Oops! Handling failure….

There is a difference between a mistake and a failure



I ruined a quilt I spent thirty hours on!

H2Oh! in progress

H2Oh! in progress

I had worked very hard on a potential entry in the SAQA exhibit H2oh! The last step in my process is covering the surface with a matt varnish with UV protection. My rational has been to seal the surface to help protect it from handling the quilt, fading and to ensure any lose threads cannot be pulled.


I have always used the same water based product. It came in a money saving gallon tub. The tub would last a year.  In this one case the entire surface of the quilt looked cloudly after it dried.  Panic set in.  I went to my local art supply store to consult with the manager. He said the cause could have been the product getting too hot, being over mixed, too thick, inconsistent drying during the heat spell, etc…  In the future he suggested I use a very thin spray varnish to avoid any potentional clouding.

There was no turning back. H2oh! went into the garbage as a total failure.

“A failure by my definition is a mistake that cannot be undone.”

One of my options after closing the lid of the trash can would have been to reorder my origonal design from my “Spoonflower” account. Having completed the project once and keeping a photographic record of my progress; I could easily duplicate this project. It would be the quick path. Instead, I thought of the failure as a message from my art angels to step back and reflect. Maybe my failure was ment to be. 

When I finished my JAM portfolio in the early spring, I submitted a portfolio of 7 art quilts. I believed I was creating two distinct series of portraits. One was portraits of spirtual practices like mediation and the other group were portraits investigating my family.

My mentor suggested that I needed to stop seeing my work in seperate catagores. The work I was making should be an extention in large body of work. With each new quilt I creating for myself new challenges and addressing problems with previous work.  Don’t repeat, expand!

A portrait of meditation.

A portrait of meditation.

A portrait of my Grandfather

A portrait of my Grandfather







Was the failed work an  authentic extention of my previous work?

I responded to the “H2oh!”  theme by making a portrait of a process of meditating to the sound of water. When I meditate, I often just put on the sound of water a let my mind quiet. This would be another portrait of of a spiritual practice but was I creating new challenge?  Was I moving forward creativily or resting on established formula?

On balance, I did spend a great of time on this project  improving technically but very little time on anything else. Recently, I have made an effort to use thread as a stonger design element. I have started collecting a large number of threads that allow me to use thread much like I would use colored pencils.  From that limited perspective, I was challenging myself.  Thread

 Looking at any project technically is not enough. An artist needs to express something deeper. So I chose to move to another project. This time it is self portrait. The self portrait has so much potential both technically and thematically as an exploration of who I am in the context of where I came from.

(I have not abandoned working on entry for H2oh! I have an abstract portrait for sound of water and photo of my father in law as an ocean life guard.) 

Portrait in progress. From a photograph of me in 1976

Portrait in progress. From a photograph of me in 1976


Until the Next Time

You can find my work at:
Textile Museum at George Washington University
"Diaspora: Stories of Migration"
through September 4th

New Legacies
Lincoln Center 
Ft. Collins, CO
July 5th - September 3rd

SAQA Benefit Auction
Bidding starts September 16th

International Quilt Festival – Houston, TX: October 2016    
International Quilt Festival – Chicago, Illinois: April 2017 

SAQA - Portfolio 21 
Type: SAQA Portfolio 
Price: $29.95

Mesquite Local News
Article "A splash of Color"
Featured Art Quilt "Namaste"