Keep your eyes open.
Keep your spirit open.
Carry a phone, a sketchbook, a photographic memory.
Never stop dreaming.
Look up, down, and all around.
I can never think of such cool things.
There is no way I could turn that into a quilt.
My brain just doesn't work that way.
(The texture of these boards with the mix of colour has me thinking about the woodgrain fabrics I've been collecting.)
Today I'm talking about inspiration. Namely, the inspiration for quilts. The colour combinations, patterns, and ideas that get us buying fabric, cutting it up, and sewing it back together. All in the name of a warm end product.
Quite often I am asked just where I get my inspiration. Frankly, it is kind of a hard question to answer. That's because, for one, there isn't a single answer. And two, you really never know when you will be inspired. Inspiration isn't something you can teach. Translating it, yes, but not finding it.
That means I will answer that it can be anything like...
... a toddler's scribbles (Inspired Improvisation)
... a handful of crayons and some painful experiences (2+2=4)
... family property (Roots)
... the tool of my trade (Sewing Machine Quilt)
... a hike with the family (Mountain Meadows)
... my flag (Oh Canada!)
... a necklace (Austin Circle Sampler)
(I've never actually made a rainbow quilt, but the lines on this sidewalk art for Pride have me thinking of trying something a little different when I do feel motivated to do one.)
There have been bundles of fabric that get me excited, colour combinations dancing around and waiting for the right pattern. It can be a feeling I get that needs to come out and fabric is the way. It can be a tile floor, a comment or request by my husband. Frankly, it can come from anywhere and you never know when it will hit.
Then there will be times where nothing comes, nothing seems exciting, nothing gets you wanting to sew. For a creative person those times are really, really awful. Burnout, stress, being overwhelmed. When there is too much other stuff crowding your heart and stealing away your energy then the inspiration doesn't find you. Rather, you don't see it.
That's because it is always there. As people who work in colour and shape on a regular basis it is impossible to not see quilts in so much around us. When people ask me about finding inspiration the answer is truly in being able to see it for yourself. I can't give you my inspiration and expect you to get jazzed about it. I can only encourage you to see it as something you can do for yourself. The inspiration is there.
(One of those aspirational magazines you find in expensive hotels, but I loved both the art and the layout of this article.)
Those platitudes about opening your eyes and your heart are true. When we are closed off and walking around with blinders on we can't see everything that is around us. (I'll admit, there are times when this is a good thing.) To see the inspiration we need to be open to it.
I truly believe that we all need a way to capture the inspiration. A dedicated sketchbook works for me, as do pictures. The main reason I believe in capturing everything is that when the darker times come, you have reference material. You can show yourself things that once got you excited. It is also handy when a deadline of a baby or magazine looms, you have something to call on. Inspiration on demand is a hard thing.
Not everyone tracks things this way. Some prefer to let the good ideas stick around as they need to while the others trickle away as less exciting. Whatever works for you.
(Inner tubes, for my circle obsession. Plus, who doesn't love the turquoise of summer pools and Caribbean beaches?)
Quilt stores try to do a lot of this work for you. So do magazines, books, and pattern designers. Inspiration doesn't mean you are creating your own unique designs all the time. It is still inspiration when you are drawn to the cover of a pattern or the bundle the store put together. Does it get you excited to quilt? Does it make you want to create? Then it is inspiring.
Inspiration isn't magical or ephemeral. Bluntly, inspiration is something pretty that makes us want to create. How and what you create is up to you. So, yes, keep your eyes open. Then get your butt in the seat and sew.
This is the first post in a monthly series on all the steps of making a quilt. Musings and thoughts on the process.