So… what happened?

about a quilt, creative process

My last post described how much I had learned as I finished a piece, Through Our Hands,  to submit to a very competitive call for entry. Let me rewind a bit to explain what such a submission entails.

For those who are not familiar with this process, art (and art quilt) exhibits publish a description, detailed requirements, and deadlines for the show “call.” Artists who wish to enter a piece (or two or three, depending on the call) submit high quality digital photos of their work(s) via an online system and pay the entry fee, also online. Usually the show asks for other data, such as measurements, a description of materials and techniques, and an Artist’s Statement about the piece(s). We fill out all the forms carefully and breathe a sigh of relief that we at least met the deadline. Then the waiting begins.

When you last heard from me, I was mid-wait. The notifications for this call actually came out early, and my piece was not selected for the show. I will not lie. It stung. But the best thing I learned from this submission was just how supportive my SAQA and local quilt guild “colleagues” are at a time like this. Instead of just saying, “Oh, gee, that is such a nice quilt,” many gave me very specific feedback about strengths of the piece and areas that they found compelling. Some gave me suggestions for other shows where I should enter it. So, after less than a week, I brushed the thread clippings off my sorry self and submitted Through Our Hands to another show. For good measure, I entered four other pieces into a couple of other shows. So the waiting begins again.

I had promised to share an image of the full piece. So here it is, along with the link to see the full journal I kept while creating it. (This link opens in Evernote, and the “notes” in the notebook are numbered chronologically.) Enjoy… and I’ll keep you posted with any new developments.

FULL Shively-ThroughOurHands

Through Our Hands. 2018. 73″L by 31.5″W


The story of an art quilt

about a quilt, about me, creative process

Late last week, I finished a new piece. It required a major push to be on time for a SAQA call for entry. This is the first I’ve attempted a SAQA call, so I have widely vacillating hopes and raw emotions about whether  the piece will “get in.” No matter what happens, I am declaring victory for a variety of reasons:

Size: I managed to work within size specifications: between 30-32″ wide and 72-78″ long. Since I “compose” on a design wall, often by cutting fabrics and arranging them as I go along, these limits required that I pay far more attention than usual to the finished size. I also had to climb up and down a small ladder over and over and over, since I am not a tall person! I’m not sure I want to do a piece this long again.

Learning: The piece used some new techniques I had been wanting to try, and I learned a lot as I went along. Isn’t that what creating is all about? I loved the Derwent pencils/blocks which I was trying for the first time.

Incubation: I read the call about a year ago and allowed it to mull throughout a long fall and winter of planning and relocating to a new state> Letting the ideas steep was great, and I was able to “collect” ideas, techniques, and even language to talk about the theme of the exhibit. Incubation is a very good thing.

Focus: I was able to refocus and go to work on the actual piece as soon as logistics allowed. Once my new studio was unpacked, this piece was my first order of business. All that idea collecting allowed me to launch right in, and I was surprised that I could do so without pause.

Sharing: I kept a (mostly) contemporaneous “journal”  as I worked. One of the requirements of this call is that artists keep such a journal about their submission. Initially,  my thought “snippets” were in “stickies” on my laptop’s desktop or in Word docs strewn around, but eventually I consolidated them all into an Evernote Notebook. Today I numbered the “notes” so they can be viewed in chronological order. It is ready to read publicly, but am not making it available yet.

Reactions: Initial responses to the piece have been very positive. When I create a piece, I completely lose perspective on whether it is any good.  I can easily point out its flaws or areas where I wish I had done something differently, but I cannot step back far enough to view it with brand new eyes. I shared this piece with my local quilt guild just 24 hours after it was finished and with a friend via iMessage yesterday. The verdict: the piece elicited audible positive reactions and excitement. I was validated by the way they articulated ideas they “saw” which I intentionally had NOT said out loud! Even if SAQA’s jurors don’t want it, I am certain someone will.

By now you want to see it…

Sorry, but I am superstitious enough not to show the completed piece until I receive SAQA’s verdict, but below is a tease of some photos in progress. I promise to share the full piece in July, no matter what.


Where have you BEEN?

about a quilt, about me

“Where have you BEEN? ” You may have been asking. Lest you thought this blog was yet another abandoned creative person’s blog, let me tell you where I’ve been since January and what I’m up to now.

The highlights:

  • We packed.
  • We moved. About 730 miles, but who’s counting?
  • We unpacked… most of it.
  • The unhung quilts are stacked on the guest room bed waiting for me to decide which wall is the best match for each — and which will be homeless for now.
  • FINALLY I unpacked and restarted my studio in a fantastic new space. Oh, the closets!!
  • We’re getting to know a new town and working on making new friends.
  • I’ve met some Georgia SAQA folks. Very happy about that! Even tried out a meeting of a local guild. We’ll see where that goes.
  • I dedicated my new studio space by making a piece for the SAQA benefit auction.
  • A new, more complicated and perplexing piece is on my design wall.

Some illustrations:

What have I learned from all this?

Taking an inspiring workshop, then immediately shutting down your studio is not a great idea. Fortunately, my stack of practice exercises from Paula Kovarik‘s January workshop quickly revived my excitement as soon as I found them among the dozens of boxes. (I think my studio filled over 35 boxes and containers of various types.)

Making a piece for the SAQA auction is a double dip: a donation and a chance to revisit and revive the excitement from said workshop. A picture:


Red Dandelion. 12 x12 in. This picture does not really do it justice unless you zoom in. There’s a lot of white on white stitching. (What would you do if you encountered a red dandelion?)

MANY lessons about moving heavy items up and down stairs, etc.

Those things you pack in a “special place” are impossible to find once you get there. Still hunting for a couple of them.

People in Georgia are incredibly friendly. Incredibly.

Coming soon: a post about that new piece I’m working on.

Inside my head and outside the lines

about me, Places I learn

(This is one of a series of “catching up” posts.)

Just before my last post, I spent a week in Vermont at a workshop that still has me thinking almost three months later. I’m pretty sure some of the things we said will echo as I stare at WIPs (works in progress) on my design wall for years to come. The class, entitled Follow the Thread and taught by Paula Kovarik, was part of North Country Studio Workshops.  There were only seven others in the class, all very motivated and strikingly talented. I wrote a long post about it in the private SAQA Facebook group:

I am late in posting this, but I wanted to share a bit more about the experience at North Country Studio Workshops in Bennington, VT. This event runs Tues-Sun of a week in late January every other year. This was the first time I had gone. Paula Kovarik taught our workshop, “Follow the Thread,” and it was outstanding. That adjective is inadequate, really. It was all about line, an integral element of our work as art quilters. Paula is a great teacher, constantly adjusting her plans to the level and questions of the participants (in our case, she said we were particularly strong— made us feel good, anyway). With only 8 in the class, we all learned a lot from Paula and from each other. More importantly, we learned about ourselves and our own work. Paula respects an artist’s voice, even if we can’t hear our own. The group is staying in touch, and Paula issued a followup challenge to prevent us from going home and getting lazy or falling into old habits. I highly recommend Paula and NCSW. Keep an eye out to see who will be the NCSW fiber art instructor(s) in 2020. BTW, you do stay in a dorm and eat on the Bennington College campus, but the food is good and the prices very reasonable without 4 star accommodations. SAQA folks within 8 hr drive should consider it. Flying is more of a challenge, but the organizers do help find machines, etc. for those who fly in. And if you ever consider a Paula Kovarik workshop, move heaven and earth to get there!

 Paula wrote a post with a few pictures to give you an idea what it was like. Take the time to explore the image gallery. Then look at her upcoming teaching schedule. Set aside the time and $$ to take your stitching inside your head and outside the usual lines of your work.

An exercise from a workshop with Paula Kovarik


Silence does not mean lack of activity

about me

It has been many weeks since I have posted here, but I have been thinking about creative stuff, making things — mostly for Christmas, and accomplishing other meaningful tasks. It’s just that the “meaningful tasks” have been more about family and some exciting life decisions!

Yesterday my husband and I took down my design wall and wall-mounted thread racks


Packing up

because we are relocating! My studio is officially off line. Over the next couple of months we will be packing up and dealing with all the logistics of a 700+ mile move. At the end of it all, we’ll be somewhere warmer and closer to one of our grown kids/his wife and accompanying grandkids. We will also be positioned to travel more easily. And (drum roll), my studio will be bigger and have a walk-in closet! As with any major life decision, this one comes with some downsides and the short-term pains of moving. This will be our sixth house in the course of 43+ years of marriage, so we know how to do it, at least.

I look forward to resuming creative posts. For now, I am stashing my creative ideas in an Evernote notebook until I have time and a new space to dive into them. I know I am a very fortunate person to have such opportunities of time and space, and I do not plan to squander them.