Saturday, July 18, 2015

It Takes All Kinds of People to Make a Quilt

Image from a vintage Coca Cola ad                                                                              





I recently joined an online quilting board, called fittingly, www.quiltingboard.com.

What I love about the board is that the quilters there are welcoming and not the least bit snobbish or cliquish.  I'm not saying that that's unusual, but I'd been warned by a publisher of a well known quilting magazine that some of the quilting boards could get pretty nasty.  I don't know why I was surprised by that revelation, but at the time I found it shocking.  Why would anyone get nasty about quilting?

I suppose I shouldn't have been shocked because during my 40+ years of quilting I'd encountered more than a few unhappy people.  I assume they were unhappy, because otherwise why would they be so difficult and annoying?  I've known happy people who can be annoying, (sometimes they're just too darn happy all the time!), but difficult people are notoriously cranky folk who would never be accused of holding a half full glass of anything.

Most quilters I've met seem to genuinely enjoy meeting other quilters and sharing tips, information, and even fabric.  However, as my mother always says, "It takes all kinds of people to make a world."  When she says this I knew she isn't talking about the sweet, easygoing folks.  It's those difficult people in our lives that drive us crazy, and can even drive us away from something, (like quilting), that we love.

I've heard from several people with horror stories of relatives, friends, and fellow quilters who behave like jerks and seem to get a kick out of making other people feel worthless.   I referred to them a few years ago as "Crabby Killjoys" and even made my own flag to wave at them:


After hanging out at quiltingboard.com, I thought about how great it was that I hadn't seen any of the members posting anything other than encouraging comments.  It got me thinking about how we all need to be grateful when we don't run into the crabby killjoys of the quilting world.

Of course, we all know they're out there so I guess it's better to be forewarned.  Here are my least favorite types:

Quilting Snob:  These are the folks who only use the best.  They wouldn't be caught dead shopping at Joann's or sneaking in a print from Hobby Lobby or Walmart.  They support their LQS, and they let everyone know it.  It would be nice to be able to blow a wad of cash on every Japanese print in the store, or to buy the latest machines, or attend all of the big shows and take all of the classes from the most popular teachers.  We'd all love to be able to do that.  However, being able to do it is one thing, but putting people down who can't is quite another.  I hate the "you have to buy from the LQS" lecture, and the "you must buy the ($5,000) machine I own" comments.  Yeah, I'd love to do both, but I like to eat once in a while.  These people can be intimidating because they make a lot of events and classes their little private clubs, and make other people feel unwelcome.  The biggest non-secret about these quilters is that most of them aren't very good.  (Now I'm acting like a quilt snob....yikes!)

The Know-it-All:  Ok, some of these are also quilting snobs because they love to lecture.  However, most of them are just your garden variety annoying quilt guild member, relative, or co-worker.  They know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING and they make sure you know it.  Your stitches aren't small enough, or are too small, or that fabric won't work, (and they'll tell you why).  They love to pontificate on how this should be done and how that should be done and how you should never do this that way or should always do it this way.  The fun part is when there are two of them together and they get into a disagreement.  Now, that's quilting gold!  Two know-it-alls finding out that what they think is right isn't, at least to somebody else.  I have no problem with other quilters giving me suggestions but telling me how to do it and where to do it just makes me want to do the opposite even if they are right, (which they are...once in a while!).

The Backstabber:  These people often get away with a lot before people catch on to their devious ways.  They are often charming and complimentary, while all the time they're sizing you up and deciding whether or not you're worth worrying about or not.  If you're an average quilter just out and about having a good time, they'll generally leave you alone.  However, if you're talented and any threat to their Queen Bee status they will seriously take you down.  It's usually done subtly and behind the scenes, but before you know it rumors are flying about you and you find yourself persona-non-grata in the guild or local quilting community.  Some of these folks have serious power so if you encounter one, run to another quilting organization as quickly as you can. Even if they haven't set their sites on you, they make everything unpleasant.  

Quilt Meanie:  This person has all of the bad personality traits of the above, with absolutely no redeeming qualities.  They enjoy making people suffer and seek out the weakest and most vulnerable.  Frankly, they're bullies, some of whom are just tremendously unhappy, and some of whom are certifiably mentally ill.  These people need to be weeded out of your life, and any organization they attach themselves to needs to get rid of them too.  Unfortunately, they don't go easily but will sometimes respond to being called out on their behavior.  Of course, if you do call them out you risk them making you their next target. But then, that's what bullies do. 

The fact is that any large group of people is going to have a majority of nice, reasonable folks, with enough annoying, difficult ones to keep things interesting, (not usually in a good way).   I suppose it's human nature, and it makes for great stories to share.  Do share yours in the comments!

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Susan, You Got Some 'Splainin' To Do!

Boy do I ever!

I've been trying to get back to this blog for a long time now, and I just realized when I opened it up that the last post I made was nearly 4 years ago!

OMG!

In the spring of 2011 I had a business opportunity I couldn't turn down.  It had nothing to do with quilting, but I was very interested nonetheless.  Frankly, I'd hoped it would turn into something profitable and I admit to loving the challenges involved.

We did well for about 6 months, and then the situation changed, and it all started to fall apart.  Several times we rebooted, but circumstances beyond our control intervened.  As it turned out, the timing just wasn't right.

I have no regrets.  It was an amazing experience in so many ways.  The best thing was that my business partner became one of my very best friends, someone for whom I feel a great deal of admiration and affection.  He is also an amazing cheerleader, and in many ways was the inspiration for me going back to this blog.  There is something so wonderful about someone who's encouraging without being insincere, and who believes in what you can do without reservation.  What a gift!

About the same time my father's Alzheimer's disease was hitting him, (and our family), hard.  Six months after my last post my mother had to make the painful decision to put him into a care facility.  It was traumatic and painful.  My mother is an incredibly strong woman, but putting my father into a home almost killed her.  So, while Dad was in care, my mother was suffering and we were doing what little we could.  There's not a lot you can do except be there.

He was at the assisted living home for about two years, and then my mom had to move him to a memory care unit, where they were able to give him more care.  Thus began a round of falls and emergency room visits, and the sinking realization that Dad no longer knew us or understood what was going on around him.  It was hard to watch this brilliant man struggle, but at the same time he taught me so much.  Even in the worst of his illness he was kind and considerate of others, and always said "please" and "thank you" and expressed his appreciation for everything that was done for him.  He was a very special man.

On November 3, 2014 he passed away.  We knew it was time as his body had failed even more than his mind, and when the time came it was a blessing he went so easily.   He lived to be 80 years old, and he and my mother celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary two weeks before he died.  I was very lucky to have him as my father and cherish his memory.

I admit that I have done very little sewing or quilting in the last 4 years.  My design business suffered because of my other business interests, and my father's illness.  I didn't feel right about taking on clients when I didn't know if I would be available when they needed me.  So, about two years ago I closed it down.  I was offered an opportunity to work for a small start-up on a long term contract and am still working for them doing design work, updating their website, and consulting on various projects.  The owner is another very good friend so she was able to work with me through my Dad's illness.

I have had this blog calling to me for a long time.  I still get emails from time to time from my followers asking for advice and wanting to know when I'll start posting again.  I feel like now is the right time.  I feel like I've been tested, and that in the testing I've learned a lot more that I can share.

I'm also a little older and wiser, and since I've been out of the quilting world for a while I feel like I'll be learning along with my readers.  Everything has changed so much since I started blogging the first time. I'm looking forward to hearing from you again, and hopefully we can help each other navigate the joys, frustrations, and silliness of dealing with the world of creativity and imagination.

It took me a while to get back, but it's great to be home!

Happy Stitching!

Susan




Friday, May 20, 2011

Getting Over Yourself

I've never been the kind of person to toot my own horn, but that doesn't have anything to do with how I actually feel about my talents and abilities.

Like most creative people, I have a love/hate relationship with myself. There are times when I wonder how I manage to put one foot in front of the other.  But then there are times when I think I truly am the "bees knees."

It's very difficult to formulate a realistic and unbiased opinion of yourself and your talents.  We've all seen those American Idol auditions when people who can't carry a tune think they can win it all.  Of course, they're all young people and frankly, getting your bubble burst is part of growing up.  If you haven't been humiliated a few times by the time you're thirty, you aren't trying hard enough!

Getting to the place where you can be truly honest with yourself is a difficult and time consuming process.  Sometimes you'll encounter a very young person with that capacity, but mostly you find it in middle aged and older folks, those that have been around long enough to be "up" and "down" and who know that nothing lasts forever and change is normal, and that a good kick in the pants now and then isn't necessarily a bad thing.

For artists it's more complicated.  It's only in the arts that someone's emotional life is so tied up with ones "work" life.  Those of us who do art for a living aren't just dealing with nay sayers that annoy us, we're dealing with critics that pay our bills.  It's a different dynamic.

Which is why it's important to develop a thicker skin.  Dealing with criticism is part of life but dealing with it well is an art form in and of itself.  Truly successful people in the arts are those that can take the criticism, examine themselves and their work honestly, then make adjustments as necessary.  Not all criticism is meant to be hurtful, it's often meant to be helpful.

Of course, when you're the one being criticised it's natural to take it personal.  For years I rolled my eyes at my mother's insistence that I need to be a better seamstress.  My ideas were great but my execution really sucked.  However, I was young and just wanted to create, I didn't think the way I did it was so bad, and I wasn't interested in taking the time and the effort it would take to improve my sewing skills.

Over time I realized that my lack of sewing skills made it difficult for me to do what I really wanted to do.  So, I took several classes and then spent years perfecting my techniques to where I'm now at the point that I'm comfortable doing anything with a needle and thread. 

After all these years I give my Mom the credit for criticising my work.  If she had been the kind of mother who praised me no matter what I did I might have continued living in my delusion and wondering why I wasn't getting anywhere as a textile artist.  Even though I thought I was ignoring her criticism, it was always there, niggling at me, and I'm so glad I finally paid attention. 

Even now as a middle aged semi-successful artist, I still struggle with getting over myself.  I have to fight the "it's all about me" reactions I have to things.  When my work isn't accepted with overwhelming joy I have to fight the urge to not take it personally, and when I have some success I don't work too hard at patting myself on the back...although I do enjoy it.

Creativity brings joy, but it can also bring heartache.  It's difficult to find the middle ground, where the heartache is minimized and the joy is tempered with the realization that it won't last forever.  There's always another challenge, and I think for us artists it's as much about facing the challenge as it is about meeting it.

So, if you're a beginning quilter, try not to let the critcism get you down.  Learn what you can from it, and enjoy your successes.  Try to be realistic about your skills, and don't expect too much from yourself.  It's a process that takes time and practice.  So get over yourself and have some fun!

And don't let the turkeys get you down....

Susan

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Expectations vs Reality

First of all, Hi Everyone!  I'm so sorry it's been so long since I've posted.  It's been a very crazy time for me but I'm hopeful things have settled down to the point that I can start finding time for things like blogging!

Which leads me to the topic of this post...

Whew!  Who hasn't had a problem with high expectations meeting reality?  It's one of the more difficult things to work through.  The hardest part is finding the happy medium between having really high expectations and expectations that are so low that it becomes a "why bother?" situation.

Those of us who've had our share of reality "smackdowns" know that what is real is real and no amount of wishing can change it.  It's how we react to the realities of life that decide the quality of our lives.

Many quilters suffer from high expectations.  We select a pattern, buy fabric, put all the effort into a quilt that we expect to be a masterpiece, (heck if we're putting that much effort into it, why not?), only to have our "baby" not make the cut in a juried show, or get dissed at a guild meeting, or worst of all, not be appreciated by our family and friends.

It hurts to have one's work torn apart, but it hurts more if we have too much invested in it emotionally.  It's easy to fantasize that the quilt you're working on will end up on the cover of a magazine, but is that realistic?  How many quilting magazines are there, and how many total issues a year, and how many million quilters?  Let's face it, the odds aren't in our favor. 

But is that why we quilt?  To be recognized, to have our quilts praised, to reach some kind of exalted place in the world of quilting?  I don't think most of us do it for those reasons.  We do it because we love it, and because it makes us happy.

As an artist I've struggled with people not liking my work.  I've endured criticism about my color choices by people I know are colorblind, comments about my sewing skills by people who can't sew on a button, and disparaging remarks by other quilters who are just plain mean.  It comes with the territory.  When you put yourself out there it isn't going to be all roses and lollipops, there are going to be those that don't like your work or who don't like you and there's not a lot you can do about it.

Lately I've been involved in a business venture where I've been creating multiple graphic designs.  I love them all but my partner has his favorites and we don't always see eye to eye.  At first I was a little sensitive about it, but that's emotional me feeling that way.  Business me knows better.  Everything I do is not going to be loved by everyone and the thing I like least may be the thing others like most.  It's one of those things!

So, it's OK to have high expectations just make sure they're ones you can control.  That means make your expectations about something you do, about how much you're going to enjoy making your quilt, and about how much you're going to learn making it, and about how happy you're going to feel when it's done.  Then if it doesn't make the cover of a magazine you've still fulfilled your expectations for it.  And if it does, nothing but gravy!

Happy Stitching!

Susan


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Setbacks

In a previous post I wrote about disappointments and how they can affect you.  Today I want to discuss setbacks.

Whew!  We all hate it when things are going along just fine and then powee! we get slapped down.  Unfortunately, things running smoothly is not the way the world works.  If we could control every aspect of our lives we might be able to keep setbacks at bay, but the reality is that we can't and they keep cropping up.

Of course there are levels of setbacks.  A minor cold that keeps you from running your errands is a small setback, a diagnosis of a major illness is another.  The one thing that's consistent for all setbacks is that they're usually out of your control.  It's very frustrating!

For years I've worked in the world of event graphic design.  This type of work requires working with a varied group of clients on all different kinds of jobs.  The one consistent thing about it is that it's inconsistent!

In order to maintain what sanity I have left, I learned a long time ago that the first thing you have to do when you experience a setback is to accept it.  The major mistake many folks make is to ignore it or get angry about it.  Neither strategy works.  It is what it is.  You have to deal with it.

In many ways it's similar to disappointment although I think setbacks are different in that there's still a chance to make things right.  Disappointment happens at the end of a road, setbacks are obstacles in that road.  How you handle the setbacks can make it possible to avoid disappointment.

I'm currently involved in a new business opportunity that has been chugging along just fine until....you've got it.....setbacks!  I will admit that giving up crossed my mind for a moment, but I still believe in what we're doing so I'm not going to give up.  Instead, I'm going to look at the setbacks as opportunities.

It's frustrating to not be able to have things the way you want them, but sometimes I think setbacks happen for a reason.   Perhaps you didn't think something through well enough, or you fell in love with something that you are stubbornly refusing to give up, or maybe it's just not the great idea you thought it was.  It's easy to fight against the inevitable, but impossible to win.  Better to stop, think, adjust, and move on.

I've had so many setbacks in my quilting life.  My UFO stack is full of them!  Sometimes I was overly ambitious, attempting something I wasn't quite ready for.  At other times I tackled something without enough materials on hand, or fabric I didn't have enough of.  My sewing machine has broken down, I've had irons die on me, I've even mislaid important parts of a project, only to find them tucked away somewhere else years later.

Every setback has been a learning experience, and the most important lesson for me is to not let them get me down.  Setbacks are annoying, and sometimes heartbreaking, but you can't let them deny you your dreams.

So, next time something goes wrong, deal with it and move on.

Happy Stitching,

Susan




Sunday, March 13, 2011

Time Flies.....

                        
Today is the day that most of us in the U.S. lose an hour. 

When I was a child the day we lost the hour was the worst day of the year.  My father worked long hours and his main pleasure was sleep.  He loved to sleep, and the thought that he just lost an hour of it was too much to take.  Of course, until we were teenagers we actually thought that the day we got the hour back in the fall was a national holiday.  Now that's a great day!

Isn't it interesting how when you are young time seems to go by so slowly?  I remember wishing that time would go faster so it would be summer and I wouldn't have to go to school.  Now I'm at the point in my life where time goes by so fast I can almost feel it rushing past me.  The hard part is that although my body is older, (and boy do I feel that when the weather gets cold!), my mind is still young.   So, my mind wants to do all of these things, but my body and my adult responsibilities mean I often have to put things off.

I hate that!  I'm one of these people who used to pride herself on doing two or three things at a time. As moms we do it all the time!  When I was younger it was easier, but now that menopause has settled in, I've found that I'm not so quick on the uptake and am more likely to forget one of my "multi-tasks" as I'm doing it.  Not particularly efficient.

I've been fighting this for a while, usually by piling more stuff on my plate, thinking that if I have more to do I'll find a way to get it done.  Not!  What I ended up with is a few things done OK, more things done halfway, and a lot of things completely forgotten and not done at all!

Lately, my design business has picked up, and I've been dealing with family illnesses, and my son's school and sport obligations.  For a while I tried to do it all, all at once, but it didn't take me long to accept that it's just not possible.  One of the things I had to cut back on was my blogging, which was hard for me.  I enjoy writing, and it's fun hearing back from my readers.  I also didn't want people to give up on me, or think I'd disappeared.

The fact is that I've had to make choices, and unfortunately they haven't all been about what's fun for me.  I guess that's what happens when you have a family; you can't live without them, but having them in your life requires a certain amount of personal sacrifice.  Sure, if I didn't have my parents, siblings, husband, son, and friends, I could get a lot more done.   But who would I share it with?  Like so much in life dealing with how you spend your time is one big compromise.

I haven't done any sewing at all for a few weeks.  I managed to get a quilt pieced and started on it, but then I got sidetracked and haven't even looked at it for a couple of weeks.  Fortunately, for me, these non productive quilting times usually end up with me having a spurt of new creative energy.  I hope I have some spurts left!

The point I want to make is that as much as we love quilting, sometimes we have to take care of other things first.  Even if we have stacks of fabric waiting for us, (and we feel guilty about not doing anything with them), we need to accept that sometimes we won't be in the mood, or have the time to do it.  Life has a way of getting in the way of our best laid plans.  As long as we aren't using what happens in our life as an excuse to avoid sharing our creativity, it's Ok to take a break now and then.  Sometimes you have to put your time on "auto pilot" and just let it fly.

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dealing with the Downside

Wow, I'm really terrible.  I'm so sorry I haven't been posting.  I have a business opportunity that's taking too much of my time, and I also was working on my son's basketball team's end of season DVD.  It takes me a full week to get that done, along with the posters I make for each kid.  It's a lot of work, but so worth it for the boys and their parents.

I've been thinking a lot lately about disappointment. A lot of it had to do with the fact that my son didn't get back on his old baseball team this year.  Of course, his coach tried to get him, but at his age the kids all have to go into the draft and my son did great at tryouts.....so, he got picked early.  Since his coach had to take two kids with his assistant coach, (brothers), he lost his first pick, and by the time his chance came around again, not only was my son gone, but a lot of his teammates as well.

When I got the call from his "new" coach's wife I was so disappointed.  My son is 13 and was in one of those, "everyone hates me, nothing goes right for me, everything is horrible" moods.  I was so worried that when I gave him this bit of news he'd whine even more than usual, and I just didn't want to hear it! 

Well, he was upset, but accepting.  We knew all along it was a long shot, so by the time we saw his coach at basketball practice that night we were in the mood to give him a hard time, in a good natured way.  His coach was upset, but sent my son's disappointment into pride when he told him he'd been picked in the first round.  I think that meant more to him than anything, and we're all proud of him for handling the disappointment as well as he did.

I know that we all deal with disappointment on a regular basis.  Things just don't always go the way we hoped and/or planned and we find ourselves fighting against fate.  I know my first thought when I got the call was to try to find a way to make things the way I wanted them to be, even though I knew that wasn't possible.  When I called my husband to give him the bad news, his mind automatically went in the same direction.   The only one's who didn't was my son's.  He expressed his disappointment, and then started asking me about his new coaches and who else was on his team.  He moved on so much more quickly than we did.

What is it about us that makes us challenge the disappointments in our lives?  I know that in some cases it's because we have a fantasy about how things should be, and when things don't live up to our expectations we get disappointed.  Sometimes, I get mad at myself because I can see clearly that it was a decision that I made that led to that disappointment.  But most of the time, life just takes a different turn and we have to deal with it; usually it's not anyone's fault, we just have to learn how to accept.

In the case of the baseball team something happened that very night at basketball practice that made me realize that I'd just escaped from a situation that was dangerous for me.  As a menopausal woman I can get very upset and although I handle it pretty well, if I'm pushed, I'm not always sure about how well I'll deal with it.  Suffice it to say I realized that there was a parent that was going to be on my son's old team that I've had run-ins with before.  When I found out her son was going to be on the team, I realized that my son's move to the "Angels" was a good thing.  I don't want to fight with this person, but she's one of those people who pushes my buttons and I'm so glad I won't have to deal with her on a regular basis.  Hallelujah!

Once my mind turned in that direction I realized that avoiding this person wasn't the only benefit.  Since we don't know anyone on our team it's an opportunity to make new friends, for my husband and myself, and for my son as well.  Also, since no one knows me, no one knows that my husband is a great photographer and I'm a graphic designer who knows how to make team DVDs.  That means I won't feel obliged to do it, and that will give me more time to devote to my business venture, and my blogs!  It also means that my husband and I can sit together at the games now since he won't be walking the sidelines taking photos.

I went from picturing myself feeling lonely and uninvolved, to kind of liking the opportunity to enjoy baseball afternoons with my husband and our dog; just hanging out at the ballpark enjoying the game and not worrying about anything else.  What a blessing that will be!

As to how this applies to quilting, well, who hasn't been disappointed in the quilt you just finished, or in not winning any ribbons in a show, or in not getting an enthusiastic response to your new quilt at a guild meeting?  It's hard to deal with disappointment, but in my experience there is usually some kind of silver lining.  A quilt that didn't turned out as you planned is a learning experience of what "not" to do.  Not winning any ribbons in a show is tough, but look at your competition.  If you want to win ribbons you may have to step it up a notch or two, or enter a different kind of show where your style will shine.  Besides, more people left disappointed than not, you can't win every time!  Most importantly, if you don't get an enthusiastic response to your quilt at your guild meeting there are a few things to consider.  First of all, does it deserve a great response?  Sometimes what we think is fab in the comfort of our studio doesn't show as well outside of it.  Secondly, are you showing a Civil War quilt to an "art quilt" type guild or vice versa?  Knowing your audience is key.  I think the most important thing to learn from this is whether or not you're in the right guild.  Maybe the people are too self centered to be generous, or too structured to be accepting, or just downright mean.  Any of those reasons would be enough for me to look elsewhere.

I can't promise to post more than a few times a week or every other week for a while.  Once things settle down into a more regular rhythm I'll be able to write more often.  In the meantime, please check in when you can, and know that if you love what you're doing, it's always worth it!

Happy Stitching!

Susan