"Just Thinking Out Loud"

It could be time for me to begin writing down my thoughts again.  So much time has passed since I took the time to write and post my thoughts.   Not to stir up controversy but hopefully to open up conversations.  I came across this old draft which I composed way back when. Unfortunately I began editing this and lost the original date. It was probably from sometime in 2012 after having spent a week struggling through a workshop with Nancy Crow.  No pictures in this post, so hit the X now if you might be looking for pictures.

I am so frequently inspired after reading blog posts from Elizabeth Barton and Kathleen Loomis.  They are able to compose their thoughts eloquently.  Often it seems to coincide with issues that I might be struggling with in my mind.  Do and don't.  Can or can't. Why or why not. These ladies are brilliant. It seems all I have to do is think of the questions, wait a few days and voila!  The answers are given in their blogs.  Waiting for me to take that inspiration and go with it.

The great thing about statements coming from Elizabeth, is that she does her research. She gives so much food for thought and makes me feel as if I am justified in questioning the grand world of art.  The great thing about Kathleen is that she has has such a grand way with words. I would never challenge her to a debate even on the color of a schoolbus.  She can drive home a point so that you can't help but see it her way. The are intelligent, talented ladies.  I can hardly wait to see what they have to say next. And what piece of art they might have to show next.  

Just when I wrote my last post about my experiences in Nancy Crow's workshop, feeling that pull between creating and processing in my own way rather than strictly following another method.  Just when I am really pulled between continuing to push to find my voice in representational (quilt) art or give that up to try my hand at abstract (quilt) art.  Why can I not just do both?  Hey, I scored well in both literary and geometry topics while in school.  Opposites, to my way of thinking. Left brain, right brain stuff, correct?  I enjoy both representational or geometric.  So why not do both.  I have seen so much geometric, abstract quilt art on the web, that frankly, as I actually said out loud (can't believe I did that) to Nancy in front of the whole workshop, that I have become, yet again, bored with most of it.  There is so much out "there" that it all begins to look alike. But then, I am not a learned art scholar, so who am I to judge anyone else's art.  I am only looking through eyes connected to my brain and that is the way I view it.  I continue to struggle to find something new, different, exciting.

I feel that each and every person is an individual with many facets.  I learned that from my two children.  They are so much alike, yet so different. Each one, as a child, learned by totally different educational methods.  Both of them are very talented and creative, but go about it in totally different ways.  Both of them are also very grounded and sensible.  They can both do many different activities quite well. Okay, enough Mom talk, but you get my drift? Mankind has been debating the questions for eons. "Beauty in things exist merely in the mind which contemplates them" said David Hume in his essays, Moral and Political, in 1742. 

What began my conflict is something that Nancy Crow told me. I was merrily creating pieced, landscapes, trees, flowers, which I presented in the workshop for her critique.  She said that I should decide what I wanted to do before I die.  She felt that I need to go home and do the work.  Stop taking classes. She said that I should decide whether I want to make representational (flower) or be a real artist creating abstract quilts.  I should just get to work and find my voice or style.  I interpreted her  words as the pressure to create quilts in an abstracted, non representational manner.  Yet, I don't want to be in one box.  I have been struggling to get out of the freakin' box and be what I am in the moment.  And be okay with doing that.  I want to learn all I can about all types of artistic expression that I can translate into quilt art.  

So around 2014-ish,  I joined the Chattanooga Modern Quilt guild.  I learned about minimalism,  abstraction, negative space, updating traditional quilt blocks into contemporary quilt blocks, etc.  After being distracted for quite some years in that style, I have realized that this would not be something I want to continue.  As much as I want to be included in the current trends, it is not what I really want to do.  It is just not my style, as much as I want to be liked or recognized by those who appreciate that style.  I keep saying that out loud.  To my friends.  To myself.  But I haven't had the strength to venture away.  

May I not have more than one voice, Nancy?  I feel that I have 2 fairly strong voices in the representational and also, a bit of the geometric. Having strayed for too long from this, I now feel a bit more justified in deciding to express myself with these 2 voices.  Here, a bit of soprano and there, a bit of alto. Or in my case, I should say a bit of bluegrass and a bit of jazz.  I hope to continue to learn more and become better expressing my vision with each try.  Here's to hoping that 2018 will bring a final end to this struggle.  And discovery of what is really hidden inside me, waiting to kick that box wide open. 

Does anyone else have this struggle going on?  Why or why not?  


  1. Good to read you back!
    No, I do not have that struggle going on, not at all. Why not? Because I do not feel the need to define myself. Labels are limiting, they cannot comprehend all that a person has or is. Why would I want to limit myself to be "an artist" or "a representational artist" or "an abstract artist" or "a quilter" or "a seamstress" or "a mother" or "a grandmother" or...? No, I refuse to do that. Those are all things that are not my essence, they are accessories that may change over time, even in seconds. I do not identify myself with those labels. And that, I believe, is a big part of the struggle: the need to find an identity, a permanent identity, something that defines your self. In my opinion, that does not exist.
    I admire Nancy Crow's work and I learned something very important for life in one of her books, something that I have never forgotten, that one is responsible for her own happiness. However, I do not know where she got the idea that her artistic endeavors give her any authority over other people's art or whatever. And less than anything, over a person's approach to life or art or any other activity. In particular, an adult person. I would not have accepted that statement and would have probably left the workshop right there and then. Why should you decide anything before you die? That is, I dare to say, arrogant, mainly because nobody knows how long we have to decide anything, but also because, no matter what, we will probably die without making a lot of decisions. Who cares? Relax and be happy.

    1. First, I must say that I replied to your comment within 2 days, but for some reason, it wasn't published on blogger! So,catching up, I'll try again. It seems from all comments, we are in agreement. And in retrospect, perhaps Nancy did not mean that I should limit myself as I interrupted her words. Perhaps she meant that I should make the decision to become an artist and work every day towards that. I do work almost every day in my studio, doing whatever my mood directs. Some things I am happy with, others, not so much.
      You are right. We will all die without making lots of decisions as well as not checking off all those items on our bucket list. As I approach age 70, that rings even more true. I am fortunate to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. With that thought, that inner struggle little devil may always pop up, but I will keep going. Doing what I want to do. In the end, being happy is the best part.

  2. I've heard so many negative things about Nancy Crow that I know I'd never take a workshop with her even if I suddenly became financially secure and money was no object. I would have been crushed if someone said something like that to me, and would probably have doubts about everything I've ever made.

    And I visited some modern quilt guilds but found they were too focused on certain fabric lines and designers that I've never even heard of to interest me. They all knew every available colorway of every fabric line, it was amazing to me, actually. And most of their finished quilts seemed still too traditional, but with lots of machine quilting that made them look less traditional.

    I struggle sometimes with making something new, as I feel that I already have bins of completed items that I don't know what to do with. But then I start something and I realize I enjoy the process of creating more than the finished product. Your work is beautiful already, I hope you are able to find some resolution in 2018.

    1. FIrst, let me say that I replied to your comment shortly after your posted it. For some reason, it did not show up on the blog.
      Nancy is an incredible woman, who has her own way of teaching and I have frequently thought of taking an advanced workshop with her. When I signed up for that first workshop, I steeled myself for whatever she might say or do. And I was able to not allow her sent me crying from the room. I realize her manner is not like a teacher who says whatever you do is just fine. I did want critique from her. It was astounding to me that she thought enough of my previous work that she would so highly compliment me.
      As for the modern guild trends, I agree with you. After spending lots of time learning about "modern" artists, I know that it is not something I will continue, but I do feel that taught me a lot.
      The feeling of constantly wanting to make something new, although I have 17 tops that I have not quilted, is almost like a drug. It makes me happy, so why not.
      Thank you so much for your compliment on my work. I am certain that 2018 will be a wonderful new year for us all!

  3. It's wonderful to see your blog voice again! What a well thought out piece of writing. I don't know Nancy Crow, but I'm sure she recognized your talent and that she was trying to encourage you in the highest way she knew how. And, no one other than yourself ever knows what you "should" do. I like Angela's idea that we play so many roles in life. We don't have to pick one. We know artists that work in very different mediums, like Bonnie, who makes paintings and quilts. Who's to say she should eliminate one? Or that you should eliminate your representational work to focus solely on the abstract? Those who focus solely on one thing surely do go far with that one thing, as Nancy Crow has. I'm sure the intense focus and hard work, plus the results, are very satisfying. I, for one, don't think I'd be happy that way. There are too many wonderful things to explore in this world--even in the quilting world. To restrict myself away from any of them would not suit my personality. Thank you for giving voice to this!

    1. Thanks LeeAnn for welcoming me back to the blog world. You are always so encouraging and your words make me feel good. You are totally correct in saying that Nancy was complimenting me in her own way. And Angela is correct in saying that we all have many roles in our lives. All those roles eventually reflect in what we make, whether it be painting with paints or painting using fabrics. Even though I may struggle with a path to follow, I realize that I need many paths to make me happy. That is the best for me. Yes, there are too many wonderful things in this world to explore and let us all do what is best for us.

  4. I’m with you...I struggle in a similar way. But ultimately I want to do what I am drawn to, not just one style of quilt making. I have at least 2 voices. I’m new to your blog but I thank you for your post! I’m glad to not be the only one that has struggled with this. I hope you continue on and please don’t limit yourself... be you not Nancy. We need more Marys.

  5. Sue, you are so kind. Thank you for your thoughts. I must add, that I had replied to you a couple of days after you posted your comment. For some reason, it did not show up on the blog comments. We are in agreement regarding voices. Knowing that trained artists are guided to work in series and style, I do feel that we should follow where our heart my lead us. Let us be who we are!


Any and all comments are most appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to view, read, and voice your thoughts.