Inspiration? Where does it come from? And when do you know its right? What makes some art “good” and other art “no good?” Recently I’ve been working a lot on a whole cloth embroidered piece. I had a general idea when I started, and of course, that idea has gone through several transformations since I started. But at each stage, I have despaired at whether or not this is a “worthy” piece. Should I just give up? Or should I continue on? How do you know when its time to stop, or if the next step will be just what the piece needs?
Looking and seeing is the only way to know. If I am not happy with how a quilt looks, the only way past this is to uncover what is not working by trying other solutions. Anything that changes your perspective can be a tool that helps you see more clearly. It can sometimes be a challenge, and no one is immune to it, but it is part of the creative process. I wish I could say it gets easier, but somehow it is always the same. It is less painful if you give yourself over to it and accept that design is a process of trial and error, of getting out of your own way, and of knowing your tools.
Okay then. So the other day I decided to spend the whole day working on this piece (I usually work on machine work during the day, and only hand embroider in the evening.)
I decided to see if there was a good movie to watch while I worked. I chose one called Imber’s Left Hand. SO inspirational! This was a well-known artist who got Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Early on, he lost the use of his right hand, and so he just switched to his left hand and continued to paint. Lou Gehrig’s disease slowly erodes the use of all of the muscles in your body, but Imber continued to paint until 3 days before his death. And as I watched, I saw the exact process that Denise had described–many times he would paint something, and decide that it just wasn’t working, and paint right over it.
And there’s the rub, right? Our work, whether with machine or by hand, is painstakingly slow compared to other artist’s work. And its not so easy to wipe it out or do it over. Sometimes we just have to let it go, and start from scratch with new information about what works and what doesn’t.
So you might have noticed I am not showing you the entire piece. That is because I am so unsure of it, so wondering whether to give up or go on. The piece is on the design wall now, pondering the next step. And, encouraged by these other artists, I am going to go into the studio and let myself cut up more fabric and put it back together. I am going to try my next big idea, not knowing whether or not it will work or whether it will be considered art. I am going to accept that design is a process of trial and error.