I am still reading The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, in bits and pieces, saving it for those times that I need a mental or creative rush of energy. Chapter 9, "Skill", inspired an impromptu self-evaluation that I'll share with you. First, here's a paragraph that sets the stage
Skill gives you the wherewithal to execute whatever occurs to you. Without it, you are just a font of unfulfilled ideas. Skill is how you close the gap between what you can see in your mind's eye and what you can produce; the more skill you have, the more sophisticated and accomplished your ideas can be. With absolute skill comes absolute confidence, allowing you to dare to be simple. Picasso once said, while admiring an exhibition of children's art, "When I was their age I could draw like Raphael, but it has taken me a whole lifetime to learn to draw like them" (pg. 163).Skills, sewing skills. Where am I at and where do I want to be?
Later on Twyla observes that most of us are prone to keep practicing our best skills. The areas of strength become stronger while weaknesses languish. Naturally, we enjoy success. If instead we can orient ourselves to explore new skill sets, therein lies growth. And, I say excitement as well! Because, really, it's the new that I love most. The sense of discovery makes success far sweeter.
Every artist faces this paradox. Experience - the faith in your ability and the memory that you have done this before - is what gets you through the door. But experience also closes the door. You tend to rely on that memory and stick with what has worked before. You don't try anything new (pg. 167).
What about you? When designing a quilt, choosing colors, working with fabric, are you so comfortable in the familiar that you close the door to new skills, new growth? Now this is a hobby for most of us, so you don't have to reach out for new skills if you don't want to. No need to feel guilty! But, if you do want to continue to grow as a sewist or quilter (or in whatever field you most love) perhaps loyalty to your current skill set is holding you back?
The Creative Habit is one of those books that demands personal reflection. "Analyse your own skill set," she said and I most happily complied. In about 10 minutes, this is what I came up with....
*Scattered or asymetric quilt design
*Small-scale precise piecing
*Quilting (smooth and flat, as I aspire)
*Using value in quilt design
*Creating interesting blocks for a traditional, rhythmic setting
And then I added another category to address areas that I've barely tried. They're weaknesses precisely because I haven't gone there...
*Piecing words (such as "Love")
*Using paper piecing in quilt design
*Free Motion Quilting
This exercise was so catalytic. I immediately added a section to address my lacking skills...
*Paper pieced mini-block series
*Quilting tips interview series
Do you like them? A little bird may have told you that a quilt-along is coming... It won't be launched until late October, but the wait is sure to be worth it because I'm working in tandem with 3 other quilter/bloggers that I so respect. I think it's going to be a wonderful opportunity for us to grow together. If you're keen to join us when the time comes, maybe check to see if your stash is outfitted with a wide range of values.
Value just refers to the overall lightness or darkness of a fabric, irrespective of color. Here's my Denyse Schmidt Chicopee divided by value. I eliminated some prints and mixed in a few others from my stash to create a stark difference between the stacks (I hope). Most likely you lack dark or light values. Of course, there are some great stores on the right over there that can help you with that terrible problem. =)
Chicopee is available at these great online shops:
Fat Quarter Shop
Sew Love Fabrics
Stash Modern Fabrics
Mad About Patchwork
If you aspire to improve as a sewist or quilter, take the time to evaluate your skill set. You're sure to be energized by the new ideas and directions that spring up in the process. And, I'd really love to know some areas in which you'd most like to grow. Do tell!