Making peace with the process

So, the journey has begun! I'm working on my first fine art piece in 2 years, and I'm not only adjusting to the materials, but also to the sometimes very annoying process. I had forgotten how when in the middle of a piece you can feel so lost and confounded, stuck in a corner you don't know how to get out of. I forgot how the thought of working on the piece can almost be nauseating due to it's riddles which can't be solved any time soon.

I decided to ease myself into this new body of work by choosing a piece that was on the small side and which I thought would be relatively simple. I'm not sure why I thought that, because as soon as I began I was already saddled with questions and experiments. Had I been quilting, I would have put aside my cloth before even starting and saved it for another time or another piece. But the nature of using felt as a backdrop is that I must make it at a specific dimension for a specific piece, without adjustments, as I will not cut it. The size it is is the size it will always be, in other words. So even though I felt the desire to stop before I started, I was stuck. So I plowed forward through the first few obstacles and decisions.

(cutting out a shape in the felt for a silk organza reverse applique)

But then the difficulties really began, starting with these new materials. The silk was way too thin and I quickly realized that my initial plan needed to be reworked to reinforce the artwork. The small pieces of felt which I had cut out also needed protection to keep them intact. This set up an unexpected challenge. I realized that I would need to cover the piece with another layer of translucent silk. With this decision in mind, I began the detailed hand stitching which I figured would ultimately become a faded background underneath another set of stitched designs.

(phase one - background stitching)

But when I ultimately put a piece of grey silk organza over all of this work, and spent days stitching it down and adding more designs, I just couldn't be satisfied with it. I couldn't make it work no matter how hard I tried. It was just too faded and whatever I put on top was also faded and seemed to conflict with what was underneath.

Therefore, after days of working, I decided to change the direction and undo nearly all of the work and start from scratch. That meant taking out most of the thread I had already stitched. I was not super happy about this but knew it was the right decision.

That left me with other questions with no answers and in general the whole sense of this piece is that I was wondering around in the woods from one small trail to another, never knowing where it was going to lead. And hand stitching is slow. It takes time to find out where your going and if it's the right direction. It's sometimes exhausting and frustrating because it's easy to lose confidence in yourself and make yourself go through the motions of trying out yet another idea. There were days when I took the piece out of eye sight because I just couldn't stand to look at it. I needed to clear my head. I know it sounds a bit dramatic, but when one is trapped in the middle of a process they can't get out of, it's frustrating. I can't toss work away, ignore it while it sits somewhere indefinitely unfinished. I must finish all of my pieces, to some level of satisfaction. It just sometimes comes with great difficulty, though most cases are relatively smooth going. I think I've just been pampered for so many months with my hand puppets which are fairly predictable and easy start/finish projects. Now I've been faced with a much more complex activity and with new materials and techniques. But I'm nearly out of the woods, and within a few days I expect to be finished and ready to call the piece complete.

(This image shows the piece back to being mostly felt but with the grey silk appliqued over the flower and root system. I restitched the green lines and cubes and at this stage was testing out different ways of completing the flower petals - a very frustrating task which required days of rest in between to settle down and regroup)

Ultimately I went with the pink petals, but the dense stitching was strikingly different than the feel of the rest of the piece, and it was distractingly bright. So I added a layer of the grey silk on top to tone it down. It made a big difference! But ultimately I wish the flower could be more complete, however in my initial planning I thought I would need a felt border to provide stability to the top where it will hang. I'm not sure if it looks like there's a border or if I simply didn't finish the flower on a whim! While it's not my favorite work, I'm content enough to be done with it and chalk it up to experimentation. I have to say that I did learn things which will help me with the next work, and that's not nothing!

Finished work. 17 x 14.5 inches

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