Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What Do You Want To Be Perfect?

Before I write anything else, I want to say THANK YOU for all the feedback on my previous post. In case you haven't read the comments, it's been a great discussion. As requested, I will not delete the archives and I will include details about my process in the "finished objects" postings.

What I'm creating and how I write is not going to change. What is changing is when I write about a piece. Because some pieces are taking such a long time, it feels like all talk and no action so I want to finish the piece before posting about it. This means that postings may or may not happen with any kind of regular schedule... but hopefully... because I work some part of every day in the studio there will be a kind of regularity to it. Time will tell. Right now, there are four pieces nearing completion although for the rest of this week I'll be snuggling my grandsons and not working in the studio. Next week, it's back to work.

An alternate title for today's posting could have been The Toaster Cover Revisited. The purse started with a piece of surface design work from my really early days of surface design as opposed to my somewhat early current days. I am by no means good at this yet but I keep making "messes" and then I turn the messes into something else which provides a whole different experience. It's good. With this piece of fabric, I'd just bought a new paisley stencil and was playing with it. I don't think I took a picture of the original fabric because I can't find one in the files. It was roughly 18" x 24" with an irregular black and purple design.

My goal was to use the entire piece since one of the "challenges" I'm finding working through the possibility boxes is that my scraps make more scraps.  I didn't quite accomplish that goal. There is a 3 1/2" x 4" patch and an 18" length of strap left that went back into stash.

As I said in an earlier posting, I thought the original version of the purse looked like a toaster cover so I took it apart and reshaped the two main pieces into a more formal clutch purse by turning the curves toward the bottom and the straight edges toward the top. This new shape is an interesting contradiction to the less formal nature of the painted canvas fabric.

After reshaping the main pieces, there were two painted scraps left - one narrower than the other. I decided to use the wider one for a flap and the narrower one for the strap. It was 3" wide. My choice was two sections and a shorter strap or three sections and a longer one. Short would have been too short so I cut the piece into 3 each 1" wide strips and seamed them together into one long strip.


One edge was pressed under and the other serged. As you can see, my serger wasn't working correctly. Fixing the tension wasn't where I wanted to spend my time nor would it have made a tremendous difference to the end product so I zigzagged over the serging and then pressed under that edge and top stitched along each side. Someone looking closely may notice and at one time it may have turned me inside out but I'm not looking for that type of perfect any more.

This style of clutch purse using a frame doesn't always have a flap but I wanted one in order to use up as much fabric as possible. When I sewed the toaster cover version, I liked how the striped knit fabric worked as a binding so I used it again here. To get the correct size of opening, I cut the hole small and then kept widening it until it fit nicely over the frame - about 1/4" at a time. I've learned that I don't have to have the right answer right away. I can work my way toward it, evaluate as I go, and make the results work out. We can learn to trust our own judgement. We don't need hand holding instructions for everything we do.

To give the purse some dimension I sewed darts in each bottom corner - four in all. It adds a slight pouf to the edge that will widen when items are in the purse. The main fabric is quilted to a thin batting and a backing with a lime-green thread. I chose that thread colour because it's the compliment to the purple and would create energy within the piece.

Every time I do something again, it's an opportunity it do it better. This is perfecting versus perfect. It doesn't seem to matter how long a person has been sewing, there will always be stuff that goes wrong. With sewing on snaps using a buttonhole stitch, I typically get knots, twists, and breaks that make the finished hand sewing less than best... but I keep trying... for over forty years now... and this time I sewed the two sides of the snap, twelve locations, with only one knot and one snap. YES YES. That's improvement. I think it looks pretty good.

The purse has a lot of curved lines both in its shape and in the design of the fabric. The stripe of the knit binding adds contrast and is mimicked by the rectangular holes of the button. Some contrast - just as with the thread colour - adds energy to a piece while too much can create fighting parts. How much is just right? It takes practice. Practice means making mistakes... not being perfect... because we don't learn from perfect... we learn from mistakes... and a learning mistake is just perfect.

The lining is yet, still, again, this striped fabric that was used for the twin quilts in my guest room. I have gone from wondering if I had enough to being over inundated with the stuff. I'm using it everywhere and there's still lots left. It'll be interesting to see where it shows up next. As you can see above and below, the frame is attached in the middle of the purse top and then the edges are pushed in under the frame. I used the knit binding to finish the inside seam allowances too. Using a bias or a knit binding makes it easier to wrap around corners and curved shapes.

The frame made it impossible to stitch the flap to the back of the purse by machine. I couldn't get the fabric far enough under the needle so I hand sewed the flap in place along the edge of the binding and then secured it even further with three small buttons. The knots are tied to the outside and trimmed about 1/4" long - again a less formal touch for a formal style and again added contrast.

This ability to meander through a piece, to start over and reshape it, and to follow up tickles, is an ability I developed. It didn't just happen. It took work. A statement I hear quite often is something the lines of I could never do that, I'm too much of a perfectionist. Consider... what do you want to be perfect... the experience... or the product? These are vastly different outcomes.

When I was striving for a perfect product, the possible responses were yes, it's perfect or no, it's not perfect. Absolute perfection is never attained so my results were mostly a no or a near mess but never a yes. In the fall of 2004, I changed how I worked from following a precise plan with a guaranteed outcome to the responding method I use now. It starts with something, such as the painted fabric used for this purse, and develops one step at a time, bit by bit, until the piece says it's finished. That process involves adding to what exists and what develops, changing my mind, and experimenting with ideas and incorporating what works. It's never a straight line from start to finish or from product to perfect, BUT...

... the experience, the process, is always perfect because what I want to be perfect is the time I spend in the studio. I don't need another garment or another purse or another piece of jewelry. What I need is nurturing through the intersections of ideas and creative flow from the starting point to the finished object. It doesn't need to be useful,.nor beautiful, but more often than not I like the finished object far better than when I was striving for perfect and - ironically - my work has improved in leaps and bounds by letting go of perfection and embracing process.

Time is the other comment that comes up, that the person is too busy and they absolutely do not have time. That's not an excuse I believe because no matter how hectic life can be - and mine has been beyond hectic at times - it is absolutely vital that we carve out some of it for ourselves, to fill the well, to nurture, to energize. Time never arrives. It is taken. As little as fifteen minutes a day is progress. Fifteen minutes is something. And something is always better than nothing.

WHAT do you want to be perfect?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - fabulous feedback

Friday, August 19, 2016

Finished Objects

We're in the last half of August. Summer is slowly winding to a halt and fall is just around the corner. Even though I no longer have children in school, this is still the time of year when I think about the changes I want to make and the goals I want to accomplish in the "new year" - both inside and outside of the studio.

The past year has been delightful. It's fabulous to - finally - be living in a small artistic community. I've developed new creative friendships and maintained previous ones. I love the direction my work is taking in the studio and I have a line-up of interesting projects to develop as I work through the possibility boxes. I feel calm and at peace, creative and content. Life is good.

This is my second blog. The first one was called Creative Conversations and ended in March 2010 when this one started. All in all, I've been blogging regularly for almost fifteen years. In November 2012, I deleted all the postings on this blog and started over both to change the tone and to reflect the newness I was feeling in my work. Shredding is something I do with my journals. It's a way of cleaning out, moving on, and changing directions. I'm not sure but I may do that again in the near future as soon as I finish studying "blogging for dummies" and decide on a new format. I'm ready for change.

This week, I've been studying the blog's stats. The number of page views per day currently is less than it was in 2010 and the readership peaked in February 2014 and has declined since, as has the number of comments. That's interesting information because in that same time frame I feel that the work I've been doing is far more interesting and authentic. I like the way it challenges me. I'm taking more risks and creating more boldly. My work is less paint-by-number and more not knowing - which I love. However - numerically speaking - the stats say that the way I am working now and what I am currently writing about are of interest to fewer people. That's thought provoking.

One of the reasons I blog is because I love to write, to teach, and to share. Another reason is to support and encourage others to their best creatively. And another is to build connections and on-line relationships with those who do what I do and love what I love. I can write, teach, and share on the blog but unless I receive feedback I have no idea if the postings are supportive or encouraging and the experience is one-sided. I'm not sure how I feel about that anymore so it's something I'm thinking over. What I know for sure is that...

... I can only be who I am. I don't need a magic mirror to know that I march to a different drummer than most people... and that's okay. I like my drummer. I'm not going to change how I create or what I create and in fact, I plan to dig even deeper into the possibilities boxes. The projects I've done so far have been energizing. I love how the denim coat is coming together and the purse is far more fun now than it was earlier this week - reshaped and ready for handles.

The way I'm working now is more organic and less knowing. The projects come together in a zigzag, back and forward motion. Some are quick. Some take a long time. Nothing is predictable since I'm following tickles and have no idea where they may lead me. Because of that, I've decided to begin blogging about finished objects as opposed to pieces in progress. Instead of sharing how I made it, my intention is to share what I've made in the hope that whatever it is will inspire your creativity too. I have no idea how much I'll write in each posting nor how often I'll post and - to be honest - part of that answer may depend on the comment section. LOL - I don't want to do all the talking.

SO... if you have a favourite posting, you may want to copy it just in case and if you want to know when I post next, you may want to subscribe in some format.

This is a positive change. I am not upset or discouraged or any other negative kind of emotion. My life has changed significantly over the past year as has my work. That truth - and the story of the stats - simply mean it's time to approach blogging differently. Life is like that, always changing. I appreciate all of you who have shared my journey so far and I'm looking forward to seeing where we go from here.

Talk (sometime) soon - Myrna

Grateful - for change... and for Pinterest where all these "eye candy" inspirations came from

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Perfect Imperfect Life

This week, I've been rereading Elizabeth Gilbert's bestselling book Eat Pray Love after reading her follow-up Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It. The second book is testimonials of how the first one impacted individual lives. When I first read Eat Pray Love, I remember relating to what Liz wrote because of a similar experience of finding self a few years earlier. I also remember feeling inspired to be braver and even more authentic so I wondered what I'd get out of it now, ten years later. This quote from page 95 resonates -  ... it is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else's life with perfection.

It's interesting how my life has gone in a completely different direction from what I imagined and how I'm doing things I never even thought about and yet it's just perfect. Yesterday, I spent twenty minutes just watching the sprinkler go round and round and thinking about what a luxury that was - to have water, to have a lawn and a home, to have time to watch sprinklers and to work in the studio.

If we stick with the itchy, anxious, learning curves of our art long enough, they eventually smooth out and become more comfortable. With textile art, I'd reached that place where my hands moved with ease while my mind bubbled with creativity. With creative wearables, I've been searching for that place for quite a few years. Recently, I've noticed a significant increase of confidence with the combination of my ideas with my skills with the garment. It's very fun. A good place to be reaching.

Because I've been working in the yard a lot, the coat is still not finished but it's making great progress. This macrame collar was pinned in place while I decided what I thought. I'm ready to stitch it now. The "strings" are serger strips.

On the weekend, we had four large and poorly placed lilac bushes removed from the front yard. Finally. I'm not at all sad to see them go especially as they went to a new home and are - by now - safely replanted. I filled the one hole with turf I removed from the walkway. The other hole...

... is much bigger. Three super large bushes were significantly spaced to hide two manholes for the electric and the phone services only the space they took up was HUGE compared to what was being hidden, plus the "garden" was domed like a grave, and covered with lots and lots and lots of rocks. I'd already removed rocks from here in the spring to surround the gardens by the house as you can see in the earlier picture and this is still what's left. I have plans for a much smaller and far more attractive - IMHO - arrangement but first I have to get rid of the rocks and put in a small fence.... pickets perhaps. I've never built a fence before. That should be fun.

Someone asked me the other day how to plan an abstract, textile piece. I opened a magazine and showed her this picture of toast and said it can start with just a simple idea like these four shapes and then you start to think about how you'll piece the curved lines and how you'll create the texture and what paint could do and what thread work could do and the depth of the batting and any three dimensional elements like tucked or ruched fabric or beading. It's been so long since I taught an abstract workshop that it was great to discuss it with her... and quite timely.

After so many years of not making textile wall art, I'm turning over ideas in my mind for an exhibit at the local gallery in January 2017. It's to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday. The piece needs to be either 80% white plus other colours, 80% red plus other colours, or a combination of red and white that equals 80% plus other colours. And hangable. Which is why it can't be a garment although I did suggest a hanger could do the trick - LOL.

Luckily, the red can be any shade of red since scarlet is not my favourite although I like how that makes it an interesting challenge. Can I make a piece I like that starts with colours I don't like? I have a white linen table cloth that I'm prepping for the background and I plan to build from there.

One of the things I've learned from my coaching sessions with Diane is how to work on more than one project at a time. It's not all crazy with a million on the go but now, rather than working on just one, I can have two or three and rotate between them while I'm thinking about things like collar. I started on a purse using another piece of practice surface design. I really like the curved look of the purse above right - which incidentally sells for $1,795.00 USD - so I started on something similar only mine looked like a toaster cover so I...

... took it apart and have started evolving it into another shape. I'm considering a purse frame but we'll see. This is one of the things I'm really enjoying about creativity right now. There is no rush. There is no great need to have the item; the great need is to enjoy the journey.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - water, a lawn, a home, time, the perfect imperfect life.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Back To...

Yesterday marked eleven months since I moved here. I find that hard to believe and at the same time, it's really exciting. It has been a good move. Life has found an easy rhythm and flow and I've been happier than happy working in the studio. YES YES!

Although... this creative mess is not in the studio. It's in the dining room. I'm knitting the sleeves and the right back under layer for view D of...

... McCall's 7127 - with changes. I altered the shoulder width and the sleeve cap so the shoulder seam is placed right on the shoulder rather than dropped. It's a more flattering look on me. The rest of the garment will be sewn from the same yardage that the "yarn" was made from by...

... running a tubular rib knit through the serger without thread and cutting it into long strips. It made a huge mess back then and is still fraying all over the place as you can see by the dining room floor. That's why I'm containing my knitting to one location. The texture is fabulous. I'm having fun. This is a project I've been getting to for three years. It's part of a series about combining yarn and yardage, something I've wanted to explore at a deeper level. SO...

... I'm writing a workshop by that name - Yarn & Yardage. I started working on it about two months ago and I'm really excited to create the samples and put together the illustrations. I've always loved writing workshops and it seems like life has reached a point where it's possible for me to get back to writing. This is good.

I'm also enjoying more not knowing. When I created textile art, each piece started and developed step-by-step until the piece finished. I never knew the end at the beginning and it's a wonderful way of working that I wanted to bring into garment sewing. With my goal of working through the possibility boxes, I've been doing a lot more of this kind of sewing lately and it's fabulous for me although I realize it won't be of interest to everyone. Sigh... that's the way it goes.

The denim coat is one of those projects. It's making progress although you might wonder looking at this illustration. Wait. It will come together. What I did was randomly stitch in two dark sections - one in front and one in back - without debating their placement. This gives me an artistic problem to work through creating balance and flow between all the pieces. That's part of not knowing; part of the kind of challenge I enjoy. It starts my mind playing with ideas for how to... and what if...

I thought the coat would be further along by now only yesterday morning when I wanted to join the bottom section to the upper bodice, it was too long at the top between the side seams and center back. I made a dart. And stitched it to the outside. Which created another artistic problem to work through. Luckily, there will be another dart on the other side of center back too. It'll help.

I really... Really... REALLY need to avoid the thrift store. Apparently I'm as weak in the face of those possibilities as I am in the face of fabric possibilities. I went in looking for an idea for pocket closures for the denim coat and came out with a table that looks like someone started to refinish it with chalk paint and then abandoned the process. I want it to use as a computer desk for my studio. I've had the same furniture for a really long time so I'm looking for ways to give the space a facelift without spending a fortune. Paint and a few pieces of "thrift store" furniture could do the trick.

I'm hoping to get the front yard completely finished - or at least mostly finished - before winter so yesterday I got back to landscaping and marked off and started cutting out the grass for a walk-way. I've been watching videos on how to build a walkway and need to pick something that could be continued into the backyard at a later date... and is affordable... and easy to do... which is why I haven't quite decided yet.

And... another thing I'm getting back to is the mini tramp. I used this tool to get into shape after my pregnancies and three out of three times it worked so it seemed like a doable kind of exercise to add back into my routine especially if I kept the tramp in the studio. Now, when I hear my tenant have his shower, I finish up what I'm working on and start jumping and then shower and go journal. It adds a bit more time to my morning routine but in a good way. When I come home, I work on writing the workshop until Howard phones at noon and then move on to other things like the yard. I like routine. It works for me and adding writing back in feels like getting back to me. I'm glad.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful -  routine

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

From The Bottom Up

Howard occasionally... well actually often... forgets to tell me things like that he didn't have to go back to work until Wednesday so was coming out to spend Monday and Tuesday with me after his holiday. Which was great. Only it meant shifting my plans so I didn't get too much done in the studio.

Yesterday, after he left, I arranged my yarn stash in the new cabinet. It's wonderful to have everything in the same space, clean, contained, and visible through the glass doors. I've been looking for more interesting storage containers to add to my studio space... like these three... a cake plate, a wire/wicker basket, and a glass vase. Storage can be pretty.

When I was painting the cabinet, it was propped up on paint cans and I liked the way it looked off the ground so I had the lumber yard cut four 8" x 2" x 2" pieces to act as legs, painted them to match, and screwed them to the bottom.

To start, I put a coat of primer an every surface including the back just in case I want to put the cabinet in the middle of the room at some point and then I painted the inside white and the outside grey.

The top has a white undercoat and was crackled with grey as you can see in the earlier picture. It is MUCH neater in the stash room now that I have this cabinet. I've always preferred closed storage and have some doors to add to the upper cabinet at right as well.

During the morning hour, I've been working on the denim coat from the bottom up. I started with the pieced section of painted and dark denim patches and then put together the bottom curve from remnants of a striped denim and top stitched the seams with grey thread.

The side seams of the pieced section had me stalled for a while. I debated several different ways to turn the corner and then finally just did something... because something is better than nothing... and I could at least go on from there. The pocket took a bit too. I wanted it to be easily pieced both into the next band and into the coat. After I finally figured it out, I then...

... sewed one of the edges on backwards. I've been sewing for over forty years and I still make mistakes. I hope that's encouraging. What I've developed over that time is perspective. Mistakes are no big deal. Even big ones. Fixing them can lead to a wonderful adventure.

I've sewn Vogue 8934 before and even though I'm using the exact same size and pattern pieces, the two coats look vastly different side to side. So fun. Before I started piecing anything, I cut out the sleeves out of the largest piece of remnant. If I use the right side, they'll be dark and if I use the "wrong" side, they'll be light. I probably won't decided until it's time to sew them in. Next are the front and back bodice sections.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a neat clean stash room