I broke things.
It didn't seem like something I'd do. But it felt right.
Since late summer I've been experimenting. Drawing and painting, trying new things, and reveling in the freedom of it all. I've felt this amazing ability to let go of the guilt one usually gets when not doing what one is "supposed to be doing".
I’ve felt taken over by creativity, and I’ve allowed myself to let it happen. It's been a gift.
But, I've got responsibilities, timelines, goals, and a Fiber Art Project Grant. The free-wheeling can’t continue indefinitely. Which, I'm not going to lie, has been a tough fact to face.
Fitting the Broken Pieces Together – in a New Way
For a while I actually thought I would have to give up on my textile art. It was simply too hard to pull myself away from drawing and painting with pastels. That amazing feeling of flow that I’ve been experiencing when I draw and paint, has been a true siren call.
I reminded myself that it wouldn't be in my own best interest to not complete what I had set out to do. Also, did I really want to give back the $5,000 I received for the Project Grant? Did I really want to tell the wonderful people who awarded me that money that I was giving up?
Not at all.
What I needed to do was pick up all the pieces I broke and figure out a new way to put them together. A way that would work for me now, in my new place.
I got serious and wrote down a daily routine for myself that would allow me to fit in all the parts.
The Ah-ha! Moment
Writing it down was the easy part. As I struggled to start my new routine, I realized something huge. The fiber work was feeling really hard. Not because I didn’t like it anymore. No; but because in my mind it felt scary. Unlike when I created textile art in the past, this time the stakes are high: I have a Grant, an upcoming Exhibition, and Very Important People to please and impress.
The pastel work, on the other hand, is just for me. It has an experimental feeling and there are no stakes.
I realized that I needed to take the pressure off my textile work. I didn't want to get started on it again because it felt so risky and I was having a fear of failure. So, using what I learned from my research on creativity – in fact, exactly what got me started on pastels – I decided to re-frame things in my head.
I told myself, the next textile piece I made would be a warm-up. Like when you’re learning a new card game and the first round you play is just to get the rules figured out. No pressure; just explore. Plus, you know that Picasso quote: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” I needed to get to work.
And what do you know. For two weeks now, I’ve had my new routine working. That first week, I created a piece of textile art that I don’t know how I feel about. It’s not so great – but who cares, it was only for practice. The real point of that piece was that it helped me get into the new routine.
I’ve started to realize these seemingly disparate undertakings are all part of my year-long Jerome Project Grant. All of it: researching creativity, breaking my routine, experiencing the freedom of the pastel work, the challenge of getting back to textile work, discovering the necessity of a new routine.
Actually, sorting out all of this has accomplished exactly what I wanted when I originally wrote my grant proposal last May:
I’ve gone through all of this to discover my new studio art practice. Wow.
I'm starting to settle into my new routine. It includes both textile art and pastel painting. Things are flowing easier. I’m feeling inspired by both mediums. In fact, every day I feel like pinching myself because I can hardly believe I got what I wished for: a studio art practice.
It feels good.
On a summery Saturday afternoon in late June, I got a letter in the mail from the Textile Center. It was very slim. Definitely just one sheet of paper inside. Letters that slim are always letters declining an application, right? Right. It must be a letter to let me know that I did not get the grant, the one whose proposal I had so rigorously worked on for weeks and weeks the previous month.
But yet, I had a good feeling about this grant.
I took the letter out to my backyard. After taking a seat and a deep breath, I slowly opened the letter. Yes, it was just one sheet of paper, but I quickly spotted the word "congratulations" in bold print! In fact, it said, "Congratulations! You have been selected to receive a Jerome Fiber Artist Project Grant for 2018-19."
And so for the next 10 months I am on a journey of discovery. This grant has provided me with the opportunity, the time, and the funds to explore the ideas I find most interesting. And to create art! I'm beyond honored and humbled to have received it.
The Jerome Fiber Artist Project Grant is amazing. For one, I will be supported throughout the duration of the grant period. I still feel like I'm new to the world of textile art, and I'm happy to take all the help and input I can get. But, of course, the most exciting part is that the grant process will culminate with an exhibition of my art at the Textile Center in the spring of 2019. That will be thrilling!
I hope you'll follow along on my journey. I plan to blog about what I'm up to, and I'll also be posting my in-progress work on Instagram.
Of course, I can't continue without saying thank you to the Textile Center for this amazing opportunity! And thank you to the jurors for their belief in me!
Below is the announcement of the recipients of the Jerome Fiber Artist Project Grant for 2018-19.
At the bottom is a slide show of the photos I submitted with my proposal.
You can find out more about the Jerome Project Grant here.
My latest work of textile art “Two Views” got its start back in September when I had been making an overabundance of sharks and I needed a creative break. It wasn’t in my schedule, but I pulled out some fabrics and decided to work on something different for the day.
I do a lot of ruminating on philosophical ideas. I like to consider things like: what makes us human, how society works, and the intricacies of human relationships. I also love to learn about the latest science on the human brain.
When I took out the two blue patterns five months later, I had been thinking extensively about the concept of reality. Everyone is different. Our upbringings and our unique life experiences are like filters, and it is through these filters that we understand the world. I like to ponder if there is an actual true Reality when we are all looking at the world in so many different ways.
In his book The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen wrote, "Life has a kind of velvet luster. You look at yourself from one perspective and all you see is weirdness. Move your head a little bit, though, and everything looks reasonably normal." I find this idea fascinating. I frequently notice that I hold two seemingly contradictory feelings or thoughts or views at the same time. I decided to explore these ideas further as I worked with the two slightly different blue striped patterns.
Most of the time, I don’t have a predetermined design that I’m working to create. Likewise, for this project I used the process of cutting and arranging to lead me to the final design. This way of working can itself be a contradiction since it's both exciting and nerve-racking to work when the outcome is unknown. I have to do a lot of stepping back and looking and thinking during the process.
I think this artwork would look wonderful framed in a modern white float frame. Its complex, yet soothing pattern, simple straight lines, and beautiful blues will bring a sense of calm and interest to any space.
You can see this piece in person at the upcoming American Craft Council Show in St. Paul, April 20 - 22, 2018. I'll be in booth 510.
As always, please feel free to contact me with questions.
It's been two weeks since the ACC show in St. Paul wrapped up. I thought I'd have some down time after the show to write a recap (and take a rest!) but things have been busy.
Now, don't get me wrong, being busy is good news. But having down time is also important. I can get crabby when my mind and body haven't had a chance to recover from a big event or an intensive period of work.
This past weekend I was finally able to take some restful time off. Spending time outdoors in the sunshine, and also reconnecting with my family, has rejuvenated me a bit. I actually got antsy at the end of the weekend; inspiration for another piece of art has been nagging me. It is a challenge to put off a creative urge until there is time to devote to it!
So, here I am, two weeks late, taking a moment to write..
A Quick Recap of the Show
Here I am being presented with the award by ACC director of education Michael Radyk (left) and ACC executive director Chris Amundsen (right).
From the American Craft Council:
"A tradition established at the start of the American Craft Shows, the Awards of Excellence recognize and celebrate show artists ... From a pool of more than 200 incredibly talented makers, five were chosen to be honored with awards at our 2017 American Craft Show in St. Paul.
Taking home the award for booth design, which honors both quality of work and booth presentation, was textile artist Mary Pow, whose display highlights the clean lines of her striking, color-block work."
After floating through the rest of Friday with stars in my eyes, I didn't think the show could get any better. But Saturday proved me wrong.
We were anticipating a slow day due to the beautiful weather outside. And while Saturday may have been quieter; for me, it is a day I will never forget! I made my first-ever sale of wall art.
Of course, after I sold a piece of wall art, I had to scramble to figure out how to wrap it. I was not prepared for a sale! Luckily, my very kind booth neighbor, artist Amber Harrison, helped me out by bringing me cling wrap and felt. (She is the same person who, after I received the award for booth design said to me, "And you were so worried about your booth!" True. I was.)
Here I am standing next to my four-panel piece, The Interplay of Opposites, right after it sold.
I think maybe the best part of the show is meeting the artists. Since artists tend to work in solitude, gathering for a craft show is a rare opportunity. It forces us to get out of our studios and interact with each other. I think, although we enjoy spending time alone, we also like to find out how other artists work. I know one of my favorite things is to hear about the process behind the craft.
Thank you to the American Craft Council for honoring me with such a prestigious award. Thank you to my husband for his encouragement and assistance. Thank you to the show-goers and patrons who support fine craft. And thank you to the artists who inspire us all!
I didn't do anything with that one piece at the time, and it fell to the bottom of the pile on my side table. But the idea of creating wall art grew on me. Throughout the fall my mind was full of ideas. Color combinations I wanted to work with swirled around in my head.
I couldn't take action at the time; holiday shows and orders took precedent and I had to wait until the new year to start exploring my ideas. But once my time freed up, I went all in -- and for the past few months, I've been wholeheartedly enjoying the process of assembling textiles into arrangements of pattern and color.
Creating larger works, without the constraints of turning them into handbags, has allowed me to explore so many ideas.
I've been able to think about how to create the look of movement with arrangements of fabric.
I've been enthralled with exploring the idea of opposites, especially at a time of such polarization in our country.
There is a lot more that I want to do. In fact, it seems that I have an over-abundance of ideas for color combinations and patterns that I want to work with. I especially want to think more about how opposites can work together. And I don't want to stop making more.
I hope to see you there!
I am an artist and designer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My specialties are textiles and pastels.
I also enjoy reflecting on the human condition.
In my blog, I write about my musings and my art.
Find my bio here.