Design to Delight

#DareToExcel Challenge- 13:

We live in an experience economy. Your customers and audiences don’t want products and services. They want experiences. Leaders who live with integrity and artistry build businesses that deliver on delightful experiences – regardless of what product or service they sell.

Define and act upon one way you can design to delight your audience or customers within the next two days.

My book is still in its beginning phase. There is nothing yet to read or see… But, wait, that’s not actually entirely true. In fact, I’ve already shared a piece of story-inspired collage art in my previous post that has already delighted one of my readers. So, inspired by that and by a conversation with fellow quester Brenna Layne, I will create a page on my site featuring this image (and others I create along the way) as well as a reading list, and perhaps other related references, resources, videos, whatever I can find to help keep me and my potential future readers excited about the project. And I already have other extension projects in mind–quilts, poems, maybe even an opening signing at a gallery filled with this related work… so many possibilities!

And while we’re on the topic of delight, I think this year I’ll send holiday cards to the people who have bought my quilts. It doesn’t take grand gestures to create a little delight in the lives of those who support us.

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.


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?


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







Clearly I have some room to improve.

The Importance of Percolation

I have a quilt on my board that’s been there for months. Okay, to be honest, I currently have six quilts on my boards in varying states of completion, but this one feels different. I sketched the design and selected the primary fabrics back in February, and cut out the background, backing, and key elements in March, but have made not a stitch of progress since then, and that’s getting to me. And it seems the longer I stare at it, the harder it is for me to figure out how to get it back on track.

One the one hand, it’s already a success. It served as inspiration for my 2013 SAQA donation quilt, Superpower: Flight! (see it and other auction quilts here). Still, though, I can’t seem to let it go, and not just because it’s a key piece in my November show. It begs to be finished. I just haven’t known how. Then, a couple of weeks ago I went with a two friends to the Museum of International Folk Art to see the “Plain Geometry: Amish Quilts” exhibit and while we were there we popped in to see another exhibit of Japanese kites.

I didn’t think too much more about it until a few days ago when I looked up at my board and saw the sad Flight fabric longing to live up to its name and new what had been missing. It didn’t want to be just another static rectangle. It wanted to soar.

Since then I’ve been arguing with myself. Do I really want to redesign it? Do I really want to start from scratch when the fabric is already cut out? Wouldn’t it just be easier to just finish what’s already up there? Yes, it would, but also, no, it wouldn’t. If it was that easy I would have been done in March when I started it. So now it’s back to the drawing board to re-imagine Flight as a kite.


My Year of Quilts

When I think about quilts the first word that comes to mind is COMFORT. Maybe that’s why when I returned home after one of the worst holidays on record, all I wanted to do was make myself a quilt.

I started with a blanket made of 12″ blocks cut from old sweatshirts. It was the dead of winter and I wanted something comfy to snuggle up in. At first that was all I could think about, but slowly, with each stitch I realized the sewing itself was helping me feel better. So when I finished the sweatshirt quilt, I decided to keep sewing–to see how many quilts I could make in a single year. My thought was, that if that cozy quilt could help comfort me, maybe a different type of quilt could help me work through the other emotions swimming around in my head. And even if they didn’t, I’d at least have a set of quilts ready for show. And just to make sure I kept on track, I booked a one-woman show starting the first of November.

So here’s the break-down for those who want to follow along:

  • Quilts needed for show: at least 12
  • Quilts completed so far: 3 from last year, 2 from this year (one donated to SAQA)
  • Quilts in progress: 5 (in various states of completion)
  • Days left before show: 127

So yes, I have some work to do. I’ll keep you posted as I go (when I find time between sewing, that is).

Over-Commitment as Motivation

A few weeks ago I wrote about resolutions and about how this year I didn’t plan to make any. Instead, I’ve decided to motivate myself using a tactic that flies in the face of everything I’ve been trying to achieve since deciding to quit my job and move to New Mexico. I have decided to over-commit. Will it add stress back into my life? Yes. But it will be a different kind of stress than I left behind. Writer Jeff Goins explained the rationale for this seemingly counter-intuitive tactic best in his guest post for Zen Habits:

“The adage “under-promise and over-deliver” is a farce. It only propagates the status quo. Real difference-makers push boundaries. They test, prod, and poke until something gives. You can do this, too, by saying “yes” to more things than you’re comfortable with. Learn to stretch yourself. You might be surprised by what you’re actually capable of. Your confidence will grow, too.”

And so, I have committed to a number of new things. I joined a writing group, took on a coaching job, became co-leader of my quilting group, and signed up to create two quilts for a March quilting show. Yes, March. This March. And believe me, that last one is taking me way out of my comfort zone. Not just because of the deadlines, but because I’ve also decided to make my first two art quilts.

Challenge 1: Create a quilt using the fabrics of blind New Mexico artist George Mendoza

Challenge 2: Create an Irish-themed quilt (the show opens on Saint Patrick’s Day)

I have already come up with both designs, sketched them, bought the fabrics, but that’s as far as I got. Until today, when I started work on Challenge 1.

I’m still not sure how the clouds will work and I may change the direction of the lightning, but I got the base fabric (flowers) and second layer (rain) out of the bag and onto the board which is a good first step. Second step — finish sewing the two quilts that are due on February 13th, but that’s another post altogether (as is Challenge 2).


Anatomy of a Quilter

I am a fourth generation quilter. Like my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother before me, I have always been captivated by the feel and sight of different fabrics, by transforming scraps into comforting works of art. I made my first patchwork quilt when I was 10 years old. It was a simple strip quilt made from leftover fabrics from quilts and clothes my mother had made. Since then I have made more than 20 quilts in a variety of sizes, all traditional patchwork patterns, but have longed to break away from right angles and other geometry into the freedom of art quilting.


Quilt ideas come to me the same way poetry does. Something catches my eye or mind — a color, a pattern, a feeling, an idea. When that happens with words, I clear my mind, pick up a pen, and let the words rush out. When it happens with quilts, I make a bee-line for the closest fabric store (in town or online) and let the colors and patterns swim together until a picture comes out. When it does, I sketch it, post it on my cork board, and get to work. I especially love quilting challenges because they force me to break out of my usual thought patterns and let the fabric or topic speak to me.

It has been years since I’ve made a quilt, but since moving from San Francisco to Santa Fe I am alive with inspiration. My board is crammed with ideas, some my own, and others inspired by challenges. I am currently working on three quilts: a traditional patterned donation quilt for Quilts of Valor that was inspired by a memoir I’ve been working on about my grandfather who fought in WWII, a challenge quilt featuring the fabrics of local blind painter George Mendoza, and a St. Patrick’s day challenge quilt featuring the Green Man drawn from my graduate school research on the same topic. Oh yes, and of course my Pizza Quilt. What better way to embrace Santa Fe than a southwest-style quilt made for me by my new guild sisters. 2012 is going to be an exciting year.