Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Taking stock...

After the flurry of activity of getting the submissions out for judging I have been 'taking stock' so to speak of where I am on my list of personal needlework goals - it has been good to think about my journey while I was putting the threads and supplies that I had used for these submissions away.

A specific request from Nicola and many requests from others who I had sent some pictures of some of my recent work has also had me thinking about a lot of things.  All good opportunities and possibilities.  Some of the time was also spent trying to figure out if and how much I wanted to blog about things, and in which direction I wanted to take this blog etc.

 Nicola's request about an 'interview' (not sure why me when there are so many amazing designers and stitchers on her blog?) and her request to send lots of pictures had me going through my 'finished' drawers this weekend and taking pictures of various unframed pieces as well as framed pieces at home and at work.
This proved to be a most interesting exercise...  in the past years I have been so busy on all fronts that I usually went from one project to the next, switching gears rapidly because there was some deadline (actual or self imposed) to meet.... there is no 'problem' per se with that - I have always enjoyed all my stitching BUT the one thing I have not done too much is to step back and just 'look' at the projects that have been completed over the years. There are many, and each one has moved me to the next one...I enjoyed stitching them all and my learning has been cumulative - most of it, with the exception of Japanese Embroidery and Japanese Bead Embroidery - has been self taught.  As I 'studied' certain areas of needlework, I was most fortunate to find and learn good techniques from certain books and/or take 1 or 2 day classes from a handful of very talented people and I will always be indebted to them for writing great books and/or giving so freely of their knowledge.
 
It was interesting to 'look' at all the pieces this weekend - it is my 'stitching history' as my Master teacher Masa Tamura at the Japanese Embroidery Center likes to call it.  She used this term with me  many times and it was her way to try and teach me how to deal with the challenges of Japanese embroidery.  This term encompasses all of the trials & tribulations of learning Japanese embroidery where sometimes I was too keenly aware of the difficulty in trying to stitch something that even remotely resembles the stitched sample that the professional embroiderer has so skillfully provided.  In my case, I was told to just 'leave' something the way it was and move on to the next area... I was told to 'be kind' to myself and that 'Time Carries Skill' ...  well, it is interesting to note that when I 'looked' at all of my embroidery I did not always remember what specific point/stitch/technique I had toiled with - all I remember now, years later, is that there are certain pieces that propelled me to the next level very quickly while others were just pieces that 'honed' skills that had been learned before... one was not better than the other... but all of them were necessary...
Now, I sometimes tell my students to leave something alone when I see that they have tried to work out a stitch for awhile BUT truth be told I have not really been able to embrace this notion for my own stitching yet and suspect that I may never be able to.  I do not have an issue to 'keep at it' until I  finally arrive at  what I consider an 'acceptable' result; sometimes when I am not satisfied with an area on one of my own designs I have no problems with waiting, reading, learning and trying to see if I can come up with a 'decent solution'.  Well,  these last few weeks have taught me that this behavior is good  only to a point... one of my designs languished on the slate frame for two years until I decided at the end of March right after I had finished one submission that I just needed to get it off the frame 'now' and send it off for judging (even though I had a few more years for the 'final due date). I looked at all my sketches, photos, tried a few new ideas and then in the end stitched a simpler solution (thought of 2 years ago) and completed all the areas in about two hours, finished up the paperwork in another hour and my husband whisked the entire package off to the post office right away since he and the rest of the family had thought it was 'finished' years ago!  The submission was judged most favorably on April 2 and is already back and now has a new home in the  appropriate 'finished' drawer of course! And, this was a big lesson learned... the quest to do something better is good but sometimes it is better to leave it be, not think of complicated solutions and get things 'finished'. 

This past week has been a most productive one in some ways but not in actual stitching activity.  After the amazing flurry of activity in the last two weeks of March to get not just one but two submissions out for Spring judging, the past two weeks have been spent waiting for things to arrive... books to arrive at the library or by mail, threads to be delivered or materials to be searched for on the internet, etc.  During this 'lull' I have been thinking about which areas I want to explore, which areas I want to focus on more and also have decided that the stack of custom frames in the closet and the drawers of nicely put away projects is really not a good thing... I need to get things framed up and take the time to do this.... it is part of the process, just as good preparation, thinking and reading and good technique are ... so I will rectify this issue this summer once again and then keep things in drawers and have yearly scheduled framing up sessions instead of letting things languish for years.

During this 'waiting' time and still being influenced by my decision to get things done and not toil over a better solution, I have come up with two designs that will fulfill the requirements of two other submissions.... again ones that I have been thinking about for far too long!  One of the designs is a more refined version of a sketch I had made 2 years ago!  My goal is to focus my time in the next few weeks in getting both of these projects started and finished.

Going through everything in my drawers also made me go through the 'unfinished samplers' drawer.... I know that a lot of you have told me that you 'learn' a lot from my photographs and progress on my sampler.  I truly appreciate your sharing your sentiments.  I have decided that I will continue to work on samplers 'on the side' and will blog about them here.  However, I will not start or buy another Scarlet Letter sampler at this time - I will post on the progress of the samplers that I have started already many years ago and get them finished first and then go through my own collection of samplers first.  At the moment there are only two samplers "out there" that I would even consider buying because of their complexity and one that would be interesting to stich because of it's historical context.  Anyway, I contacted the designers of the reproduction samplers and they all have graciously given me their permission to blog about them.  I have to now really spend some time 'figuring' out how to clearly mark the photographs so that they get the credit for their work in this day and age where sometimes the source of a picture gets lost in all the 'pins' and blogs...  I am amazed at how generously and expediently they responded to my request. 

I will show pictures of the samplers I have chosen for the first group to be finished and outline some of the others in my next post. Thanks once again for your comments and emails of appreciation.
Enjoy 'your' Journey and take the time to 'take stock' if you haven't for awhile!