04 Nov

Thoughts on Houston

As the big quilt show in Houston wraps up, I’ve been doing some post-show ruminating. No, I didn’t attend this year, or last, though I have been twice (2010 and 2011). I am recognizing a kind of love hate reaction to the show.

I love seeing everyone’s photos of the quilts and reporting from the wholesale-only market days. Kathy Mack and Team Pink Chalk always do a great job reporting each year’s trends from Market. This year, I especially enjoyed seeing Market and Festival glimpses from Facebook and Instagram friends, Victoria Findlay-Wolf, Cheryl Sleboda, Judy Coates-Perez, Jamie Fingal, and Kathy Nida who did a thoughtful review on her blog. While not at all like being there, it was definitely fun for the last two weeks to see what all the excitement is about and what quilts and fabrics people were responding to. It’s also worth checking out the big winners on the IQF page here.

I look at the winners each year, and am always in awe of the craftsmanship in these pieces. The style or subject matter is not always my cup of tea, but I can never disregard the passion, skill, and care taken in creating the most oft seen quilts at the show each year. I could get discouraged that my own quilting is not so perfect or that my pieces are not so small, or that my appliqué not so meticulous. However, seeing these quilts tends instead to be a push for me to constantly improve my work. I may not see my work fitting in a venue like IQF Houston, but it keeps me striving to make sure that it’s not for lack of craftsmanship. I love a good traditional bed quilt (especially a scrappy one), and I appreciate good craftsmanship and intent, so for any poo-pooing I may do of predictable subject matter, or styles that have jumped the shark, overall, I am far more inspired by what I see from Houston than not. In fact, I spent all morning warming up my machine quilting skills on a pair of scrap quilts, just to remind myself to be mindful and meticulous (as much as I can be), because when it comes time to quilt that piece with 900-something 2-inch squares, I want to do it and it’s concept justice.

So what’s the hate side of the equation? It’s the part where I see all the fabric designs from Market, and promotions like the video from Cotton and Steel, and lovely young women being entrepreneurial and passionate, and pro-active about what they want to be doing, be it fabric design, pattern design, online shops, teaching, inspiring, whatever. That always makes me feel like a lazy bum. Granted, designing fabrics and sewing patterns is not my thing or my strength; so while I may be jealous that these people are achieving their goals, I don’t actually want to be in their shoes. But what their stories do is make me ask myself where I want to be in five years. What are MY goals? And that question always stumps me. It’s hard, and I never put in the effort to figure it out. My go-to excuse is that I don’t even know where I’ll be living in five years, but in our interconnected, online world, that shouldn’t matter.

I feel like I may have made some baby steps this year. When I left Hawai’i, I told myself that in our new locale I would try to connect more with the local arts community. I wanted to do life drawing again, and I felt like my Army Wife series was just about ready to share. Now, 15 months later, I actually accomplished all these things, and there’s still forward momentum. So, where to take it next? What fabulous, exciting, Houston-worthy, goal do I want to set my sights on? I’m not sure just yet. I’m excited about a new series of work with social commentary, and I want Michelle Obama to see my Army Wife show, and I’d love to sell a piece or two to a serious collector, but are these actual goals that I have control over? That I can shape into something ongoing? I don’t know. But I’ll use the general excitement of what I’m seeing around me to keep pushing me to consider the possibilities.

9 thoughts on “Thoughts on Houston

  1. “I’m excited about a new series of work with social commentary, and I want Michelle Obama to see my Army Wife show, and I’d love to sell a piece or two to a serious collector, but are these actual goals that I have control over?”

    I’d say yes they are. While Michelle Obama is a long shot (we don’t really get to control other people – you can just do your part to entice her to come) the other 2 are completely in your court. Sales are a matter of making work worthy of such collections and then putting the work where it will be purchased – seems to me you are on the right track there.

    I teach a class on setting goals that are in alignment with ones values and my observation is you don’t really need a lot of help in that direction. It’s been really fun watching your career grow over the years.

    —lisa

  2. I don’t see you at Houston, just like I don’t see myself there. Your work makes a statement which should be seen outside the “traditional” quilt world. “Army Wife is a perfect example. I think you should continue to pursue solo shows and work on making art for that purpose.

  3. I have no doubts about your ability to reach these goals, set even more and reach them. Maybe if we had my Lisa tweet about the Army Wife series, we could reach Michele!! LOL!

  4. Well…. Lisa, Karen and Gerrie all said exactly what I wanted to say. Those goals are totally achievable (maybe not Michelle, but you never know! come on Gerrie get your Lisa on board!) and you’re on your way! I believe in you – look what you have already achieved!! WOW, you go girl!

  5. Great post. I will go an look at the links after I comment. I agree with Lisa, your goals seems well defined to me. Making art, quilts, anything is a constant evaluation of skill. Put good work in the right place at the right time and all the rest will happen.

  6. Goals are good. Why not Michelle Obama? Why not anyone, for that matter? We get caught up in the limitations we set on ourselves. I’m a firm believer in the everyday work ethic. By setting smaller, step oriented goals, we move forward, every day. I think you do this already. Stop comparing. I had an art teacher in college that said ‘Treat the art like the everyday work that it is, do it every day, it’s what you do, it’s your JOB!” 🙂 I love that, and it removes the romantic aura art carries. I do love in the video that RJR got with the program and decided to use young, enthusiastic talent.

  7. I disagree with Karen – Houston is a place where quilts of ALL variety are celebrated. In fact, I think the art quilts greatly outnumber the traditional quilts and your Army Wife would be an excellent solo exhibition there.

    You should propose it!

  8. Goals are good, but I am also a great believer in serendipity and that good work will find its place, which may not be Houston. I DO agree with Karen. Houston is wonderful and joyful and creative, but in ways that are not a match for every kind of art. You have become a very well-respected artist. Trust yourself.

  9. Your post and my own experience in Houston this year makes me want to kind of explode a little. I’m still a bit speechless (for mostly unkind reasons) about the venue, the people, the subject matter, the tight boundaries, the…the…

    I live my life setting and pursuing goals all over the place in every realm except my artwork. I guess I’d hoped to keep that stress out of it. But that battle has been lost.

    Have you considered working with a friend to pursue the same goal? Perhaps you could cheer each other on and keep motivated with what you “publicly” declare to him/her. With me, it’s accountability that gets me over the hump.

    Good luck!

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