Monday, March 16, 2009

You See I Had This Idea...













It's an amazing thing when a gift falls into your lap and as soon as you unwrap it in your mind you know exactly what you're going to do with it. That's kinda what happened in April of 2000. A few months before that I had read a book on the journals of pioneer women and was really impacted by their strength and the haunting ring of their words. Something started to tug at me. Somewhere in one of those books I saw where a woman who had gone West in a wagon train had later made a momento of the journey by taking an old weathered piece of the tent they had slept under and stitched a blurry photograph someone had taken of them to the piece of fabric. She had then written in thread simply "Piece of the old tent." Something continued to tug at me. Not long after that I watched for the first time in quite a few years parts of the Ken Burns PBS Series, The Civil War. Here Burns touched you visually with the power of the old photographs and grabbed you emotionally with words read from the letters of that time. Something started to bug the heck out of me.


Then the gift appeared. On a Sunday morning in April the solidified thought of what I would do with the inspiration I had received didn't exist...but by that evening I had put together what would be the first of thousands of pieces of work that I would sign my name to over the next eight years. Now mind you it was a distant cousin of the pieces I do today, but the idea was there. I knew that what I wanted to do would require putting layers together and that it even might mean sewing. Problem was I didn't know how to do that. I didn't like sewing...or so I thought. (Years earlier, when I was a professional singer, I almost quit a band I was in because they wanted me to sew my own costumes.) I didn't own any fabrics really...why would I? But the more I thought about it the more I wanted to stitch that photo down just like my "tent-lady." I gathered up some unprimed artist canvas that I had in my little paint studio, a couple of pieces of cardboard and a couple of cotton blouses whose fabrics I didn't mind sacrificing. Strangely enough my husband at the time, had a little $100 Sears sewing machine in his workshop where he would make little pouches for all the electrical cords he took out on the road with him when his band toured. I had to read the manual on how to wind a bobbin. As it turned out, the imperfection of my sewing was perfect for the rustic, old look I was going for. He also had some photo-transfer paper on hand from trying out photos on t-shirts before the band made them to sell. Basically, I had no idea what I was doing.

The first piece you see above was rough to say the least...and not exactly what I had in mind. Tried it again with the Sadie Austin piece you see next and felt like I was getting a little closer. A big mostly cardboard piece followed (still lacking in the fabric department). Not happy. Then I did my first Annie Oakley piece and something clicked. I knew from the beginning I would recognize what I was after when I saw it. That piece was closer to the story I was trying to tell. Gave myself a good talking to. I decided that if I wanted to ever be good at this I had to give myself permission to be bad at it for awhile. Being bad at it wasn't a problem. But then I did something that made all the difference. I stopped trying to tell "my girls" and my materials what I wanted them to say and started listening to what they were already saying. The first of well over a hundred quotes, that I would write via this "listening thing" followed, and the gift was completely unwrapped. God signed the card in big, bold letters and I have been taking his winding roads and winding bobbins ever since...thanking him every step of the way.

17 comments:

Heart of a Cowgirl said...

Great story of where your inspiration and life's work came from!

maigirlz said...

I am so glad you have a blog- I love your work!! I found you through my friend Deb Trotter!

Nina said...

wow!! That is so great to share the process of how your mind went from thing to "serendipitous" thing. Thanks!

JoAnnA Pierotti said...

Oh, you did put this up already. I didn't see it. I had to refresh my screen :) Great, love it. Look how you have grown in your expression of these past souls. That is so cool you still have them.

xo joanna

The Junkin' Yaya said...

Hey yeehaw!!!

Love the post...and thanks again for all your love and support you send my way! I love ya girlfriend---and I look forward to seeing more posts about your walk with these courageous ladies!

Thank you for sharing with the world your walk down this beautiful & creative path!

xo....deb

Angie said...

I am a fan...glad you are blogging. Look forward to following!

grittyartsstudio said...

Hey KC, Just stopping by to say howdy...Love your artsy blog!
Jane

Mary said...

Thanks for sharing this part of your process. It seems that it is like your work authentic,and beautiful. I especially appreciated your referance to something "tugging at you" and your willingness to follow the thread!

Rebecca Crowell said...

The creative process is so universal yet also so individual among artists..each of us follows a path with much in common, but each with our own outcome. Thanks for sharing this!

Tristan Robin Blakeman said...

I've seen and appreciated your work before - glad to find your blog - and, apparently, just as you begin to do it!

Look forward to more!

Lelainia N. Lloyd said...

It's amazing what you can do with a bare bones sewing machine. I have a Singer that does just the basics and it was $100 too. Over the years, I have only ever serviced it ONCE and driven it pedal to the metal for 15 years. That machine has made countless quilts and I've certainly gotten my money's worth out of it.

I think one thing I love about the orgins of quilting is the philosophy of "Make do or do without. Use it up or wear it out." Your quilts remind me of that. I love the primitive/folky style-it's my style of quiting.

When I joined a guild years ago, I felt bad because there were all these highly technical quilters-people who were turning out quilts that looked like paintings or machine quilters who were churning out 4-5 quilts a month. I thought I was a poor excuse for a quilter.

It wasn't till much later that I realized that making something look folky/primitive takes its own set of skills and those are no less special than any of the other styles. That was how I first found your website and fell in love with your work. Ask Deb-she will tell you that when we first got to know one another, I told her she reminded me of you and she took that as high praise.

It's funny how things circle back to where they began. Here I am now, posting on your blog, led to communication with you via Deb and remembering why I love your quilts.

If you ever do a quilting project, I would LOVE to work with you. It would be magical.

dix said...

Love your work...so glad to see you blogging.

Lisa Cook said...

I discovered your site a long time ago and I am so glad you are sharing your artistic journey with all of us. Your work is unique and amazing and has inspired many.

GB said...

Still looking forward to your video workshops. Thank you KC!

Margaret said...

Totally inspiring read, thank you! I'll look forward to returning here!

Halo Hill said...

Oh my gosh! I get that same "talking to" when I'm working on a soldered piece, especially for those I do for people in memorial pieces. Amazing, Huh? How did I miss this post last night? When you're working on a piece(or about to)and that happens it creates an amazing set of circumstances while working doesn't it? Rock on!

You are very gifted!

Cory said...

LOVE your work...found the book Women of the West in a thrift store...had to have it, could not put it down...it may be the same book you speak of, It's fabulous. Glad you have a blog, I will be visiting often.