Sometimes inspiration for the beginning of something new comes so unexpectedly that I can hardly work fast enough to give it form. And then once established, a big pause typically follows. I will literally spend weeks gazing at what is there, wondering, ‘where did this come from and where is it going?’ I didn’t plan it after all. Even after all these years of making art by entering spaces of not knowing and letting my eye and my spirit guide the moment, I still manage to doubt the legitimacy of this process.

It happened about a week ago. I had just finished a two day open studio tour and every surface was free of the usual piles of colorful scraps and random fabric cuts. The space was clean and inviting and now waiting for something. The image of the piece of velvety red hand-dyed cotton sateen that I had recently found in my stash came to mind. In cleaning up, I had put it in a very specific place with an old piece of hand-dyed blue rayon, a new piece of tie-dyed art cloth purchased at a quilt show, a piece of bold print from Mood fabrics in NYC, and some scraps I guess I thought were part of this assemblage too. I pulled them out of hiding, let them wallow in the graciousness of so much open space. I finally shook out the yard piece of gorgeous red, and was surprised to discover that each edge was a swath of deep summer green. What happened next is a blur. I don’t remember cutting the yard of fabric in two pieces, or piecing the lengths of scraps just so. I don’t remember pinning it all up on the board or thinking about placement in any specific way. When I finally stepped back and felt the impact of ‘okay, this is it’, the word that came to me was ‘prompt’.

This feels like a visual version of a writing prompt. The story that will emerge from the pairing of this red and blue anchored in green is in there somewhere and I will just have to wait for it.

After two months, the last of the packing boxes from Mom’s move are in the recycle pile outside, floor surfaces are clear, and we’ve finally begun hanging art on the walls. There is a lot of art. Paintings and framed prints, photographs and drawings and even a quilt. The process of settling won’t be complete until the empty surfaces claim Mom’s amazing collection. The new white walls, the existing blue trim, and floors dressed with red oriental carpets have created a familiar context that will of course change with each item placed. Each room is a prompt waiting for the first move. One of the first paintings up is one I made in college, the view out my dorm room window through trees to a home beyond, reminding me that no matter how much time I have spent inside these past months, the perception of what is just outside will always been a reliable source for expressing the landscape of what is inside. Even if I don’t know what it is at the time.

I spot a framed print that Mom has set aside. A blue heron emerging out of red water in front of green ground and blue sky. It is such a simple image. It doesn’t feel like a coincidence that the same range of intense colors exist here as they do in the ‘prompt’ on my design wall. I think this heron has a story to tell. I am going to find out what it is.…

2 thoughts on “prompt

  1. It all flows together Kathy — the prompt, the pause, and the heron piece. You’ll alchemize it all somehow. Even the way you tell it is exquisite. Both art forms — the beginning quilt and the telling of it’s mysterious origin — flow together beautifully. And the house looks great from these glimpses!


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