Today’s we take a peek In the Studio with Megan Dougherty from The Bitchy Stitcher. I came across Megan as I was preparing to attend Quilt Market this year and reaching out to some people in hopes of connecting there…Sadly Megan and I did not get to meet in person but I’m still hopeful since she lives in MD and I visit regularly. She sent me an email about my blog interview series and said “If you ever want to show people how a quilting humor writer manages to get work done among piles of paper, Cheetos crumbs, and kid toys, I’m your girl!”-Heck Yeah Megan!! Megan writes on her own blog and contributes to Generation Q about Quilts, bitching a bit here and there about life, quilting and stitching. I could tell from her writing style and her blog that I had to interview her…she is totally real and her sense of humor keeps me coming back to see what she’s up to and as a non-quilter (wannabe) she makes me feel like I just might be able to give it a whirl even after age 40! Do check out QSMASBC…gotta go there to see what it is!
HKPS::What age did you suspect or know you were an artist?
MD::I started writing short stories when I was about six years old. I was obsessed with magic and Harry Houdini and wrote stories about him. (He died a lot.) I wrote a science fiction novel when I was seven called Galaxy Invasions after seeing Star Wars and figuring I could do it better. I haven’t stopped writing since.
As for the visual aspects of what I do (I’m a quilter and a graphic designer), I didn’t really discover that until I was an adult. I started work as an editor at a small local magazine, and found myself occasionally doing small graphic stuff as needed. From there I started designing ads and did ad campaigns for some local businesses on the side. When I joined Generation Q Magazine (I had worked with the founders when they were editors of Quilter’s Home Magazine as a writer and humor columnist), I not only continued writing but became the creative director for the first two years, designing the logo, promotional materials, and the first 5 issues of the magazine. I also didn’t start quilting until I was about 39, and have just in the past year begun designing my own quilts and embroidery patterns.
HKPS::What mediums do you work with?
MD::Words, fabric, embroidery floss, pencil, and pen.
HKPS::Where do you make your art, how big is your studio and how long have you been in this space?
MD::I have a studio in our house that is about 14’ by 21’. When we moved into this house, I worked in the finished basement, but there wasn’t enough natural light, so we did some rearranging (read: I banished the children to the basement) and I took over this room. Besides being big, it has 3 closets, a small alcove with built-in shelves, two windows, and—most important to a middle-aged woman—a bathroom.
HKPS::When you began working in this space did you plan any systems for the overall set up or did you let things evolve organically? How did past studio spaces or systems influence this space?
MD::This was really the first studio space that was all my own, and I had to improvise a bit. Our old changing table/dresser from when my girls were babies is where I try to shove all the toys and things my girls leave in my room, and we just added to our already record-breaking Ikea table collection in order to have a desk and a cutting table and enough table area around the sewing machine to hold up a quilt for free motion quilting. There was never a plan.
HKPS:: Do you consider yourself to be an organized person?
MD::I consider myself to be a hypothetically organized person, like in a different dimension or a parallel universe. I love the idea of being very organized. But my organization, such as it is, never holds up very well in practice. Chaos takes over rather quickly.
HKPS:: Have you ever worked with another artist or gallery? If so did you learn any systems for organizing?
MD::I’ve always pretty much worked solo, but I have visited the studios of other artists—mostly painters—and they all just looked like a very colorful hurricane had passed through.
HKPS:: How or where else have you learn your organizing habits and systems?
MD::Probably from my mom, and that’s just through genetics. And Pinterest.
HKPS::What types of schedules, systems, tools or processes do you use to help maintain organization in your studio? Would you like to share any tips?
MD::When the chaos gets so bad that you cannot find the children, it’s time to put things away. That’s my main rule. Also, there’s nothing that yet another plastic bin can’t solve, at least temporarily.
HKPS::What kinds of materials/tools do you find challenging to keep organized or locate when you need to use them?
MD::Brain cells. They are NEVER where you leave them. But really, there are just so many small things in sewing: special pins, sewing machine feet, thread spools and bobbins, clips for binding, glues, specialty rulers and templates. I get containers, but then the containers become a part of the mess and the stuff inside is just a big jumble.
I also have approximately seven billion files on my computer, all related to writing or designing, and I don’t even know where to begin to organize all of that. For example, everything related to my personal work—whether it’s writing or quilting or designing—lives in a folder labeled “Blog.” Right above that folder, on my computer desktop, is another folder, labeled “Megan.” I don’t even know what’s in that one. The folder just for Generation Q contains over seven thousand items. If I tried to start organizing all of that, I’d have to give up everything else and change my occupation to File Hoarder.
HKPS:: How many projects are you usually working on at once? Is this due to space constraints, creative process, organizing systems or other influences?
MD::I finally started making a list of all my projects, both those in progress and those I’d like to start. The list includes articles, blog posts, books, quilts, and embroidery projects and some are things I have to get done and others are just want-tos. The have-to things come first, but then out of the want-tos, I prioritize the list and give one thing primary importance. For the last few months, that has been my book, Quilting Isn’t Funny. Now that I am about to release it, I get to move another want-to project to the top of the list. But at any given time, I‘m probably working on at least four things.
HKPS:: How often do you purge, clean or de-clutter your supply stash and space due to space or other constraints? (ex. yes monthly/few times a year or when I feel like it, because I have visitors etc)
MD::I probably do a major de-clutter twice a year, spring and fall.
HKPS:: Please describe how creative cycles of organization or dis-organization affect your creative process? Are there certain phases of projects that are more or less organized? (ex. I can’t focus unless things are put away, creative chaos inspires me, things get messy as I work but I clean up at the end of projects).
MD::My creativity doesn’t seem to be hindered by my own messiness, but I do feel compelled to clean after finishing a major project and before starting another. If the current project is giving me agita, then I’ll clean just to distract myself with something I can say is for the good of the project, even though it’s just to prevent me from hurling something out the window
HKPS::How much thought do you give to your artistic body of work in terms of historic value and the overall legacy you will leave behind? How do you store/archive your work or records?
MD::I don’t think about that at all. In fact, it was precisely when I stopped thinking about it that my work started to bloom and I began to find an audience for my work. Before that, I was so concerned about producing “serious” work that I either wrote badly or not at all. Once I let myself write how I wanted without worrying about how it would be perceived, I got a column in a nationally distributed magazine. I am the happiest I have ever been since I stopped worrying about being a Serious Writer and just started writing to please myself.
The legacy I care most about is how my children will remember me. They have a mom who designs and makes her own quilts, who helped start a magazine, who has self-published a book (and will do more), who creates her own embroidery designs, and who did all those things after the age of 40. I hope they’ll remember me as a creator and as someone who wasn’t afraid to follow her own path.
I do suppose that someday I should find a way to archive my writing. I have every magazine I ever edited or wrote for in file boxes, but there’s years of blog writing and other work that lives in the aforementioned Folder Abyss of Doom. I once lost several important pieces of writing when an external hard drive died, so I ought to know better.
And as for my quilts, they hang on the walls and cover beds and sofas and ottomans all over the house. My mom’s quilts all got folded up and put in a closet and nobody ever saw them, until I rescued them and brought them home with me earlier this year. For me, the best archive for my own is having them out and used and a part of my family’s daily life.
Thank you so much Megan for inviting us into your studio, providing us with the photo’s and sharing some of your organizing methods and thoughts with us. If you would like to see more of Megan’s work head over to check out her blog, where she shares all sorts of her humor on a daily basis! Also, be on the lookout for her contributions to Generation Q and her new book Quilting Isn’t Funny next year. I’ll be back with another artist feature in the next few weeks! If you missed any of my previous Inside the Studio posts please go back and take a look!
* In the Studio was my brainchild in 2011. There are a lot of popular studio features on the web and in magazines but I’m specifically interested in showing how organizational process influences the artists studio work. These photo’s are not styled and are typical of how the artists working studio looks. I request that each artist leave their space as it would be on a daily basis (just like I ask my clients). This series is meant to highlight how artist REALLY work rather than showing STYLED shots (popular in home and organizing magazines and blogs). I’m sure just like me, you are fascinated by the “behind the scenes” sneak peek into these artists working lives!