Curiosity and Experimentation: Creative Spotlight on Peggy Sahmaunt

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Peggy is one of those awesome creative people who is driven to make, always seems curious, and has an interesting story. I had asked her many moons ago to write a guest post for me, and then I got all caught up in whatever I tend to get caught up in.

It’s time for me to introduce you to Peggy. She is a quilter and ceramicist, but she also has a wickedly funny sense of humor, and is creatively thoughtful. I like that phrase.

What intrigued me most about our emails back and forth to each other is that Peggy used to sell her gorgeous quilts, and then just got to the point where she didn’t want to take money for them, so she has been gifting them to friends, family, whomever she sees fit.

Spotlight on Peggy Sahmaunt

I’ve always castigated myself for doing the same thing over and over until my son told me not long ago that none of my efforts were ever the same.  I thought long and hard about that, and decided that he was absolutely correct.  

Since a surgery for a highly disputed cancer or not-cancer diagnosis a few years ago, and subsequent surgery, all of my fabric pieces have been the same… or so I thought.  I began thinking on this to a depth not before considered by this mind.  

I use many, varied colors of fabrics (cottons and silks), threads (cotton and polyester/cotton blends), beads (except for the tiniest ones!), found objects, semi-precious stones, needles, pins (safety and straight), pin cushions (extremely important), lots of time considering what will go where, and (in my own mind) why.  People often ask about the process.  Should it be my secret?  Oh geez, scissors of varying sizes and purposes.  How could I forget those and the ever-present rulers, cutting mats, and rotary cutters?

Quilt by Peggy Sahmaunt on Craftwhack.com - interview of her creative thoughts and processes

I choose whatever combinations of fabrics that strike me on any one day when I’m in front of the stash.  I sometimes go to the backing brocades — fewer than I used to have, so there’s not always a color that coordinates with the background I choose.  But there are times when I just need to work on a specific color or group of colors, like one I did recently for a couple from Brazil.  His first professorship, the initial reason they came to the states, was in Arizona, and for some reason, the piece came out “looking like the southwest,” as I was told by an observant friend.  I hadn’t really connected the two until my friend made the comment.  Also, recently, I realized that exactly two years ago, I was working on a piece with reds, blues, and yellows which are the same colors I’m working on right now.  Is it seasonal?  Is it what I need at any one time of day or night?  If I had even thought of it, I might have written down the days and times I started pieces, the colors involved, and how I was feeling.  Have I ever done all of that?  Heck no.

Now let’s get back to this “all much of a muchness” obsession of mine.  When I looked closer, my grand realization was that many, in fact most artists, with the exception of Thomas Heatherwick, do the same thing over and over.  He’s an innovative London-based architect and designer whose upbringing was one of intensity and diversity at the same time.  He thinks outside any boxes ever attributed to him.  I can’t even imagine the box he might construct if he were to ever consider the possibility.  However, I digress.  His works are all considerably different; the materials are diverse.  Now, here’s the similarity between them all:  (I cannot put it better than what is written about his studio on his website http://www.heatherwick.com/about/)… “At the heart of the studio’s work is a profound commitment to finding innovative design solutions, with a dedication to artistic thinking and the latent potential of materials and craftsmanship. This is achieved through a working methodology of collaborative rational inquiry, undertaken in a spirit of curiosity and experimentation”.

So, there you have it.  A purpose.  Everything looks mighty different, but has behind it a similar mindset.  Check him out.  He’s 20 years younger than I am; can’t wait to see his work 20 years from now. Fascinating.

What the heck am I getting at?  Here ‘tis, as my mom would have said.  There’s a joke somewhere, but I can’t always remember even why I remember she said it, said the mistress of digression.  

Detail: Quilt by Peggy Sahmaunt on Craftwhack.com - interview of her creative thoughts and processes

Ok, so you have had a list of my supplies  

What does a painter use?  Brush, easel, paint, water, canvas. Same supplies, different results.  Wood carvers?  Wood, carving implements of various types.  Same supplies, different results.  Even writers.  Paper, pen, pencil — and in some cases computers or typewriters, still necessitating paper, typewriter ribbons, electricity — knowledge of a language in which to write.

This should bring you to the resounding question, “So?”

I’m using the same materials time and time again, but with a different result each time.  My variation is not necessarily in subject, but in color combinations, in coordination of beads to fabric, in over all size of the piece, in consideration of recipient.

One thing I should add at this point is that since that day in June 2013, (her surgery), I have not sold any of my work.  It has all been gifted, whether to a Breast Cancer Benefit Auction at a local hospital, a PBS affiliate for an art auction, family member, friend, unwitting curious observer.  It is now an activity purely bound in pleasure of the creation.  No longer do I search for commissions, of which there were plenty in the old days, or find myself at the mercy of a gallery owner or administrator who could tear me apart just by the glance he or she gave to my work.  I am fortunate at the moment, that I have a retirement fund that is my sole support.  I no longer have angst-filled moments where I wonder from whence will come my next commission or sale.  I have gifted 50+ pieces in sizes from a few 16” x 16” to some that exceed 48” x 48”.  One or two are even larger.

There was one lovely, revealing moment not long ago when, as I worked on a large piece destined for a cousin in Oklahoma, I sat back from my work table and proclaimed to myself and the room around me, “This is my Zen spot.”  The most satisfyingly cool moment in my creative history up to that point.  

The funny part about this entire process is that I have kept a list of the people to whom I have sent these pieces, but didn’t ever write down which piece I sent to whom!  You would think that’s important — but to whom?  I have thought of sending out a missive to recipients asking for photos of them with their piece, but there are some who might have to drag them out of a box somewhere, or who won’t even remember where they put them.  I don’t want anyone to feel stress about this.  One day, I’ll come up with a reason — say an album of my work — but then, I could do that with the photos I’ve taken, though some don’t have the finished work photographed, as I didn’t want anyone to see them other than the recipient.

More recently, I have started cataloging my progress/process on my facebook page. Another day in my procrastinator’s list of things to do will include making a funky video of the actual process.  

Part of my days, right now, are taken up by The Town and Country Quilt, designed by Susan Claire Mayfield, The Gourmet Quilter.  At the end of 2015, I decided to do something fabric-related every day of 2016 — something conceived by someone other than me!  I found what I now lovingly refer to as my 365 quilt, a series of 4” blocks sewn together…. oh it’s too difficult to explain.  Suffice it to say I’m finished with 224 of the blocks, am two weeks behind (we get 7 patterns each weed on Thursdays), and had planned to add the next round of blocks to the whole shebang today.  This is also an exercise in following someone else’s patterns!  Not my cup of tea, generally.  Many participants are improvising on the originals.  Not I, except for a couple of blocks where I morphed the butcher shop into a quilt shop, and the litter box into a recycling bin.  

Quilt Square by Peggy Sahmaunt

Also in a 12 month UFO (unfinished object) group the order of completing objects is determined by AllPeopleQuilt.  Genius idea.  I’m just starting the object for July.  Not too bad, I’d say.  I think, though that in the interest of my cedar chest, I will do this on my own next year.

Enough about me and my day-to-day existence.  I really must get on to the clay.  Oh yes, I do clay pieces, but that’s a story for another time!

Photos:  town and country — my 365 — the first 169 blocks

Peggy Sahmaunt quilting

Resources and More Info:

Peggy’s website – where you can scroll through more individual quilt squares and read more of her writing.

Thomas Heatherwick

Gourmet Quilter

All People Quilt

Check out the Quilting classes on CreativeBug and Craftsy

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