I began my Creative Experiment concerning my own art creation in February 2018. It gave me a mental framework to guide the creation of my artwork. The discovering of a means by which to explore my personal creative processes, was an unexpected bonus. I feel as though the experiment has served its purpose and it’s time to mark the completion of it.
The reason I began the experiment was because I felt as though my artwork had become predictable. I felt as though I was simply going through the same motions with each piece, with each doll, and never feeling quite creatively satiated. I knew exactly what was going to happen and in what order. Creating the patterns for the dolls and clothing were creatively engaging for me. The first few dolls and sets of clothing created from the patterns were fun to make. It is always satisfying to see your art become real as you make it. But over time, I began to feel as though the subsequent artwork created was somehow stale. It was something that I saw as rooted in a different place and a time. It had become somehow separate from my current mental and physical state. And I had no idea how to detach myself from that feeling.
I needed to create artwork, dolls that were completely different from what I had been doing, while at the same time, being similar in many ways to how I had always worked.
Yeah. That makes total and complete sense, doesn’t it? But when you know something is wrong, but cannot completely identify it, then the possible solutions remain ill-formed lumps of gray.
I decided to change the materials, tools and techniques. There were things that I felt needed to be knocked loose within my own mind for my artwork to evolve. Changing my methods seemed like a good place to start. I wrote the following parameters for what I called my Creative Experiment:
- Choose a Button: Take the first one that you like or feel drawn to for whatever reason, the color, shape, texture, size, etc.
- Choose the Color for the Doll: Fabric, Felt, etc., choose what you are attracted to in the moment. What kind of color or texture do you want?
- You may create a very basic pattern for the doll: Do not get lost in the creation of the pattern. Keep it simple. Nothing too fancy or elaborate! Trace the button and draw the pattern around it. Cut out the pattern and start piecing!
- Choose Thread Colors and Additional Fibers too, it desired — threads, yarns, floss, etc., whatever is on hand that you like.
- Start Sewing! Work. Sew. Choose to do things quickly. Be okay with whatever is happening as you work.
- Do not start a new button doll until the current one is finished. It may take a few sessions to finish one doll. Be patient.
- Remember, these dolls are three-dimensional sketches. They are not meant to be perfect!
The buttons that I refer to are the ones that I purchased at a second hand store. They were all little faces to me. When I purchased a handful of them in 2018, I thought that they would be reference for a new doll design. Perhaps I could create new patterns based on them. The sketches I created did not scratch the that illusive creative itch, so I had to come up with something else.
I purposefully created parameters that were directly opposite of the unwritten parameters I had been utilizing while creating my previous body of artwork. That body of work was sketched, had defined themes, were painstakingly put together, had complete outfits of clothing, handbags, intricate hair styles, jewelry, and were somewhat marketable. I worked on several dolls at the same time and shifted between dolls when I felt got stuck, or needed to procure a tool or material. I needed to get away from that way of thinking.
Initially, the new artwork seemed half-assed, sloppy, and very unsure. Each doll felt like a bit of a failure. I was spent around three to four hours creating each doll. They were small. So much smaller than any dolls that I had created previously. I needed to treat these dolls as sketches. It was okay not to like what I was creating. They were just sketches.
I kept working. Creating on average five to seven small dolls per week, mostly in the evenings. I tried to let go of all of the preconceptions I had about myself as an artist and my previous artwork. I tried hard to be mentally and emotionally present during my creation of each doll. All the who’s, what’s, where’s and why’s required my total attention.
This all just sounds like flow state, and it is. I know what flow state is. I had experienced it while creating my previous body of work. This time around, it was different. I relished being able to lose track of myself while I was working on a doll. The things in my mind were all blank, while at the same time my hands were making the art. I tried not to think so much about what I was doing. I was working more instinctively. And the artwork began to change. The experience of creating each of the dolls became more meditative. Thoughts, ideas, emotions, inspirations were all available for me while I worked within this small space, in these small forms.
I cannot deny that there were many other contributing elements that were integral to the success of my creative experiment. My physical environment as well as my access to art and sewing supplies were important ones. Not teaching art to children also had a lot to do with the success of the creative experiment. I didn’t realize how much I had come to rely on a daily interaction with my students as a means of creative idea generation for my personal artwork.
I don’t resent any of these changes that I have made to my life that resulted in my need to create an experiment to aid me in finding the ability to make art in a way that allowed me to be creatively fulfilled. If my creative experiment had not worked out so well, or had failed spectacularly, I would have simply tried something else.
So, if the experiment was a success, why end it?
Mostly because all things must come to an end, or perhaps cease to be of such importance. The creative experiment has served a purpose, and now I can move forward with other concepts and ideas that I would like to explore in my artwork. The imprint of the experiment is still very visible in my artwork, but it won’t be the reason for the existence of my artwork.