Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Trying To Articulate

In large measure, becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive. Clearly, these qualities can be nurtured by others. But even talent is rarely distinguishable, over the long run, from perseverance and lots of hard work.

The quote above is from David Bayles' and Ted Orland's book Art & Fear. It's very true. Especially the part about perseverance and lots of hard work. Years ago, I wanted to develop my voice - my style - with textile art. One part of that journey included helping others to develop their voice through teaching. What I know for sure is that it takes time and work, that we learn how to do the work by doing the work, and that as we do the work our unique and individual voice emerges. Our voice has always been there. Our job is not to find it but to allow it to emerge.

I've read Art & Fear but I rediscovered the quote while exploring Jane Dunnewold's website Art Cloth Studios and then I pulled out her book Complex Cloth and read further. The copyright is 1996. In terms of time on my shelf, it's an old book, a book from before. In the resource section there are addresses and phone numbers, no websites. The information itself is timeless. Fabulous. And inspiring. It makes me want to hurry down to Jane's studio and sign up for a workshop and yet my concern remains the same. I don't want to "just" make pretty fabric especially if it becomes too precious to wear. 

Another book on my shelf is The Fiberarts Book of Wearable Art by Katharine Duncan Aimone.  The term wearble art often indicates art that takes the form of a garment as opposed to artistic garments you could actually wear although to be fair, wearable art has been on a journey of evolution that is bringing it closer and closer to wearable. The book is filled with pieces that show off technique and skill. The majority of them are not wearable in my world. They are inspiring but not everyday.

This coat by Anna Carlson is closer to what I consider wearable and yet it's hand dyed, stitched, appliqued, and beaded velveteen and it's long. It doesn't fit where I live or how I live but it does makes me wonder what I could do with baby cord, which is a delightful jump from some of the "wearable" art pieces I've made in the past.

If you visited my studio, you'd find this coat in the box of pieces to be recycled. It was made in my quilting phase - as you can tell - since it looks like I'm wearing a quilt. I did wear it a few times but everywhere I went it caused great comment. It was neither comfortable emotionally nor comfortable physically. It didn't feel like I was wearing the coat; it felt like the coat was wearing me.

This piece is a little more approachable - mainly because it's shorter - although it has the same problem. It received slightly more wear.

With this outfit, both the skirt and the jacket are made with embellished fabric. The jacket has fused bits, threadwork, and beading. The skirt has threadwork with orange loops on a lime fabric. The lining is a hot pink polka dot. Right now, the skirt is in my closet and still in rotation while the jacket is in the to be recycled box. There's a lesson in that.

In August, I cut up and bleached a batch of worn out black t-shirts. They pulled a gorgeous raspberry color. Sewn into Katherine Tilton's Vogue 8817, this is perhaps the most wearable, wearable art piece I own.

These pants are Marcy Tilton's Vogue 8712. They're sewn from a stretch woven with a paisley print and bit of glitter. They're distinctive, comfortable, and I wear them all the time. I don't think of them as wearable art since all I did was choose the fabric, fit the pattern, and cut and stitch on the lines. That has a paint-by-number feeling I do not enjoy even as I enjoy the final product. There's a lesson in that too. I recognize these pants as an example of my style, my voice, and the direction in which I'm travelling.

Over the years that I've been sewing and dressing myself, I've learned some things. I am attracted to bold, bright prints and they don't do me any favours near the face. I disappear. With a triangle figure type, I am bottom heavy. Bold, bright, attention grabbing prints do not do my hips any favours BUT... they're fun. And that becomes the point at which I find myself, the point of combining what I know looks best with my features and my figure with what I think best expresses my personality with the types of pieces I most enjoy creating with the types of pieces I am most likely to wear. It's an interesting mix.

I've been thinking about my goals for 2013 and trying to articulate what it is that I want to learn and discover and how I want to go about making those discoveries. In the class prep sheet for the Design Outside The Lines workshop this past June, Marcy talked about creative everyday wear. I prefer that term to wearable art. I don't want to look like I'm wearing a quilt nor do I want to look like a walking gallery. I want clothing that is distinctive, unique, individualized, and above all else wearable and clothing that fits both my personality and my lifestyle. Although I can give you examples of what I don't want and examples of what I do want, it's going to take me a little longer to put that illusive some thing into words and decide what steps to take in that direction.

Have you thought about what you want to create in 2013? What direction are you heading in?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - Today's priority is to bake between 200 and 300 tarts since I have - through my own "stupidity" - created a demand for them each Christmas. Faced with rows of tarts, I am extremely grateful for ready made tart shells. I have no idea how to make pastry although I've been told it's simple and even if it is, this is so much easier and no one is complaining - LOL.


  1. 200 to 300 tarts?! pre-baked pastry, all the way!! As you say, no one will be complaining (and if someone does, they are off the list. Forever.)

    Art and Fear is a great book.

    1. LOL - exactly true about the tarts. Actually I feel that way about a lot of things. A friend taught me a method years ago. When someone is complaining, she listens and then asks "and you're telling me this because" and then she listens, nods, says hmm, and walks away. Works like a charm. Life seems to either teach us how to cope or how to cave.

      Art & Fear is one of those books to read and re-read.

  2. "...the point at which I find myself, the point of combining what I know looks best with my features and my figure with what I think best expresses my personality with the types of pieces I most enjoy creating with the types of pieces I am most likely to wear. ...I want clothing that is distinctive, unique, individualized, and above all else wearable and clothing that fits both my personality and my lifestyle."

    Your words describe how I have been trying to put together my own clothing wardrobe, which is the area of my life that I feel has been most successful in terms of my artistry. My creative goals in 2013 are to see if I extend my focus to also spend more time on more jewelry projects as well, and to get my supplies and tools more organised, so as to make responding to inspiration and effort more straightforward.

    1. I totally believe in an organized work space. Your comment made me wonder what I could do to help and I'm thinking about some organize your sewing space posting for the future.

      I think clothing is an ever evolving thing because we are an ever evolving thing although at fifty I'm far more centered than I was at twenty and my roles although expanding seem more clarified.

  3. Myrna, I can relate to your dislilke of sewing via "paint by the numbers" (boring, stifling!). and the way you describe the challenge of sewing garments that work for you, because you are drawn to colors/design ideas that you feel don't always flatter you. it makes me grasp for analogies to better understand it--the interior designer who must decorate a room that has this or that aspect about it, so she must artfully consider these details when drawing up a plan. but when done, isn't that the uniqueness, the loveliness of it all?

    1. Yes. I was an Interior Designer at one point. There were the challenges of the room combined with the challenges of the people who lived in the room. Always interesting.

      What I like about dressing me now is that while I may know that bold prints on my hips are not doing me any favours, my personality has developed to the point that I can strutt bold prints on my hips with a lot more confidence and find ways to add details and proportion that make it work. They might not be my most flattering look when described in textbook terminology but could quite possibly be my most flattering look for the joy and confidence it brings, those fabulous beauty secrets.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.