Monday, August 23, 2010

Don't Harsh Our Quilting Mellow

My last couple of posts have been about those out there who are determined to put us down and "harsh our mellow."

Years ago I had a conversation with a friend while we were visiting Ireland.  She had just finished art school and was more depressed and felt worse about herself after school than before.  Going in she was all excited about what she would learn and how she'd have all of this opportunity to be creative and to be encouraged and supported by her fellow artists.  Huge wake up call!  She wasn't, instead she endured what can only be  called bullying from her fellow students, who took every opportunity to denigrate her, sabotage her, and make her feel like her work was worthless. 

The saddest part about all of this is that when students from the school submitted their illustration portfolios to Disney, (who were looking for animators), she was the only one who was chosen.  She actually was as good or better than the rest of them, and it took that experience to wake her up to the fact that she wasn't the one with the problem, that those who'd bullied her were the ones that were threatened by her talent.  However, what was sad was that even with the success she had, she couldn't enjoy it because she still had deep seated doubts about her abilities.  The bullying had changed the way she felt about herself.

Fortunately, she pulled herself out of it and is now the publisher of an Irish magazine that encourages entrepreneurs.  Her experience of being beaten down didn't destroy her, it made her stronger and pushed her in the direction of helping others find the way to fulfill their dreams.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, about how other's opinions can be toxic to our growth, not only as artists, but also as people.  I wish I'd come to this realization earlier in my life, I would have been spared a lot of pain and suffering, and perhaps would have taken more advantage of opportunities when they presented themselves.  Instead, I was held back by my fear that I wasn't good enough and didn't deserve success.

The scariest part is that I've been luckier than most in having more positive experiences than negative ones.  My family has always been tremendously supportive and my husband is terrific and so proud of my accomplishments.  He always says that I don't toot my own horn enough.

I can't imagine how hard it is for those who have not had support for their dreams, who've been struggling along, trying to get past their demons and create the quilts and art that they've imagined.   It doesn't help that when they put themselves out there in a quilt shop, at a quilt show, or at a guild meeting, that they get shot down again. 

As an accomplished quilter I'm often put in the position of commenting on other's work.  Many times the quilts aren't very good by my standards.  However, I've been doing this for many years so it isn't fair to apply my standards to other's work.  I always find something nice to say about every piece I'm shown, and sometimes I see something even in the most poorly made piece; great color choices, interesting block combinations, a knack for design.  Sewing can be taught but art has to reside within the person.  So, if the quilter seems willing I'll try to show them some little tip that might help them fix a problem.  I'll also tell them my story, how I spent years refining my technique and am still working on improving.

Those of us who have honed our skills over the years owe it to the next generation and to those who are traveling this quilting road with us to share our knowledge, and most importantly to encourage everyone who wants to quilt to just do it. 

I don't know if there's anything we can do about the crabby killjoys out there.  I suspect that whatever they're involved in they'd be the same, whether it be quilting or finger painting.  They always have to be the center of attention and the Queen Bee and they'll get that attention and status by fair means or foul.

However, as adults we don't have to play in their sandbox.  So, I've decided to start my own little organization, Q.U.A.C.K., which stands for Quilters United Against Crabby Killjoys.  I intend to counteract their negativity with positive encouragement, and if I think it's necessary I'm committed to calling them out and letting them know that they aren't allowed to behave "that way" while I'm around.  The quilting world is generally a very welcome and comforting place, just think of how great it would be if we could shut up these quiltzillas once and for all.

Don't Thread on Me!

Happy Stitching,



kheli said...

Excellent post! Piece On, sister!

zattanna said...

I agree with you on the not tooting our own horns enough. I found a great saying on the web that really sums it up for me. "I have a self-esteem problem, which is ridculous when you consider how awesome I am."