My Search for Artistic Inspiration Reminds Me to Look for the New

The piece of art that gave me hope.
The piece of art that gave me hope.

It started when I began planning for 2014. I have a studio where I make art quilts, soft sculpture, and experiment with multi-media collage, but I haven’t spent much time in there lately. So my first goal was just to make time to get back into my studio.

Only that did not solve my problem. I walked into the room and was bewildered. My studio has become crowded since I re-organized in 2009. I have at least a dozen unfinished quilts lying around plus a bunch of other projects that have stalled out because each has hit a snag. I couldn’t figure out where to begin and worried that I didn’t know what I really wanted to be doing with my quilting.

Then I had a wonderful piece of luck. I was passing through Paducah, KY, and the National Quilt Museum was open. I’d never been there before and when I learned that the work of a quilter I admire was on exhibit, I got really excited. Here was my chance to get inspired and to figure out what I would do with my sewing time.

When I walked out of the museum, I was disappointed and in a daze. Why hadn’t I loved what I’d seen? Why wasn’t I eager to get home to my sewing machine? Earlier in the year, I’d felt just as baffled as I struggled to become an animal lover who eats meat. Had I changed again, this time into a quilter who no longer quilts? I nearly panicked at the thought. What would I do with my stash of fabrics and my sewing machines?

I told my sister about my fear and she sent me a picture of The Birds of Beebe Woods by Salley Mavor. It was love at first sight, not only because it’s a beautiful, rich piece, but because I was so relieved to find out there is still fiber art in the world that can excite me. Since then, I’ve also been woken up by the wild and wonderful fiber art pieces Tom Lundberg shared when he spoke at my quilt guild.

Thinking about it, I’ve realized that the quilts I saw at the museum are technical and artistic achievements beyond anything I will ever make, but they are achievements of the past. They were new and exciting when they were first shown, but most of those techniques are common place now. I wasn’t inspired because I was looking for things I’d never seen before, and that’s not what the National Quilt Museum is about.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I do not know what is next for me as an artist. I may go right back to making quilts and finish up all the projects I have lying around. I might launch into something new and completely different from anything I’ve done before. I might find some middle path that interests me.

But right now, I don’t care all that much. I’m just grateful that there is still fiber art in the world that makes me eager to walk into my studio and create.

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Kit Dunsmore

Kit Dunsmore has believed in the magic underlying the muggle world since she was a child searching for the Shetland pony pooka she was sure was hiding in her back yard. She learned early on that books were magic doors into other worlds, and that she could revisit a beloved character or place by opening the right book. As she grew, she decided she wanted to make magic with words, too. Today Kit writes about things she loves: poodles and dragons, witches and artists, quirky underdogs and loyal friends. Whether her setting is 6th-century England, the imaginary Twelve Kingdoms, or an art-obsessed version of modern America, magic always finds its way into her story. She enjoys turning fairy tales inside out and watching characters sacrifice everything to reach their goal, but she also believes in happy endings. When she isn't writing, Kit experiences magic by making things with her hands. Over the years, she's made quilts, fabric sculptures, collages, sweaters, and blank books. Her newest interest is learning how to spin her own yarn, a skill guaranteed to strengthen one of her many delusions: that she is a self-sufficient pioneer woman. She also thinks she is a hobbit, a witch, an artist, and a good cook. Living in the foothills of Colorado, Kit enjoys the giant skies and prairie landscapes which suit her need for wide open spaces. In addition to hiking through glorious scenery with her husband or imagining herself living in the Middle Ages, Kit works as a pillow for her miniature poodle and polishes the next small piece of her handmade life.

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