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Tales of the Unfinishable

I went to an exhibition once called Tales of the Unfinishable.  It was by crafters who had not only unfinished projects but projects which they knew to be unfinishable.  The crafters explained in a written note beside the work, why they knew it could never be finished and why they had kept it.  The reasons varied from “Can’t get those same materials anymore” and “Poor eyesight” or “Arthritic hands”, to “Have moved on in my tastes, styles, way I work”; and some were “Started in a part of my life which was just too painful to go back to”.

I think the above photo of a tapestry, which I started to make in my twenties, represents nearly all of these problems.  I was having a nervous breakdown through a lot of my twenties, and I worked away for hours on this traditional tapestry kit as a sort of therapy.  The plan was to make it into a cushion to go in our traditional thatched cottage home, where it would have suited perfectly.  This home has long since been sold, and as I recovered from the breakdown, this tapestry got put away unfinished.  I came across it quite recently in a box marked “Unfinished Projects”, as I was moving house yet again.  I opened the bag and could practically smell the unhappiness I had felt at the time of doing it!  But also felt some admiration for all that stitching and effort and perseverance I had put into it…..

We all have projects we have started and never finished, or bought and not even started.  Somehow we outgrew them, or never found the time.  So why don’t we chuck them out?  We  cling too long perhaps to an outdated hope or unworkable plan.  We start too many things and then get bored, or can’t be bothered to learn how, or it turns out to be more difficult than we thought…..

Maybe one should persevere, learn how, make the effort to finish it.  I was brought up to always finish things, do what I said I would.   Not just waste things, both effort and materials.  On the other hand, maybe we should be ruthless, focussed, cutting out of our lives and clutter all those things which do not fit into our current focus and ambitions.  Do a ruthless pruning job of our activities, projects, use of time……   It is difficult to know which one should do.  Both involve discipline…..  It is a difficult decision also to make with each project, whether it is truly unfinishable, or just unfinished…..

When I look at myself and my life, there are lots of aspects of myself which are “unfinished”.  Time is beginning to run out, also, as I age.  Once one had seemingly infinite time to finish or work on things, now one is aware that soon I won’t be able to do lots of those things any more.   I never got to a higher level of piano.  I never learnt to water-ski.  Should I persevere beyond beginner level New Testament Greek?   Which things should I work more on, and which things discard?  How do I progress to becoming a better person?  Should I be doing more voluntary work?  More long walks or trips to the gym? Cook new recipes? More travel? More creative work?  More blog posting? Or stay at home and finish the box of unfinished projects?

Thank goodness, though we are an unfinished work, God does not see us as unfinishable.  One day, one day, we will be a finished work of God’s creation.  What a relief.

Meanwhile this tapestry is going back in the box of unfinished projects, back under the bed. A bit like a photo album from the long ago past, or a decades old diary, it was too much a part of my life to be thrown away. 

 

New Beginnings: aaaarh!

Since writing my post “New Beginnings” about four weeks ago, I haven’t been able to do anything creative at all!  Clean sheet, blank canvas, new start, etc. turn out  to create total writers’ block, or the equivalent for a quilter….

Perhaps I need clutter, mess, half-finished projects…..   Actually I have plenty of that lying around.  Quilt magazines unread, unfinished quilts, abandoned sketchbooks (not to mention the pile of ironing).  No, just looking at those make me feel in need of an immediate and very long nap….

Whereas there used to be a thrill about heading to the studio to start a brand new project, now I put it off…   I notice some of my colleagues at my studio set have been doing that for months, maybe years….  No sign of any new work, or progress on unfinished work.  Burn out?  Creative block?  Alcoholism?  Or maybe they have just moved on and are ready to do something quite else now in life, or a variant of what they were doing, only they haven’t understood this and keep trying the old thing, the old way, (or just avoid thinking about it altogether…. Watch daytime TV instead…..)  Others nagging you about it really doesn’t help either…..

Perhaps the answer is a disciplined approach, get into a routine.  No good just waiting for a clear and free day, or for feeling inspired.   So I am going to set aside one morning a week for sketchbook ideas, and one day a week to finish quilts….. and then work at those things on the appointed day even if you have to grind through it……

Well, that is my new plan anyway.  I will let you know how it goes.  And sympathy to all those out there who are suffering from a similar creative block!

 

New Beginnings

This quilt is called “Incandescence” because it looks like masses of light and flames bursting out from the centre.  But it could also be called “In the Beginning, God….”,  the first few words of the Bible.  That is because it looks like a self-starting, outward-moving design, constantly giving forth, growing, creating.   And a totally new beginning.

I’ve just finished moving house.  Exhausting!  (and apologies for no new postings for a while).  I had definitely accumulated too much stuff over the years. Had to throw out a whole lot of things representing long past lives, projects never completed or even started, souvenirs, even going  back to childhood. Things I hadn’t been able to let go before.  A sad and thoughtful process….    But now I have a new beginning in my new home, which I am thrilled with.  Actually, it isn’t my real home, it is a mobile home parked permanently very near the sea, a summer home, but I love it.  I am doing it all up, and it is all new!

I hope to do loads of creative work there.  New beginnings energize me, make me full of hope.

But new beginnings can be deceptive, too.  For some reason we think that just by moving, new job, new home, new school, new relationship, we will avoid all our issues and problems, and become an all new, much better person instantly…..   We think that with this new start, we will instantly be cured of addictions, bad habits, bad temper, bad ways of treating people, or whatever the problem has been in the past home, job, school, relationship etc…..   But sadly, we soon find we are relapsing back into the same bad ways in our new start.  We need to be realistic, and work away at all these issues, one at a time maybe, over a longish period of time, and with any necessary help, not expect instant geographic cures.

Nevertheless, a new beginning can be a real kick-starter, on any of these problems, and real encourager to get going and make yourself and your life go better.  To grow outward, be creative, touch other people’s lives in a good way, to be “incandescent”, but not with rage, with light and energy.

So I can’t wait to get out there, walk by the sea, make the new curtains for my new home, start a new sketchbook,  plan a new series of quilts, etc…!

The Net

The picture above is of my quilt wall hanging called “The Net”.  Some people think it is my best work.  I designed it from a photo of a fisherman mending his net, but my design shows the net underwater.  The net appears to swirl and billow out, moving in the swell, and you can see the light falling through the water from the surface.  If you look at it  you can just see a net design, or if you half close your eyes, the shapes between the net strings are the shape of fish in the net, swimming up to the light at the surface.  Lots and lots of fish, of all sizes. Can you see them?

In the gospels, there are stories of Jesus doing a miracle for his fishermen disciples, who have been fishing all night but caught nothing.  He tells them to cast their net into the deep water the other side, and when they draw it up it is so full of fish that they can hardly haul it ashore, and the nets starts to break.

I love this story.  On your own you can work hard but get nowhere, probably working within your comfort zone, in safe, familiar, shallow waters.  Jesus tells you to get out of your comfort zone, casting off into the deep, the unknown, the risky; but out of obedience and trust in him.  Then you get rewarded with miraculous, plentiful results!

All good, you think.  But what about the fish?  A whole shoal of them have swum into a net, at Jesus’ bidding, and are about to die.  No I am not arguing for strict vegetarianism here, though it has its point.  What I think happened here is that the fish swum voluntarily into the net, as a willing sacrifice, at their Saviour’s request.  For a sacrifice to be of any value, it has to be done willingly, not forced.  Sacrifice is not a concept at all appreciated in our “Me, me, me, instant gratification” type of society we live in.  It is really a forgotten concept.  But it is there in all of us as an instinct.  A mother, protecting her infant.  A father protecting his family.  Leaders protecting their tribes, soldiers dying for their country or their faith. And of course, Jesus sacrificed himself too, dying on the cross, for us, for mankind. He was willing to do what he asked the fish to do, what he asks his disciples to do.

Sometimes we need to make sacrifices, small or huge, willingly, in our lives.  It goes together with getting out of our comfort zone, casting out into the deep….. Huge rewards can come, both for us and for our family, society, nation, or whatever, if we do this.  Tiny rewards, if any, come if we always put ourselves and our needs first, and keep to a safe, comfortable lifestyle.

So my picture is about sacrifice, as well as the miraculous.  In deep, but beautiful waters. But people see different things in it.   I have made and sold three quilt versions of this work now, as well as several printed versions, and people have asked me to do more; they can’t get enough of it.   A surprise to me!

Diamonds Are Forever

This quilt, “Diamonds are Forever” is the seventh and last in my series of quilts on the theme of money. The seven quilts deal with the different ways we get and handle money in our lives.  This one represents wealth acquired through marriage, or inherited wealth.  Money that just seems to come to us as part of our lives, that we may feel we are somehow entitled to, and which stays with us more or less permanently.  So it represents the greatest security, if you are fortunate enough to have it.  Takes away that awful fear of how would I manage without money or a roof over my head.

My quilt is all different white fabrics, a lot of them shiny, with glints of bright colours, because as the light catches the diamond, you see glints of bright colours deep inside it. This quilt looks better with a spotlight right on it, not so good in a photo.  I used a diamond pattern throughout.  However, when I had finished it, instead of seeing diamonds and hard edges, I saw something much more domestic, of fine linen, sheets on a bed.  A marriage chest of linen, a “bottom drawer” saved for that first marriage home.  The security aspect of an engagement ring diamond had come out in my art unexpectedly.  I find that happens a lot, and can be rather disconcerting.  In fact it looks like the ultimate security of cuddling up in bed!  So, it is three types of security all in one.  The emotional security of marriage, the financial security of wealth, or some anyway, and the childhood security of being cuddled up in bed.

As I sat invigilating my own show in the gallery, looking at my seven quilts on the theme of money, I realised that I had experienced, directly or indirectly, all of them.  Luck, cash, bonuses, earnings, productivity, and a certain amount of security (though sadly, not marriage).  Together with the dangers of money: fear, debt, envy, greed, spendaholic tendency, going without, lack, shady dealings, insecurity….   It’s been a rather up and down life….

Altogether, money is very two-faced, dangerous even.  It comes and goes.  Best not to rely on it as your security.  Better to rely on your eternal relationship with God as your security.  Though sometimes He seems to come and go a bit too…..  Hey ho.  Back to bed, and the security of going under the covers……

Rags to Riches

This quilt is made from scraps of old shirts, dresses, pyjamas, etc., what some might consider rags, and I have made them into a colourful quilt using a design called the kaleidoscope.  it is a favourite of mine, though some people consider it too complicated  and messy.  Like people!  We can be complicated and messy, colourful, and made up of  lots of different bits and pieces of experiences, memories, things we have learnt, inherited, skills, faults etc.

In my series of quilts on the theme of money, this represents those who come from nothing and get rich through sheer hard work and skilful use of every opportunity.  While I was making it, the piles of pieces and half made blocks looked like a messy nothing, like some of our efforts in life might seem, but when finished it looks like a rich tapestry– the rich tapestry of life, to use a cliché.

While I was making this quilt, I had a strange experience.  It was going slowly;  I was working on the blue and grey blocks, and I was finding it difficult, un-inspired. Time was running out before my show, and this was the last quilt to get finished.  And then I got some bad news about a relative who was ill, and I became doubly anxious and stressed.  But surprisingly, the effect on the quilt was that it suddenly became alive, exciting, full of movement and colour!  I was very amazed.  My relative recovered, my show was a success, and someone even understood all this from looking at this quilt!  I haven’t been able to part with this quilt, it has a lot of personal meaning for me now, and it hangs in my living room. It reminds of  hope out of anguish, a meaningful design out of bits and pieces.  Not to give up.

Liquid Assets

Liquid Assets, the quilt wall hanging featured above, is another in my series of quilts on the theme of money.  Liquid assets are actual cash or assets you can turn into cash very quickly.  No three-months notice to wait to withdraw from your savings account, or having to sell something.  It is good to have loads of the readies, but dangerous too, as they are soon gone, spent on goodies, or just quickly disappear into the necessities of life.  Very like liquid, it just runs away and disappears quickly.   I have been guilty of spend spend spend at times when I seemed to be earning quite well.  Easy come, easy go, with me.  All that money just sitting in your bank account, or cash lying around, it is just too tempting.  Soon gone, then what?

It is the opposite of my quilt “Bankers’ Bonuses” which showed wads of cash locked up safely, hoarded.  But both the ability to shop till you drop, or having loads of money locked away, both the cash and the stash, make us feel more secure.  Buying things makes us feel more secure temporarily.  We are giving ourselves a present.  When we got presents as children, it was because we were good, safe, loved, deserved it, or it was a celebration occasion, etc. etc..  So we try to  re-create that good feeling as adults.  I noticed that I bought handbags when my job was going badly or I had lost it.  Handbags made me feel more secure.  When I had been dumped by a man, I bought clothes, particularly ones with a fake-fur trim, I noticed.  Fur trims probably made me feel like a sweet little girl who someone would take care of…..    Men are supposed to buy a new car.  Women often want to do up the home or buy a new one.  What do you spend your liquid assets on to make yourself feel more secure or cheer yourself up temporarily?  Do we turn to God at these difficult moments in our life, our real security and our Rock?  No, we go shopping.  Foolish us.

In this quilt above, I have made it all watery colours, with fish swimming around, and light reflections contrasted with murky depths.  This represents the illusory fugitive quality of cash and similar liquid assets.  People thought this quilt was the best of my money series, and I used it a lot in my publicity printed materials.  A couple of my longest-term friends bought it, one of whom had been a stock broker, so appreciated the idea.  Sadly, they never hung it though.  Thought they could have at least put it up in the bathroom…..