For the past three years I have been engaged in the art of quilt making almost every day. It has been three years of exploration and discovery; three years of creative play, inspiration seeking and mistake making; three years of bliss and three years to focus on finding and developing my creative voice.
I create for many reasons but I primarily do so because both the act of creating and the outcome have meaning to me. I am a visual storyteller and the quilts I make tell the story of my life, piece by piece.
While I admit that three years only scratches the surface of what I hope to one day profess to be my quilting experience, it is none the less sufficient time to appreciate that the days and energy I have consciously invested in creating have helped me become aware of how my skills, values, experiences and passions intertwine to give rise to my own authentic voice. All that to say that with practice and consistency I know where my strengths and weaknesses lie and the type of patterns and designs I like to explore – I have been developing my authentic voice!
Have you ever thought about what it means to give yourself to the creative process; to be fully engaged from beginning to end with both the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ behind a project? We all have our own unique creative process, but when we register an awareness of our thought process throughout, we begin to see the connections between what makes us unique and the work we are producing. By acknowledging the threads that connect our interests and excite us, and by focusing on what makes us happy we are developing a skill set uniquely styled to our own creative DNA.
When you learn to put your own unique signature spin and perspective on a project you are giving yourself permission to be authentic. But don’t confuse authenticity with the commonly accepted definition relating to transparency or originality. You don’t have to design your own quilts to be authentic, you just need to know what it is you care about and infuse your creations with elements that matter to you, whether that be your chosen colour palette or your piecing method.
With this idea in mind you shouldn’t be surprised to see me make a quilt exactly like someone else – in fact, I am hoping to start Vanessa Christenson’s Endless Summer Quilt soon, and I am making it identical to the original because the combination of traditional piecing with the gorgeous colour palette Vanessa designed resonates with me and makes me happy – that’s my authentic voice saying, ‘Yes, you should most definitely make that quilt – so buy a kit and get to it! 😉
One of the things I do sometimes struggle with is ‘hearing’ my voice amidst the abundance of other makers inspirational work. There are so many talented quilt makers that inspire me every day that it’s easy to be overwhelmed with project ideas and to compare my own accomplishments and relative standing to those in our community. Sometimes I am paralysed by the endless possibilities that I have perused on any given day and it is necessary to remind myself to stop comparing my work, output or even my fabric stash to that of others. I have to slow down and focus on what brings me joy and creative satisfaction and know when to let the inspiration permeate my work and when to block out the ‘noise’ so I can hear myself think.
Developing an authentic voice is not about standing out or being different, instead it is about celebrating everything that makes us perfectly us. My quilts may or may not look like the ones you make but it doesn’t matter because that is as it should be and as long as we are all doing what we love and creating consciously, we are continuing to learn and grow creatively.
So next time you purchase a pattern or begin to piece a quilt ask yourself ‘why’ and recognise the beauty that comes from your hands and your authentic voice.
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