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!

Saturday, 3 November 2018

By the Square Inch

These days, it just seems as though the news swirling around us is a lot more bad than good. What we really, really need right now is a huge bucket of joy to wash away The Uglies. Where is that to be found, I wonder?

I got an inkling of an idea when I read a blog post by a woman named Beth Merrill Neel. Beth is a middle-aged woman who became a wife and mother later in life. She and her husband are both pastors. She is also an artist, who is making some beautiful stuff with paper.

She made this picture using the condolence cards she received after her father died.You can read the whole blog and see her art work at

 Beth often feels despair at the injustices of this world. She wonders where the hope is. “But for the many Graces that surround me, I would give in,” she writes, “and yet we still have good to do and we still have to do good. Maybe everyday I can do something that would fit into a 1 inch square. Maybe most of us can.”

I wonder, have I gotten so focused on the big picture – world peace, NOW! Environmental regulations, NOW! Political good will, nations working together, an end to babies dying of hunger in underdeveloped nations...NOW! – that I have not seen the little things right under my nose? Do I need to have a vision correction?

I am reminded of a recent example of vision correction (literally!) right here in the studio where I’m writing this blog. My studio has been a twilight zone for years. I didn't realize it, however. Then a visitor pointed out to me that the lighting in here is very poor. So yesterday the Resident Sweetie and I hung a new light fixture, one that’s better environmentally than the old one, one with four lights shining into every dark corner. Whoa! Who knew that good light could make such a difference? I had gotten used to looking at things in a certain light, but now I see differently. Can I also change the way I look at issues in life?

The one-square-inch concept challenges me. If I'm looking for joy, perhaps I shouldn't be looking for it by the bucketful. Perhaps just one square inch of joy, one inch at a time, would do the trick. What would happen if I hold up a viewfinder just 1 inch square in front of my mind’s eye? What if I focused on the little things that I find in the little patch where I stand right now?

Last night the goblins and ghosties made their rounds for Halloween, proudly dressed up and showing off. They roam the neighborhood in packs, but not packs of hooligans. Instead, most are  traveling in groups of parents with children, everyone dressed up and having a great time. And not a one of them forgot to say thank you, not even the big guys way taller than I am. That right there is a square inch of joy.

My almost-4-year-old grandchild, the Amazing Grace, asks me if I’d like to see her leap – it’s something she’s learned in dance class. She stands in front of an obstacle which she wants to leap over, a small wagon. “You can do it! You can do it!” she whispers to herself. And she does! The second time she tries, she falls down, then jumps up, dusts herself off, and reassures us, “I’m okay! I’m okay!” With an attitude like that, this little one-square-inch of humanity is going to change the world, no doubt about it. Maybe our hope should be in the littles, maybe they’re showing us the way. Travel in packs, say thank you, believe in yourself, and never give up!

Grace at Halloween. The cartoon character Owlette has a "sharp mind, super planning skills, and is quick to act. She can fly, has super eyesight, and when she flaps her powerful wings, the bad guys are sent airborne." Sounds about right!
Blogger Beth has been making square inch art pieces out of paper. They are very colorful and delightful.

She says, “I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my squares. Maybe a quilt-like thing.

"Or maybe little boxes, following the words of the poet Rumi, who said that “Joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box.” Maybe I'll give them away to people to remind them that good and joy can come in jumbo-size but if we all tried to just make one square inch of Joy a day that would be enough.”

Amen, Reverend Beth, amen!

I have too many unfinished projects to get involved with a fabric version of these 1 inch squares (called "inchies"), but there are many examples of them on the internet if you do a google search. For instance: