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Art and technique

Art and technique

Old 03-12-2021, 11:29 PM
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I’ve looked to see if this has been discussed elsewhere, and didn’t find it, so forgive me if (I’m a total newbie here) I am going over old ground. Perhaps, in any case, it’s ground worth going over again if it has indeed already been covered?

And this is not just for so-called ‘art quilters’, really it’s to do with any creative enterprise and quilting is certainly that.

I guess I wonder if others come across the technique-pursued goals that can sometimes stymie artistic freedom and inventiveness? Here’s what I mean: I, like I’m sure most of us here, love learning new techniques, and thrive on constantly pushing my own envelope to be better at those techniques, adding to my quilting ‘vocabulary’. My problem is that I can very easily get bogged down in the technique itself such that it takes over to the exclusion of any originality. Looking back over my work I can see the eras of each learning curve, the various appliqué eras, trapunto, quilt-as-you-go, straight line quilting (huge thanks to Jacquie Gering!), learning proper binding, mitred corners and all, flying geese...well, the list is endless, isn’t it. And it’s just that always-more-to-learn aspect that makes quilting so endlessly interesting. But it can grind any originality to a halt, too, if one isn’t careful, it seems to me. Does anyone else agree? Does anyone else suddenly think “What am I doing here? Yes, I may have become really good at a particular technique, but in the end that can only serve us well if we use it well, can’t it?” It’s true that one can look at a brilliant piece of quilting and marvel at the sheer expertise, but if that’s the only thing that stands out about it then somehow something might just be missing, perhaps? I once had a run-in with someone who’d overheard me say that I had a new exhibition coming up, and this person said “I do find that so-called artists usually have such poor technique”; I said in response that I sometimes wished I had less, and could just hurl myself into something without worrying so much. I can get back to the not worrying stage after a while, having learned the technique and earned, I believe, the right to break some rules, but it can take time. I’d love to know if anyone has any thoughts on any of this, though perhaps I’m the only one who fusses about such things!! For me, the way out of what can become a real cul-de-sac, is to open a huge and wonderful book I have on the quilts of Gees Bend and remind myself of simplicity, functionality, and the dynamic individuality of these gorgeous creations.
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Old 03-12-2021, 11:50 PM
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I'm not really sure I understand what you're trying to say, but as I was reading your post, these 2 points came to mind, hopefully you'll find them relevant.

I don't find that learning and mastering new techniques grinds any of my creativity to a halt. In fact, I think my creative juices are greatly stimulated, because once I start grasping concepts and gaining skills in that technique, I start thinking "Ok what if I did this instead? What would happen if I did that?" and boom! I'm off to the races and my family has to fend for themselves at dinner time.

About the person who said to you "I do find that so-called artists usually have such poor technique" - I'm not sure that was a thoughtful thing to say. Using the term "so-called" in their comment feels overtly hostile and as such, I would lose all interest in caring about their opinion.

Last edited by Peckish; 03-12-2021 at 11:53 PM.
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Old 03-13-2021, 12:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Peckish View Post
I'm not really sure I understand what you're trying to say, but as I was reading your post, these 2 points came to mind, hopefully you'll find them relevant.

I don't find that learning and mastering new techniques grinds any of my creativity to a halt. In fact, I think my creative juices are greatly stimulated, because once I start grasping concepts and gaining skills in that technique, I start thinking "Ok what if I did this instead? What would happen if I did that?" and boom! I'm off to the races and my family has to fend for themselves at dinner time.

About the person who said to you "I do find that so-called artists usually have such poor technique" - I'm not sure that was a thoughtful thing to say. Using the term "so-called" in their comment feels overtly hostile and as such, I would lose all interest in caring about their opinion.
Yes, totally relevant; and you are right that learning new techniques certainly can actually promote creativity. I guess perhaps I wasn’t very clear, sorry!! I think what I mean is that one has to get through a stage where the technique itself can become more important than what you do with it? Also, re the person who commented on the ‘so-called artists’, I totally agree with you that it’s a hostile way of putting it! And also should add that I did indeed lose all interest!!
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Old 03-13-2021, 05:08 AM
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I agree with Peckish. Learning a new technique usually enhances my thinking process. There are so many different ways to approach a technique that I am spurred, with mind racing, to come up with alternate ways or ideas. To me; to learn a new technique is an opportunity to grow in many directions. Sometimes even in the direction originally planned.
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Old 03-13-2021, 05:21 AM
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I enjoy art quilts just as they are and really am not bothered by less then perfect technique. However in a bed quilt, I do want good techniques.
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Old 03-13-2021, 06:59 PM
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I'm sure I've told this story before on this board but it's applicable in this case. I was fortunate as a young quilter to take a course in sewing technique from a woman who ran her own custom tailoring business in San Francisco in the fifties and sixties. This woman knew all the custom clothing construction techniques that are used in the high fashion couture houses. I learned beading, needle turn applique, French draping, fitting, and every sewing technique you've heard of and probably some you haven't.

On the last day of this year long course she said to us, "Now that you know all the rules, go out and break them!"

The more you know how to do the more you can do. Because of my training I'm not afraid to tackle anything and I joyously break the rules. Technique is a tool. Creativity is using tools to explore the world outside the box. I purposely seek out the "impossible" because I feel confident enough to give it a good shot. I love learning something new because I get too bored with projects that don't challenge me.

There are a lot of quilters out there that are limited in their creativity because they get too caught up in how things should be done because they took a class or read a book. If there was one thing that my 40+ years of quilting has taught me is to do my own thing always.

If you're feeling like you've lost your creative mojo the best way I know to break out of it is to take a break. Challenge yourself in a different way. You'd be amazed at what you'll learn about yourself and your art.

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Old 03-13-2021, 08:49 PM
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I hope this thread sparks an interesting line of discussion...thanks for starting it. Very thought provoking!

I'm thinking as I write so bear with me. I have been sewing for almost 60 years and started my first quilt about 8 years later as a high schooler. It was simple squares of a solid purple and, get this, brown and purple mushrooms. It didn't hold my interest and years later when it came back to me it still didn't hold my interest and I gave it away unfinished. No I don't wish it back. That long ago, quilts were generally made for one reason; to cover a bed and/or keep someone warm. And quilts followed a traditional layout format. The quilts I made did just that. I was also under the influence of Gees Bend type quilter as my mother used every piece of leftover fabric to make utilitarian quilts; quilts to keep us warm with a worn blanket as batting.
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It wasn't until I began quilting more in the 90"s when I had more time, did I think about color and design. My basic sewing techniques gradually improved whether it was in garments or quilts. I've never thought of myself as an artist as I don't draw, but the more I explored with color the more I became an artist. We use our artistic talents differently as we come into the art of quilting from differing perspectives, capabilities, and experiences. I love working with color and have been self taught in it's usage and then some days I throw it out the window and go by my instincts! We find techniques that we enjoy. I've tried many and let many go. I am at the stage of life that I want to narrow my "new" techniques; i.e., I have no desire to own an embroidery machine. I don't enjoy making folded flowers...I'd rather work on my miniatures and tiny quilts. I'm enjoying doing a little improv sewing utilizing the lessons I have learned along the way. It seems I'm always thinking of what quilt I want to do next (or which UFO I should finish) and answer Peckish's question, "what if, I...?"

Re: art quilts/quality workmanship I have some talented artists in my family, my daughter is very good at replicating items, but my son was so much more creative with his stick drawn characters of battle scenes etc. It was like a Bayeux Tapestry of pencil drawings from his own imagination strewn around his room. It is a gift he handed down to his 10 yo son who has the drawing talents of his auntie. Because I lack these talents I appreciate them in any genre. I see the creativity before I see the technique whether well done or "poorly" done, knowing I would have trouble coming up with the idea. I am less concerned about having everything perfect as oftentimes the imperfections gives humanity to the art. Could the person who made the insensitive remark come up with an original idea?

We are fortunate to be able to express ourselves at whatever level we are capable of and derive satisfaction from that expression. I sincerely hope you can again find yourself in your art.
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Old 03-13-2021, 09:11 PM
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Interesting thoughts.

I'll probably never make anything that could be called an "art quilt." I've painted portraits professionally, put out a line of prints of my pen and ink works, designed craft projects for a polymer clay manufacturer, taught painting and polymer clay classes - I rarely got anything approaching "art" in any of my attempts, but I kept trying.

The more I learn about how to do something, the closer I get to mastering a technique, the freer I can get, because I have a better idea of what will work for the look that I want. I think that understanding the process is the key to freedom.

I'm only engrossed in techniques until I discover an easier way, a more precise way or a way that is somehow "better" than what I'm already doing.

My husband calls me a "serial specialist," because I obsess with something until I'm done with it and then go on to the next obsession.




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Old 03-13-2021, 09:56 PM
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i guess it is like anything, such as playing sports. you have to go through the repetitive drills and manuevers, then eventually, when you are skilled, you can add your new abilities into the greater picture (the sports game or your own quilt) and be a master at applying the techniques.
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Old 03-13-2021, 10:08 PM
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Any technique you learn is simply, always and ever, a tool. Personally, I follow the rules in learning the technique and perhaps in its next one or two applications in something I'm doing. I then feel it's in my knowledge coffers and when I drift from a prescribed pattern (which to me is great fun), I visit my treasure chest of things I've learned.

In that process, I have never felt stymied or that my creativity took a blow. Instead, I'm acquiring the knowledge to use that skill as I choose.

One's creativity is a gift. Protect it and use it for your personal pleasure and that of others.

For instance, I for one, do not particularly care for modern design quilts, preferring vintage looking creations. But have I ever done a modern quilt? Oh, yes indeed! For me, they're fast and they're very clean designs. The recipients usually are pleased beyond what I understand, but that's what it's all about isn't it?

And i'm sure you already know you can't please everyone. I suspect very like the person who said “I do find that so-called artists usually have such poor technique” - Jeez! I think your response to her was very considerate. I'm not sure I would have been so kind. It's frustrating that some people always assume a position above others. That is to say, if they can't find a box to stand on, they'll dig a hole for the other to stand in.

Protect your creativity. It's God-given. Appreciate that of others. Celebrate with them and borrow some of their techniques from time to time. There's only one you.

Therein is the beauty.
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