Wednesday, November 14, 2012


If you have listened to much classical music, you're probably familiar with Haydn's Farewell Symphony.  It's a clever piece in which one by one, the musicians stop playing, put their instruments away, and leave the stage.  Finally there's only one violin playing, and when he finishes, he blows out the candles and leaves too.

It was written as a not-so-subtle hint from Haydn to his employer, the Prince of Esterhazy, who had packed up his entire court, including the orchestra, to spend the summer away from Vienna at his country estate.  Months passed and the employees were getting really antsy to go home, but the Prince apparently was having a good time and not yet ready to change his venue.  The farewells in the symphony were code for "Hey, boss, enough already!  It's time to get out of here!!"

It worked, and the Prince dismissed the players to go back to town and their families.  But meanwhile, Haydn had come to terms with the isolation.  Because he was totally out of touch with the sophisticated music world for those long months, he later wrote, "I was forced to be original."

While many quilters were in Houston earlier this month, and now are blogging about all the neat things they've seen, I've been home, thinking about that remark by Haydn.  I love to go to quilt shows, museums and galleries, each with its particular set of attractions.  I always come home with my head spinning, full of ideas and connections, on an adrenaline high.  But it's a tossup whether that energy will translate into a burst of productivity in the studio, or leave me too excited to accomplish much of my own work.

I think it's excellent advice to artists that they should look at other people's art, and that they should seek out companionship and support from other artists.  I do a lot of that myself, whether in person or indirectly.  Technology and the internet have made it possible to be in close contact with artists around the world, whether you make them your virtual friends or simply keep up with their work.  And the old-fashioned ways such as library books are still as valid as ever.

But maybe there comes a time when you have to just go into your studio all by yourself and make art.  For all you lucky enough to go to Houston this year, that's your challenge.  For those of us who stayed home, that's our challenge too.


  1. Solitude and silence are much under-rated in our busy world - but essential, I find for the appreciation of complete balance in my own working as well as so many other aspects of contentment and general 'digestion'.

  2. Sometimes it's really easy to "adopt" another's style, if it has made a strong impact on one's brain.. I made the mistake of buying a book by a well-known and very distinctively-styled quilter a few years ago.. Three quilts later, I put it on the shelf and daren't go near it.. I had to trash the quilts too..
    It's a measure for me of greatness in an artist if they inspire me to work, but not to copy


  3. I agree with you and sometimes this can be so hard and it also goes in waves i.e. sometimes it feels like it really works and other times it feels like treading water!

    I love art books, galleries and the online world although at times it feels very overwhelming as there is so much!

    I've got a couple of questions going on over on my blog if you have any time at all to hop over, that'd be fab! :)


  4. I don't want to be influenced by someone's style by taking a class or workshop so I never have and never will. I can say that I have been influenced by seeing work by others, but it has help me clarify the direction I want to go with my serious work.

  5. At certain times it feels right to go out into the world and absorb as much art as my brain can handle, and other times either I'm on "overwhelm" and have to back away. Then there are the times in between when it's just right and my own ideas start flowing. I think that my subconscious needs time to process all the "stuff" and assimilate it into art that is my own.

  6. I am so enjoying being isolated right now, and working harder than ever.

    I DID just spend nearly three weeks in Europe, and then after ten days, another two weeks at a textile I think that the contrast and the left over stimulation has something to do with my craving for peace and solitude and inner stuff.

    And WORK. I've started two new pieces, and have made huge inroads in finishing old ones.

    p.s. Those books you have pictured in this post are all you need, aren't they?

    Love your blog.

  7. Solitude also gives time for the run-up to the actual making ... the mulling time, the looking-around time, and the straightening-up-the-room time ... sometimes the whole day passes in various run-up activities while the mind prepares itself for the spark-to-action to land.