By Melinda Schwakhofer – The Quarantine Quilt Project artist
I am one of four artists on the Quarantine Quilt Project.
We have each been commissioned to make individual pieces of artwork in response to COVID-19, which is wonderful. I have been furloughed from my ‘day job’ and so many people have said to me ‘How lucky! You’re an artist. You’ll have so much time to make new work’.
The thing is that I am finding it such a challenge to put my pandemic experience into a piece of artwork. I normally use art making to process experiences that are difficult to put into words, and this is usually done from a distance, after I have moved beyond the experience and can put it in perspective.
Since April I have been developing and co-tutoring online textile art courses for the Devon Learning Recovery Community in which I provide and hold creative space for students. As well as teaching specific art techniques and providing the opportunity to experience first-hand the wellbeing benefits of creativity and Craftfulness, my colleagues and I provide and hold a safe space for people to be in, however strong or vulnerable they are in any moment.
My own experiences and emotions over the past five months have ranged from anxiety about the world ‘out there’ to calmly enjoying the peace and safety of Home, and everything in between. Sometimes over a single day. With all my home, relationship, and other artistic commitments as well as the difficulty of living through this time, it has proved to be exceedingly difficult to carve out the time to focus on my commission.
About three weeks ago, I instigated a weekly online meetup with the four of us that I call Creative Sparks. I call this meeting time Creative Sparks for two reasons. First, we spark off one another in the way that only artists can do so. I have always found it so helpful to talk to other artists about my creative process. Even when she works in a different medium, another artist will immediately ‘get’ where I am coming from in my creative process in a way that others do not.
Second, sparks are generated that if nurtured, can light the kindling to fire my creativity and ultimately result in the production of artwork. This is dedicated time in the week that I know I will have to get my commission ideas out of the hamster wheel in my brain and have a space to look at them. This space allows me to sort the wheat from the chaff and decide which idea, or ideas, will form the basis of my work.
I often find that just speaking about my fledgling artistic ideas can transform them to another shape, flesh them out or get them unstuck. Because we are each in our own studio, we can show what we are working on. We listen to one another and if asked, give suggestions. Since we know one another well, we can also reference our other artwork, our personality, and aspects about our personal lives which can be really helpful.
After each of us has spoken and more important felt heard, we may choose to work together, from our own studios, for the remainder of the session. We also have accountability when we state what we will likely do over the next seven days, knowing that we will come together again.
In this time when we are afraid to share breath, we can come together through the magic of the internet, from the safety of our home/studios and inspire one another and work together. Creative Sparks is the time for me to find my space in which to create.