Friday, October 29, 2010

A Paradoxical Experience

Writing a blog can be a paradoxical experience. On the one hand, you feel a bit like someone's watching you dress in front of a mirror, and on the other hand, you are by yourself (in your studio, office, cafe, fill in the blank...) and no none, even if they are sitting at the table next to you, can see what you're writing.

I'm often reluctant to write about process, because I'm superstitious. Superstitious. As if I write about art before it's made, it will be jinxed, or or more accurately, I'll feel bound to carry out what I said, rather than follow the ideas that come to me in the moment.

I'm breaking with that belief, because I'm playing with an idea. After listening to some of my friends talk about their grandchildren, I've begun to feel a sense of longing for my own grandchild, similar to what I felt when my friends began to have children some twenty years ago. The fact is though (much to my delight) my two kids in their early twenties show no signs of settling down and creating grandchildren anytime soon. 

I've decided instead to create a piece for an imaginary grandchild, someone yet unborn, someone who in fact may never be born. (I told this to my daughter Lizzie last night and she wrinkled up her face as if to say, "Are you kidding Mom? That's just weird.") Weird or not, I'm pursuing it.

A Young Hannah, Age 1
I've been collecting fabrics; my daughter's old organdy curtain flecked with sequins, some pink polka dot pajama pants (passed on to me when Lizzie got bored with them), and pieces of cloth that are shimmery, and remind me of Lizzie, who's a dancer. Why not my son's castoffs? Honestly, he and I would both agree that polo shirts and wind jackets (he's a golfer) don't make for great quilt material.

Remember Where We Moored the Boats, Jill Ault, River Gallery, Chelsea MI
Jill Ault, Remember Where We Moored the Boats
I began working with the fabrics I'd selected, putting up the organdy curtain on my studio wall, sewing quilted squares, and tacking them on, only to discover when I stepped back, that I'd left my own tastes out of the equation. I thought of an Aikido class I'd taken many years ago from  Wendy Palmer, who helps people examine their lives from a variety of different perspectives using Aikido. She says that Aikido, a martial art, "is the perfect structure in which to learn how build powerful connections...and live life with an open heart." She also spoke frequently about the moment when you grasp your opponent's hand and how that moment becomes a blending of energies--"feel the blend and move from that point" she would say.

"Feel the blend." These words spoke to me. How could I blend my energy, the energies of my children and someone imaginary? I discovered an answer when I found the work of artist, Jill Ault. Ethereal and otherworldly, her work seemed to suggest the presence of something beyond what we can see with our eyes. It reminded me of the obvious: to trust the art making process, to return to my own intuitive way of cutting, painting, pasting and connecting all the pieces. To create connections between myself and others beyond what I can see on the surface, the invisible openings of the hearts and minds. Stay posted.


  1. I look forward to seeing what you come up with! Jill's work is indeed otherworldly - so beautiful! And polo shirts and wind jackets really won't translate into otherworldly! I also look forward to seeing if you have a change in direction as the work progresses - I ALWAYS seem to! You start out heading west and get hung up on heading west, but a nagging idea that south is the better way eventually gets itself heard, and you end up somewhere you didn't plan to go, but are happy you got there when all is said and done...

    Enjoy dreaming of your 'one day, maybe' grandchild!

  2. I'm also looking forward to seeing where you go with this idea and agree with what Tracey said about changing direction.

  3. Thanks you two! Tracey-- I don't think you could have said it any better--I love the idea that the "nagging idea...eventually gets itself heard and you end up somewhere you didn't plan to go." For me, if the work is any good, that's most likely the case:)

  4. I am curious too to see how this turns out. What about creating a quilt for baby Hannah? That could be the combination of making a quilt for a grandchild and following your own heart. What a cute photo:)

  5. Me too--I've gotten to the point where I realize the structure is the most important thing--in order to break it! Another paradox.

  6. I love this idea and what a beautiful way to express what your heart is longing for. I love what you wrote about a "blending of energies". That's really what a family is, no matter what form it takes. I needed to read this today and I can't really explain why expect I have been missing my own adult children more than usual the last week or so. Thank you!

  7. Hi Hannah
    Sounds like you're ready to 'give birth' to a wonderful deeply menaingful project...your Ault inspiration is a stunning place to begin swimming about for direction.
    I can't wait to see what arrives as you midwife the creative process.

  8. Dianne--Thank you for making that point--family is a constant recalibrating and blending of energies. One of the hardest parts is recalibrating what it means to be a mom once the kids are grown...

    Donna, what a wonderful way to frame it. As an artist, we are able to be both creator and midwife.

  9. Hannah I love this idea...all of these ideas actually. So creative and healing!