3 steps to learn from your feelings

When your feelings feel out of control, swamping you with emotion, particularly when it’s a feeling that keeps coming back over and over, it’s natural to feel completely overwhelmed with zero motivation. But there’s hope. When you allow yourself to learn what your less positive feelings are trying to teach you, you can get your motivation back.

Here are my three suggested steps to learn from your feelings.

This image of “Screen Door” looks like chaos, similar to what it feels like to be overwhelmed by your feelings.

Let go to break free…

When you’re buried under the weight of an overwhelming and recurring feeling like depression*, anger, resentment, or shame, there’s always a part of you that’s worrying about how to break free so you can just stop feeling shitty all the time. You get bogged down in thoughts of what you could do differently, which creates a cycle with the feeling, putting you on a merry-go-round that never stops.

This sensation you’ve got to control how you feel in order to make it stop is why you’re staying stuck.

Let go. Let yourself feel what you feel in all its pain and darkness. Give yourself permission to express your feelings and then express them. As you do, set some parameters so you don’t wallow forever. Give yourself an hour, a day, or a week – you’ll know how much time you need – and when the time is up, move on to the next suggestion.

Step back and observe…

After you’ve given yourself the gift of feeling what you feel, the next step is to step back and observe. This is where you get to pretend to be outside yourself, looking in.

The key here is to question your feelings. You want to inquire why you feel what you feel.

What triggered the emotion?
Why was that the feeling that rose up?
When have you felt that feeling in the past?
What caused those occurrences?
Is there a common link between what you feel now and what you’ve felt in the past? What is it?

Continue to question your feelings until there’s a sensation of release, a moment when it becomes clear why you keep feeling this particular feeling.

You can do this in a number of ways. You can journal, take voice notes, film yourself talking it out, spend time in contemplation via meditation, create the feeling as a tangible object (like I do when I create feelings out of fiber), or work with a coach like me who can help you dig deeper than you may be able to go on your own.

Find the lesson…

As you allow yourself the grace of observation, you’ll find yourself writing, speaking, or creating a record of the feeling and its root.

The “why” will appear and it will reveal the reason you default to depression*, anger, resentment, shame, or some other feeling that isn’t serving you. It will point to a moment from your past when an event happened or words were said that attached to your heart.

This moment may be major or it may be something that seemed inconsequential at the time. This moment is the key. Once you understand the moment that serves as the root, you have found the lesson and can begin the work to learn what it has to teach you.

Short is dumpy…

I have a moment that has served to make me feel motivated and encouraged AND defeated and depressed. A single moment can work to make you feel positive emotion at one point and negative at another. Each time a feeling arises, there may be a new lesson to learn. I used the steps I’ve outlined above to learn what this particular moment needed to teach me.

When I was a pre-teen, my grandmother said something that etched itself into my heart. She was short and had grown rounder with age, post-menopause. I too was short and it was clear I wasn’t going to be a tall adult. So she said to me, “Short is dumpy.” I took it as a warning to watch out as I grew older, delivered with love in the hopes she could prevent me from sharing her fate.

For years, that statement, that moment, worked as motivation and encouragement for staying slender, a short person with a slim frame. Whenever I was tempted to overeat or to make crappy food choices, I would say “short is dumpy” to myself and it worked as weight control.

And then I became post menopausal. Suddenly, no matter what I ate, how much, how little, the type of food, didn’t seem to matter. I’d become dumpy. Every time my pants felt a bit too tight, I felt more defeated and depressed. This spilled over into my work and into my art.

I was ready to change my feelings around my body. I decided to feel the defeat, observe the feeling, and find the lesson. When I did, I found that moment when my grandma warned me of the changes that occur as we age.

And the lesson I needed to learn was to re-frame the statement.

Now I tell myself “short is beautiful” and I am.

Exit through the gift shop…

When you can follow the steps I’ve shared here, you can learn what your feelings are trying to teach you. Start by letting go to break free. Next, step back and observe by questioning the feeling to understand its purpose in being there. Finally, find the lesson the feeling carries so you can begin to learn from it.

If you need support around navigating these steps, drop me a note at hilaryclarkstudios@gmail.com and we’ll set up time to chat.

*Depression is tricky. For some of us, we can manage it on our own and it never grows so severe we’re at risk of self-harm. However, for many others, help is needed to manage depression. If this is you, please do get the professional help you need. The world is better with you in it.

If you’re ready for a private (virtual) showing of my art, you can schedule an appointment here.

To discuss commissioning me to make a textured fiber painting specifically for you or someone you love, please schedule an exploratory commissioning conversation and we’ll see what we can create together.

If you enjoyed this article and found it helpful, please share with the ONE person you know could use it too!

Showcase Piece: Inquisitive

In today’s article, I’m showcasing another piece from my portfolio – Inquisitive, the second piece made as part of my Feelings series.

Please keep reading to learn more about why I chose the colors and shapes I did to make this textured fiber painting. If you’re rather watch and listen, jump to the video at the end.

(c) Hilary Clark, “Inquisitive”, Fiber, 18″ x 23″
Image credit: Hilary Clark

Inquisitive was an experiment…

Inquisitive is one of the smaller pieces in the Feelings series, measuring 18” x 23”. There are two eyelet hangers stitched on the back, allowing it to hang on the wall with the use of a couple of small nails.

This piece doesn’t have the same dense stitching as the first in the series, or many that followed. I was experimenting with how much stitching I wanted to include and this piece, with its more representational shapes, seemed to call for a wider stitch pattern.

Why I chose yellow…

I chose yellow for the canvas because this color symbolizes curiosity and inquisitiveness to me. I tend to think and feel in color so when I’m choosing the canvas color for one of my textured fiber painted feelings, I go inside and ask my intuition what color best represents the feeling. When I did that for Inquisitive, yellow’s what rose out of my subconscious.

As with all of the Feelings series, the canvas is made up of different shades of the canvas color. I create a tissue paper pattern following the full outline of the piece, then divide that pattern into individual segments along abstract, flowing curves. Each segment uses a different shade of yellow in this piece, mostly solids, but occasionally I’ll use patterned fabric as I did here.

The “why” behind the design…

Once the canvas is created, I overlay the design elements on top. For Inquisitive, I chose question marks because to be inquisitive is to question. They symbolize the curious aspect of being inquisitive as you seek answers.

In addition to the slightly wider stitching, roughly ½” between each stitch line as opposed to my usual ¼” to ⅛” distance, this piece also uses more defined, real shapes with the question marks and the eyes overlaying each mark. I was still exploring how I wanted to best create feelings out of fiber and this piece, when compared with the rest of the series, is a bit of a departure. However, it is still an abstract with bright, bold colors and so it fits into the series in that way.

There’s always a poem…

The majority of my work includes a poem on the back. Each poem is inspired by the textured fiber painting and so each piece includes a copy of its poem fused to the backing as the label. I thought I’d share Inquisitive’s poem with you.

(Feeling) Inquisitive

What is the meaning of
life? Is it purpose,children,
love,or just living?

Why is the sky
blue, the grass green,
my hair turning grey? Are
these childish questions?

Who is God? Have you
met Him? On the other hand, is it 
Her? Is it both? What does 
God looks like?

When will the world
end? Have you wondered?
Do you care?

How do we know when
chicken is cooked or 
black currants are
ripe? Will you ask Google?

Where do the rabbits in my
backyard make their
nest? Are they happy?

I wonder…are you as
inquisitive as I am?

Exit through the gift shop…

If you’re interested in owning Inquisitive, it can be purchased for $750 through my Etsy shop, HilaryClarkStudios. Or reach out to me directly and we can make arrangements to get this piece into your home.

If you’re ready for a private (virtual) showing of my art, you can schedule an appointment here.

To discuss commissioning me to make a textured fiber painting specifically for you or someone you love, please schedule an exploratory commissioning conversation and we’ll see what we can create together.

If you liked what you read (or watched if you chose the video), please share with the one person you absolutely know would like it too!

Jewels of the Pandemic: Wearable Art Face Masks

Over the last few months, three different friends have suggested I make face masks as they’re needed during this 2020 pandemic. Each of these friends also suggested I make them as pieces of art, rather than as utilitarian masks. It wasn’t until the third time this was suggested that I connected to the idea.

So I made one. And I enjoyed it so much, I’m making more.

Please keep reading to learn more. If you’re rather watch and listen, jump to the video at the end.

Jewels of the Pandemic: Wearable Art Face Mask No. 1 ~ $250
Available for purchase in my Etsy Shop.

Mask No. 1 details…

The vast majority of the art I create is raw edged fused appliqué with dense machine stitching to “paint” each of the design elements. I applied this same technique to the face mask and created this beautiful gem.

The lining is grey felt, which is comfortable on the face and fully breathable. Because the felt is thicker than a single layer of cotton, it also provides a bit more fabric to filter out the toxins floating through the air **. The external side of the mask is made of a layer of cotton fabric as the base color, then overlaid with collaged design elements. While some of the design elements do overlap, they don’t impede breathing.

Embellished with purple ribbon, it ties behind the neck and head to hold it securely in place when you’re in any environment that requires facial covering.

The mask can be washed on the delicate or hand wash cycle in your machine (or by hand in the sink), hung to dry, and worn again and again. Over time, the raw edged design elements may fray. This is natural; any frayed threads can be trimmed with small scissors.

It’s priced at $250 due to the level of detail involved in making this beautiful work of art. If you’d like to own it, you can buy it directly from my Etsy shop ~ HilaryClarkStudios.

Jewels of the Pandemic…

I’ve had lots of interest in this piece, and I enjoyed making it, so I’m currently making ten (10) more, each with its own base color. I’m using red, pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, lavendar, black, and white.

This small collection of jewels will be available for $150 each as the design will be simpler. All will be uploaded into my Etsy shop when they’re complete, except for the purple one, which is already spoken for.

Exit through the gift shop…

The Jewels of the Pandemic collection is wearable art. Before you freak out over the price, I’d like you to consider something: The beautiful face you were born with is hidden behind whatever mask you’re wearing. The mask is now the face you’re showing the world.

So why not wear the most beautiful face covering possible?

Your face mask is an accessory. Just because your face is covered doesn’t mean you can’t dress yourself up and wear something gorgeous as you greet the world.

You deserve it.

If you’d love to own one of the Jewels of the Pandemic masks, drop a comment below or get in touch as soon as possible. I’m happy to reserve your favorite color for you.

(** Remember, please, the Jewels of the Pandemic masks are for personal use only and are not medical grade.)

If you’re ready for a private (virtual) showing of my art, you can schedule an appointment here.

To discuss commissioning me to make a textured fiber painting specifically for you or someone you love, please schedule an exploratory commissioning conversation and we’ll see what we can create together.

If you liked what you read (or watched if you chose the video), please share with the one person you absolutely know would like it too!

Where I get my inspiration

All artists are inspired by something (or multiple somethings) and I’m no exception. So I thought I’d share where I get my inspiration.

(Keep going to read the article and find out more. If you’re rather watch and listen, jump to the video at the end.)

Light for Yvonne

Inspiration from external influences…

Much of my earlier work was inspired by things outside myself. Things I’d seen on walls and wanted to replicate in fiber. Suggestions made as calls for entry for a particular fiber show I wanted to apply to. Favorite hobbies or interests related to the person I was creating a piece for. Things like that.

The photo above shows “Light for Yvonne”, which I made in response to a call for postcard sized fiber pieces. The pieces were collected and then shared with Yvonne Porcella, who started Studio Art Quilt Associates (or SAQA, to which I belong), as she journeyed through her experience with ovarian cancer. My piece used her signature fabric – black and white check – and depicts a candle with a cross to symbolize her devotion to God. Yvonne was also my cousin; making this piece and donating it as another way to express my commitment and love for her was inspiration enough.

I’ve made a kite, inspired by a painting I saw on a wall. I’ve made the Hulk for my nephew, inspired by his fondness for the green guy. I’ve made the Eiffel Tower for my niece, inspired by her attraction to all things French.

The Kite Perspective
Hulk Smash!
Someday, Paris

Inspiration from memories…

My memories of my grandparents are strong, even though they’ve all been gone a very long time. I created a series to honor them, using their favorite color as the base.

My paternal grandfather had a number of fun sayings, one of which was “Any color’s all right as long as it’s red”. When I first started creating fiber work in the late ’90s, I remembered that saying and thought it would be a fun name for an art piece, however, it wasn’t until much more recently that I allowed my memories to inspire me to create my “Any Color” series.

I made “Any Color’s All Right As Long As It’s Red” for Basil, using lettered beads as embellishment to spell out the word he’d made up – transmugliforcandambumshamity. None of us ever knew what the word meant and he wouldn’t tell us. Most of us decided it was an elaborate cuss word.

I used green for Lucille, my maternal grandmother, and attached clip on earrings via thread to embellish her memory piece because she wore earrings absolutely everywhere, including while kneeling at the side of her Airstream trailer, hooking it up to the various campground hook-ups.

Purple was Neska’s favorite color, my paternal grandmother. She delivered soft kisses to the cheek at every visit and embodied love, so her piece includes lip prints and heart pendants and a couple of bees because she was my grandpa’s “Honey girl”.

And finally, blue for Gene, my maternal grandfather, who died when I was 10. He was a volunteer fireman and ran a cold storage and gave me a Jolly Green Giant doll and loved to fish for abalone, so I added his fireman’s badge and stitched on little round bits that represent an abalone shell and created a tiny green giant as part of his piece.

Any Color’s All Right As Long As It’s Red (for Basil)
Any Color’s All Right As Long As It’s Green (for Lucille)
Any Color’s All Right As Long As It’s Purple (for Neska)
Any Color’s All Right As Long As It’s Blue (for Gene)

Inspiration from intuition…

My most recent work, the work I’ve been creating for the last 3 years, has all been inspired by my intuition.

I’m an empath, so I feel a lot. That’s why I create feelings out of fiber.

Everyone has feelings; it’s one of the ways we’re all alike. When I’m ready to create a new feeling, I close my eyes, center myself, and ask my Higher Self (my intuition) which feeling is up next. I always get an answer. And I always get an image that includes color choices, shape arrangement, and the overall outline shape for the piece.

And then, as I work on making the invisible visible, I feel the feeling. Often, I’ll discover the feeling is also being felt by a large segment of the population at the same time. I know this from information in my social media feed or through headlines from various news sources or messages from friends, which all just goes to confirm I’m making the right feeling at the right time.

I allow my intuition to guide the work. If I feel a little stuck, I’ll step back and take a little break. This gives my intuition space to channel more detail about what the feeling looks like. And then I go back to work to create it.

For example, I recently made “Isolated”, which was a feeling felt around the world as we settled into lockdown for the pandemic.


In closing…

My work is inspired by many things. Sometimes, there’s an underlying social message, but most of the time, for most of my work, my inspiration comes from the voice that lives deep inside my heart.

My purpose is to make the invisible visible and the intangible tangible. I do this primarily by creating feelings out of fiber.

Inspiration is everywhere, as long as I remain open to receive it. The same holds true for you. Open yourself, and you’ll find inspiration.

If you’re ready for a private (virtual) showing of my art, you can schedule an appointment here.

To discuss commissioning me to make a textured fiber painting specifically for you or someone you love, please schedule an exploratory commissioning conversation and we’ll see what we can create together.

If you liked what you read (or watched if you chose the video), please share with the one person you absolutely know would like it too!

Words for Grey, Part 6 (and Finished!)

Words for Grey is complete!

And just in time for those blustery Fall days, complete with wind and rain, to make their annual appearance.

This piece of art was the product of too many days spent looking out the window at dark, grey skies and exhaust colored snow last winter.  I found myself contemplating words — synonyms — for “grey” in an attempt to take my mind off the fact that Spring was taking its sweet time in arriving.  It was mid-April and still snowing.  The native Mid-westerners were in agreement that the 2013 – 2014 winter was one of the longest, snowiest, and most abysmal in recent history.

All those synonyms turned into a poem (link below), then the poem turned into a sketch for a quilt.  The quilt includes the spots of color that were missing from the dark days of winter.

I am pleased the finished piece so closely resembles the original sketch.

What do you do when Winter drags on?


Words for Grey (link to poem)


GREY - Detailed Sketch
Original sketch

Grey - Finished
Finished art piece. The warp comes from the grey strips. I should have alternated ends when stitching strips together – lesson learned. But I like the warp; it gives this life. The world isn’t flat.

Grey - Poem Label
The poem label

Grey - Sunlit
I laid this on the bed while I was preparing to hang* it for its first photo opp. When I saw the sun fall across the scene, I had to take a photo. More light on a grey day.

*Hang = tape to wall with painter’s tape, scramble to take picture for record and blog post before art falls to floor.  I really need a better system when my art is finished and ready for its close up.


Next up: A Mariner’s Compass quilt from a pattern for the technique lesson.  Come back in two weeks and see how it’s going.