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The Artisan Soul

Here’s something that I am confident will transform the way you appreciate your creativity. I will explain why in a bit. Now, it is confession time, so add one more to the list of “struggles I overcame”. I have spent far too much time battling with God. As if he was my enemy to begin with. Some of my endless conversations with him revolved around stuff like this, like a petulant child, asking “Why did you give me these talents, useless talents? Aren’t innocent children suffering and people hungry? How can I use what I know to make this a better place to live? I don’t see your point!” I will stop here because things do get pretty heated. I might have cried on more than one instance.

Not too long ago. I thought my talents were merely frivolous, unimportant in the context of the greater planet earth we live in. I questioned why devote energy into creative pursuits if what the world needed wasn’t another starving artist (not starving if you value your work, a topic for another day for you quilters and photographers who give away your precious time and sell yourselves cheap). It wasn’t that long ago that these thoughts crossed my mind. But again, I am an infant in my faith. Just a baby. Oh dear Jesus, how much trouble I have given your ears. How much whining.

To be honest, what has saved me from my own crazy thoughts were mature Christian friends that more than once told me, “God gave you talents, use them.” And my non-believer friends (who were well, God sent) who would say things like, you have already helped me so much. Maybe that’s what’s hidden behind your gifts. These were the seeds they planted in my head. Seeds that grew into curious plants and I couldn’t help but explore more the subject. Is God really interested in creativity? I have read many books about spirituality or creativity, but until now, not an intersection of both. As I continue my journey on this blog, I am sure I will recommend many books. In this subject matter, however, this will be the most important one for you to read. The Artisan Soul by Erwin Raphael McManus. This book is beautifully written, incredibly insightful, and a call to action to put forth the absolute best we have to offer. It is a manifesto about God’s intention for our creative souls. An open door to believe that we are closest to God when we make good on his gifts to us.

The Artisan Soul photo by © Nathalie Bearden

You will never create the same way or think the same way, just saying. From the moment you finish this book, and you take your talents both seriously (make great stuff, not crap, don’t sell yourself cheap, again) and continue to be as wildly creative as a child, your work will become a form a worship to God. Not to be mistaken to be worshiped like a god thought, let’s not get a big head here. So whatever it is you do, cook, build canoes, recycle toilet paper rolls into shoes, rear children, your work matters to God and to all of us, do it well. We must not fear our creative souls for when we fear, we turn off it’s potential to bring light into the world. And YES YOU ARE A CREATIVE BEING. Yes, Amber, you too. I am sending you a copy of this book.

Sure there will be trials. Nothing worth doing is easy. And there will be many mistakes. I am lifetime member of the “oops club”. Theodore Sturgeon put it so nicely “90 percent of everything is crap”, however we need to aim for the 10 percent, not the 90 percent.

Back to the Artisan Soul, there are so many parts this book has really resonated with me. One such part is when McManus writes that, The soul feeds on the imagination, the artist lives in the imagination. Imagination always precedes creativity. To engage in the creative act, you must be comfortable working with invisible material. Then comes the tricky part–materializing that invisible material. It’s about moving imagination into image, transforming the invisible into the visible. In other words do the work. Elbow grease. No shortcuts. Don’t worry these things take time, I think he says something about our creativity being like the fermentation process, great sauerkraut takes time. And here is THE biggest call to action,”The only ideas that really matter are the ones that get turned into reality. There is no proof of creativity without action. The creative act requires both sides: it requires creativity, and it requires action.” Erwin Raphael McManus.

© Nathalie Bearden

So, what will you be? Or borrowing from The Avett Brothers, “Decide what to be and go be it”. Yep, you got it, they wrote Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise especially for me.

© Nathalie Bearden

Now off to sew and work on my quilting fermentation. These below are some images from my Instagram feed. They are all creative works in progress. Every day, just a little closer. Every day, just a little bit better. I have to say, my Artisan Soul has never been in a better state. Don’t get confused, it’s not flowers and sunshine every single day. So get over it. But it’s progress and progress is really good. Even the sort of progress that requires a darn seam ripper.

© Nathalie Bearden
I thank Jesus for his sacrifice for me. My salvation didn’t come cheap. May we remember that he makes all impossible things possible.

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Our home in bungalow magazine

I couldn’t wait to share this with you. Take a little tour of our suburban home in the current issue of Bungalow Magazine. I can’t believe how beautiful the feature turned out. Thank you Lesley Busby Weaver – editor, Katie McNew -writer, and Brooke Schwab – photographer, for the excellent work. It was such a pleasure showing you around! You all have to subscribe to this online visual delight. Very inspiring Texas style and design, it won’t disappoint, I promise. So happy to be a part of their 1st anniversary issue! Feature starts on page 80.

bungalow magazine spring 2014
bungalow magazine spring 2014

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the process

There are feelings you will never experience if you don’t allow yourself to try. I know, sounds like I have been reading too many Hallmark cards. But today I am here to tell you, it is true. For a while now I have been wanting to step up a notch and try some free motion quilting. I was very accustomed to straight (or mostly straight) lines and to be honest I thrive in whatever form of perfect I imagine. Obviously perfect is not possible. In fact, I am scratching that word off my lexicon. Learning to let go of that word isn’t easy. It’s a process. A creative process.

© Nathalie Bearden

Two weekends ago I convinced my husband that we (I) needed to purchase a Juki sewing machine. I have had my Pfaff for nearly 8 years now and the throat size is very limiting. If you want to investigate more, I bought a Juki TL 2010Q. Cheaper than my old machine and as simple to use as can be. In fact, it only sews straight stitches. I told my husband that this machine would allow me to pursue bigger creative endeavors. No, I actually promised him it would. Yesterday I did just that.  I decided to let my adventurous and more eclectic side win.

© Nathalie Bearden
Go ahead and laugh, but I think free motion quilting is fascinating. At first try it is a royal mess, stitches are in varied length, crooked, crossing over other stitches, ohhhh it’s a crazy thing. And I LOVE IT! I am shouting with joy. I simply can’t get over how the lines take their own direction. It adds so much character to a quilt, in my humble opinion. So, if you have never tried this, try. You just might hit quilting nirvana.

I read somewhere that once you can fully appreciate the process, as opposed to the end result, you are free to truly create. I have never felt so free to create in my life. Isn’t that alone worth a celebration?

© Nathalie Bearden

Isn’t it pretty? Looks like a work of art to me. If I could drink, I’d have an (five) ice cold beer (s) right now.

© Nathalie Bearden

That’s my bit of inspiration for you today. Happy Quilting!

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Around and Around Quilt

Are you enjoying so many pretties yet? Here is another one, made several years ago. I still have some of this Nicey Jane fabric by Heather Bailey and I hope to use it again in the future. I love the saturated colors and the mix of modern geometric design and contemporary flowers. When she first released these prints I snatched them right away. It was love at first sight. I still adore this quilt. My youngest owns it and doesn’t like to share it with anyone. The best thing is that more I wash it, the better the frayed edges look.

Around and Around Quilt by Nathalie Bearden
Around and Around Quilt by Nathalie Bearden
Around and Around Quilt by Nathalie Beardenall
Around and Around Quilt by Nathalie Bearden
Looking at images of my girls as babies make me want to sob. Motherhood: The hours are long, but the years are short, rings so true. They grow in a blink of an eye. I am ever so thankful to have one more on the way. But ask me how I feel during those first 6 weeks. Argh!

More quilting goodness to come!

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lazy days quilt

Let’s continue our little trip down quilt memory lane. This quilt I made in 2013. In fact, it was the first quilt I started that year. If you follow me on Instagram, you have heard me say that I was confused for a long time. I didn’t know what I wanted to do and at that point I had dabbed into so many things, you know, jack-of-all-trades. Some of you have heard this Ad nauseam, but let me state it here for the last time and I promise this subject is closed.

At one point earlier in my life, I thought of myself as a Neurologist. I spent 4 years getting a degree in Cell & Molecular Biology (also known as fancy useless degree). All of the signs during my college years pointed to “you are doing the wrong thing”. It all seems so obvious now. While I was good at what I was studying. I wasn’t great and some days I just loathed it. But, I kept on trucking along. I got a summer internship at the prestigious National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at National Institutes of Health in Washington D.C. the semester before my graduation. I was so proud of it. One main reason, I was one of two from a state university chosen by that institute. And it wasn’t necessarily easy to compete with 10 thousand other applicants.

The sad part was that while my colleagues were busy trying to figure out which Ivy League they would apply at for medical school, I was ever so sure that spending my days in a lab (or hospital) was not what I wanted to do. And YES, I should have gone to design school. Who doesn’t live with a little “should have, could have” in their lives? I struggled big time in accepting that my “dream” was never going to come true. And it wasn’t coming true because I was unwilling to do the work. My soul was not made for a windowless basement, rats, chemicals, blood, or sick people. And you may say, didn’t you know that before starting your degree? Yes I did. And I had at that point spent countless hours in hospitals. But, something inside of my shifted after I had my first baby. And medicine was no longer my focus, not only for the obvious reason, a baby changes everything, but because I grew restless to sew and work with my hands creating art. I also became very connected to my own domestic self. And I loved (still do) it.

Now fast forward to 2012 (after baby number two). In the midst of my life crisis, a sweet friend sent me a text and said, why don’t you just devote a year to quilting and cooking, then write a book about it. At first I thought, me write a book? Did you forget English is not my first language and I can’t spell to save my life? She said, do it! It took me some time to follow through with her idea. In fact, I was toying with the idea of applying for a degree in Architecture. What?? And after searching in the depths of my soul, I remembered how much I enjoyed sewing and yes cooking. So, I decided to start making quilts (which I had learned some 9 year prior and just never got serious about it). My goal was to make one a month, but I ended up the year with 16 finished quilts and hungry for more.

Today, I dream, live, and breath quilts. I can’t wait for my two days a week of uninterrupted sewing. I feel like my devotion to the craft has allowed me to connect with others who share the same passion and also hone in my skills. I am slowly training my eyes to see past color and design and create my own unique style. Sure, these things take time and I don’t claim expertise in the subject. I just know what I know.

Of course, as you birth something new or invest your time in learning a craft, those nagging voices in your head start to chatter. The you are not good enough syndrome starts to kick in. Those pesky voices remind me constantly that I didn’t go to design school. That I had the chance to learn Illustrator and design theories. The trick is learning to shut these useless voices off and start listening to the ones that matter. The ones that say, you are doing an amazing job, you’ve got this, if you can teach yourself English you can also teach yourself illustrator. Don’t be afraid, do the work.

During the beginnings of my self-discovery I came across this poem, and I have held it close to my heart. I am ever so thankful for my friend Sharon Taylor for telling me I was really good at what I did and I should invest more time in doing it. There’s power in believing in yourself and also to have friends who are genuine and cheering for you.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice-
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations, though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
but little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do-
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver, Dream Work, Grove Atlantic Inc., 1986 & New and Selected Poems, Beacon Press, 1992.

Enjoy taking a peak at Lazy Days. I keep this quilt by the sofa and we are fond of snuggling under it. This was a present to myself. The first step in the direction I have always known I should have taken. It wasn’t late.

Lazy Days Quilt by © Nathalie Bearden

Lazy Days Quilt by © Nathalie Bearden

You will see my sketches rarely resemble the finished piece.They are more like a place holder. The beginning of an idea.

Lazy Days Quilt by © Nathalie Bearden
Lazy Days Quilt by © Nathalie Bearden

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