On the joy of getting something right



Last week I had a particularly bad day at work.  I went to a meeting where just about every behaviour I warn students about was on display.  So, no-one (except idiotic me) was prepared to stand up to the leader, the decision was made to do something that we had done several times before which had always failed, and there was a collective delusion about the organisation we work for and how prestigious it is.  This is known as corporate narcissism – when you fall in love with your organisation and convince yourself that it is so great that nothing but success will be had.  It almost always leads to your competitors overtaking you.  So, decisions were made based on what we always do which looks really logical in short term but actually endangers our long-term prospects.  I couldn’t quite believe how people were behaving.  I have a bit of a reputation in my department for being right.  This is not because I am psychic, but just because I have been around the block many times and have seen it all and its consequences before.  If you do x then you will get y.  No-one wants to hear this, of course, and so no-one wanted to hear my point of view and I left the meeting wondering why I had been invited, and hoping I wasn’t asked again.  Despite the fact that I think I had a valid point, I left the meeting feeling stupid, naive, gullible, childish and a fool.

So, what a fantastic relief to make the small panel at the top of this post.  It took less than half an hour.  I absolutely knew what I wanted to do.  I had the materials to hand.  I found some eggs to trace as I find egg shapes peculiarly hard to draw.  The Bernina worked first time.  So, the speed was pretty much a function of preparation rather than skill.  The end result, however, pleased me very much.  Those of you who read this blog occasionally will know that I like sparkle, deep rich colours and textures, trimmings, embellishment and more meaning more.  But this piece has a very restrained palette and simple stitching and that makes it work in a naive folklore-ish way.  This is a new way of working for me, and I like the contrast with my more ornate stuff.

But what I really wanted to think about was the sheer joy of having an idea for something and then sitting down and being able to do it, to know how to do something, to be confident in my ability, to have a clear ‘voice’ in the work, to be able to initiate and then execute something really well.  I experienced real joy in making.  I felt a visceral excitement, and this was heightened by the previous week’s experience of being stupid and worthless.

When I call myself an academic quilter, it is usually because I use my work to think about academic, cerebral things, but my very brief sewing experience this morning consolidated a great deal of what I know about group theory and decision making, and about strategy, organisational behaviour and leadership.  This is going to sound a bit pious, but organisational politics and dysfunctional organisations are death.  Creativity is life.

This is the finished panel after I added the writing:


10 thoughts on “On the joy of getting something right

  1. It is so frustrating to have a valid opinion ignored. I have found many times in the past that change and progress gets blocked if just one person is against it because the crowd mentality rules. This piece is very different from your other work but it is also very appealing and how therapeutic to do something so lovely after a set back.

  2. I understand totally how you were feeling. After a lifetime in academe and trying to make education change happen, those feelings surfacd in me again as I read your post. The arrogance of those who think that what they are doing is ‘successful’ without reflecting on what is meant by ‘success’ always made me angry. I love the piece – it seems to cut through that arrogance and make clear what is valuable. I’m glad it had a calming effect. I must say, though, that even though I’m effectively ‘retired’, I’m still fighting the same battle in the various organisations I work with as a volunteer!

    1. Thanks for this. I think it was the group delusion that shocked me most. Maybe I love my textile work because I can make individual decisions – and take the consequences! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. After a similar experience this week this is as usual refreshing and inspirational! Thank you for the wisdom. And the eggs? Speak of the anticipation of new life, new beginnings and the fact that it is lunchtime! J

  4. This: “organisational politics and dysfunctional organisations are death. Creativity is life.” Yep, and it happens in all kinds of organizations. I could tell you stories about the bank where I used to work. But… I’d rather not, because then I get riled up again. Better to repress it all and stay calm.

    Enjoy your new piece very much — it’s very expressive in its restraint!

    1. Thanks for this. I think bureaucracies are particularly bad at this because everyone can hide behind the job title. I have calmed down now, but it took a week. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  5. Hi! I’ve been following your blog for a while now, but I think I only left the occasional like but never any comments. You might not know it, but the German term ‘to lay a pretty egg’ means that someone has just made a stupid decision or created something that’s bound to fail. Well, your panel is a perfect fit here. 😀 Jule

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