In the Weeds

It’s about the process. I’ve said it before and I say it to myself every day. But it’s more than that. It’s about connection, meditation, intuition and evolution. The work I do is no longer precious, no longer final, no longer static. It lives on, breathes inconsistency and opens new insights. This process keeps me thinking. This process brings pieces together. Here’s a brief summary about the process for a new piece, In the Weeds.

I started with this piecing composition. My thoughts were about sentinels — beings tuned into signals that may not be heard.

I did a lot of stitching on this piece, both by machine and by hand. There was an inkling of dissatisfaction during that time. But my motto tends to be “more is more” right? You can see the warping that is happening to the piece as I add more texture. Not a good sign most of the time.

I let it hang on the studio wall for about 4 weeks. Then I put it into the divide and conquer bin. This piece would not see the light of day until I could resolve its main problems — frivolity without reality, composition inadequacies, warpage meant for the sea not the wall.

Then one day I had an itch to destroy, erase, and engage.

I ended up with 96 4” x 4” squares. And it felt really good.

Reassembly took a few days. This was one of the solutions I had. Still not there. I attach the blocks to a substrate. This time I used drapery blackout fabric. It stitches very well and maintains its shape.

Of course, I am not shy about adding details. And, I added a few pieces from other quilts that were in the divide and conquer bin.

It was about this time that I knew the title of the piece, In the Weeds. According to the Cambridge dictionary: Concerned with so many problems or so much work that you are finding it difficult to deal with something; or concerned with small details, often when this prevents you from understanding what is important.

I’ve been in the weeds about a few things lately. Understanding what is happening in our governmental bodies, concern about the environment, moving into the third period of life. The catharsis of stitching helps quell the storm.

In the Weeds, final composition. Paula Kovarik, 34” x 39.5” The sentinels are still there but they are more active in their environment.

In the Weeds, Paula Kovarik, back panel.

Let's get together


2019 will be a busy quilting year for me. I love hanging out with people who have the same passion. Here are some things to consider when planning your new year.

Memphis Festival

Plan a trip to Memphis this Summer! I am heading up a quilt festival in Memphis that debuts on May 10. We are bringing in the Masterworks: Abstract and Geometric show in from SAQA. In addition, we have issued a challenge to quilters, makers and artists within a 200 mile radius of Memphis to make up to three quilts. The quilts will be three layers, stitched, 24” x 24” in BLUE. I have children making quilts, woodworkers making quilts, artists making quilts and quilters making quilts. It should be a glorious blue room full of stitching. We are reaching all the guilds, sewing circles and artist groups in the area to focus on BLUE for a little while.

Are you within a 200 mile radius of Memphis? Enter the show! Click here for a link to the submission form. The show will be housed in the beautiful Crosstown Concourse art galleries. The two shows will hang from May 10-July 28, 2019. Visit Memphis. Good food, good music, the mother of all rivers — You won’t be disappointed. And in May the azaleas are in bloom.

Follow the Thread workshops

I am teaching workshops three times next year. Consider joining me and like-minded explorers in a journey of thread and free-motion quilting.

Let loose! We’ll go off the beaten track at these workshops.

Focus on Fiber, April 4-6, in New Smyrna Beach, FL. What could be better than a week in Florida as the sun warms us to new inspirations? The beach, a retreat center, and hours with creative people. Classes are filled on a first come/first served basis and classes are filling quickly So hurry and register now!

Quilting by the Lake, July 15-19, sponsored by the Schweinfurth Art Center in Syracuse, NY. People from all over the world have enjoyed workshops at QBL. I was supposed to be there two years ago but life got in my way. So I am looking forward to this opportunity to work with some serious stitchers. Join us!

Art Quilt Tahoe, November 3-8, at the Zephyr Point Conference Center, Lake Tahoe, California. Need I say more? The mountains, the lake, the workshops, the talent? What are you waiting for?

Fifteen years quilting, Paula Kovarik

I have a book(let)

Really, it’s just a portfolio of quilts I have made in the past 15 years. There was a slippery slope of doubt and introspection I encountered while creating it.

I learned this in the process:

  • I am an eclectic explorer carrying a thread of anxiety and mystery through each piece.

  • Many pieces are explosive, dark and uncomfortable.

  • My stitching can sometimes reveal humor in the midst of query and strain.

You can order a copy here. There is a digital version that will lead you to links in this journal that might explain some of the process or thoughts that created the works (just click on the titles of the quilts that have underlines). Or, you can order a printed version. The booklet is 48 pages long. 48 pages of explorations in thread and cloth.

I recommend the exercise. Reviewing the work I have done over 15 years clarified some of my underlying themes and pointed to some new directions for exploration.

2019? Already?

Yesterday I was 25, looking forward to a life full of excitement, love and challenges.

I got the love — Oh my. I got the excitement —Oh yes.
And, I had some challenges along the way. Yes, I did.

Today I am older, still trying to be wiser. And this I know: life is short.

So, I will reach for my loved ones. Read the good books. Fill my mind with art and nature.
And stitch untilI sleep.

Wishing you all a healthy, peaceful and creative new year.


Many Moons

I finished Many Moons this week. It’s an assemblage of cut up quilts and outliers. Taken as a whole it speaks to my sense of the mysterious. The stitch work is intuitive, experimental and rowdy. Once again I am captivated by the way the back speaks a different language.

Yes, it feels done now.

Many Moons, Paula Kovarik

Many Moons, side 2, Paula Kovarik

Many Moons, detail, Paula Kovarik

Many Moons, detail 2, Paula Kovarik

Many Moons, detail back, Paula Kovarik

Many Moons, detail back 2, Paula Kovarik

many moons

I was not in a colorful mood. So this piece will linger on the boards for a while before I get back to it.

I came back from a number of trips last month with a swarm of images floating through my thoughts but no map to figure out how they go together. It was frustrating to feel so aimless. I looked around at the work that I had done prior to my trips and felt totally disconnected from them.

My friend Jeanne Seagle, a very talented artist here in Memphis said the following in an interview: “Make a lot of work. Put the good stuff in shows. Recognize the bad stuff, and put it in the closet. After a while maybe you can fix it. If not, you can still learn from it what not to do. Just don’t show it.“

After a few days and a number of puzzled thoughts I decided to be radical. I took out all of my older pieces lurking under the studio tables and made some judgements. Some still spoke to me about their intent and focus. Others did not. Some showed a learning curve in the stitching that no longer represents my work. Others were pieces that didn’t get done.

This piece never got done. It was an experiment with geometry and connections.

I chose a few and laid them out on the cutting board for some fun with rotary cutter.

Fun with my rotary cutter. No piece is sacred.

This piece, called Keeping up with the Dow Jones, was done in 2009. I’m over it.

Just that act of cutting up several pieces into 2.5” squares was a release from the aimlessness. I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with it but I knew it was the right step. Catharsis. Resolve…and a little panic.

After some mix and matching, twisting and turning I finally came up with a composition that seemed to hold together. I stitched the squares onto a canvas backing. All 420 of them.

And now the fun begins. My goal as an artist is to channel what is invisible into the visible. The work I do is intuitive and exploratory. I’m never quite sure what will result with a piece like this. I just know that I am channeling lots of different emotions and thoughts. Beauty, complexity, doubt, anger, worry, whimsy, calm and depth. They are all in there. The layering of stitch and fabric brings out the best (and worst) of me.

I’m going to call it Many Moons. Because that’s how long it will take to finish it and because its taken me many moons to get to this stage in my work.