i put out some feelers for this second blog post – what did people want to hear more about in terms of me and my art? what would they find interesting? at the urging of a couple of friends, here is my second post…. (my first post, which you can read HERE, talks a bit about the how’s and why’s of what i make.) i’ve decided to talk about a unique part of my art (and me) – the way colors feel. not so much in a broad sense, but in a more specific and personal way. for those of you who often tell me that i have a very keen eye for color, this may explain that a little.
i am not a healer. intuitive sometimes, yes, but a healer, no. the only person i ever claim to be able to help heal is myself.. and my number one way that i do that is through my quilting. if somehow my quilting helps someone else, that is a bonus. subsequent ways i choose to heal myself have been through travel, tarot, writing, conversations with friends, yoga, extra sleep, and long bubble baths… a little bit of magic goes a long way in my life.
quite honestly, i didn’t start to experience a connection to any sort of “magic” until just before i moved across the country a few years ago. the first time i traveled to Joshua Tree, having never even seen a photo of it in my life, i felt as though i had been there before. in a very serious and very real way. this felt strange since i had very little emotional (let alone “otherworldly”) connection to where i grew up – the ocean and the foliage of the northeast part of this country are so beautiful, but none of it really inspired me or my work, for the first 33 years of my life. i love(d) my friends and family so much, but it wasn’t until i started to travel and move 3,000 miles away alone, that i started to see and feel things differently. a lot of my experiences are ones i would call serendipitous, for sure.
so, onto the title of this post – the way colors feel. about a year into moving cross country, i was living in northern arizona in the downstairs of a teacher’s house with two rooms to myself – a bedroom and a studio space. i was spending a lot of my free time traveling all around the northern part of the state and out to california to visit JTree, but i was also spending a lot of time with a gorgeous man. E was very unlike anyone i’d ever met in my life (and i had been dabbling in dating for the few years prior, after the breakup of a very long relationship). he was nomadic, incredibly book smart, a world traveler, hilarious, knew a lot about food and drinks, was an amazing rock climber, and genuinely fun to be around. from the first day that i met him, everything around him or having to do with him felt purple.
it didn’t look purple. i saw no purple aura around anything… it felt purple.
it was the weirdest sensation that was incredibly hard for me to describe aloud. upon talking to a friend one afternoon while working on a quilt, she directed me towards some information on something called “synesthesia”, which is a perceptual phenomenon where stimulation of one sensory pathway causes an involuntary experience in a secondary sensory pathway. basically, in regular terms – your senses get mixed up. some folks experience the tasting of sounds, or recognizing colors as numbers. for me, i was feeling color.
now, i can’t describe to you what purple actually feels like. but it was a very distinct royal purple. not a lavender, not a neon purple. just a very tried and true royal purple. …and i’ll mention that it is not something i’ve felt much with other people since then. i don’t meet someone on the street and think “hey, that guy feels so yellow.” for me, it was a very interesting but involuntary response to a very emotional situation. and it continued through the months that we were together, whether he was in my presence or not. perhaps my brain/heart are so connected so deeply not only to people in my life, but also to color play, seeing the world in color, designing things around color all of the time, that thats where it chose to revert to.. i’m not sure i’ll ever know the scientific cause or reasoning behind it. but i can tell you that there was a magic at work.
a year into knowing E, and having spent quite a bit of time madly in love with him in ways that were very unique to his character, we were living apart but still keeping in touch often. we planned for him to visit me in arizona for a couple of weeks on his way through to oregon, and he made a pit stop to go rock climbing the day before his arrival. on that pit stop and the climb he chose, he fell and died instantly. that afternoon, not knowing what had happened, i felt a color that i had not felt before – black. everything went black as i sat in my bedroom waiting for him. in a fit of tears, i was sure i knew what it meant. it was the darkest scariest deepest and all-encompassing color that i’ve ever felt move through me. it disappeared after maybe ten seconds, and a couple of days later i found out the news.
following E’s death, purple was everywhere. except this time, i started to see it as well. on a hike to one of our old favorite spots: purple flowers lining the path that had never been there before. a medium describing purple to me in ways that she never could have known. a purple hummingbird flying right up to my face and staring at me for what felt like an eternity, just looking me in the eyes. and the door of my tiny house, which when i signed the lease was gray, painted purple on my move-in day. every once in a while i still get a hint of purple when i’m out in the middle of nowhere alone, and i know what/who it is.
as a quilter who used to have dozen of works in progress piled up everywhere, its very unlike me but also very relieving to currently only have one on-going piece that i take out and work on from time to time. as i’ve been working on collections for the shop and have moved my art into a business, this one work in progress is actually a project for myself. i started this quilt about a month after E passed away, a grief quilt if you will, to both honor the experiences i had with him and also keep my mind and my hands busy. i really didn’t want to quilt for a very long time through and after that loss, but i knew at some point i’d have something beautiful to show for how heartbreaking it had all been. you’ll hear me say that quilting is my therapy, and thats no joke.
the design for this quilt is a pathway. an ever-changing pathway. through the oranges of sedona where we spent time together and i also traveled to during my spiritual meltdown after he passed, the bright yellows of life and sunshine, the aquas and blues of the sky, of course the purples i spoke of earlier, and the blackness – but the blackness both doubles as the feeling i felt as well as the galaxy and starry night sky i believe him to be in now. there’s still quite a bit of work to be done on this project – the finished size will be fit for a queen or king sized bed (and i only have a full! whoops!). but its one that i am incredibly proud of, in its design, in its story, and in its slowness. not all great things in life need to be rushed (though man, doesn’t it sometimes feel that way?!).
i kind of see this project, not as the first inspired quilt that i’ve made (if you read my first blog post you’ll remember that the previous two years or so were full of them), but as the starting point for the collections that have come about this year. the fabrics and color play were different to what i had been using prior, but are very similar to what i’ve been using lately – though you’ll notice its not half-square triangles.
i’ve allowed myself all the time in the world to work on this project because although i’m much more disconnected to it than i was when i started it, it doesn’t take much for old feelings (good and bad) to resurface. the point of art for me is to tell a story. in my case, i’m telling my story, as i’ve felt and seen it. maybe this includes color, maybe its pattern. sometimes, when i’m traveling alone or out for a long desert drive, i feel colors that are quite opposite to the landscape. a stark desert that goes on for miles and miles feels green or blue instead of a dusty tan. i acknowledge it and move on, unsure of where those colors are coming from or who they are meant for. but most often, i’ll incorporate them into my quilting projects as an homage to that feeling.
when i make a connection to a moment or a person, there is always color present. maybe its not a feeling exactly (though i do sometimes encounter people who feel “familiar”). with my first JTree sunset quilt, it was about capturing the actual colors displayed in the sky high above and all around us during a special moment with a special person. there was no other way for me to encapsulate that trip/visit/moment other than through the sunset itself.
with my second JTree sunset quilt, it was more about capturing the essence of what it feels like to be in that landscape alongside my friends who live there. on many visits there, i’ve felt a layering of sorts. a building and stacking of moments and emotions and memories one on top of the other, each different in their ways, but creating a cohesive picture of their own… much the way the colors in the sky change as the sun goes down, layering upon each other.
with my recent Moon quilt, i stumbled upon a quote that hit particularly close to home about the way i often feel about myself: “you are guarded and full of light at the same time, like the moon before she undresses.” i wanted to create a quilt that not only revolved around the colors of the moon and the night sky, but also that light.. and that feeling of soft quiet skin laying alone in white bed sheets, comfortable with yourself when you let go of all the chaos and noise around you.
and so, as someone who long ago chose color and fabric as her tools, within the last couple of years i feel moreso like they chose me. they’re continuing to choose me every time i am inspired by a feeling, a moment, a color, a building, a kiss, a storm, a sunset. and although i haven’t experienced the heavier synesthetic feeling lately, i know its there tucked away waiting for the right time to visit again. i fully believe that there are some places we’re supposed to be, some people we’re supposed to meet, some things we’re supposed to feel. maybe they teach us something important, or maybe they’re just there to show us beauty.
it can be hard for me to find the perfect fabrics to tell my stories – you may already know that i mostly use hand-dyed or batik or solid fabrics with a sprinkling of designer fabrics as well… i recently decided that i will be trying my own hand at dying fabrics for my projects. stay tuned for more on that.. but the main goal for me behind it is to be able to create the style and color of fabrics i’m looking for, made by my own hands, so that i will be able to control fully the look and feel of my projects from start to finish. from idea conception to the last stitch sewn. i’m looking forward to moving in that direction soon, after i finish up the Landscapes + Lovers collection which will be hitting the shop (see the drop down menu on the main page) as soon as possible!
my creative path has had many ups and downs, many turns that i did not expect. but i am proud and often honored to connect with things in the way that i do so that i might share with the world a perspective that they may not have seen before. my hope is that even just one person takes away the confidence to use their own creative voice to tell their stories and share with us the things they’ve felt and seen.