Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Calculus and Art Quilts

I’ve been focusing so much on writing this year, I fear I’ve not been making anything like the number of quilts I should.  Now I notice I used the word “should”, the old convent school upbringing rearing its head again!  So should one give oneself a goal for number of pieces per year?   Or,  is it good from time to time, to take a sabbatical and go and do something completely different?  I know the typical university sabbatical was after 7 years of work (hence, I presume, the word sabbatical – the day off for contemplation and assessment).  And, very often, the sabbatical has been used for writing.  Writing produces a clarification of thought, an ordering of ideas – (one hopes!) -  since it would be difficult for others to follow the stream of consciousness knight’s move thinking that most of us indulge in! 
pumpcourt I’ve written a couple of books, mostly centered on my own creative processes, which are going through the lengthy editing process so necessary for polishing!

In them, I feel like I’ve been able to order my quilts so far and see how I progressed from one to another, gradually clarifying the way I design and think about designing and then constructing the work.   So where to go from here? Maybe I should take up palm-reading, or tea leaves would probably be more appropriate given my addiction to that beverage!
I’ve also written a third online class which is in the process of being edited right now; it even features short clips of the author in the studio – on the Tube!
I’m currently  taking a class called Calculus for Poets; the teacher began by asking us why we were doing it and several people replied because they’d always wondered what calculus was and why students found it so hard. That was definitely one of the reasons I started to study composition and design – why did people have so much difficulty with this?  In the calculus class we’re beginning by looking at the kind of problems that would be easy to solve  if  we knew calculus, and are very difficult to solve without it.  Almost an exact parallel to my dilemma in the first (and only) improvisational quilting class I took about 20 years ago.  I remember feeling that I was like Archimedes using the Method of Exhaustion to figure out the answer to the compositional difficulties and that I was ready for a class with Newton who might have the right formulae for me!  No I don’t think the online classes and the books I’ve written are quite up to Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica :) (though strangely enough the quilt above is based on a 17th century street in York) but I do enjoy being able to think clearly about things if and when I want to.
The calculus professor told us that, teaching at the university for 34 years, he continually dreamt up new courses that would be a challenge for him to teach.  He said this was a good way to keep up his own enthusiasm and learning, to enjoy new brain activity for himself.  Fascinating!  I never thought that teaching being the best way to learn would also be true of mathematics professors.  In all fields, therefore, the joy of art (of mathematics or of quilts) lies in conquering new ground: I’m setting forth today!
And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!  And many many thanks in advance for commenting – it’s all reinforcement you know!


Ruth said...

Congratulations on your two books! That's an amazing amount of work to write two books :)

Nina Marie said...

Well first of all so glad the books are coming out because I look back at my notes for both of those classes repeatedly. Got a smile from the fact that you all are taking calculus. With 4 semesters under my belt, I break out in hives just thinking about taking more!

There has been recent talk about when are enough classes enough. Most felt that there did come a time to stop. For me, though, I like to take design classes studying - if only for a bit under a teacher just to get out of my own box. You never know where your next inspiration might come from - when a teacher will spark something in you that you didn't even know was there. I imagine that its the same for a good teacher. Inquisitive students bring forth parts of a teacher that weren't formally showing. That's why its great idea to come up with new classes to teach all kinds of students!

Elizabeth Barton said...

thank you re the congratulations - I think I must have been crazy to write two at once! It sure got it out of my system though.
re how many classes are enough...
I think it really depends on the type of classes - the kind where you make a quilt like the teacher's sample - probably one is enough! The kind where you get support and feedback (as desired) on your own work - I think you could probably take forever. A lot of famous artists have done this.

Nina Marie said...

ohhh yeah - I was never keen taking classes in a particular style - only did it once and at the time I thought - OMG what was I thinking. BUT - so glad that LQS offer pattern classes in traditional quilting. Having a good solid foundation in the skills learned in those, has made my life so much easier when it comes to my more contemporary work. Not to mention once in a great while I like doing a pattern just 'cause its mindless and fun - a little sabbatical sort to speak!

Silvia Dell'Aere said...

Hi Elizabeth, congratulations for your book, they both seems very interesting and the kind of books I like to buy!

I know that the worse thing can happen to a professionist or creative is to lose curiosity and lay on the bed of what's already known. When I don't learn something new or if I don't have a challenge to overcome I fall in the boredom in very little time.

Your quilt is very intriguing, I love your colour choice. After you said it's a street in York it remembered me Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate. Was that street your inspiration or another?
Anyway very nice quilt!

Wish you a nice day!

Elizabeth Barton said...

Thank you NIna-Marie and Silvia for your comments!! interesting that you should remember Whip-ma_Whop-ma gate - my parents had a shop just 10 feet from there!! the alleyway in the picture however was Pump Court - it's actually about one or two streets nearer the Minster from Whip-ma_whop-ma!

Jackie said...

Hooray for the books! I'll be eager to have them both. My notes too are well-used and not all that organized. Congratulations! Regarding the calculus, though that's certainly not a class I would choose (a lecture with examples would be intriguing though), it feels very good to shake up things in the noggin from time to time.