I like the idea of improv - but ...with pencil and paper...
I'm not one of those that would happily cut up great wodges of fabric and rush to the design wall and back, frenziedly pinning and unpinning..
Even less would I want to cut up millions of pieces, sew them madly together, then cut them back up and race back and forth to the wall and then sit staring gloomily at them for hours waiting for inspiration to Strike!
Though I have tried it....and, like the head banging against the brick wall, it sure was lovely when I stopped.
But I have found that I can happily improv on paper...sketch after sketch, just black and white, giving myself a few rules each time...
Rules? you say, Rules??? But the Great never use rules!! oh no?? think about improv humor, think about improv in music - they're all about structure....
The first steps in improv in music? "play only the black keys, designate one key as the "home key" and keep returning to it, set up a basic rhythm...and repeat" You're playing in a pentatonic scale - only 5 things vary - so repetitions occur basically with or without you thinking much about it since you are limiting yourself.
Second step: play only white keys - now there are 8 things that can vary - but again the advice is to have a "home key" to which you return.
Painter, Amy Sillman says that improv comedy in which she's trained to try to improve her painting, isn't so much a comedic form as a responsive one. Responsive to the verbal and the body language of the other performers. The product is language - with which we are skilled.. we know what words go together to make coherent sentences, and how to make associations from one word (or sentence) to another. The performers also learn to make connections and lead-ins....it is a learned verbal art form, well practiced in the classroom before being taken out on the stage.
So rules....or perhaps "guidelines" would be a better word...are very helpful in improv, because without some structure and some limitations there would be chaos. The improv performers are not only skilled in awareness of the audience and each other, but also they solicit the structure, the initial "shapes, lines and colors" from the volunteers. They observe the "values and the textures" as the ideas are suggested to them.
And then they juggle them, bouncing the ideas from one to another, flipping them forward and back, making associations, turning them inside out. Just as two musicians improvising together might begin with a specific melody (or pentatonic pattern), then begin to augment, to repeat, to reverse, to speed up or slow down, to embellish etc .
And so I shall go back down to my paper and pencils again and give myself a starting point and a few guidelines and when I have 20 such improvs....and only then will I decide which I should translate into fiber, for our craft of quilting is slow and laborious. A little akin to the sculptor who works a small model in clay, but then later has it cast large in bronze. Would the sculptor begin with large chunks of bronze pouring them at random into moulds?
Allow yourself an analytical approach to spontaneity and I think you'll have more fun, and will be more creative and less frustrated.
And of course, when thoroughly stumped, one can always go and make a nice cuppa tea.....
And, if you have been, thanks for reading!
I look forward to reading your comments...what is your creative process? Do you give yourself any guidelines, any structure and, if not, how do you fare?