I have to prepare myself mentally for picking fabric. It’s a big part of the process. I don’t color my drawings beforehand…I stare at the drawing and let it color itself in my head. I often have no idea of what it will look like until it’s ironed together. I trust my instincts, my years of practice, to put it together right, the best way. I do better when I pick fabrics in big chunks of time, hours at a time, like during Winter, Spring, or Summer breaks. It’s easier to keep all the fabrics and colors in my head if there aren’t big gaps in time between ironing sessions.
So I had planned to iron this sucker down to fabric over Spring Break. With that many pieces, almost 1800, it’s going to take over 20 hours of ironing. But it didn’t work out that way, so realistically, even with weekends (this weekend might as well burrow into a hole and die, because it’s buried already), it’s going to take me 2-3 weeks to iron all these down with school every day. Damn job. Gets in the way of my art career.
But man oh man, is it meditative. It lets me access that part of my brain that is pure art, pure alpha wave, deep and dark in my brain, where none of that stupid sad depressoid shit can venture. It kicks depression’s ass. It tells it to fuck off and find some other sucker. It is one serious bad ass.
Too bad I can’t do THAT full-time. OK, it probably wouldn’t work full-time. But it’s an interesting thought…that this state and the drawing state and the tracing state…these are places where my brain can escape all that stupid shit and just be at peace. Someone wrote to me today about that’s when I have control…when I’m in that space mentally. I can control the artistic process and nobody else can fuck with it. They can’t stop it, they can’t change it, they can’t make me do it their way or listen to their stupid lame rules. It’s mine. So no wonder I find it peaceful…calming.
One thing about Spring Break is I got very bad about meditation, the stuff on my app (Headspace) where the guy talks me through it. It’s hard to do on a plane or in a hotel room with the boychild. I just didn’t do it regularly, and I think that was part of the problem. I drew more, which does also help (another form of meditation), but I needed to focus on that process daily. So I’m back to that. Trying to be good about it.
I cleaned out most of my studio last night (by “clean out”, I mean straighten up and Swiffer…the room is still a disaster area and probably will be until both kids go to college and I have time and space to deep-clean…OR…I will succumb to hoarding tendencies and live in the glory of dust-bunny hell). Tonight I put away all the fabrics from the last quilt that were lying around, and then hung up the drawing for the current quilt…
It’s LONG. Actually, when I started ironing parts, they were down at the bottom and I got tired of leaning over to see them, so I pinned the bottom part up to about eye level.
First I sorted the first 100 pieces into piles by 10s…
It’s a very controlled process…I try to number them logically so picking fabrics can also be done logically.
I ended up thinking I needed 10 dirt fabrics in a run for the bottom section…
Yes, that’s Dana Scully…X Files, Season 3. It’s easy to watch because I’ve seen them all before and I don’t have to pay particularly close attention, but it doesn’t fuck with my emotions either. That’s a plus, because some of the other stuff I’ve been watching lately just makes me cry, and I really don’t need more of that.
I actually changed some of these browns around in the end, because some of the pieces were quite long and the fabric wasn’t big enough (stupid fat quarters) to iron the one piece down…plus I think I needed 11 in the end. That number 4 fabric (from the right)? It didn’t work. It’s gone. I added two more in its place, one lighter, one darker.
For instance, this one needed to switch fabrics for one that had a full width.
I usually buy 1/2 yards because it gives me the width I need, but not so much fabric that I will be using it up until the end of time (I have some from the early days when I used to buy yardage where I will probably NEVER run out). I like to have more variety in my stash…so I don’t buy huge pieces unless they are background or binding. Sometimes I have to buy yards if the quilt is really wide…usually that’s for the base pieces, the dirt and water. I like my quilts to be grounded…to have a base to stand on visually. In the dirt or the sand and in the water, they need to stand somewhere…so you will notice more solid sections at the bottoms of my quilts (and drawings). It’s not that I think about it while I’m doing it…it just happens. I don’t want you to think that I’m this artist who thinks every move, every line out. I don’t. It just happens.
This is not magic. I’ve been practicing art for years. Think about sports…how many years until you’re really good at it? You may have some raw, natural talent, but you still have to practice, to hone your art. I’ve been making quilts since I was 23; that’s 24 years. Holy god, I’m old.
I ended up having to pull about 10 pieces from the 100-199 bin, because they were in the dirt section and I wanted to do that all at once.
I finished all the dirt pieces…about 70 or so. The skeleton (there’s always a skeleton these days…I don’t know what that means) is the other 50 or so pieces in the 0-100 section…and they’ll be pretty easy. I usually only use 2-3 fabrics for the skelly…I don’t cut them all out separately in Wonder Under…I group them together so that all the same color of bone are lumped together and only need to be cut out once. Saves time. Plus it’s easier to iron down one big piece with a lot of little pieces drawn on it. Takes less time.
So hopefully tomorrow I’ll finish up the skeleton and move on to water or seaweed or fish. I have a meeting on Sunday, and it will be good to have stuff to cut out at that meeting. I have another quilt I need to start working on, at least get it drawn and traced before summer, so I can’t be lazy right now. I know, I never really seem like I’m being lazy, but I did sit there and read for quite a bit tonight. I also graded, though, so I don’t feel bad. I try to explain to my students how to balance the stuff you don’t feel like doing (homework, they are big whiners) with the stuff you love to do (for them, video games or Facebook or mall). I tell them I do an hour (or so) of grading BEFORE I let myself do the stuff I like to do, like draw or whatever. My job isn’t my life. I walked in this morning about 30 minutes before school started…and I hadn’t been at school since the Sunday the first weekend of break, when I went in to straighten up for the cleaning team. My room was a mess this morning, so I had the kids help me put it in order. I had a lab planned for today, and I had lists of what needed to happen…I dealt with some of it on that Sunday two weeks ago and the rest during prep today. I’m learning to be more efficient. I’m learning to spend less time and energy on the job. I still am there for my students, I hear them, I help them, I tutor them, I work for them…I stopped a saber-toothed tiger today with my rolled tongue (genetics joke)…but I come home and try to live for myself. I have to have a life outside of the job. I have to have an existence that isn’t just work and the shit that follows it.
So I’m ironing now. The process of coloring that picture in my head and choosing the fabrics that match those colors…it’s supremely meditative. It’s peaceful. It fights the demons away, tells them to fuck off and find another place to reside. At least for a bit.