A step back…

With everything on my schedule at QuiltCon, I did not spend a lot of time looking at the quilts themselves.  But the Denyse Schmidt exhibit stopped me in my tracks.  I love her minimalist quilts – especially the ones she designed as part of the Mount Lebanon series.  They spoke to me so loudly and powerfully that all I could think was “Why aren’t I making quilts like these?”

I remember the first time I saw this quilt online – it knocked me out.  While I didn’t forget about it, the busyness of life moved on and its impact receded.  I had seen pictures online of most of these quilts before and have Denyse’s latest book, but somehow seeing them in person was dramatic.

I have several ideas as to why I’m not making quilts that speak to me so forcefully:
1)  I’m not Denyse Schmidt.
2)  I read a lot of blogs and look at a lot of pictures of quilts on social media.  Am I confusing my brain with all the fantastic input?  It isn’t that I’m trying to copy others, just that maybe there is too much visual clutter in my head for me to sort out what I really want to make.
3)  I’ve started thinking about whether other people will like what I make.  Honestly, I want to make a living in this business, so if people don’t like my quilts, that won’t happen.  It isn’t like I have thrown my style out the window, but I have made some subtle changes on some of my quilts with other people’s likes in mind.
4)  I’m trying to work too quickly.  I’m always working on one deadline or another and trying to fit in more than there is really time for.  This doesn’t encourage letting an idea simmer in your head for a while or for leaving a quilt on the design wall to see if the colors really work together.
5)  I never would have had the guts to use that much negative space.  It is a lesson to me that, as much as I know I love what the quilting adds to the quilt, it just adds so much more than I think it does when I’m staring at fabric on a design wall.
6)  Maybe I’m letting too much time pass between designing a quilt and making it.  I get so excited when I’m in the design process, maybe I’m just over it by the time I get to the actual sewing several months later.

It isn’t that I don’t like the work I’ve been doing.  I do and I’m proud of it.  It’s more like (warning:  sports analogy coming) I’ve been hitting good solid base hits, but no home runs.

So what am I going to do about it?  I’m going to try to spend a little more time thinking and considering.  I will try to slow my process down a bit and take a step back from time to time and think about where I’m going design-wise and what it is I want my quilts to say.  I don’t know if my next quilts will be home runs or not, but I’d like to feel that sense of possibility in the air.

(All these photos are of Denyse Schmidt quilts taken by me at QuiltCon)

  • Rossie
    Posted at 22:11h, 11 March Reply

    I love that modern quilting has come far enough that we can get overwhelmed…I remember desperately searching for input in "the olden days."

  • Casey York
    Posted at 00:23h, 08 March Reply

    This is a lovely and thought provoking post. I did want to say, however, that I think your quilts are as lovely and your style/voice as distinct as Denyse Shmidt's. I wonder if it isn't natural to be struck harder by others' work than our own–perhaps because it forces us to see through someone else's eyes for a moment.

  • Sharon
    Posted at 00:09h, 08 March Reply

    I have had some of the same feelings. I've decided, for myself, that there is most certainly Inspiration Overload to blame. When I do what I do, the way I want to do it I am at my happiest.

  • howtobejenna
    Posted at 17:40h, 07 March Reply

    This was such a great, thought-provoking post! I am so excited for you to have the time this year (no more "day job"!) to play and discover and shape your identity further.

  • Cheryl Arkison
    Posted at 16:40h, 07 March Reply

    Using your DS analog further, look at the quilts that were in the show versus what she produces for patterns and books. The odd crossover, but not much. She seems to have a distinct style, but it gets translated differently. Mass production design versus art? That seems a crass distinction, but there is a distinction.

    I think similar thoughts and believe that giving myself time to play really helps. And I think my "mass produced" stuff is starting to reflect the style I've got right now too. Slowly getting there.

    It will never be perfect, but nurturing ourselves does so much for us as individuals and entrepreneurs.

  • Marg
    Posted at 09:18h, 07 March Reply

    I agree, very thought provoking. I ask myself quite a few of those questions, often, and I don't intend to make a living from quilting. The internet is fabulous but sometimes I think there can be an overload of inspiration and I know that sometimes it muddies my ideas.

  • MariQuilts
    Posted at 00:41h, 07 March Reply

    Great thought provoking post. For me, when I am sewing for someone specifically or making what I think someone will like, all my creativity seems to dry right up. I find working on multiple projects allows for certain projects to sit and simmer, if that's what they need. Oh, and I go through a love/hate thing with almost everything I make.

    We probably do get a little visually overloaded.

  • Shruti
    Posted at 00:22h, 07 March Reply

    I have been thinking along the same lines for two days… I feel burdened by an information – or better to say – inspiration overload… When I see things that inspire me, sometimes they actually take me away from myself… I have been thinking of a one week internet blackout to concentrate on actually working! I think it just might help!

  • Merry Perkins
    Posted at 22:28h, 06 March Reply

    Quilting has room for everyone's voice. If we were all the same, there would be no songs to sing, flavors to test or discoveries to find. I love traditional patterns, but make them with batiks, Kona solids, Kaffe, Asian and other fabrics. Listen to the internal melody inside your head and give yourself time to follow the beat. Your schedule exhausts me reading it. And you don't need to be Denise!

  • Charlotte
    Posted at 22:19h, 06 March Reply

    Very thoughtful post. I especially love number 1 đŸ˜‰

  • Lynn
    Posted at 21:13h, 06 March Reply

    These are good thoughts. I know that I need to spend some time finding my quilt voice. I get easily distracted by fun looking quilt ideas.

  • bluedaisyconnection.com
    Posted at 21:02h, 06 March Reply

    Debbie you are asking some great questions. I struggle with figuring out "my style" and I am not designing patterns or making a living at this… not that it might not be great to do so – but it isn't my livelihood. There is so much to look at and such variety that I sometimes sit and look at my stash and can't come up with what to do next. Hope you will share more about this as you process your thoughts and feelings. I love your work and wonder why I can't come up with such good ideas!

  • Leanne
    Posted at 19:31h, 06 March Reply

    I hope you have some fun exploring this inspiration.

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