How do you live up to your own standards?

So I find myself in a mental pickle. I’m delighted to participate in the Doll Quilt Swap for the second time, but I find myself a bit uneasy. I entered into the last round as a newbie. I had no expectations of getting in and no expectations of what I might receive. I had, what I thought was, a simple idea for a quilt. A contrast of black and white vs color. Good vs Evil. Despair vs. Hope. And of course a lot of whimsy. The Wizard of Oz seemed the perfect way to pull some of my ideas together.

That quilt grew to take on a life of its own. I envisioned parts of the quilt, but others were merely opportunities that I saw as the quilt developed. An interesting character here and a new fabric there. I used techniques that I never had before and worked at a tiny level and yet at a grand scale. There was so much packed into that one little quilt. I wondered at times if there was too much. But everyone seemed to enjoy each new piece…and so I plodded forth.

And very much to my surprise, the quilt became quite well-liked (although I’m still somewhat convinced that it is the mere presence of Mendocino mermaids that draw people in). In fact, some liked it so much that I was often asked how I could possibly give it away or told that I shouldn’t bother entering the DQS again because I could never outdo that quilt.

It’s that final statement that really sticks with me. I don’t want to be a one-note wonder and nor do I want to recreate what I’ve already done. I don’t need to make that quilt again. It’s been done. But how do I make a quilt that will be utterly me, utterly my partner, and yet be no less than the previous quilt? How do I meet the expectations that I have set for myself and perhaps others have come to expect?

I’m quite delighted with my partner and that may be part of the difficulty. But I’ve been at odds with what to make for the swap for quite a while. The last quilt was so very personal, I’m not sure that I can, want, or need to do that again. But will I think less of myself for doing something less “magical” than the last quilt? Or am I merely a victim of vanity, striving to outdo myself?

I hope to find an idea that settles with me soon, so I can stop worrying (something that I’m very good at). I don’t fear that my partner will not like what I make, but rather that I won’t.

16 thoughts on “How do you live up to your own standards?”

  1. I am one who was completely wowed by your quilt. But, as I've found by following your blog – I'm pretty wowed by most everything you make! I kinda feel the same in a different way though. Last round (my first too) I attempted and tackled tiny cathedral windows. It was something that took me a lot of time and nearly the whole time allotted for the swap. I wonder too, if I finish my DQS10 swap too soon does that mean I didn't put the same effort? I don't know. I have way too many ideas right now, I need to narrow it down a bit!

  2. I absolutely love your quilt from last round, but more importantly the story that went with the quilt. You were able to take something so incredibly personal and turn it into something creative and beautiful. For this round I don't think you should even try to compare this quilt to your first, unless you are attempting to deal with a similar situation again in your life. You had a moment, and then you took that moment and grew with it and utilized it.

    For this round to try and compete with that seems like it would be cheating yourself. Now you have the opportunity to pick a new moment to utilize, to be inspired by, to celebrate, to overcome. And no matter the outcome I think your partner will love what you make knowing the time, effort, and care that will undoubtedly go into its creation.

    Personally I can't wait to see what you create as you make so many lovely things, and hear any story that might accompany it.

  3. I understand your dilemma – Where Bluebirds Fly was one of a kind. But each quilt is different, has its own special story. It may not be such a big story, or one that's equally meaningful to you, but it will definitely be one thing: unique. Revel in that, let your mind flow creatively instead of competitively (even with yourself!). It will come and it will be special.

  4. I'm completely with Bry & Felicity on this one – each quilt is different! It's just a matter of letting that happen, and not worrying about what others say or think. I'm dumbfounded by that shouldn't do DQS again remark – there is so much creativity out there – and in you – that that is pure nonsense!

  5. Throw everyone for a loop: Make a wholecloth quilt of nothing but solids. Actually, my advice is to forget that anyone will see it but you & your partner. Then, take your inspiration & run with it. No matter what you do now and in the future, some of your projects will be your faves and others won't. Some will be lauded by others and some won't. But, don't get frozen by the ghost of projects past. 🙂 I'm sure that whatever you create (as long as you put that Angela pizazz in there) will be fab-u-lous!

    Sooooooo sad I missed our guild meeting last week! J & I were unexpectedly called out of town for bidniz. I say we have a meeting redo. 🙂

  6. I can really see how you could drive yourself crazy with these thoughts. I'm with mab…this quilt is between you and your partner. Let the inspiration come from there and just try to have fun. Give yourself permission to do something that feels good and is simple. Just see where that takes you. You have wonderful taste and are so creative. Your partner will love anything you make!

  7. No need to out do yourself or anyone else! I say look to your partner's mosaic and favs for inspiration and go with the flow. All of your projects are fabulous – something will click and you'll be away on a new creative journey. Enjoy!

  8. I loved *that* quilt. Even if you hadn't put the Mendocino in (one of my all time fave's) I'd have still loved it because of the Wizard of Oz referencing and all the cool details you put into it.

    However, if I was lucky enough to be your partner I wouldn't expect the same quilt and kinda know I'd get something special because I love your work and think you must work very intuitively to come up with something that is right at the time.

    I read the story behind that quilt and I think that was something that needed to be made.

    This blog post reminded me of what an old school friend told me when she started a new relationship after her divorce. She said she loved the new guy but it wasn't the same as her ex husband. It wasn't better or worse it was just different. Each quilt will be different but it won't make them better or worse or any less loved!

  9. That quilt was very lovely and it had a very personal meaning to it. You made it, gave it away, it was wonderful. That was that.

    A new quilt, a new swap, a new partner.

    Forget about expectations, forget about anything you have made before. Go with your new inspiration and don't try to outdo yourself or anybody else. Just start afresh. It might be something totally different! Modern, blocks, monochromatic..

    This is the beauty of each new piece. No expectations, a blank canvas. So put yourself in the frame of mind as if this was your first piece ever and nobody here knows you (who are you again?… lol!!)

    Just enjoy and go with the flow and have lots of fun. Something will grow when you give the idea space and a relaxed mind.

  10. You certainly do have a lot to live up to with that last DQS! I think it was my favourite, certainly the one I most admired. I guess this is just one of the problems with being so talented! I'm sure you will come up with something amazing this time too, I will be watching out for it!

  11. Everything you make is wonderful, but you cannot compare one project to another. Like a lot of people above me have stated, every quilt is different and special in its own way. Don't put so much pressure on yourself!

    That being said, I will confess I have stopped participating in the Charming Mini swap and the fabric/chocolate swap because I RECEIVED something so awesome I thought everything after that would be a let down. ha ha! Well, that and it was taking up too much of my time.

  12. Well if people are telling you that "I shouldn't bother entering the DQS again because I could never out do that quilt" then just ignore them. The DQS is supposed to be fun, not stressful. So what if you dont get as many hits and that quilt, you may never get that. If you do great, if not…oh well. All that matters is that you have fun doing it. Plus, I have seen some pretty amazing things from you that I like just the same but for different reasons. I wouldnt worry one bit. I hope you got an easier partner than I did….my partners taste is soooo very different than mine. I am not very inspired. I hope it comes soon.

  13. I too loved that quilt, and was amazed at all the detail. I also loved many, many other quilts last round. Just look in anyone's favorites, and you will see a huge variety of different items. that's what keeps us all hooked. All the different possibilities.

  14. Here's the thing about you Angela: I've received quilting bee blocks from you before and even though you made them with fabric that I chose and sent to you they were fresh and original and impeccably sewn. Your fabric and design choices are universally loved from what I can tell on flickr and here on your blog. When I say that ANYTHING you make would be appreciated and adored I mean it. And like I said, your sewing is immaculate. Your stitches are tidy, your seams are always neat, your shapes are precise. Even the plainest of patterns would be a piece of art if you made it. For real.

  15. Angela, You will always be know for THAT quilt, and that's great (you are such a great example to us DQS first timers). But I think what made the quilt beautiful, was not only the story, but the whole process of the story followed by how you executed it. And so, since life obviously has given you more than one precious thing (Hiya, Caitlyn..but there's hubby, and family and friends…) I'd say, given who you are, you are going to do a fabulous job of making another beautiful quilt! Worrying only spoils some of the fun…and that's what this is all about…
    OK, now off I go to worry about what I'm going to make…LOL.

  16. I would look at that quilt (which you KNOW I LOVE!!!) as your FIRST truely remarkable piece of work. The lessons that you learned from making that piece, and the creative process for it are all still with you, so you have nothing to fear from moving forward other than gaining more skills 🙂

    The next quilt doesn't have to be BETTER, or MORE THAN, or outshine the first one. It has to stand beside it as part of your story as an artist and a quiltmaker. That's all it has to do.

    The only way you won't live up to your own standards is if you do something that isn't truely from your own place of creativity.

    Can't wait to see what you come up with!

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