More than I want to count

How many decisions does it take?

I started a project about a month ago that included color. A great big pile of color all stitched up together. Rectangles nested, connected and spliced to create a whole. It is a process that demands patience, the power of arbitrary decision, and attention to detail. I can usually count on having two of three of those traits on any given day.

Decisions are endless, if I counted all the seams, snips and rearrangements I would have to seriously question my behavior. For example this little section took most of the morning to figure out. Which way should the red, white and gray composition attach to the orange white and gray section?

When I run out of patience I get distracted. Like: How cool are these wispy thread ends on the back of the piece? They seem to be blowing in the wind, or tangled with an inner confusion. And then I start studying the trimmings. Looking for the answer in chaos.

Stitching scraps together brings new meaning to the whole.

Leftovers reflect the effort of the choices I made.

And now I've turned the whole thing to the back so that I can study that for a while.

I started this piece with no clear goal. I vaguely wanted to create a playground for stitch. Something I could hop, skip and rollerskate over with my thread. And now I'm not so sure. I'll have to take some time to think about it some more, I'll have to find the patience to make some more decisions.

connections to the past

I've been thinking about time passing in a whirl, without a governor switch. Life in the fast lane — even though this is supposed to be the languid, restful stage of life. Contemplative, serene and insightful.

No doubt about it, I am an adult. Can't confuse that fringe of dark hair at the back of my head for youth and vigor. It's just a fringe of memory now. I used to be able to dance into the early morning hours, now I am tired at nine. I used to wear mini-skirts, now I focus on floaty body covering clothes. Some memories are questionable, some persistent, some are life-affirming.

The back of my head reminds me that today is bolstered by the memories of yesterday.

So all of a sudden I am over 60. Yesterday I was 35. Can these feelings of flight and avoidance be part of aging?

Trimming my memories to highlights gives the glitter of life a balance to the darkness.

Now I am more concerned about legacy. About mistakes. About environment. About authenticity. Pretty doesn't do it for me anymore. More stuff gives no solace. Nor does order or constraints. As a designer the constraints of budget, format and timing often dictated the solution. No longer. I can do whatever I want. And that can be a problem. (whining on mute for now). I must pursue this art with urgency. It is about connections. Plugging into the highlights while recognizing the base of the dark and mysterious.

Wired up for connections.

All the trimmings

I've been thinking about trimmings. The way we trim off the excess when we have to choose a new path. The way we add things to our meals and memories and collections. Trimmings are extras....extraneous or extraordinary. They are the side salad, appetizers and desserts. But they are also the leftovers, discarded and forgotten.

I save all the trimmings. There's a whole in there somewhere.

Collections show which extras I want to save.

There are two ways to think about trimmings — as additions or subtractions. In fiber art trimmings can be decorative edges or edited scraps—add-ons or take-aways.

My memory is a collection of trimmings. I don't know how my brain selects each bit. Do the memories come up by catalyst or do they float around waiting for a chance to surface? As we formulate our thoughts do we pick up little trimmings, put them together in new combinations and blurt? Or, is the whole just a leftover of the editing? And what about the new stuff we learn each day? Where does it all go in the stack?

Conversations are a collection of thoughts trimmed in emotion, logic and beliefs. The extraneous drones on and on, the extraordinary inspires and lingers. Bits and pieces stay with us, stored mysteriously in the heap of understanding.

Assembling a group of extras gives me a playground for stitch. This is a work-in-progress that started with two-inch strips sewn together and then cut into rectangles.

This medium gives me a perfect way to use trimmings. I can edit, add, and subtract. I linger with compositions that move forward, get stuck in cul de sacs and challenge my perception. I squint my eyes to see the final stack, tilting left and right to find the balance. Then I commit to negative and positive spaces that support or conflict with each other. Each shift of perspective tells a new story. Each scrap adds its own voice. I'll let it build until it tells me to stop. Then the fun begins—a new playground for stitch.

palate cleanser

Sometimes you just have to take a break from worry. And angst. And the sense that the world is degenerating into a chaotic mess. No amount of hopeful TED talks give solace.

This week I retreated into this make believe. Just some goofy guys. A nine patch of alternate realities.

Rock on.

Secret Life of Stones

I spent yesterday finalizing a piece that I will enter into Quilt National. I debated about the application. This piece is one of a series that I would like to show together one day. It was labor intensive, exploratory and challenging. The idea started while watching crowds and conversations.

Secret Life of Stones, stone, Paula Kovarik

Stones with holes speak with quiet voices. They cannot be heard yet they speak with passion. Buried in the sand or tumbling down a creak, their surfaces are worn. Their lives are an endless journey toward becoming a grain of sand. This is a dark piece on raw canvas. The minimalist treatment of line gives a stark representation of the conversations within.

And then there was the back. That back that speaks to the undergrowth of interpretation. The back that represents simplicity with chaos. I was sorely tempted to turn the whole piece around and present it as the final. Then I chose not to. Instead, as I wrapped the back in a shroud of black cotton I cut a peephole to the undercurrents. Because sometimes when people talk they say things that aren't as textured as their inner beliefs. They simplify, embroider and polish.

I will start a new grouping with the intention of revealing the raggedy undergrowth. Working as if from the back so that I can more clearly represent this idea. For now the back will be tidied up and the front will take center stage. Quacking, whispering, laughing, questioning, twirling and revealing a dialog that only they understand.

"Pillowcasing" the quilt by adding a fabric backing and turning the piece right side out protects the stitching while also hiding the chaos of the stitch.

Secret Life of Stones, detail, Paula Kovarik