I’ve never been much of a fan of collaboration. An only child, I’m used to working alone, and the few times I’ve worked with others I’ve always struggled mightily. I finally gave it up and learned to just turn down offers to play with others, since I’m so bad at it. So successful collaborations–where the participants produced amazing work AND had fun doing it–those really fascinate me. I’ve known Deborah for years, and when she told me about her plans for a collaboration with 11 other quilt artists, I was intrigued. How would it go? Would it work out all the way through?
Imagine my delight to see the finished project at the International Quilt Festival in Houston in November and to get to talk to Deborah about the project. Of course I wanted to know more, so when I got back home, I asked her to share the story.
Q: Tell us a little about your collaborative project, please.
In the fall of 2007, Diane Hock was inspired by a small art quilt exhibit at a local quilt show. She was eager to embark on a similar project. About this same time, the artful quilters webring was filling up with all kinds of blogs by enthusiastic artists. Diane chose 11 artists whose blogs she was reading regularly and whose artwork she admired. She asked us if we would be interested in exploring the project. The focus of our collaborative work is the exploration of how different artists interpret a common theme. We took turns picking themes and we each created a 12×12 inch art quilt on that theme. We worked on a new theme every two months. We created a group blog where we shared our inspirations, process and other thoughts about the experience. We did not share too many specifics about the quilts as we were working on them. We waited for the “reveal day” when we each posted images and information about our quilt for that theme. It’s so exciting to see each post pop up throughout the day. We also have a group website where all the art quilts are shown in a mosaic format. We consider these mosaic images to be works of art in themselves, while each individual quilt also stands on its own. It’s fascinating to see common color choices, construction techniques and imagery.
As we completed the first set, which we call the “theme series,” we were asked to publish a book about our project. It was so exciting to share additional thoughts about the creative process and beautiful pictures of all 144 quilts. We were all enjoying the project so much that we decided to continue. Rather than use words as themes, our second series is based on color palettes. We call it the Colorplay Series. We finished that set last fall just in time for both complete sets to be on exhibit at the International Quilt Festival in Houston. That’s 288 quilts! It was absolutely fantastic that nine of the “twelves” were able to come to Festival. Most of us had never met each other in real life.
We’ve been working together for over four years. It’s been incredibly influential on my artistic life. Plus, I’ve made 11 wonderful friends. These other artists really know me and my work and support, encourage and inspire me in many very unique ways.
Q: What inspired you to do this with other artists?
When Diane asked me, I was so excited about the prospect of working independently — and yet collaboratively. I generally prefer to create on my own, but the idea of working on a theme, in a specific format and time frame with 11 other artists seemed like a very interesting way to enhance the entire body of work by creating pieces that relate so well to each other. My small 12×12 inch art quilts express my style and are works of art on their own (though some are more successful than others), but they have so much more significance and interest as part of this collection and the whole experience.
Q: Was it difficult to get a dozen people to follow A Plan?
We are always full of joy (and relief) about how well our group works together. Not all groups seem to be come together as smoothly. The twelves have discussed this and come to some general conclusions about what we think has helped us succeed. We all knew what the expectations were at the start and we all had some level of experience communicating and sharing our work online. We do everything online from sharing photos, to writing artist statements to working out administrative details. This means that we come to the group and the blog and project as our schedules permit. We don’t have to worry about finding a time when everyone can get together. No one has to clean their house or bake brownies. (Not that there’s anything wrong with brownies!) We also have less small-talk and socializing. (Again, not that there is anything wrong with socializing.) The art comes first with our group. Almost all of the communication and energy related to the project has a foundation in the artwork. I think this cuts down on some things that cause trouble in other groups like personality conflicts, unreasonable expectations and general fatigue.
Another factor in our success was the momentum and dedication that developed after we completed the first few themes. It was so exciting to see the level of work and the conversations that developed around our process. Once we got going, each of us wanted to do whatever it would take to keep it up.
Check back Wednesday for the rest of Deborah’s story about 12 X 12. To find out more about the project, go to the website and the blog. You can order the book from Amazon.com. Visit Deborah’s website and blog, as well. And don’t forget to check out her etsy shop!
Ricë also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.
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