March 25, 2014

Quilting Happiness . . . What Makes You Happy?

Quilting Happiness . . . those two words just seem to go together don't they?

I recently read a most enjoyable new book, Quilting Happiness by Christina Lane and Diane Gilleland. I don't know either of these women, nor do I have any stake in writing about the book. I simply borrowed it from my local library. And I'm so glad I did. You can learn more about the book here.

It's more than a project book. While there are 20 wonderful projects included, it's the other aspects of the book that I found so interesting.  The authors delve into the reasons behind why we make quilts. In the introduction they ask the question, "which part of your latest project feels more valuable: the finished quilt itself, or the experience you had while making it?" They go on to add it's their hope the book . . . "will serve as a workbook of sorts to help you explore what makes you happiest in your quilting . . . "

Coincidentally, I had been giving some thought to this even before reading the book. I've been considering not only what defines my personal style but also what is it that draws me into the world of quilting in the first place. Why do I think about quilting all the time? Yes, I actually do think about quilting almost all the time. However, I'd never really thought about quilting from the happiness side of the equation. What is it about quilting that makes me happy? And for that matter, are there aspects that don't make me happy?

In the first chapter, the authors recommend "exploring your creative fingerprint and discovering how it shows up in your work." They define your creative fingerprint as a unique set of symbols, colors, textures, and ideas that sets your heart dancing. So here's my thoughts . . .

My creative fingerprint consists of:
  • Clear saturated bright colors . . . especially in the green/aqua and pink/orange/yellow families plus black and whites. A growing attachment to low volume as well.
  • Large scale prints by Kaffe Fassett and Amy Butler along with other tone on tone prints . . . especially stripes and dots.
  • A fondness for florals, and especially leaves, including both modern and traditional prints.

This is a glimpse of my creative fingerprint in terms of my stash.

Looking beyond my studio to what inspires me are things like:
  • the tiny details of texture and pattern found in both nature and the manmade environment.
  • the variety and subtlety of colors, especially those found in nature like trees and flowers.
  • the composition of elements when I pull back and look at the bigger picture of my surroundings, specifically in nature but also in the manmade world.
  • the design elements of line and repetition are of particular interest to me.

I love the details of plant life like these hosta leaves . . .

I love the abundance, variety and subtlety of color found in flowers.

I love to look for the compositions all around me . . . especially in nature . . . 

I love the qualities of line and repetition in this cracked ground and in the architecture . . . 

These things however just dent the surface. They are just a few of the things I find inspiring visually and they certainly influence my fabric choices but in and of themselves still don't explain why I love quilting. What exactly it is about quilting that I find so compelling. What is it about quilting that actually makes me happy?
  • First and foremost is the design process. I have a graphic design degree so that influence is part of who I am and how I see things. Designing makes me happy.
  • Playing with color and texture in the form of printed fabrics. I love playing with the colors and patterns in fabrics to see how I can combine them into something visually exciting.         An abundance of visual activity makes me happy.
  • Within this abundance of visual activity though I need structure.  I need a plan in most areas of my life. Spontaneity does not come easy to me . . . just ask my husband.  Improv quilts are wonderful but they are not my style. At least for now.                                            Playing with composition and structure as it relates to the quilt design makes me happy.
  • I love simple ideas and simple techniques. Most likely you won't catch me working on an intricate quilt that might take forever to complete. I'm impatient and have too many ideas so I'm always thinking about the next design before the current one is done. (There might also be a bit of a completion complex in there but that's an entirely different discussion altogether.)          Simple ideas and easy construction make me happy.
  • Did I mention designing makes me happy? That's why I include design options in my patterns.    I really really love to design.

But to be honest, there are also parts of quilting that don't make me so happy. There are things I don't really love so much. In the past I have let myself feel guilty about not loving or at least wanting to do it all. More recently I have come to terms with admitting this and being ok with it.
  • I don't really like to do the actual quilting. I appreciate and love the beautiful texture quilting brings to a finished quilt, but I struggle with getting the results I want on my machine. I also don't like the time involved. I'd rather be designing my next quilt.
  • Sometimes I don't even like the actual sewing of the blocks. Gasp! Yes, it's true. I think this comes into play when the blocks are all identical and there are really no more design decisions to be made, it's simply production mode sewing. The design part is over and I've mentally checked out and moved on to the next quilt. It's much more fun when I still have design decisions to make along the way. 
Obviously for me the trick is balancing the design process with the sewing so I actually get quilts made, not just designed. I'm still working on finding this balance.

Getting back to the question from the book, "which part of your latest project feels more valuable: the finished quilt itself, or the experience you had while making it?"  For me it's both but mostly it's the process. It's in the designing and playing and choosing of fabrics and color that I have the most fun. This is the time when I am in a place of higher creative energy. I find satisfaction in the feel and look of a finished quilt in my hands, on my bed or hanging on the wall, but I'm always ready to start designing again. For me the real fun is in the process.

How about you? What gets your creative juices flowing? What about quilting makes you happy?

Adding this post to Really Random Thursdays at Live A Colorful Life.

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