Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Perfection: don't play it safe!!

It seems to me that one of the problems with traditional quilting - as it's taught - is perfection.  For perfection is boring!  I remember as a sickly kid,  I had every sympathy with Colin (in one of my favorite childhood books: The Secret Garden) lying in bed and desperate for something to think about!  I examined every inch of the wallpaper - a repeated pattern of flower baskets, there were hundreds of the damned things! I was desperately looking for the one that was different.  Had I known the Oscar Wilde quote: "either that wallpaper goes, or I do"  (supposedly his last words - the wallpaper won!), I'm sure I would have shouted them out!  (hopefully not with the same result!) Not because I hated baskets of flowers, but because they were all exactly the same.

But, in real life, perfection is unnatural......  an illusion.

If you think about music, or painting or writing, or a flower garden - to be rigidly perfect, technically perfect, is deadly.  DEADly!  As Sara Solovitch wrote in her book, Playing Scared, the viewer or the listener "craves excitement and discovery".  Solovitch considers that it's our faults and mistakes that provide guideposts to higher capabilities.

Sports psychologist Don Greene says "People want to hear (see, feel) excitement.  They want to hear energy.  When you play it safe, when every detail is perfect, chances are it isn't exciting.  it's like a tennis player who makes every serve.  They're not playing at the edge of  their capabilities.  Until they start faulting, they don't know how much range they have for faster serves".

In quilt design, it's very important to take risks, push your selves to and even over the edge.  What's to lose?  A bit of paper, a few minutes sketching with a pencil?   Do lots and lots  of sketches and drawings in the hope that a few will have something new, fresh and exciting.  Sketching out ideas with a pencil is not the time for a lot of criticism and negative self talk..  This is the situation where the "throw fabric at the wall and see what sticks " (and here I quote from any number of people...these are not my words) is EXACTLY what you should be doing - only I suggest for speed and economy of fabric - and also for focusing on lines, shapes and values rather than texture or color, that you do this with pencil and paper...or a brush dipped in black ink and paper...whatever your sketching tools of choice.

And now I need to convince my piano teacher too that perfection is an undesirable illusion!
If you have been, thanks for reading.....and thank you so much for your comments!!   Elizabeth

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