Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pinwheel Sampler: Quilting Inspired by . . .

To be creative, you need to be able to view things in new ways or from a different perspective. Among other things, you need to be able to generate new possibilities or new alternatives. Tests of creativity measure not only the number of alternatives that people can generate but the uniqueness of those alternatives. The ability to generate alternatives or to see things uniquely does not occur by change; it is linked to other, more fundamental qualities of thinking, such as flexibility, tolerance of ambiguity or unpredictability, and the enjoyment of things heretofore unknown. –Robert E. Franken, Human Motivation, 3rd ed.

A long time ago I read a story about a future where government experts could detect a person's talents shortly after birth. Only those who had extraordinary gifts were allowed to create. They were removed from society where they were encouraged to develop their talents free from the influence of the work other artists. The story follows a man who had prodigious musical talent. From childhood he lived with his caregiver in a secluded cabin in the woods, and his companion ensured that he was never exposed to any music created by anyone but himself.

The man grew curious and somehow procured a piece of Beethoven's work, unbeknownst to his caregiver. He listened to the music, enjoying it immensely. However, as soon as he had finished, he knew that he could not use what he heard in Beethoven's music in his own. His music became inhibited as he avoided those chords and combinations he had heard in the great composer's work, and eventually his transgression was discovered. For his crime, he was forbidden to ever play music again and he was returned to normal society.

Years later, he entered a bar where an forlorn piano sat in the corner. The temptation was too much. The man could not resist. To the shock of the occupants of the bar, he sat down and began to play, producing the most beautiful and harmonious music from the dilapidated and out-of-tune instrument. It was not long before government officials came to deliver justice to this man who had twice broken the law. His punishment was swift and irrevocable; they cut off his fingers. Surely this would prevent him from breaking the law again.

He was assigned to work on a road crew. Without fingers, he couldn't do much, except for hold a sign. He began to hear rhythms in the world around him and again began to make music, this time without an instrument. He used what was around him, beating out beautiful rhythms and melodies. The officials again came quickly to silence the law-breaker, this time taking his life.

I can't remember what this story was called or who wrote it, but I have vivid mental pictures of it. I may have gotten the ending a little confused, but this story has stuck with me for a long time. I've been thinking a lot about creativity in the last little while. Sewfrench posted about it earlier this month, and since then I've been thinking about how I create.

Once upon a time, I thought I was not creative. I thought that a lack of original ideas made me not creative. In the quote above, which I borrowed from Sewfrench's post on this subject, it says that being creative means looking at things from a different perspective and being able to generate new possibilities or new alternatives. To be honest, I don't think there are any new ideas left. It's all been said and done. But that doesn't mean there aren't creative people.

Think about it this way; using a pattern to make an item of clothing is not considered as an uncreative endeavor. You get to choose the fabrics, colors and perhaps make an alteration or two and you make it your own. Even if you choose the very same colors as shown on the pattern, you’ve still created something that was not in existence before. And nobody says, “well, you used a pattern so you’re not creative.” You can apply the same line of thinking to using a recipe when cooking. Why shouldn't that also be the case with quilt making or gardening or writing? Just because you saw it somewhere else doesn’t mean you’re not creative. And why re-invent the wheel every time, anyway? I consider myself to be very creative, but hardly ever come up with a project from nothing. I almost always see something that inspires me and then make it my own.

I'm plugging away at my pinwheel sampler quilt. I'm SO close to finishing it I can taste it. I have 16 {out of 40} sections of sashing left to quilt and I will be there. This quilt has been so much fun to work on. I don't know if I will ever do such a detailed quilting job again, but it is good to know I can. Since I started machine quilting, I have been watching other quilters who do beautiful work and they have inspired me. I've incorporated a lot of that in my quilt. I've used ideas from Wendy at Ivory Spring, Natalia at Piece 'n Quilt, Leah at The Free Motion Quilting Project, Karen McTavish and Lane at That Man Quilts.

More than a year ago, Lane did a quilt he called West of Paris, Texas. I was absolutely in awe of the spiraling or twisting feathers he did. I was in the planning stages for this quilt and was going to do a sort-of braid in the sashings, but when I saw Lane's feathers I knew that's what I wanted to do. This is the last bit of quilting left on my quilt. I left it for last because, while it is completely awesome, it is also scary. This is my second section. The feathers are not uniform and it looks a bit pinched.

It took me probably five or six more sections to get comfortable enough to know how to fill the space evenly and make the feathers more uniform, but I think I'm finally there.

I'm grateful to those, named and unnamed, who inspired me!

Today's post brought to you by:


Mary said...

I'm inspired by your work on this quilt. Very Nice!!!

Paulette said...

I agree; you are an inspiration! The spiral feathers are AMAZING!! I love that you admit you are scared but go for it anyway. And look at the gorgeous result! You are doing such a wonderful job on this quilt. It is so fun to see your own creativity being nurtured and thriving.

Jennifer Lovell said...

That's some mighty beautiful work you have done there. I love tangible beauty, and this is definitely beautiful.

Lane said...

I am so glad that something I did inspired your creativity. Rob told me, not long ago, all art is derivitive, nothing is original. But, the ability to pull a bit from here and a bit from there and make it work is both original and creative. Take care and I am glad you are enjoying this quilt. Lane