Creating art out of fiber and stitch is my passion. In no other pursuit have I ever found the rewards and joy that I find in using textiles, thread, paint, beads, yarns, and whatever else inspires me to make an object of beauty to share with others.

My work is based in the quilting tradition of three layers stitched together, but the artistry of it goes far beyond the basic piecing of geometric shapes to create a bedcovering. You will see reflections of nature in my work as I live in a valley in the Rocky Mountains of Western Montana surrounded by mountains, rivers, streams and my own garden. Color and texture inspire my work and they are my palette.

I write about what I am doing with my art and where I hope to go. I create, I write, I teach, I share and I think about my art and tell you about it all on the pages of my blog.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Artist in Autumn

As an artist early fall is a very busy time.  Any artist who needs to make money to support their art is working diligently to create things that they hope will sell during the holiday season.  There are studio tours, home shows, group shows, and art fairs going on.  We all hope that people who are shopping for Christmas or Hanukkah gifts will attend our events and purchase our art!  

So, as I am preparing for my upcoming studio tour with The Artists Along The Bitterroot, I am thinking about what people might want to buy and where I should concentrate my efforts.  Small pieces with low price tags are not my most inspired and fulfilling art to create, but they are most likely to sell.  Many artists who do shows with booth set-ups will show their larger, pricier art but also have cards, prints, or other small items to try to make those sales.

For several years I focused my fall efforts on making beaded ornaments that were very popular but for which I could not ask a price that made up for the time, effort, and expenses associated with them.  They took a long time to make and were very beautiful, but if I put a price on them that I really thought they were worth they didn't sell.  

 I love these ornaments and many people who own them hang them year around.  I intentionally did not make most of them "holiday" themed so they could be displayed any time.  They might be too big for actual display on a tree, but in a window or a office wall or wherever there is a small wall space, these are very fun to live with. 

But, time consuming.  If I could sell them for $75 I'd be happy to do more.  But at half that or even less I just burned out feeling I wasn't being rewarded for the effort--and they are a lot of effort.  Maybe sometime I'll pick it up and make more.  Right now I'm looking for the next best thing....

I have goals with my "art walk" that are sometimes conflicting.  I want/need to sell things in order to continue producing and showing my work.  Beads, fabric, sewing/quilting machines and all the other accoutrements necessary to produce my work all cost money to purchase, maintain and store.  But, on the other hand I would love to create larger more dramatic work that might be suitable for the larger more prestigious art and fiber art venues across the country (world), including museums.  Those venues are not always good places to sell work, but when you develop a reputation and are creating high end work that gets into those venues and is "seen", the buyers tend to find you and sales follow.  

Not a year goes by that I don't have my work out in the world at galleries and quilt shows at both local and national levels.  And I have had my work out there in national magazines that have published articles I have written.  I seek to get to the next level with my art.  More venues on a national level.  More recognition in the fiber art world as an artist with work that is respected and admired.   The ability to travel to shows and venues that are recognized as top level in the fiber art world and lecture or teach around the country (world) about my work and process.  I love sharing what I do with others, but I also want others to see what I do as valuable and worthy.  

"Reconnecting" (detail)
There are debates about whether or not a true artist should be concerned about selling their work or if they should just be grateful that it is shown and shared so their message is being told.  I think I will feel successful as an artist when both of those things are true.  Financially I can't do what I do if I don't make any money doing it.  I have to pay for my supplies and tools.  I have to market my work, send it out, take pictures of it, and maintain a presence on-line.  I want to travel to see art, share my art, teach about my art.  The more money I can make with sales of my art, the less I have to worry about the business part.  Because truly being an artist is a business.  If we are good business people we pay taxes, market ourselves and our art, have bank accounts, and purchase goods.  We maintain inventories and records.  We are constantly on the prowl for possible venues for our work and evaluating whether they are right for us.  We have wins, we have losses.  But it is all because we have a passion for what we do.  It is not the business part that makes us continue.  It is the art.  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Seeking Meaning

I'm always reading that an artist uses their art to express something or make a statement and that good art has meaning.  It might not mean the same thing to everyone but the artist is supposed to have something they are trying to say with the art.

I've never been a deep thinker and I'm a veteran fencesitter when it comes to taking a stand on issues.  Usually I feel I can never know enough about an issue or a political agenda or even a politician to make an absolute case one way or the other.  I guess it is the ultimate open-mindedness but also a bit wishy washy!  I do have my personal causes but they aren't the big global ones that everyone talks about or that you hear in the news.

There are things that touch my heart and probably come out in my art, but it isn't by a conscious decision to make a statement.  My art flows from inspiration and feeling. I feel purple today and I'm going to make something that is deeply colored and curvy with a touch of gold. Or today I feel a little wild and I'm going to mix it up with batik scraps in many colors and shapes and try to make it all come together with stitching and beading.  Or I want to use that beautiful piece of raw silk I bought recently and combine it with some suede and intricate stitching.  The process is fun for me, and fun translates into creativity and art.

When I don't find what I am doing fun, it tends to stifle the creative process--or at least slow it down to a tedious pace.  It doesn't have to be laugh out loud jump for joy fun, but it does need to be enjoyable and have a natural momentum that keeps spurring me into the next step in the process.  When I work I always just go with that natural flow and let the pieces emerge as they will.  No plan, no perceived outcome, no intentional message.  I combine color, shape, line and texture to make something beautiful.  Hopefully it speaks about the beauty of nature and the natural world and how much joy it gives me.  I guess that is my message however simplistic and trite that is.

Nature moves me.  Nature is color and movement and wonderful texture.  The geometry of trees and the asymmetry of a landscape.  The variation in the color of leaves in the early spring and of course in autumn.  The blush of an apple, the shape of a poppy seed pod, the wings of a bird.  Just thinking of those things gives me a good feeling.  They help make life enjoyable.  And if you notice them--maybe through my art--hopefully they make your life enjoyable for a moment or two.

I recently had an article published in Machine Quilting Unlimited Magazine (Sept-Oct 2017) called "Abstracting Nature".  I use the feelings I have about nature to create fiber art that is abstract but clearly influenced and reflective of nature.  My trees are not always a particular species and my flowers might be highly stylized but they are trees and flowers.  Even when I do a piece that has no recognizable natural forms or elements in it, you can usually see some influence of nature in the stitching or beadwork that brings it back to the muse.

Now, I might be totally biased here, but I think my work is very pleasant to live with.  If I lived in the city I would love having a piece on the wall to remind me of my childhood adventures or family vacation or the park where I go to feed the birds.  And if I lived in a more rural area (which I do!) I would enjoy the daily reminder that nature is so vital to our existence and helps us find the joy in life.  Even when the skies are filled with smoke from forest fires, as they were for weeks this past summer, or just cloudy and gray, I look at my wall and have a window to the world.  So I guess that is what I am saying with my art.  Appreciate and enjoy the beauty of the world.  There is plenty of ugliness you can see on the news and in the newspapers every day, but decorate your walls with beauty!!