Saturday, 17 November 2018


People pay a lot of good money to learn the secret of creativity.  There must be a trick to it, they think, a trick that opens the floodgates and sets the muse free to play and create.

I’ll give you my tip for free: take a bath. I have lost count of the numbers of ideas that have come to me when I immerse myself in a lovely hot bath, close my eyes, and relax.

Take today, for instance. I wasn’t going to post a blog today...there was nothing to write about. But an idea floated to the surface (floated...ha ha, get it?). This is the idea: I need to declare an amnesty, a get-out-of-jail-free card, for people who own one of my art works.

Let me explain. Last week, my daughter-in-law asked if she could look through my accumulated art quilts –there’s a very large stack of them! – and see if there were one or two she could co-opt to hang in their new addition. Wow! What a compliment!

As we laid them out on the dining room table, she paused at this one: a half-eaten pear I’d made for a challenge. She liked “the apple” a lot. Apple, pear...oh, what’s the diff? It made her smile, and to me that’s the definition of success.

 I went through many “failures” with that challenge, which was very simple: create a piece that features a pear shape. I made many, many pears out of a variety of fabrics, took photos of bowls of pears, arranged fabric pears on a lot of different backgrounds, but all of the pieces lacked something, a certain “je ne sais quoi”, as the expression goes. (I had not, at that point, discovered the inspirational qualities of nice warm bath, and besides, the bath is only the start of the process. After that, comes the work.)  In desperation, I turned to my good friend Google and scrolled through images of pears. Voila! Apparently, Claes Oldenburger is a well-known sculptor, and this is one of his works. It wasn't a pear, it was an apple, but hey! I can make that work. It made me smile, so I went to town with that idea.

But once the piece was finished, I wondered, what was I to do with all those leftover pears I’d created?

A trip to visit rellies in Ontario was in the offing, so perhaps these pears could be worked into small pieces to give away as hostess gifts. Soon three pieces were ready to go. Flushed with the success of my creative endeavors, I really didn’t know with any certitude that they were any good, but I ignored that and proudly gave them away. Ta da! An original Jessie Schut!

And now for the rest of the story: I have never again seen 2 of these three pieces. One of the recipients admired the piece, then said since it was made of fabric, it would collect dust, and so she was going to have it framed behind glass. Another said, “Oh, how nice. Hmmm. I wonder where it would fit into my decor?” And the third, given to my sister, actually got hung up right then and there in her quilting studio. What a loyal sweetie! I saw the piece there the next time I visited, and thought, “Oh dear!” It’s not nearly as successful as I initially thought. The colours are wrong, it needs way more quilting, the binding is wonky. I wouldn’t have given them away if I’d created them today. But that was then, and this is now.

So here’s where amnesty comes in. You do not have to be chained to my art work forever. If you’ve received one of my art pieces, and you’re not really very fond of it, please! Dump it! Or give it away (thrift shops are full of home-made projects that went awry. It’s okay, my skin is not that thin. Well, maybe just a little, so the only proviso to this amnesty would be, Don’t give it back to me!)

The simple truth is, I make my art because the crow inside me squawks until I give in and get to work. It is my contemplative practice, where I find myself aligned with the Creator, where I lose track of time. It energizes me and makes me smile. The creation of something, good bad or indifferent, is my reward. As a bonus, I often learn something about myself and even work out the answers to some deep questions I have.

Sometimes, my art and your spirit connect. Those are wowwie moments. They don’t happen very often, but often enough that I am encouraged to send out the pieces to the world through this blog, through art shows, through hand-made greeting cards, and occasionally as gifts.

Which reminds me: there are a lot of pieces still in my closet, ready for new homes. Next time you’re in the neighbourhood, you might want to ask if you can take a look at them, and take one home if it makes your heart sing.

But only if it makes your heart sing!

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