Picture this: An angel mentor on my right shoulder and a devil mentor on my left side. Both of them are coaching me toward their net, encouraging me to shoot the puck. The angels on my shoulders are my tiny inner quilt coaches. One of them (you decide which one) wants me to follow traditional quilting rules, the other is telling me to toss the rule book out and just go with it. It’s a struggle I’m facing as I strive to develop my own artistic style.
I was at a quilt guild meeting not long ago and the presenter talked about entering her quilts in shows and receiving feedback from the judges. She joked that some of the comments made her doubt herself. She’s not alone, I’ve heard this before, but that is not why judges present ‘areas in need of improvement’ on the feedback forms. Often these critiques can be a positive learning experience. However, they also point to areas where specific improvements can be made; for example in workmanship or design. In short, judges are mentors who offer valuable and impartial comments on our work; just like the angels and devils on our shoulders.
When I’m working on a quilt, these inner critics heckle me and make me doubt my choices. They often interrupt my thoughts in midstream and make me crazy with offbeat observations. Rarely, do they offer a high five – but when they do, I always know I’m on to something! They are there for a reason.
We’ve all got these inner critics and whether we want to believe it or not, we really do need them.
Lets talk about quilting mentors: We are encouraged to seek a mentor when we are learning to quilt. Someone who can help us to develop skills, give us design advice and improve the quality of our workmanship. The important thing about discussing our work with others is that we begin to envision our projects in different ways.
Their role is to challenge our skills and motivate us to convey our ideas effectively. It’s the vision of who we are (as artists) that will shape the way we see our work now and going forward. The efforts we make to listen to the critiques from mentors along the way are important in developing individual style. What is important is that we discuss our work with others and that we remember there are no right or wrong opinions, just ideas.
As a quilt artist, I have great respect for my mentors and the inspiration they’ve shared through their lectures and books. The most memorable coaches have been Libby Lehman for Thread Play, Yyonne Porcella for color choices and composition, and Jeanette Muir for precision piecing techniques. Each of these mentors offered valuable advice, some harsh at the time, that encouraged me to develop an individual style. This is also why we should not ignore those inner critics that sit on our shoulders while we work.
Believing in your own abilities and potential will inspire you and maybe even others. Don’t play the self-doubt card, its time to abandon your self-limiting beliefs. As innovators, our primary focus is to find and explore the skills and techniques that will propel our craft forward.