Why Tom? Why do you love a challenge? Well, thank you for asking. I love a challenge because a challenge usually offers me an opportunity to grow in some way, to try something new and to stretch my creative muscles.
Little Challenges Sometimes a challenge can be small. Such as, can I still get into those jeans, or will anyone notice that I’m wearing the same clothes that I had on yesterday? We won’t go into why I’m wearing the same clothes—but there’s a very good reason. DON’T JUDGE ME!
Slightly Bigger Challenges Other times the stakes are a little higher, like when I’m at a restaurant with a group of friends. (This happened recently during my Dallas trip.) At the end of an amazing and totally satisfying meal, the waiter comes to the table and asks if anyone is interested in dessert? After the massive amount of food that had been consumed, he was expecting everyone to decline. Most members of the League declined, but I asked to see the dessert tray. (What can I say, I’m a bad influence.) Once the dessert tray arrived at the table, several League members decided that they might be able to eat just a little bit more—but a whole dessert—well, that was just too much. They were just too stuffed.
For each dessert ordered, the waiter was told to bring two spoons. (Share the love. That is what quilters do best. Or, guilt is lessened when shared.) When he got to me, I ordered cheesecake and told him I would only need one spoon. League members were shocked and thought I would share. “That cheesecake is far too big for one person,” they said. (They obviously don’t know me—and my love of cheesecake.) As League members shared their wonderful desserts, they sat in dismay as they watched me gleefully consume each and every bite of my rich and creamy dessert. I would have licked the plate, but I only do that at home. My mother raised me right after all. Oh, I love a challenge and I definitely love cheesecake. I can honestly say—so far—I have met each and every cheesecake challenge, and I look forward to conquering the next one.
The Biggest Challenges Beyond the occasional cheesecake challenge, I love creative challenges. These challenges are always the most fun for me, and the added benefit is they allow me to still get into my jeans. The quilt shown above, Scrapbag Bouquet is an example of one of my best known creative challenges. This quilt was my entrant into the first Simply Quilts Scrapbag Challenge.
For the challenge, I was given 103, five-inch squares of fabric and one month to create a quilt. If that weren’t enough of a challenge, I had the added stress of presenting how I solved the challenge on TV.
The BEST Challenges I can honestly say that this challenge changed my life. Sure there were several moments throughout the process that I wondered what I had gotten myself into. There were challenges every step of the way. Everything I was working with was not mine. I was working with fabric I didn’t pick, didn’t want, and in colors I didn’t like. I was given no direction—other than to use it—and use ALL of it. I was given a ridiculous deadline that I could not miss. I also knew that if I didn’t come up with something, it was going to be obvious to millions of quilters that I was a fraud.
I wasn’t going to be showing my lack of skill or vision to a small supportive group of friends—NO—I was going to be exposed as a complete LOSER and FAILURE on national television, and I knew I would be forever banned from quilting after the episode aired. I knew I would be destined to roam the earth alone, clinching tightly to a dull rusty needle, constantly murmuring “but please Alex, let me explain. . . .” A sad, lonely, somewhat strange man. I would be an outcast among my people.
After a certain amount of whining and wailing about the mess I had gotten myself into, I decided to take on the Simply Quilts challenge with the same gusto and vigor I muster when confronted with a slice of cheesecake. This change in attitude changed everything. I was able to take all the previous obstacles and turn them into opportunities. Changing your attitude can help you achieve great things. I learned that you never know what you are capable of until you try. I also learned that when you participate in a challenge, you are not competing with others, you are actually competing with yourself. When you look at it this way, giving up is not an option.
Lessons Learned This quilt taught me a lot, to put it mildly. It wasn’t a painless process, but it was a great learning experience. It’s an experience I make myself have over and over again. I constantly challenge myself with each new quilt I make. I want to learn something new from each project. Beyond challenging myself with new techniques, I push myself to perfect the skills I have. I want to explore and experiment with each and every step of the process. With this approach, each new quilt becomes an adventure. The one thing I would really love to learn is how to make quilts as fast as I come up with new ideas for them.
Surprising Outcomes As I said, this challenge changed my life in ways I could not have imagined. After the show aired something special happened . . .
Was that a great lead-in or what? You’ll have to come back tomorrow to learn the rest of the story.