How I Make a Sweater
The 5 Keys to Making Art You Love
My Creative Emergency Toolkit
Getting back to the art journals
Friday 5: Random Pre-Valentine’s Day Love
I am totally blaming it on Susan and Mary.
I mean don’t get me wrong I love diving head first into complex color work and cabled sweater patterns. The kind that challenge me to work complex charts, learn new seaming or construction methods, or stitch patterns that keep me on my toes. THOSE patterns always feel like a huge accomplishment when I am done. It is like a runner’s high.
But that is really not how I make my sweaters.
You see Mary and Susan were my first knitting teachers, and they taught me to knit using Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting Without Tears book as a text book for the community class in Birmingham, AL. We brought in a sweater that we loved and recreated it taking measurements, calculating gauge, and analyzing drape.
In the last 10 years, my sweaters are made to replace what is to be tossed from my closet (let me just say, I am a bit behind of replenishing my wardrobe). And most of the time I use the method that I was taught in Mary and Susan’s class. It insures a great fit (because I am using a sweater that I already know fits me). I have an unusual body shape and have always struggled to get a good fit when using patterns.
But I have to say, as a right brain knitter, Knitting without a pattern is great for working handspun yarn as well as painting with yarn methods. I have found that as I gather my yarn by weight as oppose to by yardage, I had a better chance of not running out as well as compensate for using different yarns with different gauges. I wrote about that here.
Have you ever made a sweater without a pattern? What are your favorite methods? Share your ideas! Leave me a comment below.
For the longest time, the idea of making a body of work and really embracing the idea of being an artist was just overwhelming for me. I have always done creative stuff. Not just little crafts. I would take art classes and learn some intensive techniques like metalsmithing, bookmaking, lampwork beads, or ceramics. And I had always hung out in art communities. But I never really dove in to creating a body of work. I was an art major in college. How did I not really understand how to make a body of work? It was as if I thought that learning complex creative techniques would somehow give me license to consider myself an artist. And maybe just by the nature of how I used my visual language communicate ideas, did give me license to call myself an artist. But I had nothing of substance other than a couple of successful projects to show for it.
Once I found my medium in fiber art, I kind of felt I really still did not understand where I was falling short in terms of how and what I was making as an artist. Even as I started UrbanGypZ I was not really producing something cohesive that I felt like I could stand behind as really art. It is one thing to be a professional knitter, dyer and hand spinner, but I am not sure I would consider any of those things (outside of the the actual business) a body of work. I found little clues to my own style in the materials(the yarn and the fiber) I was creating. But, actually making a real body of fiber art work– one that I felt was cohesive, had substance and considered my personal style–took a really long time for me to come to terms with and produce.
Here is what I figured out: Being an artist doesn’t have much to do with talent (which by the way is subjective) or even what you are making. It actually is all about consistency and confidence using your visual language. Today I am going to share with you what I have found to be my 5 keys to actually making art I love and am proud to stand behind.
Make art a priority. I am the first to admit, I will often bump my studio time for random everyday errands. But, I have to say, the first thing that HAS to happen when you are really, really ready to start making some art is you MUST show up. Seriously. Get the calendar out, slug out some non-negotionable time, and start saying no to anything else. This shit is not going to make itself. Get in the studio.
Make a lot of the same thing. It is so easy to just cycle through a series of techniques and consider yourself a craftsman. Don’t get me wrong trying techniques and playing with ideas is important and fun. But, what if you take time to explore an idea deeply–doing the same thing over and over, until you feel you have really mastered the technique and it becomes second nature. The next step would be to make tiny adjustments and add small details that bring your personal style to this body of work. The artists whose work I can identify, are the ones who have made a lot of the same or similar things over and over. With each exposure to their work, their style becomes recognizable. I remember the artist and may even seek out their work.
Stay curious. While making a lot of the same thing, you also need to continue to give your work room to grow and evolve. Inspirations are born out of feeding your curiosity. “What if” is the best thing you can ask yourself in terms of growing your work. Be curious enough to take a chance on trying new versions of your work. It is okay if you decide these ideas are not right. There are really no mistakes. It is all information and will most likely lead you to the next “what if” moment. This is what growing your work is all about.
Don’t overthink, just do. It is easy to fall into the trap of measuring your work against other’s– worrying how your art will be perceived and judged. This can be one of the biggest creativity killers. Get out of your head and judge your work only by how you perceive it in your heart. Do you feel a little flutter when you stand back to really look at your work? Do you find yourself thinking “oh hell yes”. When your share your heart, anything you make is a million time better than working off your fear of how your work will be perceived.
Show your work. Just do it. Even if it is only with your friends. Actually…share your work especially with your friends. I know this is outright contradicting point number 3. There is no explaining why this will make you a better artist other than to say, the people who know you the best, will see you and your heart in your work. AND…they will also call you out when your work does not ring true.
Being an artist is not an endpoint, but a never-ending process. Looking back I can see that even the doubt and dissatisfaction I had, was all a pert of the journey. And from what I can tell will continue to be.
I have been avoiding my weaving. Really. I have scheduled so many weaving days in the last month and just don’t do them. It is not that I am losing the weaving love…in fact I am really excited about the stuff I have made so far. It is really more like I am feeling a lot of self induced pressure to make something even more awesome. So I just avoid it all.
Here is the crazy thing…I think my new obsession with clay has totally saved my weaving log jam. Here’s how it all went down:
After months of searching for a much more attractive solution to for hanging my wall weavings, I created a series of wall tile headers to sew them onto. Once glazed and fired, I pulled out all my old weavings to match them up to my new tiles. I was surprised to find myself noticing how subtly my work has evolved. I also found so old techniques I am wanting to go back to. But new/old ideas aside… I found it most amazing to realize that my work has progressed without my even noticing it. And it did so because I was not in a place of pressure to innovate innovate innovate. The evolution happened through the steady work of being in the moment of turning my favorite colors and textures, inch by inch, into fabric.
Art is still happening when you work from exactly where you are in the moment of using your visual language doing what you love.
All those daily inspirations happen far easier when you just don’t overthink it… and I am living proof that it is much easier to say than do.
Because this is not the first time I have experience this particular creative log jam, I decided it was time to build an emergency plan to have on hand when this particular creative/motivational block comes up. Here it what mine looks like:
Take some self care time to check in and see if there is some underlying issue I am just not seeing. Sometimes it is burnout, sometimes it is another unrelated stress I am avoiding. Sometimes I just am physically not feeling well. Most of the time I am just overthinking it. But it does not hurt to really check in to make sure I am not missing an all together different concern to be addressed. Often it is as simple as taking a walk on my neighborhood greenway. Or even taking a nap.
Using my essential oils. Y’all know I love my oils. My diffuser runs 24/7. I only use Young Living Essential Oils because I love the purity and they work so well for me. My favorite way to use my oils is to help me through this very kind of emotional issue. My go to oils when I am feeling motivationally/creatively blocked are Present Time, Envision, Motivation, and Clarity. I will sometimes add Valor II if I am feeling insecure, and Stress Away if I am fighting some everyday crazy outside of the studio.
Set up my space. When the motivation is iffy, damn straight my space needs to be über inviting with snacks and beverages, a good movie or music, and my favorite tools in place. Sometimes I might add some of my favorite non tool items, like my favorite rocks and crystals, a plant. It is almost like arranging my living room…or better yet creating an sacred space with tiny alters.
Journaling time. It also helps me to flip through my art journal, add a little bit of work even start a new page.
Schedule my studio time. Sometimes I need a day or so to mentally clear time to focus. That studio time does not have to be very long either. Sometimes an hour or two is just fine.
Plan on working on more of the same. This part is huge… when I am feeling overwhelmed, to keep moving with my work, sometimes I just need to take baby steps. AND there is absolutely no shame in making more of what was awesome. Many many famous artist spent lots of time painting the same thing over and over allowing the tiny innovations to surface naturally as they work. So, when I am feeling overwhelmed, I am going to just pick one simple look to recreate. Keep it simple.
I am even going to make myself a paper reminder to hang on my notes board. My creative block cheat sheet. So, what kinds of things would you put on your creative block emergency plan? Would you use some of the same steps? Do you have some favorite creative self care tips? Leave me some comment love below or share them in the Fiber Art Collective. Not in the Collective? Sign up below.
Confession time….I have fallen hard off the art journaling.
While I would like to be able to say I am one of those people who can not live without her paper brain, lately that just has not been the case. I have always admired the sketchbooks of artists who are constantly working in them, Those books are a work of art in and of them selves. And I have seen first hand in the Graphic design industry, how those journals have helped some of the most successful creatives in the industry grow their work. Those journals are how they process ALL their ideas into form. It is how they keep their creative brains limber. It is where they let their creative ideas play and grow without judgment or outside influence.
I find artists are pretty polarized when it comes to working their ideas out on paper. I once taught a college level design class and required the students to keep sketchbooks as well as provide thumbnails and roughs of their work. Half the students hated going through the documentation process, thinking it was wasting creative time. The interesting thing was it took those students more time to do the work, and they did not have a reference to refer back to for future projects.
Since the beginning of the year, I have been in a much needed creative flow. Finally settled into a routine in my new town, with an amazing new studio resource available to me, I am awash with so many ideas right now. I am so grateful and it i like a breath of fresh air after 2 years of stagnation while we sold our house and moved. But alas, my ideas are scattered among so many tiny little notebooks. It is time to wrangle those into one place. Here are some of the things I need to document
- I am on the edge of a new body of work with my weaving integrating my new love of clay
- I have been in the thick of a LONG website overhaul and with each page I start to rework, I find 3 more pages that need to be redesigned or created altogether.
- I am developing a series of dyeing tutorials and will have copious notes
- I am making clay stuff and have so many new ideas I just can not keep up with them all.
I have an art journal that I started last fall that has been shaping up very nicely. I am loving all the pages so far. Liking them enough to be afraid to actually write on them! I have added quite a few pockets, not just because I have written my notes in other notebooks, but because I am kind of afraid to mess up my book.
BUT…If I were working in my journals on a much more regular basis than I would be less afraid of messing up.
So if I understand why journals are so important , than why the hell do I fall of the habit? A few years ago I created the 30 day art journal challenge as an exercise for myself to get back into the art journal groove. And Ironically as I am finding I want to get back into the journaling groove again, I am also in dire need of updating the 30 day art journal challenge.
So here is my accountability, For the next week I am posting my daily journal work to my Instagram. In the mean time here is a journal flip of my current book.
Want to join me in the 7 day journaling challenge on Instagram? Leave me comment below with your Instagram link and use the hashtag #7dayartjournalchallenge on your posts this week.
Alright Fiberistas. it is Friday, and after a LONG hiatus, I am once again bringing you 5 random things rocking my world right now.
No. 1: The Produce Box
I was pretty spoiled by Asheville’s killer network of tailgate markets, and was skeptical that any thing as awesome would even exist outside of my hippie community. Indeed there are some good markets here in The Triangle, but alas getting there on Saturday morning is a bit of a struggle, especially when one of the 2 glass studio slots available is on Saturday morning. Enter The Produce Box. NC farm goods delivered weekly. After their January hiatus, it is on again, and OMG I have missed them so. This week I opted for the bulk bag of jalepeno uglies.
No. 2: Clay stamps
I am literally having to keep myself from showing up in the clay studio everyday to make shit. Seriously, they are open pretty much all the time. But I have business to run, so clay time is my reward for doing my work(hence the increase in my business productivity…). As we learned about the dozens of glazes available to us, I am also learning the magic that is glaze on textured clay. Sweet Jezuz, just set up a cot in the corner of the studio for me. I bought some sweet clay stamps from this gal, and have complied a huge list of all the things I will be making in multiples to test every one of those damn glazes. I will never have to buy Christmas presents ever again.
No. 3: This guy
Since I am in a clay class, this also means I am relearning to throw pots. Right now I suck. Let’s just say, the last time I threw clay FB, Pinterest or any other social media did not exist (well…except blogs). So, this time around I am in the rabbit hole that is “researching” clay shit. I found this guy via his FB live cast on the Expanded Consciousness FB page. I could watch him throw pots for hours. It doesn’t hurt that he is a cute hippie boy. But what makes his 2 hr FB live videos awesome, he is an open book when it comes to his process. His pots are far from perfect, and he totally owns exactly what they are and where he is in the journey of his work. THAT is what makes his work awesome. THAT is what makes them beautiful. These pots are not cheap. You are not buying his product as much as you are buying his DREAM. His dream is to make art, share his process, inspire others AND live sustainably doing all of this. THAT is what makes me want to sink almost $200 into a crooked mug with gloppy colorful glaze with his fingerprints visible on the footer.
No. 4: This Essential Oil
I am usually all about inspiring oil blends, but these days I am rocking some Young Living Sage Oil. For me sage oil has helped me clear negative energy in the same way one might smudge a room. I spray my pillow at night with a blend of sage, lavender and cedarwood. I full believe it has helped me overcome negative feeling of doubts and inadequacy around my latest weaving ideas. It has also helped me weather all the political turmoil present right now. Find that Sage oil here…(holler if you need help navigating the ordering interface)
No. 5: My Instant Pot
I am not gonna lie, when I bought this thing last November during the Black Friday sale on Amazon, I had no clue what I would make in it. None. I did not realize pressure cooking was even a thing. I will openly admit I was a sheep being led to the slaughter by dozens of friends who were losing their shit over the killer price. So why the hell not.
Fast forward 2 months, and if there was a fire in my house, this is what I am grabbing. Holy crap. I love my instant pot so freaking much. I use it no less than 3 times a week. It has changed the way I cook my great grandmother’s family red beans and rice recipe. I will never use anything else for making spaghetti and meatballs. OMG bone broth that really gels takes 3 hours instead of 48. I am about to ditch my crockpot and maybe my rice cooker, because all I need is instant pot.
So what are you rocking for your Friday5? Post it on your blog, leave me a comment below with the link and share on social media using the hashtag #friday5.
••• Some of these links are affiliate links. What that means is I get a small commission of any sales generated through this post. This will help me offset the cost of my website. I pinky swear I would never promote anything I was not personally using and loving enough to share with complete enthusiasm.