I tell this story a lot, but when I was little, one fateful halloween, my mom decided that it was a good idea for her to make my clown costume rather than purchase a ready made one. She bought the pattern and the fabric, and having only minimal sewing experience, set about cursing and crying and bleeding over the thing as I sat helplessly watching, pledging to never ever ever touch a sewing machine. This obviously didn't stick, and I think I probably pledged this same thing many times since then. I suppose, though reluctantly (because who wants to admit that they chose a major life path based on something that scared the shit out of them, as their first impression of the act was utter misery) that this experience led me to the place I am at now, literally sewing every day, all day. I was thinking about this today as I was noticing how easily so much of the process comes now. With sewing, you can save yourself a lot of trouble and headache by having some forethought about the order of operations in putting something together, especially with finishing. This used to be a mind puzzle that I continuously fucked up, as thinking too many steps into the future with technical stuff kind of confuses me (I take my driving directions only one step at a time), but today I knew to look at what was ahead and I knew what needed to happen before other things. It was gratifying to feel this comfort in my own muscle memory so to speak, and definitely allowed me to appreciate what all of the practice has done to ease my experience of this work. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell writes about needing 10,000 hours of practice in order to attain a certain amount of flow or "perfection" in almost any endeavor. It is an estimate, but with this project alone I will "practice" only approximately 240 hours. One month straight of sewing and it is just a fraction of what is needed. Of course, I have many many hours under my belt already, but it sort of puts things into perspective.
Every other Wednesday I get to pick up my CSA vegetable share, which seemed appropriate, and extra exciting, as I had just finished that Michael Pollan book last night. Today I had been thinking a lot about completeness, a sense of being whole. Maybe because I feel a big surge of this sentiment, have control over all of my clothing while doing this project, but there is also something other than power that I think might embody what I imagine wholeness to be. This was mainly running through my head today as I ate lunch, not so much as I was in the studio, though I have also been listening to William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience (not very far, so I am not going to say much on this right now, but it was mentioned in the Pollan book as well as Oliver Saks' Hallucinations, which made an impact) which seems to dissect spiritual and religious practice and experience through several lenses, namely psychological, physiological, and social lenses, and I am sure that this had me thinking about wholeness. But anyway, while eating lunch, which was a nice mix of sundries produced or grown by small and/or local artisans or stuff I had made myself due to my CSA pick up, I was feeling particularly complete. I was thinking about the heart that went into all of the food I was eating and how that was directly affecting my experience of the food, my day, and my reflection on my own work. And so I started to think about happiness and what role completion plays towards finding and sustaining happiness. I used to ask people a question that I remember from Godard's Masculin Feminin, where one character asks another "what is the center of your world". He also constantly trying to flip cigarettes into his mouth throughout the whole movie and it is a great trick. When I saw this movie in maybe 2006, I answered this question for myself with "my discontentedness". I know it sounds kind of morbid now, but my reasoning was that this feeling of discontent, incompleteness if you will, was something that I felt fueled me towards progress, kept me striving for something better, kept my universe in orbit. There has been a huge shift in this perception seven years later, and I quite honestly think almost the exact opposite. I think the center of my world should be each singular moment, partaking wholeheartedly in earth, air, and thought. Even when those things are difficult and painstaking. I always look back on times of hardship with a bittersweet nostalgia, a juicy sentiment that normally gets me into a lot of trouble lusting after greener grasses, but I am actively putting as much effort into balancing control and vulnerability by fully participating in each complete moment. Despite the fact that this project is completely self inflicted, and that discussing the intensity of it here, may sound complain-y (which I mentioned never wanting to do), I just want to comment that this type of rigor through meaningful practice manifests an intensified experience of the singular moment for me. I guess maybe that is why some people work better on deadlines. Food tastes better, I feel aches and pains in a way that exhibits exertion, I budget my time well, my brain races... I am not suffering through anything, I am living. And finishing things each and every day while working towards a greater goal is a very efficient way to achieve entirety.
I feel as though I have been experiencing a lot of guilt as I embark on this project. I guess at any given time I could probably identify something that I feel guilty about, even if it is a small thing, but lately it has been bugging me that it is the emotion that I feel most of the time, especially when it comes to my practice. I think that I feel guilty for taking this time to execute this project. A project, which, on the surface, and in all its most basic structure, could be viewed as self indulgent, which is something I fear terribly. I mean, I hardly work right now, except for some freelance here and there, and I spend all day making clothes for myself. In my heart of hearts I know that this is an important project and I do trust myself fully in this, but there is a nagging voice that has a hard time justifying this absurdity, just because it is in the name of art. I truly do think that everything should be done in the name of art, and by this I mean that every action should be filled with meaning and sincerity, I suppose more that art should be executed in the name of life, but spending all day alone in a room cutting abstract shapes out of fabric for eight days can cause you to digress. I think it is also the futility behind this project that has been making me feel this way as well, the Sisyphean nature of the whole thing. I didn't feel it so much in the beginning because I was leaving the house at least once a day, but there have been a couple of days that I have put on the clothing that I made and never even went into the public with it on. And it is not that I need to show it off, but it definitely accentuates the pointlessness of it, or at least the importance of an audience in a way.
I finished listening (audiobooks in the studio are essential) to Michael Pollan's new book entitled Cooked tonight. I love his work, and this might just be my favorite of his books that I have read thus far. It hit at the heart of so much of what I believe when it comes to food and self reliance and the act of learning new skills through sharing which in turn leads to more learning and sharing. He talks about culture and sociology through not only food itself, but all processes circulating around the production, preparation, and consumption of "cooked" food. It was so wonderful and I suggest it to anyone, as it is not a book about food or about cooking but about humanity and biology and culture. It actually made me feel a lot less guilty about this project, as it emphasizes the reasons that we do certain things against convenience and logic, and that these actions are hardly leisure based, but rather enriching and meaningful acts of grace, generosity, and transcendence. I am not sure that my actions embody these qualities, but it is with that attitude that I believe we should all carry out our daily lives.
Just a heads up, I am restructuring these posts a little, I want to post the wall pieces under the same heading as the as worn photos, so the piece below was made July 07, worn July 08, posted July 08. Not sure if this is more or less confusing, but I feel like you can see the transformation a little better. Maybe it takes the excitement out of it? Removes anticipation? The pieces I made today (which will be posted tomorrow with images of me wearing them) are probably my least favorite so far, and I think because of exhaustion, I have been having a harder time configuring the wall pieces in a gratifying way. But today I decided that I need to accept tiny failures, which exist only in my own brain anyway, and move forward without dwelling. This pushing through towards the next piece is important to maintain momentum and not get all gummed up over making each piece some masterpiece. There will inevitably be a range of good and mediocre, and probably horrid pieces that come out of this, but that is still part of the learning process and failures are just as important as triumphs.
Today marks a full week of this. I can't say I have settled into any real rhythm yet, and I have run the gamut of emotions each day, ranging from terror and anxiety to calm and confidence. Tonight I am feeling overwhelmed. Today in the heat I was thinking about how spoiled we are that we have all of these choices all of the time. That at our fingertips, at the drop of a hat, we can materialize anything. I was thinking about this selfishly as I was sweating bullets wearing the WOOL shorts I had made for the day (though I do have to say it was so hot that any clothing whatsoever would be uncomfortable for anyone) and questioning whether it was against my own rules to change clothes, or what would I do if I wanted to go swimming? Would I spend a couple hours making a swim suit (I do have one cut out already, but not assembled) , or could I swim in a pair of the undergarments that i have made? Or where would I go swimming in Brooklyn anyway? Regardless, it made me feel grateful for all of the choices and options that we normally have on a day to day basis, and for the freedom to change clothes whenever we want. That being said, I do think that restrictions and boundaries can make for interesting creative narrative and progress... I had recently watch The Five Obstructions (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YPmRMipnSM) by Lars Von Trier in which Von Trier challenges filmmaker Jorgen Leth to recreate his masterpiece five times, each with a set of obstructions (rules) conceptualized by Von Trier. It is interesting to watch both men struggle with how to outsmart and triumph over the other, always trying to attain a better work. This in depth analyzation of the works for the purpose of teasing out and eliminating the successful aspects conjures innovation and risk taking. I am inspired by this.
I knew that this process would be enlightening in many ways, but it continues to surprise me how easily things come to light during the creative process. Today I was having trouble getting started, procrastinating with snacks and poking around the apartment, even taking a "meditational" nap (I wanted a nap but really I just thought while laying with my eyes closed). The problem is that I cannot stop conjuring images and puzzles of patterns and garments, but I also can't figure them out completely until executing them, I am kind of in a constant state of elated agitation... elated because this shit is fun to think about, but also anxious about getting things done. So when I finally did make it into the studio it took several attempts to actually cut into fabric. When I did make my first cuts I immediately started to take risks and react more intuitively to the materials and shapes I was finding. It made me think about releasing the fears we have that breed hesitation and barriers towards progress and completion. There is almost nothing I can do to fuck something up so badly that it cannot be fixed in some way, and even then, I at worst would have to start over! How easily this can be applied to every day... and it brings to light the hesitations that exist subconsciously due to irrational fears. Is it fear of the progress and completion itself? Where does this fear come from? Alone in my studio, what could I possibly be afraid of doing that cannot be remedied? Losing time? What does that even mean? How can something be lost if new knowledge and understanding is gained? Wasting material? Raw material that has no other purpose but to await transformation into something far more interesting and nuanced than pure yardage?
I think the most gratifying part, other than the constant learning I am experiencing, is probably the feeling that I am aiming to restructure the way that clothing is viewed. By abstracting certain geometric elements inherent to everyday garments, and through understanding how these items are built and worn, I am able to create pieces that function very similarly, but are completely different than mass produced clothing. I am only able to enter into this through the knowledge of patternmaking and construction that I do possess, but with this I am able to deconstruct this knowledge to formulate something far more bizarre and genuine.
It has been getting increasingly hard to decide what to make each day. And I say decide because it is not that I am having difficulty coming up with ideas, but rather choosing which to make. I went into this with several sketches for pieces, maybe tops ten, and figured the rest will come during the process. But I have been already changing things and reacting more intuitively than I originally thought I would. This comes as a surprise and not necessarily one that makes things easier. I also started to get a jump start on certain things, like cutting several pairs of undergarments at a time, getting those out of the way early in the day so that I can focus on the more interesting and more consuming pieces. I am slowly getting better at making the undergarments, figuring out a system. I remember working at a costume shop in maybe 2007 and they wanted me to wind ribbon onto a spool. At the beginning of the day I started doing this using my hands and going very slowly, but by the end of the day I had rigged up this whole winding system with pencils and whatever. My point is that the more you are forced to act out a repetitive task, the more likely you are to figure out a more efficient system. So far with the actual garments, I am worried about being too formulaic and want to make sure that there is good variety in the work, though I am sure at some point I will make more wrap pants and probably another dress like the one I am wearing today (not for lack of ideas, but because I like it and I know how it works, AND I could improve upon what I did).
Last night, post fireworks, I was talking with some people about this project and we were talking about the intention behind the whole thing. I think going into this, when I thought about this project many years ago, it seemed a more historical or technical challenge, something that was relevant to the consumerist nature of the artform of fashion, and how that relates to the modern cloth market. But as I go forward, even only a few days in, I am definitely seeking something more. I am looking to use hard work, repetition, and structure to transcend material in the most literal way. I already feel as though I have a better understanding of myself in a way, or at least I am finding things out that I am surprised by. I am finding strength and comfort in my ability to do this and the fact that I truly deep down have no doubt that I can execute this (regardless of how miserable it may make me as it goes on for another 25 days). It feels similar to being marginally without a home base last year as I commuted back and forth from Boston to New York each day. Maintaining sanity in a constant state of limbo leaves no energy for concern of other peoples' judgements, and I think this was a big lesson for me to learn; that it is seemingly the most simple thing to discard insecurities as seen through others eyes. Once free from that, there is much space for more productive thoughts.
I was not so happy with the way the shirt came out, I intended something completely different but did make it work in practice. The pants, I love, pretty dramatic to wear these, it feels like a very full skirt but with more body definition as pants. Today was rushed and I opted to try for a one piece dress rather than a shirt and skirt. It was a challenge to achieve the symmetry in combination with fit without adding seams, but I think I got around that by accenting these design lines with the black bias binding. I was hesitant to use the red fabric for continuity and cohesiveness, but I couldn't help myself. I am still a little unsure as to how much color I actually want to involve, but I suppose since I am only a few days in and it is already happening, it will probably just continue. More later, need to watch fireworks.
Certain types of linen are such a joy to sew. I know this might sound completely ridiculous to some, but all fibers have their tendencies, some try to escape, some snap needles into shards, but linens, for the most part, sew and press in the most gratifying way, a way that makes sewing worth it. Today I made extremely wide leg blue linen pants, based loosely on some Japanese samurai clothing I had seen at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston recently, and from watching The Seven Samurai during that same visit. I actually think many of these pieces will be inspired by ancient Japanese garments, as they are very conducive to the doubling of flat wall pieces and dramatic fashion statements. The shirt was a bit of a mess, I had an idea in my head that was totally wrong and was forced to improvise a little. I might even have to re-figure out how to wear it tomorrow morning. I think that has proven to be the most difficult part of this process thus far, the terror of fucking something up and having to start over. There is no way to budget the time for that. I can tell that I am getting a bit tired and today there were several self imposed issues that arose due to lack of forethought. Luckily ingenuity works really well for this shit, and extra seams as well. I had sort of forgotten to put a curved crotch seam into the pants, probably because I was focusing on how amazing they were going to look as a wall sculpture, but also because I was going pretty math heavy on the pattern and lost track. Actually all of this work has been pretty math-y so far, which is fun, it is all really basic geometry stuff, not necessarily basing this in patternmaking rules at all, but I have been trying to look at trends and balance the shapes by finding ways to keep numbers balanced.
I don't mean to make this blog very complain-y, but I feel as this diaristic approach lends itself to me just saying that this work is making me quite sore! The left side of my neck has been borderline unbearable since beginning this process. I know it is stress and sitting at the machines, but it is really a hindrance. And while I am whining, the Bushwick base coming from every angle is SUPER distracting. It isn't even something that is bothering me because of noise but the actual vibrations make it hard to focus. Like I said, trials and tribulations.
Below is the incarnation of yesterday's pieces and the wall pieces meant for tomorrow.
Though today was not the first day that I found myself wearing only clothing that I have made, it did feel slightly different than ever before. I suppose because I am obviously expecting it and settling into the rhythm of this action and response. The last time I did a small scale version of this project, through chashama in the garment district, I constructed regular clothing from patterns, rather than constructing them as sculptures under the guise of clothing, and vice versa. This clearly changes the approach and execution of these pieces, weirdly freeing me up to explore the geometry of the body and simplify my knowledge of pattern making. Some of my most recent sculptures (seen under the VOWELS tab), which have inevitably informed these pieces, were made solely as wall sculptures, and thus were completely free, never worrying about closures or fit, but only focusing on form and aesthetics. I thought making work that is also supposed to be displayed on the body, and really really pass for regular clothing, would be a challenge and would hinder the success of the pieces on the wall, but I actually think it is informing a lot of things so far. I am a little unclear as to talk about this yet, but I feel as though the wall pieces are taking shape more organically this way, due to certain structural constraints and requirements for them to actually operate on the body.
The pieces from July 1 were a pair of striped silk wrap pants - a not uncommon pattern that I have utilized in costuming due to needing versatility when it came to sizing - and a reverse cropped tank thing made of what I assume to be a rayon or rayon blend. These pieces were bound with 1/4" cotton bias binding, allowing me to avoid hemming and also make a graphic statement, especially with the top. Today, when I did venture out, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and visited the Punk show there. The clothes were comfortable and I didn't feel as though I stuck out or looked like I had made my clothing, which is definitely a goal while doing this. The cashier actually asked me where I got the pants. Good sign. The show itself was pretty good, a little limited and less documentary than maybe I would have liked (outside of the cheesy re-creation of the CBGB bathroom they had, which ultimately looked a lot like most bar bathrooms in NYC today, and in much fancier establishments than CBGBs), but overall, I did appreciate seeing some of the runway pieces from designers who have always pushed the envelope.
Again I got a bit of a late start, mostly because of my midtown excursion, but I had to go to Manhattan anyway for some notions, mainly bra elastic and stretch fabrics, and I still finished in less time than yesterday. I assume I am going to get a bit faster at all of this, but I also foresee a little bit of trauma at the start of each session deciding what to make next. Hopefully because there is so much time I will just settle on what feels right. Today I made a pair of drop crotch cropped pants using a lot of triangles and did some seaming with this idea. This is something I am interested in playing with going forward and might be a way for me to make pieces that are more standard clothing shapes but fucking with these details might make them more potent formal 2D objects. The shirt I made also centered around triangles, though I think that I will end up wearing it differently than I had first envisioned. Check back tomorrow for images of how this manifested itself on the body.
Today I am also posting images of the undergarments, which I do not think I will do every day, as sometimes they will be very plain and often the same pattern (though eventually I do want to make a couple of pieces that do double as wall sculptures, I am acclimating to this process and can only do so much at the moment), but this pair came out pretty great and the fabric is to die for. I bought it today from the Spandex House, a two floor go to establishment FULL of stretch fabrics. A veritable spandex mecca, if every you need that.
As promised, I wore the clothing constructed yesterday. This is what it looks like on the body. Refer to the photos in the previous post to see how it appears as a wall sculpture.Read More
July 1, 2013. 6:00pm.
I cannot say this has been the perfect start to this completely ridiculous task. Having moved my studio into my apartment only a few days ago, I feel quite uncomfortable in the workspace as of right now and have no flow or ease in regards to the production of the first pieces. As of 6:00pm I have not even cut into the first piece of fabric! The panic resulting from this fact is less potent than the panic I am experiencing while second guessing this choice to move the studio to begin with. I have faith that I am only worried about this because it is so new and moving can do these things to you, but it is distracting nonetheless. On top of this, last night my phone decided to erase all of my contacts leaving me feeling even more isolated and handcuffed in terms of control and confidence in everything. I had to restore my phone back to the state it was in way back in October of 2012, the last time I backed up any information. Upon executing this task, which took me approximately three hours and two different Apple staff members, as well as $20, the contacts came back but also erased every interaction I had had on my phone since October. What struck me was that all of that information had not existed in my mind whatsoever. Being a child of the 80's, during which it was a major social bonus to have your own phone line separate from the house phone, memorizing your friends' telephone numbers was crucial, not to mention knowing family numbers as well in case of emergency. At this point in time, I could not recollect a single number outside of the four or five that I have known my whole life, that which still exists as my parents main number, though at this time they do not even have a land line anymore. It was like the external file cabinet of information, which I rely on more than I care to admit, came down with a severe case of dejavu and proceeded to reenact Back to the Future. Though this is disturbing to me, the difference is that now there is an unlimited way of contacting people, this rings true for complete strangers, let alone those near and dear. During graduate school at SVA, a good friend of mine, Amber Boardman, created a list of all of the ways that it was possible to get in touch with her, including going to her house and ranging all the way to google-ing her name, etc. There was an astounding amount of possibilities, and this coming from someone that didn't have much of an investment in social media and the like. What I don't understand about these things is where that information goes. A few months ago, I did the one thing you are never supposed to do... I removed the USB cable connecting my camera to my computer too soon during the import and lost a significant amount of photographs, never to be recovered again. Do these little bits of energy and information and memories just hang around in the atmosphere? In the space we cannot see or interact with? Flying about, hovering over our heads, maybe sometimes infiltrating our consciousness secretly through the channels of the sub? I mean, these things are physical represented, even if digitally, they exist as words or symbols or images, even when they are broken down into a more abstract concept that what I can understand, they take up energetic space on our devices. I imagine a giant Mac "trash" icon in some other dimension somewhere, floating about, constantly making that familiar and gratifying sound of space being created.
This all being said and done, ending all work today at 1:30am, it was a rough day, but I think the pieces themselves look quite nice on the wall and though it was difficult to motivate and focus on the work in a space in disarray, it only took me about 6 hours to make the pants, a shirt, undergarments, and a couple of pairs of leggings. I think the craftsmanship should definitely improve, I was rusty and rushed today. Hopefully for going forward this won't feel so hectic.
This portion of my website is dedicated to the documentation of a month long performance, of a sort, for which I am attempting to design and construct my clothing every day for the duration of 30 days. These pieces double as functional apparel, but are first and foremost formal wall sculptures. With a background in both design and fine art, it is of the utmost importance for me to balance these two concepts (form and function) as evenly and as successfully as possible. Each day I am responsible for designing and constructing all items I will need to wear for the following day, including undergarments. This ritualistic and repetitive process is intended to conjure a comfortable and utilitarian flow within the studio space, an act that can instill subversive transcendence and thought processes. Each day I will be posting images of the sculptures displayed on the wall, followed by photographs of the pieces as they are worn on the body. I will also be documenting the trials and tribulations of this experience though this venue.