I teach patchwork techniques. I speak about quilts to audiences large and small. I write about quilts at least twice a month in my column; I even wrote a whole book about quilts and edited a magazine about them for several years. And then, at the end of the day, when I drop my suitcase or I turn in this or that, record for the podcast, or take care of this or that piece of quilt-related business, I want to sew. How can it be?
It must be the power of making. Creation can never be boring and is rarely something to which a person has to drag themselves. The temptation of adventure through creativity is hard to resist. That pile of fabric scraps, that template, that cutting mat. What will come from it? What colors will come together? What shapes?
It’s the same with writing for me. Playing with words came before playing with fabric in my life; before I was absorbed into the world of quilts I couldn’t stay away from the word thing and I still can’t. The only reason I miss days posting on PaperGirl is because the night comes and I am too tired (or am otherwise engaged) and I can’t plunk myself down and get it done. I don’t like those days.
There was a poster at the Atlanta show that asked, “What will you create today?” It feels a little poster-ish to repeat here, so I’ll rephrase the question:
What act of making is irresistible today? And what are you going to do about it?
I made stuff! And I’d like to share the idea with you.
Christmas prep is underway; my family will descend upon the (marvelous) city and we’ve got a great cruise director in my younger sister Rebecca. She’s made the dinner reservations, the time we’ll go see Star Wars and various other activities. What’s fantastic about holiday time in my family is that it is chill. It wasn’t always that way; we used to feel pressure to do every activity together, to press all these activities (ice skating, lunch, museum) into a short time and it was stressful. A few years ago we were like, “Hey, if you want to skip the museum and just hang out and eat cookies, great!” There is no guilt about declining an outing. Do your thing. And the result is that more often than not, we actually do All The Things because we don’t want to miss out on being together.
Anywhoodle, I am trimming the tree I got the other day. The nice boy at the Ace Hardware around the corner was brawny and offered to carry it on his shoulder all the way to my elevator! He braved the cold and surely got sap on his shoulder, but I was a damsel in distress. Thanks, guy.
While I was in the Ace Hardware, I had an idea. That huge wall of paint sample cards drew me in a tractor beam. I pulled a whole bunch of Christmas-colored chips (is that word acceptable here?) and I could put pieces of fabric on them and hang them all over the tree. Of course — and I mean this, though I have a particular affinity for this fabric — the Small Wonders icons are perfect for this. You gonna cut a 4” flower and try to stick it on a paint chip? Naw, naw. So here are directions for a darling ornament that is half-free, half-from your stash. Because you have gotten the Small Wonders fabrics. I know a lot of you have because a major fabric store was out of it when the ladies in Florida went to buy it. Thanks, Santa!
How To Make a Paint Chip + Fabric Ornament
Get paint chips from the hardware store Cut a small piece of background fabric Cut a smaller piece of fabric with a central image Glue the background down Glue the “foreground” small-icon image fabric on that Stick an ornament hook through the paint chip Hang on a pine tree (not just any pine tree — go for the one currently in your living room)
Very soon, I’m going to be able to announce a neat thing I’ll be doing that hopefully will make a lot of people happy. Here’s a hint: it’s got something to do with writing, it’s got something to do with quilting, it’s not a book, and it’s free. Are you curious? Me, too! I can’t wait to see how it all turns out. Stay tuned for the news because it really is pretty exciting if you’re a quilt nerd like me. (And if not, why not?)
But there’s another Big Thing on the horizon that I can’t say a peep about. Some of the inner sanctum knows about the Big Thing, but by and large, this is top secret ops. Here’s a hint: No! THERE CAN BE NO HINTS! I can’t give you even one tiny, baby hint or I’ll get in trouble. Big men in suits will come and tomorrow is my birthday. I’d like to not be kidnapped on my actual birthday.
How great it would be to have a third secret project for aesthetic reasons, but that’s it. Just two secrets, just two life-changing projects. Wait! I almost forgot! I do have another secret project and I can go ahead and tell you, I guess:
Just look at ’em! Look at those beauties! See ’em? Those straight, tall, proud, baby blue stripes? I painted ’em! That’s right, me! (MARY stabs thumb into chest, flashes huge smile, begins to eat popsicle.)
For weeks now, I’ve been staring at one of the walls in my living room-dining room-great hall and seeing pale blue awning stripes. Just the one. An “accent” wall, I think is what they call it. I just knew pale blue awning stripes would look awesome, but I’d have to hire a painter and I don’t like hiring painters. But I couldn’t possibly paint the stripes myself. They’d have to be perfectly, perfectly straight and not blubby around the edges, especially if they only kindaworked in the room. The only thing worse than being a total decorating misfire would be a decorating misfire executed badly. I don’t have a great track record with wall-painting as evidenced by every single baseboard in every single apartment I have ever, ever had. For this stripe job, a professional painter would have to be called.
But then my Viking ancestors grabbed my shoulders with their ghostly, Norwegian hands and shook me. “Are you crazy?! Hiring a painter for two-hundred bucks an hour — plus supplies and parking — to paint a single wall in your apartment?! Shame! Fa raeva til jernvarehandel!* You’ll never be a Norse god at this rate.” And they kicked me out the door. The nerve!
You know what I learned today? I learned how to use a level. I learned how to tape up a wall properly when you want to paint it. (Hint: take your time, don’t rush; it’s like three-quarters of the entire job.) I took great care to actually put down a drop cloth that actually covered everything that could possibly get paint on it. In short, I did the job right. It would be impossible for me to love my stripes more. They’re on the Proudest Accomplishment List right now. I’m now eyeing every wall in my home, daring it to tell me it also wants to be an accent wall of some kind.
I’d love to put up the process photos, but The PaperGirl Pledge means I only put one photo per post. So go to my Facebook page for more pictures. It was really fun and I did it in like four hours!
Yuri and I went to the Whitney Museum yesterday for the Jeff Koons retrospective. We loved every second of it. If you are in New York now or will be between now and October 29th, I urge you to see the exhibit yourself.
Maybe don’t take your kids if they’re under thirteen or fourteen. There are a few moment of technicolor nudity writ real large in the show and that could be disturbing for a kid, I suppose (probably more so for the adult who has to answer the inevitable questions, e.g., “Why are that man and that woman stuck together like that, Mommy? Is she crying?”, etc.) But there’s so much that a child would absolutely go nuts for, though — the giant pile of clay, the inflatables, etc. — it’s painful to actively dissuade families. Maybe just skip the fourth floor of the show where all the porny stuff is?
Here’s what the Whitney says about Koons:
Jeff Koons is widely regarded as one of the most important, influential, popular, and controversial artists of the postwar era. Throughout his career, he has pioneered new approaches to the readymade, tested the boundaries between advanced art and mass culture, challenged the limits of industrial fabrication, and transformed the relationship of artists to the cult of celebrity and the global market.
That means he’s really cool, he’s super smart, and his art is very, very expensive. A lot of people cannot stand Jeff Koons (or his art) for those very reasons. Koons haters have long hauled out the tired, meaningless, “That’s not art,” defense, or — worse because it’s incorrect — they’ll sniff, “I could do that.” You couldn’t. Neither could I. You could make your art. And I could make my art. But Jeff Koons’s yacht-sized balloon dog (or the glorious, exuberant, first version of “Puppy,” made of 20,000 live flowers, which wasn’t at the show because it was an installation in a castle in Germany in 1992) is his art and I, for one, think it’s marvelous.
The “readymade” that they reference in the Whitney bit is the Warhol thing of taking a box of Brillo pads, for example, and putting it literally on a pedestal and saying, “This is art.” Now, Warhol got that from Marcel Duchamp, who did it first: Duchamp was a koo-koo-krazy Dadaist who put a ceramic urinal on a pedestal, signed it “R. Mutt,” and sat back to see what the art world would do. That was in 1917 and art has not been the same since. Plenty of folks (then and now) wished art would go back to nice, simple paintings, but that is silly because there has always been transgressive art. Gericault’s The Raft of the Medusa, Manet’s Olympia — today, these paintings are downright tame (albeit beautiful and kinda creepy in their respective ways) but when they were unveiled, they were not. People lost their minds and said the world was going to hell in a handbasket. Under the sun, there is nothing new for us. You do get that, right? I am reminded all the time.
If you want nice simple paintings, you can get them. Boy, can you get them. But for those who want their art to reflect back the world as it truly feels — fractured, splintered, beautiful, hilarious, ridiculous, frightening, etc. — we need our Koonses, our Duchamps, and our Warhols for sure. The Koons exhibit reminded me that the world is all of the things I think it is, but more, so much more than that as well: more frightening, more beautiful, more unknowable. It did precisely what art is supposed to do.
And you know, boobs and plastic and stuff.
**Editor’s Note: The title of this post is a line from a Lady Gaga song. Gaga’s latest album, “ARTPOP”, features cover art by Jeff Koons. I have listened to that album so many times, my iTunes is like, “Oh for heaven’s sake… REALLY?? AGAIN with the Gaga???”