Ideas (and a bit of advice)…


Life is a weird thing; it is full of complications and comprises. Just as you think you have a grasp on it, or at least its trajectory, it finds a way to shift the paradigm. As much as I’d like to say I’ve finally started making sense of my life, I must admit it remains a complete clusterf*ck in more ways than I can count.

I’m pretty sure I am not the only one who would honestly say this; honestly I’d be a bit worried about anyone who wouldn’t. This reality is precisely why I think the modern quilting movement matters right now. I see it as an approach that strives to find something essential in the act of making quilts, an approach that is not just hobby but a resonant reflection of the maker’s life.

That calm that so many quilters speak of when they are making is more than an escape, it is essentially a meditative practice, a space for reflection and examination, a place for coming to terms with one’s life. As such quilts are imbued with the ordinary struggles of life, and my understanding of modern quilting is that we are looking for paths to make that vital connection more explicit, to tap into the intimacy of quilting to make meaning in our life rather than escape it.

I generally shy away from the moniker of artist; there is so much baggage attached to that term, and so much misperception of what the practice might entail. But right now I am deeply grateful to be part of profound art-making tradition, to have the ability to turn to making to process, make sense of, and speak about my life. I am also grateful to be finishing my book this week, giving me the space to begin some new work at precisely the time I need to the most.

So, why am I writing this? Well, I am generally loathe to give advice, but this morning I feel compelled to do just that. Be thankful for your practice as a maker, but do all that you can to insure that it is yours. Follow the ideas where they lead, whether the ideas be big or small. Do not underestimate the power and value of your practice; I’m willing to bet it is far richer and more resonant than you have ever realized. It is from within that clusterf*ck that the most meaningful ideas arise. Stand up and fight for your practice if you must, but make sure to take time to sit down and make.


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9 Responses to Ideas (and a bit of advice)…

  1. 1
  2. 2
    Mary Ann says:

    It always comes back to the making….

  3. 3
    Elizabeth says:

    Thanks, I needed to hear those words today : )

  4. 4
    Maggie Magee says:

    Thomas–Thank you! This is a very timely post for me to read. It is the making that allows connection to my innermost self and making something that is tangible, beautiful and meaningful. Been asked why did I quit painting and start making quilts. It is personal and for whatever reason–whether a drawing, a painting or quilt–is what it is. It is the same–the idea, motivation, feelings to express, play, design, problems to be solved, a connection with the universe–and only touching upon it–so much more. Agree with you totally about the moniker, artist. It has become somewhat meaningless in today’s world, methinks.

    Looking forward to reading your book!


  5. 5
    Sara says:

    I think labels are a bit counter-productive, so I tend to avoid them, but in this context I prefer artisan to artist. Quilts, no matter how decorative or expressive of the makers original creative impulse, are still utilitarian objects.

    On another note, I spent some time yesterday reading your posts about the way some individuals have responded to a particular piece at Quiltcon and just wanted to let you know I thought they were fucking awesome. 🙂

    I was also energised by your ‘Wager’ post, with its questions of where Modern Quilting goes from here. I worry that the internet, which in many ways has made today’s Modern Quilting ‘community’ possible, is also contributing to an homogenisation of aesthetic and, thus, output. I don’t know, more thought required, aargh my head might explode, etc etc etc.

    I am sure your life is more of a CF than some, and less than others. Either way, it’s yours and yours alone and I hope that it brings you joys as well as challenges.

  6. 6
    Emily says:

    Amen! 🙂 I’m all about meditative quilting!

  7. 7
    Stacy says:

    Thanks for this post. Don’t know how I stumbled across it, but I appreciate the perspective and highlight on self. I’ve been so inspired by so many brilliant minds in the modern quilting movement lately but toss a lot between an authentic passion and energy it brings and the guilt I experience regarding spending time between being a wife, mom, professional, outdoors enthusiast, etc. Your post reminds me that quilting keeps the creative side of my brain alive, which impacts all areas of life. So thanks.

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    Kristy says:

    I just need to tell you that you write the most amazing posts. I enjoy reading your thought provoking and smart posts regarding creativity and quilt making and such. I know when I click on your blog it’s going to be interesting, not just a cookie-cutter post about pretty fabric (not saying I don’t like to look at pretty fabric, it’s just that your blog is so much more).

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    Becca says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Your posts regarding this topic have really helped clarify this *points to self* mess over here.

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