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Ellen Anne Eddy
Author of Thread Magic: The Enchanted World of Ellen Anne Eddy Fiber artist, author and teacher
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Musings: Art out of the Box: Once more with feeling.Serious about Series



C. S. Lewis, in the Screwtape Letters, said that since humans were incapably of continuously doing anything, we can only do things over and over. This is the closest we come to consistency.

When we start as artists, people talk about developing a style or a voice. That's a hard fought for goal. To take the skills we've learned and the things we need to say and have them become  consistent enough to be recognized as ours takes some time and huge dedication.Once we've done that, there's a depressing tendency for people to ask, " But hasn't she done that before?" Well. She probably has. Which is why she does it well.

For those of us who work in series, there's a flow that allows small changes to creep into our work. Did you use a color you'd not tried before? Is this a different kind of perspective? A different technique? A new thread? A stabilizer you haven't tried before?

Those things are obviously minutia. But they are the stuff of competent art. They demand experimentation to work out the kinks and make it function. One of the things that get's filtered out in art museums is the four million times an artist tried something that didn't work. We may, in a book or an odd retrospective, get to see those false tries. Most of the time we remember the 3 major works the person did, not the 500 other pieces that led him or her up to them.
So, when you see a piece from a major quilter and you say to yourself, "Aren't they done with that yet? Why is she repeating herself?", look to the minutia. What question has she asked of herself? What new skill has she explored? Most artists do repeat themselves a lot, but there are excellent reasons.They're working towards a specific goal, image, idea, technique, something. Often it's not even something you can find words for. 




The only way to answer that question is to do it again and again and again. It's a series. If the devil is in the details so is the divine. Nature has no trouble doing the same art piece over and over again with variations. You can't copy nature and not join in. Sunsets are different but we know they have the same substance, in a world of infinite effect.



I put in these heron quilts that I've done over the years. They are all, to my mind, strong different pieces done for many reasons, but most of all, because I loved the forms involved. They followed each other like pearls on a strand. And I know there's another heron in my studio waiting, somewhere in fabric and the thread.

2 comments:

Leslie said...

Herons and C.S. Lewis, what's not to love? Thanks for sharing these.

Lyn Wolf Jackson said...

Keep joining in with Nature and keep on keeping on! I love your work as you journey.

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