Monday, February 25, 2008

Quilting Zen

Starting any project requires amassing the various elements necessary to bring your concept, your thought, your imagination, into reality. Turn a mental image into a three-dimensional quilt. Those beginning preparations require lists, shopping, hunting, frustration when the pieces don't come together. And then you hit that moment when it is all working. When you are in the moment and it is good. Everything is going right. The stitches are even, the fabric lays smoothly, feels good against your skin as you maneuver it. The colors reflect your mental vision and you feel like you're living a dream.

That, I think, is a Zen moment in quilting.

Recently I brought out my worn copy of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's "Gifts From the Sea" and began reading it again. She mentioned the small channelled whelk shell -- "Small, only the size of my thumb, its architecture is perfect, down to the finest detail." It reminds me of the teachings whether Zen or Christian of whatever you put your hand to, do well. If the creator made each seashell perfect, shouldn't we strive for the same in whatever we set our hands to as well? Whatever we create, do it to the best of our abilities?

It holds true for writing, too. Whatever I write should be done as perfectly as I can. Writing takes crafting and reworking. Ripping and sewing, standing back and looking at the overall picture or zooming in close to check out each stitch. Our lives, if we want to carry the metaphor forward, should stand up to that same scrutiny. If you think of life as a series of stitches, pattern choices, color choices, scrap or applique or pieced. Harmonic colors, pale, vibrant, what choices have we made in our lives? Would you like to venture into something new? Has your life been lived in pastels and now it is time to give jewel tones a whirl?

Do our lives reflect the choices we make in our quilts?

Wikipedia defines Zen as:
Zen (Japanese: ) or Chán (Chinese: ) or Sŏn (Korean: ) is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism notable for its emphasis on mindful acceptance of the present moment, spontaneous action, and letting go of self-conscious, judgmental thinking[1][2]

It emphasizes dharma practice and experiential wisdom—particularly as realized in the form of meditation known as zazen—in the attainment of awakening. As such, it de-emphasizes both theoretical knowledge and the study of religious texts in favor of direct individual experience of one's own true nature.

I wonder if we approach quilting in this Zen-like attitude of 'attainment of awakening' if we might not find even more delight and fulfillment from our efforts. Mountain Peek Creations Zen Quilt Pattern might be a fun project to start you on your way to enlightenment.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Alternative world of crafts

I admit that I live in the sublime world of ignorance most of the time. What I don't know doesn't hurt me -- well, that's debatable. Closer to the truth, what I don't know usually means I am missing out on something.

And I've been missing out on a total other-world of crafts. Embroidery for those moments when Hallmark doesn't have a message (i.e. Kiss my ass; Bitch; Fuck off); dolls that look like evil-faced zombies or something from that old movie Beetle Juice. Plush toys with eye patches. T-shirts and accessories that include images of birds pooping on your ice cream cone or nerdy birds wearing glasses or snobby cats followed by their snobby, yet adorable, kittens.

All and more can be found at the Crafty Bastards Arts and Crafts Fairs. Another blogger has beat me to the coverage on this, I suspect many have. But they have opened my eyes to another world. For a list of vendors and more information about the Crafty Bastards, check out Washington City Paper's list with links to the vendors that will participate in the arts and crafts festivals.

I keep returning to the Damned Dollies site and wondering just what little girl would you gift with such a creation. You know, I've met alot of little hellions that I might enjoy giving them to. But then maybe I'm missing the point. These are not gifts of vengence, but gifts for the open minded who embrace whatever speaks to them in whatever mood they're in.

It isn't all about damned dollies or profanity or even about bird poop. Artists offer the unusual piece of jewelry that you can't find elsewhere. If you can imagine it, there's probably something even stranger out there. Or something lovely such as the plants and pots made by greenware design -- pots made by one artist, succulent gardens inserted in said pot, by another.

Artists who have grown weary with the commercial fare offered to consumers have dug deep into their creative treasure trove and brought out the most amazing, uncensored, original art. Yes there's a lot of kitsch, but there's something for just about every taste, particularly those who are tired of looking and wearing and buying what everyone else has.

As an artist, (not me, you), ideas abound for you to draw upon for your own work. Will I see devil babies on the quilts at next year's shows? Why not?