A few weeks ago, I spent a full week just thinking about the right buttons for a project, and then, a few days later, I spent full day on a hem.
Not a huge, horsehair reinforced bridal hem, or a hand-rolled chiffon baby hem (which would explain that amount of time).
It is the hem of a relatively simple self-drafted blouse I started conceiving last year. And this blouse isn't even for me. It is part of an ensemble for an endlessly patient recipient, who knows I have been fighting through a professional and creative block for quite some time now. Thank God I've known her all my life, so she understands, but of course, not fully... or she would tell me to just drop it, if it's too hard to complete. She would just die if she knew how many hours in I am at this point. Frankly, I would refuse to drop it, anyway.
There are times when my hands simply won't move. Times when turning on the sewing machine requires excessive preparation for me. A deep internal pep talk, then deciding that I need a proper and wildly elaborate breakfast that includes a trip to the grocery store, then spending far too long scrubbing some unknown stain off of something that I've decided simply can't wait, all in an endless attempt to shut off the noise in my head so I can begin. While my practical tasks are positively ON FIRE right now, many days, even that creative "beginning" never starts.
My brain is alive with far too many ideas right now. I feel that I run the risk of exploding if I don't release them. And this post is part of my exercise to find that release. I am determined to find that release. My projects following this one are all lined up and ready to go, but somehow, the needle doesn't get threaded. The scissors don't get touched. I have been wildly creative in our kitchen (and wow, has THAT been fun, and yummy...) and I've been intensely present and engaged for the Speakeasy tours, as well as in my writing, business life, sketching, pattern-making and conceiving. My output has been enormous, but not my sewing output, the physical DOING of it, which feels like a clogged pipe.
I know that this particular ensemble I'm making is uniquely beautiful. It will be something really definitive in my life as a person who makes special articles of clothing. In fact, I am certain this particular ensemble is important work. My heart sighs as I see it develop. I know I will feel as if I am parting with my firstborn when I turn it over to its owner. I have to admit, I don't actually WANT to turn it over. I also know that if I were to keep it (in my size, of course) , it would simply hang in my closet, waiting for that occasion that never comes... and I do wish I could keep it for myself, but it really is specifically hers and only hers. It looks like her. It totally came alive on her in the fittings. And yet, I'm fighting with my own hands to complete it. Every day, I swear to myself I'm almost finished, yet every day, I am not. Sewing/creating/designing has long been my meditation and my joy, and the motivation to complete a project comes from something that isn't money or fear of the consequences of having an angry client, or any of the things that I would hope could just force me into action. It comes from somewhere I can't even identify. I've always been desperate not to become a temperamental artist-type, yet I'm scared that is exactly what I've become.
While I don't compare my talent to his, Charles James was rumored to have been difficult to rely on for completion of a garment. While I do not use this information as an excuse to endlessly fuss over the details of a garment, I can certainly take comfort in the idea that there was at least one other person who could become obsessed with the minutiae and refuse to let go until satisfied with a garment's completion. I will assume he often had to stop and wait for the creative muse to appear.
Creative people can often find themselves blocked.
I've been looking at other sources for creative inspiration, and the things I've found that resonate all seem to be shouting the same message to me right now.
A writer must write, a creator must create, and a craftsperson/designer must make/craft/design. There is no other way. Late last year, I tried to turn off my creative side, listen to my practical side, fall in line, and just march... I thought I could do that. Just to get a regular paycheck. I was willing to just put on earplugs and march. I sincerely was. What I discovered, however, is that sometimes your ears have tuned into a certain frequency that is only your own, and your brain won't let you hear but one drummer.
I am no longer endlessly meandering down a creative path. I can see that I am truly wed to a creative life, and I am finding my way. The static on my internal radio will clear. The cover of my own book is still a bit fuzzy, and I am squinting to make out the words. Now, my hands have to be on board too, please...
Some years ago, I had a wonderful client who commissioned me to make 4 jackets. We had an instant rapport, and became actual friends throughout the process of our designing and finding textures and fabrics together. Her classically English husband was an incredible motivator to me, keeping me on top of my game, as he would review the items, gently fondle the soft roll of her lapels, and offer his quiet approval as I shaped the cuffs, sleeves, and length of her jackets. The garments were visually beautiful, but of course now, as I've matured in my craft, I can think of about a million ways I would/could have technically improved them, if I had the chance to reproduce them now. She was an Academy Award winning movie maker/writer/producer, and we truly had a sincere respect for each other's talents. I once asked her how she makes movies. What an enormous undertaking. Does she see the movie in her head, or does she just start writing? How does it all come together? "Well, you do start with the writing, of course... " she said. "But, above all else, you have to have a working title."
I guess that's not unlike anything, huh? A garment, a career, a life plan... "a working title" is necessary. I can't wait for the day my hands start responding. I have to practice moving my hands until they can find pick up the rhythm again. Starting RIGHT NOW. And yes, I have already pushed the power button on my machine.
Now, if you'll excuse me...