Deborah S.

Making Time

I struggle with making time.  I want to do so many things and there just isn't enough time for it all.  Career, house, exercise, garden, relationships, sewing, photography . . . I want to do it all.

"Well, you just need to prioritize," I hear you say.

Sure, easily said, but it all seems important to me.  In the end, of course, I have to make choices.  I prioritize by default, if nothing else, and my artistic pursuits tend to fall to the bottom of the priority list.  Week after week, every hour is taken up with work and basic life tasks, and there isn't any time left over to make things.  I do it to myself -- I put a great deal of time into my career and I take on lots of projects.  I know that.  But still, I am saddened by the absence of making things.

"Just carve out a little bit of time -- 15 minutes a day, or an hour a week."

"Make an appointment to create art -- block out time on your calendar."

But how can I take time to be in the studio when there is grading to do? And I really must go to the gym; that is important for my health and well-being.  And when was the last time I managed to cook a meal?  Isn't there laundry that needs doing?

It's not that I denigrate my creative work.  It's not that I think I don't deserve to spend time making things or that such efforts are a waste of time.  I am entitled to have fun making things.  But play comes after work.  You get the necessary and important things done first, and then you can have leisure time.  First you eat your vegetables, then you can have dessert.  Except that I keep piling vegetables on my plate so that I can never finish them.*

I know this is not new.  I know I am not the only one to struggle with this.  But I have yet to find a solution that works for me.

So I wait for a day without pressing deadlines, without the stack of unfinished work, without the insistent whine of overdue projects.  I'm still waiting for that day.

Taking Time

I generally take my time when making textile work.  I find it hard to rush -- I often need to mull over each design choice for a while before I can make a decision.  I tend to need to take time to get the mechanical details right, as well; I'm just not especially speedy or efficient at many of the tasks, particularly since I don't make many duplicates, so each project has its own learning curve.  Sometimes I wish I could be faster, as I find it hard to complete projects, given the limited time I have for sewing.  In fact, I tend to get stuck in the middle of projects and have difficulty finishing.  I haven't been able to speed up the process much, though. And while I am not philosophically committed to "slow stitching," I do enjoy the meditative quality of stitching at times.

Big or Obsessive?

I do think there is a substantial impact of big work.  When I have seen really large works in person, they have a presence that can't be captured in the smaller photos I've seen of the work.  I admire large-scale pieces; they can be truly impressive.

That being said, I'm much more likely to work obsessively than large-scale.  I love the idea of embellishing with thousands of beads or buttons or french knots or seed stitches.  I adore Liza Lou's beaded kitchen.  Years ago, I spent years hand-beading a belly dance costume with similar obsessiveness.

More recently, I went obsessive in a photo shoot.  The theme was "paper" and I decided to take a slow-shutter photo of colored papers falling through the air.  This turned out to be more challenging than I expected.  I had to enlist my partner's help -- he threw sheaf after sheaf of papers in the air, and I snapped as many photos as I could while they were falling.  It was really silly and fun!  The papers fell in clumps, they scattered everywhere (seriously, we found papers for a week afterwards in unexpected locations) and we had a grand time.


In a way, this photo shoot was the opposite of obsessive, in that it lacked the meticulous control that often characterizes obsessive artwork.  There was a random quality to the photos, as we had little control over how the papers fell.  But it captures the "go big or go home" element of obsessiveness.  The small stack of papers we started with resulted in lackluster photos.  We needed a huge stack of colored papers so that we could repeatedly fling stacks into the air to get the real exuberance I wanted in the photo.

In that sense, both obsessive and large-scale works are "big" -- they both require commitment.  I like that thought.  While I may tend to make small and moderate size works, I can be just as committed to the process of making as the large-scale artist.

*Interestingly, I have no trouble having dessert first, though mostly it is eaten while I am working.  ;-)

Christine W.

I cringe when I read about "making" time. It's misleading. I can take it, use it, spend it, waste it, even while it away but the one thing I cannot do is increase the amount allotted to me in one day. I will only ever have 24 hours.

Clearly defining this limitation is actually empowering. It is up to me to decide what I do with my allotment of time. That means that rather than increasing the number of things I have to do, I have to start looking at priorities, questioning what I am doing, looking at ways of divesting myself of those things I don't want to do. (Did you know that a cleaner every two weeks to do the kitchen, bathrooms and general cleaning can be affordable.)

Size and Obsession

I can't get myself to work big. I get hung up on where to store the work and it totally derails my efforts. Instead, I chose to worked small but in large quantity (for me), so dabbling with obsessive -- taking time to work on my exercise and push through my resistance.

I stamped using a motif I have been working with for quite a while. First session was ok, worked on white, yellow and red paper. Meh.

I hung those ones on the wall and decided I needed some black added to the collection. I went back to black and white, then started bringing in other colours. I had to push back the boredom and focus on the moment and each image. What did I like? What didn't work? What if? Then a momentum started. The envelop started to be pushed in small ways. Baby steps. Almost quit before I finished my pile of cut papers, but wouldn't let myself. Then I couldn't leave all that paint on my pallette could I? And I'm glad I didn't because I got some very pleasing results. Then I worked back into some of the images with pens to see what 'embellishing' could do to enhance the images. Much better.

Working in large quantities, just pushing out results, no expectations except to explore helped push me forward. Much of the work is toss-able, but there are glimmers of goodness. Some of them I quite like.

Anita M.

I started to read the pages for this week….doing what I normally do an read them pretty quickly to get to the end and find out what I’m meant to be doing.

But being already incredibly late with this assignment, I thought what’s the hurry…I’ve blown the timing any way. Then the title …take time… struck me.

Having never heard of any of the artists mentioned in the text I looked them up as I read.

I found Anselm Kiefer’s work very moving, some of it quite disturbing. I didn’t really comprehend the scale until an image with people standing in front of it came up. Then I understood why size gets attention. I wanted to be there to experience the scale. I then tried to imagine if it would have had the same effect if the work was a lot smaller and decided no.

Mary Ruth Smiths work had me peering so close to my computer screen there are nose marks on it…how did she do that. I thought her work would have worked on a larger scale……but the time involved….eek!

I looked up The American Visionary Museum, I immediately found my self smiling and quietly laughing; at the outside, the inside, the whole thing…..what a brilliant thing for art to achieve…and I’m not even there! I came across a picture of the woodland waterfall with red bungalow and was sure it was a woven tapestry, when I finally found some blurb on it, it’s paint on a wire screen.

Which brought to mind some Van Gough letters to other artists, when Van Gough was accused of sketching to quickly by Gaugin he replied Gaugin looked too quickly… 14 famous artists were concealed in the sketch. Happens to us all!

I had to really think about obsessive. Obsession seemed something you’d try and avoid. Something not quite right with an obsessive person. But on thinking more, and carrying on reading, would that mater if you create art that sings and makes you happy? I guess only when obsession holds you back through…I must…I need… ignoring the wider world does it become a problem?

Big I understood…big!

It was interesting lookingat Liza Lou, Nathalie Miebach & El Anatsui and I guess this is where personal preference comes in. I found the bead work, blew me away…first of all…then I understood obsession. I enjoy the continuous mile and the ethics behind it.I really enjoyed the other artists works. That got me thinking why. In the end I came up with the bead work was replicating every day stuff, exactly, in another medium. The others were taking every day objects and transforming them.

So what did I do? Well I’ve included a few photos of “what I did on my holidays”! I couldn’t use what I had, as I didn’t have anything with me…apart from my small “loom” and a few beads. This caused quite a lot of consignation at airport security!  I stitched the beads on to the little pice of weaving I’d done with string.

Then in a market, there were lots of dry pulses, so I brought a very small amount and made some shapes with them just by places and moving….no sticking! in our room.

Travelling home, the airport floor was amazing shiny stone, with masses of space and I was all for making more shapes on the floor. My son, who came with me, was aghast I should even consider such a thing…especially as he said I wearingorange tights and cardigan and wasn’t exactly inconspicuous! I guess that would have been obsessive? By the way colour is interesting I would never have called my clothing orange!

Do I normally work big or obsessively….I think probably neither. Ceramics is dependent on colleges kiln size and the others work, textile is dependent on what I have or can get. But dancing with broom and paint is on the cards for the summer in the garden.

For my clearing out…I took a slightly different tack, as I wouldn’t be at home..and took the bare minimum as hand luggage with me. Was I short of anything…no… I still didn’t use one cardigan and a pair of tights. Next time I’ll try even less.

I think I’m beginning to understand learning to make and take time, understanding but not succeeding……but some times yes, it happens, thats progress.

Susan L.

Learning to Make and Take Time

This lesson hits the challenge in life right on the head. Time. Yet, the title had its own message. I must learn to make and take time. When so much is pre-planned in my daily routine, it appears, that I have to schedule in time for myself; this is rather a sad statement of affairs.

In reading through the discussion of possibly going bigger to get that wow factor, I have to say that I didn’t necessarily agree.  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing exhibits of fiber arts in Venice, where the maximum size was no larger than 6-10 inches. Named Miniartextil, this European exhibit occurs annually. With artists from over 20 nations, and a theme each time, it amazes me to see the intricacies of the fiber art pieces. So, for me, going smaller would be the challenge vs. going big. If you are interested, go see

Working obsessive would be a challenge for me as well, and mostly due to the time factor it would require. I hope for a day when I can embark on long-term projects without the stress of the feeling of another UFO (unfinished object) in my life. I have plenty of those.

The gift of taking time; now this speaks to me. If I take time for myself to slowly ruminate and enjoy the process, it definitely feels like a gift. It requires a concerted effort, and discipline not to let distractions take over. But in the end, I feel better for it all, despite how it messes with my weekly schedule.

My Exercise

I decided to do it. Yesterday, instead of going to a museum, as had been the plan, (since I was visiting Don, my friend, in his Palo Alto home), I asked if we could stay in, and work on art projects instead. He was amenable. I decided to tackle the 100-theme project, which is daunting in itself, as 100 whatevers are a lot of things, each needing some level of attention. I have no idea how long this will take to complete, but given the slow-movement nature of it all, I am training myself not to care.

After some discussions on what materials I would have available to me, as I wasn’t in my own studio, we settled on the fact that I could pillage Don’s button jars. So, out they came. and in looking at them, ideas began to form. There were two jars; one contained blackish buttons; the other white. No surprise, if you know my friend Don. He has a definite refined, somewhat conservative yet sophisticated taste in the décor of his home and himself. 

I scattered my materials on the table to see what I had to work with.  

Then, another mind-mapping session started to get the juices going.  Fortunately, there were plenty of different buttons. I decided I wanted to impose some boundaries, so this became part of the thinking process.

I’m calling this project Two to Spare, as I will use 102 buttons. The mediums will be primarily buttons, but there will be thread, and a bit of fabric involved, and all will be mounted on a painted canvas.


  • Only 102 buttons, each one different.
  • Size limitation in the piece of 4” x 12”
  • No new materials; use what one has
  • Threads used will be old, taken from wooden spools.

So my museum afternoon transitioned into a button sorting activity, and a painting session. I’m excited to take this to the next step, but want to savor the process, so it will take awhile to execute. Regardless, I had a lovely day yesterday. I made time for my art.

My haiku drafts related to this project.



Gathered from the past,

Buttons stitched on cloth

Share their stories vast.


One hundred soldiers

Organized by shape and style

Telling their story.


Size, color, and shape.

Scattered gently on the cloth

Melding then and now.


Rayne V.

This week's lesson was a struggle because I worked outside my comfort zone.  I love painting.  I lose all track of time when working with brushes and color.  If you don't count house painting I have not worked with brushes and color since college. As a stretching exercise I approached painting in a different way.  I was hoping if I changed some of my ideas I would make more time to do it.

I am an obsessive artist and there is nothing better than being on fire with a idea.  Then midway through the project when you start to burn out you have to push through to the finish line. Any painting I did required much planning, overthinking, and many preliminary drawings. I've read about intuitive painting and playing in the process.  I wondered if I could be like a kid and play at painting without fear and thinking of the end result.  It was more difficult then I expected.

I kept putting off the project till a dream prompted me to push through.  In the dream I was cleaning old brown paint out of a studio sink.  It had a empty feeling because the only reason to clean up was because you were finished painting and there was no painting.

Before I could play I had to empty my head of all the "what I should be doing" thoughts.  I free wrote two pages of all the reasons I had no right to spent a few hours playing at painting.  I set up the easel in the kitchen and used a picture of a heart chakra mandala for inspiration.  For a few hours I lost track of time in brushstrokes and paint with no expectations of perfection.  It was fun and acrylic paint is so easy to paint over if you want to change something.

The most surprising part of this assignment was how difficult I made even starting it.  I've put everything away so no one will know what I was doing today.  The painting is not finished so I hope I will play at painting another day.  It was worth it if only to shed some light on my way of thinking that got in the way.

Helen B.

Just go out and play – Those words are spoken to our children so often, so why is it we cant take our own advice?

Well at the moment I am fortunate enough no have the time to play, I’m home all by myself for the next two weeks.  I have moved my son to his university in Tasmania, which involved a car ferry, lots of driving and a flight home for me.   I was sorry I missed the Skype call; I did listen to it this morning and found it very enlightening.

My husband has gone to New Zealand fishing for two weeks so its just me and the dog doing what we want Yippeeeee

Sorry if I sound excited but after having a very busy house with two young adults and a husband its bliss to have the house to myself.

Anyway back to art, well I have found this week interesting?  I can pretty much do as I want and am thinking that I need to think about some sort of routine so when life does get back to normal I wont loose my art time through mundane life gets in the way stuff.

I subscribe to Creative Bug and do a few of the classes; one of my favourite instructors is Lisa Congdon.  I have been doing her latest class Creative Boot Camp and tackling some things I wouldn’t normally do which is good.  Its nice to step out of the comfort zone and use different materials.

So yes I have given up things to create this week and although I haven’t been obsessive with the making I have been obsessive with placement.  I’ll let the photo explain.

Sara N.

I have thought a lot about moments when I say 'wow' after seeing something.  And it occurred to me that the last time I said 'wow' after viewing clothing people had made was when a friend had made several coats using Koos van den Akker 's techniques.  I was so very impressed.  The result of mixing all these different fabrics, new and old, traditional and high tech just looked amazing to me.  I thought this was really really lovely and striking.

Koos van den Akker was the pinnacle of couture collage and willingly shared his techniques.  I have read, and I have found it to be true, that his style is not something you necessarily get the most benefit from viewing 2D photos etc.  His work is 3D, and is the whole body of the garment and can only really be appreciated fully this way.

So, I now realise, I can practise some of these techniques and to my own ideas of refashioning and minimal waste, using the left over fabrics from projects and scraps and fabric from clothes I no longer can wear, to create my own library of fabric pieces to mix and to match, to embellish, to apply many techniques.

This past week I have definitely spent more time in my sewing room than I have for ages.  Some things in the house have been left of the back burner waiting for me to re-appear, such as housework, but then I also notice I have become a little more organised.  Maybe as my focus to what I want to achieve has become a little more directed and sharper, it makes you address other issues in your life.

Jo Van L.

I have always felt like paintings or art quilts are better if they are larger than life. I have never said “wow” or outstanding for smaller works…. except miniature quilts where the little pieces are teeny-tiny. I am so impressed because I feel that is something not in my wheel house. I make my pieces the size I do because it works for me physically. I am so fortunate to have use of my right arm. I have had six surgeries and have a totally rebuilt elbow. I was told with careful use, it would last five to ten years. I am on year eight! I can’t say I am totally careful but I do try to remind myself not to overwork it. So working with my realistic limitation, I can do my best to create fantastic work that is not as large as I would like.

I need to push myself to develop ideas more. I have a tendency to hurry through things. My aha moment came the other day. I am working on pieces with texture. I enjoyed that and I think I have made some decent pieces. My next challenge will be to make more complex cloth. I want to learn to layer. This means I need to slow down and allow time for the process.

I thought about making something with 100 somethings. I thought 100 pieces of fabric, 100 designed blocks and then I thought about 100 buttons. I then thought of a design to display the buttons. This piece actually has 150 buttons. I first counted 100 buttons and started sewing them on. As I sewed, I realized that 100 was not enough so I added more.

Amber M.

Glacial Speed

Ever been to Yosemite? I have. Wow. While I'm not a religious person, I can safely state without equivocation that God lives there. I know there are other places where this must be true: where the surroundings are so otherworldly in their staggering beauty that words fail to capture their majestic incredibleness, but I haven't been to those places. The enormous force that created Yosemite Valley was ice, untold millennia of glacier-melt dragging stones and trees and mountainsides, thousands of tons of melting ice on a singular mission: find the sea. Watch a running river sometime. Watch how it grabs whatever's in its way and shapes whatever it races through. Then slow it down to glacial speed, or something like an inch a decade. It's astonishing. Water -- simple water -- is a force to be reckoned with; scouring crunchy sharp-edged ice even more so. Dig it: melting ice deposited all that stuff along the edges and sidewalks of Yosemite Valley. Discarded like pocket lint yet 10 times my size, or 10 thousand. Half-Dome was once an Entire Dome, before the ice cracked it in twain some time long before anybody was around to confirm that it made a noise. When I think about it, I have to sit down, even nap, because it makes my brain go ka-thud-thump.

In a teeny tiny microscopic way, I've been playing with this force.

Every surface and wall space in my room is covered with the outcome from the latest ice dye bath. The results, of course, are spectacular (see below). I can barely take my eyes off them. I've been doing ice baths in different ways for a couple of months now, even though in California it's more of a summer activity. My first few triumphs were layered in tall thin containers; tall as I could find I could still only get about 3 layers, when I wanted 5. This time I used instead a shallower, wider vessel: an under-bed box with a cooling rack on the bottom and some "waste" fabric to catch the grid marks. Then I started packing in the pre-soaked cloth: t-shirt blanks I found in my stash that match nothing else, even some newborn-size onesies I have no idea who might ever use. Just clearing out the stash. Whatever I found stuffed into the pre-soak bucket or the "dry" pre-soaked bin I tucked into a corner or gap, until every bit of box had something squashed or tied or knotted laid out and ready. After covering it all over with bagged ice and shooing all the uncovered noses out of the area, I expertly (hee hee) applied several randomly selected powders in not-so-randomly selected places, and then I waited.

Like the glacier carving Yosemite Valley, the ice on top of my bin decides where it's going. Instead of rocks and mountainsides, we're talking about dye molecules, but the process is (probably?) identical. Gravity and the vagaries of some mysterious and wonderful chaos choose the path, dragging color along folds and under strings and into corners. Every color blends or bleeds or breaks in fabulous and unpredictable ways. I can shift the gravity, if I think there's too much white in the corner, by boosting up one end or the other, but truly, I have very little control over any of it. All I can do is trust the process and wait.

This is the hard part. This is where the glacial speed comes in. I'm not patient. OCD runs so rampant in my family it's probably in my DNA somewhere. I'm down there at the bin every few hours to see how much has melted and where the dye's going. Not that I can make out anything at all color-wise at this stage, but still. I'm watching it. I dump salt on top, thinking that will make a difference. I get my heat gun and hair-dryer and hit it from two directions. I put a heater next to the box and set it for full blast. I bring it in from the garage (because what if it's less than 40 degrees outside? Nothing will melt!!) and put it on top of a heating vent, pushing the cat off to find another warm spot. Sometimes I even put the taller ones in the microwave, pretending it's because of the turquoise I put in and not because 3 layers of ice take more than overnight to finish melting. Especially the middle layer. Geez, 36 hours later and the middle cloth is *crunching* it's so frozen. Sigh.

The earth is a much more patient artist than I am.