A great time taping Quilting Arts TV...Read More
Here's the second of two posts I'd like to share with you about making the leap from the corporate Rat Race to the creative life, as told to a radio-host and friend of mine...
MJK: A bit of background on this struggle was that my father lost his business when I was about 10 years old. My parents had to declare bankruptcy, we lost our home, my father began to drink, my parents split up, and it all got very bad for a long time. So, to me, losing one’s livelihood and income was the worst thing that could happen. I was absolutely petrified at the prospect of not having a job or revenue stream. And yet, I recognized that as a prison in and of itself.
And I began to wonder what would happen if I left my job, we lived on my husband’s salary alone, and I stayed home to focus on my own fiber art and make quilts for people.
FR: Tell us a little more about this embryonic idea of yours, where it came from and why it appealed to you?
MJK: That was the other part of the puzzle. About 20 years ago, I started developing techniques that allowed me to make quilts that look like faceted diamonds. Working on them brought me the greatest joy. People who saw them loved them and told me I needed to do more. I also had started making memory quilts for people out of their special clothes and t-shirts.
I really enjoyed this work because it brought such joy to my clients. They’d actually cry when I presented their quilts to them. Believe me, no Vice President of HR ever burst into tears when I presented a finished project to her at my old job.
I truly believe that regret is a terrible thing and should be avoided at all costs. I didn’t want to be 80 years old, saying, “You know, I really should have done something with those diamonds…” So the desire to pursue my passion grew and grew. When I realized that our passions are really given to us by Spirit as a means of Self-expression – that we must follow those passions to live a fulfilling life – then the fear started to fall away and was replaced by this feeling of trust. Trusting that, even if I didn’t have a plan and know how everything was going to turn out, things would be OK.
FR: How did you create some sort of safe harbor for yourself in this highly uncertain, unstable period? Where did you find support? (Or did you?) Books? Friends? Partner? Other?
MJK: I know that I’m very, very lucky to be in a partnership with someone who supports my dreams and passion. My husband Joe has always supported me. We’re a team. Not everyone has that. And the risk is much greater for someone who doesn’t have the safe haven I do.
However, it was still scary and risky to go from two incomes to one. And also emotionally risky to go from being someone whose image was bound up in her career advancement to someone who does her own thing without all that external reward.
And difficult to deal with the feelings of being completely selfish, not “pulling my weight” in the partnership, not “accomplishing” anything with my life.
FR: Tell me how you prepared yourself to take this gigantic leap of faith.
MJK: I paid down some debts and spread the word among my previous clients that I was going to do this…and then I just did it. It was a big leap.
FR: How did it feel the day you quit your job? Did you shout for joy or did you have mixed feelings? Regrets?
MJK: Absolutely exhilarated. Feelings of unbelievable freedom and joy. After I left the old job, I had nightmares about being back at work and thinking, “This is wrong. I’m not supposed to be here!” That was validation.
FR: As you embarked on this new path, did things go according to plan? Were there unexpected twists and turns in the road?
MJK: Well, there really isn’t a plan. I’m saying YES to things that appear before me. Experimenting and exploring. You really can’t have a plan if it’s a true exploration, right? I'm creating lots of new work, writing a book about the diamonds, and preparing to do some teaching. It's been wonderful, too, to have galleries show interest in my work and book exhibits.
FR: Looking back, what were some decisions made, steps taken, advice given that stand out in your mind which significantly affected where you are today?
MJK: Listen to your gut, your intuition. We have that inner voice for a reason, for direction.
Choose joy. That’s why we’re here. We’re not here to suffer and sacrifice. That’s a total con job. We’re here to thrive and to enjoy life.
Only you can change, don’t expect anything or anyone else to change. Learn to live within it or not.
Change won’t kill you. Fear will. You can actually stress, worry, and anger yourself to death. It’s a horrible way to live and to die.
FR: Where do things stand now in your business, and what are your plans for the future?
MJK: I’m building a business. I’m having fun. Meeting great new people. Enjoying the freedom and the ability to be myself and do what I want. To me, that’s a kind of abundance that far exceeds a lousy job with a big paycheck.
FR: What are some of the lessons you learned along the way, and what would you say to someone out there who feels stuck in a non-fulfilling job?
MJK: The things I mentioned a few minutes ago…listening to your feelings and intuition. Choosing joy. Eradicating fear from your life. Feeling stuck is a self-imposed prison of the mind. The mind is the most powerful tool for change you have. No one has the answers except you. You know what’s right for you. Trust your Higher Self.
(End of Interview)
I was interviewed recently by a friend who is helping start up a new local radio station. She asked me to tell my story about making the leap from the corporate Rat Race to the creative life. While I assured her I was still in mid-leap, she wanted to interview me anyway. Here's Part I of my conversation with her.
Forward Radio (FR): Most of us, at one time or another in our lives, have felt trapped in a job, a marriage or some situation or role that feels suffocating or just not a good fit. Maybe we start to wonder about what is truly meaningful to us, what gives us joy, or what unique gifts we have to offer.
Today, I’m here with MJ Kinman, someone who perhaps like you, found herself unhappy and unfulfilled in a job that she didn’t like. But perhaps unlike most of us, she did something about it and in the process, created her own specialty business that built upon her unique talents and passion. Let’s find out from MJ what she did, how she did it, and what has been the result.
MJ Kinman (MJK): Thank you for having me!
FR: MJ, without naming the company, can you tell us a little about the job you had and for how long you worked there?
MJK: I worked for a large corporation here in Louisville as a technical project manager in the HR Division. My work involved projects like replacing outdated software systems or ensuring that the employees of a company that we bought had a seamless transition of their pay and benefits on their first day of employment with us. And I was with them for about 6 ½ years.
FR: What was it about the job that began wearing you down and making you unhappy?
MJK: That’s a great question, but a tricky question for me to answer. Here’s why. The question implies that the job was the problem. And I’ve come to realize that it’s not the job in and of itself that is really ever the problem; it’s our personal expectations of it that get us into trouble.
I think we often look to our jobs -- like our relationships, right? -- to fulfill our needs. We have an image of what they should be and when they don’t live up to them -- which they never could -- we get frustrated and angry.
I think that happened with me. I expected this job, which for me was kind of a pinnacle of my career, to make me happy. I was making more money than I’d ever made before. I had respect of my colleagues, and I was doing interesting and challenging work.
So people ask, what was the problem?
MJK (continued): In short, I was deeply disappointed in what I saw playing out in my area. Decisions being made based on individual leader’s attempts to gain position and power, co-workers hoarding information to make themselves appear to be indispensable, a lack of leadership and professionalism throughout. But, I realize now that these issues aren’t unique to one company, or one sector. I worked in the non-profit sector as a social worker for many years and saw these same dynamics playing out.
So in short, I was disappointed with my job – due to the high and unrealistic expectations I had for it -- and becoming more and more disengaged with the work. As a result, I began to act more like a project monster than a project manager. That didn’t help at all.
FR: During those years on the job, did you ever attempt to change any of those objectionable routines or relationships in order to resolve some of the issues you were having?
MJK: Well, us Type A, overachiever types think we can make things better, right? So I tried to do my job as best I could. Put in more hours, take on more projects, point out issues that needed to be addressed. That kind of thing.
FR: What was the result?
MJK: Oh, not good! In a large corporation – or in any work situation -- there’s very little one person can do. If my leaders were fighting to find footing, what did I think I could do? It really just resulted in a lot of resentment coming my way for rocking the boat.
FR: Can you recall what incidences occurred or what ideas surfaced that began pointing you in another direction?
MJK: My turning point came – not as a result of any horrible incident or brutal project, but from a change in me – a change that I can only describe as the start of a spiritual journey.
And if I may, I’d like to say right here that everyone’s journey is completely different. If you had told me 10 years ago that I’d be here right now, I’d say, “You’re crazy!” That’s because I thought the big paycheck and the job with the big corporation was the pinnacle. And you could not have dissuaded me then. People have to go through their own learning journeys. There are no shortcuts.
So back to my journey…I started reading things written by and about people who had had spiritually transformative experiences in their lives. People who had had personal encounters with the Spirit, the Divine, God, whatever you wish to call the “All That Is”. And they all had similar things to say about it…that we’re here to learn lessons of love, compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude. That the pursuit of ego-needs like wealth and power and fame meant nothing.
Here’s the deal…I’m a pretty big skeptic. But a part of me said, “Well, what if this is real? What if it’s true that this life is all about sharing love and compassion…and not necessarily gaining status, wealth, and power?”
So I kept reading more and more…and as I did, I began to change. That’s the point here. I began to change. And as I did, the voice in my heart and head became more insistent that I was not in the right place. The thought that I needed to get out as fast as I could became more insistent.
FR: What was going through your head at the time? What emotions and self doubts, if any, were you feeling?
MJK: If you know anything about me, it’s that I’m a big-time planner. My whole life was to be planned. I was a project monster, for heaven’s sake!!
And as this thought kept pressing itself into my awareness, I got very uncomfortable because it didn’t come with a plan. The only “plan” was to leave my job and trust that I’d find out what I was to do later. To trust. To have faith. It was the scariest thought ever. But at the same time it was the “rightest” thought ever (if that’s a word). It made no sense to me at all. I felt as though I was on a high-dive board and faced with the choice to jump or go back down the ladder. And I knew I couldn’t go back.
(End of Part I)
Bourbon isn't bourbon without fire.
Unless the interior of a new oak barrel is allowed to burn, there can be no blackening and crackling of the wood. Those tiny cracks invite the whiskey to penetrate the oak during hot, lazy Kentucky summers. When the cold winter air causes the wood to contract, the whiskey molecules -- now infused with the sugars and color of the wood char -- are expelled back into the barrel, providing its delicious flavor and amber color.
The charring process used by Brown-Forman to create barrels for its own bourbon brands, plus the spectacular Zoisite gemstone above, combined to create the inspiration for "Char #4". Old Forester (a Brown-Forman brand) is proud to age its bourbon in barrels made specifically for them. This gem portrait honors Old Forester's heritage.
I painted the fabric with glowing red-orange, magenta, peach, and copper color. So much fun to see it peeking out from behind the templates as I worked.
It's coming together! Fingers crossed that this lovely will be ready for her close-up at the Makers' Crucible Bourbon Tasting & Derby Party on April 20th!
I just got word from Vivika Hansen DeNegre, editor of Quilting Arts Magazine, that they want to highlight my diamond quilts in the August issue! "In The Spotlight" is a first-person account of an artist's career, inspiration, and body of work.
The article is finished now, and I'll work with my photographer friend to get appropriately sized images to them by the first of April.
I'm over-the-moon excited!
Free-motion machine quilting = meditation.
Or at least that's how I see it. This part of the process allows me to literally touch every square inch of the new work, placing color where it belongs.
I change the thread color to match the fabric color. The random, non-directional quilting pattern allows the viewer's eye to see "through" the quilting to the diamond below.
I've decided to call this piece "Old Fashioned New". I experimented with different quilting patterns to see which I might like best. I'm still sold on the non-directional flame pattern that I use in most of my work. It doesn't detract from the faceting pattern as the more directional quilting does. What do you think?
Doesn't it feel GREAT once the design has emerged right before your eyes?
The next step for me is to work on my "Star Charts". My handsome husband named the process when he once commented that the final product looked to him like a constellation map. I love the way his mind works!
Star-charting is the process of creating a life-size pattern of the design. Major sections of the diamond are identified, facets are drawn, and each receives its own set of codes for location, color, and position to one another.
Nothing complicated about the tools: rolls of freezer paper (found in any grocery store), double-sided tape, pencil, heavy duty eraser, ruler, and square (if you think you need some additional help keeping your lines straight), and markers.
I suppose I could plunk down a couple hundred dollars and buy myself a projector that would allow me to draw my designs directly onto the freezer paper template, but I prefer to go old school. Drawing a grid onto the mock-up at a 1": 12" ratio gives me the chance to study the design more closely. Once the major grid lines are down, I dive deeper into the design, finding the major sections of the faceting and the shards of light within each.
Freezer paper sections are taped together, 12" grid lines are drawn, and the naked template is up on the wall. Time to start charting!
Once the facets are drawn, the template comes off the wall and onto a flat surface for coding. A simple numbering method helps me keep track of every single piece. Coding for color variations is the second step. I put together a color key that ascribes a combination of letters for each hue, tint and shade. Assigning every piece a color really allows me to get deep into the design and understand the flow of color across the facets. The last step is to add hatch marks (adjacency marks) on every line delineating the facets. This is crucial to accurate piecing.
As tempted as it is to just start cutting the template apart so that I can get to the next step, I have one last critical step: making a copy of the final freezer paper design. The copy will serve as your key to construction. And if you're like me and sometimes lose a tiny piece or two during the process, the copy will allow you to replicate any piece that has mysteriously "walked away" during the cutting process. I use the large format printer at my local Fed Ex Store. The cost isn't prohibitive and the machine is easy to use.
Next: Painting fabric!
There truly is no step in this process that I don't love. Each one brings me joy.
My last post (The Right Light) described finding the right diamond image, one that has a personality or a story to tell. Today I'll describe the fun involved in transforming an image into a potential design for future work.
This is the stone that caught my attention -- a beautiful peach Zoisite from the collection of Laurie and Simon Watt. (You can see the rest of their incredible collection of colored gemstones at www.mayerandwatt.com.) After giving it a little make-over by boosting the color, I spun it around to look at it from different angles.
It was certainly a stunning stone all by itself, but I wondered how a companion stone might enhance the image. Georgia O'Keeffe had a wonderful take on color theory. She said colors adjacent to one another on the color wheel are Friends, while colors opposite one another are Lovers. Marvelous! Since blue and orange are complementary colors, this is the handsome sapphire I chose for my lovely leading lady. A mysterious charmer, isn't he?
I worked with both images on my PC, but nothing really caught my eye. The designs I was able to produce seemed lifeless, so I decided to change my focus at that point. My "Bourbon Diamond" series is inspired, not only by amber gems, but Kentucky's iconic spirit and the amazing Kentucky bourbon distilleries that create it. Willett Distillery in Bardstown is one of the most historic distilleries in Kentucky. Once I spotted the angular lines of the distillery's tin roof and its variegated brick exterior, I knew what might solve my design issue. I went back to the drawing board, threw in a diagonal line, and increased the scale of the facets. The design immediately started to get more interesting.
I knew I needed to get my hands on the images, physically moving around the pieces until something sang out to me. I printed out the images, cut them up, and began mashing them back together in new configurations.
Next time I'll share a bit about the process of taking this little mock-up and turning it into a full-scale work.
I treated myself to an "Inspiration Field Trip" last month: a visit to Angel's Envy Distillery, Louisville's brand new bourbon distillery. Located across the street from Louisville Slugger Field, Angel's Envy's home base used to be an elevator factory before it was abandoned years ago. But no more. Last November the stunning brick complex opened for business. Founded by Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson, Angel's Envy is owned by Louisville Distilling Company, a subsidiary of Bacardi Limited.
If you're lucky enough to get Tom Gamble as your host, you know you're going to have fun. I really lucked out with a triple whammy....the other two guests on our tour were representatives from a nearby distillery who wanted a peek (like me) into the inner workings of this amazing facility. What fun to listen to the three of them swap stories about making, tasting, and sharing information about bourbon.
I won't attempt to describe the details of making bourbon here. Too complicated and not the purpose of this chat with you today. The best way to learn is to plunk down $15 and take the tour. (And don't forget to bring some cash to tip your host!) Yet I do want to share with you the images that have inspired me to start designing new work.
When you head to the mezzanine level where the fermentation vats live, the sweet scent of baking bread smacks you in the face. It's not bread that's baking; it's the yeast-filled mash bubbling away in giant mash tubs. Tom will let you taste the mash and even let you look inside one of the tubs....just please don't drop your cell phone inside. It's been done.
The Column Still sits at the far end of the mezzanine like a Queen on her throne. In my opinion, the glowing copper column is an honest-to-goodness "Thing Of Beauty". Standing next to the Column Still is a container called the Spirit Safe. Back in the day, its purpose was to keep a lock on the bourbon -- and away from thirsty distillery workers -- before the spirit could be put into barrels. It has to do with the history of bourbon taxation. Today, however, the Spirit Safe serves the purpose of honoring tradition and it gives metal workers and copper smiths an opportunity to create a cool piece of sculpture. The "bottle" on top of the Spirit Safe at Angel's Envy is modeled after their own bottle design. The stopper on the bottle is actually a piece of a Louisville Slugger bat provided by Louisville Slugger Field. A nice neighborly thing to do!
All of these images are working their way into new designs. I'm excited about piecing curved lines using the same single-foundation template process that I use with my diamonds. I'm excited, too, about painting fabric to convey that mesmerizing glow of the copper still. Can you imagine playing with all those paint colors? Copper, Golden Yellow, Ocher, Salmon, Burnt Umber, Magenta, Fuchsia all blending together...
The last stop on the tour is the Tasting Room. Yes, it was 11:00 AM on Monday morning. And, yes, we sampled the goods: the signature Bourbon finished in Port barrels. They also have a Rye finished in Rum casks. That's one of the defining characteristics of Angel's Envy, the time the bourbon is finished in the port or rum casks. Amazing!
When you're looking for a wonderful place to spend an hour on a chilly Winter day, make your online reservation and head down to Angel's Envy Distillery (500 E. Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202). Lift a glass for me!
January 1 ... a perfect day to start the conversation. So much to talk about, so much to share.
Let's start at the beginning -- the point of inspiration. An alternate definition of inspiration is "the drawing in of breath." Isn't that often how creative inspiration feels? The drawing in of an idea, a divine breath, that fires our creativity? Sometimes our inspiration comes upon us like a steady inhalation. And sometimes it arrives like a gasp.
In 1991, a flier from the Kentucky Center for the Arts in Louisville (now The Kentucky Center) arrived announcing a performance by Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. The mailer featured an illuminated crystal that caught my attention. Looking at it now, after having viewed thousands of images of diamonds and colored gemstones, it certainly isn't what I'd call a pretty stone. Yet the placement of the highlights and shadows captivated me.
As I sat staring at the image, I had an honest-to-God "gasp" of inspiration: there HAD to be a way to turn this diamond into a quilt. After all, those facets were simply straight lines, right? And, while I'm not a great seamstress, I can at least sew a straight line. (Well, on good days....) I didn't have a clue how to to do it, but I knew I wasn't going to give up until I figured it out. Seven years later, after reading lots of books and attending lots of workshops, I finished my first diamond quilt, "Solitaire", in 1998.
Fast forward to today. Here's the source of inspiration for my current diamond. It's a spectacular peach Zoisite from the collection of Mayer & Watt. (Photography by Geoffrey Watt @ Mayer and Watt) Laurie and Simon Watt's mission is to buy and sell beautiful and unique gemstones that inspire the creation of fine jewelry. Their operation is headquartered in Maysville, Kentucky. You can check out their collection of stunning gemstones at http://mayerandwatt.com/.
In my next post, I'll share a bit about how I selected this particular gem and how I hope to tell its unique story.
Where do you find your inspiration? Tell me about it!