My life as a quiltmaker (for chronological order, read oldest post to newest)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

38. Leaving Hawaii

"Leaving Hawaii" is a full-size quilt made using the curved piecing techniques about which I had become excited. All the leaves and even the circles here are created through improvisational piecing, rather than by appliqué. There is no design imperative driving that fact: I just wanted to see if I could do it. The subject matter and color resulted from a visit to the Hawaiian Islands. I had planned to take lots of pictures of all the wonderful flowers I would see there, but my camera came back from the trip filled with pictures of amazingly large and colorful leaves. And my mind's eye returned filled with ocean blues and tropical greens.

I had begun to write a book about my curved piecing methods, with a working title of "Curves in All the Right Places." The book didn't go according to plan any more than my Hawaiian flowers had. I chose a publisher that had worked well for a friend of mine, and sent off the first few chapters, a cover letter, and a full proposal. Within a short time I had a positive response and a request for additional materials. That's just exactly how things were supposed to happen, and I was excited. Then, nothing. And more nothing. And six months later, a notification that the project wasn't what they were looking for "at this time." Such a small number of words to describe the work and passion of a whole year.

Now things became complicated. Should I send it out again? Re-write, then send to a new publisher? Re-think the whole project? I re-thought. In my initial enthusiasm for sharing my insights about piecing designs without templates, I overlooked some strong indicators. Lots of people wanted me to teach them how to do what I did. However, it gradually dawned on me that people were having a tough time visualizing the order in which to put together leaves with stems, flowers with petals, or trees with branches. They could do the sewing with no problem at all, but figuring out how to get from beginning to end without drawing first caused some mystification. Some people wanted a video of my workshop in order to remember what they needed to do. That's when I began to think that the audience for my book was limited, and perhaps the publisher knew that better than I. I re-framed the project as a series of articles, with lots of "how-to" pictures. I hoped that if I submitted my proposal for a series, a magazine publisher might take a chance on something with a limited audience, since variety--something for everybody--was part of the magazine format.

Sometimes stories don't end the way they are "supposed" to. The editor had just selected the work of another quilter with a technique similar to mine and so could not use the series I proposed. She suggested that I do a small wall-hanging and submit that instead. I felt half-hearted about the idea. Several months went by, and then the magazine published some work that really was very similar to mine--only better (at least in the prize-winning quilt that was featured). And thus began a serious crisis of confidence, leading me into wilderness once again. I emerged in a new stage of life, with our parents aging and our children well and truly launched into lives of their own. Over the next few years, I eventually arrived at this blog, and its final entries (39-52) will find me exploring how I got here, and how "here" became a good place to be.