I’ve been working on a couple of series in my quilting for a few years now. I often think I’m not working at the level of “real” artists, but the panel discussion I listened to recently produced by SAQA entitled “Working in a Series” changed my mind. Even though I don’t get into the studio as often as I’d like, when I’m there I’m working with many of the same intentions as those the panelists, Sue Bleiweiss, Lorie McCown, and Judy Kirpich.
Series work is about exploring your subject matter thoroughly. I’ve been fascinated with Trees from an artistic perspective since I was quite young. The series I’ve been working on over the past few years has been about their elegance and place in nature and my life. I am still early in the series and working on refining my ideas about what they represent to me, but my intention to explore has been clear, at least to me all along.
When working in a series, you define parameters. That’s something else I’ve done. I have specific parameters for both Tree and rock and my American Village series. Some of those parameters are ones I expect to change once I’ve exhausted exploration in those directions, such as some of the rules I’ve set regarding materials and techniques. Some make up the outer limits of each series, ones that won’t change.
Recognizing both these aspects of my work are in alignment with how professional artists work was what helped me to see that I’m on the right track. One of the benefits the panelists mentioned was that working in a series helps you build and maintain momentum. That’s something I’ve experienced. As I finish each piece, stitching up the binding and getting ready to add my label, I’m already starting to think about what’s next. Having a defined series helps narrow my field. I find myself looking at the work I’m finishing with a critical eye, already thinking about what worked, what didn’t, and what I want to try next.
The panelists all talked about reflecting on each piece within the context of the series before moving onto the next. I’ve been thinking that taking the time to write a more formal reaction to each piece or to sets of pieces actually makes a lot of sense. I know, for instance, that after creating The Master Tree, I knew I wanted to simplify. With Tree and Rock I, I did that, and I liked where that went. In Tree and Rock II, I wanted to create a little more complexity but keep the overall piece simple but using many of the same techniques I’d used in Tree and Rock I and The Master Tree. By Tree and Rock III, I felt like I wanted to move in closer to my subject. Tree and Rock I, II, and III, now that I’ve seen them together, are a progression on several levels. All of that, though, has been floating around in my mind in a somewhat indistinct mess.
After listening to the discussion, I feel inspired to sort those ideas out and use them to help me develop my work further. By writing it all down, I can push my exploration, recognize more clearly what I’ve learned and what’s working or not quite working. One of my goals over the next few weeks is to do just that.
The SAQA panel discussion helped me think more clearly about my own work and my concept of what it means to be an artist. I wrote notes and jotted down some of the ideas I picked up as I listened to the discussion. I have a lot to think about and work with over the next few weeks..or months. I’m looking forward to seeing how my work shifts over the next months as a result of having listened to that discussion.