10 Ways to Make Time for Creativity

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Clearly, having an art practice alongside full-time mothering and housekeeping requires managing time and energy appropriately.

Now that we’re out of the baby stages (after 16 years 😳) things are obviously a little bit easier, but here are some strategies that I’ve used throughout the years.

1. Know your priorities

It is helpful to keep in mind what my most important responsibilities are in life. My first responsibility is to God, and then to my husband and children. This is where daily devotions and then housework and quality family time come in. I also have responsibilities in my church community (being involved in church events and with fellow church members) and broader community. I am called to take care of myself physically, mentally and emotionally. This is where exercise and sewing come in for me. Clearly, sewing is not top priority, but I know how valuable it is for me to manage at least some sewing every week. Understanding my priorities helps me to establish my daily routine.

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2. Plan, plan, plan

I use Things to plan my life. It’s on my phone and on my iPad, and I have it syncing across devices. In it I have designated areas (e.g. church, family, art, business, homemaking) and within each area I have a bunch of ‘projects’ on the go. Some are ongoing projects such as ‘regular housecleaning’ or some of the marketing aspects of my business, whereas others are once off, such as ‘reorganise pantry’ or ‘illustrate children’s book’. Each project is broken down into a bunch of tasks. I try not have any ‘open loops’ in my head, by which I mean that I try to make sure that any time I think ‘I should do that’ or ‘must remember’, it gets noted down as a task or a project within Things. 

Planning my day to suit my family life and my energy highs and lows. I’m sure there’s a shorter term for that, but what I mean is planning the more creatively challenging tasks for when I have the most mental energy, and when I am less likely to have to interrupt it for family commitments like meals and school runs. It also means things like saving slow work for in the evenings, when I like to put my feet up on the couch. ‘Work’ like hand-piecing, burying threads, hand-stitching quilt bindings and even some drawing on my iPad.

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3. Set goals

This is closely related to the previous point. I like to have daily, weekly and annual goals. I try to stretch myself a little without being unrealistic. (Sometimes it takes trial and error to know what ‘unrealistic’ is). I find that if I don’t set myself a goal for the day (for example, to sort out my pantry, to spend at least half an hour piecing a quilt, and to fill a page in my sketchbook) it is too easy for the day to disappear without getting to anything more than the basics. Folding the washing ends up taking twice as long as it needs to, and the half-hour that could have been spent piecing quilts was probably absorbed by scrolling social media instead…

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4. Menu planning and dinner preparation

Ok, so I don’t always do this diligently, but I know that life runs more smoothly, and I have more time for my artmaking when I do (no running to the supermarket everyday to get something essential that has run out, and no realising at 5:30 that I was so caught up in my drawing that I forgot to think about dinner. I keep a folder of dinner recipes that I know work for us as a family, and are not too one-consuming or too expensive. I actually have these recipes mapped out in a six-week menu plan that I cycle through. Groceries are ordered online every fortnight over my morning coffee at 6am, so that I don’t lose a morning to that.

Dinner preparation happens before the morning school run as much as possible. Some days that is a simple as pulling out all the ingredients, ready for dinner time; maybe I’ll chop the veggies already here too. Other days, the whole meal is prepared at this time, especially things like oven dishes and curries. This system means that the meat is always defrosted on time, and that I don’t find myself short of a crucial ingredient at dinner time.

I know that this sounds basic, and like it has nothing to do with artmaking, but systems like this enable me to save my headspace for the creative pursuits that I enjoy.

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5. Housework

Equally mundane, I organise my housework so that it happens bit by bit in the mornings before dropping the children off at school. I know the saying that ‘dull women have spotless houses’, but I don’t really hold to that. Well, to some extent I do - I don’t hold to perfection in house cleaning/tidying. At the same time, I dislike an untidy, chaotic home. It’s not good for my head. So again, to save headspace for creativity, I have housekeeping routines that help me to keep the house clean and tidy without having to think about it too much, or letting the mess get out of hand. (And it gets out of hand rather quickly with six children!)

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6. Batching

This is a technique advocated for productivity in many spheres, and it works for my art practice as well. Rather than changing from one task to another over and over, I group similar tasks together in order to work more efficiently. I apply this to horrid computer tasks, and to product photography. It also works for fabric dying and for scanning completed illustrations. And I definitely apply it to planning and preparing social media posts - at least the rough beginnings of social media posts.

(I apply the same practice to other areas of my life like running errands).

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7.No TV

No explanation required :)

8.Make wise use of the timeslots you have

(or: Make the most of sleeping kids). While I had babies most of my sewing was done in short time intervals (less than half-an-hour if they alternated their day-time sleeps so that there was always one baby to deal with). I try to avoid the idea that ten minutes is too short to do anything constructive. Lots and lots of ten-minute sessions behind a sewing machine lead to a finished product eventually. Having said that, if I have ten minutes on hand such as in the morning before school, I usually first consider if there is a quick chore on my list that can be done in that time – polishing shoes, scrubbing toilets, collecting dinner ingredients and utensils. I would rather fit all those little jobs into little pockets of time than let them chew into the larger pockets of studio time.

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9. Make a place

Carve out a spot for yourself somewhere in the house where you can have a work space (even a teeny tiny one) set up permanently. It is not possible to use those ten-minute pockets of time for sitting at the sewing machine if you first have to set it up. It means that if I’m waiting for dinner to cook, or if I have spare time before picking up the kids from school, I can sew for ten minutes. Or at least organise my workspace and supplies so that I’m ready to get stuck straight into it next time.

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10. Love what you do

This is a bit self-evident, but if I was only half-hearted about making art, I wouldn’t bother organising my days and weeks in this way and to this extent (and that would be quite fine). Being passionate about my creative work is the biggest incentive for finding time in my week to get to my sewing machine.

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I realise that this all makes me sound rather militant, but maybe that is what it takes to maintain a thriving creative practice in the midst of busy family life? It’s worth remembering that we all live in different situations and circumstances, and have all been given different abilities, as well as different tasks to do.  I am thankful that I am currently able to pursue quiltmaking as an artform, but am also well aware that, as with any of us, circumstances can change at any time!

A year of artmaking, from A to Z

I quite like the practice of wrapping up a calendar year with some reflection on the year that was, particularly reflection on the many blessings received. So I’m wrapping up 2018 with this ‘year in review from A - Z’ post.


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A is for art trail

The Armadale Hills Open Studio Arts Trail is a much beloved annual local event, and I was so pleased to be able to participate again this year! Around 25 studios opened to the public for three weekends in September. It’s always such a joy to be able to share my artwork and my art making process with my local community in this way.


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B is for book,

with a title that also starts with B, but which I can’t share yet...


Yes, I think this might be the first time I am saying it out loud, online: this year I illustrated my first children’s picture book. I’m still pinching myself! The process for publishing a book is a long one, and the book won’t be released until next year. I look forward to letting you know more about it when I can!


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C is for colour


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D is for daily drawings

I started 2018 with a daily drawing project. I love personal projects like this for pushing me to create regularly and to push through ‘I can’t be bothered’ and ‘I’m bored’. After 100 days, I realised that this one had served its purpose, and ended it. I’m still looking forward to translating some of these drawings into textile artworks.


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E is for Eucalyptus Excerpts

This is an ongoing, very popular series of artworks. I added 11 artworks to it this year! The photo shows a number of them hanging for the Armadale Hills Open Studio Arts Trail.


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F is for Florae 1 and 2

These two artworks were created to fit into some upcycled frames. It was a joy to make banksia art again!


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G is for Geraldton

In October I road-tripped to Geraldton for a two day workshop - and thoroughly enjoyed it (see my previous blog post).


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H is for hand-pieced

Hand piecing became a more significant part of my quiltmaking process this year. In the past few years I have taken to piecing faces and other fiddly sections by hand, and this year a number of small quilts (‘making sense 1, 2 and 3) were pieces entirely by hand. I really enjoy that process and would like to grow this series in the coming year(s). These three all feature beautiful barkcloth by Gertrude Made.


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I is for illustration

If you follow me on social media, you would realise that my creative energy is shared between textile art and illustration. Sometimes it’s mostly textile art making, and sometimes it’s mostly drawing. I love that I can bounce between the two pursuits, especially if something isn’t working and I need to mull on it for a bit. I also love how my illustration inspires my textile art and vice versa.


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J is for joshua tree

I’m currently working on a commissioned artwork featuring joshua trees and other desert vegetation. These plants are all very new to me, but so very beautiful. I love how they are hardy plants, like many of our Australian flora, but yet so very different.


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K is for kraft card packaging


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L is Leon Pericles

Visiting Pericles’ retrospective exhibition at Linton and Kay last month was a cultural highlight. I have been inspired by his work ever since I was a child.


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M is for magpies

I keep coming back to these beautiful birds in my sketchbooks! I must find a way to incorporate them in my textile art too.


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N is for new colour pencils,

Because one can never have too many colour pencils, right?


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O is for Otis

Otis is the main character I created for a children’s book illustration class I took this year. We were given several manuscripts to choose from, and had to create the main character from our chosen script, along with some supporting characters. We working on making them appealing to children, and giving them a wide range of motion and emotion.


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P is for Pindari

Painting a mural at Pindari Restoration House was a fun project, albeit a bit daunting at first (I procrastinated for far too long!)


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Q quilts (stacks of them!)


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R is for Little Red Riding Hood

I had fun drawing Little Red this year. I wonder which folk tale I should work on in 2019?


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S is for Sweet Symphony

This  is a rather bold artwork, completed later in the year. It has a fun colour palette, and I look forward to playing with this style a bit more.

Sweet Symphony is available here.


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T is for ‘The Former Things Have Passed Away’

This artwork was created for the Mandorla Art Award and is based on Revelation 21:1, 2. It took me a long time to but put a composition that I was happy with, but I’m pretty pleased with the final result!


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U is for underside


V is for the very many ideas

that I didn’t get around to trying or working on this year. The great thing about this is that I can dream about working on them next year or sometime in the future. Stay tuned!


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W is for ‘It’s a Wonderful World’

which made it’s way to a collector in the United States this year. Hopefully it will be displayed in a children’s hospital there! Having my large childhood textile artworks displayed in children’s medical facilities would be a dream come true!

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X is for extra big


‘The Way I Like It’ is the quilt that got a bit out of hand this year - it ended up far bigger than it was supposed to! (I have certain maximum dimensions that I try to stick to - often I push past those boundaries, but this time I went way over!)


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Y is for yellow wattle blossoms


Z is for zzzz

and sleep. I have spent far more time resting than what I would like, this year, as we continue to deal with adrenal fatigue and other related health issues. However, we are also extremely grateful to note that my health is much better than it has been in the past few years!


In all my creative pursuits I am conscious that all this is possible by God’s grace, and I am thankful to Him for these opportunities. I am also deeply grateful for, and in awe of the beautiful world that He has created, and which inspires my creative journey. I look forward to seeing what He has in store for 2019.

Piecing a Botanical Quilt: a quiltmaking workshop

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Requests to teach appear in my inbox on a regular basis. I’ve held back up till now; partly because I’ve been busy with little children, and partly because I’ve been undecided about what to teach and how to teach it. Bits of conversations over recent years with various people have led to my workshop titled ‘Piecing a Botanical Quilt’. The workshop is an introduction to my method for piecing quilt tops, by working through a pattern for a simple eucalyptus quilt. 

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I’m honoured that the Geraldton Patchwork Club were happy to be my guinea pigs! One of their members has emailed me maybe annually for a number of years, asking if this was the year I would come and teach a workshop for them. So last week I made the road trip up to Geraldton for two days and two nights to teach this workshop for the first time, and I’m so glad I did.  I had a lovely group of 20 quilters, who were all open to trying something new. A bunch of ladies were pushed right out of their comfort zone with this project, but I’m so pleased with how they persevered through it! 

We covered curved piecing and partial seaming, and then spent quite a bit of time wrapping our heads around the order in which the quilt pieces could be stitched together.

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I was happy to see that several students finished their quilt top within the two days (and am secretly glad that not everyone did - it means that I had gauged the challenge level of the workshop accurately). And I’m looking forward to seeing more finished projects in the coming months, as the other ladies were well on the way with theirs. 

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Oh, and if there are any quilt groups out their looking to set up a new club room at any stage, maybe chat to someone from the Geraldton Patchwork Club - they have just about the perfect setup (it was a pleasure to teach in it!) Thanks for two very enjoyable days, ladies! Also thank you for your helpful tips for making the pattern a little easier to follow!

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Why I Like to Make Small Scale Textile Art

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Well, actually, usually I find myself making larger artworks, as I find myself with ideas that grow well beyond the scope of a small 'canvas'. But today I want to talk about making small scale textile pieces.

When I first began on this textile journey, I made a bunch of small experimental pieces to play with different techniques, mediums and ideas. This was a very worthwhile process, and one that I should revisit more often. But the results were purely experimental, and not artworks in their own right.

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Then Ozquilt Network put on an exhibition called Australia Wide. This was a member showcase exhibition featuring textile artworks that were all 40cm by 40cm (and could therefore travel reasonably easily around the country and even internationally). I entered that exhibition, and ever since, artworks of this size have become an integral part of my artmaking. 

40cm by 40cm is a great size for trying out something new (an idea, technique or medium) without too big an investment of time or materials. At the same time, the resulting piece is large enough to have a presence of it's own as an artwork, and to be able to express ideas. I also love that my artworks of this size are more affordable than my larger pieces (I am acutely aware that those pieces are beyond the budget of many people). My Eucalyptus Excerpt series has proven hugely popular!

All this brings me to Australia Wide 6, which is being presented by Ozquilt Network Inc. this year. My artwork 'making sense 2' will be included! This is the second in a new series of small artworks. Only two so far, but I'm hoping there will be many more! I'd actually told myself that there weren't going to be any more small childhood textile artworks, so not sure what happened there! Actually, one thing that happened was making the commitment to piece these ones completely by hand. This makes the small scale much more manageable (some of those pieces are tiny!). This is slow stitching, in between the busyness of everyday life, and is one reason why I hope there will be many more of these. 

 “making sense 2” (c) Ruth de Vos 2018

 “making sense 2” (c) Ruth de Vos 2018

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“making sense 1” (c) Ruth de Vos 2018

 

Something else I love about these ones is that floral fabric by @gertrudemade and Ella Blue fabrics. I'd been thinking about vintage children's illustrations and vintage books and vintage floral design. I'd even considered designing my own vintage-style florals to incorporate into my artwork - until I remembered this line of fabric. This is bark cloth, and it is such a joy to work with! I think it must definitely be time to cut out the next piece in the series and start stitching!!

Oh, and be sure to check out Australia Wide here if you can't get to it in person!

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Beauty from the Bush

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I have a few artworks on display as part of 'Beauty in the Bush' this weekend.

Beauty from the Bush is a celebration of Western Australian botanic art about native flora — in particular its wildflowers. It is intended to spark interest in our special environment and the global renaissance in the old and respected field of botanic art and illustration.

Where: Avocados, corner Mount Street & Brookton Highway, Kelmscott, WA
 
Opening
5 - 7  PM Friday 22nd June 2018
 
Exhibition is open to the public:
Friday 22 June 7:30 AM - 4 PM
Saturday 23 June 8 AM - 4:00 PM
Sunday 24 June 8 AM - 5:00 PM
 
Entry is Free

Exhibited are a range of art, artists, methods and materials, intended to challenge the understanding of the boundaries of this art form, and how botanical art might be fostered in Western Australia.

 

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A drawing every day except Sunday

I started out this year with a daily drawing project (except Sundays). There are a few reasons why I love a daily project like this. One being that making a regular little creative habit like this is so good for my creativity all round - it keeps me drawing and making through days and weeks where I might otherwise be inclined to neglect this practice. It’s also a little window in my day for just playing on paper, not matter what other ‘more important’ creative projects I might be busy with. Setting a few parameters for a daily project (e.g. illustration size, theme, medium) forces me to get creative with how to create new and interesting drawings within those parameters (once the initial ideas run out). And drawing every day like this is a great way to build up a body of work to draw on in future artistic projects. I can certainly see that elements of some of these drawings will inform future art quilts! (Stay tuned!). I’ve wrapped up this project for now, though, and have listed 100 of the drawings in my web shop, so that they are now available for purchase.

Textile Art: The Former Things Have Passed Away

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The Former Things Have Passed Away’, (c) Ruth de Vos 2018
156cm by 156cm
hand-dyed, machine-pieced, hand- and machine-quilted

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Entering the Mandorla Art Award has been on my bucket list for a few years now. When I saw that the theme text for this year was Rev 21:1,2 I knew that I had to enter this one - I love that Bible passage!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Rev 2:1-4

I mulled over this passage and how to create an appropriate artwork in response to it - one that is true to my style, but also does justice to the passage. I jotted down pages of notes and messy thumbnail sketches, and for the longest time, felt quite paralysed by fear and indecision - as there really is no way to do justice to such a glorious Bible passage in one artwork, or even a whole body of artwork. 

After that, I figured all I could do was my best humble effort, and, although the finished artwork was not accepted into the Mandorla Art Award, I’m still so glad that I tried. 

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I started out with a spherical shape symbolic of the new earth descending, with the darkness (and the screen-printed tears) at the bottom of the artwork representing ‘the former things’. I incorporated a panel of raw dupioni silk vertically through the centre of the artwork to represent to river running through the new Jerusalem, and foliage growing on either side to show the tree of life.

What was most important to me, though, was to depict the joy that this passages evokes for me, and the joy of every redeemed soul in the presence of the glory of God - for that’s what the new Jerusalem is - all the saved living eternally with God. Hence all the faces. I wanted to include old and young, male and female. 

I think that my favourite is the old man (top). His joy is more quiet than the others, but that doesn’t make it less. I’ve tried to suggest a whole crowd of people by incorporating some more stylised figures as well as stitching many more people into the background of the artwork. The stitched figures are all drawings of people made by children (see the detail shots at the end of this post). If you’re a long-time follower you will know that I love children’s drawings of people, and it seemed so appropriate to include them, as it references the child-like faith that we are all called to have.

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How to Make an Art Quilt

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Every new artwork begins with lots of drawing. Even before the drawing begins, though, I like to think about my subject matter. I like working with a theme, to creative a cohesive body of work. I see ideas for quilts in everything so selecting a theme also helps me to focus on something. I consider several things in choosing a theme. My worldview is important. I am inspired by God’s creation, and how everything works and fits together in it. The laws of nature, botanical and zoological interrelationships, and the God-given role of man in the natural world all stimulate me to further explore new ideas and designs in my textile art.

I also want to work with subject matter that speaks to me personally and is available to me in my immediate environment.

I currently have two themes happening in my artwork. My botanically themed artworks highlight the beauty of the plants and trees that are ‘everyday fare’ for us here in Australia. There is so much beauty in the details of each tree, for example, in the veins that produce pattern and texture on a eucalyptus leaf, and the huge variety of colour to be found on a single plant.

My childhood-themed artworks, although not quite as popular as the botanical pieces, are my current favourites, perhaps largely because they are more challenging for me. Observing children at play, these artworks aim to capture a sense of childlike wonder. As a mother I am privileged to observe that awe of little children discovering for the first time things which we as adults have long since taken for granted. Observing small children notice budding flowers, snail trails, ripening fruit, textured leaves, floating bubbles, dripping rain and pencil marks on paper for the first time is a wonderful reminder of just how special these ordinary things are. I hope I can retain some of that wide-eyed wonder myself, and continue to express it in my work.

Having decided (perhaps broadly) on a theme, I do a lot of sketching. This time is fun, but can be frustrating. I never know how long it will take to develop several quilt designs I am happy with. I am thankful to be living in the age of digital cameras, as I like to take hundreds of photos of my subject matter, from all different angles, as a reference throughout the whole design process.

At first I draw without too much intent, familiarising myself with the subject matter. Then I will start developing my ideas, trying various alternative designs, and stylising my drawings so that they lend themselves to the style of quilts I like to make (specifically, to machine piecing). This process takes place in my visual diary, which is an important record to me. I constantly refer back to original ideas and inspirations as recorded there. By the end of this stage, I have a collection of all kinds of sketches – photorealistic (for familiarisation of subject), line drawings (with piecing in mind), quick thumbnail sketches, bold marker drawings (for developing overall layout without getting bogged down in detail), simple design layouts, as well as detailed line drawings with the quilting in mind.

I find quick thumbnail sketches very useful for working through a bunch of potential designs for a given artwork. When I’ve settled on a design concept that I like, I draw it up more completely. 

The final step in the drawing process is to convert my sketched design to a pattern for piecing. This pattern shows all the cutting/seam lines for the final artwork. In other words, each white space in the sketch represents a separate piece of fabric.

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When I think I have a final design which looks right and expresses what I want it to, I sit on it for a bit. I want to be sure that the design addresses the principles and elements of design. I want my quilts to be good quilts, but even more importantly I want them to be good art. There are currently several things I am specifically looking for in my finished designs. I want to see contrast of tone and scale, for the sake of an interesting quilt.

I also want to see various layers of interest, so that the viewer’s eye is caught from a distance and the viewer is drawn to take a closer look. I then want the viewer to be rewarded by a layer of interest that can only be appreciated up close (for example, detailed or textured quilting).

As an aside, I’d like to say at this point, that although I have already learnt so much in my quiltmaking journey, and had work accepted into many exhibitions and publications, with each new artwork I feel rather exposed when I first share it with others. I see the weaknesses, glaring or subtle. I have doubts about the quality of my work, and tell myself that those earlier pieces were probably just flukes. I questions whether my work should be more abstract or more representation or whether anyone even cares. To some extent, doubts like this are probably healthy, as they force me to aim higher with each new artwork. They force me to pay closer attention to the principles of design, and also to be true to the aim and subject of each piece.

Some quilts don’t make it to completion, because after a bit, I really just don’t like them. And a bunch that have made it to completion are now sitting on my ‘to burn’ pile. (Yes, that is a point of much debate according to my husband and friends, but they can debate all they like – I figure that decision is mine !). One of the reasons I find the design phase the difficult stage is because I like to work systematically. I like to breakdown my quiltmaking into manageable tasks, with specific daily aims for what I’d like to achieve, but of course there is no rushing this design phase. My quilts are all machine pieced and machine quilted, sometimes with screenprinting before or during the piecing. The nature of the work is therefore such that each artwork is almost completely designed before I get started with cutting out the fabric, leaving only a little room for adapting and developing the design down the track through screen printing or embroidery/quilting.

I usually colour a small image of the final design with coloured pencils as a guide for selecting fabrics later. More recently I have been taking a photo of a clear line drawing of the finished design and colouring it in using computer aided painting tools. This is much quicker than colouring with pencils, and more importantly, allows me to easily change colours around and try different colour schemes with a few clicks of the mouse. Or if I’m being lazy, I just wing it and decide on the colours as I go. (That gets a bit hair-raising on a larger artwork!).

When I am happy with the design it is developed by computer or by hand into a pattern that can be pieced. This involves drawing in seam lines to make the quilt piecing managable. (For example, the only way to neatly piece a pointy gum leaf is to continue a seamline through the point of the leaf).

Many of my early eucalyptus quilts where drawn up on the computer using a computer aided drawing program, with the advantage that they could easily be scaled or otherwise changed. After that, my quilts depicting children were hand drawn, and scaled using the photocopier. I’ve since discovered that there are apps that let you enlarge a drawing to the exact size you want it to be, and then print it over as many A4 papers as necessary. So my designs now get enlarged that way. I scan my final drawing and print it out to the correct size, on multiple sheets of A4 paper. The full-scale design is patched together with sticky tape (sometimes there are as many as 80 sheets of paper), but this beats hours (and small change) I used to spend at the library photocopier trying to enlarge the image to exactly the right size.

So at this point in the process, I have a full size pattern for my artwork, depicting where all the seamlines will be in the finished quilt (or in other words, showing each colour ‘block’ or shape) as well as a small-scale colour plan.

The full-scale drawing is traced onto the ‘sticky’ side of iron-on interfacing. This interfacing becomes my working pattern. I add notch markings to all the seam lines. These are important for matching the pieces exactly together, down the track.

At this point, I’m ready to start cutting out the pieces for the new artwork.

cutting out

The next stage in the quiltmaking process involves cutting out the quilt pieces.

The interfacing pattern is cut into individual pieces and each piece is ironed onto the correct colour fabric. I have a very systematic process for this. I work on a small, manageable section of the quilt, and have my chosen fabric colour palette laid out on my work table. I cut out the interfacing, place each piece on the correct colour, and then take the required fabrics to the ironing board to iron them on to the fabric. Once a piece of interfacing is ironed onto the correct fabric I cut around it, leaving a seam allowance.

It is not necessary for the seam allowance to be exact, because in the piecing stage I match the edges and notches of the interfacing rather than of the fabric. The interfacing remains in the quilt. I find this method the best way for me to achieve smooth and accurate piecing.

puzzling it back together

Once all the bits have been cut from the correct colour fabrics, the next step is to lay them out ready for stitching together. 

I already mentioned that the cutting out happens in small sections. So now at this point I have little piles of quilt bits, with each pile belonging to one small section of the quilt. When the quilt bits are placed upside down so that the interfacing is showing, I puzzle them together (one pile/section at a time). The interfacing I use has a ‘grain’ to it, which helps me see which way around the piece needs to go. I also look at matching up all the ‘notches’ or ‘dashes’ that I drew when tracing out the design. Once a section has been laid out correctly (this is very much like doing a jigsaw puzzle), it is ready to be stitched together.

That’s the basic idea, at least. Very often I muddle up this systematic process somewhat by incorporating some screenprinting or painting in between. This involves taking all the background pieces from the various piles, laying them out right side up, painting or printing them, and then putting them back in their piles. In some quilts I will then do a bit of piecing/stitching before printing over the top again. 

(Once this quilt was pieced together, for example, I wasn’t quite happy with it, so I unpicked some of the seams and did some more painting and screenprinting on it).

piecing

This is my most favourite part of my art making process -sewing all the little bits together. It is exciting every time again to watch the quilt design take shape – and it almost always looks even better than what I’d imagined.

Once all the quilt pieces have been laid out (see previous post), the stitching begins. It’s as simple as taking two adjacent quilt pieces, placing them right sides together and pinning them together carefully so that their adjoining interfacing edges match up exactly and then stitching right along the edge of the interfacing. (This is where the dash/notch markings become critical (to enable accurate pinning). I usually tackle the more complex sections first (like faces and hands). Most of my piecing happens on the sewing machine, but more recently I have started piecing faces and hands by hand – it’s much more accurate and also much more relaxing (when I do the tricky bits by machine I often have to do a lot of unpicking!)

Sometimes I need to use partial seaming techniques .

I already mentioned that this is my favourite part – I can get completely caught up in this for hours at a time. (I tell myself that ‘I’ll just stitch one more bit’ and then ‘just one more’ and so on…). And if I’m getting to the last bits of a quilt, not even dinner or bedtime can get in the way of finishing it up! 

 The art quilt is then completed in the same way as all quilts - it is layered with a backing fabric, quilted, and bound.

Come into my studio: a tour

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 Do you like to peek into other people’s studios and workspaces as much as I do?

I’m making a start on a couple of new projects, so I spent some time this week cleaning up my studio. (You call it procrastination, I call it an important part of the creative process!). Which means that right now is the perfect time to show you around the studio!

This space needs to fulfil several purposes. First of all, it’s the place where all my messy creative work happens (hand stitching and sketching often happen in the living room) so it needs to cater for cutting, sewing and screen printing. It also needs to store art making supplies and equipment, along with finished artworks and products as well as framing and packaging supplies.

On on top of that, this room is part of our family home and includes space for the creative activities of six children, along with a small ‘home theatre’ (it’s the best place in the house for this).

I love working at making sure my studio (and the rest of my home) is set up to work effectively for us. This means that as requirements and priorities change, so does our home. You can see a studio peek from some years ago over here, to see how things have changed here.

The studio is a awkward, roughly L-shaped room with raked ceilings. It is located above our kitchen and laundry and has window openings that look down onto the dining and living room. (We designed it this way, to maintain a connection between the studio and the rest of the home. I knew that as a stay-at-home Mum, I wouldn’t be able to get into my studio half as often if it was too separate from our living spaces!). 

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Entering the studio from one end, there is an artwork storage cupboard that my husband Phil built (spoiler alert: Phil built most things in this studio!) . This cupboard allows me to store completed art quilts rolled up and away from dust and sunlight. (It’s to the right of this photo). 

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Moving on, we find our tiny ‘home theatre’ which consists of a small wall-mounted TV and a comfy couch. It gets used primarily in July when Phil enjoys the Tour de France, while I sew like a woman possessed. We also use it for family movie nights throughout the year. And it’s the perfect place for toddlers to nap close by to where Mum is sewing. 

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Behind the couch is my cutting/printing table. I love that it is higher than a regular table, and that it has a shelf for storing larger items on. When I use it for screen-printing, I unroll the wadding/fabric sandwich that is stored on the hooks at the end of the table, and spread that over the table - it makes a perfect printing surface, and also protects the table. 

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Under the raked ceiling is a storage unit that was custom built for those black crates that we picked up from our local salvage yard. We love these crates, and use them all through our house. They are sturdy and also stack on top of each other if necessary. These ones containing framing and packaging supplies, as well as some craft supplies for the kids.

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Behind the cutting table is my design wall, perfect for reviewing works in progress, or for photographing completed artworks (that is what those two black studio lights are used for). I love my studio very much, but one thing I would change in any future studios, if possible, would be to make this three times as wide!

Under the other raked ceiling is an L-shaped desk which is dedicated to the children’s creative endeavours. One end is a general craft corner, while the other is my daughter Hannah’s sewing corner (one of the perks of being the only girl!)

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Continuing around the corner, we find my sewing spot. I love sitting here by the window - the light is perfect. My sewing table is our old square dining table. Phil has modified it to accomodate my sewing machine, so that it is basically a large quilting table. And of course, the most important element in the studio would have to by my Bernina 710 sewing machine. I’ve been a Bernina girl ever since I started sewing on my machine. I only ever use basic functions, so I wasn’t very interested in fancier models, until this one came out with extra throat space. I’m so happy to have that extra space for man-handling my larger artworks! 

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Past the sewing table, there is more storage (mostly fabric and sewing supplies) and an ironing station. These are IKEA Billy bookcases - perfectly versatile storage! 

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The ironing station looks like a mess of power chords - that’s because this iron doesn’t switch itself off at all, so I’ve set it up so that when I turn the iron on, the light above the ironing board switches on. I live in fear of forgetting to turn off the iron!

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Thank you for joining me! Now to get on with making new messes here!