I regularly read Seth Godin’s blog with something always capturing my attention. This one captured my attention a while ago, with a blog draft waiting for me to have the time to write. Shortly after this I chose to limit the blog in favor of writing my book and trying to keep blogging commitments with Generation Q Magazine, after all that’s why I was hired.
PS the strand that binds: machine thread test! is mine with local quilters Renee, Cathy, Susan and Anne testing thread for piecing and quilting.
And then I read The Difference between Commitment and Technique and have started wondering if what I teach and how I teach are working. In one case I’d say yes and in another I’d say a firm no. Interestingly this class and the book are linked, at least in my mind, in a way that I think will improve both. This has me thinking a lot about how I improved as a quilter on my home sewing machine. Other than spending a lot of time at the sewing machine figuring out what worked and what didn’t. That part I teach in the beginner class: needles, thread and tension. What was it that changed in the machine quilting?
Is it the machine quilting that changed or is it something else that changed? Is it how I see and view color? Is it how I decided to throw caution to the wind and play, simply play with thread in the same way that I would play with crayons? Is it the understanding of thread weight and how it will play across the surface of the quilt?
With each quilt over the last few years I’ve opened the thread drawers picked up a spool of thread, changed the needle appropriately and continued to stitch. Sometimes this means changing quilting motifs at the same time, sometimes not. Sometimes it means looking at the variegation and wondering how it will play. How do I share with you, with my students, in a book format that I just sit and quilt? How do I share with you that I gave up being afraid of making mistakes and failing? How do I share in a meaningful way that the only way to really get to know color well is to sit at the machine and learn to trust your judgement? That what I think of your quilting doesn’t matter?
If there are actual problems i.e. tension or eyelashing or batting troubles I can help you problem solve.
I can share with you where I find inspiration: spring and fall and sunrises and sunsets and wrought iron and really cool architecture.
That I’m totally inspired by some of the coolest people and the range is quite eclectic and random from Joe Cunningham and Melanie Testa, to Elizabeth Rosenberg and Renee Fleuranges-Valdes, to Karen McTavis and Stephanie Forsythe, Lynn Krawczyk and Cheryl Sleboda and my students. Oh I am so inspired by my students! I love becoming fb friends with my students and watching them develop skill as quilters. I love seeing the move from “a quilt has to look like this” to “my quilts look like this”.
This is the best moment ever! Oh dear me that just gets me all giddy.
The list here is so incomplete.
And I’m back to: how do I change things up in classes and write so that this all works as a class and a book and each student is left with a sense that the hard work that they invest in quilting will be worth it in the end? How do I figure out how to really inspire my students in a meaningful way?
I’m off to think.
5 thoughts on “Focusing on the goal”
I think you are onto something – you give them permission in your book to play and experiment. It’s amazing how many people beat themselves up about their workmanship and feel they are not good enough! I can’t wait to see what you produce!
On the student’s side……there may be some type of expectation that one can attend a class, watch a video or read a book/article on the ‘art of quilting’ and, somehow, “learn” what is needed to create, when, actually, the failure is not in the instruction but the student’s understanding that it is a process that must be experienced (thus the mantra “practice, practice, practice” becomes ‘golden’). This “failure to grasp” results in an unnecessary frustration in the immediate outcomes (being far short of expectations).
I was told many times (in high school) that anything worth doing is worth doing well and requires a personal time investment to acquire said skill. Patience and repetition will have positive results if we relax, take it one step at a time and have fun on the journey!!!!!!!
Wonderful post, Teri. I know exactly what you mean — that moment, when a student realizes the joy that comes from making a quilt their own, is worth all the exhausting work that teaching can be. It is that special moment that has made me return once again to the quilt world. Besides, the nicest people are quilters, right? And who doesn’t want to hang out with the best? Love ya, my friend.
As always Teri, you ask the good and probing questions! Classes sell “techniques” because it’s easy to quantify and outline what is offered and put a price tag on them that people can accept/relate to. When you know little or nothing about doing something, techniques are the entry point and a very necessary thing to have and learn.
As both you (and Seth) point out, the road to mastering techniques is “commitment”. It can (and should) be encouraged as a part of every class. However, it’s not so much taught as students must decide whether to embrace commitment by looking at themselves and honestly asking “just how much am I willing to do and what is it worth to me to achieve/master (fill in the blank)”. That is a very personal question and the answer will be different for everyone and possibly change at different points in a person’s creative life. The closest “class” we have to that in the quilt world is signing up for an “Open Studio” session led by an admired instructor. Those sessions allow the student the freedom (time and space) to work independently and experiment focused on what they hope to achieve and value whatever is gained from the time spent.
It’s what I think of when someone says “oh, I could never do that”. That statement is almost never true and if/when they allow themselves to try, they are on the road to commitment.
Open Studio is an idea that’s been mulling around for a bit of time. Would you be interested?