Saturday, 10 September 2011

Tea stained inspiration

Dear Helen,

Your new teapot is very pretty!  And I suppose your mum's attitude about being afraid to use your lovely Lazy Daisy one is a bit like a quilter's fear of cutting up that beautiful piece of fabric.  (It amuses me that to quell your mum's fear you bought ANOTHER very pretty teapot, which is also like the way we quilters -- having masses of wonderful fabric -- go buy more so we can use THAT instead of cutting up the "good" stuff we already have.)  In any event, you now have two cheery teapots to choose from, your mum has one to use without fear, and you'll have a dedicated teapot when your studio is done.  Although if I know you, when your studio is done you will have found another teapot that perfectly matches the colors of the glass tiles you've had put in the bathroom...

Before I go further, I must say that I am quite taken with the piece you created last week.  I see echoes of the bone shapes/symbols that you referred to earlier, and the different layers of color and texture add a lot of dimension.  I am guessing that you applied some color after quilting -- with paint or paintstiks, maybe?  Am I right?   This piece doesn't directly reference African ladies and yet from your earlier postings I can see how you got from there to here.  So clearly you are processing this all and working with the imagery is yielding effective results.  What is the size of that piece, by the way?

Your description of how your interest in Africa resulted demonstrates my own theory: that the best work stems from something truly personal.  It doesn't have to be personal as in "I am African," but it can be something that affected you in a deep, immediate personal way.  Maybe reading a newspaper story or seeing an image somewhere can have that personal connection -- but it's something that touches you and doesn't let go that comes through.

I've been all over the place this week, playing with a bit of fast sketching of shapes as I continue to think about why teabags are interesting me right now... 

I like that simplified shape of a side teabag view (sort of arrow-headish) and it occurs to me that it would make an interesting stamp

but I've not been able to put my hands on any of the various rubber erasers and plastic pieces I've bought to try carving and experimenting with it.  (Oh!  It just occurred to me where they might be -- in a different cupboard as the result of some reorganization a few months ago...)  And I've been messing about with sketches related to negative space, to see where that leads...

By the way, look at that letter "t" up there.  Isn't it interesting that the positive dark background/light letter looks like "t" and the negative space looks like "it"? 

Funnily enough, though, what is exciting me most is one of those accidental connections one makes when one has ideas simmering in the back of one's brain.  Incubating, right?  I recently wrote on my own blog about experimenting with a dye technique involving ice, which results in some very textured, streaky results.

And, coincidentally, I'd had tea one afternoon this week and then set the wet teabag on a white paper napkin.  The splotch of tea staining got me thinking about tea stain patterns, which then got me thinking about this ice-dyed fabric and the patterns of color flowing ...  So although there isn't really any direct visual relationship, that flow of thinking propelled me to cut up a piece of the dyed fabric and experiment with moving shapes around. I've been playing around with a design on my design wall and this is a portion of what is up there now:

I'm not sure where this will go but it I like where it is going.  Stay tuned.

Hmm, that makes me think -- I know that you don't have a design wall right now, but generally speaking do you work with a design wall?  When I've seen you make pieces, I've seen you lay components out on a table and work quickly to put them together (presumably based on what you've had incubating in your head). I was thinking that I didn't used to work via a design wall -- I had something in my head and I just dove in.  More and more now, I put things up on the wall to see what they do, and to move things around and contemplate them more over time.  Of course, this could have to do with how often I get interrupted with real life stuff -- I generally end up with something on the wall for longer than I intend, and it gives me the opportunity to see things in progress.  I find that over time, I end up making decisions or taking directions I'd not have taken if I'd worked continuously from the starting point.  Of course, it takes me longer to finish things!

While I've had this moving around on the design wall, I've been spending sewing time working on a bed quilt for Caroline's bed.  She chose the fabric and had a very clear vision of what she wanted -- luckily for me, it is a basic block type quilt and we were able to lay it all out visually with Electric Quilt software so I could make sure I knew what she was envisioning.  I've been assembling the blocks, and while I'm happy to make a quilt for her (and happy that she wants a mom-made quilt for her bed), at one point earlier this week I was feeling a sense of frustration at having to do this ordinary piecing job when I wanted to be doing more creative things.

And then it hit me at one point that I was really enjoying what I was doing, and that instead of looking ahead at what I wanted to do after I finished those blocks, I could just be in the moment and focus on the process.  It occurred to me that while it isn't the most creative process for me, I love that I'm making Caroline's creative vision become real.  So that was a realization about creativity -- to be attentive to what I'm doing, and work on one project at a time in my head, rather than working on one with my hands with my brain rushing on to other things.   

Now I need to go look at my teapots.  Maybe I need another?

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