Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fiberlandia Highlights II: The Breakout Sessions - Part B

Lyric Montgomery Kinnard
The second session I attended at the Portland Conference was presented by Lyric Kinnard.  Her topic was one that swirls around artists with great regularity, and shows up in a variety of guises on SAQA's General Yahoo it did this past week, in response to this question from member Roxanne in North Carolina:

Hi Everyone,
This question applies to all you.  If you are new to art quilting, what is your biggest question about making/designing art quilts?  If you have been around a while, what was your biggest question when you were getting started?  Any and all replies are appreciated!

It wasn't long before member Cathi Nelson wrote this:

As a new Art Quilter the thing I struggle with the most is confidence.  Having no formal art training I question my designs.  I compare my beginnings to others who have been on this journey awhile.    I have a multitude of ideas swirling around in my head and in my sketch books but struggle to commit to fabric.  In the six months I have been working on art quilts I think the key to developing my skills will come through continual trial and error, study, and time.  

I struggle with "Voice" but it is probably too early to  discover what that is.  I struggle with validation, can I really do this? I have come to a point in my life where this is not just something to do.  It is a passion.  I feel like it is taking a long time to get where I want to go.  I use my own hand dyed fabrics which is a time consuming process in its own right and could probably have a lot more work finished if I used commercial fabric but then this partly defeats my purpose and passion.

... Struggles are with confidence, the need for validation, voice, and direction.

I'll venture that every single one of us -- new to art quilting or not -- struggles with this (or something very like it; the language around this issue is as individual as each artist) from time to time.

Enter Lyric Kinnard, with her breakout topic, "Failure is an Option: Why Making Bad Art is Vital to Your Success".

Her point?  Right up front: acknowledge the fact that "To be a good artist, you have to make bad art on a regular basis."

Then she asked her audience, "What is FAILURE?"  To which we replied...

  • Not meeting expectations (our own or other people's)
  • Not doing art
  • Making ugly work that is irretrievable (can't be fixed)
  • Can't get started
  • Hesitation/procrastination
  • Disappointment
  • It can't get worse!
  • Rejection
  • Fear -- of failure
  • Fear -- of success
  • Being stuck
And she asked..."What are the consequences of the Real World? Are there any?"


"Failure" is more about a learning process than the outcome of that process.

The artist's job is to make art.  The artist is a human that is doing a project.  Part of the process is to figure out what does and doesn't work.

We need to give ourselves time to be imperfect, time to learn.

"Talk back to the Voice in your head!"  Be aware of it, forgive it for it's bad behaviour -- and forgive yourself.  Let go of your mistakes/"bad" work.
Don't worry about what you've no control over. 
Your work (what you produce) is NOT part of your self identity.

How do you turn failure into something positive?   This too is a process:
  • Stop what you're doing;
  • Analyze what you're doing;
  • Tweak it;
  • Do it again.
"There are always parts of the [artistic] process that I don't love."

What stops us?
  • An unexpected outcome;
  • Not being able to achieve our goals;
  • Boredom;
  • Fear of ruining the piece.
There is often a gap between our taste and our ability (skill level).  It takes time and work to shrink/close that gap.  
  • Give yourself that time.
  • Do that work.
  • Reign in your imagination.
  • Focus on the goal in front of you.
Then Lyric turned to us to answer our own questions, thus:
  • What do I want as an artist?
    • Who do I want to be?
    • What do I want to create?
  • Why do I have this goal?
  • Am I wandering from my goal(s)?
    • If yes...what is happening now that's an expected outcome?
From there...
  • Gather your tools;
  • Gather your techniques;
  • Give yourself space;
  • Do something different.
When does the Muse show up?  When you are in the midst of doing the work.

If you fear wasting time/money/materials/opportunities...Give yourself 15 minutes of "bad art time" and then get going!

How do you keep the work going?
  • Make lists;
  • Leave the last thing to do undone;
  • Clean your studio - clear your space;
  • Touch the fabric;
  • Set boundaries (limited palette, limited time to work, limited subject matter...);
  • Jump in over your head;
  • Don't compare your inside to someone else's outside.
Who do you think YOU are?

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