This weekend I finished After Images. I have entered it into the Contemporary Quilt Group Challenge called Elements. If successful it will be shown at Festival of Quilts in August.
It is years and years since I have made a piece specifically for a themed challenge. Back when I used to describe myself as a ‘just’ a quilter and was a member of a couple of traditional patchwork and quilting groups I almost felt a sense of obligation to enter various themed competitions. I often read or heard that it was a way to show support for groups such as the Quilters Guild or to show support for quilt shows such as Malvern. And it probably is. And certainly many people love entering challenges. But, for me, ‘forcing’ myself to create something was usually a negative experience. Over the years I made some truly horrible pieces as I tried to respond to a theme that did not inspire me. Eventually I said ‘never again’ and vowed to only work on pieces that come from me. From ideas that I want to spend time exploring. Using materials and techniques that evolve through experimentation and play.
So I was rather surprised when I read the title of the CQ Challenge and realized that it would fit very nicely with ideas that I have worked on over the last couple of years around ‘chemistry’. And the relatively small format has allowed me to fit this piece around the two series that I currently have running: Hidden Messages and Ruins. Serendipity! And maybe the beginning of another series??
I’m also really pleased that it is a CQ challenge as the quality of work submitted to previous challenges has been excellent. And the pieces are shown in a gallery setting which is a better fit for me. For those that don’t know it the Contemporary Quilt Group is a specialist group within the British Quilters Guild and its’ members include many wonderful artists (and friends!). So I know that I will be in very good company whether I am accepted or rejected.
Hidden Message 18 detail
Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work’ (Chuck Close)
I’ve been keeping track of the hours I spend on my art for a few years now and used to be pretty happy if I managed 15 hours a week. I used to let myself take 3 hours off that target for every night I spent away from home with my day job. And I’d take 6 hours off that total if I was busy with other stuff one day at the weekend. As you can imagine there were weeks when ‘art’ owed me time!
That all changed last year. Building a studio space has given me somewhere so lovely to work why would I want to be anywhere else. And then I read the ‘War of Art’ and ‘Turning Pro’ by Steven Pressfield and decided that I was ready to turn pro. So my weekly target is now 20 hours per week. If I’m away from home for 1 or 2 nights my target is still 20 hours. If I have family stuff happening at the weekend my target is still 20 hours. If I loss a day to a migraine my target is still 20 hours. (I even got up early on Christmas Day to get a couple of hours in!!). If I know I’m going to be travelling a lot or otherwise tied up with the day job I ‘book’ myself a holiday from the studio. And I record my hours on a planner pinned to the cupboard where I store the studio biscuit tin so I am guaranteed to see how I’m doing.
I’ve also paid attention to how easy or hard it is to walk out to the studio each evening or each day. And to the type of activity I prefer to do. I noticed that I was much more relaxed and more productive in the spring and summer as the evenings got longer. Although the studio is only 20m from the house it takes an extra effort to go out to the studio on winter evenings when it is dark, cold and wet. In the spring and summer I really love doing wet process, in the autumn and winter I prefer to stitch. I also noticed that I was particularly productive during the 4 long weekends we have due to public holidays. And that my productivity was disproportionally bigger than the extra hours would suggest. I found that I could give myself ‘permission’ to sit in the garden or even have a nap and still produce some great work.
So this year I am experimenting with time. I know that if I take a weeks holiday from my day job to spend in the studio I will run out of energy by the Thursday and won’t achieve the hours that I would expect. Instead this year I am taking 5 Mondays off in April and May. Combined with the public holidays that means I have 8 long weekends across April and May. I spent time in March when I couldn’t be in the studio thinking about what I want to achieve over this period and it is pretty ambitious. I have set myself the goal of completing 4 more Hidden Message pieces ready for the Etcetera exhibition in September. I am also going to complete the After Image piece for the CQ Challenge. And I’m going to create more cloth for the Ruins series. I want to complete 2 fairly large Ruins pieces by end September so need to get all the textile printed by the end of May. And I also want to finish Ruins 3.
The Easter weekend was the first one. I put in a great 15 hours spread across 3 days and spent the fourth day starting some long overdue decorating. I finished the Ruins 3 piece. I stitched a Hidden Message piece (see photo below). And I did not feel in the least bit resentful when I was up a ladder painting a wall. So far so good!
Hidden Message 18