Saturday, 30 June 2012

Dealing with UFO's

Dear Diane,

Thank you for an easy question to answer. You should throw out today any UFO that is not definately 100% still a work in progress and that will definately get finished. Here are several reasons why:

1. Because I say so. You know I am trustworthy and I like people to do what I say, so you would be making me happy. Really, that should be enough, but it makes for a bad blog post so here are some more reasons..

2. Those never-to-be-finished UFOs are dead. Dead and finished. They had a good life, lived with purpose but now they need a decent burial. Or cremation if you feel like a yard bonfire. ( Please, no- one comment about Health and Saftey.) One lesson ( of many) I learned doing Lisa Call's working in a series course is that all artists make some bad work but that is a necessary learning step. Once you have learned the lesson that UFO taught you it is in fact complete. Or maybe it was just about needing time to sew and play on the days you made them. Anyway they have served their purpose. Remember when you were learning to write? You did not save every attempt you made to write your name did you? No. These pieces were time limited playthings or experiments. It is not wasteful to dispose of them because they are all used up. Get rid.

3. They are taking up precious physical space. And space costs. Either you pay rent or you have invested money to own. Either way you paid for the space those UFO's are taking up. Even if its a small space,it has a cost. When you were calculating the costs of buying your house if a realtor had said, " Oh and there is an option to pay a little extra every single month and in return we will provide storeage for something you don't want and don't need, would you have signed up? No. Chuck them out and use the space for something better.

4. They are taking up psychic space. How long have you spent thinking about them and writing blog posts about them? How many more creative thoughts would there be space for in your brain if you got rid? How could you better have used that time?

5. Do it as a favour to others. At some point ( many,many, many years in the future, God willing) you are going to leave that house for care home or cemetery plot. And then someone younger like me is going to have to go through all your belongings. Really, you want us to see what you have been hoarding? Get shut of them now and preserve your dignity.

6. Because I say so. And I know of what I speak. When we built the new studio I threw out several UFOs. It was highly liberating. New studio, new art direction. The rule was that nothing that did not sustain my current work or did not excite me with future possibilties was allowed into the studio. Boxes and boxes of fabric went. remember the Japanese commerical fabric phase? I was there for that... All gone. No regrets. They were like outgrown clothes and they were holding me back. I know there are other changes afoot in life for you at the moment, and this is a fitting time for a de-clutter whilst other things are being dealt with. It will be both practical and symbolic.

So, look again,once, at what you have. Can you cut some nice fabric out of them for re-use? Can you salavage a part of what you did. Can you really, honestly say that you will use those pieces in the kind of work you are currently doing in say the next six to twelve months? Are you enthused and excited about doing so? If so, part salvage. If not? To the bin they go.

And in the spirit of enableing I have given you an example. The piece at the top of the post was a piece done in my emerging Maps series that I did as a class exercise a few weeks ago. It looks worse that it is because the focal point was still to be added,but still... No good. Lines too wide, not defined enough in colour and the quilting (done when I was feverish with a chest infection) is abysmal. So....


Does that help?



Helen Conway said...

PS. Changed my mind. If any of your UFOs are already basted keep one by your machine so that when you are working hard to finish a gift quilt and your machine tension goes bananas on you you have something to do test the siitching on as you desperately try to figure out what went wrong.
No, it was not a good evening. Yes, it is fixed now thank you!

Brenda Gael Smith said...

Sound advice Helen.

By the way, I feel your tension distress. I was battling a similar problem yesterday and found a stray thread caught in my top tension discs. I could only see it after I got out the screwdriver and removed a plastic plate. Read about it on my blog at

Kristin L said...

Oh Helen, you are wise beyond your years! New motto -- when in doubt, throw it out!