Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Procrastination & Experimentation

Two words that describe this past week are procrastination and experimentation. It is beyond amazing how many different ways I can find to avoid the studio but... when I finally did get there... I managed to play and explore ideas, most of which aren't going anywhere but that's okay. It's all learning and one thing builds on another and it all leads to somewhere. This is good.


The work with the watercolor paintings is stuttering. I traced the shapes and then adhered the paper to balsam wood using a gel medium. As an adherent, it works really well and the resulting shapes are interesting however... they have a craft overtone that isn't the look I'm going for.

This white linen over batting over a shaped piece of plastic also has a craft overtone. I tried drawing on the fabric with pigment pens to see how the lines would look - not good - and then I covered the pen with the gel medium and although the pen is supposed to be waterproof, the ink ran slightly. The resulting piece was too hard to stitch through with a thread a needle which is a critical point for going forward so I painted over it with black paint to see how that would work and then...

... secured one of the watercolor bits on top of that. It's not as craft-ish as before but it's definitely not approaching elegant or sophisticated yet. I'll experiment with this technique some more because I love the way I can shape the plastic with steam and I love the colors and possibilities of the paintings.

One of my avoidance methods was to go to the post office which is across the street from the thrift store which is down the street from another thrift store. I bought this 100% cotton sweater for $1.00 because a friend of mine often buys and takes apart sweaters and then re-knits the yarn. It seemed like a fabulous way to buy good yarn cheap. In theory.

A dollar for an entire sweater of cotton yarn IS a really good deal except it took me an hour and a half to take the sweater apart and then another two hours to unravel just the sleeves. Because I'd occasionally cut the wrong thread, there are lots of stops and starts in these balls which means there will be a lot of stops and starts in the knitting. Was it worth it? I'm not sure. I definitely have more time than money but I'd rather spend my time doing something more exciting. I'll try unraveling another sweater just in case this one was more difficult than normal but otherwise, I prefer finding a good bargain on yarn.


I experimented with pendant shapes to go with the black and white necklace I am - still - working on. Diane - my coach - wanted me to work looser and to leave spaces in-between instead of wrapping the cords too tightly. I think all of these ideas have potential but especially the bottom two where more detail can be added to the white background in-between the black cording. The black shape is a piece of painted wood.

Here I experimented with the size of the pendant as well as different ideas for layouts. I opted away from using wood because I think it would be taking the easy way out instead of pushing through to figure out how to make a pendant I really like with fabric.

Way back in spring, I made a series of covered cords for knots that sat untied for months. This week, I told myself that I had to at least finish forming the knots... which I did... and now I need to tuck the ends in. The black ones should be quite useful - they're classic - but I think the batik ones are walking that craft/elegant line. I'm going to experiment with painting  them.

With necklaces, there are pendants, chains, and closures. Each is a "scary" element if I allow it to be although my daughter asked what could I possibly be afraid of. Hmm... let me count the ways - LOL.

Also in spring, I bought a tie-dye rayon blouse to cut up for tying knots. It's predominately blue and since blue goes with the dress I'm working on, I - again - told myself that I needed to finish the knots and create a chain of some kind that will fit over my head. That eliminates the closure and makes a pendant optional. It seemed a way to move forward and that's the most important part.

Yesterday, I finished all the tie-dye knots so I'm ready to start putting together the elements. I want to finish the piece before the weekend so I can send pictures of it along with my report and discuss it in my next coaching session - on Tuesday. And maybe a picture of the dress. It's almost finished too. I need to hem the skirt, sew it to the bodice, and add the sleeves. It certainly takes longer to make one thing when you working on multiple things at a time... and procrastinating... and experimenting.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a tenant that seems quite wonderful, moving in on the 6th

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Relearned Ah Ha

Right now, the Canadian dollar is worth significantly less than the US dollar. By the time we exchange our money, there's not nearly the amount we thought we had. For me, this impacts on-line purchases and travel to workshops in the United States. I have to think twice when the cost is 30% - or more - higher and that changes what I can do in the studio.

The economic downturn in 2008 had a similar impact. At the time, my textile art work was receiving recognition, being exhibited in several high end galleries, and selling for reasonable prices. I'd recently had two solo shows and it felt like the payoff for all the hard work was finally coming. And then it ended. When the choice is food or art, food wins. Things dwindled to the point that I stopped making textile art. As a business, it wasn't making money. In fact, it was costing money.

The 2008 economy also affected online teaching which was one of my primary sources of income. In the first quarter alone, my income from teaching was down 70% and that too eventually ended. With everything changing so quickly, I went through a really difficult time trying to figure out what to do in my creative career, floundering for quite a few years while trying this and that. With the blog, it felt like falling apart in public. I just couldn't seem to find my feet which quite possibly came across as erratic and inconsistent. Once I realized I wasn't going back to life as it had been any time soon, I returned to sewing fashions only my experiences with creating original textile art made following a pattern rather boring. I wanted the clothes I made to be edgier, more interesting, more authentically me and that started a whole different struggle of learning.

In 2012, I attended my first Design Outside the Lines retreat in Oregon and everything changed. That sounds rather dramatic and yet it was one of those paradigm shift moments. I connected with a group of woman who loved what I loved and did what I did and in fact, most of them did it better than me. I was exposed to all new ways of thinking and I saw the types of clothing I could create. It challenged me to develop my skills and abilities in the area of creative clothing BUT...

... always in the back of my mind was the question of when and how would I get back to creativity as a career. And now, we are back in an economic shift where the choice between food and art is once again obvious. I'm better prepared this time plus I'm eight years older which brings a different level of experience and wisdom to the situation. Reality is that most artist are not self supporting and have other work that pays for life and art. Reality is that even if I had what it would take artistically to beat the odds, I don't have what it would take emotionally. I don't have that kind of energy anymore and it's not a "game" I want to play.

The city I just moved to is very artistic and I'm meeting a lot of artists working with all sorts of mediums. Some are my age but most are older. One thing they have in common is a desire to get to the work they really want to do. When you hear a comment like that coming from someone who is twenty it sounds different than when you hear it coming from someone who is seventy. I began to wonder why they weren't "there" yet and if they weren't there, what would it take to get there... with there being the work they really want to do.

The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that we never get to the work we really want to do as much as we explore the process while following a moving target. Each new thing I learn changes the possibilities of process and product with in turn results in "there" shifting itself forward. I wanted to do this and now I know how and so now I want to do that but once I learn how to do that, I'll want to do something else. I think this is good AND I think it requires us to be okay with being incompetent because part of getting to there is learning new things and learning new things requires not having a clue what you're doing until you know how to do it. That's a bit itchy. Actually, it's a whole lot itchy.

Can you stand to feel incompetent? If you can increase your ability to stand it, it'll be one of the best gifts you give yourself as a writer (artist) and person. That increased tolerance for your own incompetence allows you to try more new things and to persevere at times when otherwise you'd be tempted to give up. - Seven Steps on the Writers Path

One of the things my coach - Diane - and I have talked about is that when you know how to do really well what you're already doing, it's a struggle to move in new directions. The place of comfort is to keep repeating yourself and yet that's not the "there" where you want to be so you struggle to do the thing you want - but don't know how- to do. For me, one of those things is making jewelry predominately from textiles. I've been talking about it for years and plugging away at it for the last couple months and not one piece I've made is at all elegant or sophisticated. It's a bunch of less than best however... I've been having fun and my confidence is growing and I know I'm on my way. I am learning to do by doing.

While Francine was visiting, we worked in the studio turning some watercolor paintings I'd made several years ago into pendants for necklaces. It has some "white spot" learning curves but it's definitely progress. While on the outside, the path of me making jewelry may look zig-zaggy and of indeterminate progress, I've come to realize that it's one of those "there" moving targets and that the process of thinking about making jewelry and collecting bits and pieces for making jewelry and making a lot of hmm... really... pieces is part of the process of getting to the work I really want to do which means that I'm already there - doing the thing I really want to do - and each new aspect I learn will take me further along that path.

There were several times when I wanted to show Francine something only I couldn't remember where it was in the studio. That's not like me so she concluded that meant I hadn't spent enough time in here learning the flow. It makes sense. Now that the majority of the work on the house is done, I am at that happy point where I can spend more time in the studio plus - when you give up the external pressures of creativity as a career, you are left with even more time to spend actually being creative. That's a delightful bonus.

Yesterday, I shifted the work island over, added a painting surface, and left an open space along the far wall for the desk which is currently upstairs and needs to be moved down. It's where I want to put together the jewelry pieces once I've created all the elements. I was getting ready for creative flow. That's the ah ha I wanted to tell you about. It's not a new ah ha; it's more of a relearned ah ha.

The only life you can enjoy is your own. - Joyce Meyer

Over the past four years, I've made numerous trips to the United States and in particular to Sew Expo in Washington and Design Outside the Lines in Oregon. I've bought a lot of fabric and other supplies and I've learned many, MANY new techniques. While I will miss seeing the women I've become friends with and the inspiration of the group, the downturn in the economy isn't as stressful as it might have been at another time. Not only have I been here before, since the last downturn my children have all graduated into adulthood, my responsibilities have minimized, I've given up on creativity as a career, and I have a tremendously stashed up studio... which means... I'm ready to take all that inspiration and have fun, play, and enjoy myself in the studio.

I am blessed to have other sources of income so I don't need to turn myself inside out trying to beat artistic odds that are most likely unbeatable - especially now - never mind at the best of times. While there are many many things beyond my control, like the economy, the exchange rate, and who will buy which art piece or take what workshop, one of the things completely within my control is the attitude with which I approach my studio and my creative time. I can choose to step away from comparisons and constant striving. I can choose to be incompetent, try new things, and have fun. Fun... hmm... what a novel thought ! ! !

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - the path to there

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

More On Friday

My friend Francine came to visit yesterday and leaves late tonight. We spent yesterday evening teaching her how to knit which she now says is more complicated than it looks. She did great. It's just a matter of getting several things working at once. This morning...

... I spent a bit of time in the studio working on the neckline of this out of print V7795 dress. It's drafted for a woven fabric only I used a knit so there have been a few modifications. I also changed the neckline since...

.... boat neck is not my favourite shape. So far, so good. I'll post more on Friday when I have time to sit down and write. I wanted to tell you about my ah ha this past week. YES YES

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - friends who stay connected

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Invisible Path

There must be something different in you if you want to make something work that didn't before. There is no better way to remain stuck that to repeat what has already been. The last thing you want is to relive the past all over again. Tomorrow should be new and improved - always. - Never Go Back: 10 Things You'll Never Do Again

It took three tries to get the thickness and the look of cording that I wanted for the black and white necklace. Close enough didn't work for me and - instead of settling - I pushed through and kept trying until I achieved the desired result especially since any deadlines I believed myself to be working under were entirely self-imposed, a thought I've pondered quite a bit this week.

 ... because if the writing itself doesn't satisfy you, it's unlikely the completion will.
 - Seven Steps on the Writer's Path

There are some things I absolutely have to do - like rent the suite to pay the mortgage - and some things I definitely want to do - like the morning hour in the studio and journal time - but there are no production quotas or deadlines and there is no schedule to hop to. How I develop my creativity is completely up to me and yet somewhere in my subconscious - or programmed into my DNA as my coach, Diane, put it - is this pressure to produce, in part because I have an amazing opportunity to really focus in on and maximize my creative potential. I don't want to waste it.

In the end, a man must sit down and get the words on the paper and against great odds. This takes stamina and resolution. Having got them on paper, he must still have the discipline to discard them if they fail to measure up; he must view them with a jaundiced eye and do the whole thing over as many times as is necessary to achieve excellence, or as close to excellence as he can get
. - E.B. White

I spent hours... and days... and an entire week... making pendants to hang on the black and white necklace. I was excited about the potential and the feeling that yes, I can make jewelry and most especially, I enjoyed quietly working in the studio with needle and thread sewing the cording into the shapes. It felt soothing, calming, positive, and forward moving. And all that is still good even though I eventually came to realize how tight the work was and how it failed to express the feelings I wanted to express. Yesterday, I made the decision to start over with one, large, organically formed pendant and we'll see where that goes.

Happiness consists in the full employment of our faculties in some pursuit. 
- Harriet Martineau

My goal isn't a finished necklace, or even an acceptable pendant. My goal is to maximize my creativity and to move in new directions. If I wanted to, I could make a quilt in a day, sew a two hour t-shirt, or copy my favourite jeans but that's not what I want to do. I want to be right here, in this moment, enjoying the process, exploring the possibilities, and reaping the benefits. I've been working with this photo of Audrey since November and while there's no finished necklace, there are several renditions and endless more possibilities and it still tickles. That in itself is good and enough.

Everything you want is on the other side of fear
- Jack Canfield

The technical part of me is very strong and - in retrospect - what I did was resolve the question of how will I attach these pendants first and then I built the pendants around that idea. That's a kind of fear, of waiting to get it right, a way of boxing myself in by choosing a method that appeared more likely to succeed and yet it was a box that ultimately failed. A better approach would have been to make the pendants and then determine how best to hang them. That would have stretched the part of me that I want to grow and that's where I'm going next.

I work best with boundaries and yet there's a fine line between a boundary that helps to move my work forward and a prison fence. I'm learning to leave spaces and to create flow. When I look at how I work and think now compared to four years ago when I started working with Diane, I'm not even the same person and yet so much of what I see is intangible. You can't take a picture of it and show it to a friend. Rather it's a feeling that you know for sure in your soul, a recognition that you are in a different place. The only step I know is the next step and the rest is an invisible path and, even so, it's a step I want to take.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - starting over

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Try New Things

Where do you want your path to lead you? Will this activity or decision or lack of activity lead to that result for you? When you've answered those questions truly, your wavering will be over and you will finally be ready to ... let go. - pg 135, Seven Steps on the Writer's Path


Remember when I told you about my "perfect" tenant? Hmm... well... this year certainly started interestingly. She told us she wanted the suite the week before Christmas. When I talked to her shortly after, she was excited to be moving in. Just before the new year, I waved to her as I walked by her place of employment in the mall and all seemed good. And then... no money transfer, no communication, no arrangement to get the key or move in, and no show, no return of my phone call, and no longer employed in the mall. I hear she's moved to another city. Something obviously changed abruptly and - unfortunately - that leaves me looking for another "perfect" tenant.

When things like this happen, I wonder why? What is the message I'm supposed to get? I pondered whether I was actually supposed to rent the suite or maybe I was supposed to get a part-time job or maybe I was supposed to start teaching again. Neither of the later options felt right so I wavered this way and that for a day or so and then chose to trust and believe that God knows what I need, has endless resources, and it's not necessary to become derailed from my current path. YES YES

Which is good. Because I'm close to finishing up the house stuff and getting ready for full time studio stuff and I can hardly wait. The Butterick 6138 top is finished. On the mannequin, I couldn't decide if it reminded me more of a maternity top or a painter's smock but "dressed" it reminds me of neither... and it's fun... and I could see making this again with variations on the theme.

LOVE that curved seam in the back. I think it's both fun and slimming as it draws the eye up and down at an angle. I wore the top to a friend's yesterday and she commented several times about how much she loved it so I guess it looked good.


My goal with this piece was to try new things. I have no idea what to call this technique with the collar but the under collar is larger than the upper one by the amount of the edging that shows and you stitch and wrap it the under fabric around. I'm going to play with this technique on a bias edge next... just a sample... to see how I can use it more.

For the seams, with the lower portion I sewed a bias strip of the pink with a 5/8" seam and then pressed it upward and then with the upper portion, I pressed under the seam allowance and aligned the folded edge with the edge of the pink and top stitched the seam together. It allows for peek-a-boo bits of pink.

At one point, I realized I'd made an error with the adjustments and the right front edge was 2" longer than the facing. The problem was in the upper and lower section of that side. To fix it, I took apart the seams, re-cut, and re-sewed the pieces. Years ago, I'd have rolled it up and thrown it away. Now I find it's good to stick with it and figure out how to make the project work. I learn so much that way.

I'm taking more time with the pieces I'm creating and adding little details just for fun of sewing them and the delight of wearing them along with the learning. It's an area I want to grow my skills in. Earlier, you can see that I used pink thread to sew the buttons on with and I used the same silk dupioni to create the sleeve hem. It won't show that often but when it does, it's an extra little touch.

This project was cut out and ready-to-sew when I went to the Design Outside the Lines retreat at the end of May and I didn't actually get to sewing it until recently when things settled down enough to actually spend some time in the studio.

For the past two weeks, I've done really good at getting back on track with my morning hour. When Howard is here, it's more of an afternoon hour since we spend the morning together and I work while he's napping BUT... the time still happens and that's the important thing.

Yesterday, I worked on the black and white necklace inspired by a picture from Advanced Style. My necklace won't be at all like that piece as I can't see the details close up - which is good - but the inspiration has been a wonderful starting point and I'm feeling really positive about the progress I'm making with jewelry. I have several inspiration photos I'm going to work with. They're helping me to develop the experience I'll need to create completely from scratch in my own style.

I need some new pants and one thing I've noticed living here is that many of the women dress with more of an edge and so creative clothing fits right in. I'd happily sew black and white pants to go with my necklace and I really like all four of these pairs but what I mostly need is some funky jeans. I'd like some with big top stitching and some with seaming and some with painted denim BUT...

... first I want to finish sewing a prototype of my daughter's favourite purse so I can take it with me when I go to visit next time and make sure it's a close enough duplication of the original that she loves it just as much. If so, we'll shop for the fabric she wants and then I'll sew the "real" purse and give it to her... along with the pattern... so she can always have her favourite purse for as long as it's her favourite. How fun is that! The prototype is made with fabric I painted earlier this year and will end up being completely usable... for me. It really feels like I'm making progress on my goals and that feels fabulous.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a new "perfect" tenant is coming my way