Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Task Management

Growing up and learning to drive in an area of the country that has severe winters, I learned to keep the fuel levels in my car at least a quarter of a tank full. It’s better for the engine in winter. And if you get stuck needing heat, you’re covered for as long as the tank lasts!

Just simply keeping the tank from running empty was a habit that continued until I started working from home. Then it seemed I was always running to town and a deadline was involved. The habit of always having a quarter of a tank began to slip away.

Just the other day I was leaving home to go into town and realized that my gas tank was almost empty. I had to get gas. It could not wait! As I pumped gas I contacted my appointment and communicated that I would be a few minutes late.

The urgency of gas caught up to me. I stopped managing gas on my timeline and my car inserted itself into my schedule. Now that I have noticed, I can return to getting gas before it is needed.

In life there are a lot of little things like getting gas that manage us instead of us managing them, aren’t there? If we put off going to the grocery store, cleaning up, paying the bills… before long we’ve procrastinated our whole to-do list and now we are run by our tasks, leaving no room for the things we WANT to do, like create. Spend a little time managing all these small things well on the front end, so they don’t overrun you eventually.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Life as a Lesson in Mastery

When I go to write my name, I write my name – Nysha, N Y S H A. I no longer think about how each letter is constructed. I don't think about the up stroke, down stroke, and upstroke to make the N. I make the curve stroke and up then the stem stroke down of the Y without considering I'm making specific strokes. I have written my name so many times that I don't think about writing my name. I just write my name.

As an adult, writing is like that for everyone. Once we master something we can perform the task mindlessly. And our thoughts focus on other things. Most of the time I'm usually focused on how the heck do you spell this particular word. I have made the 26 letters of the alphabet so many times that I don't think about it anymore. I just make them.

Have you ever watched a child who is just newly learning to walk and there is a hesitance about their steps? Their arms reach out to balance themselves. Their feet are planted firmly before they take the next step. And yet they always start running with glee on their faces. As an adult I don't think about my balance, my feet, or the mechanics of walking. I just walk. Because I have done it so much.

So what I want you to consider about free-motion machine quilting is that when you start it feels awkward. It's new! If you focus on practice, focus on making marks, gain the muscle memory with each mark, and at some point you won't have to think about making the marks… you can think about quilting.

This is how you're going to learn to quilt. We're going to learn one mark at a time. We're going to practice making it over and over again. Once we get a handle on that one, we're going to move on to an adjacent mark and keep working until we have learned all of the basic marks. Then we will start putting the marks together and making forms from which we can quilt anything.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Time management

It’s no secret in today’s world that time is a lot like money, you never have enough anymore. At this stage in my life the time factor is even more true. Between my personal life and family, the studio and classes, the video project, and the book manuscripts… it’s a wonder I feel like I am accomplishing anything anymore.

This recently came up when talking to a friend, too. Usually the topic brings up priorities, values, responsibility, and strategies. The first thing I thought of was managing technology. Everyone has their head in a smart phone or tablet now. And seriously, we used to function just fine without them. How much more efficiently could you manage your time if you weren’t constantly responding to social media or staying caught up on your news feeds?For example, another friend of mine went on a three day trip. After returning home, she had an inbox full of messages. I asked her if they were notification emails or actual messages that needed responding to. In her case the majority of the emails were the notification kind for likes, comments, etc. on social media. She had no idea there was a way to manage her settings to stop this from wasting her time on a regular basis.

I have certain email addresses tagged as important so messages come up first on my phone. Those get answered. Everything else gets prioritized until I can deal with it. I do the same with texts and phone calls by assigning certain ring tones. When my ears hear these tones, I know I can ignore or listen. It’s been very freeing and helped to manage technology and distractions that cause me to lose lots of my previous time.

I’ve put a boundary on my time when it comes to managing the outside distractions that prevent me from being productive. This is how I’m able to successfully manage my time and have technology working FOR me rather than against me!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Mastery of Mindset for Successful Quilting

Remember the last time you went on vacation? Those few days before you left when you anticipated the trip and everything was exciting and made everything you were doing to prepare fun and enjoyable, right? Life seemed brighter, funnier, easier, and probably more interesting. You weren’t even on vacation yet, but the mindset of being at the beach, on the cruise, or wherever you were going coloured all the experiences with the wonderful time you knew you were going to have.

That is the very idea we need to focus on before we begin working on a project. Any frame of mind we have at the beginning will affect the work we create. The experience of working will mirror that throughout the completion of the piece. If we are tense, the work will be stilted and difficult to execute. Fearful? It will take longer and reflect the tentative nature that comes with fear and not wanting to screw up. Even too much excitement can cause a lack of attention, and have you wanting to jump to the next thing instead of focusing on the step you are on.

Preparing to quilt I create a calm, focused, and at ease mindset. I look for music that keeps me calm yet suits the movement I will be making; feathers = flowing or classical music, angles = a prominent and steady beat, or pebbles = audio book. I spend about fifteen minutes with my Zentangle® practice where I use a marker and create patterns on a 3.5 inch square of paper. I focus on just the mark I am making at the time and push all other thoughts and distractions out of my mind.

When I’m done, I can begin quilting with a clear mindset because I’ve left behind all the other things that are going on around me causing distractions. As I work I focus on the mark I am currently making. If I finish a movement and am not happy with it, I take a moment and either choose to accept it and move on, or to stop and remove it. Once I have chosen, I again focus on the movement I am making. If I get caught up on the next movement ahead, I take a deep breath and focus again on the movement I am making.

Remember! You can stop the machine at any time! If you’re distracted by — whatever, then stop your machine for a minute and deal with that distraction. The result will be more controlled, intentional quilting and a better frame of mind. The finished piece will be a testament to discipline, skill, focus, and follow through of your vision-a whole work of art.

Until next time… Get tangled!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Creating a Vision of Your Own

When you speak English you don’t try to imitate Shakespeare, Whitman, or Wolf, right?  You have your own unique way of speaking.  You use the same words, sure.  But you have your own diction that’s just as special as you are as a person.  The same is true for your quilting skill.

As a beginning quilter, I first looked to traditional patterns.  I made log cabin blocks, snail’s trails, square in a square, hand quilted lines, machine quilted feathers, etc.  I kept trying to create these patterns to learn the basic skills needed to create art in this medium called quilting.  Do you know what I learned?

Quilting isn’t really about the replicating of a pattern.  It’s about creating a vision of your own.  But when you’re first starting out, you can’t see that, let alone DO that.  Right?

Feathers - Before
Feathers - After

It takes time to learn to quilt.  There are many, many hours of work that go into practicing to gain control to be able to take an idea from your head and execute it in stitch.  You will fail many times. That’s ok.  I still fail.  At every roadblock, return to the creators that came before us to look for inspiration and solutions.

You have to remind yourself, “I am where I am.”  Don’t compare where you are now to where someone else is or was in their skill level.  The more you practice, the more experience you gain, the stronger skill you create, and the more freedom of ideas that will begin to emerge in your quilting-not just to recreate, but create anew!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Lost Art of the Personal Touch

Remember the days when the mailbox held a funny card? A thoughtful note? Or a letter catching up over the miles? Today we stay so connected electronically that there are rarely cards and notes to keep in the boxes and trunks of our lives. No mementos or keepsakes to treasure as time passes…

I recently went to the mail and retrieved an unexpected thank you card, a beautiful, tiny fan with peach blossoms on one side and a hand written note on the other. It was beautiful. It was thoughtful. The whole gesture really made me feel special and appreciated. I’d like to get back to the place where we express our appreciation to those that matter to us. It seems society has a mindset now that everything is disposable, and not worthy of value. Let’s challenge that trend.

Until next time... Get tangled!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Increasing Creativity and Productivity with Sketchbooks

For the longest time I thought that sketchbooks were something sacred that needed to be beautiful from beginning to end.  Then I went for years having several sketchbooks — one for continuous line quilting patterns, one for play, one for geometric and/or piecing designs, and one I carried with me to museums to sketch and jot notes in… and that was a mess.

Many artists use just one sketchbook at a time and work from front to back until it is filled — then they move on to the next sketchbook.  This is more the idea I am going with now, except I keep two — one is for Zentangle and the other is for everything else.

I keep my tangles separate because these I actively use as a reference. Referring to them for tangles as I work, either in a book or on a tile, etc. 

The other sketchbook is for anything else. If I am trying to figure out something, I pull out that sketchbook and work there. If there is a tangle I am unsure about, I work there. If I am jotting notes about an artist or a quote, that is where I put it. It is far less messy; and because it is in one place, I can find things easier than when I had five sketchbooks going at once.

That’s the beauty of being an artist, I guess.  Finding your pattern in the chaos, where you fit and can express your vision the best.  I want to help get you to a place that increases your focus and creativity, helping you create some of your best work.  Anything is possible one stroke at a time, right?  Until next time... Get tangled!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What a bit of shading can do

How often do you think things are boring? Visually, something isn’t interesting, doesn’t captivate your attention. An event fails to wow? You can’t relate to what a speaker is saying because there is too much technical jargon and not enough life…

Drawings can be like that. Great contrasts of values, black and white that pop from a distance yet don’t hold the eye longer than the few seconds it takes to disseminate the image. One way I have seen that adds interest to hold the viewer is shading to add depth. A tile tangled with good value contrast can be nice. That same tile with shading can be truly stunning.

If we can add interest to a tile with a little graphite — what can we add to life with a little grey by way of inclusion, acceptance, breathing…?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Conference in Santa Fe

Hanging out with like-minded people is something that is always worthwhile. Realizing Santa Fe, New Mexico is a favorite destination spot for many people, I never had a desire to go. In 2013, Studio Art Quilt Associates had their annual conference in Santa Fe. The conference was great — hanging out with like-minded people, listening to speakers who engaged and inspired. When I heard that Tangle U, a conference for Certified Zentangle Teachers, was going to Santa Fe in 2015 I knew I would be going too!

The high desert holds little appeal aesthetically to me; brown earth, adobe, terra-cotta, few trees… The mountains in the distance are pretty. The shopping, the art, the whole spirit is amazing. I loved wandering the section of Old Town near the hotel and conference center. Shops of the handmade or artisan made each spectacular versions of its kind.

The conference held equal attention. [Classes about products, teaching methods, new approaches to projects. Each class sparked ideas and stimulated the creative monster.]

One class took the traditional idea of tangles and talked about refining lines and adding shading in a unique way that creates even more dimensionality. I also was introduced to the idea that tiles can be ‘intimate’ or have less value contrast (less to look at from a distance) and yet have smaller detail or more change in sheen (using a clear pen with white glitter on white paper) that you can only see as you move around the tile. More a sense of wonder than wow.

Another class introduced me to TomBow markers. A product I knew of and had not tried. Trying it for the first time in a guided manner was great. Who knew a marker could be blended?!

There were also opportunities to meet other Certified Zentangle Teachers who came from all over the world. I met Laura Liu from Taipei, Taiwan. Japan Diamond is her pattern. It is one of my favorites! Even a fellow Tennessean, Amy Brody who shared tales of her tangles.

It was a great trip. I look forward to next year in Maine.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Quilting Arts TV

If you have seen the recent issue of Quilting Arts Magazine you will have seen the article on my Zentangle Book in a Box. (April/May 2015) It was quite an experience to submit, write, ship, wait and wait for the whole process.

The whole thing came about because of Margarita Korioth. She moved to the Memphis area almost two years ago and we became friends. She has written many articles for Quilting Arts Magazine (including an article in the same issue!) and other publications and encouraged me to submit.

Last May I finally got it all together and submitted proposals for articles. In September they asked me to do the Artist Spotlight featuring my Zentangle Book in a Box. I wrote the article. In November I shipped my book and waited. Finally a few weeks ago the issue was released and almost a year of waiting was over.

Meanwhile — in November Susan Brubaker Knapp was the national teacher for Uncommon Threads Quilt Guild. I took some classes from her and got a chance to chat with her. We talked about her job hosting Quilting Arts TV and what it was like to be on the show.

Bolstered by my article success I submitted a proposal and was asked to join the team in Solon, Ohio to tape three segments for Quilting Arts TV.

The first segment was about applying colour after quilting. I love this topic! I started first with paint atop quilting when I first started quilting in 2006. A class with Lura Schwarz Smith opened the world of ink. Then I discovered using coloured pencil set with medium, and finally the magic of Inktense Pencils by Derwent. NOW — you’ve got nine minutes. GO!

The second segment was a little longer at 13 minutes and was all about my two sided quilts and how I frame them. The hours of preparing the project sample was well worth the work as things went smoothly (or so they seemed on my side of the camera) and we seemed to cover a lot of ground.

Finally there was a segment about the Zentangle Book in a Box and showing how I made the paged of the book and how I quilt. Only a few minutes, but it was exhilarating! Possibly best of all was meeting so many great people; the production staff, the Quilting Arts people, the lady from Bernina, and many other artist there to tape as well. You will have to watch season 1600 to see us all!

*Note - Quilting Arts TV is aired on many PBS stations. If you are not in one of the viewing areas you can purchase the series on DVD or view an episode or series on line.