I’ve been friends with, the quilter for, and an admirer of Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero’s for years, since we met on the set of Quilting Arts TV. In recent years she’s taken up photography, working on honing that skill in a way that’s truly informed her fabric design. Jeanie participates in a weekly photo challenge which includes an image and a detailed description of how she arrived at this image, and often any processing of the image done (often as part of the challenge itself.) The challenge this week of “Faceless Portrait” if fascinating as it challenges the photographer to think through how to achieve the goal of a portrait without a full-on image of a recognizable face, which in and of itself presents challenges as you want to capture something essential of the person. Below is my edited response to Jeanie, the last sentence is here first:
Your images make me think.
So if I’m reading this right from your description and seeing the image this is all about perspective. In order to capture this particular image you had to see this from multiple perspectives:
in your head – you had an idea
in the location – which has a different feel from when you usually shoot in this particular area
the light – which is different than the location
from the camera
and from the perspective of the viewer, how you wanted us to engage with you and the image.
I’m probably missing a perspective or a vantage point here. Wow this is really rich and my brain is going 100 mph trying to keep up with thoughts about how subtle differences would make major changes in the overall look of this moment. A simple change in what you’re wearing would make a huge change in the focus of the image. It took a second look to see that your pants blend with the color of the trees and your jacket color is a shade of blue that on another day would blend in with the sky but does stand out with the amount of white in the actual color.
I read Seth Godin’s blog post, The ruts | Seth’s Blog, this morning in relation to Jeanie’s ever thoughtful process, and in light of my being a long time quilter and machine quilting teacher, and beginner long arm quilter, and a writer.
Perspective is everything. Perspectively speaking there are so many quilters who are better than I will ever be. Also I’m better than some quilters.
I can look at this in several different ways, from several different perspectives:
I’ll never get to their skill level, get frustrated and walk away.
I’ll never get to their skill level, and be happy to be a quilter & bring joy and comfort to others.
Their work is a goal, what steps and how much time will I need to invest in getting there.
I’m happy to enjoy their work and be thrilled that I can stipple, or _________ (insert favorite quilting motif here.)
I’m happy to enjoy their work and pursue quilting in a unique way.
Note: if some of this feels disjointed my brain is going at 100 miles per hour making all these connections and I’m having a hard time keeping up. And I’m also rethinking the closet in my sewing room, and my current desk situation. Sewing rooms, I’ve come to understand, are living breathing things.
After several days of working on it the Moxie is set up and I got started stitching yesterday. Something didn’t look and feel right so I needed to make some really awkward adjustments yesterday. I really wish I’d filmed that because had I thought it through I would have approached the problem in a different way entirely. I would file this under, don’t do this at home. Really don’t. See the perspective of a day gives me room to think that one through. Normally when I quilt I have the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings or music playing in the background to get out of my own head and focus on something else, and to quiet the negative thoughts that fill my head about how the quilting looks. When I finally got to the stitching I was trying to film, and I’m a novice at this too. So you can imagine my own frustration. After about 30 minutes I walked away. Seriously. I needed time to remember that this isn’t second nature to me at all. If I compare my stitching to that of other more experienced long arm quilters right now, or even to my own stitching on a home sewing machine I’d pack up the Moxie and send it back. Focusing on the fact that I am an experienced quilter who is in the process of learning a new way of doing things gives me the perspective I need to plow through, and set goals for the work of learning both the quilting and the filming. NONE OF THIS NEEDS TO BE PERFECT NOW!
I started listening to: Brene Brown with David Eagleman on how the brain works and learns. This is a good listen particularly for beginners to understand that getting to that point where the quilting comes easily is more than a one and done moment, it’s a long term process and one that is worth our own mess. It’s great as a teacher as this gives me one more tool to share with you as we figure this out for you together.
Our perspective matters as it informs where we’re willing to go and how we’re willing to do the work of machine quilting whether on a long arm or on a domestic. Over the years as I got better at the decorative free-motion stitching my goals changed. One of my goals has remained the same: to win at Quilt Festival and write another book (though I’m not entirely certain about that.) As a long arm quilter my goals are different and much simpler: become comfortable with the rhythm of quilting, and to get good enough to complete a couple of projects. Perspectively speaking the goals while related are different, and there are good reasons for those differences. Perspectively speaking each of these goals will make me a better teacher, and that makes a big difference.
And finally today I got some perspective that I’ll be sharing in my newsletter when it goes out Tomorrow. You can sign up here.