Monday, October 23, 2006

Inspiration and Amazement

For years -- many years -- Quilters Newsletter Magazine has arrived in my mailbox. Now and then some technique or pattern has caught my attention and I've been inspired to make -- or at least start -- a quilt. Lately as my own direction and ambitions have solidified, as I've got hooked on doing series and I've defined for myself what appeals to me most, I've been bored with many issues. But this month's issue had a cover that breaks the usual format [whole quilt] with a close-up of a section of British quilter, Liz Jones' quilt called "Thanksgiving". What an inspiration! A magnificent quilt. Not one I would attempt to replicate but I think I understand the fun she must have had choosing exactly the right part of a batik design for each piece of fruit and each leave.
As I wrote yesterday, for me the idea is not strict realism as I make my butterflies, but the use of patterned commercial fabrics to approximate the subject. I imagine such fussy selecting and cutting is an acquired taste. For my part, I constantly wonder if I've made the right choices. But I remind myself, it's only a little bit of fabric, a little bit of time -- not SO little, really -- if something finally doesn't work at all, there's the wastebasket. What free time I had today was spent cutting out another couple of butterflies.
I know some people make complex drawings and dye fabrics specifically for their project and then work to create exactly their mental picture. I can't work that way -- don't even want to. Not knowing the exact outcome is part of the excitement. Not a big thrill like bungee jumping [I'm very happy without some kinds of thrills!] -- but a nice little delight.
Am I making "art"? Or is it "merely craft"? I don't quilt know. The craft involved is challenging and mastering it -- if and when I begin to feel I have -- which I don't feel yet -- will be reward in itself. But these monarchs, as I've written, have emotional meaning to me. I hope I am creating something that will communicate with others, I hope, the wonder and miracle of the many-thousand mile migration of these tiny, vulnerable beings whose brains are very, very tiny, and yet who get from Canada to Mexico year after year -- despite winds, rains, droughts, all kinds of predators have become, to me, a metaphor for iron willed intention and for the amazing miracle of genetic programming {which is not to say that intention is not a genetic program]. And that doesn't detract from the wonder of it.
I'll return again and again to these butterflies, eventually there will be pictures of work in progress. For now, it's time to shift mental gears and pack for my first trip out of the country in over a year. More about that tomorrow.

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