Deborah S.

Making Time

I struggle with making time.  I want to do so many things and there just isn't enough time for it all.  Career, house, exercise, garden, relationships, sewing, photography . . . I want to do it all.

"Well, you just need to prioritize," I hear you say.

Sure, easily said, but it all seems important to me.  In the end, of course, I have to make choices.  I prioritize by default, if nothing else, and my artistic pursuits tend to fall to the bottom of the priority list.  Week after week, every hour is taken up with work and basic life tasks, and there isn't any time left over to make things.  I do it to myself -- I put a great deal of time into my career and I take on lots of projects.  I know that.  But still, I am saddened by the absence of making things.

"Just carve out a little bit of time -- 15 minutes a day, or an hour a week."

"Make an appointment to create art -- block out time on your calendar."

But how can I take time to be in the studio when there is grading to do? And I really must go to the gym; that is important for my health and well-being.  And when was the last time I managed to cook a meal?  Isn't there laundry that needs doing?

It's not that I denigrate my creative work.  It's not that I think I don't deserve to spend time making things or that such efforts are a waste of time.  I am entitled to have fun making things.  But play comes after work.  You get the necessary and important things done first, and then you can have leisure time.  First you eat your vegetables, then you can have dessert.  Except that I keep piling vegetables on my plate so that I can never finish them.*

I know this is not new.  I know I am not the only one to struggle with this.  But I have yet to find a solution that works for me.

So I wait for a day without pressing deadlines, without the stack of unfinished work, without the insistent whine of overdue projects.  I'm still waiting for that day.

Taking Time

I generally take my time when making textile work.  I find it hard to rush -- I often need to mull over each design choice for a while before I can make a decision.  I tend to need to take time to get the mechanical details right, as well; I'm just not especially speedy or efficient at many of the tasks, particularly since I don't make many duplicates, so each project has its own learning curve.  Sometimes I wish I could be faster, as I find it hard to complete projects, given the limited time I have for sewing.  In fact, I tend to get stuck in the middle of projects and have difficulty finishing.  I haven't been able to speed up the process much, though. And while I am not philosophically committed to "slow stitching," I do enjoy the meditative quality of stitching at times.

Big or Obsessive?

I do think there is a substantial impact of big work.  When I have seen really large works in person, they have a presence that can't be captured in the smaller photos I've seen of the work.  I admire large-scale pieces; they can be truly impressive.

That being said, I'm much more likely to work obsessively than large-scale.  I love the idea of embellishing with thousands of beads or buttons or french knots or seed stitches.  I adore Liza Lou's beaded kitchen.  Years ago, I spent years hand-beading a belly dance costume with similar obsessiveness.

More recently, I went obsessive in a photo shoot.  The theme was "paper" and I decided to take a slow-shutter photo of colored papers falling through the air.  This turned out to be more challenging than I expected.  I had to enlist my partner's help -- he threw sheaf after sheaf of papers in the air, and I snapped as many photos as I could while they were falling.  It was really silly and fun!  The papers fell in clumps, they scattered everywhere (seriously, we found papers for a week afterwards in unexpected locations) and we had a grand time.


In a way, this photo shoot was the opposite of obsessive, in that it lacked the meticulous control that often characterizes obsessive artwork.  There was a random quality to the photos, as we had little control over how the papers fell.  But it captures the "go big or go home" element of obsessiveness.  The small stack of papers we started with resulted in lackluster photos.  We needed a huge stack of colored papers so that we could repeatedly fling stacks into the air to get the real exuberance I wanted in the photo.

In that sense, both obsessive and large-scale works are "big" -- they both require commitment.  I like that thought.  While I may tend to make small and moderate size works, I can be just as committed to the process of making as the large-scale artist.

*Interestingly, I have no trouble having dessert first, though mostly it is eaten while I am working.  ;-)