Saturday, February 21, 2015

Unleashed Potential

In college my girlfriend and I used to say, that there seemed to be nothing heavier than a great potential. I think that is changing for me....

A new collection of Civil War Materials--dreams yet to be realized.

I awoke this morning once again to find myself immersed in a familiar nightmare, but this time it had a slightly different twist. Instead of realizing at the end of a shift, that I had forgotten to take care of a patient I was assigned to, this time I had left the floor to go to a secret room to sew during my break and got so into my sewing that I forgot to come back to take care of my patients for hours! This dream seems to show signs of psychological progress.  At last my dreams are admitting that I prefer to sew than nurse, despite still having some guilt about giving up nursing.

It is interesting that Veronica Hallissey and Maria Wulf, both writers and fabric artists have recently posted blogs that address the sacredness of the person, and the violation that occurs when one is not supported to be who and what they are. I may be over-personalizing their words, but they triggered in me my own issues of being steered by a well-meaning parent who wanted to be sure that I had a career to "fall back on".

Rolls of strips of materials to be stitched into a simple 9 Patch -9 Patch Quilt
I used both nursing and teaching to help support my family, and have only become the "artist" that I have always want to be, after I became too ill to work. It is noteworthy that my favorite doctor once told me that a person can get ill simply from stifling their need to be creative, if they are so driven. Could that have been the case with me? I have been out of nursing almost seven years, due to illness, but I was so reluctant to "let go" of my nursing license that I renewed it in New York as current practice hours are not a prerequisite there as they are here in Vermont and living close to the New York State border, this seemed a reasonable way to keep licensed.

Strips pinned and ready to sew. A modern fast method of piecing blocks.
The truth is I was "programmed" to be a nurse. From the time I was a little girl,  every time I would utter dreams of my future life, my father would add, "you can do that if you become a nurse". I can still remember telling him that I wanted to work in a circus and imagined myself as a flying trapeze artist and instead of taking me for acrobatic lessons, though that would have been the fastest way to extinguish that dream, for I was anything but athletic, he simply replied, "You could do that if you were a nurse"?  His answer was the same when I imagined myself being a missionary, and feeding starving babies in Africa, never mind that I didn't belong to a church with such missionary zeal.

Pretty and how easy!
The truth was that my father had little imagination at all.  He was a civil engineer and would pull his hair out building structures designed by creative architects. I still have a little plaque that his friend in the insurance business had made for him as a personal joke, that reads, "The disaster That Did Not Happen on Concourse B at Stapleton International Airport" 1962.  My dad was sure that the unusual design for the "tent-topped" building could never be constructed safely. He must have suffered from nightmares about this just as I do with my nursing dreams, and he must have told his friend.

Buildings needed to be square, according to him,and his work was to provide and construct the steel form-work to support them. His creativity was all done with a slide ruler, including addressing any emotional or personal issues that I had in growing up. He also found it fun to dicker over my allowances, wanting me to defend myself and learn negotiating skills. It only made me feel guilty for needing his money and made me cry.

A simple set up for pressing and hanging my strips. One of three work stations.

To my father's credit, he was an excellent businessman, loved his work and provided well for his family, but fell short when it came to supporting the artist within any of us. I even used to wonder sometimes if my real parents were tied up in a closet and the ones that raised me were "look-a-likes". I was definitely a child that came from a different mold, or so I thought then. My best grades were in art, and sewing.

My mother was a stay-at-home mom who made the house pretty, and did the cooking and ironing. She was an artistic person, who would have been a fish out of water if she had had to conform to any particular workplace environment.  He didn't seem to notice that his philosophy of throwing out Crayons, didn't work at our mother loved to color as much as we did, and every one of my school papers got graded higher for the artwork that accompanied them. I delighted in convincing him every year that instead of a box of 24 colors, my teachers "required" we have the extra large box of crayons and colored pencils as well! It was not true, but I so I loved all those colors!! He respected my mother's artistic abilities and was pleased that I had acquired her talents as well, but he took his job as Dad seriously and he prepared us kids for the real work world, where art had no business.

Trying freezer paper applique on another project.
He supported my education and gave me the choice of becoming a teacher, nurse or secretary, all to be used as an insurance policy should something happen to my future husband, as mostly likely I would be a stay-at-home housewife too, or so he thought. Little did he know the anguish I would go through being both a nurse and a teacher, as neither really met my needs to be creative. Pounding my round artistic peg into these well defined square holes never really suited me, despite my dedication to each profession.  Artists, he told us, usually starve. I must have focused on being sure that I didn't starve, for I have always struggled with being overweight, but I did "starve" for opportunities to express myself creatively, and did so at every chance I got when I wasn't too busy being a nurse and/or teacher to help support our family. I also invested to keep our craft cupboards filled with art and sewing supplies to feed our creative minds.

 "New-to-me" glue technique for applique, making for more greater precision.
These past six plus years I have been very busy creating from the supplies I gathered during my entire life.  When illness threatened to shorten my days, I decided it was now or never to actually use them and I haven't stopped using and collecting more since. Sewing and art books, and now the internet fill my head full of ideas. I am like an alcoholic in a free tasting room and am quite busy unleashing my potential, I am intoxicated with the freedom to create as I always wanted to do. While I regret not having the energy that I once had, I delight in planning quilts and sewing projects as if I am going to live forever! Grandma Moses is my inspiration. She started painting her famous pictures well past retirement age and lived to be very old! Should I be so lucky!?

So far, so good!  This is Daiwabo Japanese Fabric.  Is it awesome?!!
Well, back to sewing, though I can't wait to write to you all about some inspirational quilters who have discovered and shared ways to better organize their studios to facilitate being as creative as they can be.  I am following some of their advice and making changes in my own studio spaces.  I am also learning how to capitalize on my strengths and weaknesses!

I think my nursing days are over. In my future, I will likely get brave and let my nursing career go altogether.  It has served me well to support my family as well as being an advocate for my own health and the health of my family, and that is more than sufficient use of it!  I don't need to hang on to my old careers but instead, unleash my artistic potential. It is a dream that I wouldn't have realized had my health not necessitated it. It is nice to know that God knew my heart and worked hard to redirect me to living the creative life I have always wanted to live. 

Dear Dad,may you RIP. I got your determination and drive and will not starve!