ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Greetings of the Season

Among my family and friends I am known for making a very short shortbread, so many of them have grown to expect a tin of it at Christmas. This week I baked five double batches, my favorites being the chocolate shortbread, maple shortbread, and nut crescents. If you lived closeby, I'd offer you a plate of cookies and a cappucino like the one above that I helped myself to today!

While I mentioned this in my last e-newsletter, I would also like to repeat here in case you aren't a subscriber. At the end of my fourth year having a full-time career as a quilt artist and teacher, I would like to say thank you!!! Thank you for coming to my classes, for purchasing my hand-dyes, for reading my newsletters and blog, and for all the other ways you show support. It really is all about YOU ... without you I wouldn't be here writing this blog, and looking forward to a new year that holds a busy teaching schedule. Thank you for the honour of being able to share my workshops with you!

As a holiday gift, I would like to share something with you. These are the tips that I share in one of my lectures ("From Inspiration to Art Quilt") on how to move into making art quilts and how to make your quilts more artful. I also encourage these habits in students who sign up for my Art Quilt Series. Some of what I say may be familiar to you, or it might be new, or it might be a reminder.

As you've probably heard me say many times, I was never considered creative as a child. That label went to my sister who seemed naturally gifted at drawing and painting. She is now an accountant and the Controller of a small investment company. Not that accountants can't be creative, but my point is that she simply doesn't do much art anymore. I, on the other hand, have had to work very hard at being creative, and I now make my living through a creative profession. The best approach is to never say to yourself "I am not creative", but instead to say, "I'm working on my creativity" because creativity is like a muscle that needs to be developed.

1) Keep yourself inspired and visually stimulated.
a) To keep yourself inspired it is important to embrace newness and change. I find myself more creative after I've been in a new enviroment like after a holiday or trip away from home. But it doesn't have to be an expensive or exotic change. It could simply be a change in the route you take to work. You know how when you travel the same road to work everyday you don't even notice what is around you anymore? Try a different route and notice all the new things along the way. Visit a new park or garden.
b) Look at other art in other media. You are sure to be inspired by the colours, subject matter, and styles of art at galleries and in magazines. I find looking at art regularly helps to train your eye for good composition and design.

2) Keep a sketchbook.
We always think we will remember that brilliant idea we had yesterday, but we have so much on our minds that we won't. Write it down, sketch it out, you don't need to be good at drawing. Once you've recorded the idea you can play with it in your sketchbook. Invest in a set of coloured pencils to play with adding colours to your design.

3) Learn new things
Anytime you learn new things your are exercising your grey matter, and that will be good for your art. Newness is inspiring. Go to classes to learn art quilt methods, and don't forget art classes as well. It is all transferrable.

3) Set goals
I write lists of goals regularly. My list includes prep I need to do for teaching, classes I need to develop, articles I might want to write, fabric I need to dye, shows I want to enter, and very importantly, work I want to experiment with or work I want to finish. Because I tend to leave new work until after everything else is finished, I have a small goal setting group with two other artists who are also keen on getting into the studio and we try to support each other and talk about the obstacles we encounter.

4) PRACTICE! There is nothing that is going to make a bigger difference to your art than practice! The more art you make, the more you learn, the better it gets. It took several years for me to make the move from fairly traditional quilts (even though I seldom followed a pattern exactly) to the point where I was making original work. Don't wait for inspiration to strike. A regular studio practice will take you places. Better that it be 15 minutes a day than not at all.

5) Pay attention to the things you tell yourself! Never allow yourself to put yourself down. You have a right to make a mess and to experiment, and you are learning, so let go of the expectation of perfection. Even the most accomplished artists have to battle negative self-talk on a regular basis. It is all a normal part of the creative process as our anxiety over the outcome of our efforts rises. If you can talk yourself through such times, you will come out ahead of the game.

Besides those five double batches of shortbread, I also baked a batch of peanut butter dog bones for a very special niece that I will meet for the first time this Christmas. Meet Sunny, my sister's new dog. She's 18 months old and I'm told a very calm and well behaved dog. Isn't she beautiful? This was taken a few days ago in Southern Ontario. We have absolutely no snow here in Ottawa.

My very warmest wishes for a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and just all around wonderful holiday season! Stay tuned in the new year for a blog giveaway as I celebrate one year of blogging, four years of being a full-time career quilter, and nine years of selling my hand-dyed fabrics and teaching. Lots to celebrate.


  1. Elaine, thank YOU for the good advice and the good wishes and the VERY good looking virtual afternoon tea( coffee, cappucino) . I am sure I speak for many more than myself when I say this. Your work andyour blog are so very inspiring. Makes me wish there were MANY more hours in the day!!
    I hope you and yours have a wonderful Christmas and a Very Happy, Healthy and creative New Year. Continue to celebrate all year :-)

  2. Merry Christmas Elaine! See you at Quilt Canada in May.


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