Friday, December 14, 2012

Five From The Same Starting Point

I spent several hours yesterday morning talking art with my neighbour, a young woman who teaches print making and drawing and who has just been hired at a fabulous, art minded, already welcoming her with open arms, university in Alberta. It's an amazing opportunity for her. I'm almost jealous.

Among other things, I showed her the finished secret project and this pile of purse potential. Other than the handles, no decisions have been made. It's only possible bits and pieces for now. We'll see what actually makes it into the mix when I'm done. Soon. I hope. Along with tree decorating with the boys (young men) on Sunday afternoon, stitching the bag is my weekend priority.

I've made a surprising number of purses over the years. One of my favourite purse projects was five from the same starting point...

... a quilted table throw. In the picture above, the throw has been over dyed and cut up into equal parts plus a middle section that I can't remember what I did with.

When I'm creating an art piece, it's done one step at a time with only a minimal idea of the outcome. With this project, all I knew was that the end result would be purses. Because they had the same starting point, I was able to chose five of the first step ideas even though I had far more than five ideas. All the rest were unexplored paths. Think about that. We can have an endless list of ideas at each step of a project but we can only follow one. That may sound paralyzing and yet if you work on a project like this you'll find it's actually rather freeing because...

... for each purse there were also a myriad of second step ideas of which only one could be explored and the rest were again unexplored paths. Pick one. Do something. Get going. There is not just one right path. There are many. If you're a perfectionist in any way, that's an intriguing thought to follow up. You can only choose one idea. Numerous choices will not be explored. All choices will lead to an ending. All endings are equally valuable. There is - in fact - NOT just one right answer.

For me, that was incredibly freeing and learning that I wish had come much earlier in my life. One starting point, five journeys, five functioning purses, all beautiful, all loved by their owners, not all to my taste, and that's okay because it's the journey that teaches us so much. The process not the product.

The journey taught me not to be afraid to make choices, to enjoy seeing where those choices led, to evaluate and adjust along the way, to change my mind, to be brave, to risk. It emphasized yet once again that we learn to do by doing and that by doing, we build our skill sets and as we build our skill sets, our hands begin to flow with ease while our minds bubble with creativity. The results of our efforts improve piece by piece.

It's an evolution through which you become increasingly less product oriented and increasingly more process oriented. And it's not just in art. The learning is completely transferable to many areas of life, even fashion sewing. Later on down the line, when you're making a paint-by-number-ish pattern and it doesn't end up looking the way you had hoped it would look, you'll realize that...

... the failure would be to not take it further. See what happens. An assignment I used to give my students was to create an art piece starting with something ugly. The reaction was usually intense. You'd have thought I was asking them to commit murder but once they grasped the concept - it's already ugly, what more could I do to it - they also grasped the freedom. And that's when magic happens.

Magic that may not be the resulting product. It's quite possible that that could still be ugly. Magic is the realization that fabric is still fabric even if it's currently stitched into some shape, that the point of any journey is the learning, and that all results are success because success is finishing. Masterpieces are a bonus.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - creative conversations


  1. I took your self expressions class. I still have the project using the "ugly" fabric on my wall. It turned out to be a favorite-- who knew? Thank you for the lessons learned in that class, and for the journey you are sharing.

  2. THANK YOU - it's lovely to hear that those lessons are still resonating. I loved teaching them.


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