The Course of Creativity: Finding Others to “Play” With

They say happiness is contagious. So is creativity! Surround yourself with passionate quilters to let your ideas flow.

IMG_5298 2 I’m one of the lucky ones and if you’re reading this, you’re probably lucky too. In this case, our luck comes from having found our bliss; our creative bliss. Though all humans have the innate need and desire to create, only some of us take or find or have the time to follow our creative passions. I’m of the opinion that we are each at our best when we are being creative.

First of all, working creatively generally makes us happier and happiness is contagious. Secondly, creative thinking makes us better problem solvers. It also keeps our minds fresh and helps us get to know ourselves more intimately. Another plus happens when we reach out to others who like to create in the same way we do.

Whether it is a quilt guild, a critique group, or a charity sew-in, gathering with other people who have a passion for fabric and stitch helps us build new and lasting relationships with likeminded individuals. All of this helps us become a more creative individual and adds a richness to our lives.

IMG_5304 I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point I actively decided to live a more creative life. I knew that I was at my happiest and was most content when being creative. To that end, I now own a small gallery, retail space, and teaching studio all contained in about 1600 square feet called Wild Heather Designs. It is there where I make all of my art. In fact, I no longer have a studio in my home. I share my studio space, which measures about 700 square feet, with my employees, other instructors and students which basically means that I no longer have my own, sacred work area.

At first I wasn’t sure I had made the right decision when I gave up my home studio, but I’ve discovered a beautiful, fluid symbiosis that happens when actively creating with others present. A creative flow often fills the studio classroom with an energy so strong that I can’t help but want to be in the midst of it. I’ve discovered that working on my own art while in the presence of other artists who are working on their own art is making me a better artist; it increases my awareness of new ideas and methodologies, and allows me to see how other creative individuals problem solve, use their materials, and expand their options.

Most artists would agree that art-making is often a solitary endeavor that includes lots of time working alone. Though there is great benefit in time alone in the studio, it can leave some of us feeling a bit lonely and left out of the wondrous flow of life around us. It is to that end that I have searched out other creatives to “play” with. I’ve literally surrounded myself with folks that like to do what I like to do; play with color on cloth with stitch and embellishment. I hang out with people who eagerly ask, “What happens if…?” And then go out and try to find the answers.

Artists in other mediums have been doing this for a long time with their salons, art cooperatives, and shared studio spaces. Quilters have also formed their own groups such as guilds and sewing bees. Unfortunately though, we seldom create or sew together unless it’s in a class setting or a charity sew-in. So, when I opened the doors to my gallery and teaching studio I looked for ways to bring the fiber based artists in my community together and offer them ways to work communally. After nearly a year of trying out different ideas and formats we’ve settled on a few that are really working for us and might just work for you too if you’re looking to build a creative community for yourself.

Robin Sruoginis demonstrating a new technique Each month I host what we have aptly titled, “Wild at Art.” It is a relatively short meeting – just two hours – where quilters, artists, and other craftspeople come to see a rather thorough demonstration of a new technique then get to participate in a show-and-tell session where they not only show their newest works but also talk about it for more than just a few seconds. This time together is not only informative but it also helps us become braver when we show our work to an audience.

Barb Allen Showing Her Work I also host a monthly critique group. This meeting can last anywhere from a quick hour and a half up to three hours depending on how many people are present. In the group we show our new work and have the others present critique it using a list of the elements and principles of design as a guide. We provide a hand out with the critique format on it to each person in the group and have one person lead each individual critique. This group is a way to reach out to more mature artists and quilters who want to show their work professionally and those who want a better understanding of how others see the art that they make.

IMG_5190 (1024x768) We host two more monthly groups at the gallery and both of them include actively working together. The first is a group we call “Soul Collage.” In it, participants create small cards (about 5×7”) that are collaged with paper, fabric, found objects, and other ephemera. Each card contains meaning that is personal to the maker yet universal to the human struggle. These cards can be used to help guide the maker through the creative process and their own personal life journey. The act of making the cards together in a group setting with a guide is personally gratifying and helps build intimacy among the group of creative individuals present.

Our final group is similar to those held at quilt stores across the nation and it is a UFO group. This group is where our friends and customers can come together to work on their unfinished projects, chat, gossip, eat chocolate, and even drink wine if they like. It is all about camaraderie and having fun together and allows us the opportunity to get feedback on our works in progress as well as free us from the solitary confines of our home studios.

Any of these groups and other groups like them can be held in your own home or in a public setting. Before I had my gallery I had groups that met in public libraries, local quilt stores, and in my home. Though it can sometimes be a challenge setting them up and dealing with all of the personalities that join in, each of the groups that I have participated in over the years has helped me grow as an artist, quilt maker, friend, and woman and I am better from having been a part of them.

I strongly suggest searching out groups like this in your own community and if you can’t find any, then form one yourself. Advertise your new group at local quilt stores, art supply stores, and guild meetings. Ask one of your local stores if they would be willing to host the meeting, providing work space, gathering space, or both. It creates a “win/win” situation for both the store and the group participants.

When we gather together with other creative individuals we open ourselves to new possibilities both creatively and personally as we expand our possibilities and our world. I hope that if you aren’t currently participating in an art/quilting group that you will become a part of one soon. You might be amazed at where it will take you.

Related Video: Finding Quilt Guilds

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