Paint Every Day

Hollyhocks by Allison Wilbur 2015 based on Virginia Avery's watercolor, Hollyhocks

My mother’s recent passing has had me thinking a great deal of all the beautiful gifts she passed on to her three daughters and to the many students she taught watercolor.  I think one of the most valuable lessons I learned was “Paint every day.” For most of her life, my mother did something connected to her art every day, whether it was painting in her studio, teaching at her local art associations, going to museums, photographing local landscapes at the perfect time of day to capture the light just right, reading art books, or sketching the cat on the windowsill. Her immersion in art meant she was always moving forward, exposed to new ideas, trying new techniques, meeting new friends and stretching herself artistically.  With an abandon my husband perhaps finds appalling at times, I try and do the same with my quilting (my interest in housework diminishes every year!). There are so many ways to stretch oneself in the quilting world – quilt guild meetings and shows, magazines and books, online sources like blogs, pinterest and you tube, quilting bees, quilt shops and classes, making gifts, entering challenges – the list goes on and on. You can focus on continuous line quilting designs, try a new piecing technique or a new thread, read about a fabric designer, go to an exhibit at the quilt museum.  There is no better cure for “quilter’s block” (our version of writer’s block) where you just don’t feel the creative juices flowing than doing a little something every day. It is like a brook that gets damned by a beaver, once you stop, it is hard to get moving again. To keep my creative juices flowing, I learned early on to set up a permanent space with good light for my sewing. And eventually I learned to call this space my quilt studio and not my sewing room.  You mend jeans in a sewing room. You create in a studio. So in honor of my mother, I hope you will go spend some time in your studio and create today and every day.  It is good for your soul!

Here is a link to my mother’s obituary. We will be holding a Celebration of Life for her in the spring at the South Shore Art Center in Cohasset, MA and someday we hope to create a website and perhaps write a book about her life and art.

Virginia Holmes Avery

For Debbie

I love teaching. I love sharing what I have learned in my years of quilting and seeing my students blossom.  Best of all is having a class that meets on a regular basis so I get to know my students and they get to know me and each other. There is something about that mix of many minds and creative spirits coming together that always adds up to a sum that is greater that its parts.  Teaching has forced me to think deeply about what I have learned as a quilter, what is worth sharing, what guidance I would have liked to have when I started. And even when I think I have all that worked out, it is the questions and comments that I get from students, the interplay of sewing in the same room together, that really adds that special something to a class.

So this, my fist blog post, is dedicated to a new student, Debbie. When Debbie started my machine quilting class at Knit One Quilt Too, she made up a binder with everything from my website.  Her enthusiasm and excitement really made my day. It was an excellent reminder about the value of my website as a teaching tool, that it is a great place to share my thoughts and inspirations in a deeper form than just snippets or photos on facebook.  So here goes, check back here regularly for a peek at what has inspired me as a quilter.  And there is lots coming this year – I just entered some quilts in the Machine Quilters Expo East which will be in April. Soon I will be sending of the Quilt for Change Solar Sister Quilts to tour with Mancuso Quilt Festivals. My machine quilting and sashiko classes are in full swing at Knit One Quilt Too. Customers have dropped off some really phenomenal quilts for me to tackle. Narragansett Bay Quilters Association will be having its quilt show in April.  There never seem to be enough hours in the day. But I promise, I will take time each week to share a gem with you.

Today’s gem remains my students. If you have thought about teaching, I really encourage you to do so.  Start with a small project and a group of friends. Do a demo at your local quilt show. Teach a younger person how to make their first quilt.  I guarantee you will get back much more than you give.  I am thankful to my local guilds in Virginia and Rhode Island that first asked me to lecture and teach and encourage all guilds to look to their members as sources of talent and inspiration. Thank you to my students for coming to my classes, for asking all those great questions and sharing their knowledge, and for taking what I have shared and running with it.

To say thank you in a concrete way, I have donated an institutional pass to the Barrington Library to the New England Quilt Museum.  If you have an Ocean States Library card you can borrow two passes for a day and visit the museum in Lowell.  It is one of my favorite places to go and I try to get there almost once a month. Perhaps next blog I will sing its praises. But this time, thank you students – and I hope you will enjoy a day at the Quilt Museum!!