Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Experiment and Play: the goal of no goals.

Black and White, No Grey.
How often do we allow ourselves time to just play and experiment? What's wrong with just playing with ideas?  Everything now is goal oriented: both work and recreation. Even the children in school now have to complete so many worksheets, so many specific units of education!   So many of the quilt magazines are about Making a Project and Making it Fast so that it will be Done!  And then you have all those projects piled up in a cupboard!  And have you grown from doing that?

 I recently started piano lessons (well actually I'm a volunteer in a university project to see if learning piano will not only stave off brain rot but also improve one's cognitive powers!  (here's hoping)) and the first thing I realise is that you do a LOT of practice and very few Performances.  In quilt making, few people seem to want to practice.  You wouldn't believe the resistance I get when I suggest - " make a sample of each of the different ways you could do this"  or  "I think you should do several different value sketches before you begin - practice trying different value patterns".  And if I dare to suggest that one should NOT always be goal-oriented!! Well that's when I get the organizers taking me aside and whispering in my ear "get on with it! they want Something to Take Home"!!


I do it to myself too, of course.  If my actions in the studio are not directed towards a specific outcome I feel very guilty...but in this last year I've begun to relax and allow myself time to explore and experiment.  Let's see how many different color schemes I can put together - just for the fun of it!!  I wonder if I tried a small experiment with just using line to depict figures, how would that work?  Can I insert poetry into a piece, now what are the ways I could do that?  Let yourself ask yourself these kinds of questions and I think you'll move forward into richer waters and deeper pastures.  (Oh I love mixed metaphors, so much more engaging!).

I absolve you ahead of time for all those dinky little projects you won't do..while you're playing and experimenting.  Learning is about trying, not necessarily completing; learning is about the journey and not the destination.

so - if you have been, thanks for reading!!  And do write and tell us how you PLAY!!  Elizabeth


Angela Welch said...

Thanks for your thought-provoking post. I tend to be very goal-oriented in my quilting, although my goals include learning and experimenting with specific skills, in addition to finishing projects. Perhaps I should include some “free-play time” in my weekly to-do list (although that may be missing the point by making it another goal!) I wonder how much the drive to finish more work quickly comes from marketers of fabrics and tools. Quilting is big business!

MariQuilts said...

I love your thoughts on this. The more I play, the more I create....and the more I create the more I play. I get most of my ideas as I'm immersed in the fabric.

Elizabeth Barton said...

I must admit cynical me has also wondered about this, Angela. Advertising is aimed at making us Consume Consume Consume!!

Nifty Quilts said...

THANK YOU! This really needs to be said. Now, we'll see if I can do it.

LC said...

Excellent post. Thanks!

Nina Marie said...

This made me giggle because more than once you have heard me whine concerning how many sketches we need to make or how many ideas we need to come up with. And yes, I've come over to your way of thinking. That said, I am goal oriented - even if its to say - I'm going to make 12 different sketches of the same idea. I mean - for me - if I don't set goals - I wonder aimlessly like a Hebrew in the desert. I'd write more - but I'm starting a new idea!

Leigh Wheeler said...

Good post. It is difficult to 'play' with no actual goal in mind. We are taught in so many different ways that one should:
1. Do It Right The First Time
2. Don't waste resources.
3. Sewing/quilting is Easy and Quick
4. Various media suggest that no pratice is required. End project are shown with no indication that it took 10 times to get it that way, etc.
5. Also, attention spans are short - the internet is traing this.
6. Feedback is not always supportive. Showing the playtime results to someone who had asked what you'd been doing and instead of getting That's neat!, getting "so what is it? What is it good for?"

I know I have a hard time seeing 'play' as valuable instead of just wasting fabric and not getting anything 'done'. However, when I do mess around with bits and pieces, and maybe run out of That One Perfect Fabric, my work is usually better for it. Creative problem solving, other materials, a different approach makes for a better end product. And I learn a lot.

Sandy said...

I have been thinking about what you wrote that you have said to students in class..."I think you should do several different value sketches before you begin - practice trying different value patterns".

and my thinking about it came to this...how do you do a value sketch in the first place? How do you practice value patterns? what would it look like?

and then I randomly decided to catch up with Maria Elkin's blog...only to find she is doing just that. Practicing value exercises.

Sometimes, not having had an art background, it is like having a general idea of what someone is saying in another language, but not really 'getting' it.

Would you be willing to give a bit more of a clue what You would mean if you were asking someone to do value sketches? I am okay with the sample concept and the play concept because I did C+G (fashion) and have been teaching it. But some of this art terminology sort of leaves me wondering if I have got the right end of the stick.
Sandy in the UK

Elizabeth Barton said...

Hi Nina! I will see you in August and guess what?!! more sketches....but just on the first day!
Leigh you are SO right....we are taught (sometimes brainwashed) many things that if you think about it are actually not right - won't go into all the political stuff! And the media are there to sell you stuff and they assume that we all want it "easy" - while the kids have been trained with this "easy" approach those of us with more mature years realise that nothing really is gained with a lot of work and practice.
Sandy - value sketches are simply those where the sketch you make is shaded into 3 or 4 values: Light, medium and dark, or light medium light, medium dark and dark. I thought I remembered you taking one of my online classes?? In them I take all the art speak and translate it for quilters....also if your public library has a copy of the book I did "Inspired to Design" there's more in there. Good luck!! and thank you all for commenting!!

Sandy said...

Hi, didn't see your reply. no, I haven't taken a class...yet! But I have put your book on my wish list for my birthday the end of this month.