Friday, January 4, 2013

Juggling Life & Carving Creative Time From A Busy Schedule

"Spring Summer Fall Winter" (detail)*

Happy New Year!  A few hours ago I attended the January meeting of the San Antonio Modern Quilt Guild.  I can't tell you how much I enjoy the members of this group (we call ourselves the Hot Tamales, or the Tamales).  There is a great energy amongst the members and we embrace each others' work, no matter what we are focused on.
Tonight we were treated to a wonderful program by member Jen Eskridge.  She graciously shared a wealth of info about her work, writing, and more.  I hope you will stop by her website and check out her books, patterns and visit her blog.
After the meeting several of us lingered to chat.  One of the members, a young mother, told me she enjoyed seeing my post about the "year in pics".  One thing led to another and soon we were talking about the challenge of finding creative time.  Like any parent with young children at home, this young woman prioritizes family over all else but wishes she could find time to produce art work.
I found myself flashing back to my own experience of working outside the home, parenting young children, and trying to fulfill a longing to create with limited amount of time.  Needless to say, I didn't produce much work during those years, and when I did find time I worked on large quilts.  There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but Oh!, how I wish I had considered the idea of working in a smaller format!


It was not until the introduction of the "Journal Project" in 2002 that I made anything small.  For someone who, until that point, had worked large, I initially found it daunting to scale things down.  It did not take me long to realize that creating small pieces had many benefits!  Because I was working on a smaller piece, I was much more likely to experiment and take chances.  Not every piece was successful, but I learned a great deal.  I gained knowledge and inspiration that enabled me to create several larger pieces.  When time permitted, I moved on to several series that were inspired by some of the ideas I played with in the journal quilts.  The Journal Project inspired a wonderful book, Creative Quilting:  The Journal Quilt Project, edited by Karey Patterson Bresenhan.  I'm honored that many of my journal pieces are included.

The Journal Project required that participating artists create one quilt per month, from January to September.  The format was 8.5 inches by 11 inches.

I simply cannot underscore the importance of creating all these small journal pieces.  The project came at the perfect time for me:  my children were a bit more independent (two still at home) but I had other family responsibilities required a great deal of time away.  The first year of the Journal Project followed a time of great personal loss for me, and I poured a lot of emotion into many of those early pieces.  Despite my limited time to do artwork I was able to create meaningful work.
"The Road to Kansas Is Paved With Emotion"

I'm writing on and on, but my main point is this:  each of us will have months or years in which the responsibilities of family or career may prevent us from being artistically prolific.  It is often very frustrating to look around and feel that everyone else is producing but YOU.  I wish I had thought to dial it down and worked smaller, sooner!

"Under The Eiffel"

*"Spring Summer Fall Winter" was made to honor my late sister, Priscilla.  The dimensions changed in the final 2 years of the project to 17" by 22".  


  1. I agree 100% on the small project recommendation! I still have two teenagers at home and started participating in a 12x12 project a few years ago and it has given me the opportunity to try so many wonderful techniques and feel a sense of accomplishment without a large time investment. It really is a wonderful way to go. Amazing how much stuff I've still managed to accumulate doing those small projects though. ;) Thanks for your fabulous advice.

  2. Good for you, Lisa. If not for the small journal pieces I sure wouldn't have much to show for those years!

  3. I participated in the Journal Quilt projects and thoroguhly enjoyed working small. I wish that more shows would exhibit small work so that there is a chance to be seen if one works small instead of large. Too much emphasis is placed on large works, and for many of us small is more realistic.

    1. I agree with you! I love the intimate size of small works. And I REALLY love an assemblage of small works hung together!

  4. During my own busiest time, I took five or ten minutes every morning, before work, and made a fabric collage postcard, using a basket of scraps gathered earlier, and glue not stitch. Then, off to a 13-hour day and home to bed. That five minutes was all I could manage, but the stack of "finished work" grew and my creative spirit continued to live. Later the workload grew lighter and I changed my working hours to use my "best time", the morning, for studio time - then off to work and home to bed...
    Having a small project you can pick up when you have a few minutes to work on it, that's a soul-saver.

    1. It is so true, Margaret! We all have periods in our life where creative time is at a minimum. I love that you persisted! Thank you for sharing your story. You never know who may be inspired by it!


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