Friday, October 3, 2008

The value of lists.


I tend to drift! I didn’t when I worked for Them, but now I work for Me ( a much better company!), the delicious pleasure of pottering is very seductive. I’ve found that one way to overcome it is to make a ToDo list – especially if I do it the night before when I’m feeling extremely optimistic about all that can be accomplished the following day!

Another type of list I’ve found to be helpful is a list of quilts I’m going to make. I find I can make stronger more focused work if I work on a list of pieces, rather than just one at a time. I have a tendency to include too many ideas into one piece. Working on refining and defining my own taste I realize that I respond to work by other people that contains one simple idea – that’s why I love Burbidge’s, Caldwell’s, Brimelows, Myers-Newbury’s and Crow’s work. They don’t try to include everything – they focus on one thing – for Brimelow the texture of a field, for Myers-Newbury the beauty of the shibori line. I came across a painting this morning where the artist had focused solely on the quality of the light shining through orange slices – breathtakingly beautiful!!

So – back to the list ( I told you I drifted!!!) ( a further aside: Remember Alistair Cooke and his “Letter from America” – he broadcast a weekly short letter on the BBC on topics of interest that week and drifted so beautifully from one little islet of news and commentary to another….)

Back to the list:

When I start a new series, I usually begin with one image – something that has stuck in my mind for months, sometimes years. I’ll make a sketch and begin work, then I’ll think hmmm shall I have the light from the left…or the right?.....or shall I focus on this angle or that, should I zoom in or out, should I use this colour scheme or that, or how about reversing all these verticals, or would it work upside down, what if I fancied up a particular element – like adding a light edge to pieces ( I saw wonderful light edges on two sculptures in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park last week


– I walked back and forth and back and forth to see how the light moved) – and so on and so on. Now I make a list of all these possibilities and frequently will start working on them on different design walls..or floors! Or even ceilings!!!


Another interesting photograph from the Quays in Manchester that I think will stick in my mind is the following one:

Note especially the weird colour - you can achieve this (I think!) by using an almost dead battery in the camera!


A third kind of list that it’s most helpful to have is a checklist of possibilities for when the Muse is tired and her well runs dry and especially when she needs to change horses in mid stream!


Here are some possibilities:


Don’t always feel you have to come up with brand new ideas – frequently there’s a passage that occurs in a piece, sometimes quite serendipitously – the fabric ran out, you had to substitute, your stitching wobbled, you cut in the wrong place etc. The resulting section has a freshness born from the “fix” you made. Try that idea again in the next piece!! Working more deliberately this time.


Sometimes you just cannot decide if a certain fabric or shape “works” – this is usually because you’re in an equal win/lose situation – the pros and cons of putting a yellow blob right there are equal. In that case, take the risk! Leave it alone and go on….you can always come back and re evaluate later when more of the piece is done.


Check the negative shapes – or they interesting? Or boring…usually I find that they need both a little perking up and considerable tying together. So don’t forget to Perk and Tie!!


If really stuck, leave a piece alone for a few weeks – put it away…so that you can come back with “fresh eyes” – don’t reinforce its awkwardness!!


And, if you have been, thanks for reading!

Now, where did I put that list………?

Elizabeth



3 comments:

Deb said...

I can always count on a post from EB to calm and focus me when I'm running from fence to fence clucking madly. My head is now under my wing in contemplation.

Del said...

When I audition fabric Doreen Speckman's advice repeats in my head,
"... when you take the fabric away, do you miss it?" Works for me.

jpsam said...

I have been reading! Wonderful, insightful writing. I found your blog from the link on Del’s blog. I am so glad you are back. Congrats on QN 2009.
joan