What’s Next?

creative process

A little over a week ago, I attended the opening of Threads of Resistance, an exciting and invigorating day indeed! Throughout the two days’ drive to and from the exhibit — indeed every day since my quilt was accepted — I have been quietly asking myself, “What’s next?” I have a piece in progress that simply screams to be made (working title “Embarrassed”). But I have not been sure whether that piece and my “Learn to Question — Learn to Lead” piece are the beginning of something new or simply isolated screams I had to let go before proceeding to other things.

Three separate messages tell me where these screams are leading.

1.) As I often do, I have been keeping notes to myself for months about possible quilt ideas, and one in particular keeps percolating to the top of my various lists.

2.) Yesterday I replied to an email from an old friend and artists’ mentor. Her question was, “Whats next?” My reply, that I intend to make pieces that make people think,  tumbled out so easily I knew my list-topper idea was dead on.

3.) Today Sue Bleiweiss posted on her blog about Working in a Series, and her suggestion of using a mind-map to get started resonated LOUDLY.

OK, OK. I get it. The series at the top of my lists is screaming out as much as “Learn to Question…” did. So I started a mind map about that percolating series, sort of. This map includes some other ideas, but the Screaming Idea is the one about feelings that erupt because of the behavior of others:

Made with Padlet

One thing I have learned over the years is that a piece I make from the intensity of my own feeling, out of passionate anger/love/frustration (or equally heartfelt humor), is the one that works best and delivers in my “recognizable style” (see what Sue says about the importance of this).

So here I go. The first piece, working title “Embarrassed,” is in progress. It is highly political, though others in this series may be broader in scope. That’s something I’ll play with and work through along the way. Stay tuned.Embarrassed (WIP)

Insistent storm

Threads of Resistance

Detail: Learn to Question– Learn to Lead

I know what it feels like when a storm is rising. I know the risk-taking urge to step outside as the winds rise, pulling along a tropical storm. I love watching a fierce blizzard approach across the lake, gluing me to the window. I have stood in my driveway, gawking at the green skies when tornadoes are near. I feel the insistent, impending storm of the Threads of Resistance show with the same excitement.

As I made my quilt, Learn to Question — Learn to Lead, I just knew what it had to be. A passion inside drove me to get those questions out there. But I never really stopped to think about the level of passion that spawned the very idea of Threads of Resistance in the first place. As we approach the opening (still over a month away), I am stunned by the scope of what the Artists Circle is doing to respond to the insistent storm of their own passion.  They have posted about their behind the scenes efforts, including the publication of the exhibit catalog.  Mini-tornadoes have spawned from the main storm: Their post does not even mention the Zazzle shop with Threads of Resistance merchandise, or the magazine article that has been published.

I plan to attend the opening, and I have a feeling it will be insistent and stunning, and I don’t mean just in the visual sense.  I can’t wait.

Sherwin Williams Problem Solving

about a quilt, Threads of Resistance

As soon as I received the acceptance from Threads of Resistance, I knew I had to figure out HOW I was going to make a standard 4″ quilt show sleeve work for hanging Learn to Question — Learn to Lead. Since the “top” of the piece is far from a straight line,  the challenge is figuring out how to make the “appendages” at the top stand up and stay against the wall when the quilt is hanging from a sleeve located about 7 inches down from the quilt’s highest point. When I hang quilts like this myself, I am able to finesse the rather meaty upper points into staying vertical. But this quilt has to travel to twelve venues over a couple of years… and I won’t be there to hang it!

So the first thing I did was to post my challenge on the SAQA discussion board. I received a couple scolding admonitions about planning ahead but mostly some great brainstorming and suggestions. Among the advice was very helpful email from Anne Daughtry with a reference to her Aya Sophia quilt which has some “appendages” of its own, held in place by dowels and velcro-ed fabric “guy wires” on the back of the quilt. About the same time as I read her email, I talked it over with my son (whose last minute artworks in high school were notorious for their ingenuity). Thanks to these two geniuses, I had some ideas.

Then I walked into my studio where two paint stirrers waved to me from the couch where they have been waiting for a house project for a couple of months. Perfect! Those are not paint stirrers; they are now “stiffener slats.” Here are some pictures of the step by step solution:


Slats inserted into packets I sewed to the back of the quilt BEFORE adding the show “sleeve”


Adding the “sleeve” OVER the pockets for the slats so the rod will press up against them and keep them vertical. (This shot actually shows the quilt back upside down.) Note how the slats extend below the rod sleeve.


Instructions and labels added to the stiffener slats — or sticks. Note that I added twill tape ties to keep them attached to the back of the quilt so they won’t get lost. That was my son’s idea!

Thanks to Kip, Anne,  and Sherwin Williams, the quilt is now almost packed and ready to go.

Art and Responsibility

about a quilt, about me, pondering, Threads of Resistance

Today is a good day. I am stunned by great news and beginning to realize the responsibility it carries.

My morning email included notification that my quilt, “Learn to Question — Learn to Lead,” has been accepted into Threads of Resistance, a  juried show of fibre art organized by The Artists Circle.  I had hoped and dreamed of this one, but never thought it could happen. I knew there were over 550 entries. I had already begun to ask myself where else I might send my quilt when inevitably declined. Then, WHAM, there was the email. I have taken a risk of playing in the big arena and have succeeded for now. To say that I am celebrating is an understatement.

But what comes with the such an acceptance?  I quickly realize that placing a quilt in a show is just a first step. It comes with an obligation to speak clearly about my message and about the messages of art in general. When a jury says, “This piece is worth noticing,” they also challenge me to carefully craft the words I share about it. They are saying that my subsequent art quilts should speak ever more articulately. Today makes me realize that taking the time to talk about artwork and the passion that erupts via creative process is important.

I converse in many venues, many of them unaccustomed to “artists” or even to valuing artwork. As a teacher to the core — and an “endorsed” artist for the moment — it is my responsibility to foster dialog that might draw in those who never even look at art and probably never talk to anyone outside their own political bubble.

As my artist’s statement  with this piece says,

….Today we ALL need to question: question the media, question the tweets of our “leaders,” question our devices, question our sources, question our own friends and family – even question ourselves – to be the citizens and leaders necessary for our nation’s survival.

Today I know that part of this self-questioning is to ask,

What will I DO with this success? How can I amplify and extend the impact of my quilt’s message?

I hope I can live up to the responsibility.


500+ Voices

about a quilt, Threads of Resistance

Always a glutton for self-esteem-bashing, today I decided to find out just how many of us were inspired to enter the Threads of Resistance quilt show. Not surprisingly, the call for entries received over 500 responses. That’s over 500 voices speaking up about their concerns. A quick search for the #threadsofresistance hashtag turns up some fantastic pieces on blogs, Instagram, Facebook, etc. As the show’s Facebook page says, the juror is going to be mighty busy. Apparently, they must select 40-60 pieces from the loud crowd of responses. Imagine listening to over 500 voices and trying to single out each one to hear what it has to say. Yes, each voice offers two images and an artist’s statement, but the aggregate must be visually deafening.

This show will be both powerful and devastating. The power of the selected voices will undoubtedly resound like screams inside a cathedral, some blending into unexpected harmony or countermelody. The silenced ones, those not invited into the show, will remain voices crying out in their personal wildernesses. As I prepare myself for that fate, I am thinking about where I want my piece to go if rejected. I want young people, parents,  teachers, citizens, and leaders to see it, get to know it, wonder about its questions.  I will resist the urge to fully publish my artist’s statement here until after it is declined by the show… out of respect for the jury process. In the meantime, take a look and wonder a bit yourself. Do you ask these questions? I hope you can hear my voice speaking the questions among the 500+ other voices. As the title of the piece says, “Learn to Question – Learn to Lead.” [click to enlarge and ZOOM IN to read up close, please.]

LearntoQuestion LearntoLead

Learn to Question- Learn to Lead • Candace Hackett Shively 2017 • 44W x 39L • This and all images on this blog are ©Copyright Candace Hackett Shively. All Rights Reserved