I’m very lucky. My work is something I also love to do. Something creative and artistic.
But creative careers can carry a cloud of illusion. A well-known Canadian artist once said to me that 90% of his work life is boring. The flash of the idea and the excitement of mapping out where that’s going to go is 10%. The execution, filling in all the bits and pieces, promoting the work, travelling for the work and all the other day by day pieces that make the 10% possible are mostly boring.
My art college students have gotten that line from me more than once. It’s not a popular concept when all you want to do is be in your studio creating.
We’re in the midst of heavy production at the moment, which really means dyeing the same colours over and over again in multiple bases. There are entire days when we don’t see more than one colour pass through our hands. And I think the yarn knows when I’m bored. I think it shows very clearly. So I struggle with trying to stay creative and inspired. I have a boatload of tricks and triggers to keep me going. But nothing works better than collaboration.
In the middle of one of these crazy dyeing days, an old friend and collaborator literally arrived on my doorstep. We’ve emailed in recent years, but I think the last time we saw each other was in the last century, so to say it was a surprise to see him is quite possibly the understatement of my lifetime.
Phil is a clockmaker. His day to day life involved restoring and building traditional clocks. But his heart is in this work. All those pieces are made by hand, and made to work in amazing ways. There is film of them in action. It makes me look at time entirely differently.
Way back in my first artistic life, Phil and I worked together on a number of pieces. We shared a sketchbook that we would hand back and forth and fill with sketches and ideas until we found one that clicked. I have distinct memories of standing outside on the pavement and sketching out our collaborations in chalk on the driveway. We finished each other’s lines and curves like others finish each others sentences. He worked in metal. I worked in textiles. He worked in form. I worked in texture. And we’d combine these materials and ideas, overlapping and overflowing into each other in ways I’m incredibly proud of.
This is a 3 panel screen. The middle panel balances on the two sides, allowing you to change the angle of each piece.
So many lessons from that time. Like hours and days and weeks learning how to bend iron with fire and wondering why I couldn’t make it bend like Phil’s careful, balanced, mathematically sound curves. And then learning he was trying to mimic my organic, twisty, wavy, viney things. I still see evidence of those lessons and those attempts to stretch and grow in both our work. The mutual appreciation also.
After this visit, I’m inspired and taken back to a time when I made time for playing and learning and exploring. Time for working with other artists in ways that challenged each other, yet let us shine in our own ways. Time for creating more beautiful things to put out into the world, without thinking about whether that pattern or colour or idea will sell or whether anyone will even like it.
And I’ve decided there will be more of those. That even if it’s tiny moments of it, there will be time for sharing ideas and riffing off of each other. For admiring what’s beautiful in what you do and making what I do enhance and work with yours. I’ll be here waiting to hear your ideas. And I’ll be braver about reaching out to you with mine.