New Beginnings

Summer Palimpsest, detail, ©2011, H.Hunter, 28" x 27"

Every day, like most everyone, I find a flock of e-mails waiting in my in-box. Yesterday, one of them stood out, catching my notice, the words evoked a turning, an awareness that something new might be on the way.

My friend Sara had written a description for a class she calls "Art Makers," a class for people who are curious about the process of being and becoming an artist. The class has been going on for a couple years now and each season, she changes the theme to correspond with her observations on the previous class.

She noted that this fall class would focus on process, "--on taking apart our work and putting it back together, on looking and seeing with "art" awareness, on re-affirming how we work best."

I'm taking those 5 little words "re-affirming how we work best," to heart.

All summer, I've climbed the stairs to my studio, a space where I cocoon myself and spin out my threads, watching them accrete until a small but perfect quilt emerges on the wall.

I like to cut quirky rectangles which can be only be matched up with persistence. When I finish, the last thing I want to do is to quilt the layers together.  I decided to take the pieces to a professional quilter whose work I admire. After they were quilted, I showed them to an artist friend. As I laid them out, she cleared her throat. "Hmm...I think I should just say that I really like to exercise total artistic control. " That small pebble of feedback caused a landslide of insight.

Rather than seeing the quilting as a necessary step that needs to be added to properly finish the process (and God knows why I thought that since I'd already broken a slew of quilter's rules.)--I began to see the stitches on the top as a layer of drawing. That in fact there were four layers: the backing, the batting, the quilted pieces of fabric and the thread quilting on top. I saw it like an architect's model in which layers of drawings were placed on top of each other to convey the finished building.

Artmaking involves skills that can be learned.  The conventional wisdom here is that while "craft" can be taught, "art" remains a magical gift bestowed only by the Gods.  Not so. In large measure becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive. --Art and Fear

While I can't say that I became a sudden convert to this notion of quilting as drawing (in fact I even took the last two quilts, Miss August and Miss September, right back to the pro), I've tucked the knowledge away for a time that doesn't have a limit on it, a time when I can ponder these layers and find a way to connect them in a way that leaves my own mark, one of acceptance.