Thursday, September 26, 2013

Shut Up And Get Going

One of the things Patti and I did on Tuesday was look at the inspiration photos and think about the question how would I - Myrna - make that with fabric? This is a fabulous exercise. It challenges you to combine possibilities with the abilities and techniques already in your skill set and then to evaluate how or if you'd want to use those.

A compilation of shapes, this piece could be approached like a puzzle. An organic shape could be drawn on a large piece of paper and then subdivided into the smaller shapes that comprise the whole. At their simplest, the shapes could be made from individually cut pieces of fabrics... or they could be created from silk fusion... or from thread lace... or they could each be detailed with stitching over layered components like tiny quilts with the possibility of further points of interest in each piece that contributed to the whole. The shapes could be sewn together with beads in-between and the chain could be either simple as shown or a chains or beads or a combination of beads and chains in varying sizes. This piece has a lot of possibilities.

What attracts me to this piece is its asymmetrical and organic shape, the depth of the overlapping pieces, and the beauty of the rich colors contrasted with black. It looks like individually sewn pockets that are stitched together to create the depth that is an integral part of the design. Those same pockets have it sitting right at the edge of crafty because there's a bit of a home-sewn feel about it and yet when I think about creating this in different formats, it loses the uniqueness created by the overlapping pieces and the depth. There are ways; they'd just radically change the outcome and when I think about sewing a whole bunch of little pockets, it makes me want to run screaming in the other direction.

I've seen numerous pieces like this one. They appear to be one big long piece of fabric that is folded and threaded. The curved edge of the folds give a softness and flow to the piece even though the fabric used would have to have enough body to maintain shape. Silk dupioni comes to mind. This seems like something I'd want to do while distracted by talking on the phone or watching TV. I can see how to do it but folding fabric would get boring real quick.

This piece is a compilation of "stuff" much like the discussion of Diane's piece in yesterday's posting. It appears to start with three base shapes of similar size on which three small but related collages are built with connecting elements in the beading and cording. Depth and texture are key ingredients. Like most collage work, it's busy and that's not at all my thing so while I love the colour and texture and tactileness of the piece, I can't ever imagine making something like this and I definitely would not wear it whereas... 

... this piece is far more approachable for my style. It's simple and simple is hard to do. There's no place to hide. It would be an excellent opportunity to play with shape and line and with ways to make the edges look less flimsy and more sophisticated. While it's flat, and flat is a key element in it's composition, there would be an opportunity to create some depth with the choice of supplies and to add beading and embellishment along each seam line as well as within each shape of the overall design. I've made a piece very similar to this and it worked out well and the reason why I'd wear it - the flatness and simplicity with the possibility of a powerful focal point - is also the reason why it'd be boring to make again and again. It doesn't require a broad range of technique.

If I remember correctly, this piece is felted. What I find attractive about it is the depth and the use of color and shadowing to highlight each of the puzzled elements, elements which I think contributed to its size which would overwhelm many women. The answer for creating this piece my way is very similar to the answer for the previous one and for the first two. They are shapes within a shape. Each shape can be individually cut from a piece of fabric that is purchased, dyed, surface designed, fused, or created in some way or with the "small quilt" format. I can see how to develop it, build it, and stitch it and yawn, yawn... that would again get boring real quick.

When Patti and I talked about the design and construction options, we also talked about the challenge level of each option from both an artistic and a technical point of view which included the fun factor. How stimulating, how much fun, how energizing would it be to create pieces like these using those methods? Both of us concluded NOT VERY.

On Wednesday morning, I spent some time journal writing about my favorite jewelry pieces and about the elements any jewelry I wear have and any jewelry I created would need to have. Then I thought about this process that Patti and I had worked through with the above images and our conclusions and I wondered why I was pushing myself forward in a direction that we had already concluded would not be energizing enough. I had major questions and even so, I came home completely prepared to move forward with my attempt because I know I overthink things and I know that sometimes what I really need to do is shut up and get going except when I walked into the studio, I suddenly got very angry.

One of the really tricky things about being an artist is figuring out when you're actually listening to your inner artist and when you're self sabotaging and reacting out of fear. In the past few years, I have made a good half dozen attempts to create fabric jewelry and each time I hit that wall - the one where I recognize the struggle between crafty and sophisticated. Yesterday, I didn't want to push through. I wanted to put it down and leave it down. I wanted to say I am in the 99.9 percent and this is not where I want to invest my time. I thought about these words from Stephanie Marston's book If Not Now, When? ....

At midlife, we become disillusioned, not in the sense of becoming cynical, but in beginning to see life more clearly. The definition of disillusionment is to expose falsehood, to open one's eyes, to accept reality. As we break the spell of our childhood illusions, we experience a greater sense of reality. This allows us to evaluate ourselves and the world more accurately. If we haven't already become a famous rock star, neurosurgeon, or CEO of a Fortune 500 company, it's probably not going to happen. Maybe that's really all right. Maybe life is less about what we achieve and more about how we live moment to moment, day to day.

I want to live with exuberance and energy, aliveness and passion. I get that from fabric. I do not get it from fabric jewelry. As Jean commented yesterday, clearly I am not a fan. I do not want to do the things that I would have to do to create fabric necklaces, never mind amazing fabric necklaces. As I discussed the other day, I do want something more than fabric OR... perhaps... I want fabric to be something more. I'll keep experimenting, following up tickles, and walking in that direction and we'll see what happens. I will DO something... like decorate those boxes... and explore painting techniques... and think about their application to fabric.

One of the first assignments in The Artist's Way is to write an affirmation such as I am a brilliant and prolific fabric artist and then record the blurts that your inner critic throws your way. Yes... well... interesting. Those blurts led me to ask what am I afraid of ? and to start on a project I've been thinking about for well over a year. The battle to move forward with it has gotten quite amusing. My critic is having a field day which is all very illuminating and all that other touch-y feel-y stuff BUT...

... I have to say that I'd rather not listen to my critic or my inner artist or analyze any feelings. What I want to do is create and enjoy creating. I want to play in my studio. I have absolutely no idea how I ended up excelling at over thinking and if I were to think about it I'd most likely conclude it has to do with fear or some unspoken goal but I couldn't - or at least I don't want to - care less. Whatever. It's exhausting. I've reached the point of overthinking overthinking and I'm tired of it. ENOUGH. My goal for this year was to do the work. I wouldn't say I'm excelling at that so far but I'm definitely going to work harder at it between now and the end of the year.

Mary Oliver asked - what is it you want to do with this one wild and precious thing called your life? That's an excellent question that requires excellent action.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - putting down and moving on


  1. Thank you for being willing to share your blind alleys and route changes with us.

    1. You are very welcome. Thank you for appreciating them.

  2. "overthinking overthinking"--indeed! I've been there, and it IS exhausting. Good that you recognize the process and pitfalls.

    1. Any tips on how to quit with giving up what's valuable about thinking ? ? ?

    2. Hah! Physical movement is extremely helpful for me--gardening, walking, yoga, even cleaning the house. As I'm a writer, it also helps to put pieces aside in folders, to be looked at another day. (Not sure how to do that with fabric...) These seem to help break any logjams and let the more productive "thinking" emerge.

  3. ah, as they say 'being an artist is not for sissies' ;) my boyfriend/fiancee in my late twenties early thirties was an artist and BIG TIME over thinker. Jean S. is bang-on with her rec of physical movement - ex was a long distance runner, now he runs marathons. Swimming is the queen of quietening the mind thru exertion, walking a lot helps. Yoga is very good too (the relaxing kind, ask your instructor). I gather you're not an 'exerciser', i don't know what to tell you about that except don't blame me i didn't make this world! ;)

    One trick that helps me is to have a very simple 'mission statement' for my sewing efforts. For me it's 'I want to make things that i enjoy wearing". Now, there's about a billion qualifiers built into that statement (fantasy lifestyle? no, i won't WEAR it; too much of the wrong climate-appropriate clothes? no, i won't WEAR it; too much non-natural fibre? no, i won't ENJOY it; etc.). But it's real simple to tell if something fits that statement or not.

    How did i come up with this 'mission statement'? thru making a lot of stuff, some that worked out and some that didn't. And for me, keeping my ideas/statements about what i sew on the downplayed side helps me avoid the fear of failure...i'm just noodling around on the kitchen table after all. :) HTH, and have a great weekend coming up!! steph

    1. Definitely not for sissies. One has to be a pushy broad to get past the inner critic.

      LOL - one would have to have a yoga instructor to ask them. I'm periodically the exercise type; nothing regular although my right leg does a pedal workout most days and my right arm is pretty good with the scissors and my left hand is steady by the needle and... and... and...

      LOVE the mission statement concept. What's so weird is that your comment was posted just as I was talking to my friend Francine about how the top I sewed today matches "me". We were discussing the elements that worked and how to take them forward and what I needed to focus on. Serendipity. You'll see it tomorrow. Nice that the mission statement you around the fear of failure. YES YES - I want that. I find it amazing how consciously we can not agree with something - like caving to the fear of failure - and yet subconsciously we're caving left, right, and center. Now that I know better, I can do better.

      Enjoy your weekend too.


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