Lauren McLean Iuppa Ayer

Poet | Artist | Optimist

Tag: quilts (page 1 of 2)

Daydream Believer

I’ll be honest, in some ways I feel like a lot of these Quest prompts are simply reframing the same question using slightly different words (and sometimes using the same words). And yet, I find myself having to acknowledge that sometimes the subtlest shift is all that’s needed to break the whole thing open.

Take yesterday’s prompt for example. When I first read it, all I saw was “business as unusual”–the same words that tripped me up two prompts ago. But this time, after letting the sentence steep for a day, I pushed those somehow halting words aside and focused on the part of the question I could find a way into.

Daydream

Visionary: Scott Barry Kaufman

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:

What recurring daydream for 2016 inspires you to do business as unusual like never before?

Recurring daydreams… yes, that’s entryway. As I try not to trip over “for 2016” which may make this room too shallow to hold them. These dreams will require a space at least as big as Carlsbad Caverns’ Big Room…

Cave Goddess

The Goddess of the cave agrees.

————————————————————————–

It begins with a longing for twining vines, with broad heart-shaped leaves. Perhaps I have been too long in the desert, because this lush tangle of opulent  fecundity greets me every time I close my eyes against the dust colored walls, the blinding cerulean sky, the hot white sun than still burns even as  its angle to this part of the world diminishes.

In the verdant world behind closed lids, my felt wall holds a fabric wasteland with words stitched over its every pale color of absence. Yet in the foreground the colors start to change. The earth takes on a richer shade. Soon green begins to appear at the margins. Each day new growing things begin to sprout and curl, inching in, slowly at first, then with increasing urgency and abandon–reclaiming that barren place as their own.

On a table across the narrow alcove, tree-plundered pages describe a young prince wandering through a medieval forest thick with underbrush. He catches the sharp scent of wood smoke and moves toward it. Not far in the distance a grail-shaped girl, sensing his approach, backs away from her fire trying her best to disappear into the trees hoping to avoid his wanting gaze. Still, despite her efforts, in a few moments he will materialize from the shadow of the twilight woods and find her.

And somewhere in the distance, perhaps beyond the passing of this coming year, there is a cottage just far enough from the bustling world to remain unseen from the nearby roads. It is the garden that hides it. The garden dripping with dark falls of newly ripe currants, with its carpet of wintergreen and thyme, with its climbing, obscuring vines–honeysuckle and boysenberry, hops and scarlet runner beans. It keeps itself hidden, waiting for a woman with butterscotch hair to find the key that fits its single lock. For her to open the door and sleep within its polished walls. To take its green into her bones, finally finding the magic that heals her. That heals them both.

————————————————————————–

I have already begun culling my possessions and preparing for a journey. Carefully calculating what I can carry. Scouring the dusty shelves of dim shops for treasure maps and magic beans and a compass aligned with a subtler force than magnetic north. A force that knows, while home may already be inside me, there is a place where that seed will blossom more radiantly, more powerfully than in this parched place  where I currently live (both without and within)–and it may be closer than I imagine. #daydream

  • The quilt/s
  • The story
  • The journey (with journal and camera at the ready)
  • The garden and its reclaiming

 

Read more from some of my fellow Questers:

And there are so many more inspiring answers that have only been shared in the private Quest Facebook group. It’s not too late to Join the Quest.

Revenue and Reach

#DareToExcel Challenge – 10:

Define one specific experiment for growth and change for this month in revenue or reach.

This experiment can be related to the one small project. But this time I ask you to frame the experiment in these terms, If I did X, then would Y result? 

For instance:
If I wrote and published relevant content every week, would I feel better and reach # more people?

If I reached out to 3 people this month for possible connection or collaboration, would one of them lead to an exciting new venture? 

If my business focused less on _____ and more on ______, would this lead to more customers? 

If I wrote poetry with no imagery for a month, would I discover another way to write poems? (Okay, that last one was not related to reach or revenue, but I include its ilk as an option.)

My answer:

If I worked on one unfinished quilt daily, would I be able to give myself a little more financial breathing room by selling the finished quilts?

Quilting PandemonionAlthough my time this month has run too short to actually implement this experiment, I will begin next month:

  • Stitching daily
  • Posting finished quilts for sale to Facebook and this site
  • Anything that doesn’t sell will be held for sale at one or more of our local holiday craft fairs

Ideally I will make enough to skim a little money to spend on needles and thread.

Celebrate Each Tiny Step

#DareToExcel Challenge – 8:

Take time during the next two days to look back on the past two weeks and acknowledge any positive changes you have noticed during the past two weeks in terms of how you feel, how you are paying attention more to what matters (challenges and all), any new relationships you’re striking up.

Write down and share what you are celebrating. When you celebrate in public, others get to celebrate with you. Your celebrations are not self-centered. They are uplifting to your peers and to your audiences and customers. So what are you waiting for? Howl out and lift us up!

Halfway through July’s #DareToExcel and it’s time to celebrate our accomplishments. Why is that always so much harder than it sounds? Probably because what’s left to do seems so much bigger than what’s already done. But it’s precisely that illusion that makes this challenge so important.

So what positive changes have I made so far?

  • I accepted the challenge in an effort to pull me out of the morass I’d been stuck in since the end of March
  • I wrote down my two most burning questions: “what if I focus on making instead of mulling?”, and “what if the story is wrong?” (which really leads to the more important question: “what if we changed the story?”)
  • I committed to one small project (Hands in Motion, Mind at Rest) to help clear mental, emotional, and physical space for my one big project, the book referred to as 3T
  • I have been practicing Hands in Motion, Mind at Rest, if not every day, at least most, and am now just 3 long seams away from finishing a quilt started more than three years ago, making me feel lighter, more focused, and like I’m actually getting stuff done; I can’t wait to finish it and move on to the next
  • I identified three young genius traits that I want to reintegrate into my life and work: Vibrancy, Resilience, and Freedom
  • I identified my audience for the book–something I’ve always been reluctant to do–and in doing so gave myself a renewed sense of purpose
  • I identified a skill that I need to cultivate in order to improve my chances of completing my small and large projects, and while I called it “saying no” it’s actually about discernment, which also includes attention to what I need to say yes to, in some cases making tradeoffs–saying yes to one thing in order to release something else
  • I identified my cross-training and versatile heritage skills–sewing, mindfulness, writing, research, and content architecture, but realize now that there are others that are less obvious and in some ways more powerful: creating a backyard homestead garden, learning belly dance and performing on stage, writing several NaNoWriMo novels, and learning how to fly a plane, all of which taught me about focus, dedication, dealing with uncertainty and obstacles, and facing some of my most long-held and agonizing fears
  • I took a look at my relationship with time and realized much of the drowning churn was of my own making
  • I continued to take my #365 daily photos, getting myself out of the house and into the world, all the while staying focused on the concrete world around me, and the beauty there, even in things that don’t at first seem beautiful
  • And perhaps most importantly, I have begun talking about collaborations and getting more involved with other people’s projects–sharing my immune disorder story with Tracee Vetting Wolf for her project, discussing a possible short story collection with Brenna Layne, and attending Jeffrey Davis‘ Tracking Wonder event in Albuquerque where I met some great people and got some great advice about my book from the man himself

Seeing the list written down like this makes me realize how much I’ve accomplished in only two short weeks. Yes I still have a long way to go, but if I can maintain this level of progress for the second two weeks of the challenge and beyond, there’s no telling what I can accomplish.

One Small Project

Our second #daretoexcel prompt arrived yesterday, but, unsurprisingly, given my first burning question, it took me a bit before I could sort an answer.

#DareToExcel Challenge – 2:

What one small project can you define to start creating into your burning question?

Complete the top half of the My Project Brief Sheet – title, problem, feeling, and/or question as well as the wonder & curiosity that can light you up to excel. Share it with your audiences. You’ll be glad you did later in the challenge.

To help you focus, write or draw or design a simple project brief. Don’t make it overly analytical but don’t undervalue this really important process either.

Set limits and constraints. Maybe you limit how long you are going to take to create this small project. Will you limit how many pages, designs, or features the project will have? If it is for an audience or a customer base, what problem do they have that this small project might respond to?

Unlike our first prompt of the challenge which came to me in a flash (actually two back-to-back flashes), prompt number two required a little more thought–partly because I have two questions, which at first, at least in my mind, aren’t really that connected. The very first thing that popped into my head when I read this was Jeffrey’s rephrase of my first question, which he simplified into a short, catchy phrase: What if I make instead of mull? Which is great, but a) how does that translate into a project, and b) how does that project relate to my second question about the book, when the first question was actually about sewing? Which of course sent my brain into full mull-mode. So instead of continuing to let it spin itself into a tizzy, I decided to sleep on it.

As it turns out, “sleeping on it” is the perfect metaphor for how a Make, Don’t Mull project would work.

IMG_2222

It seems counter-intuitive at first, focusing on quilts in order to make space for a book to grow, but the longer I sit with it, the more right it feels. In some ways it’s just like taking up meditation in order to relax and clear the mind, except with the added bonus, of finishing incomplete projects that have been weighing me down. Their completion will not only free the head-space that they’ve been occupying, it will also free up the physical space in my one small room, and may even bring in a few extra dollars to boot.

So while I am stitching away, at the rate of at least one seam per day, I will also be ramping up my book research. But instead of obsessing over every historical and mythological detail, trying to will just the right way to weave it all together, I plan to make basic notes as I go, but otherwise take a laissez-faire attitude, allowing the pieces to mix and mingle naturally, letting the threads and characters make their own connections, letting the story lead the way.

This is not my usual tack. I have always been a plotter not a pantser when it comes to writing books. It is also not my usual way to finish anything beyond a first muddled draft that I find it difficult to untangle. Perhaps by letting the story steer for a change, together we might actually reach our destination.

 

Mixing Things Up

There are times in our lives when the usual forms of expression feel lost to us. The past 5 weeks have been one of those times. At the end of March I stepped away from the sewing machine, and struggled through April trying to write poetry every day. On May 1, I put down the pen as well.

I am not going to go into the reasons, but there are reasons–the most important of which, with regards especially to sewing, is that I believe that what we feel while making art becomes embodied within the work we create. I’ve always considered making a quilt akin to weaving a spell. Each stitch draws the energy down through the fabric as you sew. Healing, love, hope, connection–these are all good things that help wrap the recipient of the quilt as though in our very own arms. But what happens when the artist is battling grief, loss, deep sadness? What about anxiety? A quilt made from places like those are not something I want anyone to have to sleep under. And poetry created from those places? Every once in a great while, you get something raw and exposed and deep, but usually not. At least not in my case.

Paints

Paints

But when creating art is how you process, what’s a creative girl to do? Try something new. Or in today’s case, something I used to do a long time ago: paint.

It started when a friend suggested that if I didn’t want to create objects that would forever hold the less than empowered things I’ve been feeling, perhaps I should create objects to be destroyed. Doing so would get the bad stuff out of my head, plus give me a way to release it forever. So today, I decided to give it a try.

And because, up until a couple of hours ago, today was not a good day, I started by painting a black hole. I mean, what would be better to release and let go than a gravity suck so powerful that even light can’t escape?

Gravity

Gravity

Except that as I painted I noticed something–in addition to the swirls of color and the scattering of stars at the outer rings, at the very center of the blackest part, there was a glimmer of light. And no matter how much I wanted it to reflect the absolute absence of light, I just couldn’t fill it in. Which just goes to show, no matter how dark things seem, art gives us the power to transform it. It reminds us that there are things in this world that we cannot control, maybe cannot even know. The act of creating can help us find our way through the dark–and out the other side of the wormhole.

And since I already had the paints out, I painted something more cheerful as well.

Iris in Rain

Iris in Rain

Iris

Iris

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clearly I have some room to improve.

Publish

Change is afoot.

Have you ever gone on a  trip only to return and feel like you may never catch up? That’s where I am right now, having just returned from a week in California to attend the fifth annual FOGcon spec fiction writers’ conference. The event itself only took up three of those days, but since I had to get on a plane anyway, I decided to pad my trip with a little extra time to see family and friends. Which was great, but a bit of a whirlwind. And the con? It turned out to be one of those experiences that has incited me to question everything. To review, rethink, re-imagine. And not just the specific projects, but my whole direction, my mission, what I want to achieve and how I go about achieving it.

In addition to that game changer (which I hope to post about soon, either here or on my apocalypse blog), my work schedule is about to change dramatically–evolving from something approximating 1.5 days per week plus intermittent freelance work, to 5 days per week, likely starting at the end of the month. After so many years drifting around employment, it’s going to be a serious adjustment. Then again, I have hopes that a more rigorous schedule might help me better manage my personal work time as well. But either way, a girl’s gotta pay her rent. And between now and then, I will be working hard to get my space, tasks, and time streamlined and organized, and revisiting my post about which things I need to #stop. Otherwise, I could be looking at a pretty rough transition.

Among the things that need catching up on: Quest posts.

#LiveTheQuest question 9:
What indicators of growth can you celebrate? #celebrations

Look back on your second month as well as at your reflections with prompt 5, #growth. What small indicators can you identify and celebrate that you have changed something positively in Month 2 or that you are moving the direction you need? For instance, are you acting differently? Are you thinking differently? Are you speaking about yourself as a business artist and your best work differently?

Probably the most important growth indicator has been giving up the Big Picture for Lent. I have always struggled with the project equivalent of my eyes being too big for my stomach. I load my plate with everything it can hold and then some, all the while envisioning the even more extravagant feasts I will create in my future. But the truth is, I can’t even decide which delicacy to put in my mouth first, so I try a bite here and another one there, until I’m too full and queasy to think about cooking ever again.

Having taken a step back from that vicious cycle, I’ve noticed a couple of important things. It isn’t just about how much I load onto my plate, it’s what. It’s easy to be lured by sweets, but they don’t work for the long (or in my case even the short) haul. To help counteract that, in part inspired by a recent post by Saundra Goldman, I have started focusing again on questions, the most important of which has become:

What do you most want to build?

Followed by:

Will this help you build it?

These two questions work for pretty much everything, from what I eat and how much I sleep, to which books, projects, and other activities deserve my time. Some items have easy answers. Too much sugar, bad television, and/or excess social media not only won’t help me build anything, they will pretty much unbuild everything.

The TowerBut other things aren’t so clear. And that’s because the answer to the first question hasn’t been so clear. And now that FOGcon has basically thrown a big fat Tower card onto the table, it’s even less so… except that, maybe, it’s not. Because there is nothing quite like having preconceived notions blown apart to reveal in stark relief, the inviolable things that remain standing. The foundation, of course… the west wall upon which I scribble incantations in invisible ink that only reveals itself when illuminated by a setting equinox sun… the outline of a once hidden box where years ago I buried my heart to keep it safe from harm…

Fire reveals the shape of things. What remains after we sift through the ash becomes the bones of a new beginning. Tonight the sifting begins. Soon after, I will draft a stronger plan on the foundation of the old. Which leads us to the next Quest prompt:

 #LiveTheQuest question 10:
How will you “publish” your project? #publish
Look back on your #burningquestion and #oneproject. How are you or could you get this project “out” into the hands and hearts of the people who ache for it? How will you publish it?

First, a reminder of my #burningquestion:

What if instead of having to choose, I could combine the things I love?

And then my #oneproject:

To create an object of art that incorporates:

  • Words
  • Pictures
  • Fabric
  • Inspiration from existing works of literature, poetry, and art
  • And dreaming my way through our world’s uncertain future

Because my path lies not in walking a straight or winding road, but in building a home at the place my roads converge.

A few posts later, I decided this project would take the form of a quilt. And I may still make that quilt.  But re-reading what I wrote about my questions and projects in light of #publishing, I realized that even before this quest started I had begun creating a work that incorporates all of these things, as well as a companion burning question about prepping for the best instead of the worst. This is already out there in front of the world–online, on Facebook, on Pinterest, and on my business cards. It’s my Apocalypse Garden–my home at the place where the roads converge. My own little Pantano Realty building (for those of you familiar with my hometown).

As for what impact my FOGcon experience may have on my little garden, that remains to be seen–perhaps a new tagline, a new posting schedule, improved content and social media plans–but the structure appears to be sound.

And in case you wonder why I referred to it as my little garden, I’ll just leave this here:  Why “Stop Playing Small” is Bullshit

Experiment

#LiveTheQuest question number six:

What experiment for revenue or reach can you define? #experiment
What is one specific experiment you can define for growth and change for this month in revenue or reach? This experiment is similar to the one small project you defined before. But this time I ask you to frame the experiment in these terms, If I did X, then would Y result? If I wrote and published relevant content every week, would I feel better and reach # more people? If I reached out to 3 people this month for possible connection or collaboration, would one of them lead to an exciting new venture? If my business focused less on _____ and more on ______, would this lead to more customers? If I wrote poetry with no imagery for a month, would I discover another way to write poems? (Okay, that last one was not related to reach or revenue, but I include its ilk as an option.)

Because I so resist this topic I am going to keep this simple.

  1. Revenue: If I finished the unfinished sewing projects taking up space in my house and posted them for sale on my site and Facebook, would people buy them, and might it open up a more year-round stream of craft income for me?
  2. Reach: If I make and hand out five or more business cards featuring both of my URLs during FOGcon, would it lead to more traffic, engagement, and possibly story submissions or collaborations?

Because FOGcon doesn’t happen until the first full weekend in March, I won’t have results on the second experiment until next month, but since I so rarely socialize with my kind (or anyone for that matter), it’s worth the delay.

One Project

Yesterday’s Quest-tion was this:

What one small project can you define to start creating into your burning question?

The thing is, that burning question (or rather the spiral of questions) that lead to what is essentially: “What if I existing art could help inspire the art to come, and what if together they could heal our communities, our world, and ourselves?” lead to another important question thread still burning:

What if I just make art and write as inspiration and daily practice move me instead of focusing on how to turn it into a business? What if I follow the path of fun and joy? Read the books I want to read, make the art I want to make, take the classes I want to take? Isn’t it possible, maybe even probable, that the rest will arise from there and my path will become clear?

And then to yet another, as I considered how my Apocalypse Garden project fits in with my path as a Poet | Artist | Optimist:

What if instead of preparing for the worst, I prepared for the best?

And sure, I could easily come up with a project that would fit each one, but what if I combined all three questions into one:

What if focusing on mining and making art instead of building a business gave me the freedom to find my own voice–the one that could eventually support my best work and my best life? And what might that look like?

Experimentation and play. Taking classes. Reading. Going to movies and galleries. Exposing myself to a broader range of thoughts and ideas. Going on Artist Dates, to conferences and lectures. Collaborating with other artists. Getting out of town with a sketchbook and camera. Whatever it takes to keep creativity awake and alive and whatever it takes to set aside daily time and space for creation. To actually create–a little bit every day, and a more than a little bit on some of those days. Which sounds exciting, but it’s not a small project. And then I realized that some of my greatest struggles for direction come from feeling like I have to choose–between writing and quilting and photography, between living life and preparing for the apocalypse, between poetry, novels, memoir, and my deep love of speculative fiction. Which brought me not just to an answer to my small project question, but to my biggest burning question of all:

What if instead of having to choose, I could combine the things I love?

And so, my small project will be to create an object of art that incorporates:

  • Words
  • Pictures
  • Fabric
  • Inspiration from existing works of literature, poetry, and art
  • And dreaming my way through our world’s uncertain future

Because I am beginning to believe that my path lies not in walking a straight or winding road, but in building a home at the place my roads converge.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Play

At the intersection of Creative Work and Learning lies a space that invites experimentation, trying new things, getting our hands dirty. A space I like to call play. It’s where we explore those things that sound intriguing, that grab our attention, that make our ears prick up, or our hearts skip a beat. The things that we suspect with little or no experience or knowledge, might just be meant for us. It’s also where we give ourselves the freedom to do those things that just plain make us happy.

Soul Happy by Chloe MooreAnd because it can sometimes be very hard to give ourselves permission to “indulge” these seemingly non-productive dalliances (NOTE: they are not non-productive dalliances, they are essential to our well being), I’ve decided to make a list of activities, events, skills, whatever, that just plain sound like fun. Just in case I forget.

SEWING

  • Slow Stitching
  • Hand piecing class
  • Hand quilting class
  •  Embroidery
  • Embellishing
  • Learning to use the alphabet stitches on my sewing machine
  • Stitching curves
  • Quilt deconstruction
  • Quilt Guild retreat
  • More advanced free-motion techniques
  • Stash-busting
  • Apparel
  • Clothing and accessory modification
  • Apocalypse fashion and accessories
  • Electronics-enhanced fashion and textile art
  • Actually doing all my Craftsy classes
  • Quilt challenges
  • QOV or other service quilts

WRITING

  • FOGcon
  • Another poetry class with Tony Hoagland
  • The Brainery Spec Fic writing workshop (alas, will probably have to wait until next year)
  • Experimental poetry
  • Apocalypse poetry
  • Slow novel writing  (all mine have been written during NaNoWriMo)
  • Short story and novella writing
  • Playing with mixed forms and genres
  • Riffing off other people’s work
  • Blogging, blogging, and more blogging

ART

  • Photography
  • Tarot-inspired
  • Medieval/Celtic motifs and themes

PREPPING/APOCALYPSE

  • Apocalypse and disaster stories, movies, and art (review, share, make)
  • EDCs
  • General prep
  • History
  • Profiles in resilience
  • Skill building
  • PrepperFest
  • Prepper cuisine
  • Games/apps
  • Prepping in small spaces
  • Prepping for artists

RESEARCH

  • Transition
  • Tiny homes and homesteading
  • Journal publishing (online and print)
  • Video game/app design
  • Art of protest, social change, injustice
  • Shamanism

TRAVEL (doing/dreaming)

  • British Isles (Wales, Ireland, Scotland)
  • Truth or Consequences, NM (again)
  • Pacific Northwest road trip
  • Famous authors pilgrimage
  • Sacred sites pilgrimage

It’s improbable that I’ll get to all or possibly even any of them, but the mere existence of this list makes me excited for the new year. And since I plan to add more ideas as they come up, I will probably be even more excited as the year goes on.

Stop

Yesterday’s Quest2015 prompt from visionary Charlie Gilkey, asks us to think, not about what we want to take on next, but about what we need to stop.

“Pursue knowledge, daily gain. Pursue Tao (wisdom), daily loss.” – Tao Te Ching*

We often think too much about adding new things, when the source of a lot of our growth is eliminating old things.

What do you need to STOP doing in 2015?

And what do you need to do to make that STOPPING more than an intention?

Attribution: Derek Lin’s translation of the Tao Te Ching

Interestingly, it was the stress of being too busy to answer this question yesterday when it first posted, that led me to wake up with the answers:

In 2013, with the intention of jump-starting my quilting career, I did three crazy things: I signed up to do a solo quilt show and started two holiday craft fairs, one in my community and one online. All three happened in November. Because I had no real idea what I was getting into, I figured I had all kinds of time, and wound up nearly killing myself in October and November trying to get everything done. At the end of that month, I swore that next year (this year) I would do things differently. I would start earlier so I wouldn’t be sewing at the 11th hour. I would clear my schedule starting in September so I could focus more fully on getting everything done without stress. But alas, not only did I procrastinate the making, I added a ton more to my plate (National Novel Writing Month, daily blogging at the Apocalypse Garden, increased hours at work, and not one, not two, but three quilt commissions). Suffice it to say, it hasn’t gone so well. 

So what do I need to ‪#‎stop‬?

  • I need to stop procrastinating, thinking I’ll have more time later (NTS: I won’t)
  • I need to stop putting my art last and do a better job of integrating it into my daily life, both to minimize stress and to enable myself to take better advantage of opportunities
  • I need to stop wasting my time on low-return projects–financial, emotional, creative, and/or spiritual
  • I need to stop saying yes to every commission–only a select few are worth the work and stress
  • I need to stop taking on every fun project that piques my interest, especially at this time of year
  • I need to stop refusing to invest in my art and business–business cards, a $20 webinar on the slow stitching movement, a website plug-in that will allow people to contact me via form not email, none of these cost that much and could make a big difference in my ability to transform this hobby into something more

And how will I make that stopping more than an intention? By committing to taking a close look at everything on my plate within the next 30 days and really discerning what matters most (including empty space for myself) and what needs to be cut (both projects and physical stuff). Quilt making stays. Poetry stays. That November novel, the daily blogging, the five websites, commission work, the two craft fairs and annual solo show… we shall see.

 

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