Sunday, August 29

gotta get in to get out.

Today in the studio.

The plan is, get in, sew, get out before I melt.

Listening to the Charlie Parker birthday broadcast on wkcr.

Making mountains of hand warmers from recycled wool.
In real life they are in focus.

I had a movie dream last night about a man who was preparing to die. All his family was with him, he was quite calm, and it wasn't sad - it was his time and he was calmly preparing his loved ones for his demise.  There were three household / grooming items laid out on his bed that formed a check mark, that's how neat and clean it was, he'd been checked off of the great list of life!  That's what I get for drinking beer and eating sushi late at night on a friend's porch.

Friday, August 27

I got a magic chrysalis

from Lavinia Hanachiuc of almapottery.
It's a pirate moth.
It's hanging from my neck right now.
Gosh I love her work.

It looks like this:
I stare at her work a lot. 
I'm hip to her plight.
In my dream world my house is clean and neat, 
painted bright white and sunny and full of her work,
which never gets dusty.

Wednesday, August 18

keeping it real, small, and mildly surreal.

I was eyeing my bamboo scarf this morning. It's waiting on the coat rack for me and for the proper Fall morning. I get such a thrill from the handful of things that other people have knit for me.  That gratitude helps me remember why people are so excited (okay, sometimes a little stampedey) about my work. It helps me hold onto what is special and good, not about what I make per se, but how I go about it. Because there is always something exhilarating but also terrifying about relaxing into the smallness of what I do. I'm not trying to fill someone else's retail store, not trying to get discovered and hit the big time, not trying to hire people to do my work for me ... so what am I doing?

Well, today I am:  sewing a heap of gray and black clothes for an out of town customer who'll be visiting the studio this weekend. I know what she likes! High sculpted collars, lots of gray, and even more black. So I'll have a fine pile of stuff for her to try on when she arrives. It's one of the joys of working small and knowing my people. It's so much the opposite of trying to please everyone ... it's just this: me sitting at my machine thinking of what I know of L. - which is only what she has already bought from me, and some details from a few email chats. It's not exclusive, exactly - it's not even fancy. But it's enough to work from. It's just me making stuff for you. It's simple and direct and nice. I'll do it for you if you want. It is my honor.
Two of my sisters and a niece brought lunch to me today at the studio. A favorite moment: when we swiftly decided that the pie-shaped and square-shaped contingents could each have the cornbread they desired. Now that's diplomacy.
Fuzzy self portrait of me today. 

Tuesday, August 17

pssst I'm over here, behind the boxes.

My normal scenic vista of ... well, okay, I admit it, the utility sink ... has been replaced with a mountain of boxes.

Yes, it's fabric.

Yes I usually rail against the evils of hoarding.

But I know just where all of this is going! I'll, umm, I'll feed it every day and clean its cage ... I promise.

It's my Fall stash for making layering husks, bloomers, ruffle shrugs and vests, etc - any of my limited run stuff that is not reconstructed.  And it's really nice ... designer samples of some really lovely fabrics - linen, cotton, wool suiting from Japan and Italy, all great quality. Most are just large enough to cut out one or two items, so there will be much variety. I'm making bloomers out of some amazing patterns! I can't wait to share them with you. Especially the mod striped red white and blue pair.

My excuse is: my local fabric store is moving and they made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Three unwieldy cartloads up the freight elevator later and my Fall is laid out before me ... literally. At least it's not too hard to figure out what to do every day.

So between that, getting my website all fancified (did I mention that you can shop directly from it now? cough cough?) there's a lot of change in the wind ... and if I'm lucky it will be a crisp cool sunny Autumnal wind ...

Friday, August 6

I Am What I Am: a cautionary tale

Imagine my surprise when I clicked on a favorite blog this morning and saw MY ARM. It's on Worn Through: Apparel from an academic perspective. The sewing machine tattoo on my forearm is the first picture you'll see.

The post shows sewing tattoos but mostly it's about the blog author teaching a course on "personal and professional appearance" and it reads as a mildly cautionary tale. I don't flinch at that, but it is funny if you know me and know how much I ruminate over such decisions.

I got my tattoos when I was forty. When I ran one of my runner-up ideas past a very non-tattooed friend ("Matt, do you think I'll regret it if I get a ***** tattoo?") He immediately said "Helen, we're already the age when you would regret it." That cleared things right up.

I also got them after being self-employed for a few years. They are a reminder that I am who I am - and I have not ever felt so purely myself (in all the fantastic and tragic ways) since I left the world of working for others. It's basically been one long Zen retreat - and not the kind where someone serves you miso soup in a raku bowl and you suddenly see everything clearly. I'm talking about the part where you stare at the white wall and every demon you've ever built comes to visit and taunt you, and while they are chanting all your fears (Failure! Loser Failure! Loser!) you try to function, and create beautiful things, and keep your books - oh, and make enough money to eat.

My personality is enmeshed with my business. Like my tattoos, my business is me. But I was always taught that being professional included hiding your self. So I'm interested in redefining what it means for me to be professional based on this lack of traditional boundaries. For me professionalism is a direct extension of what it means to be moral. I make my business decisions in a humane way and I seek to strike a balance of fairness with everyone, myself included. But I'm also an artist, and a passionate fool with very specific quirks. In my perfect world I'm asking professionalism to becomes specific, flexible, and human - inclusive and not reductive. And I'm trusting that there isn't too much about me that needs to be hidden!

By design I am part of a very direct process: the things I've made with my hands - things that are part of my soul and are built based on every experience I've ever had - are traded directly for other people's hard-earned money. But they are also traded with admiration on both sides, and I know the people I sell to and they send me pictures of themselves wearing what I've made and they tell me stories about what my work means to them. They show me things they made with their hands, they share their lives with me. Over and over, we're building a world together where we are connected. I don't sell to stores, I don't hire other people to sew for me - I want to be part of this direct connection, even when it's hard. And it often is.

Yes, I may have to work for someone else some day, and yes, maybe I've doomed myself to working in long-sleeved shirts. But I can't believe that people who work in the straight world don't make choices that affect them permanently. I know they do. And while they aren't engraved in their flesh those choices are often written on their faces. I've seen it and it's not for me. I'm going to keep taking my chances on the choppy high seas of self employment and art-making for as long as I can. And if it fails I'll probably end up working for some youngster covered with octopus and knitting tattoos. It's all good.

p.s. here's the other one, equally as nice, though it lives in the shadow of the colorful one which gets paraded around books and the internet ...