The Doctor is In

Work in progress.
It's a veritable self-portrait. Two days ago, in the midst of finishing a commission, I was suddenly seized by the desire to play with colour. (There is a spring quilt show coming up on the island that I was asked to participate in, but it wasn't at the top of my "to do" list.)

The urge to create was so strong I didn't even bother to choose fabric. I grabbed the box of scraps left over from the round robin quilt workshop I did with Barb Mortell a couple of years ago (and untouched since then.) I pulled out two piece at random, cut them with a rotary cutter, stitched them together and then proceeded to ask "What does it need?" The result is pictured above.

It's a mess, right? But it contains a lot of energy, so I decided to treat it as a therapy cloth, and figure out what it might reveal of my inner psyche.

The first thing that catches my eye is the vertical red line that splits the work in two. Off setting the line would have given a more interesting composition, and I did try, but it kept wanting to be right in the centre. I also rotated the piece as I worked, so the line could have been horizontal, or at an angle. The red line was insistent. The questions are, "Do I feel split in two, or in conflict? Are there two sides to the story? Is there a before and after here?"

Lots to chew on there, but probably boring for anyone but me. I did feel whilst working that there was a strong vertical tendency, one of growth, which would be appropriate for spring, if that's what I was thinking of. The last piece I added was the bottom strip of red, to try and ground the vertical line. Red is a very energetic colour, particularly this one, which is a pure vermillion. Positioned at the bottom, it gives a sense of something roiling beneath the surface. The question is, "What lies beneath my surface?"

Hmmn. The career, having just had a shot in the arm with the show at the Nanaimo Art Gallery, is feeling the need to build on the momentum, such as it is. As I described in my post about the opening, I did feel very conflicted about my right to be there. It takes a tremendous amount of positive self-talk for me to put myself out into the public realm. I am torn between the need to protect myself and the desire for others to see my work.

Going back to the messy, chaotic quilt piece, is it possible to read it as dynamic? Can I pull the pieces together and move forward? The yellow and grey stripe-y pieces remind me of ladders, the middle one does go to the top. Is there some comfort or a safe space to be found? It's all grist for the mill.

There should be a photo of my workspace. It was like a fabric and colour bomb had gone off while I was putting this piece together. No surface was clear. There was a box of fabric stacked on top of something else so I had to do a John Cleese-style silly walk to get over it on my way to the ironing board. I really had no space to lay anything flat. Maybe this piece reflects something of that.

Which leads me to look around my house with a familiar sense of despair at the bags and boxes of fabric stacked everywhere, the skeins of yarn I spun over the winter that have no place to go, the rug hooking project blocking the doorway. The fear grips me that I have become a hoarder. And what is the psychology behind hoarding, that one will never have enough, or that all that stuff can insulate against the world?

Maybe I need to do some therapeutic cleaning and organising and weeding. Could taming the chaos around me control the chaos within?

Ahh, our time is up. See you next time.


  1. OMG I love this post.
    To me, your red vertical line has taken on the energy of a tree growing out of a rock - the red just underneath the curve of the surface are the roots.

    I kept hopping back and forth from the text to the visual - and enjoyed your self-analysis very much. I truly believe that creating is the best way to nurture and heal our inner self (and also those broken bones that come along every now and then and wreck our inner self).

    I could say much more about how much this post resonated with me - but shall be quiet now and go back to my quiet space behind my walls of fabric and ufo's.

  2. We actually thought about doing a video of Heather vaulting over the boxes, bags and piles of fabrics that adorn our kitchen, living room, basement, sub basement, bedrooms and even the old cistern that is buried below the floor. (I haven't the courage to look there I confess.) But the thought of it was so daunting that I simply chuckled to myself and visualized what that might look like. Now, I don't want you to think that it was fear or cowardice on my part but I do have to say that I have learned not to get in the way when she is in her creative flow. Well flow actually doesn't describe it, it's more like a storm, gusting to 90kmh, fabric flying and gleeful shouts that warn all and sundry to give the artist room. After all, there are scissors and other pointy things involved...

  3. A maker must hoard, that is just how it is. But that doesn't mean we can't dream of a better way to do it. Like, how about group hoarding-a kind of group stash and we can only take as much as we are going to use for a particular project. Yeah, I know...but one can dream. James, you are a gem!!! That's the other thing, I think we should probably just live alone. Even though I have had a workshop for the past 20 years it is like an invasive plant and I the carrier of its seeds. and p.s. I love the picture you formed in my head with the 'silly walks' description.

  4. seized by the desire to play with colour. this just grand.

  5. love this questioning

  6. Of course you need your supplies to create! Hoarding is only a problem if it's a fire or health hazard or there's so much that it actually impedes the creative process. At least that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

  7. That must be one of the best blog posts I have ever read. Thank you and don't stress about the mess. I also like the scrap quilt. x

  8. I felt the energy from this piece, as soon as I saw it!

    Then you mentioned the red line. I am going through that with a string of Red beads, they will have to be straight. Maybe yours is simply a railing to hold onto as you climb the ladder?

    And James, I often hear my husband, telling the CAT, that "my wife's gone CraZy"

  9. This is my idea of fun. And the kind of thing I haven't done in I don't know how long cause I grew weary of being told that I "make too much out of everything." Well, pfffft to that, I'm looking for big chunky scraps and a new blade for my rotary cutter.

  10. I'd put it all down to Spring Fever! a really good stash should never be considered hoarding

  11. I see that red line as a stanchion, support for when you ground and go under that curving base.


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