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The Goal That Didn't Make It

- - planning for a creative 2023 - - This month has been one thing after another. A horrible day turned into a horrible week turned into a month so horrible that I can’t even begin to list what all has happened. In fact, I doubt I can even remember everything! It was annoying, then funny, and today it is burst into tears overwhelming, hopefully on its way back to funny. My computer has failed… twice. I’m using a temporary system while waiting for parts and the program I use to edit videos, the one I can’t edit without, is not working. I’ve given up trying until the new system is together. Thankfully, today’s video was ready several weeks ago but next week’s isn’t. Apparently, I’m going to be taking a break.

I recently heard this time period between Christmas and New Year’s referred to as the dead week for its lack of productivity and purpose. It’s one of my favourite weeks of the year. I typically spend it focused on transitioning from one year to the next as smoothly and intentionally as possible. One thing I always do this week is make my yearly - what does the near year hold? - collage. I chose MORE as my word for 2023 with the intention of being open to receiving, giving, and experiencing more excitement, adventure, answers, creativity, and other good things. NOT more annoying stuff. How fun when these two images showed up in the magazines I was going through.

It’s always surprising which images insist on being a part of the collage and which ones refuse no matter how hard I attempt to make them fit. I’ve been talking for weeks about my goal to learn more about surface design next year. This week, it become the goal that didn’t make it.

These four pieces started as white fabric that was gelli printed, then layered and free motion quilted, then cut up to see if smaller was better - it’s not - and finally abandoned. They are ugly, too metallic, and the stitching is predictable in my opinion that yes… I know… is highly influenced by this month’s energy however… I have been attempting to work with surface design for over ten years and it hasn’t gone anywhere. It seems I want to want to more than I actually want to. Every so often, I pull it out, play with it a bit, watch videos, buy books, think positive, and experiment only to become frustrated and put it back until the cycle repeats. I quit, un-quit, and quit again. After a while, I’m done with that. At some point, I make a permanent decision. With dying fabrics, it took thirty-four years which seems rather ridiculous as I type that. With painting abstracts, it took almost twenty years. At ten years, the time is getting shorter. Perhaps I both know myself better and recognize “sooner” when something is never going to work. Although I have done everything I can to welcome surface design into my studio work, it’s not happening and so the goal has shifted from exploring surface design to making a decision about surface design in 2023. I know I don’t like working on white fabric so I will try working over an already dyed and printed cotton. I know I don’t like messy so I will try working with paint pens and fabric markers instead of liquid paint. I know I like something to respond to so I will try mark making versus overall painting. I will research what works and doesn’t work for me and go from there and I will make a decision. Maximizing the potential of what I have and not wasting supplies is really important to me. I’ll pack up any supplies that have never been opened and store them. After that, I’ll put supplies that are open and could go to waste in the “paint” cupboard to use them when I can… or more importantly when they call me. If they don’t call and won’t integrate, our “relationship” is over.

Another direction I’m exploring in 2023 is hand work. This collage is made from the scraps created by a bag project that I’m part way through. After trimming the bits, I stacked them in a pile to the right of the work island and then, once I saw how many were accumulating, decided to do something with them. The base is one of the four pieces from the earlier picture. What if… I covered up the ugly surface? What if… I used these scraps instead of throwing them out? What if… I explored hand work here? YES YES. The loose threads are those clumps that form in the wash along the cut edge of the fabric. This is literally garbage. I have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

This piece is called Transference. It sold for several thousand dollars to an art collector I did not know from a gallery in another city that had called me and asked to carry my work. I’m incredibly proud of the piece and of its path. The sale was a milestone moment and it was a long time ago. It’s been ten years since I’ve created textile art. I’m surprised that it’s calling me back and also excited to take it in new directions. Along with the skills I’ve learned in-between, I want to recover and advance both my design and my free motion skills. I’ve been dealing with the fears - rejection, failure, success, and so on - getting ready for the mentorship that starts next week. Resistance has been rearing its ugly head with determination. I choose to see that as a sign that I’m moving in the right direction and I’m excited to work on these objectives in the new year. What are you excited about? Have a comment to share? Email me at Talk soon -

Edit: This post was originally published on Substack on December 30, 2023 and was republished here.

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