Saturday, January 24, 2009

On cards and creativity

Man, I had a great day yesterday! The fibre Friday was fun, as always, and I had some really exciting ideas for projects I want to try. One isn't fibre related so I'll save it for another place or a future post1. The other, though, that one is a fibre thing. It's also an Artist's Way thing, a nurturing-your-inner-artist thing.

So here's the thing: I've thought about making cards out of my fabric for a long time but, you know, it's really hard to find tri-fold cards with openings that are anything other than huge (for photos) or boring old circles and squares. Huge doesn't work 'cause how do you attach the fabric and then seal the card? Boring doesn't work 'cause it's... boring. I did find these cards at Michaels that are slightly less boring 'cause the window is small and not smack in the middle of the card...

...but still, how to attach the fabric to the card? How to seal it up? How to turn it into something that not only I will appreciate?

Then yesterday, a breakthough: I've struggled with how to attach the fabric and then how to seal the card up for a while now. It's tricky! I've tried stitch witchery, I've tried double sided tape, I've tried glue... and then last night it occurred to me that I could sew the fabric to the card.2 Perhaps even sew the card closed. Huzzah! It was all I could do to go to bed instead of dashing downstairs in the wee hours and try it out, especially since the sewing machine was already out and calling to me.

And now for an Artist's Way tangent:

I've been mucking about with these cards for a while now, trying different things, mulling over different ideas... but always feeling somewhat anxious about them because I didn't know if anyone else would like them or be inclined to part with their hard earned cash in order to buy them. There's been an aura of frustration and negativity and anxiety about the whole business but I kept on with it for some reason I haven't been able to put my finger on. Partly it was 'cause I'd spent money on the supplies for the project but it was more than that, too. I really thought it was a good idea, I just worried that no one else would agree.

So this week I've been reading through the introduction and first chapter of The Artist's Way, which are about freeing things that are blocking your creativity. "I'm not blocked," I have said to myself and my friends, "at least not with regards to weaving. Other stuff, maybe. Not weaving, though." (Can you see where this is going?) I figured I could apply the ideas in the book to other things, though, so I kept thinking about the concepts. And then yesterday and the day before, the light started to go on. I am blocked, in all kinds of ways, and one of those ways is an unspoken rule I've made for myself that I should only spend time on weaving projects that are potentially items for sale. That I shouldn't expend effort on projects simply because they're fun. That I shouldn't follow an idea to see where it leads if it might lead to a mess rather than a product. Where the heck did that come from?? Geesh! Talk about blocks!

And now back to the cards. I realized that this rule that I must always create for someone else's consumption rather than my own enjoyment is what's been standing in my way. Once I realized that, I stopped worrying so much what other people will think of them. It's not gone completely, of course - I still hope that others will like them, especially the people who receive them!3 But even if they don't it won't mean the effort and the project has been a failure or in vain if I like them and have enjoyed making them.

Phew! Enough introspection! I normally wouldn't have posted all that but some of you have expressed an interest in what I'm getting out of The Artist's Way, so there you are. Installment #1 complete. We now return you to the regularly scheduled, high fibre programming:

So I dashed downstairs this morning as soon as I could and sat down at ye old sewing machine, all antsy to try this out. And then I realized that I knew nothing about what needle to use, what stitch length to use, whether you have to do something special to sew on paper, etc. etc. I was eager to experiment and try new things and allow myself the freedom to do stuff that might not work but I was not eager to break my machine. So I dashed back upstairs and did a quick websearch for intel and turned up this, and this, and some other stuff. None of it told me what needle to use but the fact that none of them mentioned it at all suggested that I could probably get away with using the regular old needle. Reassured, I dashed back downstairs and faced the machine.

Now, those of you who have followed my blog for a while or read through some of the archives will know that relations between myself and my sewing machine have only recently begun to thaw. We keep our distance, that machine and I, so up until now the idea of using its special stitch functions has seemed not only alarming but also... intrusive somehow. Like I might offend it by using them wrong. Like I might touch it in an inappropriate way. Like the SPCSM might turn up and berate me, then take the machine away to a safe house or a foster home. (Blocks? Who's got blocks?)

But those blogs... those blogs had suggested other stitches, and my machine's got those. Lots of them. 12 different stitches, 10 of which I've never used. So I forced myself to ignore that sense of impending doom, to focus on the sense of excitement I'd just been feeling, and try out those stitches. Nearly every one of them. On card stock. And you know what? They are coooooool! Yeah, yeah, I'm sure they're all very useful in all kinds of regular sewing applications, but they're just plain cool decorating cardstock! (Hello, happy inner artist!) Best of all, the machine didn't complain, the SPCSM didn't turn up, and I learned a lot, mostly about relaxing but also about how changing the tension, stitch width and stitch length affects each one (not to mention me). I fell in love with Stitch #10 in particular. It looks like a faggoting stitch to me, or at least like what I imagine a faggoting stitch looks like.

So I made my first card, using a tiny scrap of hand woven fabric that I had kicking around and my new fave stitch:

I like it! I like its simplicity. I like the way that the stitching contrasts with the cardstock and matches the fabric. What I don't like, though, is something not obvious in the picture: the fabric can smoosh around in its window - it's too loose and floppy in there.

I have no shortage of scraps of handwoven fabric or of blank cards, so I conducted some further experiments. Here are the results:

The card on the left has a lightweight iron on interfacing applied to the fabric. The one on the right has a very heavy fusible fleece applied. The one on the left uses a sparkly metallic thread that I bought years ago, gods know why. The one on the right uses black thread so that it disappears into the card. The card on the left is glued closed. The card on the right is sewn closed. I used a silver paint pen on the left card and a gold one on the right card. I put some text on the left card and left it off of the right card. Etc. etc.

The experiments are ongoing, of course. I want to try using a zig zag stitch to sew the card closed. I want to try sewing it around all four sides of the front. I want to try printing on the white cards before sewing in the fabric. I want to try all sorts of things!

But mostly, right this very minute, I want to go eat the bacon and eggs that my sweetie pie is cooking for me.

1. I will mention that this other idea led me to create yet another blog - I'm becoming an addict!

2. This is by no means an original idea. In fact, I'm sure I've seen tons of it recently on various blogs I read, including almost certainly somewhere on Poppytalk.

3. I am sooooo disappointed that I already sent my dear ol' mum's birthday pressie, or I could have given her one of these cards! Mom, imagine that one of these is in your package, please! Those of you coming over tonight whose birthdays happen to be yesterday and tomorrow, stop peeking. Shoo.


Laura said...

Hi Janet,

That's the insidious thing about blocks - we are in denial that they are there! I did the Artist's Way program a few years ago, and found it enlightening. It sounds like you are, too.

Love the cards.


ps - happy bd to Sue :)

Amy said...

Yay! Best Birthday cards ever!! :)

Adrienne said...

Those are so cute, Jan! :)

Peg in South Carolina said...

I'm so glad you are finding Cameron useful. I think whether or not we sell what we make, it is very hard to unwrap our mind from the concept of a perfect product that "everyone" (or someone, if it is a gift) will like. This concept/desire tends to hijack our creative spirit.