The (often dangerous) World Outside the Box


I’ve really done it this time. In my haste to cut the fabric, I’ve made a wrong angle and ruin is the result. Even worse, there is a jagged tear where my scissors slipped!

This is the result of being too much in a hurry. This comes of letting inspiration get ahead of preparation. I should have followed instructions—better still, I should have read the instructions! When will I learn that it isn’t always wise to venture outside the box?

Not that I haven’t been warned. “Please color inside the lines!” my exasperated teacher used to say. “How many times do I have to tell you that?”

Too many times, I could have told her. It wasn’t that I enjoyed flouting the rules—it was just that the white expanse of paper outside the lines was so tempting. Why confine color to a portion of the paper? I tried to explain this to her, but she had already moved on.

My father, when I told him my problem, gave his considered opinion. While in school, he said, it was best to follow guidelines. “On your own time, though,” he added, “you can do what you like.” Then, with a mischievous gleam—“Go get some paper and crayons and let’s see what we can do!”

Then, there was my English teacher who despaired of my early attempts at writing. “You can’t start a sentence with ‘but,’” he lectured. “And when you write a story, you must not use sentence fragments.” Polite acknowledgements notwithstanding, I preferred to listen to my Uncle Harry who agreed that grammar was essential as a foundation. “You need to learn it thoroughly,” he advised, “but once you have got the hang of it, use your ears. People don’t always use sentences when they speak, and they aren’t always grammatical.”

And finally there was my Aunt Juliette. Though a traditionalist in the art she created with needle and thread, she never trusted traditional colors. “Nature,” she would say, “has the best color combinations, Look…” And here she always proceeded to drag me outside to observe the changing colors of the sky, the startling hues of a butterfly’s wing, the light and shadow thrown by her cucumber vines. “Trust what you see with your eyes,” she warned, then added, “trust what you feel.”

Is it any wonder that I have gone astray? Early on I realized that outside  tried and true parameters there existed a world of ideas which made it almost impossible to stay within the lines. Not that lines and rules are not important—as Harry pointed out, these are the base on which creativity is built—- but once learned and absorbed, rules become fluid.

Watching a dewdrop

And imagining a world…

Warm afternoon’s dream.

This is all very well and good. Thinking outside the box has produced so many marvels as regard the e.e. cummings (more properly referred to as E.E. Cummings) of this world, and the Impressionist painters. But venturing out where no woman has gone before has its perils and pratfalls, too. More failures than I can count have resulted from unrestrained forays into imagination, and many projects have produced spectacular disasters, the contemplation of which makes me grind my teeth. Botched fabric, unfinished manuscripts, hours of frustration—and yet…

That yet is what makes the journey interesting. Out of botched fabric appears a new picture. From the unfinished manuscript, it’s likely that several idea kernels can be reaped. A monumental disaster might take new form and, phoenix-like, rise out of the ashes. As long as I don’t falter, as long as I can keep imagining solutions, problems have the chance of becoming possibilities.

So, here we are. I eyeball my ruined fabric, walk around it and observe it from a different angle. Hmm. Supposing I rotate it, add a new piece here, cut off this point there? Perhaps… yes, certainly, I can see what the result might be. This is exciting! And as to the tear, I have a solution. A butterfly appliquéd over it might just do the trick.

Butterfly (or bird?)

Flying near a waterfall…

Aha—a jungle!




About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: My blog is here: Or friend me on Facebook!

6 responses »

  1. Dearest Maureen,
    how precious your thoughts are. and this one World outside the box.. maybe my favorite of your blogs so far. i will make hard copies and send them to my grand children/ they are all in different stages of their lives. and need encouragement and support with their choices in their lives right now. they all seem to be on the threshold of breaking out of their boxes and growing and evolving into some new butterfly, most beautiful and delicate or strong and vibrant in their color full or delicate hues and auras. of course
    , i have a folder now of some of your blogs. if the computer goes wachy like the life in our newspapers these days. i will have some of your delightful thoughts to brighten my days.
    love and keep on bringing us your memories and insightful wisdoms.. on your life’s path ways… from donna

  2. Go there, outside the box I mean! Oftentimes, we find uncharted territory – it may be breathtaking, but it also can hurt. The ‘outside-the-box’ is there for a reason!

    Thanks for another inspiration – Hanny

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