Welcome to MissouriBendStudio!

This is an online journal of my artistic investigations and a way to communicate about my work, ideas, quandries and queries! I welcome comments and conversation and do hope you enjoy these musings. My artwork is available in my shop MissouriBendStudio on Etsy.com or on my website.


Friday, April 8, 2011

I Don't Have Answers, I Just Have Questions

Greetings everyone!  So, the end of another week and I'm here with some reflections as I struggle to find my way forward.  I talked about this in another post some months ago....there has been so much looking outward that it's time to slow down and look inward to find my path.  I'm excited about having a sewing machine to add to my repertoire of mark-making and art making tools and I have had lots of ideas over the past year since I first decided that I needed one...but now that I have one....I'm floundering.  So, clearly, I'm trying too hard and I'm looking in all the wrong places for the answers.  There's only so much help you can find by looking at all the art being made out there....as much as it inspires and makes my heart leap in many cases, it also serves to blind me to my own way, because I'll tend to try to make something derivative...and there is certainly enough of that happening out there, as it is.  I think it is very important that we be true to ourselves in the work that we make...to honor the voices that is ours and to honor the need for meaningful pieces made by hand to give to the world.

Today, to get myself "off the treadmill", so to speak, I took the afternoon and went to Barnes and Noble in Sioux City to look at magazines and to see what's happening out there, beyond Etsy, where my main focus seems to have been.  Now, I know that sounds like a bit of a contradiction to what I've just said at the beginning of this post, but looking at all the current magazines really got me thinking about these things.  I have thoughts swimming in my head about trends and fashion, about making "stuff", as well as the history and long tradition of art and craft in the world, that is different than" arts & crafts." There has been such a proliferation in the last decade in the possibilities available across the world in terms of access to materials, resources, people, markets...rather mind boggling.  We're just inundated with images and as someone with an etsy shop, my struggle is to make meaningful work, yet pieces that will be affordable for buyers who want one-of-a-kind original art. It's easy to get lost in thousands of people who have these same desires and goals.  I don't have answers...I just have questions.

After looking at a stack of magazines over a warm blueberry scone and a cup of hot tea, I decided to buy the new issue of Selvedge, which is a beautiful British publication, that I've long admired.  It so well designed and has a broad focus in the craft tradition that includes good writing about history and place.  I'm going to subscribe, even though it's expensive, because I want to have it each issue myself and I think it's the kind of publication that deserves support.  If you haven't seen it, check it out at your local newstand, but better be sitting down so you don't drop when you see the cover price.  Subscribing makes it quite a bit more affordable.

Violett and I have spent some time together...playing with various stitches on cloth, which I'm still trying to get used to working with....I'm so much more comfortable with paper.  I decided to set aside the near wince of the woman at the store where I bought the machine when I told her I wanted to stitch on paper. She didn't gasp and she didn't quite wince, but she let me know that it's hard on the machine and you have to take extra care to keep the insides free of debris that can cause problems.  Violett allowed as how she'd like to try paper and well, that was pretty much fun stitching various sheets of paper together...but that's as far as we got.  I'm told I should try using stabilizer with the fabric and that will make it feel more like paper.  I'm open to anyone who has knowledge of this kind of thing....how to make fabric pretend to be paper.

Here are a couple of new pieces....not so different from what I've been doing.  I realize these evolutions take a long time and are really quite gradual....I mean look at the evolution of any of the life forms on earth...these things happen slowly and over time.  I just have to be patient with myself!

Spring Meditation no.11
Mementos no.4

Mementos no. 4 (detail)

I can't remember if I mentioned it here lately or not, so forgive me if I have, but I'm doing a found text post once a week on Wednesday on my other blog MissouriBendPaperWorks...the last couple have been done as scrolls.  Here's a detail of the one from this past Wednesday.  Head on over to the blog or you can see more views and the full description and text for "Scout For The Rare Ones" in my shop here.

Scout For The Rare Ones (detail)

So, there you go....I'm going to try to relax about it all and try to get the long view and some perspective on the future.  I hope you have a wonderful weekend...enjoy!


  1. What a perfect post... thanks for speaking these words. I am up way past my bedtime, so I am not sure I can articulate how comforting your post is to me tonight, but I will let it sink in as I fall asleep~

    oh, yes do be careful about the paper in the sewing machine. I have ruined two this way. :/

  2. I agree that Selvedge is a gorgeous publication, it costs a fortune over here, so I dread to think what they're charging you on the other side of the pond. I've come to the conlusion that it's thinking of the end market all the time that stifles my creativity, it's good to just play occasionally I think, without worrying about seling the final product.

  3. Kelcey, thanks for "beware of paper" tip! I'm so glad this post touched a chord...so many things to think about and reflect upon. You are making wonderful work and I do love seeing what's happening in your world. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Paula...glad you like the mementos!!! Cheers!

  5. Carrie....I hear you about the market....and the added layer to that that ends up stifling my ideas is always...."so how are you going to package that up and ship it?!!?!"....that's a sure way to talk yourself out of exploring a new idea! But Selvedge....well, I can't speak highly enough of it....what a breath of fresh air in a print world filled with too much "stuff" and not enough quality and in-depth exploration of what we do in terms of culture and history. I'm subscribing...I don't care what it costs...I'm feeling rather extravagant! Cheers to you...hope your quilt is coming along just dandily!

  6. Good decision getting a subscription to Selvedge magazine. I bought one years ago and still have it. I am hinting to my kids for a subscription for Mother's Day! Enjoy!

  7. Hi P - I am doing nothing and struggling with not playing because all my stuff is at home and we are so busy and removed from our own worlds up here; but I think it must be hard when you feel you should be doing stuff, because that is what you do for a living. Very tricky, that balance between letting it evolve and making sure you are contributing. I wonder about those bits that you think "how would I package it?" and whether you can have them set aside for an exhibition or show and not worry about sending to people - one way to let you do them without fearing the practicalities? BEst to you (as you say) as you work it thru F

  8. Carole....hope you get that Selvedge subscription....would make a fine Mother's Day gift! I'm savoring this issue like a rich dessert!

  9. Fiona....since you are not able to be making these days, you are in a "gathering" phase and it will all come pouring out when you are home again in the studio! I do find myself thinking about making "Art" versus "art"....that is, art for exhibition versus art for my shop. I spent so many decades making the former, but I do kind of miss the notion of making without thinking about selling, photographing and the other practicalities of it all. Perhaps I'm now at a place where I can be doing some of both! Enjoy your time in the north! Cheers!

  10. Try iron interfacing to stiffen the fabric so it is more paper like. Also you might enjoy stitching the paper with no thread so you just make holes. Oh and you should keep the needles you use for fabric and paper seperate. Just like scissors.

  11. Te (Soewnearth)....thanks so much for the very practical tips! I think I'll be much happier with stiffened cloth...at least to start! Keeping needles and scissors used for paper separate...that's new to me also...thank you!

  12. I stitch on paper with the sewing machine all the time. Rarely have a problem with it. Yep it will make dust in the machine, but then so do other fabrics, like velvet. Paper blunts needles, scissors. However, I have long been in the practice when machining of every new project gets a new needle, I buy in boxes of 100, not that I'm through any of those boxes yet, and a thorough clean of the machine. Be nice to your machine and it will serve you well.
    I'd say if you're comfortable with paper, then go for it... because paper and fabric share many similar qualities, but the processes can't always be the same to get the same end result, and they each have qualities the other doesn't. For instance, on paper, select a machine pattern, DON'T thread up the machine, but stitch it anyway - you will get really attractive pierced pattern - not an option on fabric. You have to decide, as I did years back, was my sewing machine going to be precious, or was it going to work for me and stitch what I want it to.
    Btw, can't you get Selvedge as a digital mag - if so wouldn't it be cheaper? As I'm in the UK, I take some US mags via digital.

  13. How fun to have a new (at least to you) sewing machine to explore! Here's what I did when I got my last new machine. It might be fun, informative, and inspiring for you too. I bought a yard or two of cheap felt, cut it into page sized sheets, and proceeded to stitch out all of the cool stitches in my new machine, using different colors of threads. Next I decided to try all the feet and accessories. The one that stitches in a circle is my very favorite! Have fun with your new toy/tool.

  14. Beverly...thanks for your sewing machine tips! Violett and I made a pact early on...she's willing to go through the paces for me....must be able to work with paper! I'm testing the waters now with a long paper scroll piece....works wonderfully, except the thread broke and is now caught...yikes! I'll get it figured out! I'm having fun! And as far as Selvedge goes....well, it's such a beautiful, tactile publication and I'm such a print person anyway....I just have to have the object in my hand when I read it!!! Thanks for your comment and support!

  15. Quiltrobin...that's a great suggestion! I'm not sure I have one that stitches in circles....but that would sure be great! Doing the test booklet with all the different feet would help me get used to changing them too!
    My machine is not too fancy, but there are enough stitches and different feet that it will be a good exercise....thanks!


I'm happy to hear from you...comments and questions are welcome!