Tuesday, February 9, 2016


This week, I'm between projects with deadlines and focusing on workshop preparations.  A few more examples need to be organized to inspire my students in my new workshops this winter like this scrappy Dresden Star.
I'm also thinking quite a bit about "creativity" -- it came up in conversation at my retreat last month.   I interrupted a conversation about it not being important to finish projects with "never finishing projects has a negative impact on your sense of creative ability" or something like that.  The process quilters in the room reacted pretty quickly arguing that I was off base and as a recovering process quilter, I get that.  
Then yesterday in my weekly chair yoga class, the word came up again.  The instructor had each of us draw a card out of her new deck of affirmations.  The idea of these cards is to introduce each of us to new ways to affirm ourselves in positive ways.  Mine was "I believe in the process of life."  Interesting.  One of the other students drew out "I am creative" and after she shared it with the group, she pointed out that Mary (me) should have gotten that one because "she's creative and I'm not".  Well, she missed the point.
For the past 10 years, I've been working hard to transition from jumping around from process to process into a quilter who moves through my projects from start to finish in a pretty steady flow.  I'm not sure I'll ever make a complete transition -- I'm still easily distracted by interesting ideas but I hope to maintain a more middle of the road approach as the years pass.  The quilts I've made during the past decade are some of my favorite -- mostly because I learned so much in the process of finishing them -- and partly because I have the satisfaction of finishing them!!
So how do you build a sense that you are creative?  
Three approaches have helped me immensely in this area.

First, I find that technique classes are more helpful to me than project oriented classes.   I even prefer to teach technique classes that give my students basics and then help them find ways to customize that technique to their own work -- it's harder than teaching project classes because I have to guide students rather than saying this is wrong or right.  But my own experience and their feedback help me keep my mouth shut and focus on mentoring.
Around the turn of the century, I was fortunate to be able to attend teacher workshops with C&T Publishing authors several times.  The purpose of the workshops was to introduce teachers to the principles and ideas of the newest books so that we understood better how to use them as teaching texts.  It was very exciting to understand a book from the author's point of view.
I get the same sense of excitement and insight from the classes I've taken on Craftsy over the past few months -- to learn directly from the authors is an excellent opportunity.  I'm somewhat overwhelmed by the variety of classes they offer -- they just announced their 1000th class and you can use this LINK** to go look some of them over if you've never checked it out.  They are offering discounts on some of their classes to celebrate through Thursday, 2/11/2016.  I'm currently working my way through Amy Johnson's Quilting with Rulers on a Home Machine and the Tea Breads classes from King Arthur Flour!
Second, I'm learning that narrowing my scope and concentrating on the aspects of quilting that appeal to me the most is very helpful.  It has cut down on the number of projects I begin and because of this I build greater skill in those aspects and finish more projects.  Both of those aspects -- improved skills and more finishes -- has boosted my sense of success as a quilt maker. 
I find that when I feel good about what I'm doing, I feel creative. 
Finally, I glean so much inspiration from the virtual quilting community.  Between reading blogs and following Instagram, I get lots of inspiration and have broaden my perspective on how to approach my work!  I also appreciate all the support that comes from other quilt makers who follow me and leave encouraging comments regularly.
All the photos today are some of my favorite creative successes over the past decade!!
They make quite a collection and I rotate them through the house -- on beds and hanging -- year round!  I'm awed by them quite often wondering where the ideas arose. 
So now I'm wondering what do you do on a regular basis to build a sense of creative success?

Mary Huey

** This is an affiliate link and when you use it to access Craftsy, I may receive compensation if you make a purchase.  I appreciate your support for my work by using this link.


  1. Thank you for the interesting discussion of process versus project. I hope I live somewhere in the middle! I need to lean towards process a little to try to learn new techniques, but my personality demands that I have something concrete to show for it at the end. One thing I have found is that if I start thinking too much along the lines of "must do" with any project for whatever reason, the fun goes right out of it and creativity completely fizzles for that project ...and for any others too, as I feel I should be working on that "must do" project rather than any other ones. I like your outlook on classes. I'd much rather teach techniques and skills, but the quilt shop that wanted me to teach is definitely focused on projects. Not a good fit there on the teaching side!

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    2. I think lots of shops prefer project-oriented classes since it seems to be better in the short run to generate sales and let's face it, shops need sales to continue to be successful. But there is a middle ground to that and I try to plan smaller projects that allow me to focus on technique -- works most of the time.

  2. So interesting - third blog I read today that included an ad for craftsy - thanks for letting us know that thats what it was.

    Your thoughts are interesting on creativity. I feel sad that you find process is something you have to recover from. I have been quilting for over 30 years and the best thing I have ever done is to put projects away when they dont excite me. Some were bombs - better to stop than to complete an unappealing project that wasnt working and some just needed a break - time for me to ponder and come back re energized. I think where the catch happens is when we start things that we havent put thought into. I keep a notebook of possible ideas/projects. They have to live a bit in there before I start them - makes me think twice.

  3. Thanks for your visit and comments -- I'm not recovering from being a process person, I'm moving on from it. I've been quilting for over 40 years and have a fair number of UFQ's -- some of my most creative moments have come from repurposing the UFQ's that have been sitting on my shelves too long.

  4. Hi Mary-
    I LOVE seeing those quilts again! Some of your favorites are also some of my favorites! I wasn't sure I understood the difference between "process quilter" and "product quilter." I read more about it here: https://iamaquilter.wordpress.com/2014/06/
    (Scroll down past the anchor baby quilt), but I'm still not sure. I actually haven't done ANY quilting for awhile, but look forward to getting back to it. I've been getting in touch with my creative side by making wreaths for the front door, flower arrangements for the mantel, etc. Mostly, I just clean up after my geriatric dog!


    Thanks for another great post!

    1. Process folks in my world care more about the process than the finished product and vice versa, Diane.

  5. what do I do on a regular basis to build a sense of creativeness? I start a new project with a new technique.

  6. It is funny that you are becoming more start-to-finish project focused. I think I have become worse in the same ten-year period. Ten years ago, I would work on only one project until it was done. Now I skip from project to project as the whim takes me. I know they will get done eventually, but I make what I feel like making on the day (unless a baby quilt or bee block or similar is due). Creative success? I guess I do not think of it like that - success or failure. I enjoy my time spent making. Saying that, I enjoy mixing small projects that give me a quick finish and instant gratification with the long-term mammoth projects.