Monday, January 30, 2006

The Whole Quilting/Mental Health Thing, Vol. II

The Whole Quilting/Mental Health Thing, Vol. II
DATE: 01/30/2006 10:25:09 PM

From the original "Friendster" version of State of the Craft.

So. When we left off, it was 1994, I was recovering from a nervous breakdown in sunny Bandon-by-the-Sea, Oregon, I had become fascinated with my mom's quilting, and I had made my little placemat-sized first quilt.

What I haven't really articulated, neither here nor to myself, is WHY I became fascinated and then started into quilting. I've always loved color and pattern, which I supposed goes a long way towards explaining it. Never especially good with paint or pencil, I found fabric a very forgiving and manageable medium. Too, quilting is well suited for abstract patterns, so one doesn't have to fret over subject matter -- and when it comes to subject matter, I've always had a pretty wooden imagination.

Anyway, let's get this narrative show back on the road. I finished that little placemat, and Mom left town for a short trip, naturally assuming that I had made my one quilt, that it was kind of cool but not something likely to be repeated.

By the time she got back, after a long weekend, I was well into putting together my second quilt.

Now, "Number Two," as I think we can fairly call it, is a piece that makes a strong case that a beginning designer needs the guiding hand of a mentor. It is telling that, to put a picture of it here, I had to find it and photograph it tonight -- until now, it had gone 12 years without anyone ever thinking to take a picture of it. It is not handsome. It is not interesting. It is not at all clear what I was thinking.

In its defense, it did look slightly better before the black fabrics faded unevenly, as black fabrics tend to do. The craftsmanship is not terrible for an unsupervised second effort, and if I hadn't used the reds.... but then, I did use the reds.

Before I left Bandon, under my own power, I was to make two more quilts, including the Cow Quilt. The Cow Quilt is always the one people like best, which can be a bit of a drag -- I made it 40 quilts and 12 years ago, damn it! One likes to think one is making progress! Doesn't one? Not always trying to catch up with the third piece he ever made?

Well, hell, it's nice to have made something people like. It has hung in a quilt show in Bandon, in the Bandon Public Library, and in the "Foyer Gallery" at IRCO, which is all very flattering. It currently lives in the guest room.

So. It's one of those unanswerable questions, the extent to which taking on quilting helped me recover from my first big mental health crisis, or if it was just something that incidentally happened while I happened to be recovering. My therapist says that creative processing, and even the arm motions characteristic of, say, working on a quilt (or playing a musical instrument) makes your brain fire off good chemicals. And it's definitely true, I've learned over and over, that working on something that absorbs you can keep your mind from gnawing on itself, at least on a good day.

I took a class several years ago, although it seems strange to say so now, in which the final project was to do a self-revalatory performance art piece. No, really, I did. And I told the story about how I learned to quilt, exploiting the metaphoric possibilities to the hilt. I even used the phrase "stitching the pieces of my life back together." And there have been times when I actually believed it -- really believed that quilting saved my life, by giving me a focus, or a competance, or a meditation, or something that I could just immerse myself in until the world around me righted itself again.

Other times, it just seems like a hobby.

PROGRESS REPORT: The challenge quilt is coming along beautifully. The face is pretty much completely laid out, and I have been pouring my weekends into the details of the piecing. I think I will make the deadline. I can not wait to show it to you, Gentle Reader. Even more, I can not wait to work on something else, or even clean the house for crying out loud. Alternating between work and this project (and, it must be admitted, "Civ IV") begins to feel like life without weekends. And that's no good.

P.S. If you are wondering about the performance art piece, it was a hit. Predictably, I wowed 'em when I unfurled my quilts. What really floored them, though, was when I threaded the sewing machine. You could have heard a pin drop. I guess people aren't used to seeing guys do that.

DATE: 02/01/2006 08:12:39 PM
whatever makes you happy and sane, you are blessed to have at lease one thing that people say wow at. many people don't have the skills to show off like you do with your quilts. i truly admire your passion, talents, and patience for one thing. can't wait to see your finished project.....

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