Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth. --Pema ChodronI learned to quilt in the late 90's. I'd been sewing clothes for decades. After college I began exploring many other artforms--dance, creative writing, photography, drawing, painting, collage, ceramics, mixed media sculpture. I kept ripping up the images, paper, canvas, wet clay and materials, and stitching them back together. After discovering some 100-year-old family quilts, I realized I should try quilting.
Yet quilting was far more personal than I'd realized--somehow demanding more from me emotionally and energetically than any other kind of creativity. This was the way all the stories wanted to come out. And some were very challenging to reveal.
The first quilt had to be about my grandmother, a professional dressmaker, who taught me to sew. I lost her when I was 13 and sewing had just never felt right or easy without her.
First Quilt Lisa K. Alan
Cottons, sheers, synthetics, mixed media machine-pieced, hand-appliqued, machine-quilted, 4' x 4.25'
I made a number of quilts at that time that were equally demanding--about being injured in an accident, about war, about the loss of my mother, about gratitude and wanting what you get from this life, the exquisite beauty along with the shattering heartbreaks.
Some quilts were more lighthearted, mainly explorations of color and design, learning how far to push this fiber medium into sculpture. Many were gifts for others.
I then put ten years' worth of time and energy into teaching quilting, as an artform and as a life skill. In the container I made for my students, they shared their own stories through their quilts. I heard again all that life has to offer us--humor, joy, loss, struggle, wonder.
Honesty. Quilts require something very real and honest. And they reflect the truth about ourselves, our unique experience. I can't explain how, but I've seen it again and again in my students. Especially with the teens-at-risk.
So, it was time to make my own work again. In my studio. Alone. Just me and the potential and the FEAR.
Art and fear. Entire books have been written about this, much better than I can express here. But the hamster wheel message going round and round in my head was (to quote my students): What if it sucks? Peppered with my own mid-life perspective: And what if I don't have IT anymore?
IT. I've worked with all kinds of resistance in my students. Teacher, teach thyself. So I created a game plan to trick the HWCC (Hamster Wheel Committee of Critics.) If the fear I felt was a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth then how could I use that experience to fuel something positive? To create a good and useful outcome? Or at least a juicy little quilt.
OK, so one hour, one pillow per night. My own little Game Show. Set the timer. No attachment. It can suck if it HAS to. When the HWCC gets overwhelming, cut it up, add another strip, or simply start again. Just keep working.
I discovered two things:
The fear never really goes away, but it can be temporarily transformed into excitement and even curiosity.
The HWCC is surprisingly slow on the uptake. They have one trajectory (round and round and round) and can't adapt easily to switching. Kind of like mosquitoes. When I'm paralyzed and stagnant, they locate and feast. But when I'm in motion, changing it up, threads flying, they get confused.
And I get closer to the truth.
Branches Pillow 2 Lisa K. Alan
Made after a week of the Game Show
Cottons, satins, velvet, corduroy, synthetics, machine-pieced, 12" square