Why I Work

This has been a transitional week for me. For months, my work has been focused on a particular set of goals that had to be met.

Sewing Chair

Sewing Chair 2012 21H x 11W

I had complete justification for hunkering down and not leaving the studio for hours on end. I was a monastic quilter. And while getting up at five in the morning is never fun for me, the jettisoning of all other obligations was pure bliss.

Sewing Chair 2012 21H x 11W Detail

Sewing Chair 2012 21H x 11W Detail

This week has been about bills, appointments, meetings, obligations, cleaning, folding, cooking–all the drudgery of my life that has piled up around me.

Kindergarden 2012 29H x 23W

Kindergarden 2012 29H x 23W

Dealing with limited studio time always makes me grumpy. The truth is I like to work all the time.

Kindergarden 2012 29H x 23W Detail

Kindergarden 2012 29H x 23W Detail

On a regular basis, people comment on this, but they don’t all say the same thing.

Under the Big Top 2012 29H x 35W

Under the Big Top 2012 29H x 35W

Some people are impressed with my work ethic.

Under the Big Top 2012 29H x 35W Detail

Under the Big Top 2012 29H x 35W Detail

Others are appalled–”How can you spend SO MUCH time doing that? I’d go crazy.” This does, on a certain level, translate as–you, Maria Shell, are mental.

Ghost 2012 20H x 12W

Ghost 2012 20H x 12W

At first, comments like that, made me defensive and cagey.  But as the years have gone by, I’ve become more confident in my work and my work habits, and I’ve learned not to take what is said about them too personally.

Ghost 2012 20H x 12W Detail

Ghost 2012 20H x 12W Detail

And I now know that most of the time when someone asks how long it took to make a particular quilt, they are usually asking out of admiration. I try to be honest, especially with those who are not familiar with the craft of quilt-making. It’s important that outsiders understand the skills and time needed to do this work.

Burlesque 2012 24H x 10W

Burlesque 2012 24H x 10W

In the early days, baby quilts and raffle quilts were my best excuses for justifying my obsession. I have found this to be a common behavior for makers in general. On the surface, it looks like we are being generous by making things for others, but on the inside we are really just feeding our deep need to create.

Burlesque 2012 24H x 10W Detail

Burlesque 2012 24H x 10W Detail

This is a positive–in that it is a way for many makers to justify the time they spend in creative expression. But it is also a negative–as many makers feel that they can’t or shouldn’t claim making on a deeper level. They are afraid to dig deep and grow original creations that do not have a final destination beyond the actual act of creating.

Musical Chairs 2012 29H x 28W

Musical Chairs 2012 29H x 28W

I am not pointing any fingers here, but I do know this comment will resonate with some of you. If it does, I challenge you to be bold, to be an unapologetic maker.

Musical Chairs 2012 29H x 28W Detail

Musical Chairs 2012 29H x 28W Detail

I won’t lie. Even now, when most of my work is about art, I still question the purpose of all this making. Why am I doing this? These are my answers.

Hipster 2012 34H x 16W

Hipster 2012 34H x 16W

I experience great joy in making and sharing my work. Simply put, it makes me happy.

Musical Chairs 2012 29H x 28W Detail

Musical Chairs 2012 29H x 28W Detail

My work is a series of puzzles about color, pattern, repetition, and construction. If I don’t keep trying to solve these puzzles, I will arrive at my death bed with a feeling of great sorrow, knowing I did not lead the life I supposed to lead.

Family 2012 31H x 20W

Family 2012 31H x 20W

I know there is larger meaning to all of this stitching, but I haven’t quite figured that out yet, and the only way to get to that meaning is by diligently sitting in front of my sewing machine.

Family 2012 31H x 20W Detail

Family 2012 31H x 20W Detail

And my final answer, which is sort of lame but totally honest, is because I have to–not for money, but for sanity.

Hypnotist's Chair 2012 30H x 13W

Hypnotist’s Chair 2012 30H x 13W

I know that in the next few days, I will cross all kinds of necessary tasks off of my to-do list, and once this is done, I will be back to making things. Cause life works that way.

Hypnotist's Chair 2012 30H x 13W Detail

Hypnotist’s Chair 2012 30H x 13W Detail

Next up, Ozzy’s dental appointment.

This entry was published on February 27, 2014 at 4:10 PM. It’s filed under Thoughts and Opinions and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

33 thoughts on “Why I Work

  1. Joanne P. on said:

    You quilted my teacup quilt that I gifted to my mother-in-law before she passed away. I’ll never forget her words when she gave me a family quilt from 1868, that it was loveliness that could last forever…..

    Like

  2. Thoughtful post. I like it. I am very curious to see what you make next, now that you have art making time without the goal of an exhibit…. Go you! Go deep!

    Like

    • Thanks Barb. That’s an interesting question. I am obsessed with what is going on in the indie clothing pattern world, but there are also many quilts in my head.

      Like

      • I am so disressed that Waechters in Ashville, NC, one of the best sources for Indie patterns will close in the near future. Get on their website for bargains now for designer fabrics like Liberty of London and Kaffee Fassett. Great source for buttons too but alas……

        Like

  3. You are certainly among friends who are also compulsed to create. It is our happiness and each challenge we place before ourselves teaches us something to help us with the next. Like life. True artisans have this in common.

    Like

    • It is good to be among friends! It took me a long time to realize that it was OKAY to be a maker. I do not have to justify or make excuses for my behavior, and then to find that there are others out there–now that is a good feeling.

      Like

      • Maria, You have set a wonderful role model for your boys who will see your passion (behavior is learned from both parents) and become independent as a result of watching how hard you and they might have to work to achieve goals. Of course I have three sons too (must be a gene) and Nicole and I can surely identify with you and each other.

        Like

      • Carole- Fletcher wants to be a stand up comic and I always tell him that laziness is the biggest obstacle to being a successful creative. What’s up with this family and the three boy thing?

        Like

      • God in his infinite wisdom knew better than to give me girls so he allowed me to work as a college health nurse where I had 1500 daughters to care for and educate.

        Like

      • Maria-Re what is up with the family of boys–My father had two brothers, no sisters, too. It just keeps perpetuating so there will be enough boys for the preponderance of girls that are born so that none of them will be alone?

        Like

      • The kind of funny thing is that both you and I are from families of all girls. There’s no mixing it up I guess.

        Like

  4. One of your most thoughtful, honest posts. Thanks, Maria.

    Like

  5. Love this series and this post. Thanks.

    Like

  6. I am so thankful that the world has people like you in it making art! Keep at it. This work is just fantastic.

    Like

  7. Brave, focused, committed and beautifully driven. All describe you Maria. I so admire your tenacity and the outspoken truths you share. Many artists are not so honest, and while they know in their hearts that their lives are meant to be as “makers”, you have so perfectly set the story of your life in motion for us. Applause and many kudos.
    I would like to know how the Exhibitions have gone for you…wish I could have been there to walk through both.
    Bethany

    Like

    • Bethany- Thank you! What nice things you have said. It’s funny, this blog is a kind of platform for speaking truths. In a way, it’s a safe yet public place to tell my story. When I started, one of my central goals was to talk to the me of ten years ago. I didn’t know that by telling this story, I would also be finding support and individuals who were like me–that has been a great gift. Thank you. Soon, I will try and write more about the exhibits.

      Like

  8. Very deep, very emotional, very powerful–v

    Like

  9. Colleenkole on said:

    I love your honesty and perspective-be bold -unapologetic maker. I love that phrase. It’s tiring to have to justify what is an essential part of your being. It’s time I give up apologizing for who I am . 🙂

    I get grumpy, too, when I don’t get my studio time.

    Like

    • Colleen- It shouldn’t be a hard thing to claim, but it kind of is. I’m glad you are with me. Maybe we should form a support group? (I’d hit the smile icon here if I knew how.)

      Like

  10. Beautifully put,Maria..I can fully relate.I think you speak for all artists.

    Like

  11. mlise on said:

    I am new to this blog. What I admire is the exchanges between you and a host of supportive people. Beutiful and encouraging, mlise
    P.S. Do you have a newsletter – i*d love to follow you!

    Like

    • Thank you! It’s funny when I started this blog, I had no idea that one of the VERY real benefits is that people will show that they care about you and your work. Which is turn fuels the work and the blog. Who knew? Ahhhhh, the newsletter continues to be a sensitive point for me. Perhaps the quilting gods are speaking through you, and letting me know that yes, I should get my act together and write one.

      Like

      • Act together? How many hours are there in a day up there in Alaska. I don’t see how you can fit in another thing. Surely youneed some sleep too?

        Like

      • Carole- Don’t worry about me and sleep–it’s one thing I rarely miss out on. And you are right, my days are packed, but they are packed with things I love doing which makes it all possible.

        Like

      • mlise on said:

        Oh yes: please do!
        I subscribe to a number of newsletters and find that a simple formula seems to work well for me as a reader. Simply post the beginning of a blog post and after say 5 lines add a “read more” link. Since I in most cases want to go to the website anyway, e.g. for photos or comments 🙂 this works perfectly and shouldn’t be too taxing for the blogger/you.
        I am crossing my fingers, mlise

        Like

      • I know you are right. Thank you for the good suggestions. I’m been thinking about how to make it easy to do, yet interesting for readers. You’ve given me some great ideas for that.

        Like

      • Great idea, saves time and gives info. Thanks for the tip.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: