Saturday, 30 June 2012

Unfinished Business

Oh dear, we are at risk of our tea getting cold and, even worse, our cake getting stale!  I can't believe that the last post here was in April!  Of course, we know that we've each been busy with all sorts of things, some more creative than others!  But I think it's time to get our talks back on track, don't you?

Let's have a seat, gaze at the ocean, and catch up.

Here is what is on my mind today.  I have been thinking about the various unfinished projects stacked in my closet, taking up physical space there and some mental space in my head.  Some of the UFOs are things that still please and interest me when I pull them out -- but I have them in "waiting" mode until I can get back to them with the energy and in the mood to move them forward.  Some are complex, pieced quilts -- contemporary takes on traditional quilts, really.  For example, one is a complicated "Cinco De Mayo" quilt (Karen Stone's paper pieced, complex version of the New York Beauty block) for which I finished the center but want to add a pieced border that will complement those detailed blocks.  Another is a red, white and blue quilt (the only one I've ever done) that involves really beautiful, detailed star blocks but needs a good setting.  I had a great idea at some point, sketched some complicated sketches, and now they make no sense to me whatsoever so I need to figure it out all over again.  I'm fine about those taking space in the closet, and I know I'll get them done at some point, and I'll be happy to have them.

Others, though, are just sitting there.  The ones that trouble me are art quilts that I started with a high degree of enthusiasm, some core idea, and then I got to a point where they just died.  With each of them, I've kept them on my design wall for various periods to contemplate where to go next.  I have pulled them out, had them up for a bit and, still uninspired, put them away again.  But with each of them, I think I'm stalled on them because I just don't like them, and I don't want to spend any more time on them.

But that feels ... uncreative.  Wasteful.  Some voice in my head is telling me that if I were a GOOD artist, I'd be able to figure out how to fix them and get them to a satisfactory (if not terrific) place.  And I can look at each one and see what it was that excited me in the first place.  In one, it was a cool piece of hand-painted fabric.  In another, it was interpreting a photo that I loved to create a scene.
Are they salvagable?  Probably.  But somehow, I just never get around to tackling each one.

And I think, I have only so much creative time and energy.  Let these old things go and move forward.  I generally do finish things -- maybe not fast, but I do.  But maybe it's better to recognize what it is about each of the pieces I LIKED and why, consider them steps on my learning path, and let them go and move forward.

Just chucking them out feels so -- final... a bit like I'm abandoning a child I once loved and had hopes for.  And then I think if I just tossed them, I'd feel relieved.

And of course, writing all this out makes me think that I can make this a way bigger problem than it needs to be.  Look at them, try to learn from them, let them go, and move on.

But here's what I'm wondering -- for you and any reader who chimes in:  Do you throw work (finished or unfinished) away?  When do you decide that something is not worth putting any more energy into it and let it go?  Am I the only one with this odd, Puritanical "you should do it BECAUSE it's difficult" mentality?


Julie said...

I don't think I have ever thrown any textile work away but the ones that fight back against being completed tend to linger in a drawer or box for future hopeful inspiration. I have been known to cut pieces up and 'repurpose' them rather than persist or destroy. I do know of one textile artist who does throw out work that doesn't sit well and she feels it liberates her to move on as you have said. If you will feel relief by tossing them then you probably have your own answer and parting with them will free up your creativity.

I do admit to having tossed some old paintings and a few very tatty fabric samples that weren't very successful but I am an inveterate hoarder!

Brenda Gael Smith said...

At the recent artist talks for the Regeneration Contemporary Quilt Textiles exhibition in Sydney, one of the exhibitors placed great emphasis on finishing work. She cited support from an author who said that successful authors are those that actually finish writing their novels.

I get the spirit of this sentiment but I don't think this means you have to complete absolutely everything you start.

Of course many projects go through a difficult phase and pressing on can be rewarding. Nevertheless, I have many projects where I have encountered technical/construction obstacles or made major design goofs. No amount of puritanical zeal is going to redeem those pieces. I have little qualms about burying those and moving onto other projects. During a recent studio declutter, I even managed to migrate those pieces to the rubbish and I have some more traditional UFOs that I am going to donate to a charity quilting group.

We only have so much time or energy. Concentrate on creative projects that bring joy. Leave guilt at the studio door.

Lora Martin said...

Just threw two hopeless failures (which I learned a lot from) in the trash this past week. They had been hanging around for at least 3 to 5 years. Felt like a huge weight was lifted and I have left a "stuck" place and completed two new tops since. Woohoo for clearing the decks, more psychically than anything else.

Joanne S said...

I, too, donated large bags of fabric. Once cherished but not so much now. It weighed me down. It went to the Linus Project locally and the look of joy on the faces of the women picking up gorgeous yard pieces of good stuff was worth every tear on my part.

Having such a small closet of fabric now- gives me more interest in actually using what is left.

As to UFOs. I cut them up, paint over them and when they continue to be useless--I toss them in the wastebasket. Not everything I make is worthy of keeping. I can't issue a gold star to every effort.

Kristin L said...

I have no problem abandoning unfinished work that doesn't excite me. Some I throw out, others wait in a pile to be cut up and incorporated into something else. It's the work I liked at one point, but not anymore that is my conundrum. I don't want it out in the world because it doesn't accurately reflect who I am as an artist, and yet I can't seem to just throw it away. There's the ones that mark the journey as well. Too sentimental to get rid of those.