Over the last few months I have been itching to get the studio in place, not just to get back to my work routine, but to also try out some new stuff I have been itching to do. So despite having boxes of books and fiber stuffs waiting to be unpacked, my workspace was finally at a point to reward myself with trying a new to me felting tutorial. I have always been fascinated with felting especially when this book and this book came through production in my old job. I was not the art director, but I stalked the photo shoots and project reviews because I was in a deep fiber crush. Of all the groovy craft techniques that came across our desks, this was the only one that the art directors gathered to try for themselves.

Felting is a no brainer for me to dive into, I have so many of the materials already. This week, I dove right in and made two ugly, ill-fitting hats that I will never wear. Now granted there is a whole sea of pinterest inspirations for tricking these hats out and saving the ugly with wool and locks and buttons. But for now, I am sitting with the ugly, making note of what is not working and contemplating the next direction.

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OMG where did the hole come from? ACK!! Time to break out the felting needles to patch it. Bit the stringy uneven fibers? not sure there is a fix for that.

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My complete impatience meant not fulling this one enough to fit. And evidently my curly-Q is WAY too long.

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I have been here before. With knitting gone awry, with dye jobs that suck, weaving that was woefully miscalculated. I have even recently spent 1/3 of a speaking gig showing off all my bad decisions. Bad decisions are easily more important than the creative “right” decisions you will make. Bad decisions are all about wanting to be better. It is the fuel that will stretch your abilities and grow you work. I know it is counter intuitive, but if you are making bad creative decisions you are well on your way to growing your work. But I get it. Those bad decisions can shake your foundation of confidence and dare I even say, your outright courage to call yourself an artist.

So today, dear Fiberista, I want to give you my top tips for working through the ugly. Because once you are on the other side of it, you will be a much better artist. It is so very worth no losing hope.

The law of opposites. For everything good, there is something bad that is with which you measure from. Okay maybe it is more like good and not so good. In other words, the good does not stand alone…otherwise it just is what it is. So if you have just created something you have judged as bad, you have really just found one piece of the puzzle that is good art. That being the opposite of what is good. You can totally work up from the bad that is before you.

Bad art is not a measure for who you are. In fact bad art is more a measure of who you are not (which actually is a nod to who you are). You have a discerning eye and you just said no to what you do not want to represent you and your genius. I know it can be hard to stop here, give up and say you are no good. In fact you are good because you are not settling for bad work.

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Take a deep breath and look at your work with a discerning eye. To solve the problem of going from bad work to good work, you are going to get real about what is not working. Remember this is not a judgement of you, but merely looking at the issues objectively and methodically brainstorming solutions to improve. What do you hate about it? What is almost working, and what is the tiny shift that sends it into bad? Where did it deviate (if at all) from your original idea? Are there any observations you recall as you were working?

Sometimes you just need to step away from it for a while. Sometimes you can be so blinded by what is not working you you have no clue what went wrong and how to fix it. You may need to set ugly aside for a while to move on. Sometimes it helps to have ugly within view to let your subconscious work. Sometimes you need to put it out of sight.

Sometimes you will just need to make more ugly work. You may just love the process of making, or have faith in what the possibilities are. Part of pushing through the process of evolving your work is to keep working until you love what you are making. And even then your work will alway shift and evolve. Developing your style is never a straight line.

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Yep I have always loved the look of felt. I am enjoying the process completely. I can totally see felt being folded into my other fiber art stuff. So, I will continue to make more bad felt hats, see if I can fix the ugly of the first hats.

So what were some of your favorite learning  mistakes from making ugly work? Feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email. And don’t forget, ugly work is just another chance to make better art.

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