Finding order in chaos

Since lockdown I have been mostly at home, except for my daily walks around the neighborhood.   Home is a safe place and we have pretty much cleaned, tidied and re-organized every room and storage space which is very satisfying!

Quite a few people have said to me ‘This is great for you!  You’re an artist.  You will have so much time to make artwork!!’  But I haven’t really had the energy or headspace to concentrate on making very much new artwork.  What has been keeping me grounded and satisfying my artist self has been organizing all of the beautiful colored art supplies in my studio.


I have a LOT of fabric, collected over 25 years of quilting.  It’s been sorted by color and piled into big plastic boxes.  It was so great to dump each box onto my studio floor, fold each piece and arrange them by hue or tone before putting them back into the box.  I cut some strips of cardboard to divide them into rows which should help keep them tidy.  I also got re-acquainted with my fabric, thought about the quilts that they are now part of, and have had some initial thoughts about future work.  I have been enjoying the red, black and white palette that has comprised so much of my work for the past few years, but now feel ready to work with more colors.



Likewise, I sorted my sequins.

One of the most exciting things has been getting a rainbow’s worth of embroidery thread.  I’ve not been much of a hand embroiderer/sewer over the past 25 years, preferring the speed of using my sewing machine.

One of the online courses I have been co-tutoring is Slow Stitch for Wellbeing.  After we check-in, I  speak to the group about a different topic each session:  the philosophy of the Slow Stitch Movement, the importance of working with our hands, wabi-sabi, and letting go of perfection.  Then my teaching partner shows us a hand stitch or two.  Finally, we all stitch silently together.

I found a very exciting tutorial on how to label plastic floss cards!  Every day for about a week I spent time winding thread onto my bobbins and sorting them by color.  So satisfying and rewarding!

I am also a core artist in the Quarantine Quilt Project.  I made a 7″ square which represents feelings, responses and/or experiences to the pandemic.

I arranged 16 squares of different colored fabric onto a grey square and slow stitched over most of them.  The Anchor thread label represents how I have been grounded and anchored through the process of sorting and organizing my fabric and art supplies over the past several weeks.  The birds represent Steve and I, unbound and unfettered, safely enclosed but with space to fly out when we’d like to.

I hope that each of you are finding whatever you need to get you through this time in the best way possible.

Nothing like a deadline

Like many creative people, a deadline can galvanise me into action.  Sometimes (or a lot of the time) I need the frisson which a time limit can give me.  That certain ‘do or die’ feeling can be a good motivator and can engender a great creative output.  I actually do quite a bit of work in my headspace which makes it look like I’m not dong much towards reaching a goal or producing a something.  But once I get started on the work, all of my thinking and figuring out time stands me in good stead to ‘get on with it’.  My writer husband Steve and I often joke that, ‘We’ve thought about it, so it’s as good as done’.

However, sometimes when you don’t know, or forgot, or have mislaid your deadlines, cock-ups can occur.  I don’t know it I mentioned that along with re-painting my studio, I am also in the process of organising my PAPERWORK in a way that makes sense and works for me:  a creative, right-brained person.  I think a lot of us creatives can relate to this.  In fact one artist friend of mine said ‘Organise, paperwork and creative do not belong in the same sentence’.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it is possible.  For a creative person to get organised.  It’s just a case of borrowing techniques from left brained people.  The definition of organising is ‘being able to find it when you need it’.  I’d originally set up my paperwork hidden away in magazine files and it was ‘out of sight, out of mind’.  I’d forget about stuff like applications and deadlines, bacause I couldn’t see them.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve ordered and put up in my studio a notice board and a magnetic chalkboard.

I immediately started pinning visual images to the noticeboard, but have decided to put a dedicated ‘visual board’ above those two, thus reserving the lower one for relevant papers.  I also got a vertical file holder, following a tip from the resources section of Clarity Consulting.  Like most Right-Brainers, I need to see my paperwork or I forget about it.

I recently bought a book called ‘Organising from the Right Side of the Brain’ by Lee Silber.  Before I got started on any hands on paper sorting, I worked through the exercises in the chapter entitled ‘A Method to Your Messiness’.  It was pretty difficult and somewhat emotionally charged, but I stuck with it and treated my self to a cup of tea and a couple of chocolates before going into my studio and faced my main goal.

Which was ‘sort out the pile on my studio desk’.

I had no problem sorting the papers into relevant categories, writing tasks on my blackboard and putting my mind map for organisation on my noticeboard . . . .

but, ‘Ooops!’,  I overlooked writing down a couple of key deadlines.  This morning, I realised that I have to drop my quilt  ‘Suncast Shadows‘ off in Birmingham this Friday.  No problem, because Steve and I will be passing through on our way to Moddershall Oaks for a Spa Weekend to celebrate our birthdays.  But I have to sew a hanging sleeve onto the back.  I have been putting some thought into it though.  It’s a sheer quilt so I’ve adapted the materials accordingly.

I’m using very pale blue organdy and invisible thread.  I’ve pinked the edges so there won’t be a dark, twice turned under seam which could potentially show through the sheer fabric of the quilt.

So this is an example of the power of a deadline, a cautionary tale about being aware of them and an intro to my new and improving organisational system.  I like that it’s flexible, not set in stone and evolving.  I also got some pretty Laura Ashley magazine files for papers that I don’t want to archive, but which aren’t current, such as ‘how to do’s and workshops I teach.  I am also going to start offering my service as a Creativity Coach and will include organising in my repertoire of skills.  So my Coaching materials might go there as well.