I will have to begin today by giving credit to a fellow art quilter, Kathy Loomis for the title of today’s posting. In an email exchange, we talked about what I call “The Time of the Long Sew”, and she responded with “Yes, the Zen hours of stitching”. What we were referring to is that “zone” that artists find themselves in when the piece is really going well. Hours may have gone by, but it only seems like a few minutes. “What! It’s midnight already?” I’ve often thought, as I wanted to finish this one section before going to bed. At times like that, it’s as if the piece and I are breathing as one.
I think that any form of repetitive motion can instill in a person this inner peace. From my healing work, my take is that a bipedal induced soothing state of being was wired into us early on when we were still small enough to slosh around inside of our mothers. That right,left – right, left movement as our mothers walked seems to be inherit in the human unconscious. While I rarely sew while I walk, I do have a rhythm when I work. I stitch down through the top of the fabric with my right hand, catch the needle underneath with my left, and pass the needle back up to the surface. That counts as a rhythm, right?
People often ask me how I have the patience to sew on all those little tiny beads. I respond with the fact that my sewing requires no patience at all in comparison to teaching 7th grade science for 27 years. At least my art quilts don’t stick pencils up their noses or flick spitballs around the room to get attention.
My art quilts do command my attention however, as this Nancy “gets ancy” if I don’t sew on a regular basis. My fingers actually feel itchy as they need to be moving in their usual patterns, and I get quite grumpy if it’s been too long since I’ve had my sewing “fix”. To get it, I’ll even put up with the occasional spills and picking seed beads out of the carpet as an occupational hazard of my work in order to do what I do. However, on a plane, those little beads can really bounce quite a distance.
My final piece for my MFA at the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore was an art quilt. While I wasn’t adding beads to my work at that time, it took 650 hours to complete. I know this because the head of the Crafts department was a jeweler and felt that fiber artists didn’t put in enough time into their work. So in order to appease him, I had to keep a sewing journal of dates and times. He was rather amazed that one would spend that much time on “just a quilt”. I imagine that by now, he is long gone, but is watching from some distant place as I lean over my latest creation. “Sorry, I take it all back”, I can hear him saying. “I guess fiber artists do put in a lot of time.” “Ya think?” I respond.
What delights you about your own medium? Is there a special part of completing your creations that brings you inner peace?
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