Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Vermeer and me
During those zen states, or from now on I guess I will say Vermeer states, time stops ticking away; it is only me and the art, and the joy of developing the idea and then making it happen. Life is really good on those days. I can easily get into Vermeer states with piecing, with calligraphy, with collage. I get them less frequently with quilting, which to me is the work where piecing is the play.
And quilting is what I am doing today, or at least what I was doing before I gave in to the strong desire to go write something in my blog. I’m quilting parallel lines with a walking foot on a large work, and I’m only on my first set of lines. When I get to the second set of lines, crossing the first to make a grid, it will go faster because I won’t have to worry about keeping the yet-unquilted parts of the layers in place. And with the second set of lines, all the pins will be gone so I won’t be stabbing myself.
But right now the quilt is fighting me. After each row of stitching I have to heave the bulk of the quilt back behind me, straighten the bulk of the roll a little bit, decide whether I’m going to hold the roll over my shoulder for the next pass or fold it out of the way to my left. I haven’t timed these steps, but I suspect that I spend more time moving and preparing the quilt than I actually do sewing it.
On days like this I wonder whether it’s a good idea to make art fulltime. But then I remember one of the pop-psychology truisms that really make me mad. It’s the glib remark, “Find work that you love and you'll never work again.”
I think this is simplistic and wrong. You can love, love, love your work and there will be many a day -- perhaps most days -- when you simply do have to apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair and WORK. Like today. If you go through your life just loving what you do, I wonder whether you will ever do excellent work. If you only want to love, not work, then what happens when the first thing you try doesn't come out very well?
Same with love, for that matter. You may love your husband (or mother or child or any significant other) as much as possible, and there are still going to be times when you have to really work at keeping the love going.
Perhaps what grates on me about this slogan is the implication that "work" is bad, and thus "never working again" is good. Au contraire, work is good. Without it nothing is ever accomplished. Vermeer knew that, and I do too, dammit, so I will be going back to the studio in a minute and keep working on that quilt. Well, more accurately, right after I find something to eat….