Which brings me to today's topic, improvisation. I got the idea to write about this from the brilliant Marianne at The Quilting Edge, who shared (one of) her processes of improv creating which I found quite fascinating, especially given the development of the above project. (Which I shall expand upon, dear reader, momentarily.) In fact, when I think about it I believe that most of what I do is improvisation, of a sort. Here's the way it often works: I get an idea (usually at some strange or inopportune time - often just as I'm drifting off to sleep) and I sketch it.
Now you might wonder where I go to get my ideas. I guess I go to the usual place -
Where is that?
The truth is, I don't really know all the time, specifically. It's rather strange - It's happened before that I got a whole bunch of ideas all at once - like I'm channeling the universal creativity. When that lightning strikes I spend a lot of time sketching crazily - can't get them on paper fast enough. (By the way, they're not necessarily all GOOD ideas...I'm just sayin')
Other times my brain's offline and I have to go looking - through books, magazines, or catalogs(all kinds), or staring at artwork (all kinds). I've also gotten ideas from books I've read, dreams, graphics on a commercial, from hikes or trips I've taken, from songs - you name it.
Sometimes inspiration or ideas actually come from the fabrics themselves. If I have a group of fabrics I really like and I want to use I'll pin them up on the wall behind my computer. That way I spend a lot of time staring at them and if I'm lucky I might come up with something.
I keep notebooks pretty much everywhere, just in case. I'm thinking that for every eight or ten ideas only a few are worth pursuing. But I do sketch most of them, because I've had it happen that a bad idea can turn into a good one with a little time and tweaking.
Here's how the one I'm currently working on developed: Last week while sewing with my friends I was a little at loose ends, so I began to willy-nilly cut a bunch of coordinating fabrics into one and a half inch strips. I wanted to do something "architectural" and I thought I just might need some strips. When I finished cutting all the fabrics up, I was like 'Oh crap! I have no idea what I'm going to do with these things - have I just wasted a bunch of fabric?' But it was time to go home, so I began to pack up all my stupid strips, rather annoyed at myself. I mean - what the hell was I going to do with them, really!
All of a sudden, I got an idea. But I had to hurry off to some deal I had to go to for some - thing - I don't remember what - but I do remember I all I wanted to do was go home and sketch my idea before I forgot it. Luckily it lurked around in my brain so when I got home I could still remember it enough to make a sketch. I don't know if it's actually architectural but I thought it was kind of cool.
But geez - how to do it? I had no measurements whatsoever - no idea how big the thing was going to be, no idea how to construct it...or if it was going to look good with the fabrics and ideas I had. The only thing I did have was a design wall and lots of one and a half inch strips.. I thought "What the heck, I'll just start sewing." So I did. I cut up and sewed strips together and put them up in the general direction of the sketch on the wall, and then sewed some more, until I had this:
I kinda liked it. But now O Shit I had to sew it together if I wanted to continue, which I did. The question was, how? In what order? I did try to go back and measure, hence the numbers on the sketch, but it really wasn't helpful at all so I gave up on it. (You're starting to see the
difficulties challenges of this type of creating, I'm guessing) I went to bed at that point. I was all 'figured' out.
Anyway, I managed to get a sort of rhythm going the next day, and I've been working on it enthusiastically for over a week. Until today, that is, when I ran out of background fabric.
'And why did this happen, Carrie?' asks my disapproving Auntie Superego. 'UH - DUH, Auntie Ego - it's because I had no idea how much fabric I would need...because I had no idea what I was going to do...because I HAD NO PLAN! So what's your point?' (Luckily I was able to order more of the background fabric; I say luckily because it is that popular Crosshatch pattern by Riley Blake which is getting difficult to come by. It really is a great background fabric...I do get rather attached; at times I've kind of wished I'd bought an entire bolt of of certain neutrals just so I can use them whenever I want...but I digress.)
Naturally, the piece is on hold until more fabric arrives. I'm not entirely sure how it will end up at this point, but so far, I like it, and I'll stare at it until I can work on it again. And while I wait, I'm going to start my next project. And no, I don't have a plan for it, either - just a sketch.
I guess it all comes down to the fact that I really just like the freedom of recklessly creating, even though it may be a path fraught with - well, I think of them as shit piles, like the cows constantly leave in the road right where the tires go, but let's be genteel instead and call them obstacles. If some part (let's face it - a large part) of me didn't like it this way, I'm sure I would use the fabric calculators or computer drawing tools that others use with such amazing results. I'm not saying I never will use them, by the way. I think - no I KNOW - they are fabulous and I will learn to use them some day, I'm certain.
It's just that for now, I'm having so much fun up here dancing on the wire - despite the - er - obstacles below.