Progress Instead of Perfection

Now that I have a title for my Art for Healing Workshop—Nurture Your Garden— I can start to work on creating examples and the accompanying workbook. This task seems overwhelming especially if I worry about trying to make it perfect.

That reminds me of making my first quilt—a Harley Davidson T-shirt quilt—where I had no idea what I was doing and learned that perfection does not exist. The only thing that made my quilt was slow and steady progress. So, off I headed to the internet for a pattern and to Capital Vac and Sew in Annapolis, MD, who delivered my Pfaff sewing machine with one to one instructions. Did I mention that I didn’t even own a sewing machine when I started this project?

harley t-shirt quilt

Here are some of the mistakes I made that were actually great lessons learned.

  • I cut my T-shirt into 15″ squares BEFORE I ironed on the support interface that makes sewing t-shirt material easier. After ironing, the squares shrunk and I had to recut them all to 14″. Lesson learned? You guessed it, only cut the sleeves and neck band off, then iron on interface before cutting into blocks.
  • My seams did not match up when I added my sashing and cornerstones to my blocks. Some quilters might have taken everything apart to get the seams “perfect” but I was so proud to just finish my first quilt top that I left it alone.  A little secret – my husband didn’t even notice and still enjoys the quilt to this day. Lesson learned? With each quilt, my seams got more “perfect”  because I asked questions from AQG members who had good seam alignment and then I practiced what they did.

As I worked on my quilt over a period of many months, and many trips to Capital Vac and Sew for lessons, I learned that there is a lot more to quilting than just sewing: I had to plan the quilt, determine the accompanying fabric colors, textures and patterns to enhance my T-shirt blocks, cut fabric into specific shapes and sizes, sew the pieces back together into rows, and then into a top that was then added to batting and a back that I needed to quilt. Oh, let’s not forget the binding to finish it off, and a label to identify it for the historian who finds it in 100 years.

I will use these lessons and apply them to developing my Art for Healing workshop, taking it slow and steady to complete first things first.  First, I need to create my Nurture Your Garden collage and then some step by step examples for you to follow. Once I have done that, then I can write up instructions and start putting your workbook together.

Stay tuned for the next blog on my progress!

Robin M. Gilliam
Author of the  novel, Gift of Desperation, a provocative story of art and healing, recovery, and hope and inspiration.


garden 5.22.15

Thanks to everyone who took the time to answer my question about which title you liked best for my up and coming art for healing workshop.

The choices were:

a) Nurture Your Garden, b) Grow Your Garden, or c) Feed Your Garden.

While it was unanimous for “Nurture,” I did get one question about why include the word “garden.” Here is the reason:

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, is one of my favorite books because the garden symbolizes life and rebirth of the self, as shown through the love and nurturing of Mary Lenox, the main character, and her friend Dikon Sowerby.

Mary was a trauma survivor. She was abandoned by her mother, who was more interested in attending fancy parties, and was instead raised by nannies who spoiled her to keep her quiet. Mary’s experience with trauma escaladed when her parents were killed in an earthquake and she was sent far away to live in a dark mansion with her depressed, absentee uncle, Archibald Craven, and her invalid, cry-baby cousin, Colin.

While Mary’s basic needs were met, no one was there to nurture her soul or heal her heart. Then she found the secret garden and made friends with the neighbor boy, Dickon, who taught her how to nurture and tend  the garden to bring it back to life.

As the garden started to come back to life, sprouting beautiful plants and flowers, so did Mary. She started to laugh, play, and gain color in her cheeks. She became less contrite and shared the garden with Colin, where he learned to walk and gain confidence.  As the garden healed, so did Mary’s family.

It was through this story that I came to believe that a garden is symbolic of the self. As a trauma survivor, my heart and soul were overgrown and smothered by the weeds of domestic violence and rape. It wasn’t until I started to create abstract collages that I was able to express myself and begin to release the vines of anger, shame, guilt, pain, and self-destructive behaviors.

Through the creative process, I continue to nurture my garden, heal myself, and pursue my dream of helping other trauma survivors to heal through the creative process.

You  are also a garden, which together we can nurture through art to weed out the trauma and help you discover and grow into your true self.

Art gets IT out!

Robin has 25+ years of using art to heal from PTSD. Read her novel, Gift of Desperation, to learn more about her artwork which is woven throughout the story.