The Creative Spark: The Journal Skirts, Part 2

Thanks for coming back–here’s the rest of the story of how I came to make Journal Skirts~~

The next couple of years were full of experiments. I tested pens and stamping ink and markers to find out what would hold up through regular laundering and what wouldn’t because, honeys, I do not dry clean. And I do not hand wash. I wrote, I stamped, I transferred photos. I made skirts that were covered in text stamped out letter by letter.

The first Journal Skirt, mended many, many times & laundered many more.

I made skirts that were covered with photos transferred to muslin and sewn to the denim. I made skirts about a trip to Santa Fe and a trip to New Orleans, about my hair cut and about getting a tattoo. I made a travel journal skirt about a road trip across the western US, where I drew images onto the skirt and later painted and embroidered them. I sat in front of the police station in the French Quarter and drew the scrollwork on a balcony across the street and then sat in bed the next morning, drinking cafe au lait and stitching the lines with black floss.

Ongoing Travel Journal Skirt

I learned how to heat-set the right way, and I learned how to mix dye with thickener to make paint. I experimented with textile paint and metallic paint, with Dye-Na-Flow and Lumiere.

Eventually I began to teach what I’d learned, from Texas to Artfest. The Journal Skirts were featured in a bunch of books and magazines. I sold most of the ones I’d made, which was kind of a fluke, because I made them all for myself, so there was only one size. But somehow people would find me, and they’d try on a skirt and fall in love. Selling them was fun, but it wasn’t as cool as you might imagine: each skirt took months, with hours and hours of handwork. There was no way anyone would ever pay what that was worth, so even though people would stop me on the streets in Santa Fe and tell me I should market the skirts, there was no way I could make enough to make it worth my time. I did, fleetingly, have a dream of making these for celebrities. I could see Carrie wearing a tiny journal skirt in Sex and the City. Maybe Oprah needed a Journal Coat. But of course that never happened, and by the time I started seeing other people’s journal skirts appearing in magazines, I was done. it was never about making money, anyway. Just as it was with the voodoo dolls and the Milagro Pin Dolls, it wasn’t about anything external, not at the core. It was about making something that existed only in my head come to exist concretely, out in the world. Figuring out how to make that happen is my drug of choice.

I still make a new skirt now and then–I’m working on one now, one I designed with gores and an asymmetrical unhemmed bottom edge–but I don’t teach them or write about them or try to sell them. They’re just for me, and when I work on them–those hours and hours of slow stitching–I think about what a ride it was.

My first experiment with adding gores. I didn't even know what a "gore" was.

[Note: I’ll try to get more photos of these up on my personal blog, here, so you can see more detail on larger images.]

So those are my three stories (here’s the first one, and here’s the second) about the creative spark. Looking at them together, you can see the pattern that happens for me: I see something intriguing or catch a glimpse of something or have an idea of something I want. This is the vague part. I start the hunt–looking for whatever I imagine or want to find. As I look at stuff and have to ask if someone has whatever-it-is, I’m forced to refine, in my head, what I’m looking for, really thinking about what it is that I want. Is it that I want a voodoo doll, or do I want something that isn’t really a voodoo doll but a talismanic figure? Do I want a denim skirt, or do I want a wearable journal? Then I gather supplies and start experimenting, weeding out stuff and sorting and testing other stuff. Then I start making these things, one after another, further refining. And then, when I’ve spent months or years making dozens and have solved all the problems I set for myself, I’m done. I’m over it, and it’s time to move on to The Next Thing. I never know what that will be, but it’s always a great adventure!

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2 Responses to The Creative Spark: The Journal Skirts, Part 2

  1. Zom says:

    A great adventure, in your own armchair. That is It really.
    I look forward to the more details in your personal blog.

    That second journal skirt is a doozy. The scrollwork is genius.

    • Rice Freeman-Zachery says:

      Thanks, sweetie. Sorry I didn’t have the post up for you on Australian Time, but it’s up now (the link works). The scrollwork is some of my favorite stuff–when I look at it, I’m right back there. Like I imagine it is for You People Who Draw!

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