How has your style changed over the time you’ve been quilting?
Today I visited a holiday pop-up market and saw the work of a local quilter. For as long as I’ve been aware of her as a quilter (and she has some “presence” locally,) most of her work has looked the same. It’s a very particular style, and I don’t notice any change or evolution in it over at least several years. Maybe she loves what she does; maybe she has found her “voice,” and isn’t interested in changing it.
Other quilters change their style, and sometimes they way they think about their process. A blog post written by my friend Audrey touches on that. Some might describe her style as “primitive” or “folk art,” but I would say Audrey has a joyful style that is unique to her.
Audrey is clear about the effort she’s undertaken to transition her style over the years, to one that feels more authentically her own. Quilts she was pleased to make fairly recently are not those that light her up anymore. This post on Growing Pains from nearly two years ago describes her sense of dissatisfaction: “honestly, some of my quilts seemed to be missing just a little something beyond my grasp or understanding. This happened very gradually … But then I realized that I was growing increasingly frustrated with some of my earlier quilting choices, even projects ‘in-the-works’. It has increasingly seemed to me that I was betwixt and between.”
That’s how I feel right now, “betwixt and between.” I think of my quilting so far in three discrete stages. First was learning basic technical skills of piecing and focusing my efforts on block quilts. Second was learning more about design and focusing my efforts on medallion quilts.
And third? I’m in the doorway to the third stage. My year largely has been about learning techniques to improve at telling stories, to make quilts that are more fully expressive of me.
As it turns out, I finished a bunch of quilts this year, but mostly they aren’t “third stage” projects.
But there are some I’m especially proud of, things that I couldn’t have achieved before. Unless I keep reaching and trying new things, how will I ever experience that feeling? Here is one, called Fierce Little Bear. I made it for my niece as a way to express my love of her and understanding of her.
The fabric and layout begin the story, but the quilting finishes it. The quilt reads from left to right as a whole picture framed by trees on either side, canopied in leaves and clouds. At the base is a field of flowers. Butterflies float next to the tree trunks. An owl hides in the tree on the left, while a squirrel is on the lower right. And a fish swims in an aqua pool. Click on any one to open the gallery and see some of the detail.
Compare it to a quilt I made in 2011. The photo is poor, but you can get the idea. It’s pretty and well-made. I still love stars and hourglasses. But it is part of my first stage.
I can’t make the same quilts year after year and feel satisfied. Growth is difficult. It requires effort and sometimes discomfort. I’ll take the discomfort, though, in exchange for a more rewarding experience.