Janis D.

Jane, it seemed as if we had been conversing for weeks.  You expressed all the ideas that have been in the forefront of my thoughts and that I have begun to implement.  I love the synchronicity and the validation of being on the right track.

Although I did some form of fiber art since I was a child, I only returned to it about 7 years ago when I began making quilts for my grands.  After I relearned the basics and added some more stitching skills to my repertoire such as free motion stitching and numerous finishing methods such as bindings and facings, I began taking classes in various techniques to explore the essentials of making art from cloth. 

While extensively playing the field, I was discovering my own preferences and sensibilities and acquired all new sets of skills from piecing to fusing; to working with wholecloth to confetti, applique to thread painting, digital photography to hand painted, deconstrucive screen printing to natural botanical printing and dyeing; snow dyeing to solar printing; batik to shibori, traditional embroidery to kantha, collage to holographic and so on. I’ve enjoyed every minute of this journey (well, not so much the ripping out) from every little joy of discovery to each self-satisfying completion! So now…

Now…it all comes down to – voice! To a time to speak, through my art, to claim a native language and to use this emergent vocabulary to convey a message in much the same way as one uses words in a sentence structure to express meaning. I do think that voice is the result of a decision making process about what language we will speak.  Will we go forth in English or French?  Or, will we go forth pictorially or abstractly?  Self-determining or referential? Spare or ornamental?  You get the drift. And when we use the chosen language, we must do it consistently in order for it to be perceived as your voice.

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and there’s one specific tool I can use against the-rebel-in-me that wants free reign without discipline – limitations!  I can set limitations on the parameters of any new work in order to keep my path clear of distraction.  Too often, a multitude ofoptions only creates confusion and veers me off course, wasting time and energy if not causing me to dilute my work or to make a muddle of it.

First off, I’ve been using only the fabric that I hand dye or print in my art for some time.  Space is a valuable commodity for me and my stash of commercial fabric is taking up prime real estate.  At the same time, I’ve decided to employ some of my art fabric in some wearable art.  Solution:  use up my stash while I practice my sewing skills on clothing for myself.  Works for me.

Another current project has been culling out my files, first to trash whatever I no longer want and second, to better organize what I decide to keep. One good thing about those grands is that they’ll happily use whatever art supplies I recycle to them in their art projects!  Right now, I have a baggie of googly eyes and lots of beads and two boxes of children’s books going their way.

Using what’s here has been my mantra for a few months. Unlike most folks, I can use some refresh time outside my studio, though! So, I’m vowing to go out on more photo shoots and to resume some physical therapy to build up my core strength to help ease my arthritis.

Although I don’t do much writing or journaling as a rule, I do keep an ongoing list of ideas for art in my computer. And because I’ve been finding these writing exercises to be very useful, I’m going to try to keep it up.  

I often cut up works that I’ve set aside and reinvent a piece with the parts.  Sometimes it works really well; sometimes not so much.  One piece from this has been on exhibit for months now.  Those that don’t work out have at least been culled out and no longer takes up space. 

I like the idea of starting with content and then setting limitations and rounding up the supplies before you start.  I do work this way to some extent anyhow, but it has not been with imposed limits before and I think that will make a huge difference for me.

For me, the prime limitation I’ll be carrying forward is going to be for each work to fit within a chosen voice, or as some would say, style. Acknowledging that I will still want to do some art that doesn’t fit within this format, I’m going to limit the size and number of anything else and have joined an art book collaboration to start this off.  I’ll still use the new rules for this, but for the most part, but I’ll give myself permission here to break with the rules that will apply to other works. 

Whoever undertakes to create soon finds himself engaged in creating himself. Self-transformation and the transformation of others have constituted the radical interest of our century, whether in painting, psychiatry, or political action.    ~ Harold Rosenberg