Is it the weather?

Hot. humid brain. Clouds too full to stay afloat. No focus. Time to walk away from existing projects. Instead, I had a quilt camp week. Two very promising artists participated. We talked about modules, grids, color theory, stitching and machines. They both learned how to build compositions from scraps, thread the machines, trim their work with a rotary cutter and stitch with a free-motion foot. The terms strip piecing, log cabin, and machine appliqué now have meaning to them. They followed the rules and broke the rules. As they should. 

Did I say promising? No. These boys had it going on. They fell into the slipstream of stitching with no fear, no preconceived notions and a willingness to learn. 


On the sideline I played with their leftovers to create this blue state red state composition. And since I was a bit pre-occupied with making sure that they were safe I had to work fast and without boundaries or rules. No seams, no careful stitching, no worries. I may pursue this practice a bit. I have bundles and bundles of scraps to consider. 

Blue state, red state. Work-in-progress. Paula Kovarik

After they left I pursued some of the work I had already begun. A new Glyphs piece (see another Glyphs piece here). These glyphs have bodies. 

Glyphs enlarged, work-in-progress. Paula Kovarik

Meanwhile, I watch too much TV news is sitting in my hand-stitching chair. Using a needle to poke into that fabric roll is satisfying. Like a little voodoo panel that lets me get away with commentary. 

I'm scattered but productive. Confused but dogged. Doubt-filled but determined. Fuzzy-brained and seeking clarity.

Maybe it's the weather. 

More than I want to count

How many decisions does it take?

I started a project about a month ago that included color. A great big pile of color all stitched up together. Rectangles nested, connected and spliced to create a whole. It is a process that demands patience, the power of arbitrary decision, and attention to detail. I can usually count on having two of three of those traits on any given day.

Decisions are endless, if I counted all the seams, snips and rearrangements I would have to seriously question my behavior. For example this little section took most of the morning to figure out. Which way should the red, white and gray composition attach to the orange white and gray section?

When I run out of patience I get distracted. Like: How cool are these wispy thread ends on the back of the piece? They seem to be blowing in the wind, or tangled with an inner confusion. And then I start studying the trimmings. Looking for the answer in chaos.

Stitching scraps together brings new meaning to the whole.

Leftovers reflect the effort of the choices I made.

And now I've turned the whole thing to the back so that I can study that for a while.

I started this piece with no clear goal. I vaguely wanted to create a playground for stitch. Something I could hop, skip and rollerskate over with my thread. And now I'm not so sure. I'll have to take some time to think about it some more, I'll have to find the patience to make some more decisions.

All the trimmings

I've been thinking about trimmings. The way we trim off the excess when we have to choose a new path. The way we add things to our meals and memories and collections. Trimmings are extras....extraneous or extraordinary. They are the side salad, appetizers and desserts. But they are also the leftovers, discarded and forgotten.

I save all the trimmings. There's a whole in there somewhere.

Collections show which extras I want to save.

There are two ways to think about trimmings — as additions or subtractions. In fiber art trimmings can be decorative edges or edited scraps—add-ons or take-aways.

My memory is a collection of trimmings. I don't know how my brain selects each bit. Do the memories come up by catalyst or do they float around waiting for a chance to surface? As we formulate our thoughts do we pick up little trimmings, put them together in new combinations and blurt? Or, is the whole just a leftover of the editing? And what about the new stuff we learn each day? Where does it all go in the stack?

Conversations are a collection of thoughts trimmed in emotion, logic and beliefs. The extraneous drones on and on, the extraordinary inspires and lingers. Bits and pieces stay with us, stored mysteriously in the heap of understanding.

Assembling a group of extras gives me a playground for stitch. This is a work-in-progress that started with two-inch strips sewn together and then cut into rectangles.

This medium gives me a perfect way to use trimmings. I can edit, add, and subtract. I linger with compositions that move forward, get stuck in cul de sacs and challenge my perception. I squint my eyes to see the final stack, tilting left and right to find the balance. Then I commit to negative and positive spaces that support or conflict with each other. Each shift of perspective tells a new story. Each scrap adds its own voice. I'll let it build until it tells me to stop. Then the fun begins—a new playground for stitch.

details details

Every piece I make usually has a spot of blood on it — a record of the poking, prodding and pinning that happens while stitching. I used to clean each mistaken drop, but now I leave the evidence. It hurt when it happened. It reminded me that I am alive and not just subsumed by the warp and weft of the cloth before me. It's a symbol of existence — a forensic artifact that ties me to the art.

Catalysts has a forest of bamboo below the images, each horizontal stitch was an opportunity to poke through my finger.

Sinking into details is part of my process. Each stitch added not only embellishes but also brings focus to what I am feeling. Stitching also renders me mute, so when I poke that needle into my skin the little yelp that escapes my brain reminds me that I am present.

What would this eye be without the spec of gold in the pupil?

What would these lines mean without the distressed cloth beneath?

What would this tangle of threads mean without the swirl of activity within?


Everything's connected, ©2014, Paula Kovarik

Inspired by that game we play of naming the shapes in clouds, several of my drawings have new colonies of these simple outlines of cats, dogs, gears, cars, clouds—whatever pops into my head. Using that as a starting point I started making shapes that nested into each other on this quilt. It looked like nonsense to me but I wasn't too worried about it. Trusting the process was part of the fun. Then I started wondering why these particular shapes showed up in my experimentation. Why was I compelled to draw a chicken, or a gear, or a tractor, or a headed blob?  What point was I trying to make? Then, last Saturday, I went to see A Fierce Green Fire, the Battle for a Living Planet. It is a documentary summarizing the environmental movement. One of the narrators explored the concept of connections. Simply, Everything is Connected. Even if we don't see it. That's why I added these dotted lines.