I'm excited for people who fall in love with soulmates online, finally meet, get married, have babies and great lives together and I have firmly decided that this sounds terrifying and is not for me. However, I've made good artist friends online, and have it in me to think, Someday I'm going to walk into a gallery, meet these people for real, give big hugs and not feel completely freaked out.
One of these people is Paula Kovarik. I first saw her work in the 2013 Quilt National publication (her artwork was used for the end pages...insert big high five here) and I contacted her not long ago to ask if I could use some of her images for a blog post; we've had a couple of online discussions since about the world of textile art (mostly she is answering my neophyte questions) and someday I will spend about 4 hours with this lady drinking tea or perhaps something stronger.
She asked me to participate in this World Wide Blog Hop, which started in Europe and has since hopped all over, so I'm super excited to be included. Here is the link to her Blog Hop post, and below are the 4 questions that I now get to answer:
1. What am I working on?
I'm working on figuring out how best to work. My children are young and they still have many micro needs, one of which is Mama's full attention when they aren't in school. This is the biggest challenge, and I work from home so I feel like my brain never shuts down -- but because my textile work and writing is so informed by family, I have to remind myself to constantly listen, to not be bitter about interruptions (I'd be bitter all the time) and to rise to the challenge of being portable. This means a lot more handwork than I'd ever intended and the need to double check that seat pocket in front of me. Then check it again.
I received an Individual Artist Fellowship grant this year from the Rasmuson Foundation, which is allowing me to take risks (Oh, beautiful patron!). I'm working on several projects that consider various ways to house found objects within the quilt form, all of which focus either on the body or fear or loss (or all three). One series, "Girl Story," explores menarche through the use of heavy embroidery and vintage textiles. It's brave and scary for me to put it all out there. Lastly, I've started this blog, because ever since I graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing 10 years ago, I've been a writer who wasn't writing and I was sick of hearing myself whine about all that.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I'm not the only textile artist who incorporates language, but let's just say we aren't lined up around the block banging down the gallery door. We're sort of a petite group. The impetus to use text in my work comes from writing memoir, but it also comes from a need to go deeper into a visual narrative. I can't help but feel like the the pieces I've completed that don't incorporate text feel unfinished, or are lacking a layer. Litany is an important component for me because it's what I hear in my mind constantly, and is a way to approach an idea from every possible angle.
I'm also dark and stuck in my head and intense and think using the quilt form as a vehicle for a story is just really compelling.
3. Why do I do what I do?
Because I'm dark and stuck in my head and intense and (no, wait, I said that already).
I do this work because, like any other artist, if I don't then I'm suppressing my voice, I'm not being brave and I'm not taking risks. Does it bother me that each piece takes hours and hours and hours? Ummm ... yes. Do I care if anyone likes it? Oh my God, of course ... I want everybody to like me. I want everybody to want to be my friend. I want to make everybody happy because it's my nature to avoid conflict and to change topic to keep it so. Will a personality like this tuck my work into a safe cozy place? It could and has before. But I'm practicing the fine art of sticking my fingers in my ears (la-la-la-la-la) and not listening to myself. I've had enough people reach out (mostly women, but an interesting number of men) to know that I'm creating imagery that stays in their minds. People are saying thank you for doing the work. I never expected that.
(Sideways glances and total avoidance maybe, but never a thank you).
4. How does my process work?
I'm a sketchbook person, except that other artists' sketchbooks look fabulous and mine look like crap. My junk drawer also looks like crap, so at some point I made the very freeing decision that my sketchbook should also be a junk drawer, as in: What do I do with this idea? I have no place for this, it's garbage but I can't throw it away -- what if I need it someday? Chuck it in, slam it shut and deal with it later. No ideas are precious, but they're all useful and just so close to having been sucked into the central vacuuming system and lost forever.
I also: work on the wall, hoard fabric, cut apart clothing, allow an entire week to read the Sunday edition of the New York Times, add to/edit my highly curated Pinterest boards (sorry, no recipes), scour thrift stores for fabric, talk to my mother on the phone, avoid cooking dinner ("No, it's not the same leftover soup, this soup has rice in it now!"), periodically go through the house like a dervish and send everything to good will and feel intensely wonderful about this, spend a lot of time studying what other artists are doing, then spend even more time talking myself off the ledge when it's obvious I'm not doing what they're doing and feel intensely horrible about this, then I shut my studio door and work and work and work. And when I can't move my neck I hobble into my chiropractor's office and he says, "What have you been DOING?"
And then I write about it, which has become an equally important component to the work, because it's through the distillation of voice that I find the essence of what I'm trying to achieve. Often, I don't realize what the visual work means until I explore its literary component.
Oh, and I listen to my kids, because sometimes they ask little things like, "Mama, what in this house can catch on fire?" about a million times and it's so freaking brilliant I just have to write it down.
So that's me.
Now for something completely different.
Up for next week (October 18 -- mark your calendars), these same 4 questions will be answered by the two artists I've chosen: Kate Bowles and Jonathan Bower.
And if anyone else out there has participated in this Blog Hop, please leave the link to your blog post in the comment section so we can all see how you answered the questions and hop over to the artists you chose, too.
Artist in Anchorage, Alaska, sometimes blogging about the collision of history, family & art, with the understanding that none exists without the other.