I started blogging about three and a half years ago, inspired by a pretty intense envy for Anna Maria Horner, one of the few bloggers I followed at the time. It sounds malicious, but it wasn't. I'd just finished my History degree, a lifestyle (part time mum, part time student) and identity which had suited me perfectly. I'd had a second baby. I spent a lot of time breastfeeding, while reading Anna Maria's exciting tales of setting up a new studio above her house. I felt trapped and lost. So instead of continuing to moan about it, I decided to take positive steps towards creativity, productivity and thankfulness. I started to write.

When I started blogging, I started reading other blogs, meeting new friends, people like me, sewing more, becoming part of a community. I discovered that some bloggers actually managed to make money from their craft, and I was struck by how great it would be to contribute to the family income that way. It would certainly justify the time I was spending writing about myself. When I wasn't feeling so optimistic, I wrestled with the extravagance of it all. I've written here before about my young-adult intentions to live and work with orphans and homeless children in Eastern Europe. It all seemed so bizarre, trying to find my place in the world through sewing, on my own, hoping to God the babies slept just a little longer, while much of the world wrestled with more urgent issues like war and food and shelter.

Over the last few years, there's been a lot of discussion on blogs I read about value. Valuing ourselves as creative workers, putting the right price on our work, whether it be physical or intellectual. As I've gotten to know creative folk in my city through my pop-up shop, or market stalls, I've loved the open and honest conversations I've had about how people price their wares, how business is going, what they love most about it. My own efforts to make money, selling clothes and quilts, developing a pattern, happily ticked over enough cash into my Paypal account to pay for fabric and support creative friends in their businesses too. It was part fun and exciting and part (mostly) monotonous, and never helped put food on the table. And, well, it didn't really feel like it was achieving anything or solving world problems.

When I had Finlay, earlier this year, I said goodbye to craft markets, started turning away custom orders, and decided to spend any time I happened to get sewing (a lot more than I expected!), making quilts for friends who had graduated from university and moved on. The experience has been so much more than I could have imagined. It's stretched my creativity, helped me discover more of what I love in quilts, and it's touched my friends deeply. This is the sixth, and final quilt I aimed to make this year, and I think it's my favourite.

I love that I got away with not using white or low volume prints. I love that it's scrappy, but still within a pattern. I love the mix of Anna Maria's saturated prints with the other lighter, brighter ones from my stash. I love that it includes a blessing, written by Tim, for the recipient, quilted into some of the church dash blocks. I love, LOVE the feeling of making something really work, after being worried from the beginning that it might not.

I was talking to an artist friend of mine a few weeks ago about this experience of making for gifts rather than making for sale, about how it's settled much of the angst in me about value, about needing to justify the time I spend sewing and thinking and writing about quilting. I've enjoyed seeing the changes in me (as an artist and a person) as well as the way it's touched other people.
She looked at me and said, "You know that even if you hadn't made those quilts as gifts, it's still a valuable thing to do, right?"
Yes, I did. I mean kind of. Actually maybe not. But it's been something I've been mulling over ever since, until yesterday when I read yet another blog post about valuing ourselves as bloggers/makers/business women, and I had that feeling again that maybe because I wasn't attracting blog sponsorship, that I wasn't really valuing my words here.

And that's when the light went on.

I absolutely support women working in a way that suits them and their families. I am for women who put themselves out there find ways to monetize their gifts and skills. I support paying them for their work, valuing it financially.

But I think I've had it around the wrong way. For me, at least.

My blogging, my making, are not valuable because I put a price on them. They are valuable because in the beginning there was colour and creativity, stories and relationships, way before money entered the scene. And they were good. In and of themselves. And when I make, when I write, when I pour my girl a drink of water, I make this place a little bit more like the author's original intention.

And that has great value.

May God grant you an adventure big enough to inspire awe in your indomitable spirit.
May all who share fellowship at your meal table be blessed by the sacrament of communion.
May God bless you with the harmony of work and passion that blossoms into a vocation.
May God make his face to shine on you, and yours in turn to shine in your world.
And until we meet again may God carry with you, all those you love in the palm of his hand
-Tim Godfrey

The Purple Windmill

These are a few snaps from my day at The Olive Tree Market on Saturday. The market is a monthly affair filled with the city's finest artisans, and is such a great way to spend a sunny Winter day. Strolling around the different stalls I felt honoured to be invited to be part of it.

I didn't sell much and it made me glad for my new deal I made with myself before I signed up. If I was going to start selling at a monthly art market, I needed to make what I loved and just turn up with what I had. Boy, did that pay off! It meant I didn't spend the week before abandoning my kids or my home, and then on the day, I could just enjoy the sun and the time out of the house and the interactions with different people. It seemed like the most valuable reason to be there was to connect locally again. New friends dropped in who had been following my blog and knew my story this year and wanted to meet me and see my quilts in person. I really enjoyed that. 

(By the way, that beautiful, hand printed work next to my stall is by Billie the Kid. I want her to print panels or FQs so I can buy, ahem, someone can buy them for me, to quilt with. If you agree, head over and let her know!)

Anyway, the main reason for this post is to actually show you this new quilt. I wrote about how I made the block here. I've found it so interesting to follow my last quilt, which disappointed me, with this one, just purple and grey, and simple and regular, yet I love it. I mentioned in my last post that I started with scraps, as I am now in the habit of doing, but along the way, I changed tact and started pulling out my favourite pinky purples from Denyse Schmidt and Anna Maria Horner. There was something about this change that gave me the feeling I get from a really nice red wine. (It is a red wine kind of quilt, don't you think?)

So the windmills are made out of some prints I love, and other ones I was just trying to use up, and then there's that floral Garden Party print with the olive green and red flowers, that I've never really liked, but I loved what it did here. A slightly different shade and the right amount of clash, which as a whole print doesn't really do it for me, but cut up in something like this, perfect! How does she do it?

It's tempting for me now, in light of my recent musings about creativity and satisfaction, to say, "Yes, what I really love is blocks," or "I just need to avoid primary colours," or "I just need to pay attention to those feelings of doubt when they come." But sometimes pushing through them pays off, and sometimes experimenting without keeping tight reins on the project does too. And if there's anything I really need to take from this, it's that art is a bit of a game. Sometimes you win and other times, you don't. But certainty is not the thing to aim for here. I'm aiming for beauty, self expression, integrity and humility. And these are qualities that are uncertain, intangible, but I hope, slowly, they are starting to show through in my work.