Around the World Blog Hop

A few days ago, WordPress notified me that I had posted my 200th blog post. I’d known it was coming and considered posting something “special” to celebrate, like I did for my 100th post. Just about the same time I was invited by Pati Fried to join the Around the World Blog Hop. Pati blogs at her own site as well as with See How We Sew. Since the two events are so close in time, I’ll use the blog hop to celebrate.

Have you had a chance to see some of the blog posts in this series? I love the idea because what we’re talking about is creative process — how do we think about and create art? In truth, it was harder to write this post than I expected. It forced me to think very hard about why I make the choices I do.

What am I working on?
I’m always creating something, sometimes something tangible and other times only in my head! I write here and at the blog Jim and I share, Our View From Iowa. And as you may be aware, I also create quilts.

Like most quilters, I usually have multiple projects in process. In the past couple of weeks I’ve made three simple quilts. Right now I’m working on binding them. I have a long-arm machine, which makes pretty quick work of most of my quilting projects once they’re to that stage.

Next up? I’ll head back to my beloved medallion quilts. I have a maple leaf center block in mind for the next one. After that, I’ll let inspiration guide me.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
To answer this, I had to consider how “genre” applies to quilts. We could consider incredibly broad categories, such as “quilt intended as art that one might hang on a wall” or “quilt used to cover or cuddle for warmth or comfort” or “quilt for a variety of other duties such as covering my toaster or holding all my junk when I go out.” Or we could split the world into “traditional” and “modern.” Or we could go to “pieced” or “appliqued” quilts. I think most of us would agree these are inexact categorizations, at best.

I make pieced quilts that would generally be considered traditional in style, and almost always intended for comfort or warmth. That’s not very different.

Aside from that, for the past year or so, I’ve been studying and making medallion quilts. Their proportions, value and color balance, and other design principles and elements are different from block format quilts. In addition, construction strategies are somewhat different. As far as I can tell, I’m the only one in blog-land who is actively studying them.

My designs do not attempt to imitate historical quilts. My quilts wouldn’t be considered “liberated” or “modern.” I don’t design to please someone else. Instead, I think my quilts are recognizably mine, and my work shows my artistic “voice.” That voice includes a lot of breathing room and a lot of movement, with less piecing than many historical or modern quilts. (Most of the “modern” medallions I’ve seen are very traditional in their styling, though they differ in colors or patterns.) The fabrics I choose cross styles, and are more important for their color, value, and pattern than their date of manufacture or designer. Frankly, fabric designer isn’t on my list of things to care about.

Why do I write/create what I do?
I create because there is power in the act of transformation. I transform ideas and words into complete thoughts, which may be meaningful to others. I transform ideas and fabrics, through shape and line and color, into quilts. I call it “power” while other people refer to it  as something as essential as breathing or eating. (I wrote more about why I quilt here.)

I create medallion quilts, specifically, because they require a different kind of problem solving than block quilts. Since every frame is unique, if only in size, they are more complex. That complexity engages me from the beginning to the end, and I enjoy the challenges they provide.

How does my writing/creating process work?
When I taught financial management, I taught a problem-solving process. It began with identifying the problem, determining what resources are available and what constraints are in place. The next task is to consider a variety of solutions and what they offer. Choose a solution and implement it. Then analyze the results for where it succeeded or failed.

To a great degree, the way I create follows the same type of process, and I call my process “Design As You Go.” I see it as problems to be solved by both sudden inspiration and deliberate calculation. The methodology is in place for the quilt as a whole, as well as the various parts of it.

For medallions, every border needs to enhance and support what’s come before it. For most quilts, I choose from stash to the extent I can. Sometimes that requires and spurs extra creativity. Even if I’ve decided what block or piecing to use in a border, that can change when I see what colors I have available. The surprises in one border lead to surprises in the next. It’s like opening a new gift each time.

UP NEXT in the Around the World Blog Hop
I’ve asked Joanna at The Snarky Quilter and Mary at Zippy Quilts to take the batons from here. They have very different styles. But both are very immersed in process, which is why I enjoy their blogs so much! Take a look at their blogs today, and be sure to stop back on November 3 to enjoy their blog hop reports.

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9 thoughts on “Around the World Blog Hop

  1. treadlemusic

    We quilters are all so different but one thing ties us together……we express what’s on our hearts in textiles. Your beautifully written post certainly gives great insight into your creative process and wonderfully describes your cozy spot in the art of quilting. Hugs……

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  2. KerryCan

    This was fascinating to read, Melanie! I’m especially interested in the way you talk about the problem-solving aspect of your quilts. Sometimes I look for a mindless approach to creating but, like you, I generally want to be mentally engaged and challenged in the making.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, I enjoy building complex ones more, even though I appreciate simple quilts, too. I think the key for me is knowing when I need to take a step back and let my brain rest. 🙂

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