Things are getting more and more eccentric at Casa de la Swain. Changing styles in my textile work, falling in love again with painting and photography...and then there is the ever illusive quest for continuing creativity through working with Eric Maisel. Still on the road teaching, posting now at the Ragged Cloth Cafe and taking the pledge to keep handmaiden up to date.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Random Thoughts on this Whole Art Thang

After whining in my last post, I spent the day with an amazing group of women....full of energy...eager to experiment and just darn funny, warm and open. Mea culpea....what do I have to complain about, I am living my dream....being my own boss and making art. So shut my mouth, I made a list of pro and cons because I guess I constantly need to remind myself to "Be Here Now."
Here goes:
1. Admit you aren't working because you are still working out where this transition is leading.

2. You aren't are exhausted....I love the teaching but the traveling is hell. Solution: come up with a plan to correct this problem. At a round table discussion with the incredible women who run Quilting Adventures, I gleaned some workable ideas that I will announce within the week.

3. I have touched on this before but I am no longer focused on working for exhibitions. I just can't follow all the rules and at this point in my career, I am driven to work but don't feel the need to build a career. I already have paid my dues and was glad to do so. That does not mean I am going to rest on fictious laurels but instead push to explore new worlds.

4. Disconnect more from the world at large and get back to the internal core where all creativity resides. Take my own advice that creatively time is the only thing we can't replace.

5. As much as I love books about art and creativity, stop reading for awhile. Incorporate some of the ideas....throw out the ones that don't work for me..but be brave and fly on the trapeze without a net.

6. Lock the door, turn off the phone, layer up all the new pieces and get to work. If necessary become an art recluse until I push through all the sludge that I feel I am stuck in.

7. Every day that I am home do something, anything even if it is only for a hour.....before you know it something will get finished. Carve out that piece of time at the expense of all other events in daily life.

Driving home tomorrow will give me plenty of time to plant these seeds in my pea brain and to work on the new teaching schedule concept. Nothing like being alone in a car with some great cd's to change the direction of your life. Be back in a day or so with the results.

Studio Blues

Not only is my poor blog suffering from lack of postings but my studio is even sadder from lack of visitations. How do you manage to travel and teach and still get all that new work done that is in your sketch book, already in progress or still floating around in your head? The eternal dilemna of my life.
I keep reading all the pundits that tell me to get better organized. Phooey. I am organized to the hilt. Everthing in both the studio and office is acessible and as organized as I plan on ever being. If I can put my hands on what I need I consider that organized.
The other pundits tell me this is a plateau because I am making a transition in my work and that soon the plateau will begin to rise to the next level. Okay, I am patiently waiting for that one.....but shouldn't I still be producing some finished work?
Woe is me....I see a full blow pity party on the horizon. To be honest, I think I am just being lazy. There I said it. Since sweet Ronnie retired, I awaken to him being in the house (something I am adjusting to), I do my daily ablutions and then join him on the sofa and that is as far as I get. Business such as emails and shipping dvd's gets taken care of but then I go back to the sofa. I am enjoying his company but this has to stop.
Of course, not being home does keep me out of the studio. My spring travel schedule is way over the top but summer is better. I will just have to get my fix through watching all of your creative endeavors and drool with envy. Just for grins I will try to post pictures of everything that I have in progress so you won' think I am a total slug.....maybe it will inspire me to get off the sofa.
Enough of the maudlin drivel, off to teach Borrowed Tools to the great ladies in Kerrville, Texas.....Hill Country, one of the most beautiful parts of my home state.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

IndieArts DVD Zine

Yes, Indie Arts was my inspiration for the art quilt dvd zine. However, IndieArts covers all media from fine arts, collage, calligraphy and more. Our focus will be solely on original design, art quilts, exhibitions, an occasional new product, the gallery situation for textiles, SAQA, etc.

Just in case, I did not make this clear, this is not an on-line magazine that you can download. The file would be huge and with a normal burner probably take more than an hour. This is a tangible dvd that you will be able to play on anything that plays dvd's. I don't want you to be stuck in front of your computer unless that is the way you prefer to view dvd's. I want you sitting comfortably on the sofa watching what is basically a documentary film. Hope that clarifies some of the questions.

IndieArts is a fabulous zine and hope you will all take time to get at least one copy. My compliments to the vision and execution of the publication.
Now I promise to shut up about this and get to work. Still waiting for those title ideas.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Name That Magazine Contest

Since this new venture of mine is devoted to you, I have decided to accept submission for the title from those who would be reading it. The winner will receive a complimentary year's subscription.
Get those thinking caps on and let me know what would appeal to you.
Naturally I have been doing some thinking as well.. so we might come up with a combination. Nonetheless, whoever comes up with the most interesting title whether we put a preposition or article or add a word, will still be the winner.
Hoping my comments or mailbox is full of ideas.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Off to the Races

Thank you all for your positive responses to my new hair-brained idea....great questions and more than enough positive energy to make me think this might just be possible. Just to let you know I called Kim DeCoste at Quilts, Inc. and asked to do a School House session on how to market dvd's in quilt shops and to launch the new dvd I guess I am committed.
After crunching the numbers and considering the production involved, since this would not be like an instructional dvd....much shorter and a lot less work for me, I have arrived at this cost. Again, all comments are welcome. If you just buy individual issues, they would be $12.95; if after viewing a few you thought they were worthwhile and year's subscription (quarterly issues) would be $24.95. Whadda ya think?
Oh yeah, I meant to answer the question about being paid for interviews. I cannot tell you how many magazines have interviewed me in the past years. You do not get paid for's free publicity. However, you do get paid for doing articles and a pittance for using your images in said article. In fact, I was interviewed in Australia where they took pictures of me with my quilts and no $ were mentioned. Now since I am home another magazine writer who was at my opening ceremony lecture wants to interview me via email. Again no $ involved. So I guess the rule of thumb is if you do the work you get paid; if we do the work, you get free pr. Remember the only bad publicity is no publicity.
Now to get a title, to get the first issue selections going and ready to launch by November for quilt market and festival.....and of course, son Craig to design a page for the website. Call me crazy, huh? However, if this works it could be just what our market needs filling that void of make it and take it or totally pattern filled print magazines.
In my spare time, I am working on my entry for Houston. I have either hit my second wind or just gone over the cliff.
Please send any ideas of who or what you would like to see in the dvd zine. You are free to email me off line if you don't want to post in the comments.
BTW, Ronnie has that gleam in his eye like here she goes again.....sigh...that's what he gets for retiring. If he was still working I would be doing this and he wouldn't know until the first issue was already burned.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Some Basic Format Answers on the dvd zine

First, I see this as totally different from Quilting Arts, in that there would be minimal focus on how-to's. The basic format would include a featured artist, interviews with artist in their studio or in a teaching environment, an occasional article on some pertinent issue such as copyright etc.

Just off the top of my head: an interview with Loni Rossi or Jane Sassaman on how they turned their art into a fabric line.
A review and video of major shows like art Quilts at the Sedgwick
Interviews with both teachers and students at Art Quilt Tahoe or QSDS
Slide show of recent work from you with artist statements
A visit to Claire Fenton on her work after Katrina

Certainly submissions would be welcome from any artist for consideration.

An on-site view of Houston and Paducah with interviews of the winners or just constants.
New product interviews with the makers.

How's it sounding so far? Again any suggestions welcome.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Stop Me Quick if You Think this is Crazy

Since I am feeling very alone in cyberspace, I feel safe in posting this. Tonight I was looking through the month's Artist Magazine. In the bottom right hand corner of the page was an ad for a dvd magazine......whoa...halt....stop. We have all the equipment and processors to do this type of magazine for the art quilt/quilt world in general. It lit a fire in my beady little mind. Sweet Ronnie ran for the other room as fast as he could with the refrain...."you might be getting in too deep."
However, I see this as a perfect outgrowth of the instructional dvd's.
It is obviously only one disc. It contained a feature artist, and interview and a technique section.....that's about all one disc could hold. It could come out quarterly or three times a year. No searching for advertisement since I have already paid for the start up cost. However, if they came to us once it appeared viable I might consider it.
There are plenty of contacts at my disposal. Please show me the downside....okay, time but I have an editor and a shopping cart site already set up. We could take subscriptions or you could just buy each time a new issue became available on the website. What am I not seeing?
Help! Is this a totally crazy idea or do you think it might fly?

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Constant Learner

Karoda said...

Dear Gabrielle,

speak to me as the frustrated artist that I am...I'm all about skill/technique at this point in my process...I get these ideas and images rolling through my head but cut myself short out of uncertainty of how to execute them. Sometimes I think the answer lies in taking local classes at the quilt shops but that seems like a waste of time because I'm not working on MY designs...I was able to take a week long workshop last summer that focused on technique with the main focus of developing one's own unique designs and it was over the top energizing and effective for me...but what can you suggest for the in-between times?????

Frustrated in KY :)

Karen asks in her comment a very relevant question that any artist, no matter what their discipline, is faced with. We all wonder where to go from here in technique, design or subject matter. I am not sure this is the absolute answer but it seems to have worked for me and in my reading for many others. Here goes and I welcome your responses, if anyone is still reading my poor neglected postings.
During times of transition, turn to yourself for the answers. Going outside yourself to classes or coaches can be of benefit in certain situations but occasionally as Karen suggests they are a waste of time. I am self-taught in construction techniques. What I did was read books on a wide variety of techniques and then practiced them for long periods of time to see if they worked for me. Through this process, I discovered that I cannot accurately operate a sewing machine for complicated work but can do simple things with it. I am far better with needle, thread and my hands. Certainly, I had ideas, like Karen, that I wondered how I was going to construct but I came to them willing to do them incorrectly so that I could move on to another technique. The most exciting time for me as a quiltmaker was when my technical skills were on the edge of my design skills. Now after 20 plus years there is nothing that I can draw or conceive that I cannot execute. So as the old adage goes: Practice, practice, practice.

Do not be concerned if you will fail in your attempts. These are not failures they are learning what not to do. Thomas Edison experimented 2000 times before he discovered the method for making a filament that would serve to light our homes. Someone asked him why he kept on with all that failure. Paraphrasing his response, "They weren't failures. They were simply learning how to not make a filament." Meaning he used each attempt as a lesson to move forward for another attempt.

So, Karen, I would respond to your question with: Keep on sewing. Using the techniques you have to apply to your designs. When you get yourself backed into a corner, put that aside, see what it taught you and use that to move forward with another approach.

My other suggestion for all of us is that we be constant learners. Study other artists, look at clothing construction ( I didn't say make clothes) but discover what a French seam is, how to apply facings (now a very popular way for binding to the back so there is no stopping the image with a front facing binding), use your local library or buy second hand books if your budget allows.

As some of you well know, I am fascinated with research and studying other artist. It has been a constant inspiration for me. I in no way intended to do their work but I want to see how they approach composition, color, design to add to my own bag of tricks. It is when we become complacent with where we are that we tend to get bogged down. That is not to say that I won't return to leaf quilts at some point in time but am interested in following another path at the moment. I know I will receive resistance from the fans of the leaf quilts but I cannot be concerned with that. I keep my own counsel and follow through the open door.

Yes, Karen, after your amazing experience with freedom to explore, it is hard to hold on to that energy. I am not working in the studio at all at the moment but am concentrating on research and development. This is simply a plateau for both you and I. From this plateau will come a rise in movement, growth, improvement. Try to appreciate and enjoy the plateau, knowing that change is on the way.

Lastly, I will harp again on the pressure to produce in our particular discipline. We are expected to constantly have new work every year for whatever show or exhibit. We are way over the top on this particular aspect of artistic development. Bands spend months, even years developing new music.....which involves hours of practice in the studio and many do-overs until they get the right sound. I personally know painters who have worked on a single painting for many years. Often putting it aside, doing smaller works and then returning to their major piece until it is just what they are trying to express. My hope is that we would/could allow ourselves that same kind of latitude. However, I observe that we fear we will drop off the map if we don't continue to crank out work constantly. This sets us up for continual repeats and gives little time for exploration and experimenting.

A long answer to a short question but I hope it helps. The constant learner never faces fear of failure but instead welcomes anything that falls short of their vision. This isn't failure to the constant learner but instead a way to gain mastery over their medium.

Returning to contemplation, I remain certain that you will find your own techniques that are suitable for the work you wish to accomplish. Sending you lots of light and energy for your adventure.