Cynthia R.

Power of Limitations

I have in the last few years taken to using old bits trimmed from finished work and seeing what can be made of them. I do this in direct opposition to the way I used to operate - always buying yards of new expensive “tidy” fabric, making a polished quilt and gathering the leftovers for my growing stash. Or buying several yards, half yards and fat quarters at quilt retreats and quilt expos and never doing anything with them. Something drew me to all those fabrics initially, but sadly I realized at some point that it was something like “qufomo”. Quilt Fear of Missing Out. Even after I finished a project, I felt empty and wanting somehow.

One afternoon I took strips of leftover fabric and wove them together. Then I stamped and painted on it (I had seen this idea in a magazine) then I covered it with organza and began free motion quilting. I felt so liberated and so in love with what was happening, what I was making. That shaped a new direction for me in making. But then...I began saving every fragment and now have bags and bags of scraps and fragments. These scraps and trimmed pieces take on a particular value that is difficult to shake off when I’m in the middle of working on something. I love them all and save them all with the idea that I will sort through them later. Ha! When I clean up after a project, I end up putting them all in a bag and stick it in a cupboard. It’s like my mantra is “No fragment left behind”. I value each bit but at some point they are just that - fragments and leftovers and not every one can be rescued. Believe it or not, this week I’m sorting through small scraps and taking out the best, throwing away the unredeemable bits.

I laughed out loud at Jane’s quote from the Eagles, about hearses not having a luggage rack. I have just (in the past year) downsized from a house into a condo and there was so much to sort through and purge. We have never really had a lot, but when it came to reducing it, I was amazed and appalled at what had been accumulated. Some of it had purely sentimental value and needed an accompanying ritual to say goodbye. Tears, laughter, snapping a picture, writing in my journal, reminiscing - all served to ease the letting go process. Living simply is freeing and especially so if you know what it feels like to wake up one day and realize there will never be an end to this need for more, need for clinging. It feeds on itself and will just keep going. 

There is power in saying no and feeling the joy and peace that comes with not jumping on the bandwagon of more and acquiring out of fear, with not feeling anxious that you don’t have the “right” thing. Creativity for me doesn’t come anymore with having the right fabric at hand. It has come through shifting my eye to see the beauty in what is already here and here in my studio that’s often scraps and castoffs. The lovely revelation this week for me was to go further in to my own self, digging deeper...what am I holding on to that I need to release? What am I afraid of? What is it that makes me an artist? What makes me a maker? Is it the materials or is it my eye, my mind, my soul, my unique mark with my own very hand. This has been swirling around me vaguely for a while. And this week I felt a resolve about leaving what is unnecessary behind and taking what is really important forward...not just stuff but also sorting through those simple necessary elements that make me me. In the studio: “use what’s here” in my own self: “you have what you need”.