As I was watching videos reviewing various brands of water-colour inks this morning I had to stop and smile.
The journey that has led me to this particular moment has been interesting and if you’ll bear with me, I’ll share some of it with you 🙂
As I contemplated whether or not to include a more personal post in the midst of my general quilting topics – some people suggest that business related blogs should be free from personal sharing – I was reminded of how much inspiration I’ve gleaned from Leah Day. She’s a professional quilter and online teacher who does regular podcasts sharing topics related to quilting and crafting. The intros to her quilting/crafting/business podcast topics include a bit of news about what’s going on in her home and family and sometimes she shares a new craft she’s trying, along with her personal journey through various life lessons and how they influence her crafting. I often find the personal stories are at least as beneficial to me as her crafty hints and topics.
Because I appreciate authenticity in others, and I’m definitely one who tries to keep it “real” myself (don’t worry, not everything has to be shared LOL) I decided I was going to post this here and allow it to go where it will, to each reader as they are, in the space where they sit, and not get too worried about how it fits. Because it will fit or not depending on what you take away 🙂
Try something new.
What I want to tell you is that if you’re trying to find your passion, looking for some way to develop a skill, wanting a creative outlet, or just wondering in general about what you might enjoy doing when you have the time to do something other than work, just TRY something new. Anything. Even if you can’t imagine that you’ll be good at it, or even like doing it. Because most fulfilling journeys start with opening a door. What you find inside the first time might or might not be what you’re looking for, but either way the step you take will move you forward to the next door.
Stop ruling things out because of what you think you are NOT.
For many years, although I studied piano and taught piano and directed a choir and wrote music, I was NOT an artist: I did NOT draw. I did NOT paint. It was something I was NEVER good it. (See where this is going? Caps are for emphasis on the phrases I used to describe myself if the topic came up. And who defines “art” anyway??).
It took a long time to see that music was my art, and even when I did, it seemed like an either/or kind of thing: I was a musician (fine art) but I did NOT draw or paint. Any pictures I drew when colouring with my young children looked like they came from a grade two classroom. Theirs progressed; mine did not!
I was also NOT a quilter. Until I was.
One day in 2015 I decided to just try free motion quilting on my old sewing machine.(There’s a background story if you want to read it here.) I expected NOT to be able to do it well enough but I figured I would at least try before farming out the job of machine quilting a couple of my projects to someone else.
I put together a 12X12 quilt sandwich, lowered my feed dogs, and started. A door in my brain opened and what flowed out surprised me so much I was giddy. I couldn’t stop doing this new thing that I absolutely LOVED. I haven’t stopped since. Many times I wondered how someone who is NOT an artist and does NOT draw could stitch out quilting designs freehand, essentially drawing all over fabric with thread. I don’t know where it came from; it was just there. But I had never before opened the door.
So I obsessively quilted for hours on end most days, gave away a lot of quilts and eventually opened up a shop online to sell my quilts. Along the way I took some online machine quilting classes, focussed on areas where I had the most interest, through a website I frequently visited. Eventually I began to see my quilting as art.
The same site started offering a monthly subscription with the first week free, so earlier this year I decided to sign up so I could check out a few of the quilting classes I hadn’t wanted to pay for individually. Once I registered, the opening page came up and I saw a promo at the top for a class on hand lettering. I clicked on it purely out of curiosity, went through pretty much the whole class that evening getting more interested and excited about it with each lesson, and by the end I was on Amazon ordering a few supplies to get me going.
Within a short few weeks my kitchen table was covered in markers and paper and practice sheets for various types of lettering, resulting in my need for a massive marker case to keep things organized. I picked one that had far more space than I had supplies so that it would grow with me as I tried out new types of pens. It’s now full, and many slots hold two pens at once. But I think I have my favourites pinned down. For now…
Then came the iPad lettering possibilities, once I had my Apple Pencil and a simple App called Procreate, and now I’m designing things, saving them and digitally printing them for use on cards. This immediately led me to the idea of designing my own fabric and I’ve recently uploaded a few samples to a site that will digitally print them on panels. If the samples work out well, I’ll be able to make custom wall quilts with my own drawing, lettering, and quilting designs on them. So cool!
As I traveled down the hand lettering path I saw people sharing their bible journalling projects – apparently this has been a thing for a while but I was busy NOT being an artist – and since I’ve been considering treating myself to a pretty new bible anyway, of course I was drawn right into the journaling bible category. No longer are people just writing notes in the margins with a pencil, they’re hand lettering, colouring, painting and making art right there on the pages of their bibles, bringing favourite passages to life!
And because I watched one lady doing a water-colour wash in her bible, I’m now very interested in water-colours, which brings me back to the beginning of this post, where I found myself watching a water-colour review on youtube. I’m now looking at possible watercoloring projects that go beyond the pages of my bible…
In the video the lady shared a painting she worked on while doing an online class and my mind never even entertained the old ideas that “I’m NOT an artist,” or “I DON’T paint”. Instead it went straight to thinking that maybe I’d like to try a class like that myself. Brain rewired!
I have people tell me I’m lucky to have things like this that I enjoy doing and that they wish they could “find their passion”.
So what I want to say is this:
I think there are many things inside of us that we don’t know about. We have skills and talents and passions waiting to be discovered. Some will be and some won’t be.
It just depends on whether or not we open the doors.
Just try something new. Take a class. Volunteer somewhere if you like helping people. Write the article or the story. Find your adventure. Stop telling yourself what you are NOT and find out what you ARE!
“I sail! I’m a sailor!” One of my favourite parts of the movie “What About Bob?” reminds me that the doing is what makes you the “——–er”. We often limit our own vision by packaging up some set of requirements with the word that describes what we want to be so that if we aren’t meeting them, we don’t qualify. If our work doesn’t compare to that of someone better than we are, we don’t qualify.
But it’s writing that makes you a writer, not being published in a magazine. Painting makes you a painter, not having your work hanging in a gallery. Quilting makes you a quilter, not winning an award. Whether or not anyone else even likes what you produce doesn’t determine whether or not you are something. DOING it does. And art is subjective anyway!
I don’t know what’s coming next or how far any of this will go. I’ve been a crafter for many years; some things I’ve done have stuck and some were just a lot of fun while they lasted before I moved on.
When I put that first little quilt sandwich under my needle three and a half years ago I had no idea it would lead me here: I found a passion that has brought me so much joy, led me down the road of custom quilting, put me in a place where I would see a hand lettering class that would take me all the way to digital designs on fabric and a desire to try using water-colours all to make ART. Because I AM an artist.
6 thoughts on “You are what you do”
This was s very inspiring post Ann! I’m going to just get doing and being an artist! If only I didn’t have a day job that I need to pay the bills!
Thank you, Linda! Yes, just get doing, whenever you can 🙂
I loved this post, thank you for sharing your journey! You should be teaching your doodle quilting on Craftsy!!
Thank you, Sandy!
I like to think of trying new things in terms of the body. I have a health care/science background. Very policy and procedure oriented, every once in a while you have to tweak something but it’s usually not beyond maybe a standard deviation or something. On the other hand, my daughter is very “artsy” – does pottery from a lump of clay- etc. great friends with the art department. When I wanted to learn how to draw and water color ( for my quilting of course) I had to create my own color wheel from primary colors- start with yellow slowly add in orange etc- “but how much orange?” I would cry – “some” my daughter would say. Yikes
I think trying more than one thing is like using all your muscles? You wouldn’t want to have a huge left bicep and that’s the only muscle you have? You might tip over – just kidding- but any way – I spin yarn, knit quilt; long arm, cross stitch, am intrigued by wool embroidery, have tried various painting mediums. There are gorgeous silk fusion products I would to try. All of this quite different from medical textbooks.
There is also good research that says learning new skills freshens the dusty parts of our brains ( ok maybe they didn’t word it that way exactly) Thats my excuse anyway when I am buying the next pile of stuff – also come back to my love of fiber😊 sorry to ramble but such a great topic
Thanks for sharing your perspective!