Planning a piece before I begin is not my thing. While many artists make detailed sketches and samples, I usually just plunge right in and start creating on the fly. I developed this way of working pretty early on right after grad school when I was developing my professional art career. I quickly learned that the bottom line for me is to let the piece have its say as to how it wants to look.
The piece of basketry sculpture in the photo above was the turning point when I learned I could either fight with the piece or let it tell me how it wanted to appear. This work was done during the stage when I was doing “off-loom weaving”. I was using the same techniques that basket weavers had been using for centuries, except that I was utilizing paper welting core as the base, and yarn to cover it and to stitch the sculpture together.It took a cross country trip to convince me that I might as well give in to what the piece was wanting to be. Otherwise, the piece and I were going to be at frustrating odds for the duration of its construction.
“Cross Country in a Honda” (21″ total width x 19″ total height or 53.5cm W x 48.25 cm T) was created in 1977 while riding in the passenger seat of a very small Honda Civic. I was stitching away as my ex-husband was driving, and during the four weeks we were on the road, the sculpture got bigger and bigger. Since I had no table to rest it on as I worked to stabilize it, the edges of the piece began to flop around and not want to go in the directions I had in mind. The more I tried to force it to be a certain way, the more the work rebelled, which led to a great deal of frustration on my part.
Finally I had the good sense to surrender and let the sculpture have its way. “OK”, I thought, “bend as you will”. From that point on, I sank into quite a deal of peace and the stitching proceeded effortlessly. I began to hum a repetitive 8 note “song”, which became my working mantra when I’m creating art work. (I think that the toning that I’m hearing is the same as some bell tower that I heard once, but I haven’t been able to locate the pattern. I know it’s not Big Ben in London.)That rhythm I seem to use consistently, no matter what the medium is that I’m working in. I also know that I’m channeling energy through my fingers into the piece as I work on it. In effect, the piece and I are “talking” to each other. We share the excitement of how the work will turn out, as neither one of us know what the finished product will look like.
When I do a commission piece, I tell the prospective owner that I have no problem working within a color, size, and price range but if they want the best work possible out of me, then let me do “my thing”. I do keep the person advised as the work progresses via photos so that they can approve before I progress to the next stage. However, planning ahead, while I know that’s true for others and is part of the fun of their creative process,is just not for me. Let me wander and play with my materials, as I delight in the joy of the unexpected.
For more information on how I handle commissions, please go to…
Do you plan your art work ahead of time, or do you allow it to just flow? What are the advantages and disadvantages of your working style?
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You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com