Viva la difference! (or – what is an art quilt?)

I was recently asked what makes a quilt ART.
Some people have made all kinds of quilts that they didn’t think were art (think Gee’s Bend) but then someone puts them on a museum wall and the art world goes crazy. Some people put their heart and soul into creating a thing of beauty but because it is utilitarian they say it can’t be art.
Lucy Mingo, 1979

Lucy Mingo, 1979

In 1971 The Whitney museum hung Abstract Design in American Quilts and broke their previous attendance record. These weren’t new quilts. They were simply in a new setting. Does this mean that these quilts weren’t art before they hung on a museum wall? Is it the location that turns an object into art?
Maker Unknown, Circa 1900 - 1920

Maker Unknown, Circa 1900 – 1920

Who, exactly, has the right to say a thing is or isn’t art? How many artists have been rejected by the establishment during their lifetimes only to be revered years after they are gone by that same establishment. Sure – a museum curator might have advanced degrees – but this is ART people. It is meant to speak to your heart. It is an individual thing, meaning that you have as much say as any PhD.
While there is much contemporary art that I truly love, sometimes I scratch my head and wonder if the “famous artist” who has sold a museum some thing that has almost no craftsmanship to it, is gleefully laughing all the way to the bank at the stunt he pulled. Or maybe he actually does deeply believe the artspeak on the statement. Who am I to judge? 
So my answer is:

I think that quilts are art.

But hey, I don’t think mine is the only valid answer out there. Your answer is just as valid as mine. My opinion doesn’t negate yours and your differing opinion doesn’t mean my opinion is wrong.
Quilts are art? They might be follow a pattern like a paint by number or Bob Ross copy. They might be completely unique and come entirely from the mind and imagination of the maker. The world is a very big pond to swim in and there should be room for all the kinds of fish who want to be there. Art is what you want it to be and that means different things to different people. That’s a very good thing. The world would be a very boring place to live in if we all liked the same things!

vive la différence! 

Hey – I just had an idea. Wouldn’t it be a cool contemporary art installation to gather the results of a particular Bob Ross episode and completely cover all four walls of a gallery? I’d play a looped recording of his voice saying “happy little trees” over and over and over. My grandma used to paint along with Bob Ross. It made her happy. I LOVED seeing her happy so I love Bob Ross too.
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International Quilt Study Center article on Abstract Design in American Quilts

You can order the Catalog of the Abstract Design exhibit here:

lyric’s lyricisms: imposter syndrome

This is a repost from last month’s newsletter. Tomorrow I’m putting up a post about  the opening reception at the Visions Art Museum.


It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.
Denis Waitley

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Every once in a while I get this horrible feeling. The one that says… “someone’s going to find out that I don’t belong here, that I’m really not good enough for this”. According to psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, “it’s a feeling of phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable, or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” Highly accomplished people such as Maya Angelou and Seth Godin have voiced these insecurities in spite of their obvious talent. I guess I’m in great company.


Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.
C.S. Lewis

It’s healthy to be humble. Nobody likes a narcissist. But imposter syndrome can lead to paralyzing fear.

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How do you overcome this fear? 

Recognize it and realize that pretty much everyone has felt this way at some point. 

Remember all the things you DID do to get to where you are. You have been doing the work, right? You said yes or no as needed. You are risking, striving, trying.

Focus on doing your best. It won’t be perfect and you will never know or do or be everything. Never. But you can do your best. And you should.

Stop comparing yourself to other people. Envy is unhealthy and most of the time, uninformed. You have no idea of what it took for that person to get where they are. Everyone has their own private trials and struggles and failures. It is what makes us who we are.

Fake it until you make it! Kyle Eschenroeder said, “Sometimes faking it doesn’t make you a fraud. If you smile your body will be more generous with happy chemicals and actually make you happier. Neuroplasticity means that you can shape your brain by pretending.” 

Imposter syndrome can be a friend if you are willing to learn from it. Sit down and welcome it in. Fake it until you make it. Just keep doing the work!

I truly believe in a philosophy of abundance. There is enough goodness, love, recognition, and beauty for everyone. All I need to do is think of one of my very favorite people. When someone she knows accomplishes something she is so exuberantly happy for them – not a single touch of jealousy. I want to be like her. A rising tide lifts all ships, right?

Think about the following quote. 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

Have you ever felt Imposter Syndrome?
Send me a note and tell me about it!

the consequences of failure

You fail only if you stop.
Ray Bradbury

You made a mess. You had something in mind, you tried something new, and it didn’t work out the way you planned. It might have gone slightly off track or it might be a full head-on collision of a derailment. 

There are failures in life that can bring severe and devastating consequences but when we are talking about making art, taking chances, making running leaps of faith, it is almost ALWAYS better to try than to let fear stop you from making an effort.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Athletes like Michael Jordan miss far more shots than they land – but because they reach and risk and take those shots – at times they succeed.

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They fail, and they alone, who have not striven.
Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Fear keeps us from trying. We let an endless stream of excuses run through our heads and paralyze us into inaction. We forget that creating is a process. Every process has bits that are frustrating, ugly, difficult. Don’t let that stop you.

Stop and think for a minute of what the actual consequences are of making a piece of art you think is ugly, imperfect, or that does not live up to the ideal you had in your mind?

What if instead of giving up to turned around and took a good hard look at what you did? What if you analyzed what happened and figured out a new way to proceed. What if you learned something vital and necessary that you didn’t know you needed to know – because something went awry?

Write down the consequences of failure.
Write down the consequences of not trying.

creative wisdom: time management

FullSizeRenderI was introduced to a guild last week and my hostess said, “you can tell she is very organized and gets a lot done.” I always have to use every once of self control I have not to burst out in raucous guffaws – or at least refrain from rolling my eyes. I am busy past my eyeballs – up to the very top tip of my spiky hair busy. ALL. THE. TIME. So every time I get one things done, three more things fall by the wayside. Undone. Ignored. Behind schedule.

Lately that thing is the blog. Oh – and a haircut – if you scroll down to the next post you can see the too long hair and the spikes.

It’s just that time of my life. Teenagers who aren’t quite responsible enough to keep their driving privileges. Younger kids who want to do stuff every once in a while too. Heavy responsibility at church (which I know I could say no to, but won’t. Because the 10-30 hours every week I spend doing that stuff is more important than anything else and is making the world a better place. Right here where I can see it.) Teaching takes up far, far more time than just the days I’m out of town playing with the students.

So my magic time management advice? 


wait for it………………


Cue the maniacal laughter.


I write everything down and look at one day at a time. I look on my list and see what deadline is whooshing towards me at lightning speed and try my best to keep up. I’m seriously in favor of cloning technology – I need two or three.


I do have advice for staying somewhat sane in the midst of that kind of schedule though.

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Breathe. Stop for a moment and appreciate that all the things you are running around for are good things. Look up and around and out. Life could be so much worse and truly, I am one lucky girl. Life is beautiful.

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creative wisdom: fear of failure

There is no failure. Only feedback.
Robert G. Allen


I’d like to share part of an article I read recently called “Forgetting those things which are Behind” by Kenneth L. Higbee.

A newspaper editor, speaking to a college graduating class, asked, “How many of you have ever sawed wood? Let’s see your hands.”

Many hands went up.

Then he asked, “How many of you have ever sawed sawdust?”

No hands went up.

“Of course, you can’t saw sawdust!” he exclaimed. “It’s already sawed! And it’s the same with the past. When you start worrying about things that are over and done with, you’re merely trying to saw sawdust.”

Too many people make themselves miserable by dwelling needlessly on their past failures and mistakes. They lie awake at night agonizing over the mistakes they have made and what they should have done. Almost everyone occasionally does thoughtless, impulsive things that bring unpleasant consequences. Almost everyone occasionally misses golden opportunities through apathy or oversight. Almost everyone may be occasionally selfish or unkind.

We cannot help feeling despair over such occasions, but we should not feel as if we ought to be exiled from the human race simply because of them. In fact, mistakes are not only an acceptable part of life, but they may even be beneficial. The intelligent use of our mistakes helps us learn and grow; past failures may be guideposts to future successes. But our failures and mistakes can be constructive only if we analyze them, gain what profit we can from them, and then forget them.

A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he gives up.

This story can be applied to so many things in our lives, but especially to our art making. So many of the students I teach are held back by their fear of making a mistake. They look back on the work they have made and see only the errors. They equate their worth as an artist with those mistakes.

All artists make mistakes. Good artists accept mistakes as part of the process, learn from them and continue to progress. Over the next several months I’d like to talk about embracing failure as a vital part of every artist’s process. 

Think about your attitude towards failure.
What about the possibility of making mistakes holds you back?

I’d love to hear your comments and ideas and we can discuss them in upcoming posts.

The Business of Being an Artist: Ann Fall on selling your work in teaching venues

Ann Fahl is a quilter I’ve admired from the very beginning of my art quilting days. In fact, I still vividly remember one of her quilts that was in the first large quilt show (Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival) that I ever went to.

Indiana Memories by Ann Fahl

Indiana Memories by Ann Fahl

If you are wanting to sell your work, I have had the best luck when I am teaching. I pin a small hanging price tag on each quilt, so people can check the price without asking. After a group has heard you talk about your work and taken a workshop, they become more interested in purchasing. 


It is a good idea to have a solo or small group exhibit from time to time. Over the years I’ve sold very few quilts at a museum.  I don’t even do very well in a gallery. For a time, there was a gallery owner that worked with commercial designers and sold a few pieces for me. 


Celebration of Life by Ann Fahl

Celebration of Life by Ann Fahl


Here are things that help to sell: 


1.       Offer a layaway plan, with no interest. Break up the price into 12 payments, when they finish, they get the quilt.


2.       Take PayPal online


3.       Talk to your bank and figure out a way to take Visa and Master Charge. This costs me every month, but it does increase the numbers of transactions and the dollar value of each sale.


4.       Make sure that your students know that you have various plans to pay for your quilts. I mention it in my brochure, that is always sitting in a small stack on the table, and on my quilt student tab, that each workshop attendee gets with the class handout.


5.       Have work at a variety of price points. Little pieces for $100-300 sell quite well. A quilter will just write you a check for that amount. I have work from $50-10,000.  You never know when somebody will give you thousands of dollars for a quilt to hang in their new home, or redecorated space.


Also, now might not be a good time to find buyers for your work. Make plenty of new work, so when the economy improves, you are ready to sell. As quilt artists we are at the end of the food chain, so to speak.  People need to buy their necessities, and maybe a few extras from time to time. They have to be in a strong financial position to buy a piece of art to hang on the wall.


Good luck!



Ann Fahl


Quilt Artist


Author of Coloring with Thread, DVD


Creating Beautiful Bias Binding


Dancing with Thread

showing your work – your audience

OK, so we’ve talked a little bit about the different kind of venues available and thought about your goals for showing your work.  Today let’s chat a little about who goes to these venues and how each might meet your goals.

Quilt Shows

Road to California

Road to California

Most of the people attending quilt shows, the kind sponsored by quilt guilds, are quilters. Some are ginormous, huge, great big shows like the International Quilt Festival in Houston with over 50,000 attendees each year. Well, no. Only THAT show is that big. There are lots of other big shows and lots and lots and lots of other lovely local shows. In my experience, the majority of quilters who attend are traditional quilt makers. The others who attend usually come with a quilter. I show my work at some of these shows for the chance to win prize money, to get my work seen by people who might hire me to teach, to win a ribbon, and just to share with others that I KNOW will appreciate quilts. At a bigger show your work might be seen by a magazine editor or publisher. It happened to me.

Shops and Cafes

Ann Flaherty's work at Coffee & Crepes in Cary, NC

Ann Flaherty’s work at Coffee & Crepes in Cary, NC

The kind of customer who comes to a retail establishment depends entirely on the kind of retail establishment doesn’t it? Fancy five star restaurants will attract a different crowd than a hole in the wall cafe. I don’t turn my nose up at either. Although I’ve never sold a piece off the wall at a retail place I’m just happy my work isn’t sitting in the closet. You never know who is going to see it. I show my work at these kinds of places just to make the world a more beautiful place, no real expectations.

Community Art Centers

ARTQUILTS at the Durham Arts Center

ARTQUILTS at the Durham Arts Center

I love showing my work in community art centers. People who love art frequent these places. They might not be there specifically to buy art but they are always interested and often not as well versed in textile work. I find children in these places more often than anywhere else and I love that. I’ve sold a few pieces from group shows held at art centers even though the center itself wasn’t set up to handle sales transactions. I’ve won an award or two at shows. Mostly I’ve been able to interact with a lot of people who love art. And most of them are not textile artists. It’s fun to get outside of our little world sometimes.

Art  Galleries

The Schweinfurth in PA

The Schweinfurth in PA

In my mind, people who walk into art galleries are there because they love art. Some of them even go there on purpose to buy it. The gallery owners really want people to buy the art – that’s how they stay in business. A really good gallery owner will do the work it takes to sell your work for you. I’ve had work in juried shows in fancy art galleries and won a couple of cash awards in those shows. Really what I keep hoping for are sales. Someday when my production level is more consistent (as in, I actually MAKE more artwork!) I think I’ll look for gallery representation.


Micheal James at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC

Micheal James at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC

This venue to me seems to be on the high end of the venue spectrum. I think if a good sized museum purchased one of my pieces for a permanent collection I would feel as though I had really, really, really accomplished something in this part of my life. It’s a big dream. It might happen someday. Who goes to art museums? Like the community Art Centers, people who love art. Lots of educational opportunities are usually provided so children go there as well. I don’t think people go to museums thinking they will buy art, but people who are art patrons might see one of your pieces at a museum and look you up.

Oh, and by the way, Autumn Adams is the lucky winner of the giveaway for Pam Hollands book! I totally forgot about it.

showing your work – what are your goals?


So far I’ve mused about getting accepted into a show and about what local venues might be available to you. In my next post I’ll blab on about who I think attends those venues and I’d love to hear your views as well. But first….


Let’s talk about WHY you are showing your art. 


One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.”


What are YOUR goals?


Do you just want to share the beautiful thing you’ve created with the world? Would a blog or show and tell at your local quilt guild be enough for you?

Do you crave a little recognition? What kind? From who? Are you happy with people oohing and aaahing and will you be devastated if they don’t like your work? Does your family not appreciate you and you just need to share with someone who understands this beautiful obsession that is making things with cloth? Do you want to be famous?



Are you competitive? Deep down do you want to be the best at something? Would you be disappointed if you didn’t win and think it means that your work isn’t any good? 

Do you want or need to sell your work? Why? Are you trying to support yourself entirely through your art? Do you think sales justify what you are doing? Do you want to bring in enough income to cover your costs?

Is showing your work a stepping stone to something like breaking into the national quilt-teaching circuit?

And now for a little rambling on.
Feel free to skip this and go straight to the comments to tell me what motivates YOU!

Every one of these reasons for showing your work has motivated me at some point. I know there are lots of other reasons and I’d love it (REALLY love it) if you’d share some of your reasons with me. My goals are constantly evolving so I am constantly coming back to reevaluate them.

When I first started quilting I was just terribly excited to show people something I’d finished. I got really lucky and won a ribbon for my first quilt – in the “first quilt” category at the local quilt show. Then my old competitive nature snuck up on my and I really wanted to win ribbons.  I think it was up through my second year of college that my world revolved around getting to play first chair horn in whichever orchestra I was in. Then I discovered how much fun some of the other parts were to play – and also how much less pressure there was involved. And playing my horn got a lot more fun.


I also really loved cash awards as our budget was stretched very thin as it was. I used to skip lunch so I could go buy a fat quarter. It was really nice to win enough awards and have just enough sales to cover my fabric addiction. This is still one of my primary goals. 

Then I wanted to teach and was told that I needed to have my work seen by the national audiences and especially to win awards. Looking back I’m not sure that the quilt show circuit was the most efficient way to do this. (Someone speak up if you want a series of posts on how to get into teaching.) Anyway – I’ve evolved. Now, I think, I want to be recognized more as a fine artist than as a quilt teacher, although both titles make my heart sing.

And way down deep, I think I still want to be famous – just a little bit. It’s an ego thing that I’ve always had and try to channel in positive ways. There is nothing like being applauded after a great performance and I guess that got under my skin a bit from an early age. Really, nobody recognizes or says “thank you” to all the mothers out there. There isn’t a paycheck or a performance review or a bonus when you finally get that stubborn boy potty trained. In fact, usually they just say, “it’s about time!” It’s quite a switch to fly out to a quilt guild where they treat you like a minor celebrity. 

Really, I do what I do because I LOVE making art with cloth and it makes me happier than anything to see students realize that they CAN do things they thought they couldn’t. That’s 98% of it. I will sheepishly admit that the “fame” part might possibly be the other 2%. And yes, I realize I am only well known in a very small art corner of a rather small quilting pond. But hey – quilters are still the nicest people I know.

showing your work – local venues

So lately the first question I ask myself regarding what show I might want to enter is – where is the show? In other words – what is the venue?

One of the reasons I got burned out sending my work out around the country is that it takes a lot of time and, lets face it, money, to ship your quilts. I’ll talk about that a little bit in another post.  Suffice it to say that over the past couple of years I chose to only enter local shows. That way I can just pop in the car and drop off the artwork. Fortunately there are many venues available in most cities and larger towns like mine.  Lots more than there used to be.


Quilt Shows:

There is a very active quilt guild in Raleigh that hosts a members show every other year. It’s held at a local college in their gymnasium. I have to say that they do a lovely job of hanging it. It’s mostly well lit and fairly roomy and I’m always amazed at the calibre of talent displayed there.

Shops and Cafes:

Whether it’s a coffee shop or a fine restaurant, many a local eatery will work with the local arts community to hang work on the walls. If you see a place like this – ask to talk to the owner and find out who is in charge of the art exhibits. Ask things like, is the artwork insured (usually not), how long does the work stay up, do you have a contract? How long in advance do you schedule exhibits?


Community Art Centers:

My town has a beautiful new art center with two dedicated art galleries. They also have another arts and history center and also show artwork on the walls of each community center and the town hall. Cool eh? They exhibit solo shows (I had one at a community center), group member shows, and special exhibits. These are usually booked up to a year in advance. Find out what the process involves. It’s usually a portfolio application process. The Professional Art Quilt Alliance – South (their show Whimsy has a deadline of March 1!) exhibits both our members exhibit and our internationally juried show in these art centers and the sites are beautiful. IMG_0687

Art  Galleries:

Raleigh boasts a very happening art scene. A newer arts district has sprung up over the last couple of years. I’ve not applied to any of the regular commercial galleries.  If you want to be regularly represented by a gallery, you need to have a solid body of work and a regular production schedule. I’m lacking the latter at this point in my life while I still have kidlets at home. I am also a member of the co-op  gallery Visual Art Space and have had work there a number of times in both juried and non-juried member shows. They also have reserved walls at the front of the gallery for featured artists and I did that as well. My suburban town has several smaller galleries and I’ve had work in them off and on as well as a solo show 1-21


If you know how to get into one, let me know. Being shown in a museum is a big dream for me. Of course – I need to make a LOT more work before I feel that I have something worth saving forever. That isn’t a self-depreciating-lack-of-confidence kind of remark. I like the work I do now. I just don’t think it is stuff that will hold up design-wise down through the ages.

I’ll go on in my next post about what kind of shows each of these venues have. 


showing your work

I got a “fat envelope” today.
I love the word “congratulations!”IMG_7999

It’s from a show that I’ve entered at least four times without ever being accepted. There are a few shows that I keep trying to get into even if I know my chances are slim – just because they are either very prestigious or have a really great venue. This is the Raleigh Fine Art Society juried show. Raleigh isn’t a huge city, but it is nice. And the venue for this exhibit is NICE!
memorial-auditorium-Raleigh1-676x450The Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts houses four theaters and is the home of the symphony, ballet, and lots of the big cultural performances (and lots of the little ones too) that come through town. The walls are always hung with lots of art and people wearing fancy clothes look at the art before the show and during intermissions. That’s an exciting thing.

Dream_600pxI haven’t really been gung-ho about entering my quilts in national shows over the past number of years. I’m thinking about it and it must be at least five or six years, maybe eight (can it possibly be that long!?!?) since I had as much of my work as I could get out there in rotation to various quilt and art shows. I got tired of it. Lots of paperwork and packaging and shipping. So I’ve entered pieces as I felt like it in local art shows. I’ve also been honored to be included in several invitational shows such as the ones sponsored by Leslie Tucker Jennison and Jamie Fingal over at Dinner@8.

So this surprise acceptance (I’ve come to think of my jury fee as a charitable donation) has set off some musings that I think I’ll share with you over the next little while. What kind of shows do YOU enter… and WHY?

I’d love it if you joined the conversation. Ask me any questions you have. Share your opinions. Pull up a comfy chair, grab a cup of something yummy (my current favorite is herbal ginger lemon tea) and let’s chat!

Creative Wisdom: What sings to your soul?

Quite a while ago I took a workshop with the fabulous Lesley Riley. It was a creative coaching type class with some goal writing and such. I don’t remember most of what we did – other than to make crayon marks on every page of a new sketchbook and write about someone else in their sketchbook. That says nothing about the class – it says everything about my memory issues.

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One thing I truly absorbed though is her advice to gather imagery that “SINGS TO YOUR SOUL.”

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Look at it carefully. Ask yourself why these things sing… what common elements do they share?

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 2.05.50 PMSo I have a pinterest board called “sing to my soul.” I know this about myself. I love mostly monochromatic schemes with subtle yet stark value contrast. I like a lot of subtle texture. I love both fluid and architectural line. I really, really love the juxtaposition of nature and architectural lines.

So ask yourself, how can you incorporate the common elements in your own “soul singing artwork” into your future works? This is a fabulous way to be inspired by other art without copying it. Pull out the elements of art that speak to you and use them.



Creative Wisdom – fake it till you become it!

imageOne fun, new thing that has been happening in my studio with the addition of a large screen desktop computer, is that I’ve been watching things while I work with my hands. There is a lot of great stuff out there. If you haven’t discovered yet you are in for a treat. It is full of a lifetime’s worth of short, amazing talks by amazing people who are doing amazing things. My favorites are the scientists. They all seem to be trying to make the world a better place.

Here is one of my recent favorites. A talk by Amy Cuddy, a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School. It’s titled “Your body language shapes who you are.” If you have time, grab some hand work and take 20 minutes to watch it.

4f8fc6f1e41fa02b5a2c72e2695abb324c2126b5_254x191Ms. Cuddy discusses how our body language is read by others, but more importantly, how it literally effects our body chemistry. She found that body positions can effect the levels of testosterone (feeling powerful) and whatever the hormone is that causes stress – can’t remember it. It’s fascinating! “Our bodies change our minds, and our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can change our outcomes. When we think of nonverbals, we think of how we judge others. … We tend to forget, though, the other audience that’s influenced by our nonverbals: ourselves.”

But this is what resonated with me…

“Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.

Do you have that horrible voice in your head that constantly doubts and criticizes everything you do? I’ve mostly banished it but every once in a while it shows up with a whisper here and there. One of the ways I’ve gained not only confidence, but actual skill and experience is by practicing this very thing. Pretend long enough and it becomes real. Go out and act as though you have confidence and soon enough, you will have it. Make art as though you know what you are doing, and in time, you WILL know what you are doing. See this sign over the door of my studio? It’s not on the outside for everyone to see. It’s on the inside where I can remind myself.


I’m not saying pretend to be something you are not. I AM saying, pretend to be the thing you very most desire to become. This kind of pretending involves DOING. And if you DO for long enough – it is inevitable that you will BECOME!

Creative Wisdom: Own It – Lesley Riley

Here is some lovely wisdom from Lesley Riley – reposted with her permission.

Own It

There appears to be a very fine line between being modest and owning up to your success. 
At one end is the obnoxious person who sounds arrogant and boastful. It is equally as inappropriate to sound meek and humble, dismissive even, of your success. I’m speaking of extremes, but my experience this weekend got me to thinking about how artists often speak of their work.

The lure of the SAQA symposium I attended last weekend is that you get to be the first to see the Quilt National show and hob-nob with the participating artists. On Saturday morning there was a walk-through of the show. Each attending exhibiting artist was asked to speak about their work for an all-to-short two minutes.

Just like the mix of quilting styles, materials and methods, the artists varied in the way they spoke of their work. As someone who makes a living encouraging artists to create with confidence and revel in their own artistic vision and abilities, I was surprised how many spoke of their quilt as if it was “just something that happened” subliminally suggesting it (and they) really didn’t belong there amongst the other art quilt rock-stars.

Mind you, I don’t know how I would react in that situation – 100+ people surrounding you, staring at you and your quilt – but I would hope that I would come across like a proud mama showing off her beautiful baby. No boast, just love.

The art we make is a wonderous thing. It is not something that should be shrugged off or makes you uncomfortable to speak about. The word “just”, as in, “I just tried to,” or “I just put this…,” should never be uttered.

Creating art that others deem worthy of being in one of, if notthe, most prestigeous art quilt shows in the world is not a fluke. It is an acknowledgement of your vision, your voice, and your spirit. The best art, the art that moves others, is the art you pour yourself into.

Your best art is art that is as much a part of you as your hand and your heart.

The best art is created by those who folllow their heart on a regular and consistent basis, honing both their skills and their voice so that both speak so loudly that it cannot be ignored.

Whether it is your best art or deemed to be the best art, it is important that you own it. Own up to the fact that you have the talent and courage to find that seed of creative inspiration inside of you and nuture it into the world.

Be like the child running to their mom or dad saying, “Look what I made!” Celebrate the magic and gift of spinning straw into gold.
The appearance of things change according to the emotions, and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves.
Kahil Gibran

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Lyric’s Lyricisms: Art and Kung Fu

The following is an excerpt from June’s Lyric’s Lyricisms Newsletter. If you like what you see you can subscribe via the link on the top right of this blog. The newsletter also includes a list of entry dates for shows that accept art quilts.

There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.
Kenneth Blanchard 

The master teaches. I’ve been having tendon trouble for a year now. Walking is painful. I’ve been to the doctor and physical therapist. They did their thing but it hasn’t been very successful. Then I found “The Body Mechanic.” He’s got me convinced that we can make it go away. The key word? WE! During treatment he helps me to stretch the tendons. Then he finds the points of inflammation, presses them painfully and doesn’t let up until I’m able to actively relax (opposites – I know!) the area. The pain lessens dramatically. Then he massages the area to move whatever gunk is in there – out. He’s also given me a regimen to work through daily on my own and let me know that it’s up to ME to do it long enough and consistently enough to have positive results. His work is a necessary part of the process now, but with practice and commitment I will be able to continue the process on my own and beat this thing. I am already seeing positive results. He told me today that the word “kung fu” refers to any skill achieved through hard work and practice.

Find someone who teaches you how to grow, even when they are not present. 

Talent will not always find its way but commitment will.
Nancy Crow

Now it’s up to you. What does this have to do with your art? It occurred to me that often we need a Kung Fu master: a mentor who is willing to help us do the hard work. The best teachers will be generous with everything they know. They show you then guide you through each process, helping you to make it your own. They are not afraid to let you fumble but will also encourage you to to get back up and try it again. They know that it is the patient repetition and analysis of the process that will help you to achieve mastery. They know that once they have given you everything they can it is entirely up to you to implement the regimen and achieve mastery in your own way. Remember, Kung Fu applies to any study, learning or practice that requires patience, energy, and time to complete. (You might enjoy this wikipedia entry on Kung-Fu)

What are you committed to?
What daily practice will help you achieve mastery?

Creative Wisdom: Luana Rubin

6a0120a82c6029970b0167689ced4f970b-250siLuana Rubin is the owner of – the internet’s largest quilting supply store. And she is an amazing woman. With her permission – here is a recent post from her blog.

“Why do we make quilts?”

The reason has evolved as women have evolved in society. This practical craft of recycling clothing scraps to make warm blankets, has a history around the world from America to Japan and beyond, because fabric is precious and we hate to throw away something that can be reworked into something useful or beautiful.

Suffragettes-1Most women have forgotten what the Suffragettes went through to win the right for women to vote. That was one stepping stone as women began to dream about having their own careers, and throughout the Twentieth Century we remade the idea of what it means to be a woman in the world.

Today our daughters grow up in a world where equality is often taken for granted, even though there are plenty of women around the world who still don’t have the rights that our girls and young women assume are here for the taking.

med-largeI’ve been thinking about how quilting has evolved along with feminism. It has changed along with us – from a necessity to something that could be perceived as a luxury. (Buying fabrics and collecting a stash, making creative and artistic quilts, instead of using scraps for a patchwork blanket to keep out the cold.)

Sheryl Sandberg is on the cover of Time Magazine this week, and her book excerpt discusses how success can equal unlikability for women, and also how many women are still trying to achieve the impossible goal of ” having it all“. No matter how hard we try, we often will feel like we are missing out on something. It is difficult to feel completely content with our lives, no matter how much we accomplish, and no matter how much we try to let go and just BE.

IMG_4162Quilting helps us with this conundrum. When a sister has breast cancer and we feel helpless, we make her a beautiful healing quilt. When friends suffer a terrible loss, we make comfort quilts to remind them of our love and support. When a community suffers a trauma such as Hurricane Sandy, the larger community comes together to send quilt relief… the equivalent of a group hug.

Life is messy, and much of it is out of our control, but when you make a quilt you have time to sort it all out in your head, and by the time your healing quilt is finished, you’ve received a healing in the process of making the quilt. As women’s confidence and freedom has progressed, we have given ourselves permission to use quilting and sewing as Art Therapy. Instead of feeling guilty about making art, we embrace the process as a journey of self discovery.

Many years ago I heard a statistic about how many corporate women were turning to crafts for stress relief. Quilting, sewing, painting, knitting, crocheting and other arts and crafts have been embraced by a new generation of working women, as they discover what so many mature quilters knew already.

When you make something for someone who is hurting, it heals your own heart.

When you make something beautiful, it reveals the beauty of your own soul.

Creative Wisdom: Don’t hold yourself back

lean-in_custom-575cb1cc7e2e0e704abfffbc2a0ce498dafad0f8-s2I heard an interview with Sheryl Sandberg on the Diane Rheme show today and something she said caught my ear. She is the chief operating officer of Facebook and the author of a new book titled, Lean In. I don’t think I have time to read it, and thus have no opinion about the book, but the interview was interesting.

She mentioned hearing a lecture that fascinated her, about feeling like a fraud. I know I’ve felt that way – as though someone is going to come to me and say, “you really aren’t an artist – what do you think you’re doing trying to teach people!?”

She told one of her male friends about it and he replied “why would you find that interesting?” It occurred to her than men, by and large, don’t feel that way. Even when they are inadequate they would not admit it and do not tend to devalue themselves.

There were other anecdotes about how men appear to have enough hubris to reach out and grab that next promotion or bill the client for time spent in the shower because they were multitasking … and how women don’t do those things. We feel guilty instead.

LMK textile artistSo. I happened to be listening to the interview on my way home from taking down my gallery show. I had this sign from the show in the car with me and am not sure what I planned to do with it. I decided to give myself a little reminder. The sign is hanging over my studio door. It’s a reminder.

Make one for yourself!

Hang it up where you can see it and
Believe it!
Become it!

Creative Wisdom: do what you love

“My experience is when you’re young, you are quickly going through the list of what you can’t do, looking for what you can doFor me it was wow, not an athlete, really not an athlete. Really intimidated by math and sciences… Not good at so many things, and then I started to hit areas where I was extremely comfortable. I liked creative writing right away, and I liked making my friends laugh… When you come to terms with an ability, it’s a religious experience and it changes you.”

– Conan O’Brien, in an interview with Inside the Actor’s Studio

Creative Wisdom: Goal Setting from Alisa Burke

Picture 28

I’ve enjoyed following the creative journey of the artist Alisa Burke over the past year as she and her husband have started on a new adventure. He’s staying at home to help raise their lovely little one and they are supporting themselves with her business as an artist.



Last month she posted some advice about goal setting on her blog that she’s given permission for me to share with you. I encourage you to go there and read it for yourself.


Here is the short version.
Have a goal?
Name It.
Write it Down.
Start Small.
Just Do Something.
It’s OK to Fail.
Be Present.

IMG_8387 copy

Go THERE and read the long version.
Alisa’s photography is beautiful, her art is full of joy and her words are inspiring!

Creative Wisdom from Lynn Krawczyk: i {heart} bad art

This is from Lynn Krawczyk and posted with permission.
I read it and said to myself…… EXACTLY!!!
(see chapter 1 of Art + Quilt!)

i {heart} bad art

I love making mistakes.

No really, I do.

This quote from Albert Einstein puts it into perfect perspective:

I’ve been experimenting a lot lately. Most of it has not worked out and I’m totally good with that. And yes, that is said minus the eye rolling and heavy sarcasm.

Here’s the thing, when I mess things up its because I’m just playing. There’s no pressure, I don’t care if there is a mistake, I don’t care if anyone sees it. Most of the time I’ll toss it in a pile to get cut up for a collage and over-printed later on. But some of the stuff I’ve been making lately have been real dogs and they are now firmly acquainted with the trash can.

I’ll never learn anything new or feel excited about my work if I don’t goof up and experiment. So that’s what I’m doing. Making really really really bad art.

And I love it. 🙂


Creative Wisdom: baby steps

Turn off your computer: go to the library. Bring your sketchbook along.
Randomly open books (over in the non-fiction section) and jot down ideas.

Creative Wisdom: baby steps

Today – Taking Care of Business.
You know there is at least one thing on your list of stuff to do that isn’t the fun stuff. That stuff hangs over your head and gets in the way of your creativity.

Take one business related activity you’ve been avoiding – and do it. 

(I’m setting up my new projector and live demo equipment. I’ve had it for months and haven’t turned it on. It’s about time – I’ve got to get a handle on it before heading out to teach in Houston next month.)

Creative Wisdom: Baby Steps

I’ve just spent the entire day at the middle school, working with their horn players – and recruiting a few new ones. I’m completely exhausted. No wonder my kids don’t want to get their homework out of the way right when they walk in the door.

Alphonse Mucha

So – since it’s almost time for the rest of the troops to come in and get food before we rush off to various sports – today’s baby step is very small.

Choose a piece of art you love. Look at it.
Analyze what it is about it that you love.

Mucha? I love, love, love his use of pattern, the sinuous lines hat lead the eye on a journey up and around and back again. In the print above, there is a repetition of the round shape and the organic but angular branching forms.

Creative Wisdom: Baby Steps

Remember what we’ve done so far? Cleaned off a spot or two, made a list, picked out a photo for inspiration…
Let’s get just a little more specific today. Pick a work in progress, or something you’d like to start. Make a list of all the little steps that need to be done. Break it down to tiny bite sized pieces. Get the first thing ready to work on. If you get the urge and keep on going with it today, make sure to leave the next step out and ready to go for tomorrow.

Today so far I’ve looked at my possible entry deadlines (you can see a pretty full list of calls for entry on my website here.) I’ve chosen a show, ARTQUILTSwater that I want to be a part of and think I can manage. That’s only because I’ve already got something in the works that will fit the theme. My list starts – iron cloth, find image to layer, pull out projector, mark image, find batting. Today I might have time to iron.

Creative Wisdom: Baby Steps

How is it going so far? I’ve been trying out these baby steps in and effort to stop wasting so much of my time. On some days it’s working and some – not so much. I’m so easily distracted. Yesterday I did my one thing and then immediately veered off in another direction. Today I will do better.

Today’s Baby Step – Find a pile and put it away.

Mine’s a big one. Problem is most of it doesn’t have a home. The fun part is that I’m sure something in there will say – oh wait – PLAY with me now!

Creative Wisdom: Baby Steps

The weather has turned – from hot and sweaty to crisp and blue and… it’s just my FAVORITE!!!!

So there is no way I’m staying inside today. I might even do some long neglected weeding.
So today I’m doing something creative – but outside.

 Right now – pick up a pencil. Draw something.

I just had to be outside so I found a bloom. And a really cool radial pattern of leaves. Nature has amazing patterns to look at, be inspired by, draw.

Draw a weed. Draw a rubber band. Draw a sock or a shoe piled on the floor.
Just do it.

Creative Wisdom: Baby Steps

Welcome back – did you have a lovely weekend? I did. I played Dominoes with the family, spent three hours shopping an annual closet sale at my very favorite clothing boutique*, successfully fought off the flu, and had a nap. I really like having a little time off every now and then.

So now it’s time to get back into the studio.
Here is a little baby step kind of push to help you (and mostly ME) to get there.

Go find one tool or gadget or supply that you haven’t used yet and do something with it.
(I know you have it.)

I’ve had this set of Tombo Dual Brush Pens for several months, have carried it along on two trips – and still haven’t used it.

So I opened them up and worked on played around with a sketchbook page.

I got them in order to play with the blendable aspect – and haven’t done that yet.

If you are following along I’d love to hear about it.

Are you finding that once you start you keep going for a little bit? Is it only me that has the little character flaw that makes it so hard for me to just START something – especially when I have a deadline.

* If you live anywhere near Cary, NC and like funky clothes Possibilities is worth the drive. I hate shopping. I save up my whole budget and use it up all at once here. The sale is amazing with several thousand pieces of new or gently used clothing and a crowd of women sharing racks and mirrors. You freely give and receive opinions, you hand over the piece you just tried on but aren’t going to get to the person next to you and you make a lot of new friends. (Hi Brie!) I might have to go back today.

Creative Wisdom: Baby Steps

There is no such thing as a long piece of work, except one that you dare not start. ~Charles Baudelaire~

Today’s baby step
paint a background (or several) in a sketchbook

Drip some watercolors or splash on some acrylics.

You don’t have to do anything else with it now but it might just spark something. 

Just being in the room or that certain creative space in your head might be enough to make you pick up another paintbrush or a needle and floss or turn on your sewing machine.

I got into it just enough to pick up a sharpie and scribble out some words on the page. Who knows what it will become? Not me. Most of the time it is creativity for the fun of it when I’m working in a sketchbook. Work. Play. Same thing.

What have your baby steps been this week?
What have they led to?

After a crash and burn summer I’m getting to the space in my head where I can start some real projects again. Baby steps work.

Creative Wisdom: Baby Steps

“Those who will not start, will never finish.” Jack Adams

Take a baby step into your creative place –
Right now – MAKE A LIST

It can be a big list – your goals for this week, this year, the next ten.
Or it can be small – one thing you want to get do and all the steps to do it.
Now turn off the computer and go do the first thing. (yes, I’m talking to myself here.)

Creative Wisdom: Baby Steps

Take a baby step – into your creative place.

Right now
switch over to your photo files and choose one image that inspires you.

by Lainey’s Repertoire

I found this vintage letter at Flickr Creative Commons, a great place for copyright free images. I think I’ll punch it up a bit and make a new thermofax screen for my shop. I have a tutorial for working with photos to prepare them for thermofax images here.

If your files are anything like mine they are a mess. I can never find the photo I want because I end up just dumping the whole card to make space on my camera. I don’t often take the time to sort. So if you gain a little momentum once you’ve taken that first step, go ahead and organize a file or two.

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