Tuesday, March 4, 2014

If And When The Time Is Right

I've said it before - and you're probably tired of hearing it - and even so, here it is again. When I went to Design Outside The Lines workshop for the first time two years ago, one of the greatest take-aways was Diane and Marcy's teaching model and in particular the way their teaching is current and based on what they are doing in their studio rather than on a class outline they'd developed years ago and will be teaching years into the future. This is so radically different from any other workshop I've been to that it was a huge eye opener and took everything I loved about teaching and eliminated everything I hate about teaching and made the possibility of encouraging other's creativity in a similar format a completely doable dream - if and when the time is right.

But it's not just their teaching style. They have a fabulous business model. Both are very strong business women with long term, successful careers. They are not pushy. Their message is gentle, a here's what might be of use to you presentation, an invitation to participate, and a belief that not only will all that they want and need be provided but that all that I want and need will also be provided - if and when the time is right.

Their model is appealing and it's a learning curve. Subtly different. It can't be faked; it has to be sincere. It requires me to let go, to not hold tightly, to dream, to believe, and to start off in the direction of the dream without knowing the end and with complete confidence that if I'm taking a wrong turn the clarification I need will come. Of all the talks I went to at Sew Expo, the two I appreciated the most were Marcy & Katherine's and Diane's. I left one talk because I felt like I was being yelled at. The contrast is stark.

A few weeks ago, I shared my ah ha around groups, about how I'd longed to be part of a creativity group for years and years thinking that the group would somehow make me a better artist and that I wasn't as good of an artist as I could be because I lacked a group. Right. And then, I began to wonder why I believed that when I'm much more of a 1-1 person. That awareness - coupled with the frustration of trying to be a group of three last fall - had me questioning again what exactly do I want more of?

In January, I mentioned that I was reading Imagine Big by Terri Savelle Foy and that I'd created a dream book. It's only natural to wonder if you're writing down the wrong things and heading in the wrong direction but I knew I was meant to dream so I wrote them down and asked God to clarify and fine tune each dream as my knowledge and awareness grew. And he has. I've been writing down the clarifications and any comments that encourage the dream as they come up and I can clearly see that I am being guided especially in the area of creativity. One thing I want more of is interaction with creative woman at workshops and events such as Sew Expo. Another is healthy friendships with highly creative women who challenge my creativity and whose creativity I challenge.

It took years for me to realize that teaching as I used to is not the correct model for me any more and to be thankful that that opportunity ended. And then, it too a while longer to hone in on how I want to teach if I ever teach again and to realize it was an all or nothing proposition. I am not willing to compromise. If X is not possible, I won't settle for Y because the critical component would be missing.  That's really good to know. I'm surprised at how calm I am with that awareness. It's entirely possible the dream may never happen but then again, it's also entirely possible that it will - if and when the time is right.

As I walked around the vendors booths at Sew Expo, I was both grateful that they existed so I could buy what I wanted to enhance my creativity and at the same time grateful to no longer be one of them, attempting to sustain my creative career by securing some piece of the pie. It was a huge awareness. If I'm ever again a vendor, it'll be a completely different scenario than the one I experienced in the past. It's another area I'm not willing to compromise in.

Which left me focusing on relationships. One of the delightful things for me at Sew Expo was all of you who stopped to introduce yourselves and let me know that you read the blog. THANK YOU so much. And - although it sounds like bragging - I really enjoyed wearing my coat on Friday and having people stop me and ask to take a picture or look at the details. I loved those interactions. They allowed me to share and encourage creativity and - as you know - sewing and encouraging individual creativity are my favourite subjects. I breathe in fabric.

One of the conversations I had was with Frank Rizzo, the new president and CEO of The McCall Pattern Company. We are SO LUCKY to have this man in charge. He brings a wealth of experience to the position and is not only competent, he is sincere in his desire to resolve and answer as many of our concerns as possible. I spent about a half hour talking with him, answering questions, and sharing my perspective and while he is in the unenviable position of trying to create a win-win between varying perspectives, I'm confident that he will arrive at the best answer possible. The company is listening. They are truly working on "it".





Knowing what you want doesn't mean you'll get it but the odds are higher if you're actually working on the details, walking in that direction, and doing the work. As I said yesterday, the key point I took away from Diane's talk was if you want something different, you need to do something different. For me that means more discipline in the direction of my goals - refashioning, surface design, piecing fabric from fabric, sewing creative everyday wearables, and writing a book. Will it take me somewhere? Who knows but it'll definitely help me to maximize and make the most of the creative gift I've been given. This is good. I'm at peace that all I need to do is all I can do and the rest will come together - if and when the time is right. I am preparing. More about that tomorrow. AND...





... I love how when we're truly committed, providence moves to enable. Gwen Spencer is co-teaching the Design Outside The Lines workshop in Oregon in June. Last year at Sew Expo, she wore this black and grey version of Marcy's Vogue 8876. When I sewed it a few weeks ago, I pulled up the pictures and looked at all her subtle and delightful details and said to myself research Gwen's work. On Thursday...





... when I visited Marcy's booth, I introduced myself to Gwen saying I'd be one of her students and then we drooled over the blue and green striped linen together agreeing that yes, it was an amazing fabric, a sleeper. When I bought three yards, Gwen decided to buy three as well and challenged me to sew something to wear to the workshop. WHAT FUN - so nerve-wrackingly perfect - BUT... hadn't I asked for friendships with creative women who would challenge me and isn't this the answer. YES YES ! ! ! !





On Friday, I went back and bought a green (not khaki) and blue linen to go with and a fuchsia one to act as an accent. They may or may not make it into the actual outfit but the night before, when I wasn't sleeping, I had been dreaming about...





... out of print McCall's 6396, a pattern I've wanted to sew for a while. If it muslins up okay, this could be the one to take forward in the linen. I love having an event or a challenge to sew for. This garment along with the Taos skirt and the Skylines top and the black and white knit dress that I mentioned yesterday will be one of the five garments I take to the workshop. LOL - that leaves only two left to figure out although everything - as always - is subject to change. It all depends on the muslin and the weather and the mood I'm in when I pack. Right now...





... I've unpicked the hem and taken off the collar and the sleeves from the black Vogue 8886 t-shirt I started just before I left and I'm ready to refashion it. I'm committed to adding at least one element of surface design.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - clarity

17 comments:

  1. Myrna, your posts often give me a "nugget to chew on" throughout the day... and sometimes longer! and the past couple posts are no exception. I think I made a breakthrough yesterday woke this morning very excited to try out some things in my sewing space! Thanks for your wonderful, thoughtful, incredibly sharing posts!

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    1. YES YES - congrats on the breakthrough. How fabulous. You're more than welcome for any part that I contributed. I'm so happy to help.

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  2. The McCalls pattern is cute and I can't wait to see how you use the new fabric. Both posts were fun and inspirational to read!

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    1. Isn't it cute? It's been dancing in my head for a long time, so long it's already out of print. Glad you enjoyed the posts.

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  3. So nice to have you back inspiring us with your thoughts. I have been drooling at all the reports of what seems to have been a fabulous creativity show. The only one in my area is the semi annual sewing festival in Toronto which is less and less about sewing and more about all creative arts ranging from jewellery making, paper arts, yarn based work etc. etc. There is nothing wrong with this as there are so many lovely expressions of creativity waiting to be discovered and embraced, but as a seamstress, I do miss the focus on my particular area. Added to my frustration is that we do not often seem to get some of the huge workshop/teaching talent at the big US shows.

    While I do not actually sew much in the way of art to wear garments, I love examining them as a jumping point for more creative fabric and pattern matching opportunities in what I do. I also love the fabrics these specialists are able to source. By and large, they are of such a high quality and unique fabrication, that they can really enhance my more mainstream sewing. Being able to attend a show like the one you were at allows us to replenish creatively and concretely in terms of supplies so that we can actually give expression to the ideas that dance around in our heads.

    I am really looking forward to seeing how the linens come together and I love the pattern you have selected. Have fun working it out! :-)

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    1. A lot of people travel from far and wide to attend Sew Expo. Apparently, it's the biggest show in North America and it's certainly a lot of fun. I noticed that this year there was more fashion related content than before. It's definitely picking up. Jut little touches of "arty" can bring such individuality to a garment. I think it's fabulous that you're considering what they have to offer your work. I've certainly been impacted by the difference the quality of the fabric can make.

      LOL - I'm looking forward to seeing how the linens come together too but not for a while. I have a few things in the works before that.

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    2. I thought a little more about my comment and some of your posts from previous months and I think I may have been wrong to say I don't sew much "art to wear". While my garments may not be quite the same look as the fabulous creations coming from the grand masters of this style that you reference, I think I sell myself short by saying mine are more mainstream. In fact, for me and I believe for everyone else that seeks to express their individuality through their clothing choices, every decision and choice in garment construction reflects artistic choices. I take time to search out the best and most interesting fabrics I can find and afford and I try to combine them in ways that make my clothing choices unique to me and different from retail options within the framework of the life I lead. My sewing is part of an educational/artistic continuum that you have written so eloquently about recently and it makes me happy to see that I too am walking that walk in my own way. :-)

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    3. It's a path. We start with the step-by-step of following the pattern and then begin to branch out, individualize and customize, take some risks, make some mistakes, find our style so that our garments look like our garments. LOVE your realization. While I admire these artists, I don't want to be a carbon copy. It's good that you're walking your own way. YES YES ! ! ! !

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  4. Cool that you got to talk to Mr. Rizzo (as well as Shams) and reiterate some of the concerns we have with his pattern company. More voices are always good.

    Very thoughtful post - as always, Myrna!

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    1. The Vogue booth was doing a survey of customer concerns which I think is fabulous. They'll have collected a lot of data across a broad range of sewists that will help them to please most of the people most of the time. YES YES!

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  5. Myrna - like the others I want to thank you for the Puyallup report! Next year I'm going, nothing can stop me. (Unless someone drops a first class ticket to Paris in my lap or some other highly unlikely surprise). I wanted to respond to your comments about teaching (and learning). For my money, teaching doesn't exist as a free-standing phenomenon. It only exists in relation to learning. In my many (sigh probably too many) years of university teaching/pushing learning, I learned that I could only feel good about my teaching, my half of the equation, if learning was happening in the other half of the equation. And it is surprisingly difficult to foster learning! Lots of reasons for that of course, but you clearly respond completely to Marcy and Diane's fostering strategies. Yes it has a lot to do with them. But it also has more to do with YOU. High quality teaching (and there are many kinds depending upon the context) only works when high quality active learners are on the receiving end. So if/when you teach again the learners are a key element. You know exactly what works for you, and you perfectly describe what does not work! I guess I am just saying that your wisdom about teaching is great but even the deepest wisdom may not hit home unless the learners are willing to engage and be active. I am certain DOL attendees are active engaged and highly creative and "hungry" learners. But there are plenty of people out there who have not yet learned how to truly engage and let go of their concreteness, their need to do everything the teacher does. (I take a few goldsmithing and metalworking classes each year and it is amazing how vast the divide is in teaching-learning. Some teachers are step by step controllers and some students want that. Some teachers are mentors who foster creative learning and carefully curate their students b/c step by step students just get mad and irritated if they don't get step by step. And some teachers offer a combination to draw the step by step students out of the dark valley of "one step after another no thinking involved.") But mainly I wanted to say that teaching isn't a solitary activity! All the best to you!

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    1. OH - you should go next year. I think you'll love it.

      When I went to answer the rest of your email, I was surprised to calculate that I taught my first workshop twenty-five years ago this winter. Hard to believe it's been that long. I started out teaching quilting from patterns so it was very step-by-step and most of the students were extremely comfortable and a few hated following the rules. I started teaching independent textile art ten years ago and there was marked shift where a few of the students were extremely comfortable and most felt adrift and needed direction. I learned how to help them answer the question without answering it for them and I've become quite good - if I may pat my own back - at drawing students out. When my textile art career ended, I wondered if I'd be able to transfer that way of creating and teaching to fashion or if I'd be back at a step-by-step format - or paint by number as I call it. I was thrilled to see that Marcy & Diane used the same model I used and that it was entirely transferable with the added benefit of teaching what was current. The teacher has far more energy when they're are engaged in the work versus repeating previous learning.

      Learning is - as you say - so individual and one thing I as the teacher had to learn was to allow everyone to follow along on their own path at their own pace. What is no big deal for one student is major rocket science for another and I needed to be aware of and celebrate each student's achievements. I think I managed okay based on the reviews I received. After Sew Expo ah ha's, I know for sure that I'm not willing to teach step-by-step again if that was the only way I could teach. It has to have that individualized, encourage the student to their best, help them find the path and walk along it, element that energizes me.

      You'd be surprised. When I took a workshop with Sandra Betzina a few years ago, I thought I'd be in a classroom of women who wanted to sew creative, individualized clothing and that wasn't the case. Perhaps 10% of the class had that desire. The rest wanted to copy identically. At DOL, the percentage who want to individualize is higher but it's nowhere near 100% and that's pretty normal so any teaching will always balance that reality. I guess that's what makes the student who really Really REALLY gets it so much fun to be around.

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  6. I'm so interested in your observation that you felt "yelled at" in one session. I can't abide being told what to think or believe, so I probably would have walked out, too!

    Martha Beck has written about the TAO of doing business now--and she interprets that as the need to be "transparent, authentic, and open." This really has resonated with me, and I see it in action....

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    1. I think the yelled feeling was a combination of the mike being too loud, a pushy sales person, and a practiced pitch. It was about her product not our creativity.

      I'd be interested in examples of how you see TAO in action. Genuine has become more important to me over the years. I'm not sure if it's an age thing but I'm done putting up with spin.

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  7. I'm glad you showed a picture of Gwen in her version of Marcy's dress. Her attention to the little details are amazing. She is an amazing person and a really fun booth buddy. The Vogue people were very open to suggestions, and they will be back at next year's Expo.

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    1. LOVE Gwen's attention to details. I learn so much from looking at a piece of her work. I'm excited about our challenge. All of you seemed to be having fun working in the booth. That's fabulous... as is Vogue's wanting to hear what we think. Creativity is a wonderful journey to share.

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