So, I wasn't able to get done the last couple of weeks what I wanted to get done.
I was asked to make some decorations for the Homecoming Dance this weekend, and every free moment of my life the past two weeks has been consumed by that. But, it has kind of been a good thing, even though I am tired of looking at paper logs and leaves.
Having a firm deadline and an enormous task to complete has made me realize just how much I miss getting to do my own work. All through art school, I worked furiously to meet deadlines. Hell, the day before my thesis show, I still had roughly 100 portraits to finish and mount. Even though it was incredibly stressful, it was extremely gratifying and made me feel like I was accomplishing something with my life.
I miss it. I have been so stressed lately, but this one thing has kept me going. I've found myself thinking lately about what it would take to quit my job and just work on my art full time, even if I can't make a living by doing it. It is so very tempting.
I think to help me out a little bit, I am going to force myself to work, even if just for an hour to get things done. I think it will help ease some of my stress and help me not feel like an utter failure.
I'm so proud of myself. I actually did most of the sampling that I said I was going to do a couple of weeks ago!
My major focus was to experiment with different ways of joining my "quilt" blocks together. I don't want to use a traditional method of quilting, since I don't want to have to add a batting and a backing. Therefore, my seams have to appear finished from the back.
The first sample that I did was of a traditional method.
Mainly I did this one to get the hang of joining blocks together. I've never actually quilted anything. I've only ever done a couple of log cabin style samples for a fabric construction course I took once upon a time. The seams were not as visible from the front as I thought they would be (laminated paper can sometimes be quite transparent), but I am still going to rule out this option for the same reasons mentioned above.
For the second sample, I flat felled my seams after sewing them together. I like this method because my seams are finished and you can see a little bit of the stitching on the front (I thought this was an interesting detail). However, I don't like this method because not all of the seams will be able to go the same way, which means some square will visually look smaller than others. For this reason, I am ruling it out.
The third sample I did used the same method of stitching as traditional Korean pojagi, which is similar to sewing a French seam. I like this method because you can see the stitching on the front and the seams are distributed equally. However, because it was new technique, it took me a while to get the hang of it and there were some challenges with this method of construction. First, since the stitches are visible on the front and the back, they have to be very even, very neat, and you can't pull the stitches tight or it will pucker and the seams won't lie flat. After I did this sample, I wasn't ready to commit to this technique quite yet, so I did a couple more.
For the next sample, I painted the squares first with watercolor. If you read my last post, you know that I had not committed to a method of adding color to my materials. I knew I wouldn't be able to use dye since the laminated paper doesn't hold up well with the harshness of that process. I was fairly sure I wanted to use watercolors, but I was also toying with the idea of using acrylics. I decided to sample the watercolors first since I was almost certain that's what I wanted to use. I'm glad I did because I essentially ruled them out. No matter how many samples I did, I could not get the grays I wanted. They just kept coming out too blue.
This sample also uses the same method of stitching as the last one, but here I used a contrasting thread color. From what I've read, this is pretty common with pojagi, so I figured "why not?". I couldn't find my true red thread (go figure because I think I have every color), so I settled on this burgundy. I like the idea of the contrasting stitches, but I really need to work on my stitching if I'm going to make it a part of the piece.
Then I got a little frustrated with the pojagi style stitches. It was just not doing what I wanted it to do, I was still struggling with pulling the stitches too tight, and I was still mad that I couldn't find my thread. So I sewed the seams normally and then whipped down each side of the seam. Okay, the seams are evenly distributed, they are finished, and you can see the stitches on the front. But, it just seemed like so much extra work. So, I ruled this one out too.
By this time, I settled on the pojagi method. It was going to do what I wanted and look how I wanted, I would just need to do more samples (and get different red thread) to perfect my stitching before I actually start in on the piece. For this last sample, I was also experimenting with color, but this time I was using very watered down acrylic. I had to compromise some of the transparency, but I am much happier with the color. And my stitching is getting better!
These next couple weeks I want to continue my sampling. I need to go buy some more acrylic and I want to experiment with making textures on the paper (with tissue paper?). I have some sample blocks drawn out that I want to play around and make sure that when I sew them together they are square.
I also need to go ahead and make my paper and order materials if I need them. Like I said a couple of weeks ago, I am fairly sure that I will not have enough organza for the entire piece.
I'm feeling a little more motivated and productive, so hopefully this will get done quickly. I think once I get all of my sampling done, my goal will be to sew at least one square together a day.
I've been busy, but I did manage to get a little bit of work done over the past week.
This piece is based on the flying geese quilts that I love so much. Called "Fly Away Home", each of the geese is supposed to symbolize me heading towards the idea of 'home'. Therein lies the problem.
I feel like I don't know what 'home' is or where it is. Initially, all of the 'geese' were supposed to point in the same direction, but now I feel like I need to change that in order to convey that uneasiness. I sketched a small sample where the columns alternate and upward and downward direction, but I have already cut each block out of paper and drawn it out, and that seems like it would take a lot of time and effort to change, especially since I want the 'geese' to kind of line up.
So now I'm thinking that I might break this piece down into three pieces and have the first one point up, the second one point to the sides, and the last one point down. I think I would achieve the effect and reduce the amount of time I'd have to spend drawing out two separate additional pieces or changing this one.
This week I want to play with how I want to put this piece together and what materials I want to use. I know that I do not want to stitch the blocks together with traditional quilting techniques because I don't want to have to add batting and backing. I want the piece to be semi-transparent and convey a sense of lightness. I think that I want to experiment with the traditional way of sewing Korean pojagi, because then all my seams will be contained and finished neatly.
I also want to play with how I am going to add colors. I know I want it to have a monochromatic black, white, and gray color scheme and I'm thinking I'm going to use watercolors to add color. I've done a lot of dye samples recently, but I know that the silk laminated paper cannot stand up to the dye process very well. I also toyed around with using acrylics, but I think that will also take away from that sense of transparency.
If all goes well, and I find the time (and motivation) to get those samples done, I want to go ahead and start laminating the paper for this project. I am almost positive that I do not have enough organza to complete this. If I'm remembering correctly, I have a yard or so and some scraps left. If that is going to be the case, I want to go ahead and get it ordered so I'm not waiting too long on materials. I'll need it for other plans as well.
I've spent a lot of time over the past month or so planning and plotting new work. I came to my senses over the summer and developed a "who cares?" attitude when it comes to my work. I've been so stressed about trying to out-do myself that it has crippled me artistically and I have produced almost no work since I graduated 3 years ago. I decided that it doesn't matter how good it is, what matters is that I'm making, so I'm just going to start taking my ideas and running with them.
I've been playing with bird imagery in my mind for a while now. To me, birds represent a new level of freedom that I haven't been able to experience and are a reflection of a migratory nature. That urge to migrate and move, in whatever direction that may be, is currently strong in my mind, and I want to start conveying that in my work. I don't feel like I belong anywhere, and if I do, then I haven't found that place. Home doesn't feel like home.
In terms of specific birds, I like duality of a magpie. They are black and white, which I feel relates to my dueling personalities. I feel like I live two lives: the me that shows up to work every day and tries to come across as confident and put together, and the secret me, that is totally not. Having to live behind what I feel is a mask everyday is overwhelming and takes a toll emotionally.
How I am going to convey all of this in my work is still in process.
What I do know is that I want to go back to some of the things that I was doing when I first started in textiles, like collage and hand embroidery, and combining it with some of the things I was last doing, such as playing with transparency and watercolors. So here's a breakdown of what I'm working with:
I've been looking at a lot of images of historic quilts and Korean pojagi as inspiration.
The first piece that I want to do builds off of traditional flying geese quilts using, hopefully, a pojagi style technique. I have some sketches started and I am in the process of making patterns for my blocks because I want them to be all slightly different. Over the course of the next two weeks, I want to finish those patterns and create a couple samples of different sewing techniques.
My mother pulled out the first thing I ever sewed on a sewing machine the other day asking me to stretch it or frame it so that she can hang it up in the house.
I actually created it for a final project in a painting survey in college. Looking at it now it is so bad, but it was so revolutionary for me at the time.
When I first started art school, I really wanted to be a painter, but I favored watercolors, and the painting faculty at the university kind of had an antipathy toward the medium. So, I decided I wanted to be a printmaker, which I quickly found out required me to spend too much time (and money) at the school. I liked to work from home, so it just wasn't a good fit.
Then, I took a textiles class and fell in love. I had always been fascinated by fashion design,fabric, and pattern creation, to the point where I toyed with the idea of being a costume designer. But, I didn't know how to sew. That survey class taught me how to sew by hand, but I still had limited abilities. There were so many cool things I saw other people doing: fabric manipulation, free motion stitching, and I couldn't do them. It was disheartening.
When I enrolled in the painting class, I was incredibly frustrated. I consider myself a decent painter, but nothing I did was ever good enough. The composition wasn't right. My use of the materials wasn't proficient enough. And it drove me nuts that the grad student teaching the class was really more of a mixed media artist than a painter. So I decided that for my final that was what I was going to do too. And since it was going to take me forever to do it by hand, I was going to learn how to use a sewing machine to do it.
So I bought one, and I sewed line after line after line. Then I bought a darning foot and sewed circle after circle after circle. Eventually, I had a collage of blueberries using acrylic, watercolor, organza, wax paper, and stitching. And amazingly, the teacher loved it.
Looking at it now, it is a completely terrible piece. The stitching is clearly amateur and I must have had tension problems I didn't know how to properly fix. But I did it, and it opened a bunch of doors for me.
The piece is spread out over one of my chairs in my living room, and I have to look at it all the time. Even though it isn't the greatest thing that I have ever made, I can't help but being inspired all over again.
I decided that I needed a fresh start.
If you've been following along, you may have noticed that I deleted all of my previous blog entries. Why? Well, I spent a lot of time over the summer thinking about life in general. I haven't done much of any thing in the way of new work since I left grad school, mostly because I haven't had the motivation to get things done. It's not that I've been lacking ideas. They've been there: a lot of them, but my will to create has been intermittent. And when it has been there, it has been crippled by fear.
Fear? Yes, that overwhelming sense that I am not good enough and will never be good enough. The sense that all of my ideas are garbage. The feeling that what people want to see is not what I have to offer them. The idea that handwork gets you no where in the end, you just have to be really lucky. I left grad school with a bang, or so I thought. And despite all the sketching and planning and sampling, in the back of mind I have been thinking that there is no point in going on. I can never do better.
And most recently, adding to that pile of insecurities is one little thing that my boyfriend mentioned to me quite a long time ago: that what I do reminds me too much of his mom (who quilts) and that isn't the most attractive thing in the world. Imagine, trying to find the will to go on when so much is expected of you, only to be told that the one thing you love to do more than anything else in this world is a real turnoff.
So I have struggled. And I have cried. And I have been mad at the world and the way it works. But mostly I've been disappointed in myself. Disappointed in my lack of motivation. Disappointed that I let fear overwhelm me. Disappointed that I have disappointed others.
So I had a frank talk with the aforementioned boyfriend about all of these things and he actually gave me good advice. First, that I'm awesome (which apparently I don't realize). Second, that he loves me no matter what and that regardless of whether both his mom and I like to sew, we are two different people and he's not going to stop me from doing what I love. And last, that artists don't just work until they create something great and then stop. They keep on creating. Some things may be pure garbage. Some things may also be great. And some things may be better than great, but they never stop.
And that's what I need to do. I can't keep defining myself by what I did in the past, I need to move forward and keep making. So I decided to take a deep breath, and start fresh, jot down all of my ideas and just start making. Some may be garbage. Some may be great. And some may be better than great, but in the end it is about the act of doing itself, not the product.
This new blog is a part of my fresh start. I am burying the past and starting a new future and I plan to document it here.