Sunday, February 1, 2009

To Rip or Not to Rip

I get a lot of comments when I rip out something I don't like. Tonya has told me she is amazed at the amount of time I spend re-doing some things.

I'm surprised that it causes so much consternation. If it doesn't look good, it comes out, pure and simple. Which begs the question, I suppose, how do I decide it doesn't look good?

To explain this, I need to go back a little bit.

When I was in Art School, I'd be working on a drawing or painting, and I remember my professors would ask me, "What are you trying to say?" The question used to drive me crazy. I didn't have any idea what I was trying to say. I was just trying to draw or paint what was in front of me. It took me a long time before I knew what I was "trying to say" in a piece of artwork.

Now I know. When I was drawing professionally, I always knew what project I'd be working on next, but I never started a new piece until I knew in my head "what I wanted to say." So what does that mean? It means that although I don't necessarily have a complete concept in mind when I start (unlike, say, working from a pattern, where everything is determined ahead of time), I have a good idea of what I want the end result to look like. I have an image in my head. Sometimes I've drawn a basic plan.Free-piecing, by definition, is a lot like working without a net. It's make-it-up as you go, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. So there are bound to be missteps. Since there is no predetermined plan, I don't know how if something is going to work until I do it. This also means the idea I had in my head at the beginning is never what I end up with. It grows, and changes. But since a quilt is not always like a painting (in that I can simply overpaint a "bad" area) I often have to "work around" what I've already done. And the idea in my head has to change too. Sometimes, what I've got isn't "bad," but a new idea is simply better.When I am working, I look for elements that are balanced. I don't want areas to be too dark (or bright), or too visually "heavy." (Or "empty.") The goal of any artwork is to capture your attention, and to move your eye around inside the edges of the piece. If your eye stops and stays in one area, that's bad. If your eye slides right over the piece, and moves away, that's bad too (meaning: boring). So it's a constant balancing act, made all the more difficult by not being exactingly pre-planned.

My goal is for the entire piece to work together. I want the individual components to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. It's no different from making any other type of art.

One final note. There's "wonky", which is wonderful, fresh and vibrant; and then there's "sloppy workmanship, " which is completely unacceptable. If I sew something up (like the first two "hand" attempts, and it just looks terrible, and I know I can do a better job, then it comes out. Because everybody who looks at the piece will judge me by my work.Even if I'm the only one who'll ever see it.


Callie Brady said...

I loved reading about your creative process. It gives me hope as I am presently lost somewhere in the beginnings of a quilt. Making another plan sounds good. I'm going to start over.

Gina said...

like you I'm quite happy to rip out what I don't like or what doesn't seem right. I don't see the problem in that.
If I know something is wrong then that's all I'll see in a quilt so it makes a mockery of all my hard work.

Love and hugs Gina xxx

Millie said...

Callie, usually if I am stuck, I stop. I have found that if I keep going, it can make it worse, waste my time and make me more frustrated. So I stop, and move on to something completely different.

Gina, you are absolutely correct, and your description "... it makes a mockery of all my hard work..." is spot-on! You described it better than I did!

QuiltingFitzy said...

I don't think I could last thru "formal training", lol. I don't know "why" much of the time...the answeri s "just because".

I too, stop when I get stuck. Or stop when things don't go right. Sometimes I have the courage to continue, sometimes not.

My last wonky class with Tonya lies on my design wall. I'm stuck. Like your hand, I wasn't pleased. Haven't figured out my remedy yet...but I'm working on it.

Your quilt is stunning. You achieved movement girlfriend.

Joyce said...

I agree. If it doesn't work rip it out. My parts drawer is full of things that didn't work but that doesn't mean they won't work somewhere else. In the end ripping out usually takes only a fraction of the time you expect and dread. It's well worth it if you are not satisfied with the look.

Quiltdivajulie said...

Try as I may, I have never been able to convince myself that "close" is "good enough" ~ I either change directions (sometimes mistakes lead me off to uncharted lands that are more interesting) or take it out and do it over.

You are not alone in your willingness to stop, rip, and re-do.

Lovely post ~ enjoyed reading about your though process!!

MyCretanlife said...

Same here,if it doesn't look right its no good. If you don't fix it, it will just stick out like a sore thumb and you'll never be satisfied. Even if its only you that knows its there.

Callie Brady said...

Thank you for the excellent advice! I'm going to take the week off from thinking about the quilt and go outside and work in the sunshine. It's supposed to be in the 60's all week. :)

3anklebiters said...

my granny, who taught me to sew and rip, was a trained tailor. if it wasn't done correctly it will gather the wrong kind of attention. i enjoyed hearing about your creative process. it shouldn't be about how many things we can make, but how wonderful they individually are.

Sharon said...

Thanks for sharing your thought process! I agree, if I'm not happy with something, it comes out or gets changed. Because I know that, in the long run, it's worth it. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. I love your quilts and your designs. You have a good eye for design. I've learned a lot from reading your blog. Thank you!

Clare said...

When I started free piecing and got really frustrated I used to get mails from Tonya telling me not to rip, ignore it and carry on which I did. Now I rip, especially after a hanging I made for my aunt went wrong. Aunt loves it, but I can see faults in every block and cringe at the thought of it.

Browndirtcottage said...

I know 'EXACTLY' what you are saying....I too grew up drawing, painting and art....I don't 'bat' an eye about ripping something out...why would you do ALL that work and then everytime you look at it there is this 'little' flaw that eats on you...nags can't focus on anything else BUT THAT ONE LITTLE AREA YOU WISH YOU HAD RIPPED OUT!!! What does it hurt....I gave up along time ago trying to explain why I do it the way I do it...I'm not a perfectionest, I just have to 'feel' inside that it is right for me!

jmb_craftypickle said...

Well put...that last hand looks simply amazing!