One of my favorite blogs is You Know What I Love?. It’s written by Ara Jane, who is a fellow Seattle Modern Quilt Guild member. Here’s a picture of her English Paper Piecing on the ferry. I was inspired by a post she made about a 24-Hour Read-a-Thon, which is exactly what it sounds like – staying up and reading for 24 hours straight. She did this while participating in Dewey’s Read-a-Thon, which occurs every October. I read her blog post last December, so I’d missed the read-a-thon by two months! However, I told my co-worker JP about the 24-Hour Read-a-Thon and we were inspired to take on a similar challenge for ourselves.
JP and I wondered, “What are the benefits of doing one activity for an extended chunk of time?” We contemplated what challenge we’d like to do and for what length of time. We decided on a 12-hour art-a-thon. Our logic was that sticking to 12 hours rather than 24 hours would allow us to focus our attention on one thing, but it wouldn’t involve staying up all night. We strategically chose to do our challenge on a Saturday slightly before Christmas from 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM. We figured that date/time combo would give us enough time to sleep in and also not keep us up too late working on the challenge. We’d have optimal brain power for 12 hours!
Putting in the effort to get ready felt satisfying. By taking care of small details like washing the dishes and setting up the ironing board, I knew the following day I could simply focus on creating with fewer distractions.
Since we took on this challenge a little before Christmas, I decided to spend the majority of the time working on a Christmas gift for my mom. Ara Jane’s blog included a post about creating two wonky pinwheel blocks, which are pictured above. The tutorial for how to make them was made by Natalie of Greenleaf Goods. She asked members of her do. Good Stitches circle to send the blocks to her, so she could put together a charity quilt.
The gorgeous quilt pictured above is what Natalie put together with the submissions. You can see even more pictures of it by clicking on the last link. Isn’t it amazing what a group of people, each making two blocks, can create? I printed out her tutorial and jumped right in to making a wall hanging for my mom.
JP and I listened to music and chatted while we worked. At one point I told JP about a technique I learned in my 7th grade art class about drawing an object by focusing on the negative space. JP immediately decided to give it a try and began sketching the chair in my apartment by drawing the negative space – essentially the pockets of air in between the wood on the chair. One of the things I enjoy most about JP is his willingness to try new things. Sewing at the same time as JP was sketching was refreshing. Although we were working on separate projects, being in the same room together working on art made it easier to stay focused.
About half way through the art-a-thon, JP and I switched locations by going to his apartment. Conveniently, JP and I lived in the same apartment building, since we both lived on site at our work, so this transition only consisted of heading down two floors and walking down a hallway. Although it was a quick trip, the change in scenery and location helped break up the 12-hour art-a-thon and it felt like we were starting fresh again.
After working in JP’s apartment for a few more hours, we decided to conclude our 12-hour art-a-thon with a walk up to Bauhaus on Capitol Hill, which is a coffee shop that sadly no longer exists in that location. The lit up trees along 4th Avenue were gorgeous.
When we arrived at Bauhaus I treated myself to a hot chocolate and spent the final hour working on my previous blog – www.quiltingqueerly.tumblr.com. Someday I may move those posts over to this website!
When it hit 9:00 PM, JP and I gave each other a high five. We’d accomplished so much in one day! JP and I chatted about what we thought of the 12-hour art-a-thon. We wondered, “What made participating in a self-imposed 12-hour art-a-thon different than simply making art for a few hours on a weekend afternoon?” One of the main differences was that by turning it into a mini challenge with the rule that we would only work on art for 12 hours, we cleared away other distractions and excuses to quit making art. We didn’t get sidetracked by stopping to check email or abandon a project when it got tough. Instead, if we felt bored or stuck when working on one art project, we’d switch things up by working on a different art project. By committing to making art for 12 hours, those moments of feeling stuck didn’t lead to derailing or abandoning creative pursuits. Instead it merely led to switching gears. For instance, when I felt tired of working on the wall hanging for my mom, I worked on sewing envelopes for another Christmas present. At the end of our day, we were happy with the learning and results from the 12-hour art-a-thon.
I walked to Target to look for a black frame. My mom had recently started framing most of the artwork at home in black frames so there would be a sense of cohesion. I’d debated between framing the wall hanging and making a standard cloth back and binding for it. I’m really glad I went with framing it because it gave the wall hanging a new dimension and helped it blend in with the other artwork on the walls at home.
I decided to throw a final touch on the wall hanging by adding some embroidery to it. I put it on a small hoop and added a little texture by embroidering on the solid color fabrics. Luckily I had recently been gifted embroidery thread from a friend which matched all of the solid fabrics.
If you look closely enough at the picture above, you can see the embroidery on the yellow, orange, and blue sections of the fabric. I embroidered parallel lines beginning on the hypotenuse of the triangle until I made it to the corner. This detail was subtle, but added a pop of texture. When looking at the wall hanging up close, the embroidery gave it a new feel.
Since I was scheduled to work a grave shift on Christmas Day, my parents came over to Seattle on Christmas Eve so we could celebrate together. Mom enthusiastically cooked Cornish game hens and we were able to spend an evening catching up, playing games, and enjoying a meal together.
When it came time to open presents, I gave Mom her wrapped gift. Since the frame was quite large, I improvised by wrapping her gift in a bed sheet and tying a bow around it. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Mom open it and she said that she loved it. It’s always a great feeling to watch someone open a gift you made them and see them enjoy it.
Next time I went home, there it was hanging on the wall that leads to the kitchen. The 12-hour art-a-thon reminded me of the value in saying yes to challenges and being in the same creative space as another person. It also taught me how much can be accomplished when carving out a chunk of time to focus on creative pursuits and was a reminder of the benefits of using other people’s ideas as a catalyst for my own work. Thanks Ara Jane for the inspiration! Now we’ll just have to see if I attempt the 24-Hour Read-a-Thon next October…