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Monday, January 09, 2006

Right? Or Wrong?

There is something very satisfying about standing back from a piece of work, and thinking, it's right. There is nothing to add, nothing to take away. The piece stands, as it is, has its own reality, is somehow separate from me as the maker, and it *works*.

The flipside of that is applying the word 'right' or, worse, 'wrong', to what we opposed to applying it to the end result of our work. We're so quick to punish ourselves for what we perceive as a 'wrong' mark here, or an uneven stitch becomes all that we can see. No matter if the piece is waving frantically, saying, I'm actually right, you know!!, we become hung up on that one small thing that isn't perfect...and it is usually a technical issue...and condemn the whole piece on the back of it.

When I look at art quilting, in particular, I think there is a huge hangover from The Tradition, ie, the bed cover making bit of quilting. When you make a bed quilt, it is important that everything is stitched together carefully; after all, who wants a quilt that falls apart the first time you wash it? It is important that the cloth be washed before you start working with it, and that it is all of of similar weight and, possibly, makeup; who wants a quilt that shrinks in some places, not in others, and distorts itself until it no longer lies nicely on the bed? It is important that the stitches be even; after all, who wants to catch a toenail in a big, fat, loose stitch? Where all this becomes less useful, is when we take those rules and apply them to the making of art. You don't cover your bed with an art piece. You rarely, if ever, wash it. Wear and tear is not an issue. So why worry about these things? They don't apply.

I'm not suggesting, here, that art quilters should be slapdash in their approach to technique. What I am suggesting, however, is that we don't get hung up on it. If you want to bead, then bead. Experiment until you find a way of attaching a bead to your work so that it doesn't fall off in the circumstances in which it will be shown. I have discovered, for instance, that glueing sequins to a piece that has to travel anywhere, unframed, just doesn't work. You get a gradual sequin shower that is, if nothing else, annoying!

How would it be, then, if we removed the word 'wrong' from our vocabulary. We could replace it with the word 'appropriate'...and the word 'learning'...and the word 'experimentation'. These are all good strong positive words that describe what we are doing when we make art. Perhaps then, we could stand back from our work and see it as it truly is.

ps The picture is of 'Green Girl Gets The Blues'. It took me a long time to get round to doll making...several years, in fact, of saying, but what if I get it wrong... I hope that's not a mistake I'll make again. Doll making is FUN!!


Omega said...

I agree wholeheartedly with the plan to replace wrong with inappropriate. What was it that Samuel Beckett said? Something like "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."

On the other hand I do think that 'finished' work rather than samples or experimentation should mean as appropriately well made as possible. Not necessarily neat just for the sake of neatness; but complete in itself.

Felicity said...

Yes, I think the word experimentation is the one I will use for my beading! Thanks for your insights Marion!

Elle said...

I agree. We are our own worst critics sometimes aren't we? The next thing about art quilting is the fact that it's OK to break the rules and try new things. I know that's MY favorite thing about it, LOL.

thelmasmith said...

Wrong is in the same category as guilt. It's only use is momentary. All it means is "Hum, that didn't work out too well; I'll not do that again."

That's it and all. The end. The statement is the end of it. You learned what you needed. There is no wrong; there is no guilt. There is only that lightbulb moment.

Betsy True said...


wonderful commentary and spot on! Incidentally, I've been to Edinburg and loved your beautiful city and area. Would go back in a minute!

Rayna said...

She is wonderful, Marion. But I know what you mean. I just sewed together a piece that looked great before I sewed it and now it looks all wrong, so I am taking it apart and redoing it. It just isn't working - and it's the piece that looked so great on my blog a few days ago. Aarrgh. We keep trying.