The Free Motion Quilting Project: Art Openings Aren't My Thing

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Art Openings Aren't My Thing

A few months ago I shared a new flower mask I was creating for a local wearable art fashion show. The fashion show happened a few weeks ago and yesterday I picked up my mask from the art council.

Now that the event is over, I've been mulling over my experience and what I learned along the way. Here's a few of the lessons I picked up:

1. What you're afraid of will likely not happen.

While building the flower mask I was initially worried that someone would be rude and criticize it for being made from plastic flowers and hot glued together.

Turns out that fear was pretty silly. No one was rude about my mask or the plastic flowers. It was a pretty popular creation and everyone seemed to enjoy it. It even made the front page of the local paper the next day!

From the Shelby Star newspaper
2. Other things you never considered will bug you.

Even though my fears didn't come true, that doesn't mean the event was perfect. For one thing, I've never seen anyone else wear my masks or costumes before and that...was weird. Weird like someone else wearing your underwear weird. No matter how hard you try to feel cool with it, that just doesn't seem right.

So that was an odd experience and eventually I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that not having control over how my masks were worn or shown was okay. It was out of my control.

Next time I will solve this problem by offering to be a model of my own stuff. I think if I was part of the fashion show I would have enjoyed the event more.

3. Art openings aren't my thing.

I give things three tries before declaring I officially love or hate it. Now I can safely say I art openings aren't my thing.

For one thing, I stopped drinking in January. Only after quitting did I realize what a crutch it was for situations like this. Feeling uncomfortable and awkward? Just go grab a glass of wine...or three.

Now situations like this literally make my skin crawl. The pressure to drink to fit in coupled with the very awkward conversations wasn't a good combination. I ended up leaving after a short time and felt much better drinking tea at home and planning my next mask project.

Ultimately I learned that I love creating masks, but I don't love talking about it to random strangers. That's okay. I don't think art openings are for everyone.

Figure out how to make it fit

Just because I don't like the opening event doesn't mean I shouldn't participate at all. I plan to continue making masks and costumes and art and keep entering them in shows because it's fun and I enjoy the challenge of making things other than quilts.

As with all things, the ultimate lesson is to figure out how to make it work for you. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all and we all have to find the path that fits just right.

That might be different from what others consider normal. That's okay. If I've learned anything in the last few years it's to just be myself and stop questioning my nature. 

So often I'll discount an experience like this as "I wasn't feeling well." or "That was different, this time will be great!" when the reality is every single art opening I've ever attended, even when my art wasn't present, has been an awkward, uncomfortable experience.

The next time I enter a piece of art, the day I drop it off will be the day I release it to be enjoyed by my town. Then I'll go home and start working on something new.

That's the best fit for me. Now, what would be the best fit for you?

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. Years ago I had the pleasure of being a model for wearable art shows. OMG, did I love that, since it was a traveling show I don't think the creators were in the audience. It's true, once the model puts it on - it's hers to display. So go do a few more shows, maybe in a few years you will decide you want to show up on opening night, maybe not.

  2. Congratulations on your flower mask making it in the article in your local paper. I really do think you did a great job and this mask is a beautiful piece of art. I'm impressed how you opened your creative spirit to the challenge of designing and entering and did such a fantastic job. May not be your favorite form of creative expression, but be proud as you really did do a great job. You are naturally creative, just more comfortable with some forms of creativity. Still good to push yourself periodically and try new things. Thanks for sharing and inspiring.


    PS - The San Diego Museum of Art has an annual "Art Alive" exhibit where floral artists come in and decorate all the artwork with flowers. I honestly think your mask would make for a great special display in this museum. Heck, maybe they'd pay for a trip for your family to see it....and we could have loads of fun visiting.

    1. As always, thank you so much for your kind comments and support! I'll definitely check out the San Diego exhibit. That would be fun!

  3. Well done on getting through the opening and on your artwork. I don't like social events either but I just ask people how long they've been quilting (or doing their hobby) and then move on to contemporary or traditional, etc. They don't really ask about me but I don't worry too much about that. I have made the effort to make conversations. Who knows, they might be as frightened of starting a conversation as I am.

    When it comes to drinking, I have never touched it. At 46, I'm still not old enough to drink and that's what I tell them. It used to stress me being in that situation but I don't care anymore. I joke that my husband married me because I'm always the skipper. Good on you on making that decision. There are a few of us teetotallers out there. I find it's a darn shame that pubs/social event catering never have a chocolate milkshake on hand!

    1. Lol! That's a great suggestion to just start with time and style. Something simple to break the ice. I just start getting uncomfortable when I'm asking someone a question and they look at me like I have 2 heads and I'm a weirdo for asking - at a social event!!!

      I your stance on drinking too. Hey I'm not old enough to drink! Thankfully this venue had pretty good punch, but the pressure was still there. Hopefully that will get easier as time goes by.

  4. Thanks for sharing. You are multi-talented and excel in all the things you set your mind to. Thank you for sharing. I enjoy reading your article.

  5. Hooray for you for all of these courageous steps. I too hate openings (and there are a lot of us out there). The only way I get through them is to remember I'm there to support someone else if it's another's work or a group show. Or, if it's my work I remember that again there is a viewer who will be happy I'm there. Talk to the other artists! Many of them are feeling awkward too! Other people really do enjoy meeting or seeing the artist.

    About the alchohol: way back in grad school I was thinking I needed to relax more and a little voice said "you could stop drinking." I did, and I learned that it was indeed contributing to my stress and that it didn't support my creativity, it killed it. Fortunately no one else really cares what you are eating or drinking and so it never was a problem in social situations and I learned to be grateful for a glass of water.

  6. Might it have helped if you had gone with some close friends? It might help you feel a little more comfortable and be able to see what the competition has made or what is in other categories.


Help us create more quilting tutorials! Check out our quilt shop at