08 November 2007

A Visual Moment

I'm not very good with computer hardware. I've never been able to install a printer on my first (or even second) try. Scanners fail regularly in my presence. And I've been known to have problems with jump drives.

So when my dear friend C encouraged me to get a digital camera, I was skeptical. I can deal with dropping rolls of film off at the grocery store, but hooking up a camera to a computer and then downloading pictures seemed nearly impossible.

But I bought a beautiful camera and took it on my trip to England. Taking pictures there went well and I was able to download them after a couple aborted attempts. But then fright took over. My camera went into my purse and rarely came out. I took the occasional picture, but never downloaded them. They simply sat, in some arcane computer language, stored in my camera.

C would ask how my camera was working and I would say fine. But I was lying. I was afraid of the foolish thing and rarely touched it. Finally, I admitted the truth and she offered to help me learn.

You know what I learned? That taking pictures and downloading them is pretty darn simple. I can't believe I was so scared. So I took a bunch of photos and began cropping and manipulating them. (Although I am a wimp about computer hardware, I have no such fears about software.)

Here is the first picture I cropped after downloading.

And here is the original.

The original picture was a pine cone in grass, pretty enough, but nothing special. But by cropping out a very small portion of the picture, I've come to appreciate the little details. Delicate cracks and tiny chips mark the scales. And the highlights on the edges of the scales are contrasted by the dark shadows inside.

Life is busy, and it's not often that I remember to truly look as the world flashes by. But my camera allows me to pause the world for a bit and really learn to see each visual moment.

06 November 2007

In which Kimberly asks herself, "Where is the Art?"

Four days into my fiber art blog and there is nary a shred of art to be found. I made that observation when I sat to post tonight (in keeping with NaBloPoMo). And that observation led me to a realization about myself.

I am first and foremost a writer. As much as I love visuals, words are my preferred method of self-expression. When I sit to journal, words pour out freely while I have to remind myself to sketch and draw. When I read blogs that also have photos, I read the words first and then remind myself to study the photos. When I chose my words for the journal challenge yesterday, my first instinct was to write down my reactions rather than sketch out my ideas.

Words have been my friends for years. I was an insatiable reader as a child. My poor mother trolled garage sales and thrift stores to keep me in books. (Even as I child I hated the library. Returning books that had entered my life seemed like a betrayal.) I liked to draw and color, but I loved to read and write.

It's harder for me to express myself through art than words. My visual vocabulary is vastly smaller than my verbal. I have no formal training as an artist, while I was a professional writer for years.

Words have always been my default. But surprisingly enough, art has become my passion.

I am drawn to art. To look, rather than hear. I feel art rather than think it. I create art from emotion rather than reason. I weep with sheer joy in front of paintings and sculptures. Art connects me with the universal while words too often tie me to the specific. Art silences my mind and touches me on a deeper level.

I may have a long-standing preference for the verbal, but I've found that the beauty of art lies in its ability to speak to my heart without any words at all.

Cosmos Key

Today was Tuesday, which is Choose-Day for the journal quilt challenge. I awoke early, wanting to answer emails, run, shower, dress, and breakfast before choosing my words.

Was I procrastinating? Perhaps, because I must admit to feeling slight trepidation as I reached in to select my first word. Why was I nervous? It's the beginning of a year long commitment and I was a little afraid of too difficult a juxtaposition. But I got over myself and grabbed my box of words.

I slid the little slips of paper around and around in my fingers, as though waiting for a shock to tell me, "This is your word." Finally I stopped waiting and just pulled one out. Cosmos, it read.

"How cool," I thought, recalling glorious images of galaxies and star clusters from the Hubble Telescope.

So I reached in again and shuffled the slips around. Key, read the second.

"Not another noun! I don't want to waste my nouns," was my initial (and honest) reaction.

Cosmos. Key. Two beautiful words on their own.

Cosmos: universe, the idea of the infinite, of space and time, of alternate worlds and possible galaxies.

Key: unlocking, answers to mysteries, solutions to riddles, doors and pathways.

Together they can ask a question, "What is the Key to the Cosmos?"

And to that I say, "Good Grief! When I first committed to this journal quilt challenge, I never imagined that my first challenge would be to unlock the mystery of the universe."

My first thoughts of Keys and Cosmos were literal and pictorial. Images of golden keys were superimposed on cosmic clouds. Doorways and portals were interspersed among heavenly bodies. But then I thought, even if my words were nouns, my quilt didn't need to be. So I started thinking deeper.

As I began thinking about Keys and Cosmos, my mind began wandering. I started thinking about Eastern Philosophies, about mindful awareness, and about the use of negative space in Asian Art. I thought about how the quality of the life you live isn't always about those big and special moments, but about how you live those moments in-between. And then I began thinking about space, and how it is so vast and empty. The stars in those glorious clusters captured by the Hubble telescope are light-years apart.

Maybe the key to the cosmos isn't to be found in what is. Maybe it's found in the space in-between, in what is not.

05 November 2007

Serendipitous Juxtaposition

How's that for a mouthful? Serendipity and Juxtaposition are two of my favorite words, both in being fun to say and for their meaning. I love the idea of Serendipity, of making fortuitous discoveries by accident. My discovery of my love of quilting is one such moment of serendipity. And Juxtaposition, in addition to being just plain fun to say, holds promise in the act of putting two things side-by-side for contrast.

Last night, as I was lying in bed, words began flashing through my head. These words were rich with promise and resonated with me on a personal level. I had the presence of mind to grab my notebook and pen to record them. Here is the list, in the order that they came to me last night:


Twenty-nine beautiful words--each highly charged with personal meaning. As I lay in bed, contemplating the many and varied ideas for each word, I realized that two words together were even more evocative than one alone. Just on the basis of list position alone,

faded London
momentary linen
pistachio splotch
shattered cosmos

were the initial pairings that jumped out at me. Each one sent my mind spinning with possibilities for design. The combination of two words can be more evocative than a single word alone. It's in the interplay of meanings--how one word complements or changes another--that the magic happens.

Rather than use just a single word for inspiration, Serendipitous Juxtaposition, that is, fortuitous discoveries from the accidental comparison of two words, will be the underlying theme for my year of journal quilts.

So each month, on my Choose-Day, I will draw two of these words from a little box (serendipity in action) and use the juxtaposition of words as my inspiration.

My commitment for today (seeing as Choose-Day is tomorrow) will be to type up these words, cut them into little strips, and find a little box to keep them in. I will also find a little journal that I can use to journal my year of journal quilts.

How's that for an iterative process? Keeping a journal about keeping a journal! But in this case, it seems the right idea to record my thoughts as I create each journal quilt.

I'm so excited. This is going to be good.

04 November 2007

Journal Challenge

When I joined the Quilt Art mailing list, one of the promises that I made to myself was that I would jump on any challenges that crossed my path. Public commitments, such as joining a challenge, work well as motivation for me.

So, when cat in tassie posted about her journal quilt challenge, I decided to jump and play along. I have been thinking about journal quilting for a long time, but have never committed to action. Now I do so.

I, Kimberly, being of sound mind and body, do hereby commit forthwith to participate in a monthly journal quilt challenge. Henceforth, each month I shall choose a topic and then create a journal quilt for that topic. The only restriction that shall be that the quilt be no larger than 10" x 13" (how's that for an arbitrary size pulled out of my arse?) and that I must consider it finished by 11:59 PM on the last day of each successive month. And by finished, I mean complete, NOT perfect. Any technique is allowed and new techniques are hereby encouraged.
Signed, Kimberly

Commitment publicly signed and sealed. Yay me!

My first task tomorrow will be to come up with a list of topics. Since a year is 12 months, that means 12 topics. However, to really challenge myself, I will come up with 20 topics: 12 that I really want to create and 8 that are offbeat challenges.

Tomorrow, after Pilates, I will create my list. I guess, in a way, that is a second public commitment.

Hey, two posts in one day! This blogging thing is a lark. (Says the woman with two abandoned blogs lying dormant in cyberspace.)

First Post!

Ok, ok, ok. This is for real now. I have started and abandoned two different fiber blogs. These are so abandoned that I can't even remember how to log in to post on them. They are out there, somewhere, in a state of suspended animation. Nothing more lonely than a forgotten blog.

Starting this blog feels different. My previous blogs were a lonely cry in the darkness, "Anyone out there?" And I posted once, twice, three times into the ether. Nothing. No one. People may have been out there, but they weren't stumbling onto my blog. So I forgot about my blogs and moved on.

But, just this past week, I joined the Quilt Art mailing list and have already begun interacting with other people who are creating art quilts. There is a community out there and from what I have seen it is welcoming and friendly. I am excited. I won't necessarily be shouting into the ether.

November is NaBloPoMo, which is kind of the blogging and easier version of NaNoWriMo. The idea is to post something on your blog for everyday in November. Well, I've missed a few, but I don't think that matters so much.

They say it takes 30 days to create a habit. Posting everyday for the rest of November should make this blog a habit. And should you find it lying abandonded sometime in the future, please feel free to comment and poke me back into action!