Saturday, February 27, 2010

Guest speaker: leftovers

I said in a recent post that some of my nice leftover projects came from scraps given to me by Marti Plager. That's past tense, because Marti no longer gives me her scraps -- she makes leftover quilts herself. I kick myself because I'm the one who showed her how to use the scraps! I asked Marti if she would like to comment about leftovers, so she's the guest speaker today.

My first exposure to using leftover scraps was Kathy Loomis bringing some of her finished work to the critique group. I marveled at what she could do with what other people were throwing away. She loved taking home scraps from a workshop or acquiring a huge garbage bag from friends who were in the midst of tidying their studio.

I really wanted to understand Kathy's mind and how she worked. She works and thinks so differently than I do.

First, I gave her a "small" bag of leftovers which she sewed into nine 12-inch blocks and gave back to me, telling me I should put them together in a composition and quilt it. I did this and the resulting piece still graces my studio wall from time to time for wonderful inspiration.

Then I needed some personal instruction to see if I would really like this approach to making art.

I love it. It is so freeing. I just start sewing pieces together, making small units and then they start to talk to me and tell me what they want to be. I marvel at what can be made using bits of fabric that will not be used for anything else. Why do I find this approach so freeing? It is like gestural drawing, very playful and certainly not wasting "good materials". I come to the sewing machine with no expectations and an open mind. It is a fun and anxiety-free creative endeavor. An activity we all need from time to time.

While Kathy enjoys using the scraps of others, I have no desire to do this. I have enough scraps of my own. I think people who like to use scraps from others are the same folks who enjoy garage sales, flea markets and antique shops. I am not one of these people. I don't like to collect stuff just for the joy of collecting. I might have to dust it or find a place for it. Nothing thrills me more than when I use up what has previously languished on a shelf. However, it is interesting to see your own scraps in the hands of others. The way Kathy uses my materials never crosses my mind. It's amazing. I enjoy seeing what happens. It expands my mind and enhances the way I see the world.

Marti most frequently makes leftover quilts with the scraps from one or two of the big quilts she has just finished. She had a solo show a couple of years ago in which she showed the leftovers alongside the big quilts -- a lovely approach that allows you to see the DNA passed along from the first generation to the second. Here's one of the pairs where the lineage is particularly clear. You can see more at her website.

Marti Plager -- Tolerance

Marti Plager -- Destination 3

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