It can be difficult! some people put it off for hours and days and weeks with displacement activity (I MUST tidy up before I get started, I can’t work with the blue fabric mixed in with the green, ugh! disgusting!), or blind optimism (if I go away maybe the studio elves will get this thing going), or magical thinking (if you pretend it isn’t there it will go away) and its opposite (if i pretend it is there, it will appear!).
So, what d’you do to get going? I find it helps me to have a solid, somewhat ritualistic routine..like the preparation for any performance whether it be the solitary writer, the explorers setting off on their journey, the athlete getting his socks on in the right order and touching things, the stage performer making the “right” gestures.
I’m finishing up some work now (sadly it must be hidden because of The Rules of the Game id est nothing can be revealed if you want to enter it into a specific show! ). The work is all off the wall, out of the sewing room and onto the “sewthiswhilewatchingtelly” pile. So now is the time to start again.
I’m always collecting inspirational material, photographs, sketches, notes…I like to pin these up and rearrange them while doing some of the machine stitching assembly work on the ongoing piece. Such assembly doesn’t require my whole brain, especially not the creative part, so it likes to going wandering around thinking about the sketches up on the wall. Ever seen a wandering brain? it’s probably mine!
I do find it helps tremendously to overlap work; I’m always thinking about the next, or the next several pieces, before finishing the current one. I know writers do this, they write the first sentence or two of the next chapter before going to bed so next morning instead of a blank page they’re greeted with “ His eyes were glued to her heaving bosom ….” (most uncomfortable I would have thought!.
If I’m machine stitching that means I have no handstitching in the telly pile, so then I’ll have sketching materials there. I usually work better in the play stage of creativity if I’m not too solidly focussed on it; if I can jot down an idea: hmmm I like this arrangement of shapes, let’s just clarify it..now what if I turned it upside down and repeated it, or just took half, or cropped this bit out. Hmmm I could try adding a couple of vertical lines here….I can play like that while watching a gentle British sitcom (I’m a Doc Martin fan!)..and not be too critical of the drawings. Thus the overlapping of work at any stage.
So now I have my sketches, or sometimes collages:
Above are two typical examples. The sketch is #9 because I told myself you must make 10 sketches based on this photograph (a complex one of houses in Warwickshire). Collage from magazines advertisements is fun and can give you unexpected little quirks of colour or shape.
And the next step for me is to clear and rule out the design wall:
I read ages ago that the first four lines of any composition are the four outside edges. It’s amazing how much of a start getting those four edges into place is – and of course you can always shift them a little as the piece develops. But somehow, clearing the space, and marking the edges (I use all the long strips of selvedges I’ve pulled off fabric.) really sets the scene for me…and then I’m off to deal with the glued eyes and the heaving bosom!
so…what are your starting rituals? How d’you get moving on the Next Great Work? Do write and tell me!! If you have been…thanks for reading! Elizabeth
I LOVE that you shared how you get started. I am one of those who must build my courage up to start something new. I feel so intimidated by beginning something. Once it is started then I feel much better. Fortunately I overlap lots of projects so I can work on one while I am pondering the next step for another.
That darn rule SO sucks. I'm starting down that same path, same objective. Back to Big - it feels like taking a deep breath of fresh air.
My jumping off place is so basic - the colors and textures of fabric as piles of things get moved around the studio. There's something to be said about what can come of chaos. That piece of silk would have never come close to that piece of cotton in a tidy, ordered up studio.....
Getting started for me isn't about ideas but execution. Intimidation, fear of ruining it, not knowing where to start or how, all sorts of excuses/reasons. Sometimes the only thing that moves me forward is that line, "just do it" and it also helps to be totally annoyed with my lack of action! The overlapping can work, but can also bog me down. Thanks for this good post!
I like the idea of selvedge lines. I never thought of that... I am usually motivated by some fabric and then I just leap in. I don't pre-plan because it never turns out looking like my plan anyway.
I usually start with some
structural blocks of colour and feel my way from there. Not always easy, but certainly keeps the focus.
Put something, anything, on the design wall. Sketch, rummage through my fabric, thumb through my sketchbooks. Cut stuff up. And yes, clean things up first.
What a helpful post!
I, too am a Doc Martin fan. I saw the actor who plays the central character on a talk show on BBC America. He was really quick witted and amusing. From what he said, it looks like we have more series coming up in the future. How they can go on with the premise is so fascinating to me. He was almost unrecognizable on the talk show, wearing a a very well cut blazer and sporting long blonde hair.He had a very wonderful big and expansive laugh, too. One can only imagine the out-takes as they film the series!
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