find more inspiration in other media than in my own. I know that I’ll be looking at things with a new eye and perhaps you’ll see some of the above photos included in future art quilts… or not.

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this piece. The registration form is just to prevent spammers, not to collect any of your information, so please take a minute, fill it out, and then share your ideas with the rest of us. We all grow when we share our thoughts and impressions, especially when it comes to your own special way of viewing thiings. 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

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