Friday, February 8, 2013

On Growth & Danger

Imitation is one of the dangers that occurs when you study with another artist. It's natural because there was something about that artist's style that attracted you in the first place. Most likely, it contains echoes of your own style. Imitation can be a deliberate method by which to learn such as copying the painting style of the masters however, where the artist fails to evolve away from their mentor and into originality is where imitation fails.

When I was creating textile art, I referred to imitation minus originality as cloning. So many times I would see a piece in a magazine and think oh that's one of so and so's pieces only to glance down at the name and find that it was actually another artist's work.

Cloning is one of the reasons why I stopped attending quilt shows and reading quilt magazines and started studying the principles and elements of design with artists in other mediums. I didn't want to be a clone. I wanted to learn how to make work that was original on some level. I clarify because we're all influenced by the same sources and complete originality is quite difficult if not impossible. That decision to study and grow differently shifted my textile work - and now my fashion work - in new directions.

I bought this reversible knit fabric in September 2010 from the discount table at the Snip & Stitch in Nanaimo where I was taking a workshop with Ron Collins. Last year, I saw a cardigan that Marcy Tilton had sewn from the exact same fabric. While I have pictures of her cardigan and will dig them out once my piece is finished, right now I'm avoiding them because after enough distance I can no longer remember Marcy's piece and I have an idea of my own. YES YES

The idea was not to use this fabric; the idea was for a cardigan that required two or three prints. When I dug into the stash, I discovered that I don't have a variety of co-ordinated prints to chose from however this fabric, with its reversible pattern, paired with black, was perfect.

The first thing I did was cut off the selvage on both sides in a wide enough strip to be useful. Checking the selvage is something I now do automatically before cutting out a garment. So many of them are gorgeous and the perfect embellishment source.

My idea is an adaptation of this grey cardigan found in Winners in November 2010. Back then, I sewed a version in purple and have nearly worn it out even though it has an annoying problem where the neckline meets. The hook and eye are useless and I'm always trying to neatly pin a brooch to hold the edges together. When I tried the cardigan on the other day, the words short zipper popped into my mind. It danced and tickled enough that I found the zipper and then the fabric and have started the piece and as I stitch the idea keeps developing. HOW FUN!

Several years ago, I took a drawing class. We all sat in a circle around a pile of white boxes with strategically placed, shadow creating, lights, each of us making an effort to duplicate what we individually saw - something different for each person - because our perspectives were different. Creativity is like that. We all approach it from our own perspective but that's not the take-away I remember from that class. When I asked the instructor how do I learn to draw what's in my head without a photograph or a still life or a model, she looked at me in a sort of dazed, sort of stunned, way and said I don't think I know anyone who does that which is how I ended up creating contemporary, abstract pieces.

If you draw on your talent but never add to it or sharpen it, you're headed for trouble because nobody is that talented. But when you place a premium on growth, you take whatever talent you have and you increase it. That not only raises your effectiveness today, but it makes your talent greater so that you can be effective tomorrow.

The quote above is from the chapter on growth in John Maxwell's book Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrow's Success. It talks about having and implementing a growth plan. Two other quotes that impacted me are if we desire to improve a little every day and plan it that way, then we can make great progress over the long haul and if you want to grow the organization, you must grow the leader. While the book never stopped being primarily directed at men in business, I still found it incredibly useful. I am the head of my organization. To grow up my world, I need to grow up me.

I've always been goal oriented and I find it easiest to move forward when working toward a goal or on a specific project. While I've never called it a growth plan, learning has always been important. I find it energizing and stretching, a source of change, a source of conversation, a way of moving forward and of becoming all that I can be. What do I want to learn and how do I want to learn it are not unfamiliar questions. Other questions in the chapter included:

What is my potential?
What dreams do I have that are waiting to be fulfilled?
What gifts and talents need to be drawn out and developed?
What are my areas of greatest strength?
What will add value to me personally? Professionally?
Am I in a growth environment and how can I improve it?
Do I have a time and plan to grow?
Am I applying what I learn?

Those are FABULOUS questions. We can insert a blank and ask them again in an even more specific way. What is my ______ (creative) potential? What ______ (creative) dreams do I have that are waiting to be fulfilled? What _____ (creative) gifts and talents need to be drawn out and developed? And so on. I inserted the word creative because creativity is one of my areas of greatest strength and one that I am focused on developing both for myself and to share. I've now moved on to a different study - which I'm sure you'll eventually hear about - but I'm still pondering these questions and looking at what I will do this year and the next and the next to facilitate growth and to invest in my artist and by doing so enrich my life. What are you doing to grow?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - thought provoking questions


  1. I have three projects in the queue right now to keep my brain in motion; 1) create a pattern to cover two matching chairs, 2) copy a favorite RTW nightgown (with my own tweaks of course), and 3) finally take out the knitting machine I was gifted several years ago and figure out how the darned thing works. ;-) I don't actually mind copying something exactly, if it's exactly what I want, but often I find I make changes organically during the process. For me at least, creating makes me happy, whether I came up with the original idea or not.

  2. Thanks for sharing. It always sounds like wonderful things are happening over at your studio. I'd love to see pictures of what you put together.

    Definitely creating makes me happy. It's intriguing how there are as many ways to create as there are creatives.

  3. I am with you on the selvedge use - they often have the best texture to use as features in garments...J

    1. I was just looking at the selvage on another black and lime printed knit in stash. It's a double weave and the back is all lime. The selfage from that side is lime with a tighter knit and soft frayed edge. WONDERFUL. Can't wait to figure out where to use that.

  4. You're thinking along a very interesting line. The fabric does lend itself to a few ways of using it. I suppose if you clear any previous ideas, you will come up with a different point of view and outcome.
    I'm trying to delve into pattern making and draping, so I appreciate your thoughts today:)

  5. When I recognized the fabric in Marcy's piece, I knew it would be a while before I used imine so I could sew without that influence. I waited until it danced and waved at me and that seems to have worked. I have most of the garment together and the fabric color and texture is fabulous but it's nasty to sew with. I'm glad I didn't go for anything more complicated.

    Draping intrigues me. It's something I would like to know more about. I'm looking forward to seeing what you put together.

  6. Excellent post, thank you for this. :) I just wrote a bit on the sort of process that I enjoy most in my sewing projects; basically it involves having a vague plan but being able to deviate from it with no directions or guidelines.

    I love your questions too. I'm not particularly goal oriented, but I AM growth oriented. Being immersed in the process (and enjoying it) is what speaks to me of growth.

    And I'm totally with you on the selvedges!

    1. You're welcome. I can particularily relate to "Playing with design aspects during the making, as opposed to having it all figured out ahead of time." as that's one of the things I love about refashioning and it has similarities to how I made textile art. Start. Do something. Keep going. Finish. Evaluate. Repeat in a new format.

      I've become less goal oriented or perhaps my goals have become less specific over the years as I've become increasingly growth oriented. I wonder if that's a transition somewhat along the lines of moving from a product to a process person? Interesting thought.


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