Wonder: Establishing and Maintaining a Creative Practice

I have blogged about this before, in part, but yesterday I gave a talk and I know some of my friends who live in the ether wanted access to it as well.  I departed somewhat from the script and talked about specific mistakes, but basically, this is what I talked about.



Because I was talking to a group of quilters, I started with my first quilt. I will note I have not attempted piecework this complicated since.

Take what works for you and leave the rest behind.

Start with the basics: get enough sleep, eat well, exercise. Take your medications.

Commit to your creative practice — REGULAR PRACTICE. Good writers go and write for X many minutes/hours or whatever it is a day. If you want to be creative, you have to do it. Not all of us have the luxury of doing it every day, but for me, even if I’m not in my studio, I still spend part of the day thinking over ideas.
Three main components:

Structure (physical, chronological,)

Inspiration — many sources

Challenges — how to challenge yourself and what to do when big challenges (ie, mistakes) occur

Physical: have a dedicated space — it doesn’t have to be a whole room. Some people manage to work out of a tiny corner. I find having a whole room dedicated to my practice enormously helpful. I can maintain an organized stash of materials that are at the ready when inspiration strikes. Or when I need to just force myself to sew two pieces of fabric together.


Having the machine set up and ready to all the time made a huge difference in my willingness to get down to business.

Time: Commit to your practice.  1 day a week every day for an hour.  Whatever works for you. Know what time(s) of day work for you and don’t sacrifice them.

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How to price your handmade textile artwork



Today I was asked how do I price my artwork. After a few exchanges, I was encouraged to write up a blog post about it. So, here is my two cents. I don’t think it’s original.

So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Put a price tag on your artwork already!

  1. What are comparable items selling for?
  2. What’s your market audience willing to spend?
  3. How much time did it take you to make the thing?
  4. How much did the materials to make it cost?
  5. Don’t forget to factor in time you spent designing the thing (if it’s original, which it most likely is, if you are reading this).
  6. And don’t forget that you have overhead costs (commissions, listing fees, rent/mortgage, food, travel, classes, etc).
  7. Don’t underestimate the amount of skill you have, especially if you have been doing the thing (whatever it is — writing, baking, embroidery, sewing, quilting, etc) for years
  8. Feel free to pay yourself minimum wage. (Personally, I don’t keep track of how much time I spend on a piece because my time is so broken up and it would drive me crazy to keep track of it.)
  9. The gap between what you want to make and what people want to actually pay for to own can be huge.
  10. Charging less for your work than what it’s worth doesn’t benefit you or other craftspeople. It actually harms them, even if you don’t *need* the money.
  11. It is AOK to make things as gifts for people. You do not have to try to sell every piece you make.
  12. I suck at marketing. I got no tips for you there, but if your work is not selling well, it may not be the quality of your work or the price you are putting on it.

Here are some blog posts that might be of interest (and which are much better written than mine).

Sewmamasew writes about placing a value on our quilts.

Mooreapproved writes about the real cost of quilts.

Hunterdesign studio has at least two great posts about pricing work. First is here.


I’m now going to end with a couple random quotes:    “Fungal mats are awesome.” and “It never hurts to have fresh hair.”

PS: check the comments for helpful links to further reading!


2016 was a pretty terrible year for me. I experienced heightened anxiety that randomly started in April and it was August before I realized it wasn’t “just going to go away.” I spent another two months adjusting to meds before I realized how impaired I’d been. I cannot tell you what a relief it is not to have to worry that my body is going to dissolve when I go out though.  The meds do not “take the edge off”: they provide a sort of prosthetic skin.

So, when I got a commission in November, I was a bit cautious, wanting to understand what the person wanted, especially as it was for a usable quilt and I’ve not made anything other than strip quilts for a couple years.

The person wanted a strip quilt, as I’d done before and color preferences were for green, blue, and purples. So, off I went.  When I make strip quilts, I try not to think too much ahead. I just work with the colors I have in hand and make sure they work next to the colors around them.

This is good therapy for me. It’s useful for me to not overthink when I’m creating and let’s my subconscious do the driving.  I noticed as I got about half way, that it was no longer straight on both sides, so I added a sliver of orange/red, inspired somewhat by Leonard Cohen’s death and his lyric about the cracks being where the light shines in. That is why I call this quilt Kintsugi.  It’s about being made of pieces and mending the broken or wonky parts when we need to. It’s about letting all the parts of ourselves exist in harmony together, even if they seem disparate. We contain multitudes and we are star stuff.kintsugi

Decay, Disintegration, Distortion

Charity Janisse recently posted a picture of rusted metal on Twitter, which got me thinking about decay. I realized that I tend to focus on themes of vitality in my work and working on the flip side could be interesting.


Flame taken by Charity Janisse and posted in this online article.


Then Lorie McCown came and gave a talk about her work to my quilt guild. She uses a lot of textiles in her work with frayed edges. Boy did she get me thinking about disintegration (as well as making your mark). You can find some great detail shots of her work on her Instagram account here.

And I’ve been talking to people who do computerized generative art. I think it was Anders Hoff who got me thinking about distortion when he posted these.


So, when I found myself with a week with one kid who was going to be gone from 9-4:30 every day, I jumped on the chance to work on a series of 5 panels which I dubbed “Obsessive Stitching 1-5”.  My initial idea was to work with all over patterns, as I had done in the Trajectory: Escape Velocity initial and final panels, but after two days of that, I got bored.

Here is day 1 and day 2.


I had hoped that the above finished panel would be more buckled (as it was promising to do below and like the panel from day 1), but it smoothed itself out in one dimension, while warping the shape!

Day 3. Here’s what happens when I do the same thing over and over. I have to change it up. This one needs more quilting, but I wasn’t able to finish it in one day.


Day 4 I decided to go back to the all over pattern and not worry about distorting the fabric. I was focused more on accentuating the pattern that the dye had created and adding texture. I used two metallic threads (black and red) in one needle (one eye, not two). Here is the result. It’s very subtle. I am quite pleased with how this turned out and think I might add some beads before I call it completely done.

By Day 5, I was exhausted, had run out of food, and had other things to attend to, so I only had a couple hours in the studio. I decided if I worked small(er), I might be able to get something substantial done. Initially I was going to make coccolithophores in space, but that seemed too daunting by Friday afternoon, so I switched to jellies instead. This picture is a bit of a cheat because I only made three jellies the first day. Also, the tweet is misleading. There are 12 jellies on that panel.

All in all, I have to say it was an interesting week. I rarely get concentrated time like that to work, and certainly never 5 days in a row. Working only with hand dyed panels felt very different to me. It is certainly a way to more easily incorporate organic patterns into my work. I also don’t usually focus on the stitching. That has typically been a way to just hold the thing together and add color. Using stitching as way to get to texture was very satisfying, especially as I think of my work more and more as 3d.

I look forward to playing more with stitching and themes of decay, disintegration, and distortion.


Warping the Fabric of Time and Space, panel 8 of Trajectory: Escape Velocity

Studio Session-017

Here we are, the end. The last panel of Trajectory: Escape Velocity. Starting from the beginning of time, we have skipped and hopped, stroboscopically, from the Big Bang through early life and some key points of evolution (at least from the human perspective) to the future. Or one possible future.

In this panel, rockets are leaving earth, heading for the depths of outer space. This panel differs from the others in that it was hand dyed.  As soon as it was done, I knew it would be the last panel. I never expected it would look like this. I will have a post about that issue in the future.

This picture was also taken by Ron Freudenheim.

Here’s a picture I took yesterday which shows how much warping there is. I sewed 16 gauge wire to the each edge to get that effect, among other things. Again, more on that later.


Trajectory: Escape Velocity Part VI: Grandpas in the trees

Grandpas in the Tree

Grandpas in the Tree

Panel 6 brings to primates. I attempted to arrange them in some semblance of evolutionary order, although it gets tricky as a lot of them are more parallel in development, rather than linear.

In this panel, you’ll note that the animals get more numerous at the top and also a bit more rambunctious, looking almost as though they might leap off and into your hand (or perhaps onto you heard) to go exploring.

The title of this panel comes from a line in a song by Dillon Bustin. I’m not sure of the actual title of the song, but it is a song about evolution and he refers to his “grandpa in the tree” in the last stanza. I’ve always been charmed by that and was pleased to be inspired by it here.

This picture was actually taken my by someone who knows what he’s doing, so Ron Freudenheim gets the credit here.

Scorched Earth: Part VII of Trajectory: Escape Velocity


Here I’ve created a slice of a cityscape (most likely in the United States). It is so full of people, they can’t all fit in the buildings any more. They are pushing out the tops, like little pieces of popcorn bursting forth.

The panel is called “Scorched Earth” because it hints at global warming.  It’s done on red background, which is mostly obscured by the buildings, but you can see a few glimpsed between a couple of them.

(I know part VI got skipped. I’m working on it and hope to have it done in the next day or so.)

The Oceans are Teeming: Part IV of Trajectory: Escape Velocity


I know some time has elapsed since I posted about the last panel, but fear not, I have been working away! I finished panel IV this week. I’m calling it “The Oceans are Teeming.”

This is a story told in stroboscopic post hole moments.  I hope the leaps I’m making aren’t too grand.  In this panel, there are some small fish at the bottom, but as your gaze travels upwards, the number and complexity of organisms increases.  Note that the fish don’t fit tidily. They are pushing out of the boundaries of the space they are allotted.

Most of the fish on this panel were cut out (during my daughter’s swim lessons, which I found rather apropos), but I did create a trio of jellyfish, one lone octopus, and a little squad of cuttlefish.  A treat for someone who stays to linger a moment or two extra.

Next up: dinosaurs and an abstract allusion to evolution. Hopefully that will be done much more quickly.