Category Archives: My Journey

Artists like Authors, Need a “Reader”: The Value of Trusted Feedback

Have a best friend…..

who you trust to tell you the truth?


I have a best friend who will tell me the unvarnished truth. It’s cheaper than therapy. I am a better person because she is the person helping me keep moving in the right direction in my personal life.

 The idea that an artist works in isolation and without feedback is a myth. Artists need friends working in the art world.  Critique groups, guilds and professional organizations have been keys to my success.  These groups are where I can connect with people who are important to my art life .  In my new community I was lucky to find a few people who, like a best friend;  give me unvarnished feedback. 


Most successful authors have a person who they call a “reader”: Someone who reads the first draft of novel and provides feedback. Often this person is a spouse or best friend who is not writer. They have important qualities.

Stephen King’s wife is his reader.

  • First, this reader doesn’t have “skin in the game” like an editor or agent looking down the road at sales.
  • Second they are familiar with a body of work not just a single manuscript. Overtime the reader has seen many books in the early stages.
  •  Finally  they are trusted. Trust is the most important quality.  It is developed overtime and is not easily abandoned or replaced. A reader has complete trust  in the author’s commitment to the artistic process. The author trusts the reader to provide thoughtful and productive feedback. 

Like an author, an artist needs someone to look at work in progress. I often ask my husband to step into my studio and give me his thoughts. Lucky for me, John is able to point out an issue with a composition quickly. (The downside is he is not inclined to spend anytime explaining explaining his thought process.)  That’s why I have a critique group. Within that group there are individuals who give me valued unvarnished feedback. 


One of my struggles when I moved away from Colorado was finding my art “tribe”.   In the small town of Mesquite, I joined the local gallery and connected with a couple of people, but the community did not have the wealth of fiber artists I had been accustomed to in Colorado.

When I joined a quilt guild in nearby St. George I was introduced to many members who were art quilters.  By the time we moved to St. George I knew a small group of art quilters that wanted to participate in a critique group. 

After meeting over several months our little group has begun to jell. Seeing each other’s work over time and various stages of development has opened the door to becoming each other’s readers. We trust each other.  I am taking full advantage of this gift. Now I would not consider working on a project without sharing my progress with my critique group.  

Before I finished this recent quilt called “The Narrows” one of my critique group members pointed out an obvious problem. This is much more successful thanks to her.

Since our group meets once a month, I take advantage of using facebook and other social media. I post images and occasionally I ask for feedback. This is such a time saver. When I look at a project over many hours I get blind to some very obvious issues. Like many artists I use my camera to help me identify problems with composition, but this is not foolproof.  When I was more isolated in Mesquite, I would close my studio door and do other things for a couple of days until I could look with a fresh set of eyes. 


Now I can put a quilt up on facebook and ask for feedback.  Within hours I have that trusted “suggestion” that only certain people can give. Lucky me!


Until next time…..
Margaret

You can see my work…….

 

Under The Western Sun
Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Golden CO
April 27 – July 25 2017
The Macey Center 
Socorro, NM 
July 24 to September 11.

H2Oh!
National Quilt Museum, Paducah Kentucky
June – September 2017

Sacred Threads
Herndon VA
July 7 – 23 2017 
Flint Festival of Quilts, Flint MI – September 2017
HeART Gallery, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Toledo, OH – October 18-30, 2017
Grace Episcopal Church, Gainesville GA – November 1 – December 15, 2017
Voice of the Spirit Gallery, West Raleigh Presbyterian Church, Raleigh, NC -January – February, 2018
Southeastern Quilt & Textile Museum, Carrollton GA – March-June, 2018
Good Shepard Episcopal Church, Hayesville NC – July, 2018
The Rectory Cultural Arts Center, Norcross, GA – August, 2018
Virginia Quilt Museum, Harrisonburg VA – September-December, 2018
Best of the Valley Quilt Show, Lindsay, CA – April, 2019
A World of Quilts , Danbury, CT – May 2019

Turmoil
Festival of Quilts
Birmingham, United Kingdom
August 10, 2017 – August 13, 2017

Pathfinders
Southern Utah Museum of Art
Cedar City Utah
June 30 – August 26 2017

The View
St. George Museum of Art
St. George Utah
April 28 – August 16 2017

 

35th Annual New Legacies
Lincoln Center
Ft. Collins, CO
July 5 – August 26

Interpretations: Conversations
Visions Art Museum
San Diego, CA
October 21 2017 – January 7 2018

 

It’s been awhile…..

It was couple of years ago I moved from our family home  to our vacation home in Mesquite Nevada. I wrote several posts describing the change, what I didn’t share was how this change ultimately fell short of my expectations. 

Source: paxonbothhouses.blogspot.com

Isolation

 

Transition takes time to emotionally sink in and when in the middle of a big change you may mistake being “busy” for being fullfilled.

I did. 

One day I woke up and found myself lost.

Apparently I had been lost for sometime and did not realize that externally I had reorganized my life with fulfilling tasks, but failed to meet the needs of my soul. By the summer of this year, despite a glorious trip to Europe and the birth of the most perfect grandchild; I was down in the dumps. I suffered from anxiety, spent way too much time alone and had trouble motivating myself to do anything outside of my studio.

Luckily for me I am by nature; an analytical person.  When I realized  the problem was not going to pass on it’s own I sought help. I was not afraid to make changes, research, to be open to suggestions and to try potential solutions.  I got a new doctor who was a good listener. I made some lifestyle changes and made an effort to be more attuned to my physical well being. 

The second thing that started me on a more positive path was growing connections with fellow creative spirits: Women who wanted more out of life than just to be comfortable. Although I have a wealth of creative friends which I keep connected to online, in Mesquite I wasn’t able to find the intellectual depth I needed to grow . I found these kind of women in Saint George Utah, 


So I moved!
 


We found the perfect home. It’s less than an hour from Mesquite, but is in a much larger and more diverse community.  It has an active and interesting quilt guild. There is a museum.  The downtown has an amazing library. The are lot’s of bike paths and it is filled with beautiful places to hike. There are good places to eat, shop, listen to concert or go to a play. 

We choose a family neighborhood, near a park with room enough to comfortably have guests. The house has a back yard to garden. There is a huge gourmet kitchen and a three car garage that my husband loves. My studio is in a front bedroom that is larger than my old studio and filled with light. 

I plan to start full speed on several new projects. I also want to balance my studio work with a daily journal writing, cooking, water aerobics and making functional items. There is a wonderful group of art quilters to keep me moving forward. 

Southern Utah is place of great beauty. People from all over the world travel here to see Zion National Park. I feel at home here. I feel welcome and I look forward to many happy years in my new home.

 

Next Post is my word of the year: Observation 

Until Next time..
Margaret

 

 

 

 

 

Finding New Energy

As I headed back from a trip to the opening of “Diaspora: Stories of Migration” at the Textile Museum at Georgetown University I was feeling inspired and ready to create. Now that I am home I don’t seem to be getting much done………. page_1


dr-seuss

What creates or supports artistic energy?
“When you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”
— Dr. Seuss


In a recent post my Marie Shell” blog “Tales of a Sticher” , she was reviewing her activity in March. Amazingly this very productive artist, mother of kids still in school, lecturer, writer and teacher  has time to keep track of her activities from morning til night in a daily journal. From 7:30 until 9 she was at the computer, from 9-11 she put in hours for an arts organization, etc… She was in her studio working and even recorded the time she took to knit at the end of the day!

I am retired and have no real “responsibilities” besides a modest amount of volunteer work .  This week I read, had drinks on the patio with neighbors, watched golfers go by, hiked in the desert, binged watched TV, cuddle with my dogs, shopped online, hemmed pants and experimented with veggies on the grill (yum!), but spent little time in my studio creating.

So what’s my excuse!

  1. I don’t have an immediate deadline
  2. It’s just too nice outside
  3. Game of Thrones started
  4. I reading a great series of books
  5. My first grandchild is due any day now
  6. I am just a few pounds from my goal weight and need to get my 10,000 steps
  7. My dog has allergies and needs his bath everyday
  8. I am waiting for my creative juices to flow
  9. Busy writing this blog post……

Really I am just not putting in the hours in my studio that I had prior to finishing my juried artist portfolio (JAM) and applying to some key exhibits. My recent post “Scheduling Time Off” should have clued me into a slump of productivity on my horizon.

sign direction motivation - creativity made in 2d software

So how do I get out of the slump?

In a quick google search for “slump” I found an interesting information about everything from sports slumps to slumps in revenue. Suggestions ranged from using the stages of grief to deal with a slump starting with anger and moving toward acceptance.  Many authors suggested starting with clean work space and making a list of the good habits that keep you productive or post written goals in your office. Find a mentor! Get a life coach! Etc, etc, etc…..

All good suggestions, but what stuck a chord with me was an article in the business section of the Guardian. The article suggested that a slump in productivity can be a positive signal of huge shifts leading to massive improvements in productivity on a large scale.

Indeed, when radical innovations are rolled out, their immediate effect is to reduce, not raise, productivity.”

 Why a productivity slump can be a harbinger of better times
by  

While I am not out of slump, I am framing this slowdown in production as a natural process that will lead to an increased level of creativity and new ideas that will rock my world. In the meantime, I have cleaned my studio, went to a friend’s house to learn a new technique for free motion quilting (Thank you Carrolee!) and started working on a project “Namaste” which I plan to enter into “Sacred Threads” .

"Namaste" in progress

“Namaste” in progress

“It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop”
                                                                                                Confucius

Until next time……
Margaret

 

Scheduling Time Off

things-to-do-today

It seems my “to do list” is done.


I have now completed  these major projects:

1. New portfolio of work
2. Become a Juried Artist Member of SAQA
3. “Above and Beyond” – A show of art quilts at a premiere venue
4. Found a local venue to sell my work (solo show in April)
5. Completed a redesign of my web page, blog and gallery

Right now I still have a quilt on my design wall and I have a couple of shows I want to enter. I am working a collection of small quilts I hope to find a venue for and I almost done with photographing that group of pieces. But my BIG projects that have taken up my life for the past year are completed.

tightrope-

My word of the year is “balance” and I want to honor that commitment to living a life that is not so filled that I can’t rest or life that is so controlled that I am never pushing my limits.

When I first retired I needed time to figure out what I was going to do. That took almost a year! By documenting that transition in my blog posts; I can look back see just how much I have accomplished.  Last May after returning from a conference, I set some new goals which I feel I have achieved. Now I am at the point where I need to take a step back.


Every seven years, designer Stefan Sagmeister closes his New York studio for a yearlong sabbatical to rejuvenate and refresh their creative outlook.
stefansagmeister


Research shows there is great value in taking time off  from what it is you do to help your focus and creative energy.

Sagmeister is following a model well known in higher education. Many Universities offer Professors a sabbatical year to increase dynamic research.  On a smaller scale I found that the summer break allowed me to recharge my creative batteries.  My routine was unstructured. I got a chance to sit on my back porch and daydream. It allowed me to experiment in my studio, try new things and not worry about the results.

The new office

The new office

Many large companies include scheduled time off. IBM gives it’s employees 15% of their work time to pursue their passions. Google gives their employees 20% of their time back.  Forward thinking institutions invest in seemly “nonproductive time” to increase the energy, creativity and focus within their organizations.


Looking down the road, I am thinking seriously about a scheduled yearly break from making art quilts, entering shows, taking part in meetings or class related to art quilting.  In his TED talk,  Sagmeister gave solid suggestions and outlined some pitfalls which I will want to avoid.

The first year Sagmeister took time away was not as productive as he had hoped. He had no plans. Everything was opened ended and unscheduled which wasted valuable time figuring out what ideas he wanted to pursue.  Before starting his break he prepared to stop by finishing projects, writing and letting other people know he would not be available.  He made a note in his daily calendar well before his time off to make sure he was ready on day one to use the time wisely.

Ceramic artist at work

Ceramic artist at work

One idea I had was taking month to focus on health. Maybe improve my meditation practice, get better at yoga, or start a sport. Another idea I had was to take time to work with a completely different medium. There is a very nice pottery studio in town. I might just spend a month working there away from my typical studio. Using the time to take an extended trip to photograph or delve into cooking also is appealing.

This is an idea that I think is worth investing in.

Until next time….
Margaret

Feeling overwhelmed can be a good thing!

Taking on a big project can feel overwhelming. 


My stated goal in my last post was to “take full advantage of retired life.” I want to keep growing creatively and adjusting to new challenges without increasing my level of stress.

Over the past year I have found a new rhythm to my life. Several days a week I spend most of my “energy” in my studio. I keep healthy with walking, yoga and meditation. My social life is growing through connections with other artists in my area.

Even with the luxury of being able to set my own schedule and the self awareness to know what works for my physical and emotional well being; I occasionally get overwhelmed. Taking on too much creates a challenge. When faced with a challenge I have to rely on my strengths and  I get to discover new skills.


Before I retired I committed to being the regional representative for the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA). I accepted this job when I was still working.  Before getting this role, I approached a city gallery director about  an idea to use a public space to display art quilts. Eighteen months later 60 artists from three states have art quilts on display.  “Above and Beyond” at the Lakewood Cultural Center opened on January 22nd in the main gallery at the atrium. It will remain on display until Easter.

Since the chance meeting with the gallery director in spring of 2014 until the show opened  I have invested many many hours on this project. Two weeks before the show was hung was stressful. Artists needed information, the venue needed images, schedules had to be adjusted, inventory had to be received and volunteers needed to be organized.

Above Main-Gallery

Add to this the physical nature of hanging work from wires, arranging a pleasing display and working within a large group of people – many of whom I was meeting for the first time. I began to wonder if I was in over my head. Lucky for me I had lot’s of help from my co-rep, gallery staff and SAQA members.

By the time I got home from hanging the show in Colorado I was tired and a little sore. The first thing I did was finish up a project in my studio and sent off an entry to a national SAQA show “Tranquility”. Then I started eating better, caught up on my reading list and slowly got back into a routine.


Now it’s time to evaluate.
After putting this show together, I am thinking about the experience and putting it into perspective by asking a couple of questions: 

What capabilities helped me get this project done
and
does this challenge inspire me to pursue similar projects?  


I have strong organizational skills:
As former art teacher I can assemble materials and instruct groups of people pretty well. I also understand how to communicate effectively using email and social media. Networking helped me reach out to people who had skills I don’t and have access to information I would need.

I love people and creative people in particular. Working with a gallery director turned out to be something I really enjoyed and learned a great deal about how that position fits in the art world. It helped me to have a personality willing to let creative people take charge. I like to organize, but not to control every detail.

Inspired to create a small group show:
After I hanging a show that left me feeling exhausted, I wanted to say “never again”. I don’t disregard the parts of challenge that I found tedious or that did not fit my skill set. But a given a little time, I started thinking about the value of expanding the world of the art quilt through shows in public spaces.

I would like to work with another public gallery or public space. I don’t want to spend my energy managing a large group. I would like to  find a small group of local art quilters, who would share responsibilities for a show at a public space.


My biggest insight was I am coming very close to leaving behind a desire to “lead”. As a working mother; I often joined organizations and ended up in a leadership roles. These groups allowed me to express myself creatively, support organizations that I believed in and to connect with a large network of interesting people.

This has been true with my role in SAQA as representative. This job will end in November.  I have learned so much and made so many friends. Now I look forward to working in small collaborative groups and finding places closer to home to display art quilts.

Until the next time…..

Margaret