Working In A Series

     At the end of October, I was teaching at the International Quilt Festival in Houston. While many of the hundred plus classes offered are specific to quilting processes and ideas, there are also classes geared toward special interests, because Festival appeals to artists who work with fabrics and all sorts of mixed media. It’s not only about the quilting!

     My Friday class was entitled Working in a Series. Lots of artists wonder how to get started on a set of pieces that are related, so that’s where we begin. I like to introduce new ideas, focusing on what’s important to us as individual artists. It’s good to think about what makes your work distinctive, for example. So I include a few questions for the participants to write about. Questions like: What do you love to do? What are you good at? When does the clock stop for you, so that when you look up to see what time it is, three hours has flown by…

     As is always true, people started writing like crazy. I do the timing and they have about ten minutes to get as much down on paper as they can. It’s good to work that way because people don’t have the luxury of time to sit around and think. 

     By the end of the class, we’d had a terrific discussion. There were lots of shared ideas about how to break through mental blocks, and how to organize studio space in order to make the most of the time we have in the studio, usually a precious commodity.

     After everyone left, I shuffled through the evaluation sheets and studied the comments, most of which were quite positive. Then I came to a form with just two sentences written in the comments section. Someone had written, “I’m just getting started, so I didn’t have any answers to the questions. Maybe when I’ve been quilting for awhile, I’ll have some answers.”

     Hmm. This gave me pause, and then set my mind wondering. Is it ever too early to notice what we love and what we’re good at? Even beginners have preferences. I wasn’t surprised at what I read. Only thinking about how to draw a beginner into the discussion next time, because it would be so worth it.

     Working in a Series is a subset of my Artist Strength Training program. There are ten areas of discussion in the program and they include topics like what makes us distinctive as artists, and what it means to be in alignment - which is basically the good balance we feel when what we love and what we’re good at intersects. The longer I work with artists and other creatives in my program, the more I think the tenets of Artist Strength Training are core strategies for human strength training. You don’t have to be an artist, or another sort of official - or unofficial creative person to benefit from thinking about your life from the standpoint of what makes you distinctive and aligned as a human being. So I’m beginning to think about strength training from this broader perspective, and I’ll write more about this as my ideas coalesce. In the meantime, think about it. What do you love to do in life - and what are you good at? Do the two areas have some overlap? Or could you spend a little time working at getting into alignment

     So stay tuned for more on this topic. And if you’ve got some thoughts you’d like to share, please write to me at

     My newest book, Creative Strength Training: Prompts, Exercises and Stories to Inspire Artistic Genius (North Light Books 2016) will be available for pre-order in December.