Friday, 30 November 2012

Meandering down a side street

 Dear Helen,

I really like your description of how working in a series is turning out to be for you – the analogy to meandering through a place as you explore sounds exactly right to me.  Adventure, your own pace, discoveries and surprises along the way, doubling back ... all sorts of wandering and travel metaphors apply, don’t they?  But however one describes it, it’s obvious from the work you’ve been doing that your adventure is doing you good and taking you to some wonderfully interesting places. 

As for your sketchbook experiments, well I have to say that I think you have proven my point as to their usefulness.  It looks like you started out thinking that a sketchbook had to be about SKETCHing, and that process – trying and changing and adapting and disguising – led you to a discovery that is useful to you.  Unless your goal is to make a pretty book with pretty pictures, then I think you’ve been extremely successful.  It wasn’t the pages themselves that were the art, it was the process of doing them that feeds your art.  That’s my thinking, anyway.  It’s about the process.

You know how fascinating it is to look at other people’s sketchbooks?  Even the doodly, scribbly ones?  One of the things that I love about that – aside from the endlessly fascinating details of how they keep their sketchbooks, what books they use, do they draw, write, etc – is that you get a glimpse of sorts into the artist’s thought process.  Remember when we went to the pottery festival when I visited you?  One of the many nice memories I have of that day is of standing at a potter’s booth and looking at the sketchbooks she had on display.  Her pots were decorated with these delightful simple yet evocative drawings ... and her sketchbooks were full of tiny pen and ink sketches and doodles that clearly showed her working out the designs for her pottery. 

But a messy book is as fascinating, if not more, than a tidy one, don’t you think?  It’s that sense of mystery and reality – because we know the creative process isn’t a linear, neat one. It’s a messy thing.  Or maybe I should speak for myself here – I am reassured by seeing a messy sketchbook because it reassures me that I can be messy too.  I can get caught up in the belief that my sketchbook has to look nice and pretty.  I’m getting a lot better about not worrying about that.

One of the books I like using the most is the plain old black Moleskine, one of those 5x7 ones with lighter weight smooth drawing paper inside.  You know the ones.  

 I actually think it's the first time I've ever let myself (well, MADE myself) not worry about how it looked.   I use a black ink pen with it, and I doodle or play with design ideas, or do a quick sketch, or play with letters, or take notes on something I've read, whatever strikes my fancy...

I think it's been good for me -- freeing -- to just NOT worry about how it looks.  And you know, when I pick it up after not using it for a bit, it always looks better than I think it will.

Would you like to see some of the others I have going?  Of course you would.  You and I both love this sort of thing.  Well, here's one of the painting-play books I have going. It's 8.5 by 11 inches, by Pentalic, in their "Nature Sketch" line.  It has good, heavy (130 lb) paper with good texture for drawing or watercolors. 

I'm currently using this for an online class I just started in watercolor lettering.  (Paints and typography!  A perfect combination!)   I like using it for the exercises because the paper doesn't feel precious -- it's just good drawing paper.  Here's an exercise we did for the first week -- the task was to modify block letters, and paint in the negative space by dropping in color and letting them blend.  Very fun.

I have another book I use for watercolor painting, a 7x10 Canson book filled with 140 lb watercolor paper.  I like its pretty linen cover and it's a good portable size. (It comes in various rainbow colors and yes, I bought several so I'd have an assortment of different colors!)

I use this book for drawing and painting basic things -- not so much exercises or doodles, just sketchbook journal sorts of pages for watercolor and drawing practice. Here's a recent page:

 And I have a large one of those Nature Sketchbooks (11x17 inches) which I had around and started using when I took an online class from Jane LaFazio a year ago.  You can see how big it it in relation to the others:

And if you'd asked me before I started using it, I would have said it was too big.  But I bought it for a class with Jane LaFazio a year ago, and I've found that I like working that big.  I've surprised myself at how easy it is to fill up that size of page, either with a big image or with several vignettes.  By the way, I don't think I showed you one of the pages I did when I was at the ranch retreat last October.  I actually did the two paintings when I was sitting in an adirondack chair out on the lawn near the chapel.  Plein Aire, as the painter types say. 

Because I'm pretty new to this painting thing, I'm trying to just relax and enjoy it, and to keep practicing without worrying what book it's in, will it be perfect, does the book have a pretty cover, etc.  Somehow each book has a purpose and it's working for me.

Which leads me to my portable art kit.  I really like your idea of the Art Filofax and am eager to give it a try one of these days.  But here's what I've been using so far.  

The plastic pouch is an 11x13 project bag from The Cotton Patch quilt shop in Lafayette (remember when we went there after that traffic-laden freeway drive, on the first day we met in person?)  I love those project bags, they are so useful.  It's perfect for throwing the whole kit into my basket when  I head out the door.  

Here's what's inside:

My Stillman & Birn painting/sketchbook (oops, there's another one -- it's 5x7 with 140 lb watercolor paper and I like it because it is bound, so you can paint one scene on a two-page spread); a small tin of Derwent watercolor pencils (from the Keswick Pencil Factory, of course); a small Koi watercolor kit; a small spray bottle of water for moistening the pan paints, and my pen roll.  By the way, it makes me very happy to carry that pencil tin and remember that very fun pencil factory visit.

I made the pen roll after seeing something similar and then modifying it to suit my needs. It holds a few mechanical pencils, some black Pitt artist pens with permanent ink, a white ink pen, and two water brushes which are the best invention ever.

Which leads me to what I've been doing.  No fiber art working going on here lately, but that's okay.  I've been taking snatches of time to play with the watercolor paints when I can. 

You know that I have that one worktable in my little studio/office, yes?  Here's what it looks like right this minute.  The paints are out, and you can see a page of painted borders I was working on yesterday for an exercise in the watercolor lettering class.

I said this last time, but I'm really struck by how peaceful this watercolor painting process is.  Not that fiber art isn't -- but this is different.  There is something so contemplative about this that is suiting my mood these days. I told you last time about a class I was doing that involved learning to be loose with the paints  -- which is where the color squares (experiments dropping one color into another) above comes from.  Here's the last thing I did in that:

When I started the class, I wouldn't have thought I could do that sort of thing.  So this drawing and painting process has been good for me in a lot of ways.  I didn't used to think I could draw, or paint.  And I'm learning, and now I realize that I can.  I've really come to realize that it's not about doing it perfectly, or like watercolors I see in books or galleries or online -- it's about ME doing it the way that feels good to me.  And that's enough.

We've talked here (and others have commented) about learning to draw.  And really, it's learning to SEE.  I know you weren't that thrilled with the drawings you did.  But my suggestion is to keep doing it anyway, a bit at a time.  Make yourself do one little thing a week, even.  You will get better.  You need not to be afraid of it, and to accept that your drawing is YOUR drawing and that's what's powerful about it, even as it is evolving. And I think it will end up informing the quilt art you do.  There's my two cents on that subject.

Here's what the sewing side of the room looks like, by the way --  no action, just a quilt in progress waiting for a bit of time.

So I guess all of this is to say that I've meandered down a side street and I'm still meandering.  I need to meander back to my sewing machine soon, though, as our 12x12 group's "sweet" challenge is due soon! 

Friday, 23 November 2012

My Love/hate sketchook relationship

Dear Diane,

Thank you for inviting me to be your live in life coach! Now what a great job that would be and I would love to live in California. Or most places that are not England come to that. I was thinking just the other day about how, when I was at the career choosing stage at school and we were given access to a special library of career books and leaflets, I discovered the possibilty of the consulate or diplomatic service, However,m when I mentioned the word 'diplomatic' at home my parents literally laughed out loud. So I didn't go that route and went into law instead. And I love my job and it suits me. But its one big drawback is that now, unless I give up all my seniority, I am stuck in England and Wales. Cannot even go to Scotland! And I could be in Hong Hong or Oman or Rio or somewhere exotic. Or San Fransisco eating sourdough and shopping at Williams-Sonoma. Sigh. how much are you paying?

I wonder if this wanderlust has anything to do with the fact that my current art work is all about maps and other cultures? I will answer your questions about sketching/ visual journals in a moment, but first do you remember that in your letter to me of the 7th October you wrote

" But I know, from our non TT4T conversations and from seeing your work, that the series courses you did have helped you grow. I see you doing things differently in your work, even approaching your work differently. It seems to me that you have an attitude that each piece is a learning opportunity and a step in your journey. Is that true? I've told you, as well, that I really like the pieces you did in your course, and looking over the blog I like them even more. I hope you'll write here soon about where they have led you since you posted."

I absolutley agree. I feel that I am now on a progressive journey rathen that flailing about waving my arms and grabbing any passing idea that comes. It is not necessarily that I am driving straight and fast down a main road though. Its more like walking through an old European city where you are generally moving say from main square back to your hotel but in doing so you explore some side streets, come back to the main route, go forward, explore some more side streets, realise that you regret not buying the puppet you saw in the first side street, go back to collect that then move a bit further forward down the main street and so on.

So, I started the working in a series doing a short course in which I made some Maasi quilts involving fences. I also had the 20/12 series which had me doing the stamped and scraped orange/ yellow surfaces. Then I came to maps via a 20/12 quilt I made of a map. I knew I could do the yellow surfaces so I stuck with that and began to explore the maps. One of London, one of Chester, then I went back to Africa with my latest, Joe Slovo Township. Which features a fence done exactly as I did them in the Maasi series. And shacks. Which I know is going to be something that crops up again.

So its a bit like I got back to the hotel and now I'm going back to the squaref or dinner but from a different direction looking at things in a different light and maybe taking a different side road to get there.. I definately feel like I have a destination even if I am not sure exactly what it will look like when I get there or how long it will take to get there.

So, its a bit like, I know I am going to a restaurant but all I know is that we will go to the eating quarter and mooch around to see which one we like. And maybe I'll eat at several, one course at each. That way, if I pick a bad restaurant it doesn't matter so much. Its only one course, maybe the next one will be better. And if its worse, well thats the risk I take. At least I know on my next trip to return to the good one and maybe try something from the same chef but a different recipe. So, when I make a quilt now I am working within a framework and everything I do educates me. If something is better or worse or just dfferent it just adds to my options for future works.

I used to wonder how you knew when a series was done and how you coped with the having to start again from scratch with new topic matter. But now I am expecting that things will just gradually evolve. So for example, I have two new projects I have committed to both of which need to be finished by the end of March.Gulp!

One is for a newly formed group I am in and we are working to a theme of Transitions and we will all incorporate the same 4x3 grid format of sixteen inch squares. When I thought about that I naturally thought about immigration and travel and maps. Probably because thats what I was thinking about anyway! So I looked for a place I could base my map on and came up with Brick Lane in London because the area itself has seen a lot of transition as waves of immigrants ( Hugenot, Irish, Jewish, Bengali, Somali) have passed through. and of course the immnigrants themslevs are transitioning So, I know that I will incorporate a map and the history of the area as I have been doing. But I also know that the wholecloth yellow orange thing is not right for this. So, I am both excited and scared. I have the saftey net of my map and handwriting to fallback on but I know I need to incorprate new design and new techniques and new colours. I am playing with creating images suitable thermofaxes from my own photos which is new for me.

The other work is for an outdoor show in Belgium. Having been working with shacks and having long been fascinated with informal housing, I came up with the idea of making an actual shack. Big enough to walk into. This is a stupidly ambitious idea but you know... Its exciting!!! And as you say, I tend to go full tilt! But I think I will add maps to the outisde of the shack. What of and how.. Who knows?! So its the same theme but worked out in very different ways. Sidestreets of the square.

One lesson I have learned from Joe Slovo and counting my time spent on it is that however I decide to construct it, it will not be hand quilted!! In fact, the invitation asks for textile art not necessarily quilts so in terms of time that may be my saving grace!

So, this sketchbook thing. I was willing to try. I really was. First, to get me over the 'oh, but my equipment is always somewhere else' excuse, I converted a filofax to a portable art station. I filled it with different kinds of non intimidating paper. And I drew my filofax full if art things. I did not impress myself.

So the next time I drew my hole punch. Still not impressed.

So I drew my filofax pile again.

The pile looked so much better with writing on. It kind of distracted from the patheticness of the uninspired drawing. Sigh. I decided, late a night to try again. I started to draw the pattern on my Crazy Daisy China. But because I was not looking properly I made a mess and in frustration I wrote all over my page how I felt about that. Then I got out my letter stencil and added some words. Which gave me some ideas for my transitions quilt.

So the next pages reverted to my usual form of 'sketchbook'. Totally nonvisual.

Then I remembered the washi tape I had you send from the US because the pictures of it had been inspiring in terms of the 'chopped up language' that immigrants experience and the colours. By the early hours I had a vision of where I was going with this piece.

So was the sketching sucessful or not? No, in that I have no interest in repoducing the Jane Le Fazio school of pretty bordered pages of Things I Saw Today. Its not me. Althought I love to see other people's books in that style. Yes, in that getting the materials out got me in the zone to design. So I learned something from that to work with.

Recently I was able to visit Jane Lloyd in her studio, which I discovered, after years of admiring her work, was at the bottom of my mother-in-law's road! She showed me how she had been working with collage to start her day off. Pages and pages of rough collage work in a sketchbook. I was sort of politely looking at them and smiling and, to be honest, thinking, 'Well,whatever turns you on, but thats just ripped up magazines glued down.I've seen kindergarteners do better. ' Then she showed me her new series based on that work that had evolved a long time after she started doing the collage books and I changed my mind. Even though I was struggling to see how she committed do much time to ripping up and glueing down paper and could not quite explain how the the leap from that to the work actually worked, I could see the clear connection. It was also interesting to note that this new work is very different from her established work which is on her website and to be able to talk with her about how she might draw the two together.

I wonder if, when my transitions quilt is finished how obvious the connection will be between Brick Lane and washi tape?!

After your challenge to me reminded me of that, I think I need to work on seeing time in a visual sketchbook as a sort of spectulative investment of time. Then I need to work on being the sort of person who makes a spectulative investment! And I need to work on finding my own way to do it. Then I have to work on being the sort of person who likes herself enough to acknowledge that her own way of doing it is worth investing time in.

This is a lot of work. I think I will need a cup of tea and a slice of tiffin to give me strength. Do I get tea breaks in my live in job?


Friday, 16 November 2012

Process, Results, and the Zen of Drawing

Dear Helen,

Thank goodness for your love of organization and planning.  One of the many benefits of our friendship is that as I watch the processes you use to organize all the things you do and want to do, I learn ways in which I can benefit by adding some of that into my own life. Should your various vocations and avocations bore you (or, more likely, exhaust you) at some point, you can always hire yourself out as a Life Coach and Organizer.  I will happily be your first test client, but I warn you that it will require live-in help and will probably take 6 months to a year.  So clear your schedule and prepare to move to California for a bit.  Shall I pencil you in for 2014? 

And speaking of organizing, congratulations on the brilliant launch of Plan • Create • Succeed.  You’ve done a great job of getting it all going and I enjoy reading it every day.  It’s a wonderful way to share what you love to help others.

Last time, I asked you about motivating yourself when you are not feeling creative, and I read your reply to demonstrate that you keep yourself on task by monitoring your steps toward a goal.  It sounds to me like the measuring of steps, and watching your progress toward the goal, is as satisfying to you as the creativity itself – which is quite clever, really – to merge two passions and use one to spur progress in the other.  It is the very essence of Plan • Create • Succeed.

I am of a different mind.  I admire your method, and can see it works quite well for you.  But maybe the difference is that we have different goals in mind.  That’s an important concept, isn’t it?  Identifying and naming one’s creative goals.  (Dear readers, please feel free to comment and talk about whether you have specific creative goals, and what they are! I will be interested to hear!)  At present, my creative goals are simple, and relatively general: 1. To do something creative every day; 2.  To let the creative piece of my day feel fun and happy; and 3.  To keep learning and trying new things. 

There have been times in my life where my creative goals have been very specific.  To make X number of pieces.  To submit work to a particular show.  To create something for a specific purpose.  And I’m sure there will be that time again.  Right now, though, I’m in the process of creating a new structure for my life. My family structure is changing, and I’m looking for a new place to live.  The goals at the forefront of my mind and heart have to do with creating a new home, shaping a new life grounded on peacefulness and contentment, and envisioning how all of that will happen.  The creative part of my life right now is a refuge, and taking on obligations and deadlines around it – even while at other times they’d be good motivators – just feels like too much to handle. So for now, creativity isn’t about goals.  It’s about a mental haven.

Maybe our different styles boil down to this simplistic description: I am more process-driven and you are more result-driven.  What do you think of that?  Either primary motivator requires the other to actually achieve anything – process is nothing if it never gets a result (hm, thinking about the UFOs in my closet) and result cannot be good if the process does not serve the result in terms of quality and technique and care.

Meanwhile, you know I share your love of Filofaxes and I am using them to organize other aspects of my life.  And you know, I’ve enjoyed using these great planning tools AND personalizing them with pretty dividers and art and words that motivate me.  I showed you the Fiber Art filofax I set up here.
 I agree with you that having a tool that is pretty and feels good, even luxurious, can make something ordinary into something almost celebratory.  It’s like using a favorite mug to drink tea – the feel of the mug, the memory of where you bought it or who gave it to you, the pleasant feel of the ceramic texture, etc – it all goes into making using it part of the enjoyable experience.  My Great Beast of a Bernina, as you call her, does in part do that for me.  But there’s something more – getting that machine was an investment in myself, in a way – recognizing how important the sewing I do is to me, letting myself have a tool that would do anything I could possibly every want to do (and then some) ... So it is both the tool itself and what it symbolizes to me. It is an investment akin to your investing in yourself and what you do by building your studios.

I love the idea of drawing the items of junk that come out of your soon-to-be wet studio.  I am finding that doing a bit of drawing and painting every day is becoming tremendously important to me.  I think it is the closest I have ever come to achieving the kind of “empty mind” one is supposed to have in meditation.  All thoughts and worries are let go, and I absorb myself in looking at the lines and shapes and shadows of what I am trying to draw.  I’ve found that it’s a way for me to instantly access a bit of serenity.

So I now carry around a plastic pouch that contains a 5x7 sketchbook filled with watercolor paper pages, a small watercolor kit, a few pencils and pens, and some waterbrushes (WHAT a great invention those are.)  And even if I’m having a busy day, I allow myself the pleasure of drawing something somewhere along the way.  It not only focuses my mind and gives me my own portable oasis; it also does make me see things differently.  The other day, for example, I had a series of appointments that took me to an area I didn't know well.  On the way, I drove down a street of charming houses, and after my appointment, I went back to the street, parked for 30 minutes, and did a quick sketch/painting of one of the front gardens. That's the drawing above.  It isn't great.  But the experience of doing it was lovely and now when I look at it, I remember that quiet, calm sense I felt while I was doing it.   Eventually, maybe this drawing and seeing will show up in my fabric art as Terry suggests.  But I’m getting a lot of satisfaction from seeing my drawing and painting improve.

Your mentioning my Bernina and your thinking about drawing that junk in your storage room makes me think of a different suggestion:  draw the tools that you use in your art.  Draw your filofax.  Draw your sewing machine.  Unless you are specifically wanting to memorialize the stuff coming out of the room (which seems like drawing for a backwards  reason, if you know what I mean), why not draw for a forwards reason?  Draw the things you use and intend to use.  As you see above, I've done my sewing machine (on a page that was collaged with old sewing pattern pieces).
I've drawn some of my sewing tools.

I've drawn my drawing tools.

and my paints.

There's something very satisfying about that.  I highly recommend it. After all, if you are going to spend time drawing, why not draw things that important to your present and future, as opposed to the junk you are pulling out of the room on the way to your new wet studio?

And I’ve been participating in some online classes (I do love which are exposing me to different ways of working with and understanding watercolor paints.  One class, from Sandy Holzman, has been about exploring magic of what watercolor paints will do and just using them “intuitively” to see what they do.  It’s a different approach than I’ve ever taken, and it’s been surprisingly difficult  – my biggest issue is how hard it is to just LET THINGS BE, let them dry, don't keep poking at them and trying to add more.  So there is a zen-like lesson here – be patient, let the paints do what they will.  Doing too much often makes things less clear. 

It is not the most comfortable process for me, and the results are iffy. But it's the trying that I'm loving.

Perhaps when I get through my family upheaval, I can write a book called “Everything I Needed to Know About Life I Learned from my Watercolors.”  But I have to finish learning it all first. 

Before I close, I want to comment on your wondering why cafes are special places for fostering creativity.  Maybe it's not the same for everyone, but you know I agree.  I think it might be that, in our respective day to day lives, other settings are imbued with different purposes, more mundane business, chores, and interruptions from well meaning family members who unerringly can interrupt at the worst possible times.  I think there's something about sitting in a corner of a cafe -- with nice food and beverage smells wafting about, a pleasant bustle of people, a sense of being alone but in a social setting, and a place where a glance in any direction doesn't conjure up "oh, there's dust there, I must clean that".  It's a place of relaxed well-being.  So there is room to let the right brain wander.

I love our virtual tea-and-talk cafe, though.  I'm going to go refresh my tea now.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Beating the uncreative blues

Dear Diane,

We have a new meeting place for tea and talk! A branch of Costa Coffee has been built in the carpark of my gym. The good news is that it is open late so it is a perfect place to write between work and home. The bad news is that the cake is good and that means more time is necessary in said gym!

There is a certain irony that your last post was tardy because you were not feeling a creative urge and mine is tardy because I have been busy, busy, busy creating. There is an even greater irony that much of the creating has gone into pulling together a brand new blog called Plan • Create• Succeed which includes material about organisation amongst the posts about art, food, journalling, design and personal development.

Of course with Blogger I could have just written a post and there the new blog would be. But I decided that was no fun and sought out the challenge of learning how to use a self-hosted WordPress blog with a sleek premium theme. It was really fun using my brain for research and learning and writing lots of posts ahead of time and I am thrilled with the initial response from new readers.However, in my determination to meet my own self imposed deadline I let things with no deadline slip. Which is why, after our discussion off blog, about getting this blog more regular, I now have it scheduled in my blog organiser for fortnightly posts from me. A deadline means a commitment which means  I need a damn good reason not to do it!

Which sort of brings me on to your main question from last time about motivating yourself and whether I have ever hit a period when I am devoid of all impulse to create. I cannot actually think of a sustained time, since I discovered I actually was creative ( only a few years ago!), in which I have been unable to motivate myself. the have been days when I have chosen to do other things and in fact a period of about ten days running up to Festival of Quilts when I had all my projects finished and chose to rest from the studio so I would be really hungry to do new things when I got back to it with all my new inspiration and shopping from Festival. But that was a deliberate rest not a complete funk like you seem to have been struggling with.

I think there are two reasons for that. One lies in what some people would regard as my over the top target setting and organisation. I participate in the SAQA Visioning Project and my main target there for this year is about studio time. After much excruciating maths, I declared my goal was to be a thirty/seventy artist meaning that when you added up the time I spent over a year in the studio with that I spent at work, the total would divide thirty percent to creativity and seventy percent to work. There was much consideration of how to count work commutes and lunch hours count?...but in the end I got to a monthly total of 53 hours a month target subdivided for art and blogging.

Then I made a list of what projects I fancied doing in the first portion of the visioning year, how long each might reasonably take and made my choices based on what I could fit in to the time available. Those form my secondary goals for the project.

This means that the decision about what and for how long I am going to create is pre-made. So my decision each day is not, "Do I feel like creating?" but rather, "Do I want to miss my target?" or " No I have spent so much time On this project already do I really want to slack off now and miss the deadline for submission." or actually, the question is usually more, "Am I in the studio before or after dinner tonight or am I clocking hours with handwork in front of the TV today?"

I think I have a healthy regard to these targets. If I miss a submission date, I miss a submission date and the world does not stop. There is nothing to beat myself up over and maybe there will be times when other things, say, health or family, take priority. Fine. But the buzz of meeting my own targets and crossing them off on the drywipe board in my studio is heady and enough to keep me going.

Basically I have created a habit of creativity rather than constantly making a choice whether to create or not. Please don't think I am bragging about this; I remain rather surprised that it has happened!

The second reason is that I find creativity soothing and comforting. As you know I lost my Granny a few days ago.  ( do you remember taking this photo? Its the last one of us together.)

It was expected but still, bereavement I found made me feel heavy and stolid and washed out. Logistics of being away for the funeral means I missed a couple of days of sewing (although I did take the opportunity to solve a thread emergency by popping to the nearest quilt shop to where she lived and put the finishing touches to Plan • Create • Succeed !) But the day she actually died and the weekend after the funeral I spent hours at my machine and hand quilting. The flow of creativity ( and some good films and back episodes of Grey's Anatomy on Love Film Instant while I worked) soothed and sustained me and took my mind away from grief and loss to a more positive state of bringing art in to being.

You mentioned that part of your problem was a dissatisfaction with your space and I totally agree that having a suitable dedicated space is a big enabling factor. A studio is not a requirement for good creativity; as the photos in our book show I did much of my early work on a dining table. But I think that having a dedicated space however big small, basic or luxurious sends a big psychological message that creativity is a basic life function like cooking, washing, sleeping and doing laundry. In a studio what else are you going to do but create? Having that area is a sort of validating permission.

Or to put it another way, as my husband said when I checked he did not mind me spending so much time in my studio, "We spent thirty grand on it, you'd better be sending lots of time in there!" (Of course there is no need to build a new house storey as I did, its just identifying a space and dedicating it to creativity that works. I know part of your troubles that are consuming you involve your environment and what it will be like in the future and I encourage you to build into your plans a dedicated studio separate from your office.

Interestingly, I have noticed this pattern with my burgeoning Filofax collection too. I have a taste for these beautiful leather binders which come at a certain price, although the hunt for the bargain is fun. I realised this weekend that the areas of my life that have a really nice binder that I love to use and have pushed the boat out a bit to buy get more attention from me. I think it is that by the act of committing money and the beautiful object to that purpose, I validate the purpose as worthy and important. Plus, the pleasure of using the binders ( Oh, the lovely soft leather, the flippiness of the pages, the joy of customisation. Ahem) makes me give the material inside the attention it needs.

Yes, I could use a cheap notebook or a mock leather binder but the joy of using something beautiful is motivating. So, writing the hours I clocked towards my quilting target in an Ochre Malden A5 model? Double whammy of bliss and satisfaction! Too often we downgrade creativity to leftover status when for reasons of our well being it should be up there with gym membership. Do you find your filofaxes have the same result? Did buying that great beast of a Bernina of yours have the same effect?

You also asked what would I do if I found myself lacking in motivation. I would take a pile of art related books or magazine or the like to a cafe and start to browse. Without fail I find that shortly I start to get inspired and excited and start to hunt out paper and pen to write ideas down. It does seem to work best in a cafe though. Maybe its just that I have trained myself to get the same signal I get from going to a studio,but I have never fathomed why cafes are such special places for creativity. I know you share that love of cafe life. Do you know what it is about them?

You also asked me about the effect on working in a series, but you know, this is a long post so I think I will keep you in suspense and write about that next time. (Such a tease but I have much to say!)

Oh, but before I go, I wanted to ask you about your watercolour sketchbooks... They do not obviously seem design related. Do you see them as an end product in themselves, or is it the process that is important and if so why? I like the idea of doing them but them I see them as a huge distraction from the task in hand of art quilting. I do not have time for distractions! Am I missing something? Do they feed into your textile work or stand alone?

In January the builder starts to convert our garage into a wet studio and laundry area. Before then I have to clear the large amount of junk in there. I thought about taking one item at a time and drawing it and journalling briefly about the item as a sort of quirky record of creating the studio. But I don't know.. That's more hours.. Is it worth it?