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.

Author: Kit Dunsmore

Kit is a writer and an artist who adores living in Colorado. Whether she's hiking in the mountains or walking the prairies, she's always watching the wildlife in order to learn more about the natural world.

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