Saturday, April 5, 2008

Disaster = Valuable Learning Experience

For weeks now, I have been working on the largest piece I have made in a very long time. I have been working on a 4 foot by 2 foot wall panel. This may not seem very large, but for someone who makes jewelry, this is huge!
This semester I am taking a printed textiles class from well known fiber artist and surface designer, Clare Verstegen. For this wall piece, I printed my own fabric (to give you an understanding of the dimensions, you are looking at 2 yards of fabric)...
The design is silhouettes of members of my family, and Victorian era ornamental circles.
I just can't get enough of the Victorian era stuff right now, jewelry, furniture, design, clothing, I love looking at it all!
Anyway, so the wall panel was going to be tufted like this image below. Instead of having buttons, I made 22 brooches that replace the buttons, but can be removed from the panel to be wearable and functional.
Tufting is where the fabric is pulled down and held in place with a button of some sort, to create little pillowy puckers on the surface. Tufting is usually used in furniture applications.
A friend (thanks Tony!) helped me build a 4'x2' frame with plywood backing to be the support for the wall piece. I then put a layer of 2" foam over the top and stretched my fabric. The fabric was just stapled to the back of the frame. I had planned on sewing the tufted parts, so I pre-drilled holes in the frame, and then once my fabric was in place, I pulled my needle and thread through and tried to pull the fabric tight to create the tufts. Well, that is when disaster first struck. The thread was so tight that it just wanted to pull and rip right through the fabric, which was a BAD thing!
Just then, an angel (the angel was named Mike and had a strong affinity for sculpture) descended from Heaven to be my saving grace. He and another friend (thanks Ellie) patiently brainstormed options with me. One of which was using buttons on the top of the fabric, so the thread could not rip it. I thought this was a great idea and tried it. It worked, but didn't have the appearance that I wanted. The fabric didn't pull and pucker like it had in my dreams. So, back to the drawing board. Oh, and I should mention that this was about midnight on the night before my critique. I promise I didn't procrastinate, I have been working massive amounts of time on this piece and there are only so many hours in the day (and only so many days in the week...). Anyway, so Mike geniously suggested that I use nuts and bolts (thanks Mike, I owe you one!).
It worked fabulously!
So, I spent hours pushing the nuts and bolts (that were too short) that I ran to get at Walmart at like 1 am, through my fabric, 2" foam and half inch plywood. My fingers hurt so badly I wanted to cry! My wall panel has 22 tufts, but it may have well as been 200!
Anyway, I got it put together for critique (sorry I don't have an image of it yet). It ended up looking like a couch, or like the top of this children's storage chest...
Which I hated!
Yes, this storage chest may have a purpose and place in the world, but it has no place in my artwork! Do you ever have those projects that just look so awesome in your imagination, but when you bring them into reality they are just so off?! This was definitely one of those...I was not happy at all with the final product, but was given many great suggestions in critique on how to make it better. The suggestion that I liked best was to make smaller circular and oval forms with one little tufted pucker as opposed to a large square or rectangular panel with several. I plan on getting this project done by Friday, in order to submit it to the Graduate MFA Summer Juried Exhibition. The work for the show is being selected by Dennita Sewall, Curator of Fashion Design at the Phoenix Art Museum. I am really excited to enter and am going to do everything in my power to get this done in order to make that happen! I will put up images when I am done, until then, wish me luck!
Through this disastrous project, I learned many important things, these just being a few...
-School is a great place to be (there are always people around at 2 am to help you figure things out.)
- No matter how much you plan something, you never really know how it is going to work until you actually do it
- You learn much more from your failures than you do from your successes
-Fabric is very forgiving.
-Time management is super important.
-Critiques are imperative and priceless. If you aren't in school, make friends with other artist who can critique your work. I think this will be the hardest part of not being in school anymore...
So, I will keep you updated, until then, think of me when you sit on your pretty little tufted sofas and chairs and imagine the process behind that small object!


Art Jeweller said...

Do you ever have those projects that just look so awesome in your imagination, but when you bring them into reality they are just so off?!

M'Lady, I could not agree with you more. If you have a look at my latest post, my 'Viral Light' fits your question perfectly...

Barb said...

Sounds amazing...I love the print on the fabric. I can't wait to see an image of the finished piece!

Denise said...

I've said it before, my creativity is seriously lacking... I am always so impressed by what you are doing. I know what you mean (on a much smaller scale) when things don't come out how you imagined but I love that fabric. You continue to amaze me.

Mindy Sue Meyers said...

I want to see the square fabric tufted panel, woman!