Friday, January 15, 2010

How to be Creatively Productive and Getting Started

I received two emails which ask similar questions, so here is my attempt to answer:
Hi Melody
I often go to your blog to check out what you're doing next. I am fascinated and utterly amazed (not to say envious) at your productivity and wonder how you do it. I seem to stumble along and do a quarter of what you manage in your days. A week whizzes by for me and I do my 3 days of work, my domestic chores, and a little bit of creativity.

In my effort to figure out how you manage your days, I thought perhaps you were a "routine" person, or perhaps you hardly slept, or perhaps you don't watch TV (but I know you do) or you don't read (but I know you do) or you have a special clock ....!

I even googled "how to live a productive life" in desperation thinking I could learn the secret to productivity! Maybe you have it .... could you share it with us .... thanks again for sharing all that you do.
Hoping to learn how to be creatively productive.

Dear Ellie,
Funny that you should ask that since this week I have dinked around and haven't done a decent thing, but socialize, shop and knit stuff that I frogged and reknit and then frogged again. O and treat my cat for fleas, which thanks to Capstar are now history.
Routine? Well, here I am in my studio at 5am doing my blog which is a great mind organizer, recorder of arty deeds and site to show off from. Not to mention a place to spout and act like Ms. Know It All...but I digress.
Here's my secret. I put creative stuff first. I think of it as my job, which it is, even now that I am retired.
I had to make a choice years ago to quit my regular job and do art for a living. That decision meant so much internally and part of that challenge was to prove that it could be done and that I could do it.
And if I failed, I would have to return to regular jobs, for which I am very ill suited. Arty stuff is the only thing I know how to do. So I became single-minded in the pursuit of an artful life, with income. I watched everyone who was successful and realized that it was their full time job too.
In a way I was lucky that I only had a husband to care for, and a few cats here and there. I didn't raise a family and so I can afford to spend the time in the studio.
Plus I have an art itch that must be scratched.
Set goals, and surround yourself with supportive people, the artier the better. No one understands how important making your art is more than other artists. Feed your muse so that you have something to nourish your ideas. It's OK to copy the best, but to strive for originality is more worthwhile. Only do what makes you happy, and eventually you will find an audience.

And from Lis in Scotland:
{nice compliments deleted to get right to the question}

I understand completely if you are too busy to reply - you have been an inspiration already - but if you have any advice for someone starting up right now (with limited experience in painting and textiles) I would SO appreciate it.

I am a mum of 2 (expecting no.3 in May) but have the uses of an empty space nearby if I want it, to start something with no immediate requirement to earn an income from it. I just love colour and texture - and always have expressed this in the past through children's fashion, large scale paintings, card making and a few other things - but none of this has seemed to be the right vehicle to express these things properly, if you see what I mean?

I am amazed at the vivid colours you can get by dye-ing fabrics - something I've never done. Do you need to dye a huge stock of colours before you can start quilting - what is the best way to begin and what would I need?

If you can offer any advice I would be really grateful, or even point me in the right direction of what to read up on!

Dear Lis,

O boy. With two and a half kidlets, this is going to be a bit more difficult than falling out of bed, but not having to make a living can remove most of the difficulty. See advice above.

Going right to the fabric question: Compared to collecting mountains of printed fabrics, gathering a collection of hand dyed colors is minuscule. Plus you can make your own mark with colors and surfaces more easily than with printed fabrics (I know I am alienating many quilters by stating this). However you will have to have a kidlet minder in order to dye fabric so I suggest that the cost of supplies, time and minders be factored into the equation and just spend the pennies to buy hand dyed fabrics from some experienced dyers to get started.

Quilting is not a cheap hobby. Can I get a witness?

For years my work was done exclusively in hand dyed fabrics BECAUSE I fuse everything. (Bondaweb, in the UK) Fusing just works better with hand dyed fabrics, for so many reasons. And fusing is the quicker and easier way to achieve my desired results. It is not for everyone, but I know I could not make the designs in my quilts any other way.

To get started, find a source for your fabrics, and jump in. Start doing small things to learn techniques, and don't feel you must finish everything you start. Consider yourself an apprentice. There are several thousand books on the subject out there, and thanks to the internet, everything is available with a mere keystroke.

Best wishes,



  1. Great post, Mel! Funny, I just realized I have never tried to fuse commercial fabrics, just my hand-dyed stuff. Good to know. And I feel better about putting housecleaning last on my list now, knowing that you put your art first. I've been doing that for a little over a year now, and my productivity has gone through the roof! You are a perennial inspiration to me!

  2. Leah Day (of 365 Days of Free Motion Quilting) addresses this question very well at (scroll down to "How do you manage to do it all?") She hires someone to clean her house, and her hubby does the grocery shopping and cooking. She puts all her energy into her business, which is really what it comes down to. Working at home is a job just like any other. You have to change your mindset from hobbyist to businessperson if you want to earn a living at it.

    That said, this is something that I struggle with, too. Too often it seems like the day just slips away. But if you know you have a problem, you can do something about it. Developing better time management skills is top on my list!

  3. I've found this little book
    to be really helpful in getting my artful life in better shape. No affiliation - just thought others might find it as useful as I do.

  4. Thank you Melody, you came straight to the point and put it into perspective. The comments so far have also been thoughtful and helpful.

  5. Thanks so much for your advice Melody, I do appreciate your comments ... I'll try it all EVEN the 5am bit ...also the other comments from everyone confirming that I'm not alone in trying to focus, create art and achieve something with it.

  6. Anonymous5:22 PM

    I will be your witness - quilting is NOT a cheap hobby! ;-) I'm hear to tell you that there will ALWAYS be MORE dirty dishes and laundry - may as well let them pile up for a bit when the creative muse strikes!

  7. Thanks Melody (and others!)for all your advice! Now I have somewhere to start from I can move forward but I know I've got to be realistic about what is achievable! Will let you know how I get on. Thanks again, Lis

  8. You are a wise woman. I like the part about putting your creativity first and the laundry last.

  9. Thanks so much for your wonderful insight. I am another mum with a 2y10mt & a 10mth old so I don't have much time to create and I have a space issue right now but I love your inspiration and it's always nice to hear how you do it. I love your work and love reading your blog.


So nice of you to drop by. I love your comments, and if you would really like a reply, please email me at fibermania at g mail dot com